Theology, History of
THEOLOGY, HISTORY OF
The history of the successive attempts at understanding the faith, varying with the variations of time and place. The message of the faith being summed up in the good news of man's salvation in Christ, two factors, besides the impact of external circumstances, mainly determine the variations in theology: the approach to the understanding of the mystery, or the method, positive or speculative; and the emphasis on one or other element in the kerygma, redemption or divinization, the juridical or the ontological. With attention to these two guiding principles, this article sketches the vicissitudes and the historical development in the understanding of the faith.
Theology in scripture. The burden of the inspired word of God in both Old and New Testaments is to convey the message of salvation. Being mediated by human authors, its expression implies an effort at understanding, or a theology. So a study of biblical theology investigates the meaning of the message as proposed at various stages by various authors.
The Old Testament message, in its progressive steps from patriarchal to monarchic and prophetic times, points to one fact: the coming of the Messiah, who is to usher in the kingdom of God. Therein lies the clue to Old Testament theology.
In the New Testament, which inaugurates the messianic times with the coming of Christ, the one theme of man's salvation in Christ, incarnate Son of God, is preached in varying theological settings. The Synoptic Gospel theology sums up the message in Christ, who by His life and passion, death, and resurrection initiates the spiritual messianic kingdom on earth and will complete it in His Second Coming at the end of time. It is mainly messianic theology, in close continuity with the Old Testament. Pauline theology, without breaking with the Old Testament, emphasizes in the mystery now revealed man's liberation from sin through the redemption of Christ, the risen Lord, and their incorporation into Him as members of His Body—a beginning only, to be fulfilled at Christ's return. It is emphatically soteriological and Christocentric. Johannine theology, while fully aware that Christ came to take away the sins of the world, exalts the divinity of Christ, Word Incarnate and Risen Lord; salvation means union with God in Christ, which is life eternal begun now and to be completed at the end of time. It is more mystical than redemptive.
These varying theologies implicit in Scripture, not denying but completing one another, herald the variations in the understanding of the faith (see biblical theolo gy).
Theology in the Fathers. Patristic theology covers a wide range. It proceeds from simple reflection on the theology of the New Testament through greater and greater syntheses, until finally it arrives at such allembracing syntheses as, for example, that of St. Augustine, perhaps the greatest of the Fathers.
Beginnings. The early patristic texts, of the Apostolic Fathers (Didache, St. Clement, St. Ignatius of Antioch) hardly go beyond reflection on the theology of the Gospels: Christ is the Messiah, the risen Lord and Savior; they insist that faith and life must go hand in hand. With the apologists of the 2d century, particularly St. Justin (d. c. 165) and his vision of the Logos, reflection on the gospel message in the face of pagan objections to the Christian way of life prepares an apologetic approach in thinking out the message later to become a theology proper. Especially with St. Irenaeus (d. c. 202), sometimes called "the first Christian theologian" despite his opposition to speculation, the defense of the Christian message against heresies, particularly Gnosticism, develops into a synthetic view of the Christian mystery summed up in the recapitulation of all things in Christ, who is revealer, redeemer, and author of man's divinization. Here too, reflection and practical spirituality go together.
Greek Fathers. It is in the school of alexandria with Clement (d. between 211 and 216) and Origen (d. between 253 and 255) that systematic theology was born, with the adoption and Christianization of "pagan" philosophy as a means for the speculative understanding of the faith. Clement laid down the principle of theological speculation; Origen worked out a scholarly synthesis by his study of Scripture and speculative penetration of the mysteries through gnosis going beyond faith. Origen was, despite deficiencies in his pioneer attempt, the great initiator of Christian theology. Both Clement and Origen were typically Greek in their emphasis on the mystical and ontological side of the Christian mystery, on man's divinization rather than on his liberation from sin. Both united revelation and reason, Scripture and philosophy.
In the golden age of the Fathers, the elaboration of theology was stimulated mainly by the need to rectify misconceptions of the faith and to oppose Trinitarian and Christological errors. Part of the importance of the early general councils of the Church lay in their sanctioning concepts other than biblical for the clarification and expression of revealed truth. St. Athanasius (d. 373) defending the divinity of the Word (Incarnate) against the Arians, and the Cappadocians Basil (d. 379), Gregory of Nazianzus (d. between 389 and 390), and Gregory of Nyssa (d. c. 395) in their speculative penetration and exposition of the Trinitarian dogma, used to the full the resources of reason and of Platonic philosophy. So later, in the 5th century, did St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) in his defense of the unity of the God-man against Nestorius and, in the 6th century, the opponents of Monophysitism. Without theorizing about theology and its method, they sought a correct technical expression of the faith in their meditation on the Scriptures. With all of them the stress was on the ontological side of man's salvation in Christ, on the Incarnation as the root of man's divinization more than on his Redemption from sin through Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. Their speculation kept close to life; it meant faith and morality, theology and mysticism all in one.
Alongside this speculative theology, which was approached by that of the theologian-poets of the Syrian school, such as St. Ephrem, the contemplative (d. 373), there was the kerygmatic theology of preachers like St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), both moralist and teacher, exegete and preacher; and the monastic tradition with its ascetical-mystical theology lived by more than thought out, harking back to both St. Paul and St. John; yet it too kept in the line of Johannine-Greek theology.
The last of the Greek Fathers, St. John Damascene (d. 749?), who faithfully summed up the tradition in a systematic, not to say scholastic manner, was "the first scholastic of the East," not merely because of his use of Aristotelian philosophy (Leontius of Byzantium, d. 542?, had preceded him in this) but also because of the less deliberately pastoral and more academic orientation of his theology.
Latin Fathers. In a vast literary output, the apologist Tertullian (d. after 220) had a decisive influence on subsequent theology by his expert, if not excessive, use of dialectics to defend Christian doctrine and life and by his juridical and anthropological approach to the Christian message. This approach was to mark Latin theology for Tertullian was, in a way, the founder of theology in the West. He explained Scripture more as a jurist than as a philosopher and was more concerned about the human than the divine side of man's salvation. St. Cyprian (d.258) also proposed a theology more intent on the Christian life than on speculating about God: it centered around the Church, the Sacraments, and moral questions. Similarly, more manthan God-oriented was the theology of St. Ambrose (d. 397), his works being mainly scriptural and moral or ascetical. St. Jerome (d. 419 or 420) influenced theology by his scriptural writings more than by his polemical and doctrinal letters or treatises. As a man of positive science rather than as a theologian, he applied to biblical studies the resources of critical research.
The greatest among the Latin, if not among all, Fathers was St. Augustine (d. 430). His influence on the shaping of Christian theology was preponderant as regards both its method of uniting faith and reason and its content, the mystery of man's salvation. His formula intellige ut credas, crede ut intelligas well summed up his view and practice of theological contemplation. The formula supposed a first insight into the faith and faith in turn lighting up this understanding. For Augustine the whole man, head and heart, is taken up in the contemplation of the Christian mystery. The resources of reason must be used, and Augustine exploited to the full what (Neo-)Platonism had taught him; in this regard he was a speculative theologian. But the warmth of faith must transform an otherwise nominal understanding; thus he was also a mystical theologian. This was but natural for a man of genius at a time when no explicit distinction was made between the fields of nature and supernature, reason and faith. But his influence on Western theology was preponderant also because of the doctrines that were central in his vision of the Christian mystery. In his synthesis, the stress was on the redemptive aspect of man's salvation: the fall, redemption, grace of Christ. In this regard Augustine's theology was Pauline. But no less deep (and herein lay his greatness) was his insight into the divine mysteries, the Trinity and the divinization of man. He synthesized, one may say, both Pauline and Johannine theology. Besides, his theology, despite many speculative and apparently academic discussions, was pastoral and mystical. It was a theology for life, not for the school. Augustine was not a scholastic, though he became the great master of scholastic theologians.
For all his overwhelming influence, St. Augustine was not the only patristic authority for subsequent theology. St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) with his moral and pastoral treatises, St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636) with his encyclopedic works, St. Bede (d. 735) with his vast historical and exegetical output were authorities too, as was Boethius (d. 524), the translator of Aristotle. But their influence was restricted to one or another field; it did not determine the course of the history of theology as St. Augustine's theology did (see patristic theology).
Transition, prescholastic theology: ninth to eleventh centuries. The end of the patristic age came with the break between Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, marked by the fall of the Roman power and the conversion to Christianity of the barbarian nations. The break meant a new start in theology. The Fathers had been both theologians and witnesses to the ancient faith; their successors knew that faith through the legacy bequeathed to them by the Fathers.
