Home Page

 Fr Aidan Nichols

The Shape of Catholic Theology

by Aidan Nichols, O.P.


Chapter 1: The Habit of Theology

In beginning to study theology, it is no bad thing to start by looking at ourselves and asking what qualities are required of us in this enterprise. What sort of person must I be in order to become a theologian? What subjective conditions are there that I have to meet? In other words, what must be true of me as a subject if I am to grow in understanding of the object of this discipline? This may at first sight appear to be a peculiarly modern question to ask, coPnected with the contemporary interest in the human sciences that many people would date from the so-called anthropocentric turn that European culture took in the age of the Renaissance. But in fact, concern with the subjective preconditions of theological study is quite an ancient phenomenon in the Church. In the classical theology of the Latin tradition, it has been expressed by calling theology a habit, a particular kind of disposition which fits the human mind to deal successfully and happily with some aspect of reality. [1] Père Yves Congar appeals to this tradition in saying that "theology is the highest of the habits of mind that a Christian man or woman can acquire."[2]

This theological habit of mind, like all aspects of Christian existence, is at one and the same time absolutely ordinary and natural, yet entirely extraordinary and supernatural. It is natural in that it draws on the human ability to study. It is supernatural in that its root and source is divinely given faith in the self-revealing God.

In the first place, then, the theological habit requires studiousness, just as much as does any secular academic discipline. Broadly speaking, we may say that any academic discipline requires three things:

first, it requires the ability to follow an argument; second, it requires the capacity to remember a certain number of facts; third, it requires a basic flair or sense for the subject that enables us to be creative in thinking up hypotheses in its regard. For instance, to be a historian we need to understand certain arguments pertaining to historical causality: why a given institution arose, why a particular social class disappeared, why one government collapsed and another took its place. We also need to retain a certain quantity of dates, names, and other historical references. Finally, we need some kind of fundamental imaginative capacity that allows us to exercise a sympathy for the past and to suggest hypotheses for reconstructing it in the way historians do. Or again, to be a physicist we must be able to follow the largely mathematical type of arguments that physicists use, to retain some facts about the results of previous physical experiments, and to have some ability to propose fresh laboratory-testable hypotheses and, indeed, wider perspectives or paradigms for interpreting the subject as a whole. We can sum all this up by saying that a habit of study, including theology, asks that we be argumentative, retentive, and imaginative.

But in the second place, such studiousness is rooted, in theology's case, in the supernatural gift of faith. An atheist, or any non-Christian, could study the Christian religion from a purely descriptive standpoint, in what may be called an empirical way, amassing facts about Christianity: its origins, history, and present diffusion. Again, he or she might study the Christian religion in what may be termed a phenomenological way, evoking what being a Christian appears to be like, so far as an outsider can tell. Such a person may be enormously erudite but could never become a theologian. He or she might achieve celebrity as a religious scientist or phenomenologist and be elected to a chair in religious studies - a nonconfessing discipline common in Europe and North America and descended from a nineteenth-century German ancestor, Religionsgeschichte: the study of the history of religion. [3] Yet, if the studiousness were not rooted in Christian faith, the person would lack the indispensable spiritual milieu which an authentic theological culture needs, and any attempts to write theology would be epistemologically defective.[4]

What, then, is this faith which is so imperative for the theologian? It can be thought of in two ways: either as the body of belief which the Church, the Christian community, holds to be true, or as my own personal act of faith, my very own act of believing adhesion to God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. [5] Drawing on a medieval distinction, we can speak first of the fides quae, the faith which the Church believes, the articles of faith which, as a member of the Church, I regard as true, since they form that objective content of truth that is Catholic Christianity. The importance of the fides quae to theological activity was well brought out by the quarrel between the papacy and the Swiss theologian Prof. Hans Kung. [6] At one level, the Kung affair was about Church politics, that is, the proper form which the specifically Christian and ecclesial or churchly use of power should take. Kung believes that the power of the bishop of Rome has become excessively inflated, largely through historical accident, and that it is high time this power was cut down to size. It has been abused, he asserts, in order to narrow down what should count as the Catholic tradition and so is an obstacle to the development of that tradition, both inwards and in relation to other Churches in the ecumenical movement. The Pope and the Roman curia, on the other hand, believe that while each local Church or diocese should enjoy the freedom that the documents of the Second Vatican Council accord it, the Roman See must still maintain a strong supervisory role within the communion or totality of such Churches. In a world of constant change, the continuity and integrity of Catholic faith, worship, and action require this stabilizing center.

