These are partial and fragmentary answers to the various questions  raised in fundamental theology,

These are partial and fragmentary answers to the various questions raised in fundamental theology,

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Dwyer, Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology [1.2.8.2] 1 These are partial and fragmentary answers to the various questions raised in fundamental theology, and listed on the outline you have already re-ceived. All of them need to be expanded (many to book-length), and all of them raise more questions than they answer. I propose them here as suggestions of avenues down which you can profitably think out your own answers. The numeration follows that of the outline you have received, except for a few cases which are noted. 1 Faith is letting God define himself on his own terms, in his own way, in his own good time. Christian faith is letting God define himself (and us) in Jesus Christ. For Paul, faith is hearkening to the word of uncondi-tional acceptance that God has spoken in Jesus Christ, particularly on the cross. In the Synoptics, faith is relying totally on Jesus. 1.1 Historical study cannot «prove» faith, nor can it provide the mo-tive for faith. But historical study can show us how God has de-fined himself – that is, it can clarify what it is that we are called to believe. 1.1.1 [This section does not correspond to one of the questions on your outline.] Historical study can also make us suspicious of some stances (of ourselves and of others) which pose as Christian but which are hard to reconcile with positions taken by the historical Jesus. 1.2 Faith is not an alternative to understanding, to the use of ...

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Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
1
These are partial and fragmentary answers to the various questions raised
in fundamental theology, and listed on the outline you have already re-
ceived.
All of them need to be expanded (many to book-length), and all of
them raise more questions than they answer.
I propose them here as
suggestions of avenues down which you can profitably think out your own
answers.
The numeration follows that of the outline you have received,
except for a few cases which are noted.
1 Faith is letting God define himself on his own terms, in his own way, in
his own good time.
Christian faith is letting God define himself (and us)
in Jesus Christ.
For Paul, faith is hearkening to the word of uncondi-
tional acceptance that God has spoken in Jesus Christ, particularly on
the cross.
In the Synoptics, faith is relying totally on Jesus.
1.1
Historical study cannot «prove» faith, nor can it provide the mo-
tive for faith.
But historical study can show us
how
God has de-
fined himself – that is, it can clarify what it is that we are called to
believe.
1.1.1
[This section does not correspond to one of the
questions on your outline.]
Historical study can also
make us suspicious of some stances (of ourselves and
of others) which pose as Christian but which are hard to
reconcile with positions taken by the historical Jesus.
1.2
Faith is not an alternative to understanding, to the use of intel-
ligence.
Faith itself is an act of understanding, and it affects and
undergirds all other acts of understanding (not only in theology,
but in all of life).
1.2.1
The evidence for faith is different from the evidence
which we have in other kinds of knowledge, but faith is
not
assent without evidence, because then it would be
irrational, anti-intellectual, and unworthy of a human be-
ing.
The evidence on which faith is based is the immedi-
ate experienced presence of God in our lives.
1.2.2
Faith is the quintessentially intelligent way of knowing.
All exercise of intelligence, all understanding deals with
the mystery of being, and, ultimately, that mystery dis-
closes itself only to faith.
1.3
Emotion, in so far as it is truly human (and not merely vapid,
self-absorbed sentimentality) is the experience of the charm, the
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
2
beauty, the attractiveness, of what we have begun to
understand.
Intelligence is not the act of turning the cold light of
reason on pure concepts; it is the power to enter into the mystery
of being.
1.3.1
Head and heart need each other, and attempts to sepa-
rate them lead to fanaticism.
Fanaticism is almost
always the result of suppressing the truth
(fundamen-
talism is a good example).
1.4
To call faith «saving» means that faith has the power to heal the
brokenness of life – it has the power to take away fear, anxiety,
silly pride, stupid pretense, hopelessness, alienation, estrange-
ment, meaninglessness, in this life, and it has the power to offer
eternal life.
1.5
Saving faith can be found outside Christianity because God can
be known outside of and apart from his definitive revelation of
himself in Jesus Christ.
1.5.1
Both God and Jesus can be known by «pen names» –
that is, they can be known in experiences and in percep-
tions of value which make absolute claims on us.
When-
ever we recognize that there
are
values (ways of acting
which promote human existence), and that those values
are
there
whether we like it or not, we know God anon-
ymously.
1.5.2
Agnostics can have saving faith; many self-
styled agnostics adhere to values which they
know are not of their own making.
