Guide Theology for a Troubled Believer: An Introduction to the Christian Faith

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Opportunities for presentations, seminars and conferences that will strengthen the mutual awareness and appreciation of colleagues in theological institutions and faculties should be cultivated.

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Moreover, occasions for inter-disciplinary encounter and exchange between theologians and philosophers, natural and social scientists, historians, and so on, should also be fostered, since, as is indicated in this report, theology is a science that thrives in interaction with other sciences, as they do also in fruitful exchange with theology.

Theologians need and deserve the prayerful support of the ecclesial community as a whole, and particularly of one another, in their sincere endeavours on behalf of the Church, but careful adherence to the fundamental criteria of Catholic theology is especially important in such circumstances. Theologians should always recognise the intrinsic provisionality of their endeavours, and offer their work to the Church as a whole for scrutiny and evaluation.

One of the most valuable services that theologians render to one another is that of mutual questioning and correction, e.

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The bishops who watch over the faithful, teaching and caring for them, certainly have the right and the duty to speak, to intervene and if necessary to censure theological work that they deem to be erroneous or harmful. Ecumenical dialogue and research provides a uniquely privileged and potentially productive field for collaboration between Catholic theologians and those of other Christian traditions.

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In such work, issues of faith, meaning and language are deeply pondered. As they work to promote mutual understanding on issues that have been contentious between their traditions, perhaps for many centuries, theologians act as ambassadors for their communities in the holy task of seeking the reconciliation and unity of Christians, so that the world may believe cf.

In language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which [people] ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. As they live their daily lives in the world with faith, all Christians face the challenge of interpreting the events and crises that arise in human affairs, and all engage in conversation and debate in which, inevitably, faith is questioned and a response is needed.

The whole Church lives, as it were, at the interface between the Gospel and everyday life, which is also the boundary between the past and the future, as history moves forward. The Church is always in dialogue and in movement, and within the communion of the baptised who are all dynamically engaged in this way bishops and theologians have particular responsibilities, as the council made clear.

Theology has a particular competence and responsibility in this regard. Through its constant dialogue with the social, religious and cultural currents of the time, and through its openness to other sciences which, with their own methods examine those developments, theology can help the faithful and the magisterium to see the importance of developments, events and trends in human history, and to discern and interpret ways in which through them the Spirit may be speaking to the Church and to the world.

Jn , 15, 18 though not of the world cf. Jn , What is happening in the world at large, good or bad, can never be a matter of indifference to the Church. The world is the place in which the Church, following in the footsteps of Christ, announces the Gospel, bears witness to the justice and mercy of God, and participates in the drama of human life. Recent centuries have seen major social and cultural developments. The ambivalence of human history has led the Church at times in the past to be overly cautious about such movements, to see only the threats they may contain to Christian doctrine and faith, and to neglect their significance.

However, such attitudes have gradually changed thanks to the sensus fidei of the People of God, the clear sight of prophetic individual believers, and the patient dialogue of theologians with their surrounding cultures. A better discernment in the light of the Gospel has been made, with a greater readiness to see how the Spirit of God may be speaking through such events. In all cases, discernment must carefully distinguish between elements compatible with the Gospel and those contrary to it, between positive contributions and ideological aspects, but the more acute understanding of the world that results cannot fail to prompt a more penetrating appreciation of Christ the Lord and of the Gospel [] since Christ is the Saviour of the world.

Thanks to the work of many theologians, Vatican II was able to acknowledge various signs of the times in connection with its own teaching. Acts ; ; Rom A criterion of Catholic theology is that it should be in constant dialogue with the world. It should help the Church to read the signs of the times illuminated by the light that comes from divine revelation, and to profit from doing so in its life and mission.

Revelation is not received purely passively by the human mind. On the contrary, the believing intelligence actively embraces revealed truth. Without ever claiming to exhaust the riches of revelation, it strives to appreciate and explore the intelligibility of the Word of God — fides quaerens intellectum — and to offer a reasoned account of the truth of God. In a threefold investigation, addressing a number of current issues, the present chapter considers essential aspects of theology as a rational, human endeavour, which has its own authentic and irreplaceable position in the midst of all intellectual enquiry.

First, theology is a work of reason illuminated by faith ratio fide illustrata , which seeks to translate into scientific discourse the Word of God expressed in revelation. Second, the variety of rational methods it deploys and the plurality of specialised theological disciplines that result remain compatible with the fundamental unity of theology as discourse about God in the light of revelation. Third, theology is closely bound to spiritual experience, which it enlightens and by which in turn it is nourished, and of its nature it opens into an authentic wisdom with a lively sense of the transcendence of the God of Jesus Christ.

This section considers some aspects of the history of theology from the challenges of early times to those of today, in relation to the scientific nature of theology. We are to know God, to know the truth of God. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth cf. God the Father initiated this enlightenment cf. Gal , and he himself will consummate it cf.

Correspondingly, the mystery of the Trinity must be at the centre of theological contemplation. The truth of God, accepted in faith, encounters human reason. Created in the image and likeness of God Gen , the human person is capable, by the light of reason, of penetrating beyond appearances to the deep-down truth of things, and opens up thereby to universal reality. The common reference to truth, which is objective and universal, makes authentic dialogue possible between human persons.

Theology for a troubled believer: An introduction to the Christian faith

The human spirit is both intuitive and rational. It is intuitive in that it spontaneously grasps the first principles of reality and of thought. It is rational in that, beginning from those first principles, it progressively discovers truths previously unknown using rigorous procedures of analysis and investigation, and it organises them in a coherent fashion. It designates a form of knowledge capable of explaining how and why things are as they are.