At another level, however, the Kung affair, like other causes célèbres of a similar nature since, concerned the limits of Catholic theology, the boundary which you cannot pass if you wish to keep the title of a Catholic theologian. By refusing to accept in an unqualified way the affirmation of the Council of Nicaea that the being of the one who became man as Jesus is divine, and by refusing to accept in any way at all the ecumenicity of the First Vatican Council, which defined, inter alia, the primacy and infallibility (in certain circumstances) of the Roman bishop, Kung was held, not unreasonably, to have overstepped the limits which circumscribe what Catholic theology is. The Pope's reaction, therefore, was to deprive him of his canonical mission, his formal mandate to teach theology as a member of the believing community. To be a theologian, one must share the common fides quae, the faith of the people of God. A theologian is not an ecclesiastical Ubermensch, but is equally bound, with all Christians, by the Church's rule of faith. He (or she) is dependent on the Church, not necessarily financially or even sociologically, but always epistemologically. A theologian may be so gifted a writer that he can support himself without the Church's monetary aid. He may interest so many people beyond the Church's membership that his lectures and books find an adequate audience outside the household of faith. Yet there are aspects of his understanding which are only available to the individual because the Church's tradition makes them so. Any scholar can study the texts of the New Testament considered simply as intriguing religious writings from the ancient Near East. But to grasp the meaning which the Christian religion has found in these texts, it is necessary to be in touch with the fides quae, the faith of the Church. We can borrow here a useful term from Kant's epistemology and call this the "ecclesiological a priori" in theology: ecclesial faith precedes, enters into, and organizes the concrete knowledge which theology possesses. [7]

Complementary to this view of faith as a body of doctrine giving true insight into God, there is also what the medievals called the fides qua, the faith by which I turn to God in Christ by the Spirit through my acceptance of what the Church believes. If the fides quae is objective faith, then the fides qua is the subjective faith, not in the sense of partial, individual opinions about faith, but the faith that pertains to me as an acting subject in my own right. As described by St. Thomas Aquinas in his theologian's primer, the Summa theologiae, subjective faith opens the mind to God's own truth, enabling objective faith to become the medium of direct contact with God himself. [8] The light which the fides qua brings to the mind derives from God's radiant being and enables us to share here and now in the knowledge which the saints enjoy in heaven and which, more fundamentally, God has of himself. St. Thomas refers to it as the semen gloriae, the seed of glory, or the inchoatio gloriae, the first shadowy sketch of the vision of God. Infused into our minds, it gives us a sympathy or connaturality with God's revelation, orienting us in an obscure but real manner toward his truth. [9]

The importance of the fides qua here can be seen if we consider the persistent unwillingness of the Christian tradition to give the title "theologian" or "teacher" (Doctor) to more than a handful of people exceptional for the quality of their personal faith.[10] In the Greek tradition, for instance, one can point to the fact that only three writers bear the title ho theologos, "the theologian": the evangelist John, the fourth-century bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, and the eleventh-century monk Symeon of Constantinople, the so-called New Theologian. [11] Though this fact is to be explained in part by the caprices of piety and liturgical usage, nevertheless an attempt is being made to single out three individuals who shared a similar quality. By the outstanding character of their faith, they were able to enter into God's mystery in an intimate way and so communicate that inwardness of divine revelation to others. Almost any reader of the Gospels can detect that the Gospel of John is in a class of its own when compared with the other three. And if biblical scholarship be worth anything at all, the qualitative difference between the Fourth Gospel and the others derives, at least partially, from the special qualities of religious insight with which the Christian mind of St. John was liberally endowed.[12] Again, in the Western tradition, there is the practice of naming certain saints doctores Ecclesiae:on the Vulgate text of Hebrews where faith is declared to be substantia sperandarum rerum, "the substance of things to be hoped for." outstanding teachers of the Church. [13] Particular popes, acting as the Church's chief pastors, thus attempted to draw the attention of the community to some figures more deserving of the title "teacher" than others. Here studiousness and conformity to the fides quae are presupposed, and to the resultant qualities of erudition and orthodoxy is added the test of holiness, by which faith, the subjective response to the self-revealing God, is rooted in mind and heart. It is perhaps instructive to reflect on the implications of the difference between these liturgical and canonical titles and the professional titles of lecturers in a university theology faculty today.

