Dialogue between theologians: “Theology as a science”



[…] as regards the Protestant theological tradition, as far as Luther, before being excommunicated, was duly authorized doctor of theology and he cared to consider “theologian”, However, we can not say that the type of “theology” started by Protestantism, and today is having an influence in the Catholic world, is a true theology, Despite the attention to Sacred Scripture and insights very deep theological many masters of Protestantism and the extraordinary intensity of their studies and their learning. But it takes more than that to have a theology that respects.


Author John Cavalcoli OP

John Cavalcoli OP


(C)Ome, the reader will, Archbishop Antonio Livi recently published an important book that touches very appropriately and with great skill thistrue and false theology topic: True and false theology. How to distinguish the true "science of faith" from an equivocal "religious philosophy" » [see video presentation who]. A sad and shocking phenomenon that unfortunately we see in the Catholic culture is the proliferation of people: priests, religious and laity, men and women, maybe a few degrees in theology at the Pontifical Faculty, but that does not really know what is theology; from which one can imagine the disasters that combine. While, on the one hand you see some lay, also the people, mothers, young, workers, peasantry, which, proud of their faith, have the discernment to notice the heresies of bad theologians or pastors, to talk, Unfortunately, there are others which, perhaps insuperbitisi for the success that they get, especially journalists with unparalleled quality, but no academic or ecclesiastical mandates, pose as censors by final judgment against even professional theologians for many years in the service of the Church and the Holy See and the theologians are offended if you allow it to get them a few remarks; as was also the three of us that we have created this online magazine for not having to be subjected to certain kinds of complaints [see who, who]. What would we say about this behavior in place for example in the areas of clinical health-related physical? And in knowledge of the faith or the good of the soul should not be more humble and listen to those who, though unworthily, have an official mandate from the Church or a long pastoral experience, especially priests or bishops? Not to mention the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff.

Vito Mancuso, theologian, Director series "Field of Flowers" (Fazi Editore)

the theologian Vito Mancuso, worthy of the deepest respect, considerable but not as a Catholic theologian

We choose among them the best known example and visible: that of Vito Mancuso, who in his book on the soul, sold in 130 thousand copies and regularly invited by many Catholic cultural centers, Doctor of Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, recommended by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, says in that book openly and, lasciatemelo dire, spudoratamente, that he is “Catholic” is that “it always will be”, but at the same time he rejects four or five tenets, why, according to him, would “contrari alla ragione”, better to say: at the its reason. The rest, I wonder: How many Catholic theologians now admit, with realistic approach and not subjectivist, the existence of a universal reason and objective, proper to man as such, to which European culture has believed from Plato and Aristotle, e poi San Tommaso da Finno Kant's, though it does not adequately recognize the realism and empirical assumptions? For many theologians today, due to a misunderstanding pluralism, Therefore, there is the reason, universal and unchanging, with firm certainty, including ognuno ha la its reason, for that reason as they like, ie on the basis of appearance, or to its particular culture, evolving, therefore not based on reality in itself, external and independent of thought: the important thing is to get the disciples and we are talking about him in the media and in intellectual circles. To paraphrase the famous novel by Cronin: The Stars Look Down (1), we can say with much regret: "The bishops are watching". San Tommaso and Kant said parlano “speculative reason”, though of course in a very different. We still talk about Hegel, but now in a pantheistic sense and Gnostic, that give rise to the right, although exaggerated reaction of the big Kierkegaard, che da buon protestante ritroverà l’irrazionalismo esistenzialista ed occamista di Lutero.


imagine pittorica raffigurante San Tommaso d’Aquino

Hegel is still about “science” dell’Assoluto e riconosce che noi cogliamo la verità divina nel “concept”. He despises the teologIA, che per lui si pone non nell’alto livello del Denken, but in the low and vulgar of Vorstellung. Così la “Absolute science” and the “Absolute concept”, of Hegel, identical to the real idealisticamente, are so pretentious, che saranno rifiutati parimenti anch’eSSI from Kierkegaard. For this the Kierkegaard, honest and truthful spirit lover of truth, He showed himself a critic of imposture piercing hegeliane, so that, as demonstrated in his interesting study Fabro, the Danish philosopher is very close to us and at the same Catholic Saint Thomas (2). The fact is that after Kierkegaard is not more than “speculative reason” a causa dell’avvento dello storicismo, del positivismo e dell’esistenzialismo, with their characteristic contempt for metaphysics and Pearl scholastic philosophy.

