Friday 23 December 2005

Benedict XVI: church and theology

On 1 December, Benedict XVI addressed the International Theological Commission. He had some very profound things to say about the theological task, and about the relationship between faith and theology: “Theology can only result from obedience to the impulse of truth and from love that desires to be ever better acquainted with the one it loves, in this case God himself, whose goodness we recognized in the act of faith.”

He also emphasised the ecclesial context of academic theology: “The revelation of Christ is ... the fundamental normative starting point for theology. Theology must always be exercised in the Church and for the Church, the Body of Christ.... To consider theology a private affair of the theologian is to underestimate its very nature.”

Naturally I have reservations about the Catholic conception of the authority of the magisterium in relation to theology; but I do think that the Holy Father is exactly right in his emphasis on the ecclesial character of theological study.

Justin Nickelsen has the full transcript of the address here.


Jim said...

He is correct indeed that Theology is the task of the Church- and that it is for the Church, primarily. But if theology has nothing to say to the world or to do with the world, it ends in pointless self-absorption. Theology, in sum, is also missions.

Anonymous said...

I - and Ben (M) no doubt - am cheered to hear that Ben (XVI) is a sound Barthian on this one! - with thanks to Jim for his salutary reminder that theology, while intrinsically ecclesial, is not glossolalia.

Ben Myers said...

Yes, this is an excellent point Jim and Kim. And I'm sure Benedict XVI would agree very emphatically -- in context, he is only warning against the tendency to turn theology into a private academic exercise that has no ecclesial responsibility.

Perhaps we could sum up both aspects by saying that theology must speak to the church for the sake of the world, so that its dogmatic word is at the same time a missionary word.

Fred said...

The glossolalia at Pentecost was certainly a missionary word. JP2 addressed this dimension in "Redemptoris missio: On the permanent validity of the Church's missionary mandate." Like many major themes of JP2's pontificate, this theme was addressed in the work of Henri de Lubac (see his anthology "Theology in History").

Dialogue within and beyond the church are intimately related:

"Indeed, it was not as though we were unaware that with an opening to the world, an aggiornamento, a broadening of the horizons, a translation of the Christian message into an intellectual language understandable by the modern world, only half is done. The other half - of at least equal importance - is a reflection of the specifically Christian element itself, a purification, a deepening, a centering of its idea, which alone renders us capable of representing it, radiating it, translating it believably in the world" (Balthasar, My Life in Retrospect, p51).

Anonymous said...

Fred K -

Re. glossolalia, I was thinking of I Corinthians 14:23, not Acts 2:4, a very different linguistic phenomenon altogether.

T.B. Vick said...

"Theology must always be exercised in the Church and for the Church, the Body of Christ.... To consider theology a private affair of the theologian is to underestimate its very nature."

He's preaching to the choir, here, on that issue.

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