Yet, though the root of the theological habit is supernatural faith, that faith takes on a particular quality when exercised theologically because of its entering into symbiosis with the natural human quality of studiousness. The specific mode in which faith lives in the theological enterprise is Christian wonder, or curiosity.[14] The studious believer who wishes to become a theologian wants to know, Why? Why do we say that God exists? Why did this God make the world? How, if the God of Christian faith exists, does evil coexist with such a God? Why did God?s Word, or self-expression, become man and, more specifically, a Jew of the house of David? Why did he conduct his ministry as he did? In what way did he save the world? By what means is he still present and active through his Spirit in the Church? All of these questions and a hundred and one others deserve an answer. Probably everyone who takes his or her faith at all seriously has thought about one or more of them at some time. But there is a difference between the ordinary person who may discuss these things occasionally over a pint of beer at the local pub, or worry about them for a while before dropping off to sleep, and the person who makes a serious lifelong commitment to struggling with them and turns that commitment into a part of his or her very self-definition. For one cannot say, I've finished theology; now I'll move on to another subject. There is a sense in which one might say something similar of Akkadian grammar or the family tree of the Hapsburg dynasty, but one cannot reasonably assert it of exploration into God's revelation, which is, by definition infinite in its implications for human understanding. To be a theological student in the full sense of those words cannot be a temporary state or a preamble to something else, such as the ministerial priesthood or an all-round education. Rather, it is a solemn engagement to developing over a lifetime the gift of Christian wonder or curiosity, which is the specifically theological mode of faith. As theologians, then, we commit ourselves to the lifelong study and reflection which the satisfaction of such curiosity will need. Our faith is from now on, in St. Anselm's words, fides quaerens intellectum, "a faith that quests for understanding."[15]

Such an engagement implies another aspect of the theological habit, the willingness to be stimulated by appropriate objects: the kind of objects which have, in point of fact, stimulated the curiosity of theologians. Such objects can be thought of as arranged in three concentric circles. The first and largest of these circles can be labelled "existence" or, more colloquially, "anything you care to mention." In principle, any existent thing could elicit theological wonder. We should not fall into the trap of thinking that only directly religious things can be cues for theological reflection. For those like myself whose work takes them to Rome, where the symbols of Catholicism lie all about them and where most of their colleagues and students and they themselves live in ecclesiastical institutions, it is tempting to narrow the theological vision to the internal life of the Church and that alone. But giving in to such a temptation would be a disaster. The work of God is as wide as the whole of creation, and the story of grace includes every human soul, whether he or she knows it or not. Two examples drawn from the history of culture may help to illustrate this.

The first is the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit priest and writer who lived in England and Ireland from 1844 to 1899. Hopkins, looking at nature with the penetrating eye of an artist, found in it evidence of the divine creativity. Thus, Hopkins brought to life a commonplace of patristic and medieval theology, namely that nature is a book in which we read of God. In fact, a study of his visual world is entitled, significantly, All My Eyes See [16] With Hopkins' help, we learn how to see the most ordinary things - a bird, a star in the night sky - in a new, theological light, as marked or, in Hopkins' word, "in-stressed" by God's creative act. We also learn how to see certain extraordinary and terrible things - such as shipwreck - as related not simply to the continuous act of creation but to the finer divine activity of re-creation through a travail of suffering and destruction. [17] A second example is the writings, more especially the thoughts, Pensées, of Blaise Pascal, the devout French scientist-philosopher who lived from 1623 to 1662. Pascal looked at the people around him in order to give us dramatic evidence of the Christian understanding of humankind. According to Christianity, people are made for God and open to God. At the same time, they are sunk in original sin, having a built-in tendency to what is evil. Humans are essentially a paradox, what Pascal calls "the glory and the refuse of the universe."[18] To see this as really the truth we need the assistance of men like Pascal, of novels, plays, and films as well as our own observation of the people we meet.