Some, especially among Catholics, continue to believe selflessly in the truth, If not the reason, at least of faith, but you will have various forms of traditionalism, liberalismo, subjectivism, fideismo, sentimentalismo, and condemned by fenomenismo ontologismo Church since the time of blessed Pius IX and Vatican I to Pius XII. In fact, the faith is impossible or false, If there is no rational truth which is assumed or support. For this St. Thomas argues that a good theology is built using only a good philosophy (3). The Thomistic revival of the late nineteenth century, prepared by a series of impressive and zealous philosophers and theologians and strongly supported and promoted by Leo XIII and by subsequent Popes, until the Second Vatican Council, that expressly recommends the thomist Discipleship, gave credit in Catholic culture to theology as a science or, as the calls Antonio Livi, at the “Science of faith”. È grande merito dell’Aquinate aver fondato la teologia cattolica come scienza (4), Although the science is theology in a special way, different from that of all other sciences. Indeed, While the other sciences are based on rational principles first or common sense, the principles of Catholic theology are of Christian revelation, that is the truth of faith or dogma. For this Antonio Livi calls “Science of faith”: not that faith can become science or that science proves rationally faith data, as believed they could do Hegel. But as it is a science related to the faith, constitutes or rational or assumption is based on faith and it descends, While remaining a human knowledge, capable of objectivity and certainty (theologice certum), or even rising to the proximity of the faith (fidei proximum), especially if it is approved or recommended by doctrines Church (5), But even fallible cognition, that sometimes remains confined to the level of mere opinion or probability.


The advertising poster of the film dedicated to Duns Scotus

This alternation of epistemic situations, solid now, now poor, depends more or less difficulty of issues addressed. Where the matter is more within the reach of our reason, its actually has already been explored and the survey method is safer, the results are more reliable. Otherwise, There moves only in cases and in a plurality of views sometimes conflicting, but all legitimate, se l’ambito della verità naturale e del dogma viene rispettato. The theologian can prepare also the dogmatic pronouncement of the Magisterium of the Church, When it reaches very solid and reliable results, in full compliance with the writing, the doctrine of the faith and tradition. These results can be innovative, to advance the knowledge of the word of God. However, a theological doctrine, as vera, safe, firmly based on given revealed defined or undefined, cannot be the subject of theological faith, If it is not the Church that with his infallible authority elevates to dogma or truths of faith. That being the case, bisogna distinguere accuratamente l’errore teologico dall’eresia, benchè un errore teologico possa condurre all’eresia. For instance, il concetto scotista dell’univocità della nozione dell’essere di per sè è un errore metafisico. Ma in quel grande teologo francescano di vita santa l’univocità è tenuta a bada da tali potenti correttivi, It is prevented in bear bitter fruit. In applied theology, conduce a concepire la differenza fra l’uomo e Dio solo come divario esistente fra finito (uomo) and infinity (It gave) sulla base di un medesimo concetto dell’essere, dimenticando che l’essere della creatura è solo “analogicamente” essere (this per participationem) rispetto all’essere divino (this per essentiam). L’uomo non è un ente al quale, per avere l’essere divino, you simply add an infinite amount to be, così che l’essere come tale si predichi univocamente dell’uomo e di Dio, IE remains the same with the same meaning. Instead, as the Lateran Council IV, “between the creator and the creature you can't give such a similarity, without that we must not say an even more dissimilarity” [ CF. Denz. 806].

È vero che l’essere metafisico di Scoto è ancora solo l‘ens UT ens, l‘esse commune. Ma tra l’essere della creatura, univoco all’essere divino, as you highlight the infinite distance, However, qualitative not quantitative and, e l’essere divino, It remains only a thin wall, that will be easily demolished by spinoziano and Hegelian Pantheism in the following centuries. Il rimedio apportato da Ockham con l’introduzione dell’equivocità, will not help anything, since, If on the one hand, under the pretext of freedom and divine omnipotence, si apre un abisso incolmabile tra l’uomo e Dio, what Kant calls the “edge of reason” Lutheran's memory and reason leads to God, dall’altra l’essere divino non si concilia più con l’essere umano, so in the centuries following the terrible dilemma will: o l’uomo espelle Dio ribellandosi a Lui e si avrà l’ateismo; o Dio assorbe in sè l’uomo che si fa identico a Dio e si avrà il panteismo.


