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Basic Theological Aims

This fall I will be teaching the introduction to the Theology course here at Notre Dame to 70 first year students. One of the main goals of the course is to introduce students to Theology as a mode of reflection, faith seeking understanding. On the first or second day of class I want to discuss the central aims of theology as it reflects upon the Bible, history, contemporary questions, etc. Theologians obviously have all sorts of goals in mind as they develop their theological vision but I will suggest that virtually all contemporary theologians aim to be: 1) faithful to Christian revelation; 2) intelligible within one’s context; 3) concretely liberating and responsive to contemporary concerns and suffering.

These goals are universally present in theology even as what each one means and how to configure the three together is endlessly contested and contestable. Indeed, at the danger of oversimplification, the shorthand of many theological disagreements comes down to these three aims: Balthasar worries that Rahner risks fidelity in the search for intelligibility; critics of Balthasar often argue that his theology fails on the second and third as he seeks to be faithful to revelation; the CDF’s critique of Liberation Theology argues that the latter fails with the criterion of fidelity in a desire for the third (the CDF’s worry about Marxism) and to a lesser extent the second. Of course, these three aims are never this separable: if Balthasar does indeed fail with the second and third, it is highly unlikely he is actually faithful to the Gospel; likewise, the CDF argues that liberation theologians undermine their goal of concrete liberation if a faulty view of history and anthropology is adopted.

Are there other aims as basic as these? Or would others describe them differently?

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  1. November 19, 2010 at 9:45 am

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