Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I remember years ago being invited to speak to a group of Anglican ladies and being met with a audible hiss when I said I was studying theology. At the same time in pious traditional Catholic circles someone who described themselves as a "theologian" was automatically considered as being destructive of belief rather than building it up.
There were parallels in the study of scripture too, which rather than opening up the mysteries of divine revelation, the vision of VII, tended to close them down by spending most of its efforts, inspired by twentieth century Protestantism, in "demythologising"and denying the divine authorship of sacred texts. The same happened in Moral Theology, rather than teaching people how to live according to the Law of God, its prime purpose seemed to be how to dismiss God's Law.
Many of those who signed yesterdays letter to the Times describe themselves as "theologian" or even "priest and theologian". I am at a loss at understanding quite what this term means, in its context it presumably indicates some teaching or writing about theology, in the secular academic world this tends to mean some form of religious sociology, a rather dry and narrow discipline, that tends to be a critique, a deconstruction, of something rather an embracing of it. Far from being in the mould of St Anselm's definition of theology, "Faith seeking understanding" it seems more to be about a lack of faith that seeks confusion.
In academic theology, faith is not prerequisite, in many ways it is an atheology, an anti-theology. The great Evagrius of Pontus says, "A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian." For him theology was done on one's knees rather than at a desk, it begins with a vision of God's Glory, like the disciples at the Transfiguration and encountering the Risen Christ; hence St Thomas can say that all is straw compared to what he has seen.
Theology and contemplation are intimately linked, without a prayer-life, without a strong desire to grow in holiness it is impossible to be a theologian. Without an overwhelming craving for an ever deepening communion with the Catholic Church it is impossible to be a Catholic Theologian
Posted by Fr Ray Blake