DOMUNI UNIVERSITAS

A first Introduction to Theology

A first Introduction to Theology

Section I. What is Theology?
Section II. Theology as Science and Wisdom
Section III. Theological Principles and Methods
Section IV. The Sources of Theology
Section V. The Subject-matters of Theology

ECTS Credits: 3
Professor: Fr Aidan Nichols OP

Section I

introduces the concept of theology which, in a key definition, it describes as the disciplined exploration of revelation. The distinction between natural and supernatural revelation produces in turn a distinction between natural and sacred theology, the difference between which turns on the act of faith. Through the preamble of faith, natural theology, whose object is God in creation and draws chiefly on metaphysics, transforms itself into sacred theology whose object is God in his saving outreach to man through (triune) personal self-disclosure, above all in the mysteries of the life of Christ with the Paschal Mystery, and its orientation to the final consummation, at their heart.

Section II

considers the status of a theology as a science, linking together three key elements: theology as a science ‘sub-alternated’ to God’s own knowledge; theology as the taking of a unitary formal viewpoint, and theology as a circle of interconnected theses. Since theology is, however, a ‘tasting science’, which, through its relation with the mystical, has, in the theologian, direct contact with its own object, it must also be considered a wisdom. Theological wisdom is prepared by philosophical wisdom and, ideally, culminates as the wisdom of the saints. In any case, it is intrinsically linked to holiness and contemplation, and thus to the Liturgy and sacred aesthetics. Recognition of this linking makes possible the necessary balance between cataphatic or affirmative and apophatic or negative theology.

Section III

looks at principles and methods in theology. It finds two essential principles: a philosophical principle of order and a theological principle of order, choice of which explains the plurality of Catholic theology, despite its simultaneous unity. Four key methods are identified: the analogy of being, the analogy of faith, totality thinking and the method of convergence.

Section IV

investigates the sources of theology which are Scripture and Tradition. Critical tools for investigating the Bible are deemed to have a secondary importance compared with the specifically ecclesial manner of reading Scripture found in Tradition. The concept of Tradition is presented, and its ‘monuments’ or expressions listed as the Fathers (and later doctors), the Liturgies and sacred iconography, Creeds and Councils, and the sense of the faithful as found in the lives of the saints and the works of piety. There are two aids to discernment in scanning these resources: Christian experience and the guidance of the contemporary magisterium.

Section V

looks at the various subject-matters into which, through a process of specialization, theology has become (not altogether happily) subdivided. Four main sub-divisions are recognized: fundamental theology, including apologetics; dogmatic theology, including both positive or historical theology (defined so as to include exegesis) and systematic or speculative theology; moral theology, understood as inclusive of spirituality (itself a synthesis of ascetical and mystical theology), and practical theology which is here regarded as including pastoral theology and embracing all theological reflection on the mission of the Church to culture and society.