The thread of the patristic tradition was picked up by the anonymous compilers of florilegia, anthologies from the Fathers. From these the new generation of theologians learned both the way of reading and explaining Scripture, or the sacra pagina, through the catenae of patristic comments, and of making use of the liberal arts, of reason. The term sacra pagina, which originally meant the Bible itself, came to mean those anthologies of patristic texts grouped according to the scriptural topics they were commenting on [see J. de Ghellinck, "Pagina et sacra pagina," Mélanges Auguste Pelzer (Louvain 1947) 23–59]. Hence the weight of the auctoritates. The Fathers were the sancti doctores; they had an authority that no scholastic teacher could claim. The "scholastic" method consisted in reading the text and commenting on it, i.e., in reading Scripture backed by comments of the Fathers; when Aristotle entered theology, the help of the new philosophy was added.
Carolingian Renaissance. With Alcuin (d. 804) and his work for the revival of the palace schools under Charlemagne, of the trivium (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy) for both secular and clerical purposes, a slow revival of theology set in. The art of grammar was applied to the study of the message of Scripture and of the Fathers. Thanks to Aristotle's first entry in the West, with his Categoriae and De interpretatione as translated by Boethius, Alcuin became the main author of the carolin gian renaissance.
In the East, unaffected by the upheavals of the West, Byzantine theology continued to follow St. John Damascene. Contact with the West occasioned controversies, first about sacred images, then over the filioque, and later in the century more tragically around the person of Photius (d. c. 887). In the West itself the controversies over adoptionism (which held Christ Son of God both by nature and by adoption), over the predestinationism of Gottschalk (d. after 868), and over the Real Eucharistic Presence (Paschasius Radbertus, d. c. 860, opposed by Ratramnus, d. after 868) were signs of a theological revival. So was the work of John Scotus Eriugena (d. 870 or after), the translator of Pseudo-Dionysius, despite his apparent confusion between reason and faith.
Dialecticians and Antidialecticians. After the "iron century," or the dark 10th century, the dawn of the 11th century saw the beginning of controversies around the use of dialectics in the study and preaching of the faith. The antidialecticians, represented by St. Peter Damian (d. 1072), denied reason any place in Christian theology: the faith is given men to live by, not to discuss (the beginnings of monastic theology). Among the dialecticians, Lanfranc (d. 1089) defended a moderate use of dialectics in the study of Scripture, while an immoderate use of it led Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088) to deny the Real Eucharistic Presence. St. Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), the father of scholasticism, sought understanding of the faith by reason applied to the faith, an intellectus intermediary between faith and vision. He constructed "rational proofs" for what he held from faith, e.g., the existence of God or even the Incarnation-Redemption. In fact, Anselm was not clear about the distinction and interaction between reason and faith.
The Byzantine East meanwhile (860–1050) was taken up with controversies around Photius; it was fertile mainly in homiletics and more still in hagiography. The mystical writings of Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022) set the tone for later Byzantine mysticism.
Early scholastic theology: twelfth century. The progress of theology in the 12th century, preparatory to the golden age, was determined by two facts: the second entry of Aristotle, viz, of his entire Organon, making available in theology a theory of knowledge and demonstration; and the systematization of the patristic heritage in the summae sententiarum. The two influences combined prepared the balance between faith and reason, tradition and speculation.
Dialecticians and Antidialecticians. Of the two trends, localized roughly in the new urban schools and in the monastic centers respectively, the dialectic trend reached its acme in Peter Abelard (d. 1142). Dissatisfied with the moderation of his master, Anselm of Laon (d. 1117), in the use of dialectics in theology, Abelard rejected exaggerated reliance on the auctoritates in order to deal with the data of the faith by reason and personal reflection. He sought an understanding of the faith that did not rest content with words. His method sic et non lay in reconciling opposite authorities with a new view to systematic construction, which he achieved with the help of the "second Aristotle." He was an important contributor to theological method. Later in the century, Gilbert de la Porrée (d. 1154) of the school of Chartres, more moderate in dialectics, initiated a theological methodology with its rules and principles. Alan of Lille (d. 1202) developed these rules and principles in his Regulae de sacra theologia. For all these theologians the starting point was the faith, Scripture and the Fathers. By investigating these data with the help of all the resources of reason, they developed the scholastic quaestio: first as part of the commentary on a text, gradually more loosely connected, and finally independent. Theology had then a twofold task: commentary on the text, or lectio; and disputation, or quaestio.
In opposition to the dialectic trend of scholastic theology, there existed the antidialectic trend of the monasteries. Its leader in the 12th century was St. Bernard (d. 1153), the passionate opponent of Abelard and of Gilbert. The founder of medieval Christocentric mysticism refused a merely academic use of dialectics in theology. He sought only the "learning of the saints," often in a mystical or allegorical interpretation of Scripture. After him, however, monastic theology was less strongly antidialectical.
The school of St. Victor in Paris endeavored to effect a synthesis between the new philosophical trend and the traditional mystical approach. Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141) was a man of tradition and a philosopher. In reaction to both St. Bernard and Abelard and in accordance with the Augustinian tradition concerning the use of the liberal arts in theology, enriched now with Aristotle's methodology, he restored the "religious" use of reason in the study of Scripture. He was clearly aware of the two orders of knowledge, reason and faith, human and divine learning. Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173) was both a remarkable theologian who improved the method, at once speculative and affective, and above all a mystic, the greatest theoretician of mysticism in the Middle Ages.
Summae Sententiarum. The new summae, successors to the florilegia, grouped the auctoritates according to a systematic plan. The most famous of them and the most influential on subsequent theology was that of Peter Lombard (d. 1160). His was preceded and followed by many others, such as the summae of Anselm of Laon and Robert Pullen (d. c. 1146), the anonymous Sententiae divinitatis and Summa sententiarum. Some of these may surpass Lombard's work in theological depth or originality; yet it was his four books of Sententiae that became the textbook in the schools because of their didactic qualities of clarity and completeness, their judicious choice of patristic texts, and their methodical orderliness. Lombard was moderate in tone and inspiration; while protesting against the abuse of dialectics in the sacred science, he still made good use of reason and strove to keep to the traditional line and orthodox doctrine. This harmonious systematization of traditional doctrine and a balance between authority and speculation made his summa the classic textbook (see sentences and summae).
During this period (1050–1200), Byzantine theology was concerned with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Niketas of Maroneia (d. c. 1145) attempted to compare the Greek per filium to the Latin filioque. There was a temporary revival of dialectics akin to Western early scholasticism with Michael (Constantine) Psellos (d. c. 1018) and John Italus (d. after 1082).
Golden age of scholastic theology: thirteenth century. Many complex factors shaped the golden age of scholastic theology. Two of these, largely external, were the rise of the universities (especially that of Paris, in which theology held the primary place among the three faculties, before arts and philosophy) and the foundation of the mendicant orders (Dominican and Franciscan, whose studia generalia were to play a leading intellectual role). The decisive factor in the development of theology was the third entry of Aristotle, when his metaphysics, psychology, and ethics—in addition to his natural sciences—became known in the West through the medium of Latin translations from the Greek or from the Arabic. The influence of the Aristotle was now no longer confined to a method of thought; it included a doctrine on man and the world, on many a point at variance with the Christian faith.
