There have been new theological voices, especially those of laymen and women; theologies from new cultural contexts, particularly Latin America, Africa and Asia; new themes for reflection, such as peace, justice, liberation, ecology and bioethics; deeper treatments of former themes, thanks to renewal in biblical, liturgical, patristic and medieval studies; and new venues for reflection, such as ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
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These are fundamentally positive developments. The question arises, therefore, as to what characterises Catholic theology and gives it, in and through its many forms, a clear sense of identity in its engagement with the world of today. To some extent, the Church clearly needs a common discourse if it is to communicate the one message of Christ to the world, both theologically and pastorally. It is therefore legitimate to speak of the need for a certain unity of theology.
However, unity here needs to be carefully understood, so as not to be confused with uniformity or a single style. The unity of theology, like that of the Church, as professed in the Creed, must be closely correlated with the idea of catholicity, and also with those of holiness and apostolicity.
What is "theology" in "public theology" and what is "public" about "public theology"?
Eph ; 1Tim Mt ; Rev , and, by enabling them to hear the voice of the one Lord, to gather them all into one flock with one shepherd cf. Jn That mission requires there to be in Catholic theology both diversity in unity and unity in diversity. Catholic theologies should be identifiable as such, mutually supportive and mutually accountable, as are Christians themselves in the communion of the Church for the glory of God. The present text accordingly consists of three chapters, setting out the following themes: in the rich plurality of its expressions, protagonists, ideas and contexts, theology is Catholic, and therefore fundamentally one, if it arises from an attentive listening to the Word of God cf.
Chapter One ; if it situates itself consciously and faithfully in the communion of the Church cf. Chapter Two ; and if it is orientated to the service of God in the world, offering divine truth to the men and women of today in an intelligible form cf. Chapter Three. Theology is scientific reflection on the divine revelation which the Church accepts by faith as universal saving truth.
The sheer fulness and richness of that revelation is too great to be grasped by any one theology, and in fact gives rise to multiple theologies as it is received in diverse ways by human beings. In its diversity, nevertheless, theology is united in its service of the one truth of God. This hymn highlights the cosmic scope of revelation and the culmination of revelation in the incarnation of the Word of God.
Creation and history constitute the space and time in which God reveals himself. The world, created by God by means of his Word cf.
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Gen 1 , is also, however, the setting for the rejection of God by human beings. The revelation of God as Father who loves the world cf. A criterion of Catholic theology is recognition of the primacy of the Word of God. Heb He makes two important points here. On the other hand, he clarifies the means by which the Word of God reaches human ears: fundamentally by means of those who have been sent to proclaim the Word and to awaken faith cf.
Rom It follows that the Word of God for all time can be proclaimed authentically only on the foundation of the apostles cf.
Eph and in apostolic succession cf. Thus, a living faith can be understood as embracing both hope and love. Faith, then, is experience of God which involves knowledge of him, since revelation gives access to the truth of God which saves us cf. Without faith, it would be impossible to gain insight into this truth, because it is revealed by God.
The truth revealed by God and accepted in faith, moreover, is not something irrational. That God exists and is one, the creator and Lord of history, can be known with the aid of reason from the works of creation, according to a long tradition found in both the Old cf. Wis and New Testaments cf.
Jn , and that God in his inner life is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, can be known only through faith. Both aspects work together inseparably, since trust is adhesion to a message with intelligible content, and confession cannot be reduced to mere lip service, it must come from the heart. Faith is at the same time a reality profoundly personal and ecclesial.
Faith is professed within the koinonia of the Holy Spirit cf. Professions of faith have developed within the community of the faithful since earliest times. All Christians are called to give personal witness to their faith, but the creeds enable the Church as such to profess her faith. This profession corresponds to the teaching of the apostles, the good news, in which the Church stands and through which it is saved cf.
In the first letter of John, separation from the communion of love is an indicator of false teaching 1Jn Heresy thus not only distorts the Gospel, it also damages ecclesial communion. Heresy serves as a reminder that the communion of the Church can only be secured on the basis of the Catholic faith in its integrity, and prompts the Church to an ever-deeper search for truth in communion. A criterion of Catholic theology is that it takes the faith of the Church as its source, context and norm. Theology holds the fides qua and the fides quae together.