Ritratto d’epoca di Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Let's move on to another aspect of our theme. Of course, the theology, in that speech about God, It should not always be the scientific mode, because some of his items, as clearly demonstrates the history of salvation narrated by Scripture, are made, events, places or individuals or groups acting as agents in space-time, then a contingent matter, You may not take the form of science, avendo essa per oggetto l’universale e il necessario. Because of this, some speak of “narrative theology”. In fact you can talk about God telling facts, per esempio il fatto dell’Incarnazione del Verbo o dell’ascensione di Cristo al cielo. However, as the triune God is absolutely necessary, eternal and unchangeable, universal principle of all things, and the necessary, Eternal, immutable and universal is the subject of science, Here is that theology, more than narrative, is science; e, If it is said, lo fa in relazione all’oggetto principale che è Dio, as notes St. Thomas (6). Certainly theology tells, but it does or to lead us to God or to show the works of God. The tale end in itself is history, theology not. Even more you move away from theology and truth, cadendo al limite nell’eresia, in those conceptions of theology, inspired by Hegel, nelle quali la storia finisce per invadere tutto il campo dell’essere e sostituire la metafisica, so nothing exists to immutable, that is, everything is becoming, persino Dio. Also St. Thomas, which is great speculative theologian, lover of the concept precisely and accurately, recognize that theology, per il fatto stesso di usare l’analogia dell’essere, can and should make use of metaphor (7), that is a form of analogy, quando la mente avverte di non essere proporzionata all’immensità del divino: a language that is very common in the Gospel. In this way the precise and appropriate concept, just science, si accompagna in teologia all’espressione metaforica, that in itself would be its poetry. Even in this encroachment in theology poetry shows a different science. In fact here and concept metaphor illuminate each other: il concetto illumina l’intelletto, la metafora sostiene l’immaginazione. Se per esempio diciamo che il peccato è un'”offense” a Dio, clearly this is a metaphor, Giacchè, speaking properly, that is metaphysically, da cosa può essere menomato o di cosa può esser privato l’Assoluto? However, il paragone con le avventure dell’uomo, helps us to understand the evil of sin.

revelationOther considerations. As we know, There is a natural theology and a supernatural theology, that is Catholic Theology, founded on the theological virtue of faith, che nasce dall’ascolto della predicazione della Chiesa (Fides ex auditu). Only the principles of the second type of theology are the faith, While the first ones are of reason and common sense. Invece il metodo di indagine e i procedimenti dimostrativi sono scientifici sia nell’uno che nell’altro caso. The theology is drawing on sources or via special special means or methodological epistemical, the so-called “places (GR. tops) theological” (8). The main sources are writing, tradition and the Magisterium. Sources or tools or auxiliary sciences are a good philosophy, the liturgy, the patrologia, the history of the Church, the history of theology, il diritto canonico, l’agiografia, la storia dell’arte e della letteratura. True theology is theology, as explained by Antonio Livi, When his method is corrected by epistemic viewpoint, cosa, this, che conduce all’ortodossia dei contenuti, as well as the right way for a certain place leads us to the place to which we intend to get, though I can somehow know this place even before you get there. So likewise the content of theology have a value in themselves, even regardless of the method by which the theologian has established them. Undoubtedly a wrong method, as mentioned, can only be born errors. From fake doesn't come out the right. But this does not mean that a theologian to acquire or accept valid theological doctrines or to other learning or taking information from co-workers. The epistemic criteria to determine the value of a theology is therefore twofold: occorre la correttezza del metodo e l’ortodossia dei contenuti, which in turn occurs following two ways: controllo della bontà della filosofia della quale il teologo si è servito e verifica dell’ortodossia in riferimento agli insegnamenti del Magistero, which infallibly interpret the two sources of revelation: Scripture and Tradition. If the theology of a given author passes these examinations, At that time, According to our author, that is the true theology theology (9).


Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini and Dr. Enzo Bianchi

When Antonio Livi denies the works of some authors that pass for theologians the true character of their theological writings, of course not intended to necessarily notice them some doctrinal error, but merely observe that, According to the strict definition of “theology” He established the rest on the Catholic tradition, cannot properly be classified as “theology”, Although here we have big names like Chesterton, Dostojevsky wrote, Bulgakov, Berdiaeff, Guardini, Paez, Pascal, etc., But if anything can we qualify them as “religious thinkers”. As for the Protestant theological tradition, as far as Luther, before being excommunicated, was duly authorized doctor of theology and he cared to consider “theologian”, However, we can not say that the type of “theology” started by Protestantism, and today is having an influence in the Catholic world, is a true theology, Despite the attention to Sacred Scripture and insights very deep theological many masters of Protestantism and the extraordinary intensity of their studies and their learning. But it takes more than that to have a theology that respects. What is lacking is a real systematic spirit, è l’assunzione di tutti i luoghi teologici, respect of logic, a precise language as is fitting to science, un moderato uso dell’immaginazione ed dell’emotività. Da qui la facilità nel cadere in enormi confusioni o al contrario nell’opporre quello che andrebbe unito e armonizzato, per non parlare dell’arroganza con la quale vengono trattati non solo la tradizionale teologia scolastica, ma, as is known, the same Magisterium of the Church.
It would be a disastrous confusion between prophecy and theology, che porta ad abusare dell’aspetto metaforico e allusivo del linguaggio profetico, that can be some suggestive, ma senza un’opportuna vigilanza critica, a rigorous theological methodology and philosophy, It often comes out from the path of truth. As established St. Thomas, the theology is formally a single science (10), Although physically and descrittivamente, also for educational reasons, involves a multiplicity of disciplines or branches, le quali però fanno tutte capo all’oggetto principale, in Catholic Theology, è Dio rivelatosi in Cristo nell’interpretazione dogmatica del Magistero della Chiesa. These branches or specialties not then determine in relation to God, though we should distinguish the Treaty De Deo Uno from the De Deo Trino and Christology, but rather in relation to creation, all’uomo ed al mondo e quindi all’agire di Dio nel creato e nella storia (magnalia Dei).


image of Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Doctor of the Church

So happens that today the field of theological disciplines is so vast and multifaceted, There is now more, as was still possible in the middle ages, an academic theologian capable of space on all areas of theological knowledge, ma, in order to have a good preparation, who wants to do the theologian, especially if academics, must necessarily choose a particular discipline and specialization and limited to that, without presuming to sentencing in the areas where it is not responsible. A similar thing happens for medicine today, where is that, for serious problems, you have to resort to specialist. In the first division of theology is between dogmatic theology or speculative, He considers the divine attributes and the immutable divine truths, as for example the angels, though present in past history (protologia), here I'm (ecclesiology, Mariology and sacramentary) and future (escatologia), the object of pure contemplation, and practical theology, che considera l’agire umano. In turn this branch of theology embraces moral theology, that is the virtue; and spiritual theology, che tratta della perfezione cristiana sotto l’influsso dei sette doni dello Spirito Santo. We speak here also “Theology of perfection”, “Mystical Theology”, “affective theology” and the like. La teologia morale a sua volta comprende la direzione dall’azione del popolo o del comune fedele e la direzione dell’agire o dell’opera educativa e formatrice dei pastori e delle guide del popolo. The first is the precettiva theology (commandments of God and the Church); the second is the Pastoral Theology. Since then the duty of the pastor is feeding the flock and proclaiming the Gospel, Hence arise the canonical education theology (theological foundations of Canon law and the laws of the Church) and the theology of evangelization. Quest’ultima comporta varie tappe o momenti educativi. The first step is dialogue with every reasonable man on the religious theme (Theology of inter-religious dialogue and with non-believers); second step is demonstrating the credibility of Christianity and its defense from attack of unbelievers (apologetics or faith education); il terzo è l’istruzione sulla dottrina cristiana (catechesis); il quarto è l’inculturazione, ossia l’inserzione del messaggio evangelico nelle varie culture, properly cleansed in the light of the same Gospel; il quinto è l’attività ecumenica (Ecumenical theology).


Monsignor Antonio Livi during the visit of the Holy Father Benedict XVI at Pontifical Lateran University

Since Catholic Theology's task is to make use of a good philosophy to interpret Scripture and tradition under the guidance of the Magisterium, behold, under this point of view, We must distinguish the scholastic theology from the Biblical Theology. The first, Theology par excellence, Theology as “Science of faith”, as the word, is that theology is taught in Catholic schools and academic institutions of all clerics can. The second, è l’indagine, con l’aiuto dell’esegesi biblica, major theological themes of Scripture, that then is the systematic theologian sort and organize around the fundamental truths of the faith. Infine c’è da tener presente che ancora per un’altra ragione la teologia cattolica non è soltanto una scienza come le altre, ma, in the likeness of biblical prophecy and under the guidance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, It is a wisdom, that assumes the theologian not only a mere intellectual knowledge, ma un vero gusto e per così dire un’esperienza delle cose divine, that leads him to judge them for some sort of affinity with them, which St. Thomas calls iudicium per inclinationis Modum (11). Scholastic theology is so closely related to the mystical theology, frutto dell’esperienza contemplativa di quella verità infinita, that is the thought of God, del quale l’uomo è chiamato a partecipare quaggiù nella fede e dopo la morte nella visione beatifica.