In these two cases, then, nature and people rather than anything specifically religious spark off theological wonder. They invite us to set out on a theological exploration. In Hopkins' case, we would be exploring the doctrine of creation, and of re-creation, through sharing in Christ's death and resurrection. In Pascal's case, we would be exploring theological anthropology: the doctrine of humans, their original righteousness, fall, and need for redemption. To take a leaf out of their books, I advise my students at the Angelicum in Rome to go walking in the Alban hills, or to read some classical novels, or just to loiter in the Pincio Gardens or the Piazza di Spagna on a Sunday afternoon, places where all Romans go to play the favorite Roman sport, which is people watching. This is not necessarily time subtracted from theological study. In principle, theological wonder can be stimulated by any human experience, and any human experience is a proper starting point for theological reflection.

Coming now to the second, smaller concentric circle, I would label this "the sacred history." Although anything can spark off theological wonder, the central focus of that wonder for the Christian must lie in history. [19] Christianity is a historical religion. Its central figure lived two thousand years ago. And this central figure cannot himself be understood without a grasp of the religion of his people Israel, a religion whose own history dates back at least another fifteen hundred years. Similarly, the central figure of Christianity cannot be understood without a grasp of the tradition that flowed from him, the tradition of the Church. The historical nature of the Christian religion means that we cannot reinvent the Christian faith in our own age to suit our own tastes and using our own speculation. We are always in dependence on the people of the past. Certainly, our age has its own contribution to make to an understanding of the faith. Each generation is open to God, and, in fact, this century has seen a positive torrent of theological writing, unprecedented, at least in quantity, in the history of the Church. Nevertheless, we make our contribution as part of a dialogue, and in this dialogue the initiative belongs firmly with the past, since it is out of the past that Christ comes.

This basic truth about Christianity, a truth often minimized or overlooked by people looking for immediate relevance, means that our original outer circle labelled "existence" or "anything" is not a sufficient guide to the field of play of theological wonder. We need a second circle, a circle for the special history that has defined the Christian faith. Much of the time, specifically Christian theological wonder takes the form of what we can call "historical sympathy," sympathy for the people of the past. By sympathy I do not mean that we should feel sorry for them. I mean that we should deliberately try to put ourselves on their wavelength. By historical sympathy we place ourselves in the position of those in the past, insofar as that is humanly possible. We try to understand their viewpoint, their mindset, their hopes and fears. Historical sympathy is a very special kind of charity toward our neighbor. It is a kind of love in which we reach out to the long-dead generations and make their thoughts and words live again by re-creating them in our own minds.[20] This is not an easy task, because many of these people lived in a world very different from ours, with preoccupations that are, at first, quite alien to us. It requires an enormous effort on our part to get inside the mind of the author of the Book of Lamentations, to grasp the situations and problems facing St. Paul or St. Augustine. But if we are not willing to make this effort, then there is little point in our trying to study the theology of a historical religion at all.

The third and smallest concentric circle I propose to label "the Bible." This may sound like a strangely Protestant remark in what is intended to be an essay on getting the habit of Catholic theology. After all, in the scheme I am presenting, the smallest circle is the nearest to the center of all. But it is in point of fact a sound principle of Catholic theology that all of Christian revelation is contained in Scripture in some manner. [21] The crucial phrase there is obviously the words "in some manner." Naturally, Catholics will say that certain aspects of revelation cannot be found easily in Scripture unless one reads Scripture within Tradition, but they will also say that the idea that one could read Scripture theologically outside of the tradition of the Church that produced it is crazy anyhow. (Evidently, the Church only canonized the Old Testament, though it created the New; but quite apart from the "preexistence" of the Church in Israel it is the union of Old and New Testaments which definitively constitutes Scripture.) The ecclesiological a priori works here just as well as everywhere else in theology, for the operation of theological wonder in a Christian presupposes the faith of the Church as well as one's own individual act of faith. It can be said that tradition is more a medium than it is an object. Though tradition has its own loci, it is more an environment or context or atmosphere in which we read Scripture than an object set side by side with Scripture. If we are looking for an actual object, a tangible monument to serve as the supreme concentration of stimuli to theological wonder, an object that expresses in a paramount way the historical religion which is Christianity, then that object can only be the Bible. Pondering on the Scriptures is the most important and fertile source of theological wonder that we have. For the average Catholic, such stimulus will come through the reading of the Scriptures in the liturgy and, if he or she is fortunate, the comments thereon of the Church's ministers. For the contemplative monk, one thinks in addition of the longstanding custom of lectio divina, the prayerful chewing over of the Bible in one's private room. For the young or the enthusiastic "groupie," there are Bible study groups meeting in presbyteries or parishioners' homes [22]