The act of faith, in response to the Word of God, opens the intelligence of the believer to new horizons. Lk Led by the Spirit and utilising all the resources of their intelligence, they strive to assimilate the intelligible content of the Word of God, so that it may become light and nourishment for their faith.
This is the way of the understanding of faith intellectus fidei. The intellectus fidei takes various forms in the life of the Church and in the community of believers in accordance with the different gifts of the faithful lectio divina , meditation, preaching, theology as a science, etc.
It becomes theology in the strict sense when the believer undertakes to present the content of the Christian mystery in a rational and scientific way. Theology is therefore scientia Dei in as much as it is a rational participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of all things. Theology strives to understand what the Church believes, why it believes, and what can be known sub specie Dei. As scientia Dei , theology aims to understand in a rational and systematic manner the saving truth of God.
The proper place for theology is within the Church, which is gathered together by the Word of God. The ecclesiality of theology is a constitutive aspect of the theological task, because theology is based on faith, and faith itself is both personal and ecclesial. The revelation of God is directed towards the convocation and renewal of the people of God, and it is through the Church that theologians receive the object of their enquiry. Thus the historicity of revelation is methodologically taken into account.
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Since the council, further methods which can unfold new aspects of the meaning of Scripture have been developed. The significance of the location and content of the different books and pericopes can thereby be determined. Overall, as the council teaches, exegesis should strive to read and interpret the biblical texts in the broad setting of the faith and life of the people of God, sustained through the ages by the working of the Holy Spirit.
It is in this context that exegesis searches for the literal sense and opens itself to the spiritual or fuller sense sensus plenior of scripture. This foundation in the revealed Word of God, as testified by Scripture and Tradition, is essential for theology. Rev All of these began in the apostolic community, and the handing on of this integral way of life in the Spirit is Apostolic Tradition. Lex orandi the rule of prayer , lex credendi the rule of belief and lex vivendi the rule of life are all essential aspects of this Tradition.
Tradition is therefore something living and vital, an ongoing process in which the unity of faith finds expression in the variety of languages and the diversity of cultures. It ceases to be Tradition if it fossilises. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on…. Jn , by firmly establishing the memory of Jesus himself cf. Jn , keeping the Church faithful to her apostolic origins, enabling the secure transmission of the Faith, and prompting the ever-new presentation of the Gospel under the direction of pastors who are successors of the apostles.
The Tradition known and lived by the Fathers was multi-faceted and pulsing with life, as can be seen from the plurality of liturgical families and of spiritual and exegetical-theological traditions e. During the major theological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries, the conformity of a doctrine with the consensus of the Fathers, or lack of it, was proof of orthodoxy or heresy.
Acts Confronted with the Christological and Trinitarian heresies that threatened the faith and unity of the Church during the patristic period, bishops met in the great ecumenical councils — Nicaea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople II, Constantinople III, and Nicaea II — to condemn error and proclaim the orthodox faith in creeds and definitions of faith.
These councils set forth their teaching, in particular their solemn definitions, as normative and universally binding; and these definitions express and belong to the Apostolic Tradition and continue to serve the faith and unity of the Church. Subsequent councils which have been recognised as ecumenical in the West continued this practice. Catholic theology recognises the teaching authority of ecumenical councils, the ordinary and universal magisterium of the bishops, and the papal magisterium.
Theologians are aware of the difficulties that attend their interpretation. In Catholic belief, Scripture, Tradition, and the magisterium of the Church are inseparably linked. Having arisen in the midst of the People of God, and having been unified, read and interpreted by the People of God, sacred Scripture belongs to the living Tradition of the Church as the canonical witness to the faith for all time. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Do all traditions which claim to be Christian contain the Tradition? How can we distinguish between traditions embodying the true Tradition and merely human traditions?
Where do we find the genuine Tradition, and where impoverished tradition or even distortion of tradition?