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The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism

Thomas Joseph White, OP

1. Revelation and Reason

 Human Search for an Unknown God

 Apostolic Christianity is based on divine revelation: John 1:14
 Revelation: uncovering or unveiling
 Jesus is a person, not an argument
 Faith based on the acceptance of testimony of witnesses
 Reason plays a role, but does not fully revealed God to us
 “Christian revelation is not opposed to reason. It surpasses reason. But it
contradicts conventional ideologies.”

 Religious Pluralism and “The True Philosophy”

 Christianity was in conflict with ancient Greco-Roman religion from the
beginning
 Romans assimilated religions of conquered peoples, adding gods to the pantheon,
to promote stability and peace
 Christianity (like Judaism) made unique truth claims
 Philosophers also critical of pagan cults
 St. Paul used this critique to argue for Christianity
 But philosophy had its limits: the Cross of Christ “foolishness to the Greeks,
scandal to the Jews” (1 Corinthians 1:23)

 Skepticism and the Usefulness of Belief

 Modern secularism rejects such metaphysical claims
 Anticipated some ancient philosophers: skepticism and Epicureanism
 While claiming to guard human happiness, religious skepticism actually based on
fear, despair; Newman on reason without faith
 Augustine: extremes of skepticism and credulousness; between them is “faith
seeking understanding”
 Not opposition between faith and reason, but between reductive, skeptical reason
and “magnanimous, studious reason that engages in faith”

 Scripture

 Christ the Eternal Wisdom of God did not write a book
 Aquinas: the Bible is primarily about the discovering of a person; Scripture
reveals who Christ is, who God is personally
 Balthasar: Scripture safeguards the “form of Christ”
 The Bible contains certain historical truths, but also different genres

then what he has revealed is true.”  Ultimately occurs through the office of the bishop of Rome.): importance of Catholic tradition. analogy of faith  Traditional “senses” of Scripture: literal and spiritual (moral. consonance with tradition. authority of the bishop of Rome  Church needs tradition and teaching authority because the Bible doesn’t interpret itself  Tradition is multi-layered: contains dogmas and doctrines. but guided by the Holy Spirits is able to resolve disputes over its interpretation  A concrete governmental process.”  The Church is not above Scripture. art. liturgy. then we must say “God has revealed himself. anagogical)  Avoidance of simplistic approach to Scripture  The Bible is a books of human authors as well as of the Holy Spirit  Austin Farer: the Bible is like a soldier’s love-letter  Teaching Authority: Teaching and the Magisterium  Irenaeus of Lyon (c. fundamentalist Christianity  The Bible is divinely inspired writing by human authors  Catholic Church’s teaching on scriptural inspiration: Dei Verbum from Vatican II  Three theological criteria for understanding Scripture: scriptural unity. typological. not dependent upon theology (though can be aided by theology) . the papal office is essentially “conservative” (in the sense of conservation)  Authoritative teaching is a charism of the office. oversees this: the office of bishops (episcopacy) centered around the bishop of Rome (papacy) exercising magisterium (teaching authority) which maintains the unity of the Church  Infallibility  “If God has revealed himself. as in Islam. but the Church can never say with assurance what God has revealed. as well as practices of the Church (sacraments. helps us avoid “irrational notions of inspiration”. 175 A.”  If the Church cannot teach infallibly.D. not any other group or system  Not everything the pope says (including theological judgments) is necessarily infallible. founded by Christ and the apostles. and the Church can come to know over time in a definitive way what God has revealed.  Limits of biblical scholarship. Mormonism. but also teachings of saints and theologians. devotions. etc)  Critics of Catholic tradition end up inventing their own traditions  “God has established in the Church from the beginning a living stream of apostolic tradition that is continuously maintained and safeguarded by divinely instituted authority.

as it has an object of study: the mystery of God made available in divine revelation  No conflict between theology and any other science  Seeks to understand who God is. what is at stake is our knowledge and experience of divine love  Theology equips us to share our faith (apologetics). participation in the ordered life of the Church)  Conversion to a life of integrity  “Without genuine knowledge.” Study of theology can lead to greater love of God: “Intellectual engagement with the Christian faith is essential to our personal relationship with Christ.”  Religious practice leads to liturgical worship. defending it against detractors. and responding to doctrinal controversies (heresies)  Theology is natural to the intellectual life of any serious Christian  Spiritual development through intellect and will  Theology is a science. the work theology can: the serenity of rest in God himself. external practices (sacraments. prayer. lead to holistic integrity: every facet of life coming into the light of Christ  De-Christianization means re-paganization and people living morally divided lives: the grace of Christ aids the integration of the human person  Christian intellectual life includes worship. liturgy. and pursuit of Christian virtue.”  “I’m spiritual but not religious”: false attempt to abandon intellect for spiritual experience  “Dogma is the guardian of mystery. The Intellectual Form of Faith: Theology  First Christian theologians not academics but believers trying to understand reality in light of the mystery of Christ  Early Church Fathers had three motivations for theology: explaining Christianity to newcomers.” . devotions. but it is ultimately about happiness: “What grim stoicism and utilitarian efficacy cannot deliver. search for God’s mercy. because Catholicism involves the whole person  Prayer and asceticism are part of the Catholic intellectual life. no real love is possible.