Fontanellato, 28 October 2014


(1) Original Edition The Stars Look Down, 1935
(2) Vedi per esempio i saggi contenuti in Dall’essere all’esistente, Morcelliana, Brescia 1957.
(3) Sum. Theol., I, q. 1, a. 1.
(4) See on this historical studies by Dominique Chenu.
(5) For example, certain fundamental doctrines or main (pronuntiata maiora) of St. Thomas Aquinas.
(6) Sum. Theol,,q. 1, and 2 aa batteries. 7.
(7) Sum. Theol,,q. 1, a. 9.
(8) Initiator of this Treaty, later classic, fu il domenicano Melchior Cano con l’opera De Locis theologicis, Edition of Venice, 1776.
(9) This very important topic of the scientific status of theology has always been treated by Thomists, especially the Dominican school. Just to give some names of the last century: Garrigou-Lagrange, Maritain, Shortcut, Journet, Ramirez, Gagnebet, Gardeil, Spiazzi. CF my book and white Theologians. The contribution of the Dominican School of theology history, Piemme, Milan, 2000.
(10) Sum. Theol., I, q. 1, a. 3.
(11) Sum. Theol,,q. 1, a. 5.

1 reply
  1. Antonio Love
    Antonio Love says:

    Thank you father John Carlson, influential Dominican theologian, for having understood and also further developed my talk on theological epistemology, started with the treatise on True and false theology (2012) and continued dialogue between specialists (including the same Carlson) in Truth this volume of theology, curated by Marco Bracchi and Giovanni Covino (Leonardo da Vinci's publishing house, Rome 2014).
    Just on the basis of these comparisons continue I realize some aspects of my epistemological criticism to forms of "false theology" were not well understood. For example, the great theologian Brunero Gherardini, specialist in Ecclesiology and authoritative interpreter of religious thought of Protestants (from Luther to Karl Barth), I agree not to deny Barth the qualification of "real" Theology and its epistemological classification as "religious philosophy". But I answered that the qualification of "true theology" concerns, nel mio discorso, the "Science of faith", born and developed within the Catholic Church and characterized by the search for scientific hypotheses of the rational interpretation of dogma; If you want to refer to other forms of scientific thought, You cannot use the same name for these "Theology", unless you qualify with relevant adjectives, as when we speak of "natural theology", or philosophy or metaphysics on the first principle. You can then speak of "Protestant theology" or even "Jewish theology", "Islamic theology" or "Buddhist theology"? Sure you can, but the confusion that results is really fatal, from a scientific point of view. These so-called "theologies" indeed take their name, not from natural theology (that is a philosophical science of ancient tradition and with a precise determination of its object and the ensuing method) but the Sacred Theology, that is a science born in the late-antique in a disputed by Christian faith. These reflections on religion (cristiana, ebraica, islamica, Buddhism) are named "theologies" for an apparent similarity with Catholic Theology, but they differ substantially from it with the loss of its specific object, that is the dogma, that is the truth revealed by God and the Church with his teaching ("the doctrine of the Apostles"). Ignore this difference involves, as I was saying, confusion is really fatal, at any disadvantage of pastoral function is real theology within the Catholic Church. This function, indeed, cannot be carried out if not on the basis of a formal methodological rigor, without which the assertions on faith have absolutely no value to the faith itself. Eventually, equate and mix the thesis of a Protestant theology, ebraica, Islam or Buddhism with the thesis of the true Catholic Theology is like equating and mix, in a scientific Congress on the planets of the solar system stars, Astrology with astronomy, regardless of the fact that the first is nothing but a series of arbitrary fantasies, lack of scientific rigor, While the second is an important branch of classical physics, cultivated with accumulation of precious knowledge from antiquity up to the present day.
    I will say that these subtle epistemological distinctions have little practical importance. And instead have all the importance that I keep for years to give their: Why Catholic Theology, as I mentioned, is a church's pastoral function, which the Magisterium has always wanted and knew how to use homogeneous development of dogma. The true Catholic theology has always been cultivated in function of catechesis and evangelization, why any proposal with the label of "Theology" but which ignores or contradicts the Magisterium, not only lacks the duty of loyalty to its epistemological statute, but it is directly due to disorientation of the people of God regarding the purity or the integrity of the Catholic faith.

    Antonio Love

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