The theological student must take further the trajectory that all of these represent. Every theological student should possess a copy of the Bible in a study edition, that is, a Bible with good critical introductions and notes. In practice, in the English-speaking world, this will mean the New Jerusalem Bible which is as well adapted for such study as it is ill adapted to the needs of Christian worship.[23] It is never too soon to become familiar with the layout and content of the Bible. In the recent past, few lay Catholics were capable of finding relevant passages in Scripture, but in a theological student this deficiency would be inexcusable. In the course of working with the Bible, the theologian learns to see it as a human product, like any other text from the ancient world. But if we are to study Scripture as theologians, and not simply as Semitic scholars or students of Hellenistic Greek, then we have to sustain our sense that this very human product is also a divine gift. In a saying no less true for being oft repeated, the Bible is the Word of God in the words of men.

Theological wonder may begin anywhere in any of these three circles, but the closer it is to their common center (the self-revealing God), the closer it will be to the heart of Christian truth. However, the three circles are not, of course, mutually exclusive. Their concentricity shows their interconnection. A practical example may illustrate this. Suppose that my theological wonder is aroused during the Mass of Christmas Day by hearing the words of St. John's prologue:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." [24]

Stimulated by this great text (starting point), I might trace back the idea of the living and creative Word of God, here identified with Jesus Christ, through the sapiential and prophetic books of the Old Testament (Bible). From there I might try to find out how faith in God as Creator arose among the people of Israel (sacred history), thus moving from the first circle to the second. Finally, I might reflect on what philosophers of science today might think of the idea of creation, perhaps themselves stimulated by research into the origins of the cosmos (existence, or anything). Having thus crossed into the third circle, I might begin the journey back to the original starting point more richly furnished with data and reflection relevant to the prologue, and use that to study further the presentation of the figure of Jesus in the Gospel of John, and so come at last to the mystery of the incarnation of the Creator within his own cosmos, which the liturgy of Christmas presents as the full meaning of the Johannine text.

Cultivating theological wonder by openness to such stimuli and developing his or her natural studiousness in order to exercise it with profit, the theologian will be led to ask a very large number of questions. In order to understand the organization of contemporary theology, it is imperative to sort out these questions into various distinct types. In all, the theological habit finds itself confronted by five basic kinds of question. First, there are questions concerned with the foundation of faith. How is faith to be justified? On what is it based? This leads the theologian into what was formerly called "apologetics" and is now more usually termed "fundamental" or "foundational" theology, a less combative but somewhat bland title. Second, there are questions about the historical origin and development of the faith. What does the biblical text mean? How is later doctrine derived from it? This would take us into historical theology - if the exegetes will forgive us for including biblical studies under this more capacious term. Third, there are questions about the interconnection of the contents of the faith. How does it all hang together? How is one truth related to another? Such questions entail trying to relate in a systematic way the various elements that make up the teaching or dogma of the Christian religion. So they belong to systematic or dogmatic theology. Fourth, there are questions to do with the way faith should affect the behavior of the individual or the group. How are my ethical standards altered by becoming a Christian? How should a Christian community behave? Answering these questions would involve an exploration of the basic principles of Christianity as a life, an exploration known as "moral" or "pastoral" theology. Finally, we can group together a number of rather heterogeneous questions that deal with the implications of the Christian faith for the rest of human knowledge. What does natural science look like in the light of faith? Or social studies? How does faith modify our approach to literature or art or psychology? There is no generally agreed portmanteau for such questions, but a suitable one might be "practical" theology. Such theology would look at the consequences that faith has for our practice of a variety of human disciplines (anything from parapsychology to poetry), the manifold ways that we have of moving intelligently about the world. And certainly we could include here such disciplines as sociology, economics, and politics, thus making a connection with an increasingly widespread use of the term "practical theology" in writers influenced by the political and liberation schools of theological thought.[25] However, to reduce practical theology to the concerns of social politics or social economics would mean a grave impoverishment of its human materials.