The reactions to the new philosophy were varied in the different schools of theology, but none of these could evade its influence. One reaction was mainly negative and defensive, in fidelity to the Augustinian tradition; such was the attitude of augustinianism, particularly that of the Franciscan school. Another attitude was one of uncritical acceptance of the new philosophy, even of its unchristian elements. This attitude sought an escape from theological censure in the unacceptable device of the double truth and came to be known as Latin averro ism. It was repudiated by the Church. A third reaction to the new Aristotle was acceptance of his philosophy in all that tallied with the Christian faith, eliminating or christening what was unacceptable and thus effecting a synthesis between Augustinianism and Aristotelianism. This was the achievement of the great Dominican school, with St. Albert the Great (d. 1280) for the sciences and St. Thomas Aquinas for philosophy. thomism, looked upon at first as an innovation (which it was) perhaps irreconcilable with true faith (which it was not), was to become the leading trend in Catholic theology.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–74). The principal significance of St. Thomas for the shaping of Catholic theology is his discovery of a philosophy of being that enables him to make a clear distinction between reason and faith, nature and supernature, philosophy and theology. This discovery, made possible for St. Thomas through Aristotle's philosophy, which offered a rational explanation of reality, is the heart of St. Thomas's insight and enables him to determine the nature and limits of speculative theology. Because reason leads to true knowledge of things within its orbit and can know the laws of being, philosophy offers an explanation of those things valid in itself. Theology remains faith seeking understanding, but reason also offers an answer to questions within its reach, questions about man and the world; it stops, however, before the mystery of God's grace, which was unknown by Aristotle. Here the gospel message alone and the authorities, the Fathers, transmitting the message within the Church are competent. Yet, even here reason and meta physics can help to understand, because the laws of being apply to all that is, not excluding the supernatural. Even in the supernature, things are what they are because of their nature, not because of an arbitrary divine disposition. Thus a rational systematization of theology is truly possible, and that is what St. Thomas achieved. To his mind, theology is a speculative learning, seeking to know the reality of things whether natural or supernatural; it is not primarily practical or a teaching about what one ought to do to reach God. Because of this trust in reason, the intellect leads in theology, not the will or the heart. Yet for St. Thomas, as for the other great masters of his century, theology is inclusive, covering the entire effort at penetrating the supernatural reality: dogmatic, moral, spiritual, mystical, and canonical learning. His intellectualism differs from Augustinian contemplative theology and from Franciscan affective voluntarism; he keeps the balance between reason and faith because he knows both the value and the limits of reason. He thus realizes a synthesis of Augustinianism, Aristotelianism, and also, via Augustine and some newly discovered writings, such as those of Pseudo-Dionysius, Neoplatonism. St. Thomas further develops the existing practice of theology with his commentary on Holy Scripture, commentary on the textus, i.e., Peter Lombard's Sententiae, which includes speculative questions, more independent disputations, and, finally, the speculative synthesis of all of these in the Summa theologiae.
This trust in reason and in theology suffers, however, from one drawback: absence of a sense of historical development. St. Thomas's approach to texts and questions, as that of other scholastics of the time, is metaphysical, not historical (except in a minimum degree). Scholastic theology is intent on the metaphysics rather than the history of man's salvation. The drawback is not grave in a balanced genius who is a saint; it will lead to deviations in many an epigone.
St. Bonaventure (1221–74) and Duns Scotus (1270–1308). The Franciscan school, with and after its founder, Alexander of Hales (d. 1245), remained faithful to traditional Augustinianism. St. Bonaventure, though influenced by the new Aristotle, kept the Augustinian spirit in the mystical orientation of his doctrine, intent on seeking God by charity. Hence the primacy in his theology of the idea of the good, rather than of being, and the role of will and love, more than of intellect and knowledge, in the understanding of the faith. Love of God integrating in faith the light of reason leads to a mystical understanding of the faith. Philosophy, for the St. Bonaventure, in a way remains extrinsic to theology: creatures are hardly worth knowing in themselves or in their nature but only as images and mirrors of God; and it is Scripture that reveals their symbolic value. For all that, St. Bonaventure constructed his theology with the help of Aristotelian metaphysics. But his distrust in reason considered in itself weakened his systematization of the faith.
Bonaventure opened the way for the voluntarism of Duns Scotus, who laid at the basis of his theological system a thorough critique of man's knowledge of God, whether natural or supernatural. According to Scotus, metaphysics does not directly speak of God but only of creatures—of God solely in a confused way through the idea of being. Theology knows about God from what it derives ex voluntate Dei revelantis. The "necessary reasons" proposed in theology fail to give evidence of the necessity. God alone knows with evidence. God's will is the ultimate reason for what man believes. Holy Scripture or revelation is the basis of the connections between the data of the faith. For all its apparent reasoned construction, Scotus's theology cuts the main nerves, the organic connections, in his or any theological system—not man's insight into the nature of things revealed but God's will guarantees these connections. Thus Scotus makes explicit the latent voluntarism of St. Bonaventure. He prepares the way for nominalism.
Other Theologians of the Great Century. Thomism at first met with opposition at the universities of Paris and Oxford, an offensive that died out only with the canonization of St. Thomas (1323). In the Dominican Order it gradually and definitely by the end of the century became the official doctrine of the order. Among its early defenders may be mentioned John (Quidort) of Paris (d. 1306) and Giles of Lessines (d. after 1304). William of Moerbeke (d. c. 1286), the translator of the Greek philosophers, became the initiator of 13th-century Neoplatonism. Among the secular theologians, traditional Augustinianism was represented by Gerard of Abbeville (d. 1272) and Henry of Ghent (d. 1293); a disciple of the latter, Godfrey of Fontaines (d. after 1306), gave up Augustinianism and inclined toward the Thomist school. Giles of Rome (d. 1316), general of the Augustinians, was also closer to Thomism, while yet maintaining on some points an Augustinianism akin to that of the Franciscan school. Throughout the great century, the danger or weakness inherent in speculative theology remained hidden under the balance between reason and tradition that the great masters maintained by contact with Scripture.
Byzantine theology during the years 1200 to 1330 was at first, after the erection of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204), taken up with anti-Latin polemics, particularly concerning the doctrine of purgatory. Toward the end of the century, while one section of Greek theologians advocated an anti-Latin interpretation of their tradition, others drew nearer to the Latin standpoint from the study of Greek patristics.
Decline and transition: fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The 14th century, a century of crisis for Christianity, particularly since the Great Western Schism ended only in the Council of Constance (1414–18), saw the decline of speculative sciences and speculative theology. The various schools lived on but without great masters. Thomism had its defenders, such as Hervé of Nedellec (d. 1323), and its deserters, as Durandus of St. Pourçain (d. 1334). The Franciscan school had its Scotist sententiaries, among whom was Francis of Meyronnes (d. after 1328), magister acutus abstractionum, and its followers of St. Bonaventure, such as John of Erfurt (fl. 1300). In Giles of Rome's Augustinian school, Augustinus Triumphus (d. 1328) stood out with a Summa de potestate ecclesiastica, and also Gregory of Rimini (d. 1358), doctor authenticus. But the great novelty and the gravest sign of speculative decline was the rise of ock hamism.
William of Ockham (d. c. 1349) united with a sincere faith in God and in His free and sovereign omnipotence a nominalist philosophy denying the realism of man's intellectual knowledge. One way only is open to men for knowledge of God and of His dispensation: revelation in Scripture; and the only answer man's reason can give as to the why of what is revealed is that God wills it. Religious experience makes up for the impotence of man's intellect to reach God. This nominalist theology was to spread swiftly and extensively; it would affect all theological schools.
The main topic of theology at this time of crisis for the Church was the Church (and State). James of Viterbo (d. 1307?) gave in his De regimine christiano the first treatise De ecclesia. The conciliar theories, exalting a general council above the pope, found defenders in Peter of Ailly (d. 1420) and Jean Gerson (d. 1429).
With the decline of speculative theology, the quest for God sought and found an outlet in mysticism. While the great masters of the 13th century were simultaneously speculative and mystical theologians, the 14th-century schools of spirituality developed apart from theology, some of them with a definite antispeculative slant. There was the great Dionysian school, steeped in the Neoplatonism of Pseudo-Dionysius, with the great German Dominican mystics: Meister Eckhart (d. 1327), Tauler (d. 1361), and Henry Suso (d. 1365); and the Flemish mystics, among whom the chief one was Bl. John Ruysbroeck (d. 1381). The school of Windesheim, initiated by Gerard Groote (d. 1384), deliberately antispeculative, gave the Church the imitation of christ. The Carthusian school had Ludolph of Saxony (d. 1378), with his most popular Life of Christ, and the great mystic, Denis the Carthusian (d. 1471), doctor ecstaticus. The school of Gerson sought to unite in a traditional spirituality both speculative and practical mysticism, the theory and the practice of the experimentalis Dei perceptio.
In Byzantine theology two facts were symptoms of a relative vitality. The first symptom is the Hesychast controversy, with Gregory Palamas (fl. 1350) and Nailos Kabasilos (d. 1361?) as chief representatives of an anti-intellectualist mysticism, which was opposed by Demetrios Kydones (d. 1397?), who took on the defense of Thomas Aquinas and translated into Greek his Summa contra gentiles and the Summa theologiae 1a2ae. The second symptom is the existence of the unionist and anti-unionist currents that were to lead, in the following century, to the attempt at reunion with Rome at the Council of Florence (1439–45), with Cardinal Bessarion (d. 1472) as the chief protagonist of reunion.
