Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I remember years ago being invited to speak to a group of Anglican ladies and being met with a audible hiss when I said I was studying theology. At the same time in pious traditional Catholic circles someone who described themselves as a "theologian" was automatically considered as being destructive of belief rather than building it up.

There were parallels in the study of scripture too, which rather than opening up the mysteries of divine revelation, the vision of VII, tended to close them down by spending most of its efforts, inspired by twentieth century Protestantism, in "demythologising"and denying the divine authorship of sacred texts. The same happened in Moral Theology, rather than teaching people how to live according to the Law of God, its prime purpose seemed to be how to dismiss God's Law.

Many of those who signed yesterdays letter to the Times describe themselves as "theologian" or even "priest and theologian". I am at a loss at understanding quite what this term means, in its context it presumably indicates some teaching or writing about theology, in the secular academic world this tends to mean some form of religious sociology, a rather dry and narrow discipline, that tends to be a critique, a deconstruction, of something rather an embracing of it. Far from being in the mould of St Anselm's definition of theology, "Faith seeking understanding" it seems more to be about a lack of faith that seeks confusion.

In academic theology, faith is not prerequisite, in many ways it is an atheology, an anti-theology. The great Evagrius of Pontus says, "A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian." For him theology was done on one's knees rather than at a desk, it begins with a vision of God's Glory, like the disciples at the Transfiguration and encountering the Risen Christ; hence St Thomas can say that all is straw compared to what he has seen.

Theology and contemplation are intimately linked, without a prayer-life, without a strong desire to grow in holiness it is impossible to be a theologian. Without an overwhelming craving for an ever deepening communion with the Catholic Church it is impossible to be a Catholic Theologian


Trisagion said...

Another excellent post, Father, spoiled only by a small manifest error: it was St Anselm who described theology as "fides quaerens intellectum", faith seeking understanding. He wrote "For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe.   But I believe in order that I may understand.   For I also believe this, that unless I believe, I shall not understand."

For St Thomas theology is defined simply as "sacra doctrina", holy teaching, whose formal object is God, "It is the principle purpose of Holy Teaching to treat of God, and not only as He is in Himself but also as He is the first principle and final end of all things”.

Amfortas said...

Fortunately there are more and more orthodox theologians we can look to today. Aidan Nichols is a great example in our own country. I recently discovered the work of Matthew Levering, a young American Thomist, whose work is literally drenched in a love of scripture. And there are other examples. All is not lost!

shadowlands said...

1Corinthians 1:19=31

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”

Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?
For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.

It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”

Or as he Greeks would say
"Gnosis phusioi, agape oikodomei"(1 Corinthians 8:1).

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you, Reverend Deacon Trisagion for the correction, you are of course right, I have made the corrected the text.

Jessica Hoff said...

You make more excellent points Father. I think His Holiness has commented to the effect that theology has to be readin the tradition of the Church and with Faith - which seems. It to have been the case here.

GOR said...

Very true, Father – and echoing what Pope Benedict has repeatedly warned theologians about, while adding the need for humility.

Using the soubriquet ‘theologian’ after one’s name has become similar to how the term ‘liturgist’ was employed, post Vat II. It is meant to convey: “I know more than you”.

And when the term ‘feminist theologian’ is employed (cfr. the LCWR here in the US…) it is meant to convey: “I know more than the Church”.

But all this really conveys is the truth of the old saying: “A little learning is a dangerous thing”.

Many so-called ‘theologians’ today have little learning and less knowledge.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Because of a great need for Theologians, those that teach the nuts and bolts of the Faith, I have created a blogspot with just one as a featured Theologian.


More teachings will appear at this blogspot, I just need to up load them.

Please cruise through this first installment; it gets better and more informative as it goes along.

Please say a Hail Mary for Miss Haigh, and one for Evan, a soon to be Seminarian, who helped me set up the Blogspot.

He is from Cincinnati,Ohio, USA.


Victoria said...

What a pity that the Church doesn't have a patent on the use of "theologian" or on the use of "Catholic" for that matter.

Nicolas Bellord said...

My question about the source of Cardinal Hume's statement has been answered on Fr Finigan's excellent blog. Reading Cardinal Hume's statement the key sentence is:

The Church therefore cannot in any way equate a homosexual partnership with a heterosexual marriage.

I think that totally demolishes the arguments of these self-appointed experts.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...