Thursday, May 10, 2007

Random thoughts on theology

At the end of the semester in Intro to Theology I give a little talk about the role of theology in the life of the Church and what our attitude should be toward it. Here is a summary of the points I make:

  1. Humility is the first virtue when doing theology or when evaluating the theology of others.
  2. Theology is an intellectual discipline. It requires intellectual work, not just feelings.
  3. Academic theology is addressed to intellectuals, and therefore requires knowledge of the intellectual currents of the time to be understood and criticized. This is true historically and in contemporary theology.
  4. Never presume you fully understand what is being said the first time.
  5. Never presume your work is done, especially if you are having difficulty with an official teaching of the Church.
  6. Theology itself is not a threat to the faith. Why? It is just Christians thinking out loud.
  7. Of necessity, speculative academic theologians express things in ways that are “on the edge” and therefore subject to error.
  8. Error is not heresy. It is okay for a theologian (and a seminarian) to be wrong so long as they subject their thinking to review by the theological community and submit to any correction by the Magisterium. .
  9. Inadequacy is an important category in theology.
  10. Theologians aren’t the teaching authority of the Church. However, they have an essential role in the exercise of the Magisterium.
  11. You will encounter teachers and fellow students who have theological opinions that differ from your own. That doesn’t make them a heretic. Even if they are wrong.
  12. Students of Catholic theology have a right to hear and teachers have an obligation to explain how a strange sounding statement corresponds to the teaching of the Church. But you must ask respectfully, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.
  13. There is such a thing as heresy, which is an obstinate and rejection of a clear teaching of the church and a public refusal to be corrected by the teaching authority of the Church.
  14. A person may have private difficulties with (but not doubt concerning) even an infallible teaching of the Church and not fall into heresy. As Cardinal Newman said, one thousand difficulties does not equal one doubt.
  15. We have not been given the responsibility of making the final decision about the validity of a given theological expression.
  16. Don’t put all your eggs in one theological basket.
  17. Both/And, not either or.
    a. The Eucharist: sacrifice and meal
    b. Vatican II: Dogmatic and pastoral
    c. Interpretation of Sacred Scripture: Historical-critical and spiritual sense of Scripture
    d. Liturgical music: Chant and contemporary liturgical music
  18. By the time you are done with your theological studies, it will make reasonable sense. Be patient.

1 comment:

Joe S. said...


This is excellent. Would you mind if I saved this list (with proper citation giving you credit of course) and used it in discussions and so forth?