2 Revelation is God´s act of communicating, sharing, his own life, his
very self.
2.1
Revelation is not alien to human intelligence; as intelligent be-
ings, we seek revelation, because, without it, we cannot be
present to the mystery of being, and cannot deal with the
problems of life and the predicament of human existence.
2.2
God reveals himself in a number of ways, one of which is in na-
ture – in the crags, the cliffs, the sky and the stars, the depths of
the oceans and the mysteries of quantum physics and of qua-
sars.
2.2.1
Nature is part of revelation – always ambiguous,
because only revelation in
word
can remove this
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
3
ambiguity.
2.3
Revelation occurs in other religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,
and others), but not only there; it occurs in some of the great
philosophical and artistic achievements of all peoples.
But with-
out the cross, these revelations also remain ambiguous.
3 Scripture is God´s revelation in word, and which, because it is written,
has achieved stable, permanent form in a way which stands over us
and is not subject to our whims.
For this reason it can function as a
norm for all other supposed revelations.
3.1
Although scripture was written in human languages, its words
are the bearer of God´s thought, power, and presence; in these
human words, God speaks to us.
3.2
The scriptural word is sacramental because it is a human,
worldly reality, which is the bearer of God himself into our midst.
3.3
Scripture and church are correlative concepts – each belongs to
the definition of the other.
3.3.1
Neither was «there» before the other.
The church came
into being in the writing of scripture, and scripture is the
book of the church, written in, by, and for the church.
3.3.2
Scripture does not «belong» to churchmen, in the sense
that they can deal with it as they want, or use it at their
own discretion.
All in the church (including bishops and
the pope) stand under scripture.
3.4
The problem of the canon is the question of how the writings of
the Old and New Testaments became canonical – that is, norma-
tive for church life.
Did they acquire this status through divine
providence which made use of human error (for example, er-
roneous judgments about the authorship of many of the writings).
3.4.1
These writings became canonical partly because of the
errors mentioned above, but partly because of the power
of the writings themselves.
3.4.2
This could have happened through divine providence
making use of human error.
God can write straight with
crooked lines.
3.5
The term «canon within the canon» implies that some of the writ-
ings of the New Testament (the term is used almost exclusively
by NT scholars) are more central than others, more normative of
Christian faith and life, for the church and the individual.
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
4
3.6
The OT is the most powerful presentation of the human predica-
ment, of the hope and longing which are constitutive of the hum-
an situation, which the world has ever seen.
In this sense (and
not as the prediction of things to come) it is a preparation for the
NT.
3.6.1
The term «Hebrew Scriptures» refers to these writings
which were produced over the span of more than a thou-
sand years by the Israelite and Jewish peoples.
As
such, they have their own consistency, their own
meaning, their own integrity,
within
Israelite and Jewish
history.
The term «Old Testament» refers to these
writings (with some small additions which were not
originally written in Hebrew), which were adopted by
Christians, and read as preparation for the coming of
Jesus.
3.7
We need an approach to scripture, a way of reading it, which
does two things: it places the document against the background
of its own time and place, because, apart from that context, it
cannot be understood.
And second, it respects the essentially
critical
nature of human understanding – the fact that we should
give our assent only when we have seen the evidence and
evaluated it.
3.7.1
Historical-critical method is
historical
because it sees the
need to learn the «language» of the text it is interpreting
– that is, because it is aware of the resources of thought
and expression available (or unavailable)
to the writers
because of the time and place at and in which they lived
.
It is critical, because it strives to distinguish what the
text
seems
to be saying from what it really
is
saying.
4 Tradition (as a theological concept) is the handing on of an authorita-
tive, normative teaching.
It can also be used to refer to the teaching
which is handed on.
4.1
Scripture is God´s word to us, and, as such, it is normative for
faith and life in a primary, primordial way.
Tradition is the word
of the church (that is, of all Christians, of the whole people of
God), as it strives to speak a word of response to God.
4.2
Tradition cannot be on the same footing, because it is the
re-
sponse
to God´s word, and therefore it is subordinate to that
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
5
word and is to be measured by it.
4.3
Tradition cannot function as such a supplementary source.
To
see it in this light would be to deny that scripture is truly
normative for the faith and life of the individual Christian and of
the church.
4.4
[The text in the question should read «if not.»]
When we find
dogmas which appear to have no real basis in scripture, we can
only see them as the expression of some scriptural teaching, but
in a form which reflects the religious culture and the devotional
style of a particular time.