The 15th century brought the beginning of the Renaissance, which was the immediate preparation for the modern era. Its humanism, harking back to pre-Christian times, to classical Greek antiquity, initiated a restoration of the status of human reason to the point of exaggeration and tended to naturalism. Particularly in the Platonic academy of the Medicis it resuscitated Platonism; Marsilio Ficino (d. 1499) translated into Latin Plato, Plotinus, etc., and summed up their teaching in treatises of his own. The Aristotelians, refusing to acknowledge Plato's primacy, were divided between Averroists and Alexandrists over the question of the immortality of the soul. These heterodox deviations provoked sporadic but futile reactions from the decadent theology of the time and, early in the following century, a declaration of the Fifth Lateran Council (1513). A disaster was needed to awaken Catholic theology to the needs of the new times.
Renewal of theology at Trent and after: sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The new spirit of modern times created by the Renaissance aroused new needs in theology as well; there was a desire for the renewal and adaptation of traditional teaching, an awakening of the sense of the historical in the study of Scripture and the Fathers, a shift from an objective to a subjective approach to the Christian message. Decadent scholastic theology seemed out of touch with reality, lost in dialectics, in oversubtle distinctions, in fixed and frozen notions, and in systems. The Renaissance and its humanism created in men such as Erasmus (d. 1536) an antischolastic, antispeculative, if not antidogmatic, spirit; while keeping the faith, Erasmus was averse to the whole of medieval theology, its spirit and form, method and conclusions.
Luther and the reformers met the new needs with a revolutionary reform of the Church's life and doctrine. Throwing overboard the scholasticism he knew, mainly nominalist, Luther went back to Holy Scripture, there to rediscover the message of salvation; distrustful of human reason in fallen man, he sought to substitute for scholastic theology a theology that is devout and based on Scripture. Taking shelter under the authority of St. Augustine, particularly for his teaching on grace and justification, Luther initiated a movement for reform of Christian doctrine and life that resulted in the disruption of Western Christianity.
Before the Council of Trent. The Catholic answer to the modern needs and to the Reformation as well came with the renewal of theology at Trent and after. Before the council, in the first half of the century, theology in many ancient schools continued to suffer from the preponderance of Ockhamism, after Gabriel Biel (d. 1495) and John Major (fl. 1540). The metaphysical-mystical reaction of Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464) influenced, for example, the Augustinian General Giles of Viterbo (d. 1532) and turned him from Aristotelian scholasticism to Platonism. In the Dominican schools a new vitality was awakening, helped by the substitution of St. Thomas's Summa as textbook for Lombard's Sententiae. This led to the great commentaries, such as those of Cajetan (d. 1534) and of Francesco de Vitoria (d. 1546). Cajetan's commentaries on the Summa revealed his deep scholastic and Thomist learning, which combined subtlety of reasoning and nobility of thought with a serene power of synthesizing disputed questions. He also showed bold originality in proposing on many points new opinions of his own. A similar originality, if not eclecticism, in commenting on St. Thomas was shown by Vitoria, the pioneer theologian of Salamanca, who in his relectiones theologicae evolved his own method: the consideration of questions rather than particular sayings of the Summa and the treatment of these in ample developments. He thus initiated a new school of Thomistic thought.
Influence of the Counter Reformation. It was mainly, however, the Counter Reformation that led to a renewal of vigor in theology, which involved not merely a return to the great scholastics but also to the Scriptures and the Fathers. One new feature of this age was the rise of specializations, which eventually brought with it the fragmentation of theology. While the masters of the 13th century combined speculative, moral, and spiritual theology, scholastic theology now was divorced from mystical theology, which ever more, after the example given in the 14th and 15th centuries, tended to develop independently from speculative theology. The dissociation of moral from dogmatic, or scholastic, theology, begun in the second half of the 15th century, became the current practice in the last quarter of the 16th. A distinction was made between scholastic and positive theology, the latter meaning that branch of theology that investigates the data of revelation in Scripture and tradition, while scholastic theology was the speculative reflection on these data. Finally, by the middle of the 17th century, apologetics, considered the Christian demonstration that the Church's teaching truly represents revelation, grew into a separate treatise distinct from scholastic and positive theology.
The answer to the doctrinal novelties of the reformers was given in the controversial theology—a first step to a renewal of Catholic theology. Controversialists rose up not only in Germany with Johann Eck (d. 1543) and St. Peter Canisius (d. 1597), but also in England with St. John Fisher (d. 1535) and Cardinal Reginald Pole (d. 1558), in the Netherlands with Albert Pigge (d. 1542) and Ruard Tapper (d. 1559), in France with Jacques Davy Duperron (d. 1618) and St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622), and in Italy with the most famous of all, St. Robert Bellarmine (d. 1621). Bellarmine's method must be noted for its influence even on scholastic theology. For every disputed question (and he covered the whole field of the Protestant-Catholic differences) he constrasted the two doctrines, stated the teaching of the Church, and proved it using Scripture, decisions of Church authorities, patristic witness, practices of the Church, and agreement of theologians. He concluded by answering the difficulties. His whole approach was more positive than speculative.
The very nature of controversial theology, exposed to bias or one-sidedness, often prevented it from being great theology. The spirit of the Counter Reformation also printed its mark on scholastic theology and other branches of ecclesiastical learning; the impression has remained until the present day.
The century after the Council of Trent, until around 1660, was one of new greatness for Catholic theology. In exegesis great men like Alphonso Salmerón (d. 1585), Maldonatus (d. 1583), and Francisco de Toledo (d. 1596) produced monumental works. Scholastic theology in the various schools knew scores of great men. In the Thomist school there were Domingo Báñez (d. 1604), the spokesman of the rigorous interpretation of Thomism; Bartolomé de Medina (d. 1580), the first to formulate the theory of probabilism; the two De Sotos of Salamanca, Domingo (d. 1560), theologian at the Council of Trent, and Pedro (d. 1563); and many others. Perhaps the most important for his influence on theological method was Melchior Cano (d. 1560), who in his Loci theologici laid the foundation for the modern classical method: proof from Scripture, from tradition, and from theological reason. John of St. Thomas (d. 1644), whose two cursus belong to the deepest and most enlightened expositions of Thomism, and Jean Gonet (d. 1681), with his Clypeus theologiae thomisticae, must also be mentioned. The Franciscan school gave great theologians to Trent, such as Andreas de Vega (d. 1560), and saw a revival of Scotism with Luke Wadding (d. 1657) and many others. Among the Jesuit theologians of the time a number were outstanding: Gregory of Valencia (d. 1603), Gabriel Vázquez (d. 1604), Didacus Ruiz (d. 1632), and, further, Juan de Ripalda (d. 1648), Juan de Lugo (d. 1660), and the Venerable Leonard Lessius (d. 1623). Overshadowing them all was the doctor eximius, Francisco Suárez (d. 1617), whose influence on later theology was almost universal. His system was an eclectic synthesis of Thomism and Scotism, his monumental work was marked by clarity and completeness more, perhaps, than by depth and originality (see suarezianism). It was mainly on the question of actual grace, de auxiliis, that the various schools proposed their own systems; particularly between the Dominican and the Jesuit theologians differences led to heated controversy (D. Báñez versus L. de Molina, d. 1600).
Spiritual and Moral Theology. For spiritual and mystical theology this was also a great century. In addition to the Benedictine mystics Cisneros (d. 1510) and Blosius (d. 1566) and the Dominicans Louis of Granada (d. 1588) and Vincent de Contenson (d. 1674), there was above all the Carmelite school with St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) and St. John of the Cross (d. 1591). Further, among the Franciscans there was St. Peter of Alcántara (d. 1562); among the Augustinians, Luis of León (d. 1591); among the secular clergy, Bl. John of Avila (d. 1569); among the Jesuits, Diego Alvarez de Paz (d. 1620) and Luis La Puente (d. 1624): the glorious century of Spanish mysticism. Lastly, there was the great French school: St. Francis de Sales, Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (d. 1629), Charles de Condren (d. 1641), St. John Eudes (d. 1680), etc. In the field of moral theology one can only mention Tomás Sánchez (d. 1610) with his De matrimonii sacramento, Antonio Diana (d. 1663) with his 12 volumes of cases (some 30,000), and Vincent Baron, OP (d. 1674), with his Summa theologiae moralis tripartita.
Patristics, Hagiography. In the field of historical theology, pioneer work was done in patristics by Denis Petau (Petavius, d. 1652) and Louis Thomassin (d. 1695) for the immediate purpose of renewing dogmatic theology. Petau, who with good reason, De Ghellinck says, may be styled the "father of the history of dogma," showed notable understanding of the development of doctrine. Working in the same way to renew dogmatic theology were the members of the Benedictine maurist congregation, Jean Mabillon (d. 1707) being the most outstanding among them. Mention must also be made of the Bollandists (J. Bolland, d. 1665) and of their critical work in the field of the Church's hagiography.
Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican. In the East, Orthodox Greco-Russian theology gave way to Byzantine theology, its center shifting from Constantinople over Kiev to Moscow. In its defense against Protestant influences, Greek theology drew nearer to Catholic doctrines. Yet theologians like Georgios Koresios (d. c. 1646) opposed both Protestant and Catholic doctrines. In Russia, too, when Moscow became a patriarchate in 1589, polemics were aimed at both Protestants and Catholics. Peter Moghila (d. 1647) launched a renewal of Byzantine theology in Kiev that was linked with St. Thomas and Western scholasticism, under the influence of the Polish schools.
Protestant theology during its first century was centered in the symbols of faith written in the various confessions, particularly the Lutheran and Calvinist. Besides symbolic writings developing these creeds, this first age of Protestant orthodoxy developed its own scholastic theology in voluminous systematic works. This theology was based, doctrinally, on Scripture as the only source of the faith and, for its immediate orientation, on the Loci of P. Melanchthon (d. 1560), the basic dogmatic manual of Lutheranism.
Anglican theology, from its very beginnings after the establishment (1558 to 1563, the 39 Articles, 1576), showed the presence of the principles guiding its three main currents: the Protestant biblical principle of the Low Church (evangelicals), the Catholic sacramental principle of the High Church (ritualists, conservatives), and the critical rationalist principle of the Broad Church (liberals). Fluctuations and tensions between them led to the via media of the Caroline divines (i.e., under Charles I, 1625–44), who were to become the classic theologians of Anglo-Catholicism.
Decline of theology: late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The great century of Counter Reformation theology was followed by a decline marked by controversies over Jansenism, Gallicanism, and Febronianism, as well as the rationalist influence of the Aufklärung and the philosophers. A new development took place in the theology of the schools: the commentaries on the Summa of St. Thomas were replaced around 1680 by manuals that combined positive, scholastic, and controversial theology. This initiated modern dogmatic theology (not merely scholastic and speculative), which further developed Cano's method into that of the contemporary manuals: thesis, state of the question, positive proof from authority (Scripture, tradition, Church documents) and from theological reasoning, answers to objections, and corollaries (particularly for leading a Christian life). The tendencies of theology to build itself up into a system and to gather the theological sciences into pedagogical encyclopedias were additional indications of the new methods. These went together with the further development of specialization. Pastoral theology including homiletics and catechetics was born with a definitely utilitarian slant. Stress was laid on biblical and historical branches, and Church history became a separate discipline. Dogmatic theology itself tended to become a positive science, minimizing the scholastic speculative method and aiming at ascertaining the biblical-patristic foundations of the dogma, further opening out its speculative reflection to the new philosophies (of Leibniz, C. Wolff, Kant). Its unity was sought in the biblical idea of the kingdom of God. The introduction to dogma developed more and more as the demonstratio christiana et catholica, in reaction to the flood of rationalism in every field; due place in it was given to the teaching on the Church (apologetic treatise De ecclesia ). All this was no doubt a sign of relative vitality and of reaction against the decline in theology; no great thinkers, however, had a decisive influence for a revival of ecclesiastical learning.
A few names need to be mentioned by way of example: C. Billuart (d. 1757) and V. Gotti (d. 1742) in the Thomist school; C. Frassen (d. 1711) for Scotism; P. Antoine (d. 1743) and the theologia wirceburgensis of the Jesuits H. Kilber (d. 1783) and companions; H. Tournély (d. 1729) of the Sorbonne. For historical learning there was J. B. Mansi (d. 1769), the editor of the councils; the two Ballerinis, Pietro (d. 1769) and Girolamo (d. 1781), for critical editions of some Fathers; and L. Muratori (d. 1750) with his monumental editions and collections, e.g., Antiquitatis italiae medii aevi. For moral theology the most influential doctor was St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787), who was also a great spiritual writer.
In spirituality the various schools, particularly those of religious orders, were less affected by the decline than theology itself. The French school, for example, had its saints and doctors: St. Vincent de Paul (d. 1660) and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690), Bossuet (d. 1704) and Fénelon (d. 1715) with their controversy about pure love, were so many signs of vitality. The 18th century too had its saints and spiritual doctors, e.g., St. Grignion de Montfort (d. 1716), St. Leonard of Port Maurice (d. 1751), and St. Paul of the Cross (d. 1775).
Orthodox theology during this time had its own polemics, e.g., concerning Baptism by washing, declared invalid in 1755 by the Patriarch Kyrillos of Constantinople. The monk of Athos, Nikodemos (d. 1809), wrote his famous Philokalia. Russia drifted further away from Greece. In the 18th century under the Czar Peter the Great, Russian theology was opened to Protestant, Anglican, and Gallican influences; there were both partisans and opponents of the new trends.
For Protestant theology the time of the Aufklärung ushered in coexistence of rationalism and pietism. The first trend rationalized the truths of Christian revelation, bringing them down to the level of a natural religion; it insisted on the merely relative truth of the facts of Christianity, i.e., on their being conditioned by the times. Pietism sought an inner and religious life either within one's own confession and church or in openness to other confessions. In Anglicanism the two trends, pietism and rationalism, coexisted as well. A theistic rationalism tending to unitarianism and advocating the rejection of the Athanasian Creed provoked an evangelical reaction.
Revival of theology: nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After a gradually victorious reaction against the rationalism of philosophy and of the critical sciences, the 19th century brought a slow revival of theology. The revival included both a restoration of scholastic philosophy and theology and the development of positive historical theology. One decisive factor in this renewal was the work on the notion of dogmatic progress done by John Henry Newman (d. 1890) (see doctrine, develop ment of). A particular feature was the lead given to the revival by ecclesiastical authorities, who not only warned theologians against deviations but also gave positive directives.
The beginnings of the renewal came with the rise of romantic theology in the school of Tübingen, whose founder, J. A. Möhler (d. 1838), united inner religiosity, deep dogmatic insight, and a critical-historical sense, e.g., in his famed Symbolism. Here was rediscovered a sense of the past, i.e., of the patristic tradition and the doctrines of medieval scholastics, and with the rediscovery theology regained a sense of history and of development. An attempt, moreover, was made to restore unity in the ecclesiastical sciences and to stress their vital import.
Under Popes Gregory XVI (1831–46) and Pius IX (1846–78), the Catholic answer to rationalism was given in solutions for the problems of the relations between faith and reason, supernature and nature. Various defective attempts at solutions, such as semirationalism (G. Hermes, d. 1831), which granted too much to reason, traditionalism (A. Bonnetty, d. 1879), and fideism (L. Bautain, d. 1867), which granted too little, or another deviation, ontologism (C. Ubaghs, d. 1875), were set aside by the popes, especially by Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors (1864), and by Vatican Council I. A marked development of apologetics was one feature of the time. Another was the attempt to resolve questions regarding Church and State, along with the problem of individual liberty and its relation to authority—here also the popes intervened. Together with all this went the progress of positive theology, biblical exegesis, patrology, and history, as well as the application of the historical method to expound and prove dogma. The restoration of Thomism began in Italy with the encouragement of the popes and spread to the Roman College with L. Taparelli (d. 1862) as one of its chief promoters. The foundation of the Civiltà cattolica in 1850, blessed by the pope, initiated a movement of periodical literature that played an important role in the theological revival. The Marian movement found its crown in the definition of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX (1854), while the positive teaching of Vatican Council I clarified the relation between faith and reason.
Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903) took doctrinal initiatives in many fields of ecclesiastical learning. He sanctioned and fostered the neoscholastic movement and in particular the revival of Thomism with the proclamation of St. Thomas as the "common doctor." Neothomism meant not only a restoration of speculative theology but also the historical study of Thomism and scholasticism. Pope Leo's directives for the study of Holy Scripture and his opening of the Vatican archives for historical research were official encouragement for the ecclesiastical sciences. His social encyclical, Rerum novarum, marked the beginning of Catholic social doctrine. All these papal initiatives fanned the controversy in theology between progressivists and conservatives, particularly around the questions of revelation and criticism, revelation and dogma.
The Modernist crisis was the culminating conflict in the century of revival. Born of a desire to deal with the problems raised by biblical criticism and the historical study of Christian origins, the Modernist doctrines, influenced by a sort of agnostic philosophy, questioned the very nature of revelation and dogma. Their condemnation by St. Pius X (1907) saved Catholic doctrine, but it also encouraged a current of integralism, soon to be discouraged by Benedict XV. When the crisis was overcome, the revival again took its course more actively than before.
