Once Catholic theology had freed itself from the narrow scholastic manuals around the time of the second Vatican Council and had moved from a primarily seminary based existence to the university, it began to model itself on other academic disciplines. It was certainly in need of a good dose of academic vigor and a much closer contact with history, archeology and literary criticism and so forth.
But there are limits to this kind of assimilation. Theology is a reflection on the Christian mysteries, and these mysteries by their very nature transcend the grasp of human reason. Therefore, theology cannot be simply a work of human reason like history or geography. It demands faith as its starting point, for it is only by faith that we can come into living contact with the mysteries of Christianity. But faith is also necessary throughout the whole process of doing theology.
Theology is much more than the manipulation of conceptual statements. The mysteries of Christianity are mysteries about living persons we are called to enter into relationships with. It is these relationships that give rise to conceptual statements, and these statements act as windows on the living Christian mysteries. Unless we maintain a living contact by faith with these mysteries, our conceptual statements about them will go astray. A purely academic study of Christianity outside the context of faith is possible, but it is not theology.
The faith that is at stake here is not faith isolated from the whole organism of the life of grace, but faith animated by love and inspired by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is why the long rift between theology and spirituality has been so detrimental to both of them. It is only when we have entered into the Christian mysteries by faith and love that we are in a position to truly reflect upon them. Theology can never be stripped from its existential context without becoming another theology of the manuals, even if this time it is adorned with all the latest academic trappings.
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The Inner Nature of Faith
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