(This religious culture and devotional
style may well have many elements which have no scriptural
pedigree whatsoever.)
5 The magisterium is the office in the church which is charged with main-
taining the apostolic doctrine intact.
It has a solid NT basis, although
its specifically juridical elements and the hyper-development of the
papal magisterium cannot be authenticated by the NT.
5.1
The authority of the magisterium depends on scripture.
Scripture
is the repository of the apostolic preaching and teaching, and the
magisterium cannot teach which scripture does not teach.
5.2
This is true for two reasons.
First, the magisterium has no inde-
pendent sources outside of scripture, on which to base its teach-
ing (the guidance of the Holy Spirit shows itself by inspiring
loyalty to the scriptural message).
And second, the magisterium
owes it to the whole church to help its members acknowledge
the primacy of scripture in Christian life.
5.3
Dogma is teaching which is normative for all in the church.
It has
this character because it states scriptural teaching in language
which is understandable in the day and time in and at which it is
formulated.
5.4
Ecumenical councils have an important role in the formulation of
authoritative teaching, because they are meetings of those who
have the special task of safeguarding the apostolic teaching.
5.5
Historical-critical method is not simply a way of understanding
scripture; it must also be applied to the statements of popes and
councils, since otherwise we have no way of discovering what
claims these statements have on us and our faith.
Like scripture,
their statements often need to be decoded.
6 The prophet is the wo/man who speaks the powerful word of God into
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
6
the present situation.
The prophetic office is something we can never
claim for ourselves, and true prophets are ordinarily recognized only
when they are dead.
(And even then very few merit the title.)
6.1
It referred to one who spoke the powerful word of Jahweh into
the situation of the moment.
It had nothing to do with predicting
the proximate or remote future.
6.2
When Paul speaks of prophets and prophecy, he probably has in
mind those in the churches who spoke of the meaning of the
Christian message for practical living.
6.3
The Christian prophet does not claim to be one, bases his/her
message on scripture, and suffers, without complaint, for the
truth of his/her message.
John Courtney Murray, and Yves
Congar are good examples.
7 Theology is the attempt to think clearly and systematically about the
mystery of God, and about the mystery of ourselves which depends on
God.
7.1
The purpose of theology is to understand something of the divine
mystery so that we may enter into it and be transformed by it.
7.2
The principal source of theology is scripture, but it also takes
note of tradition (the church´s response to the scriptural word).
This response is found in the teaching of bishops and popes, in
the writings of theologians, in the liturgy, in the common-sense
judgments of the laity, and elsewhere.
7.2.1
Scripture is the primordial source, on which all other
sources are based.
7.2.2
After scripture, the teaching of the bishops has priority,
because they form the group within the church which is
charged with maintaining the apostolic teaching.
The
other sources can play their role to the degree to which
they are rooted in scripture.
7.3
Theological statements must do two things, satisfy two criteria.
First, they must derive their content from scripture.
Second, they
must state that content in language which is intelligible at the
moment at which they are made.
7.3.1
They must answer the questions which people are actu-
ally asking – questions about the meaning of existence,
about how to deal with suffering and with the experience
of meaninglessness and despair.
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
7
7.3.2
They are measured by their fidelity to scripture and by
the correctness of their analysis of the human situation.
7.4
Philosophy raises questions about the meaning of being, in the
most all-encompassing sense, and it uses all the resources of
reason and intelligence in seeking an answer.
Theology draws
on revelation, God´s communication of himself, his sharing of his
own life, to answer the question of the meaning of being – of
God´s and our own being.
7.4.1
Philosophy is the quest for the meaning of
being.
7.4.2
Philosophy and theology are implied in each other´s defi-
nitions, because philoso
phy articulates the question that
we ask and the question that we are, and theology an-
swers those questions.
7.5
In the early centuries, theologians saw their task as interpreting
scripture, but there were two problems.
First, they read scripture
through the dark glasses of Platonic and neo-Platonic philoso-
phy, and second, they used allegorical methods of interpretation,
which led them to find things in scripture which were not there.
In addition, they rarely proceeded in a systematic way.
At about
the middle of the eleventh century, the period of scholasticism
began.
7.5.1
Scholasticism was the attempt to use the philosophies of
ancient Greece (particularly that of Aristotle, although in
earlier years Plato´s thought played an important role) as
a tool to understand the mysteries of the faith.
