Progress in theology
THEOLOGY, of course, is indispensable in our life. It is the required effort to study our faith that is supposed to guide and shape our life. It's actually meant for everyone, and not just for a few. Truth is, whether we are aware of it or not, all of us do some theologizing the moment we try to understand and act on our beliefs.
Theology is supposed to help us in our life of piety and in carrying out the multi-faceted duties and responsibilities that we have. It is a serious obligation for all of us. We just have to help one another in giving it the proper place in our life.
Since our faith is supernatural and full of mysteries, its study will always be a continuing and dynamic affair. It will be coterminous with one's life itself. We can never say that we have studied and mastered our faith enough. Our faith will never stop leading us to more and more things in life.
Theology is not like some exact science where things can be fixed, frozen and completely objectified. It's a living thing with a subjective component that needs to be taken care of all the time. We can never say we have perfected it.
It cannot be left alone in the books. It will always involve a vital relationship with God and with everybody andeverything else. It should not be held captive by a certain school of thought, or some ideological structure and system. It always has to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who will always make his presence felt in different and sometimes unexpected ways.
As such, theology needs to grow, to deepen and broaden, tostrengthen and get more and more refined. While always faithful to what is essential, theology needs to flow with the times and to adapt itself properly with the changing situations.
That is why, a document of Vatican II gives out the following indication with respect to the study of dogmatic theology:
“The following order should be observed in the treatment of dogmatic theology: biblical themes should have first place. Then students should be shown what the Fathers of the Church, both of the East and West, have contributed toward the faithful transmission and elucidation of each of the revealed truths. Then the later history of dogma, including its relation to the general history of the Church.
“Lastly, in order to throw as full a light as possible on the mysteries of salvation, the students should learn to examine more deeply, with the help of speculation and with St. Thomas (Aquinas) as teacher, all aspects of these mysteries, and to perceive their interconnection.” (Optatamtotius 16)
The Vatican document further states: “They (students) should learn to seek the solution of human problems in the light of revelation, to apply its eternal truths to the changing conditions ofhuman affairs, and to express them in a language which people of themodern world will understand.”
It is quite obvious that for theology to grow and progress, a lot of care and prudence is necessary. The Magisterium itself, in the person of the Pope alone or together with all the bishops, has to be truly discerning of what the Holy Spirit is prompting him/them.
The growth and progress of theology, while kept in strict compliance to the requirements of a homogeneous development of doctrine, should be open to new things that may seem to go beyond but not contradict what so far have been defined.
This is a very delicate aspect in the process of making our theology grow and progress. A lot of prayer, sacrifice and study is involved here. More than that, a lot of consultation and a deeper sense of communion in the whole Church is also involved here.
So far, the above cited Vatican document has the following to say with respect to how one can be guided in his study of theology:
“Theological subjects should be taught in the light of faith, under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church, in such a way that students will draw pure Catholic teaching from divine revelation, will enter deeply into its meaning, make the nourishment of their spiritual life, and learn to proclaim, explain and defend it in their priestly ministry.” (Optatamtotius 16)
In the end, we should all pray that our effort at making progress in our theology would always be done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that all human instruments be humble enough to acknowledge the necessity of being truly united with the Spirit. It should be an ecclesial event.*
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