Prominent Theologians. Among the chief figures in the theological revival one may mention only a few. In Germany, after Möhler: J. Kuhn (d. 1887) and H. Klee (d. 1840); J. Kleutgen (d. 1883), the first great representative of neoscholasticism in Germany and an important theologian of Vatican I; H. Denzinger (d. 1883), famous for his Enchiridion; the greatest theologian of the century, M. Scheeben (d. 1888), who united speculative depth and positive learning with religious unction. For moral theology: A. Lehmkuhl (d. 1918) and H. Noldin (d. 1922); for Church history, C. Hefele (d. 1893), with his history of the councils, and F. Funk (d. 1907); for exegesis, R. Cornely (d. 1908), J. Knabenbauer (d. 1911), and F. von Hummelauer (d. 1914). In France: A. Vacant (d. 1901), founder of the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique; T. de Régnon (d. 1893), with his positive studies on the Trinity; A. Poulain (d. 1919), for mystical theology; for apologetics, A. Gratry (d. 1872), M. Blondel (d. 1949), L. de Grandmaison (d. 1927), who played an important role in the Modernist crisis, and A. Gardeil (d. 1931); in biblical exegesis, F. Vigouroux (d. 1915), founder of the Dictionnaire de la Bible; in Church history, L. Duchesne (d. 1922); in patristics, J. Migne (d. 1875), the editor of the two, Latin and Greek, patrologies. For Italy: C. Passaglia (d. 1887), theologian of the Immaculate Conception; J. Franzelin (d. 1886); for history, A. Theiner (d. 1874), work on the acta of Trent; H. Denifle (d. 1905) and his studies on Luther; G. de Rossi (d. 1894), the initiator of Christian archeology.
Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican. In the Greece of the 19th century, Orthodox theology was generally eclectic, influenced by Catholic, Protestant, and Russian theology. In Russia the study and translation of the Fathers was taken up; apologetics was anti-Western, in particular anti-Catholic. There were two great names: V. Solov’ev (d. 1900), the lay theologian of a sophia -theology, and A. Khomiakov (d. 1890), with his attempt at renewal of ecclesiology in the sobornost theory.
The Protestantism of the 19th century overcame the Aufklärung. With F. Schleiermacher (d. 1834), for whom religion meant awareness of one's dependence on the universe and its Creator God, religious experience became the theme in both orthodox or confessional-biblical, speculative or liberal, and eclectic theological currents. Exegesis and theology centered in the history of salvation. With A. Ritschl (d. 1889) the kingdom of God was considered as a moral value, and all Christian themes and church doctrines were treated historically; cf. A. Harnack (d. 1930) and his historicism in theology. The school of history of religions led to the rediscovery of the eschatological character of Jesus' message and of the numinous in religion. Liberalism and orthodox belief coexisted in Protestantism.
In Anglican theology the impact of the new criticalhistorical trends produced different reactions in the three churches. The latitudinarian manifesto, Essays and Reviews (1860), admitted Scripture inspiration only in a very broad sense and instituted a critique of miracles, later raising again the question of the Athanasian Creed. To this the Catholicizing High Church reacted, particularly in the Oxford Movement, stressing the Church's divine institution; it advocated not only ritualism but also study of Scripture and of Christian origins; cf. J. Lightfoot (d. 1889) and B. Westcott (d. 1901). Liberalism led by S. Coleridge (d. 1834) took a conservative stand.
Early twentieth century. When the Modernist crisis was over—or even before, with the establishment of the École Biblique of Jerusalem and the Biblical Institute in Rome—likewise with the return to normal after each of the two world wars, theology and ecclesiastical learning showed notable developments. Two great popes, Pius XI and Pius XII, took the lead.
Various movements for renewal in the life and apostolate of the Church, such as the liturgical and missionary movements, were incentives in the fields of theology. More directly decisive were the biblical and patristic movements and the return to the sources. Scholastic theology gained from the historical study of its masters, especially St. Thomas. Spiritual theology and studies in the history of spirituality knew a marked revival. A still restricted but growing ecumenical movement also profited theology. Finally, an important current studied and spread Catholic social doctrine. A decisive factor was the reorganization by Pius XI of ecclesiastical studies, a reorganization that sought a blend of traditional scholastic theology and the new positive sciences [the apostolic constitution Deus scientiarum dominus, May 24, 1931; Acta Apostolicae Sedis 23 (1931) 241–262]. One feature of the theological development was its international character. Biblical and patristic, liturgical and spiritual, historical and properly theological movements developed on an international scale. An increasing periodical literature in the various international languages was supported by international congresses ahd internationally organized research and publication efforts. Another feature was the multiplication of specializations, and with it the danger of the specialist's narrowing outlook. Two among the chief fields of development were mariology and ecclesiology.
Most marked in this research and activity, especially after World War II, was the desire for renewal and change both in method and in doctrine. Numerous studies took stock of "present trends and problems in theology" or reexamined theological method. The return to the Bible and the Fathers, from a desire of evangelical authenticity and an ecumenical spirit, brought a surge of interest in positive and a decline of interest in speculative theology. A danger consequent on this imbalance of the "new theology" and its overemphasis on the historical conditioning of the doctrine was "dogmatic relativism," which Pius XII stigmatized in Humani generis (1950), although he upheld the need of theology to be in living contact with Scripture and the Fathers. Pius XII's personal magisterium, set forth in countless addresses and documents, was a stimulus for theology. The most crucial of his directives was his encyclical on biblical studies, Divino afflante Spiritu (1943), the charter that revolutionized Catholic exegesis and through it the whole of theology.
By the end of Pius XII's pontificate, the result of this movement for renewal in ecclesiastical learning was a slow emergence from a more or less unsettled state. Marked positive trends in theology were the biblical approach, greater contact with patristic tradition, and a definite orientation of doctrine to life (the divorce between theology and spirituality was definitely ended) and to pastoral action (liturgical and apostolic, social and missionary). Negative results were a decline in speculative theology, depreciation of scholasticism, not excluding Thomism, and a danger of shallowness and utilitarianism in doctrine. The balanced solution appeared to emerge from the study of the growth of doctrines as the key to their understanding; the historical perspective was recognized as being an essential requirement in theology. Consequent reflection on the data of revelation seen in their source and in their growth in the faith of the Church, in full awareness of the needs of the times, could prepare a renewed speculative theology.
Since Vatican II. Like faith, theology as a discipline entered a period of crisis in which negatively its own identity is called into question and positively it faces the challenge of creative renewal. The history of its recent past gives evidence of a radical metamorphosis in which metaphysical thinking (Neoscholasticism) has given way first to existential thinking (e.g. Bultmann and Rahner) and subsequently to historical thinking (e.g. Pannenberg and Metz). The approach to God has shifted from the objectivity of the cosmos, to an anthropocentric emphasis upon the immanence of thought and thence to radical historicality and praxis. The present altered status of the discipline can perhaps be schematically displayed in the following eleven considerations: (1) theology's scientific status; (2) theology and revelation; (3) theology and the Bible; (4) foundational theology; (5) the crisis of language; (6) theology as transcendental anthropology; (7) theology as method; (8) theology as hermeneutics; (9) theology as eschatology; (10) theology as process thinking; (11) additional characteristics.