It led to a
highly ordered, systematic approach, and it peaked in
the work of Thomas Aquinas in the middle of the
thirteenth century.
After his time there were many sterile
imitations, and then in 1879 Leo XIII made Thomas
something like a court theologian for the Catholic church.
This neo-thomism was the way Rome wanted theology
done, and, except in Germany, it was done this way
almost everywhere, up to Vatican II.
7.5.2
In Catholic theology, no single method has replaced
scholasticism and, more narrowly, thomism.
Some con-
temporary approaches use a concept of
salvation
history,
which they claim to find in scripture, as a key to
organizing and systematizing the theological enterprise,
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
8
while others (for example, the
Catechism of the Catholic
Church
) begin with the statements of the Nicene Creed,
while drawing heavily on the scholastic tradition.
The
strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches
should be measured by the extent to which they depend
on scripture, understood historically and critically.
8 «Religion» is a very ambiguous term.
8.1
It can be defined positively as «the attempt to know God, to sub-
mit to him, and to do his will.»
8.2
It can be defined negatively as the attempt to manipulate and
control God, and force a reward from his hands, by correct belief,
by conforming to his law, and by engaging in the proper ceremo-
nial activities.
8.3
All forms of religion manifest both these positive and negative
traits.
The temptation to become a religion of law, with appropri-
ate «pay-offs» for those who obey the law, is strong in Christian-
ity.
9 A common division is: dogmatic, scriptural, and practical.
Dogmatic
theology would include sections in the following areas: the question of
God,
creation, christology, the Spirit, the Trinity, grace, the church, the
sacraments, and eschatology.
Scriptural theology would include sec-
tions on the principles of exegesis of OT and NT texts, and then on the
actual exegesis of these texts.
Practical theology would include moral
theology (or Christian ethics), pastoral theology, spirituality, canon law.
Church history could be included under practical theology (but see be-
low).
9.1
The status of moral theology is much debated, but the best moral
theology cannot be seen as reflection on «the law of Christ.»
It
is much better to see it as the attempt to answer the question of
how those who have been offered true freedom by the preaching
of the Gospel will manifest that freedom in the choices and deci-
sions they make.
9.1.1
[This section does not correspond to a question in the
outline on foundational theology.]
Moral theology, as it
was taught in the seminaries, was organized around the
concept of sin (since it was designed to train future
priests to hear confession, and the Council of Trent de-
manded that serious sins be confessed by type and by
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
9
number.)
More recent approaches have concentrated
on the virtues – in this they followed Thomas Aquinas.
9.2
Church history is a
theological
discipline because it does not ex-
amine the life of the church simply as a series of events which
have causes and effects of the same kind as those operative in
secular history.
It recognizes the church as a divine/human real-
ity, and looks for criteria to judge the church at different moments
in history.
9.2.1
The principal norm for judging the church at any moment
in history will be that of conformity to the period in which
it came to be, and to the NT as the written record of that
period.
9.3
Pastoral theology deals with evangelization, catechetics, homilet-
ics, counseling, and psychology.
Spirituality is sometimes
located here.
9.3.1
Traditionally, pastoral theology has been treated as a
separate branch, and as part of practical theology.
9.3.2
Dogmatic and scriptural theology must be pastoral, be-
cause if they are merely theoretical they have no relation
to faith and life.
10 The sacramental principle sees all creation as pointing to God and
revealing God, and sees that it can all be a bearer of the real presence
of Jesus in our midst.
Water, oil, bread, wine, a few words – all of them
have the radical power to be bearers of the presence and power of
God.
10.1 The sacramental principle discerns a potential in everything in
the natural world to point beyond itself to God.
10.1.1 This happens when the word of Jesus raises things to a
new level, brings them into the human/divine world
where he lives.
10.2 Some things have already left the purely natural world and have
been incorporated into the human world.
For example, when
food and drink become signs of shared joy and acceptance at a
family meal, they are changed.
They are no longer simply ways
of nourishing the body.
10.2.1 When Jesus takes this human situation, in which bread
and wine are already more than mere nourishment, and
makes it the bearer of his own presence, he does this
Dwyer,
Some Answers to the Questions of Fundamental Theology
[1.2.8.2]
10
through the power of his word.
10.3 God´s word, whether spoken immediately by him, or through
Jesus, his son, manifests the same power as it showed at cre-
ation.
It is never merely descriptive, but always a word which
intervenes in the world, changes history, creates new
possibilities of existence.