In any case, if the theological habit is in good working order, it will not wish to deal with any one of these five types of question on its own, despite the fact that each is rich enough to occupy the energies of a lifetime. If theology is to be studiousness made supernatural, enquiing faith stimulated by various kinds of objects to ask a variety of questions but in a specifically Christian way, then it must always keep in mind the meaning and truth of Christianity as a whole. And so another vital aspect of the habit of theology emerges, and this is the urge to connect. In the Christian religion there are a great number of beliefs and practices. There are special texts, special ritual actions, special institutions, special ethical qualities, all of which are said to be distinctively Christian things. Also, within any one set of these things there is a sometimes bewildering diversity. The Bible, for instance, is not just one book, but a whole library of books of different kinds from different periods. The theologian wants to know how all of these different books are connected into a single, unitary whole. He or she wants to know how the Christian religion is a unitary belief system, and how it offers a unitary way of life. The attempt to show that Christianity is a coherent system of beliefs is another definition for systematic theology. The attempt to show how the Christian religion can be lived as a coherent way of life for an individual or a community is another definition of moral and pastoral theology. And these two types of theology are surely theology?s central themes, since questions dealing with the rationale and genesis of Catholic Christianity (fundamental and historical theology) have something of the nature of a preamble, while questions dealing with the implications of theology for the practice of other human disciplines (what I have called practical theology) are by way of being a coda, though in practice -as we would say - a profoundly important one for human living.

In order to preserve this sense of the unity of God's approach to us through a medley of discrete facts and truths, the theologian must always be concerned to develop his or her own personal relationship with the Christian Absolute found in all these particulars: the God of Jesus Christ. And this brings us back in conclusion to the idea that to see the theological habit at work, we should look to its highest practitioners, the Doctors of the Church. The final aspect of that habit, which needs highlighting, is the quality of the intersubjective friendship between a theologian and the Lord. Ideally, the theologian should be a saint; at any rate, all theology should be what the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar called die betende theologie or la théologie a genoux:
theology on one's knees."[26]

Although the personal relationship of the theologian with God is a reality wider than prayer, since it necessarily involves the entire Christian life, nevertheless prayer is its conscious heart. The fourth-century desert Father Evagrius of Pontus had a saying, "If you pray, you are a theologian."[27] The saying has been, perhaps, a little overexposed and not a little misunderstood. The term "theologian" here carries a somewhat specialized meaning. It really means someone who contemplates God as the Trinity. But at least we can echo Evagrius and say, "If you do not pray then you are not a theologian." It is a necessary (though not a sufficient) condition for becoming a theologian (in the non-Evagrian sense) that one has some kind of prayerful quality to one's life and thought. How we should understand this is a delicate business. Clearly, it is not the case that if we flop down in a church for half an hour a day we shall emerge from the pew reborn as a latter-day Duns Scotus. But continued exposure to God and a God-centered vision of reality brings a greater quality of intuitive ability when it comes to theological judgment. In other words, if two people who differ on some aspect of theology share a comparable theological culture, but one prays and the other has stopped praying, it is the one who still prays that we should be well advised to follow.[28]

From an account of the habit of theology, we must now pass on to an investigation of its task. Having learned something of the subjective preconditions of theology, we need to enquire further into its objective content and its wider place in the Christian community, the Church.


1. The conceptualization of the theological (and other) virtues is one of the greatest achievements of Christian thought, building on both sacred and secular sources: see 0. Lottin, Psychologie et morale aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles (Louvain: 1942-60), especially 111/2, 99-150. Although the phrase "theological virtues" first emerges with William of Auxerre (d. 1231), the classic account is that of Thomas in Summa theologiae Ia. IIae. 62, 3. There those virtues are described as grace-given adaptations of man to God as his supernatural end, paralleling the natural virtues rooted in his natural orientation toward human perfection. The idea that theology itself actualizes a specific virtue draws on both supernatural and natural models.

2. Y. M.-J. Congar, "Theologia est altissimus inter habitus intellectuales acquisitos hominis Christiani," La foi et la theologie (Paris: 1962) 192.

3. The history-of-religions school is the first great attempt at a "neutral" scholarly study of religion. See H. Schlier, "Religions-geschichtliche Schule," Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 8 (Freiburg: 1963) cols. 1184-85.

4. Congar, "Theologia est altissimus," 193-94. Recently, some disagreement has been voiced here. The most notable Catholic writer who holds that, in principle, Christian faith is not a prerequisite of theology is the American David Tracy. See, e.g., his Blessed Rage for Order: the New Pluralism in Theology (New York: 1975) 6-8. For an evaluation of his position, one might consult A. Dulles, "Method in Fundamental Theology: Reflections on David Tracy's Blessed Rage for Order,"Theological Studies 38(1976) 304-16.