(1) Scientific Status. Neoscholasticism transformed Thomas Aquinas's notion of theology as a subalternated science (Summa theologiae 1a, 1.3) into an exaggerated distinction between faith and reason, and it extenuated the Aristotelian notion of science (epistẽmẽ) employed by Aquinas, in terms of Cartesian rationalism. This introduced a ruinous separation between the fact of God's revealing (acknowledged by faith and on the authority of the Church) and its content and meaning (appropriated by way of logically deducing conclusions from premises of faith). Theology became a science employing two distinct methodologies: the historical as "positive theology," and the rational as "speculative theology." In the first, it had two functions: to articulate the present teaching of the Church, and then to seek the foundations for such in Scripture and tradition. In speculative theology the function was to attempt a reasoned elaboration of such doctrine. In the modern era, these two elements were so dissociated that their complementarity was lost, with a resulting collapse of theology as a viable scientific enterprise in this sense. Among the factors in that demise were, preeminently: a growing awareness, since Kant, of the historicity of man and of all knowledge, which relativized the dogmatic and ecclesiastical character of the formulae of faith; a shift in the understanding of the revelation-event, which altered the notion of religious truth; and the transition from the intellectualism of classical culture to the empiricism of modern culture, in which rational certitude cedes to dialectical probability and priority is given to the experiential. In the face of this breakdown of an earlier structure, Rudolf Bultmann allowed a scientific function to exegesis alone and reduced theology to kerygma. More radically, Matthias Gatzenmeir (Theologie als Wissenschaft, 1974) claimed that its reliance upon an esoteric source of information (revelation), which appeals to authority and defies all rational testing, gives theology an exclusively confessional character and denies it the criteria and the name of science. Serious theologians have countered by insisting that theology retains its claim to science, not on analogy with the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften ) but with the humane sciences (Geisteswissenschaften, in the sense of the word since W. Dilthey). It is rational and public discourse on the symbols of Christianity and as such interprets a depth dimension to common human experience, with its own critically employed criteria for both meaning and truth. It readily acknowledges its confessional character but maintains—in light of the principle generally recognized today, in reaction to the ideal of the Enlightenment, that all thought involves some commitment by way of a preunderstanding on the part of the investigator—that this does not mean it is without empirically verifiable grounding. Obviously, such grounding cannot be absolutized so as to limit theology to only the empirically verifiable. The truth it seeks to articulate is that proper to the human person, whose being is rooted in freedom and so is indigenously historical and linguistic.
(2) Theology and Revelation. The religious crisis that developed between the two World Wars precipitated a radical revision in the understanding of the nature of Christian belief and especially of divine revelation as its source. Revelation came to be looked upon not as God's imparting of truths about himself otherwise unattainable, but as the self-communication of a living God in present address to men. Faith response to this then appeared not as assent to propositions on the basis of authority (truth as adaequatio ), but as existential encounter with the God who unveils himself to men (truth as alẽtheia ). The locus of such an encounter is human consciousness, which is indigenously historical; thus, it involves both the a priori conditions of consciousness and the a posteriori conditions of historical occurrence. The linguisticality of man means the spontaneous articulation of this religious experience into language, of which the Bible is the privileged and normative instance. Originally, in the two thinkers most responsible for this revised understanding, the historical character of revelation was compromised. Karl Barth's "Theology of the Word" hypostatized that Word into God in his primal history with mankind (Ursgeschichte ); Rudolf Bultmann reduced it to a divine summons to the existential decision of faith within human subjectivity (kerygma ). A succeeding generation led by Ernst Käsemann recovered the relevance of history for faith by viewing history not as chronology or literal biography but as a record of intentions and life-commitments of the participants underlying the events. Present meaning is thus safeguarded from subjectivity in that it arises only out of tradition. More recent theories of revelation, inaugurated by Wolfhart Pannenberg and others, tend to move a step further in rejecting outright the distinction between fact and meaning (that is between Historie, as what the historian establishes by historical, critical method as actually having happened, and Geschichte, as the impact of past events upon present consciousness) that underlies the earlier position. Meaning, while distinct from event, is ingredient in events themselves; Revelation is not the Word of God somehow above history but is itself universal history. While appropriating both developments, Catholic theology at the same time has resisted the collapse into existential subjectivity, on the one hand, and the absolutizing of universal history on the other: the former by an emphasis on the concrete historical character of God's acts, the latter by an insistence upon the normative interpretation of such history both in the apostolic and the postapostolic Church. There is growing agreement, at any rate, on setting aside a priori concepts of general revelation in favor of an approach that begins with the Christevent itself as a bearer of meaning on the basis of its concrete origin. Revelation is thus the opening up of possibilities for human existence (P. Ricoeur); its credibility is not so much rational as integrally human in kind (P. A. Liégé). The literary documents in which such experience issues are depositivized and not so much read for any "objective" truth they contain as (in a move beyond the Protestant principle of sola scriptura and the Catholic reliance upon Church magisterium) they are interpreted in a search for the meaning they bear for man today. Out of this arise theories of continuing development whose common note is an ever new thematization into language of a primal understanding that either transcends language or (more likely) at least cannot be exhausted in former language expressions. K. Rahner, for example, distinguishes between a "transcendental revelation" that is preconceptual and preverbal, and a "categorical revelation" that is the concrete thematization of the former in event and word. It is the texts themselves that in an objective way communicate truth not explicitly stated in words.
(3) Theology and the Bible. The recovery of the hermeneutical role clearly signals the end to the divorce between exegesis and theology. Earlier, exegesis had tended to assume an overly positivistic character, resistant to the schemas of theology that were becoming more and more rationalistic and "speculative" in the pejorative sense. Sacred Scripture is now viewed not as a deposit of truths but as a culturally and historically determined witness to the revelatory event. Exegesis, then, is not a neutral and naively objective historical study, because it demands a faith commitment and a preunderstanding on the part of the investigator. Faith is thus understood as not mere assent but as already initial interpretative understanding (E. Schillebeeckx); a gradual awareness of its indispensible role in appropriating both the fact and the contents of revelation has led to a recovery of the primacy of Scripture and its function in theology as a norma non normata. As signs of this: any serious contention of a second autonomous source of revelation existing alongside Scripture has disappeared; later formulations of Christian truth appearing in post-biblical tradition are viewed as "the history of the effects of Scripture" (B. van Iersel). Noteworthy, too, is the emergence of biblical theology as a speculative act beyond, yet under the control of exegesis. None of this has meant the surrender by exegesis of its proper object and task—the recovery of the text in its original setting and the meaning it held for its author. But this function is put into the context of being a privileged moment in the larger hermeneutical task, which acknowledges that the text yields up its fullest meaning only in the perspective of an ongoing tradition.
(4) Foundational Theology. Theology is presently engaged in a critical reexamination of its own foundations in an attempt to provide itself with an epistemology, a method, and a set of categories for its interpretative work. This has meant the emergence of what is properly designated "foundational theology" to replace an earlier "fundamental theology," with a corresponding eschewing of prior procedures in the area of natural theology and apologetics, both concerned with seeking the rational grounds for, respectively, the existence of a Transcendent Cause and the credibility of revelation. Both remain legitimate pursuits but as conducted within the ambiance of revealed theology, i.e. the point de départ is the properly theological one of revelation understood as illumining the meaning of human existence. foundational theology, thus functioning analogously to philosophy in the latter's critical function, has thus become markedly anthropocentric and, in part, the believer's act of self-understanding. Foundational theology takes cognizance of the truth that knowledge of reality is available only on the basis of the structure of the particular being who questions it (Heidegger's Dasein ) and takes historicity not as an accidental factor but as an essential constituent of human beingness. Further, all understanding is viewed as rooted in experience, the latter concept being broadened out to include "faith" as some sort of preunderstanding. Experience thus conditions both contact with the symbols of revelation and their interpretation. Exploration focuses on the relationship between the formulas of Christian faith and common human experience, even secular experience in its very secularity. In this way, theology retreats from being a science of God and man in the divine self-communicative act. Interest thus centers on the sacred texts as the language event emerging from tradition, and theology becomes hermeneutics. Contemporary theology is thereby rendered unavoidably pluralistic, resting on the two poles of religious pluralism and philosophical plu ralism. The first means a climate of ecumenism not only in the sense of an irenic spirit but in the sense of theologians crossing confessional lines in doctrinal matters. The second is most obvious in the wide spectrum of epistemological options ranging from strict empiricism and linguistic analysis (Wittgenstein) to neoclassical metaphysics (Whitehead). The pluralism proper to theology is illustrated by David Tracy's discernment of five contemporary, viable "models": orthodox, liberal, neoorthodox, radical, and revisionist (Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order 1975). Clearly discernible is a refusal of commitment to any one metaphysical system, a factor that gives rise to conceptual confusion, and not infrequently betrays an antimetaphysical bias, which undermines a traditional notion of theology as working under the sign of logos.
