|Where we are coming from
How we do theology depends on how we understand the nature of faith. Christian faith is not the outcome of reason alone, but of an interior ascent to God that comes about through love. Therefore, theology is not the work of reason alone, but takes place within the context of this loving relationship with God. Theology is meant to explore and understand something of the Christian mysteries which we are trying to live out.
Christian morality is not just about the laws that flow from the nature of things, but also is concerned with how we actually exist as men and women struggling for redemption. In this way morality has not only an essentialistic dimension, but an existential one, as well.
What is Christian theology?
It is a thoughtful reflection on belief in the Christian mysteries like God as a Trinity of persons, and Jesus as both God and man.
Doesn't thinking about the Christian mysteries somehow take away faith in them?
No. St. Augustine says, "Love the intellect greatly!" We are meant to use our minds which God has given us to the utmost in all the areas of our lives, and what could be a better use of them than to try to understand something of what we believe?
Isn't theology just a matter of using human reason so that even a person who doesn't believe can be a theologian?
No. Human reason alone can't come to a knowledge of the Christian mysteries. Faith is necessary in order to assent to their existence and to direct reason in its work of trying to understand something about them. To attempt to do theology without faith is like attempting to have a conversation about someone we don't believe exists; it soon degenerates into sterile arguments.
What, then, is faith?
It is an assent to the Christian mysteries because they have been revealed by God.
But how do we know that they have been revealed by God? By reason?
No. Reason alone cannot yield to us the heart of the Christian mysteries. It cannot compel us to believe in God or Jesus. It can, however, give us some limited but valuable knowledge about God's existence and the historical reality of Jesus that can lead us towards faith and show us that it is not unreasonable to believe. But that kind of reasoning is not faith itself.
But if faith is not to be found by means of human reason, where does it come from?
It is a knowledge born in and from the heart. In a mysterious way God warms and attracts the will so we can make a judgment by means of it. We feel that what is being proposed to us from without, that is, the presentation of the Christian mysteries about God and Jesus, is the same reality that is attracting us from within, and our hearts judge it to be good and see that it ought to be embraced.
What is the practical use of theology? How does it relate to Christian spirituality?
Theology is the foundation of Christian prayer and contemplation. Christian mysticism is not contentless. It is about our experience of Jesus and the Trinity, the very things that theology helps us to get some insight into. The best theology should inspire us and strengthen us to become better Christians.
What is Christian morality?
It is the thoughtful reflection on the practical consequences of believing in the Christian mysteries.