Kerygmatic Theology

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The systematic study of theological truths within a structure that can directly and immediately serve to prepare for and promote the preaching of the truths of revelation to the Christian people (A. de Villalmonte). The modern movement for a kerygmatic theology seeks to orientate scientific theology to Christian life and apostolate, and thereby to bring about an interaction of theology and apostolic action.

Kerygmatic theology can mean any organic statement of Christian truth that includes in its scope the goals of the pastoral activity of the Church. It includes those theological systems that, while primarily representing a scientific position, contain its methodological characteristics, e.g., the Christocentric organization of M. Scheeben, M. d'Herbigny, and É. Mersch and the existential problematic of K. Rahner. In its strictest sense, the term applies to a systematic structuring of the revealed data as the "good news" of salvation in Christ. The organization of doctrinal and theological content follows closely the presentation of salvation history given by God in Sacred Scripture, setting each doctrinal statement and religious or moral commandment within the framework of God's saving action.

The concern of kerygmatic theology is primarily pedagogical. This pedagogy is historical, advancing through the moments of salvation from Abraham to Jesus Christ, and within the New Testament through the deepening revelation of God and His work in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It is Christocentric, setting forth God's providential purpose and plan to prepare for and manifest Jesus Christ. It is reasonable, for it employs a systematic presentation of its own with a progressive and concentric illumination of this mystery in fundamental themes: the promise, the alliance, the faithfulness of God; His holiness, His justice and love, His wisdom; and, finally, Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of man, Word of life, and head of a new humanity, founder and consummator, together with the Holy Spirit, of the definitive kingdom of God.

Because a kerygmatic theology exists to nourish a missionary preaching, it is a theology of value. The value content of a doctrinal truth controls the conceptual structuring of the theological synthesis, so that the dominant value is perceptible throughout the total corpus of Christian truth, and in every part of the corpus, particularly through a thematic organization, e.g., as it is nuanced in Sacred Scripture in the major themes of covenant, word, etc. The statement and arrangement of the many particular truths reveal and reinforce the dominant value.

The concern for value results in a synthesis that is concrete rather than abstract, historically situated rather than scientifically and speculatively organized. Salvation history provides the principle of synthesis, revealing and preserving the inherent value. By relating Christian truth with a personal meeting with Christ in Scripture and liturgy, expressed in a life of worship and service, there is both an experience and a reinforcement of the meaningful value of the Christian proclamation.

Symbolism is used to convey value, and the value-symbol relation explains the central position of the man Jesus Christ and His history in a kerygmatic synthesis. The relation highlights as well the demand for a theology and a catechesis adaptable to the psychological and cultural needs of the individual.

An early attempt to establish a theology independent of scholastic theology met with a strong disapproval, principally because of its inherent ambiguity, imprecision, and limited intellectual scope. The middle position expressed principally by J. Jungmann and K. Rahner found general acceptance: (1) the goals of theology and preaching are different; (2) every full Christian theology is kerygmatic; (3) the technical and scholastic precision of scientific theology is necessary; (4) this must be complemented by a kerygmatic synthesis.

See Also: christocentrism; kerygma; salvation history (heilsgeschichte); symbol in revelation; theology.

Bibliography: k. rahner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, (Freiburg 195766) 6:126. g. e. carter, The Modern Challenge to Religious Education, ed. w. j. reedy (New York 1961). j. hofinger, The Art of Teaching Christian Doctrine (2nd ed. Notre Dame, Ind. 1962). j. a. jungmann, The Good News Yesterday and Today, ed., abr., and tr. w. a. huesman (New York 1962); Handing on the Faith, rev. and tr. a. n. fuerst (New York 1959). a. de villalmonte, La teología kerigmática (Barcelona 1962).

[e. f. malone]