TFI #11

11. What key contributions did Iraneus of Lyons and Origen bring to theological Methodology?

St. Iraneus is considered by some to be the first systematic theologian. He concerned himself with refuting the Gnostic heresy. He appealed to the “rule” of faith handed on from the apostles. He showed how the common beliefs — the “one scheme of faith” — formed a foundation on which we could explore deeper meanings. Apostolic tradition as a source of divine Revelation; what we now call Sacred Tradition.

Origen was firm in his conviction that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God. It was important to learn not only Scripture’s surface meaning, but also the deeper “spiritual meaning.”. He relates these different meanings as analogous to the construct of Body-Soul-Spirit:

Body – surface meaning; the literal sense
Soul – applicability to our own lives; God can speak directly to us through the text
Spirit – God’s hidden wisdom

With Scripture and Tradition together does the theologian have a solid foundation upon which he can begin to uncover the riches of God’s theophany.

TFI #9

9.  Three incomplete definitions of theology, and Nichols definition

A)  Glorified Spirituality:  How can you have a science about something “mysterious”?  Can’t you only speak about your response?

Nichols:  Faith seeks understanding, and that which we seek to understand is Truth Himself.  It is a way of knowing, not just a way of feeling. 

We can know what God has revealed of Himself and study this.  Faith has to feed study to be a theologian, otherwise you are merely someone engaged in religious studies.

B)  Just Papal and Episcopal Interpretation:  Theology merely attempts to explain and defend what Popes and the Bishops have proclaimed about faith

Nichols:  This is one aspect of the theological disciplines.  However, theology is more than this.  The theologian listens to the whole of Divine Revelation, and asks questions that arise for his exploration.  The Pope and Bishops don’t think of all the questions, they safeguard the answers.  The Magisterium sets the boundaries of theological exploration.  Any theology that cuts itself off from the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles is not a proper theology.

The point is not just papal and church documents, but the field of study is all of Revelation.

C)  Just a Bunch of Facts:  Good theology just stores up a big collection of facts, dates and “technical” ideas about God and the Church…like an encyclopedia.  Sometimes referred to as “positive theology.”

Nichols:  The ultimate goal of theology is to connect the dots, to provide a positive, cohesive vision of who God is and what He is saying.  This is referred to as “systematic theology.”  However, we cannot do systematic theology without positive theology.  If we don’t have some of the dots in the right spot, we won’t get the right image when we go to connect them.

The goal is to be able to put it all together, so that it makes sense, so as to grow in intimacy with God.

Listening, followed by explaining:  the 2 movements in the theological enterprise

Okay, so what is theology?

Nichols:  The task of theology is the disciplined exploration of what is contained in revelation.  Theology serves revelation; it “unpacks” revelation; and it follows a method and structure in order to hear God’s Word as clearly as possible.

The goal of theology is union with God — the faith which seeks understanding.

TFI #8

8.  Can faith contradict reason inherently?

No.  Faith is certain because it is founded upon Truth.  God is god of all knowledge.  If God is all-knowing and all-good, then having faith in Him cannot logically be contrary to reason — to believe this would violate the principle of non-contradiction, and that would violate reason.

“Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason.  Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth contradict truth.”  (Vatican I, Dei Filius 4)

To the extent that we perceive a breach between faith and reason, it means that we lack understanding.

TFI #7

7.  Who said, “Faith seeks understanding” and what does the phrase mean?

St. Anselm made this statement.  Basically, what it means is that if you truly love someone, you always seek to deepen the relationship.  So, if you love, you always want to know more.  If we are passive or don’t care to learn more about God, then we have to question the depth of our relationship with God.  Our faith is a lifelong quest.

TFI #6

6.  Is faith a human act?  Why?

Faith is a human act in that it requires our participation.  Faith is only possible through grace, but we need to consent with our free will.  We have to consciously choose to submit to God.  Faith is not predetermined, and is not predetermined at any point in our lives.