1.1.5. What are the major areas of theology?
Catechesis means “teaching.” It usually means teaching the current set of answers to theological questions without too much concern for the history or Recommended Reading diversity of thought on the issue. ”). Catechesis is also appropriate for adults who join a religion that they did not grow up with. More so than theology, catechesis is concerned with a single faith tradition, and only the present teaching.
This course aspires to accurately represent the current Catholic teaching on major theological questions, but it will also include other perspectives. If it is important to you to keep straight what the Catholic Church currently teaches and align your thinking with the official thinking, you should be sure to have on your shelf a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church (or a link to ).
I think of catechesis as a snapshot of theology. Theology is an ongoing process. Many people over thousands of years have contributed to the tradition of teachings that make up the current teachings of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, the process of theology continues to move forward, and in fifty years there will be a revised Catechism based on the work of theologians today. Theologians are aware of the past, articulate the present, and are ultimately responsible for building the future.
1.1.4. What do theologians do?
Many thinking, intellectual people of faith do theology, and also have other professions and titles. Someone whose main professional title is “theologian” probably spends most of the day teaching in a department of theology and writing books and articles that offer a deeper understanding of our past tradition, a better way of articulating our faith, or new ways of thinking about our faith. Like most professions, any one theologian has a basic knowledge of the field as a whole, and a specialization in a particular area.
Catechesis is typical for teaching children the beliefs and practices of a faith tradition (especially if the child is not like me, always asking “why?
There is no universal set of categories and titles for the areas of theology, but almost all theology programs would distinguish at least three major areas.
Biblical theology seeks questions and meanings from the Bible. This includes the ideas of the ancient authors of the Bible, but it also includes the history of interpretation. Over the past 2000 years, Jews and Christians have sought and found meanings in the Bible beyond what the human authors could have imagined. That is okay, particularly because almost all Jews and Christians recognize a Bible (there are different Bibles) as revealed or divine in origin in some way. Just as God cannot be fully grasped (though we can always try to get closer), the Bible is an endless source of interpretation and meaning beyond what any human comprehended in the past. In the Catholic Church the primary emphasis is on understanding the divine meanings of the Bible as expressed by particular human beings in particular historical contexts. Advanced study of the Bible involves reading the Bible in its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) and related ancient literature and history. At St. Mary’s the specialists in biblical theology are Drs. Hanneken, Ronis, and Gray.
Moral theology focuses on how the Christian life should be lived through our moral choices. Moral theology builds on theory of sin, conscience, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Sometimes it involves firm teachings on specific moral issues, and sometimes complex ways of thinking about open-ended and ambiguous dilemmas. Two major sub-areas in moral theology are social justice and medical ethics. Social justice considers how a Christian should respond to injustices in the world, such as inequality (racism, sexism), and economic injustice (poverty, living-wage, social security). Medical ethics deals with the sanctity of life, particularly at its beginning (embryos and fetuses) and end (life support, euthanasia). At St. Mary’s Dr. Ball focuses on social justice and Dr. Getz focuses on medical ethics.