Human reason, itself part of created reality, does not simply project on to reality in its richness and complexity a framework of intelligibility; it adapts itself to the intrinsic intelligibility of reality. In accordance with its object, that is with the particular aspect of reality that it is studying, reason applies different methods adapted to the object itself.

Rationality, therefore, is one but takes a plurality of forms, all of which are rigorous means of grasping the intelligibility of reality. Science likewise is pluriform, each science having its own specific object and method. This univocal view of science and of rationality is reductive and inadequate. By the use of reason, the believer grasps the profound connections between the different stages in the history of salvation and also between the various mysteries of faith which illuminate one another.

On the other hand, faith stimulates reason itself and stretches its limits. Reason is stirred to explore paths which of itself it would not even have suspected it could take. This encounter with the Word of God leaves reason enriched, because it discovers new and unsuspected horizons. The dialogue between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy, is therefore required not only by faith but also by reason, as Pope John Paul explains in Fides et Ratio.

This dialogue is possible because of the unity of truth in the variety of its aspects. This is the profound reason why, even though religion and philosophy were often opposed in ancient thought, from the start Christian faith reconciled them in a broader vision. In fact, while taking the form of a religion, early Christianity frequently thought of itself not as a new religion but rather as the true philosophy, [] now able to attain the ultimate truth.

Christianity claimed to teach the truth both about God and about human existence. Mythical theology told stories of the gods in a way that did not respect the transcendence of the divine; political theology was a purely sociological and utilitarian approach to religion which did not care about truth. Great Eastern theologians used the encounter between Christianity and Greek philosophy as a providential opportunity to reflect on the truth of revelation, i. In order to defend and illumine the mysteries of faith the consubstantiality of the persons of the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc.

However, they also strongly insisted on the apophatic dimension of theology: theology must never reduce the Mystery. In his opuscula sacra , he marshalled all the resources of philosophy in the service of clarifying Christian doctrine and offered a systematic and axiomatic exposition of the faith.


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Throughout the medieval period, especially with the eventual founding of universities and the development of scholastic methodology, theology steadily became differentiated, though not necessarily separated, from other forms of the intellectus fidei e. Scholastic theologians sought to present the intelligible content of the Christian faith in the form of a rational and scientific synthesis. In order to do this, they considered the articles of faith as principles in the science of theology.

Then, theologians made use of reason to establish revealed truth with precision and to defend it by showing that it was not contrary to reason, or by showing its internal intelligibility. In the latter case, they formulated a hierarchy ordo of truths, seeking which were the most fundamental and therefore the most illuminating of others.


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This scientific ideal, however, never took the form of a rationalistic hypothetical-deductive system. Rather, it was always modelled on the reality being contemplated, which far exceeds the capacities of human reason. Moreover, even though they undertook various exercises and used literary genres distinct from scriptural commentary, the Bible was the living source of inspiration for scholastic theologians — theology precisely aimed at a better understanding of the Word, and St Bonaventure and St Thomas Aquinas thought of themselves primarily as magistri in sacra pagina.

The theologian does not reason a priori , but listens to revelation and searches the wise ways God has freely chosen in his plan of love. Towards the end of the middle ages, the unified structure of Christian wisdom, of which theology was the keystone, began to break up. Philosophy and other secular disciplines increasingly separated themselves from theology, and theology itself fragmented into specialisations which sometimes lost sight of their deep connection. There was a tendency of theology to distance itself from the Word of God, so that on occasion it became a purely philosophical reflection applied to religious questions.

At the same time, perhaps because of this neglect of Scripture, its theo -logical dimension and spiritual finality slipped from view, and the spiritual life began to develop aside from a rationalising university theology, and even in opposition to the latter. Scholastic theology was criticised during the Reformation for placing too much value on the rationality of faith and too little on the damage sin does to reason.

Catholic theology responded by maintaining in high esteem the anthropology of the image of God imago Dei and the capacity and responsibility of reason, wounded but not destroyed by sin, and by emphasising the Church as the place where God could truly be known and the science of faith truly be developed. The Catholic Church thus kept open the possibility of dialogue with philosophy, philology and the historical and natural sciences. The critique of faith and theology made during the Enlightenment, however, was more radical.

In some ways, the Enlightenment had a religious stimulus. However, by aligning themselves with deism, Enlightenment thinkers now saw an irreconcilable difference between the factual contingencies of history and the genuine needs of reason.

Truth, for them, was not to be found in history, and revelation, as an historical event, could not serve any longer as a reliable source of knowledge for human beings. In many cases, Catholic theology reacted defensively against the challenge of Enlightenment thinking. Catholic theology was thus left damaged in various respects by its own strategy in this encounter. At its best, however, Catholic theology also sought a constructive dialogue with the Enlightenment and with its philosophical criticism.

Today there is a new challenge, and Catholic theology has to deal with a post-modern crisis of classical reason itself that has serious implications for the intellectus fidei. Does such an idea lead to intolerance and violence? There is therefore a problem in that the metaphysical orientation of philosophy, which was important for the former models of Catholic theology, remains in deep crisis.

Theology can help to overcome this crisis and to revitalise an authentic metaphysics. Catholic theology is interested, nonetheless, in dialogue about the question of God and truth with all contemporary philosophies. In Fides et Ratio , Pope John Paul II rejected both philosophical scepticism and fideism and called for a renewal of the relationship between theology and philosophy.

He recognised philosophy as an autonomous science and as a crucial interlocutor for theology.