5. Cf. E. Schillebeeckx, Revelation and Theology (London: 1967) 105-9.

6. Der Fall Küng: Eine Dokumentation, ed. N. Greimacher and H. Haag (Munich: 1980).

7. C. Ernst, Multiple Echo: Explorations in Theology (London: 1979) 139.

8. Summa theologiae Ila. IIae. 1-7. A valuable introduction, and useful notes and appendices are found in the modern English Dominican edition, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, vol. 31: Faith ed. T. C. O'Brien (London: 1974). Again, in his Compendium theologiae 1, 2, Thomas describes faith as that which "makes our future blessedness to exist in us inchoatively": his account of the eschatological character of faith turns on the Vulgate text of Hebrews where faith is declared to be substantia sperandarum rerum, "the substance of things to be hoped for."

9. For an account of Thomas' reflections on discernment propter connaturalitatem, or per modum inclinationis, see T. Gilby, "The Dialectic of Love in the Summa" in St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 1: Theology (London: 1963) 124-32.

10. As M.-D. Chenu has said, faith is "(une) connaissance réaliste, c'est-a-dire qui touche la chose divine. Perception directe, impregnée de l?affectivité," "L'unité de la foi: réalisme et formalisme," La foi dans L'intelligence (Paris: 1964) 15-16.

11. V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (English trans., London:1957) 9.

12. The special qualities of John were early acknowledged in the Church's history: see F.-M. Braun, Jean le theologien et son Evangile dans l'Eglise ancienne (Paris: 1959); M. Wiles, The Spiritual Gospel: The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel in the Early Church (Cambridge: 1960).

13. V. Pugliese and others, "Dottori della Chiesa," Encicopledia Cattolica 4 (Rome:1950) cols. 1902-7. The first Western list, that of Bede in his Epistola responsoria ad Accam episcopum, depended like Lossky's modern Eastern triumvirate on received custom; but stimulated by Trent's praise of Thomas, Pope Pius V began the practice of canonically naming new Doctors in 1567. The most recent creations are the first two women Doctors, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila, named by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

14. Schillebeeckx, Revelation and Theology, 109.

15. The subtitle of Anseim's Proslogion; Cf. his Epistola de incarnatione Verbi 1: "The one who does not believe has no experience, and the one who has no experience, does not know." For Thomas' version see Scriptum super libros sententiarum III. 23, 2, 2, 1 ad ii.

16. R. K. R. Thornton, All My Eyes See: The Visual World of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Sunderland: 1975).

17. See, e.g., G. M. Hopkins, "The Windhover," "The Starlight Night," "The Loss of the Eurydice," "The Wreck of the Deutschland": The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. W. H. Gardner and N. H. Mackenzie (Oxford: 1967) 69, 66, 72-76, 51-63. A theologically informed reading of the poems is presented in J. F. Cotter, Inscape: The Christology and Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Pittsburgh: 1972). 18.B. Pascal, Pensées, ed. L. Lafuma (Pans: 1962) no. 131; cf. nos. 78, 149, 430, 470,613, 629. See A. Krailsheimer, Pascal (Oxford: 1980) 50-68.

19. 0. Lewry, The Theology of History (Cork: 1969) 10.

20. R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (London: 1946) remains valuable on this aspect of the historian?s approach.

21. Y. M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions (English trans., London: 1966) 376-424.

22. For a general orientation in the Catholic use of the Bible, see C. Charlier, The Christian Approach to the Bible (Westminster: 1958).

23. New Jerusalem Bible (London: 1985).

24. John 1:1-3.

25. A. T. Hennelly, Theologies in Conflict: The Challenge of Juan Luis Segundo (Maryknoll: 1979) 9-10.

26. H. U. von Balthasar, "Theology and Sanctity," in Word and Redemption. Essays in Theology 2 (English trans., New York: 1965) 49-86.

27. Evagrius, On Prayer 60. See I. Hausherr, Les Leçons d'un contemplatif (Paris: 1960).

28. J. Leclerq, Theology and Prayer (English trans., St. Meinrad, md.: 1963).

Section Contents Copyright ©; Mark Alder and Order of St Benedict, Inc., 1991, 2001.

This Version: 6th February 2008


 Home Page

 Fr Aidan Nichols