Sunday, January 17, 2010
Catholic Theology and Theologians
There was a very serious issue here; it touches the nature of theology and theologians: what is it, what is their purpose?
St Thomas says that theology is faith seeking understanding.
An earlier definition of a theologian runs, "A theologian is one who prays, one who prays is a theologian".
In the late 20th century we tended to make theology an academic discipline, separating theology from faith and contemplation.
The problem with any academic exercise is that it pushes boundaries; it offers plaudits only for those who shake things up. When theologians are appointed by an academic institution they tend to search for those who pull more exciting rabbits out of hats. The problem for Catholic academic theologians is that they are limited by Revelation; they can only go so far, there are many theologians now who would describe themselves as "post-Catholic" or "post-Christian".
The nature of Catholic theology is that it is not an academic discipline but an ecclesial one. Its purpose is not to further research or push boundaries but to deepen faith and enhance mission, it cannot be separated from the Church, or from prayerful contemplation. Properly, theology belongs to the Church's bishops who are, or should be, faithful bearers of The Tradition".
For us theology doesn't make sense except with in The Tradition. Pope Benedict exemplifies the role of a Catholic theologian, what he contemplates he tries to explain. The ultimate forum for theology isn’t the university lecture hall but the pulpit. Von Balthazar saw in the Transfiguration the role of the theologian, he sees glory and mystery and tries to reveal it. St Thomas’ reported words, “All I have written is straw compared with what I have seen”.
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