(5) Crisis of Language. At the bottom of theology's critical work lies the vexing problem of language. The "God is Dead" phenomenon of the 1960s graphically indicated that discussion had moved beyond the problem of believing in the reality of the Transcendent to the question as to whether it was possible to attach any meaning at all to speech that claimed to refer to what lay beyond the empirical order. The principle of empirical verification as employed in early Logical Positivism came to be qualified in attending to the distinctive consciousness from which religious language arose. This led to an understanding of how meaning is determined by the way language is used and so allowed a genuine cognitive character to the speech of believers. Also, the principle of verifiability has given way to that of falsifiability, in which theoretical refutability is seen as strengthening the case for belief (K. Popper). Nevertheless, the question of truth tends still to be bracketed as something dependent entirely upon faith-commitment and not susceptible of critical mediation—though Catholic theology remains sanguine about finding rational support for credibility. The modes of linguistic expression are multiple and varied, though all God-talk is recognized to be indirect, oblique, and relational. Emphasis falls heavily today on nonliteral modes of speech, divided basically into the mythical and the symbolic, both understood as vehicles of truth, though often truth not translatable into literal terms. Resource to literal (as opposed to figurative) language, however, is still deemed necessary as long as the literal retains its indirect, nonunivocal character; without this the truth function of myth and symbol seemingly becomes arbitrary. Theology as narration, employing story, autobiography, and self-ascriptive language is now regarded as indispensable to the discipline, though by itself it can offer no criteria for truth or falsity and stands in need of conceptual language. The latter continues to be used primarily in the context of analogy, i.e. as concepts whose proper reference is to either realities of the cosmos (metaphysical analogy), or to subjective self-understanding (analogy in existential ontology), by means of which God is designated without being conceptually grasped. More frequently, concepts are used as hypothetical categories, as descriptive paradigms, and as disclosure models. Still, the necessity for an ontological undergirding of religious language continues to urge itself; metaphor and analogy are thus taken to be complementary in theological discourse. Much of the metaphysics deployed in theology is descriptive in kind, but of itself this raises the question of an interpretative metaphysics, of the move beyond language to being.
(6) Theology as Transcendental Anthropology. The dialectical theology of the Barth-Bultmannian axis sought to recoup the relevance of Christian faith by emphasizing respectively supernaturalism and existential decision, but in a way that radically reduced the significance of human nature on the one hand and history on the other. Attempts to surmount this, in a use of the transcendental philosophy of E. Husserl and M. Heidegger, led to a recasting of the discipline as theological anthropology, most notably in the work of Karl Rahner (Theological Investigations ). The a priori (structure of human existence) and a posteriori (events of history) elements in religious encounter were thereby seen as illuminating each other. Scripture and church doctrine are shown to be the thematizations, in culturally determined images and concepts, of a prior awareness of God that is nonobjective and preconceptual, while still forming part of conscious existence. This latter "prehension" is not indigenous to man's nature but is an existential structure thereof, due entirely to grace and constituting a supernatural existential in which man stands open to the God of a possible revelation. The vigor of this revised "theology of mediation" continues to assert itself, although reservations have been expressed on its anthropomorphism, which runs the risk of measuring the mysteries of God by the meaning they bear for men. Hans Urs von Balthasar has strongly argued for the option of conceiving theology as aesthetics, in which God's concrete action in history, in its own splendor (Herrlichkeit ), interprets itself to man in ways impossible to surmise from the latter's own existence.
(7) Theology as Method. Bernard Lonergan has employed the transcendental method differently, arguing that theology is less a discipline with its own nature than a method of thought. So transformed, it is isomorphic with the other humane sciences and rooted in the invariant structure of human consciousness as a dynamism of self-transcendence. Theology, on this view, comprises eight distinct but interrelated functional specialties: research, interpretation, history, dialectics, foundations, doctrines, systematics, and communications (Lonergan, Method in Theology 1972). What has precipitated this alteration is the transition from the classical culture of antiquity to the empirical culture of modernity. Here genuine objectivity lies not in naive realism but in the subjectivity of the believer as he structures his own world of meaning. Theology attends not to truths but to the acts of theologians striving to understand and respond to truth.
(8) Theology as Hermeneutics. In abandoning its former procedures and becoming an interpretation of the encounter with God, mediated through Christian symbols of the past, theology has been enormously influenced by the seminal work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and his insisting that language is the basis of all understanding. her meneutics is nothing more than a theory of the very process of understanding itself, as the uncovering of the hiddeness of things through the tradition of language. Understanding is neither naive objectivity on one hand, nor subjective behavior on the other, but a coordination of subject and object in which understanding "belongs to the being of that which is understood" (Gadamer, Truth and Method 1975, xix). Hermeneutics allows for the gradual emergence of meaning in the very process of reinterpretation that is tradition. The text possesses a life of its own wherein it meets the present interpreter and so "can assert its truth against one's own foremeanings" (ibid. 238). This dialogic "fusing of the horizons" is the merging of past and present in language; it enables one to hear in the text what was previously unheard. The past comes alive as the life of a community giving meaning to the present; historical events are known in an authentic way that unleases their meaning for the present.
(9) Theology as Eschatology. As hermeneutics, theology has developed from a hermeneutic of existence (in Bultmann's separation of meaning from event), to a hermeneutic of language (in the merging of fact and meaning in language-event by Gadamer and E. Fuchs), and, finally, to a hermeneutic of history (in which revelation occurs not merely in history but precisely as history: Pannenberg and Moltmann). In this latter stage, meaning is ingredient in events themselves insofar as they anticipate the end of history and so its final meaning. Revelation is here history itself in its universality (Universalsgeschichte ), whose end has already appeared proleptically in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This awareness of the end of history remains provisional because it is only anticipated in the destiny of Jesus; thus, theology moves beyond Hegel's absolutizing of history. At work here is an ideosyncratic reversal of time, in which the present comes to us not from the past but out of the future. This ontological priority of the future means that God lies not "above", nor "within", but "ahead"; his actions in history have the character of promise, to which the preeminent Christian response is hope, not faith. Thus, one views "the world as history, history as the history of the end, faith as hope, and theology as eschatology" [J. B. Metz: "L'Église et le monde" in Théologie d'aujourd'hui et de demain (1967) 140]. Of recent date, this use of universal history as hermeneutical key has tended to give way to a different emphasis on historical efficacy, in which praxis becomes at once a source and method for theology. Here the goal is not the interpretation of history from its end, but the transformation of a history still in the making, with concern centering upon the Church as mission (J. Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit 1977). The underlying methodology owes much to the "critical theory of knowledge" of the Frankfort School (J. Habermas and T. Adorno), which equates truth with intersubjective consensus achieved in unrestricted dialogue and societal action; recently it has received a Catholic adaptation (E. Schillebeeckx). Sometimes called political theology, its offspring is liberation the ology, which advances Christianity as primarily committed to fostering liberation from political, racial, or sexual oppression.
(10) Theology as Process Thinking. The Anglo-Saxon, especially the American scene, has witnessed the rise of a distinct theological style committed to the primacy of change and becoming over being. Taking its inspiration from A. Whitehead's philosophy of actualism, becoming is understood not as history but as the foundational category of a neoclassical metaphysics. It delivers to theology the focal concept of a dipolar God, at once infinite and finite, eternal and temporal, engaged with the world in an endless process of creative becoming. The ultimate category is not God (who is one actual entity among others) but creativity, to which God and world are subordinate but which is not itself actual (see theism and process thought). Obviously, this necessitates a radical reinterpretation of all the Christian mysteries; a Catholic parallel to it, in a limited respect, is to be found in Teilhard de Chardin's re-presentation of Christianity in terms of universal evolution.
Additional Characteristics. Its new ambiance has enabled theology to begin developing a suggestion made at Vatican Council II into a theory of the hierarchy of truths of Christian doctrine (Unitatis redintegratio 2). This represents an alternative to former concern with "theological notes" and both Y. Congar and C. Dumont urged it at the council as able to claim the authority of Aquinas. Order among the revealed truths is determined on the basis of proximity to the foundational truth who is Jesus the Christ. Basically, this allows differentiating primary truths (Trinity, Incarnation, redemption, etc.) from subordinate truths concerning the means of salvation (Church, Sacraments, apostolic succession, etc.). Another characteristic is the transfer of theology from the seminary to the university setting with the regaining of free inquiry. Also at work is an awareness of the need for dialogue with the nonbelieving world, in which theology attends to the genuine questions of contemporary mankind both within the believing community and outside it, including in the latter instance such questions as that of contemporary atheism. Finally, mention should be made of attempts just getting under way to develop a genuine pastoral theology as a "moment" within theology proper, in which recourse would be had to the experience of Christians themselves and to the findings of the social sciences as rethought within a properly theological perspective.
See Also: theology, articles on; dogmatic theology, articles on; spirituality (history of); moral theology, history of (to 700); moral theology, history of (700 to vatican council i); moral theology, history of (20th century developments); moral theology, history of (contemporary trends); byzantine theology; russian theology; protestantism; theology, influence of greek philosophy on; dialectic in theology; dialectics in the middle ages; baroque theology; experience theology; existential theology.
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[p. de letter/
w. j. hill]