Lumen Fidei 36

Chapter Two wraps up with a section entitled, “Faith and theology.”

36. Since faith is a light, it draws us into itself, inviting us to explore ever more fully the horizon which it illumines, all the better to know the object of our love. Christian theology is born of this desire. Clearly, theology is impossible without faith; it is part of the very process of faith, which seeks an ever deeper understanding of God’s self-disclosure culminating in Christ. It follows that theology is more than simply an effort of human reason to analyze and understand, along the lines of the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object. He is a subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship. Right faith orients reason to open itself to the light which comes from God, so that reason, guided by love of the truth, can come to a deeper knowledge of God. The great medieval theologians and teachers rightly held that theology, as a science of faith, is a participation in God’s own knowledge of himself. It is not just our discourse about God, but first and foremost the acceptance and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the word which God speaks to us, the word which God speaks about himself, for he is an eternal dialogue of communion, and he allows us to enter into this dialogue.[Cf. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, prol.: Opera Omnia, V, Quaracchi 1891, 201; In I Sent., proem, q. 1, resp.: Opera Omnia, I, Quaracchi 1891, 7; Thomas Aquinas, S. Th I, q.1.] Theology thus demands the humility to be “touched” by God, admitting its own limitations before the mystery, while striving to investigate, with the discipline proper to reason, the inexhaustible riches of this mystery.

Theology is not something we conduct to learn about God. It is an inspired part of divine revelation. Saints Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas were well-attuned to the proper place of theology as an inspiration of God.

Theology, as currently presented by the hierarchy is very often seen as an exercise in authority. I wonder how the dialogue would work if we explored further the reality that God’s self-revelation to people can occur anywhere, to anyone.

Theology also shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. This implies, on the one hand, that theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it must work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers. On the other hand, because it draws its life from faith, theology cannot consider the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of its internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.

The connection with the Magisterium is damaged not always through actions outside of the hierarchy, but too often, by attitudes among the bishops. Being open to God’s revelation implies a theologian, be that person ordained or lay, is first a person of prayer, not of first an individual of intellectual expression. The relationship of the Magisterium, especially when it struggles with prayer or intellect, remains a troubled one for Roman Catholicism. That constitutive dimension implies that bishops listen. That is not always evident. And if bishops do not or cannot listen to theologians, then their ability to discern protection and deepening of faith is rightly called into question. Theoretically, few Catholics have a problem with that. As it has often turned out in select cases, investigated theologians have suggested that listening is not occurring. What then?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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