Sacred Scripture and Theology

This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
–John 17:3

The human person, created in the image of God, is made for truth. In the words of St. Augustine, the blessed life that all men seek consists in “joy in the truth — for this is joy in You, O God, who are truth” (Confessions X, xxiii, 33). According to John Paul II, it is the privileged task of the Catholic college or university “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, 1). That intellectual effort finds its fulfillment in the study of sacred theology, the “science of faith” — the reasoned-out knowledge of things believed.

St. Thomas AquinasThe subject matter of sacred theology is God himself, not merely as He is known to us by reason — by reflection on the things He has made — but as He is known to himself and has revealed himself to us. Through faith, we participate in God’s own knowledge of himself and his providential plan for us. Faith is, therefore, a certain beginning of eternal life, “a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the life to come” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae 1, 2; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 163).

The mysteries of faith transcend reason. “Nonetheless, revealed truth beckons reason — God’s gift fashioned for the assimilation of truth — to enter into its light and thereby come to understand in a certain measure what it has believed. Theological science responds to the invitation of truth as it seeks to understand the faith” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Veritatis, 6). Animated by love, the believer seeks to know better the One in whom he believes, and to understand better what He has revealed. Such growth in knowledge calls forth a more mature faith and a more profound love and equips the believer to give an account of the hope that is in him (1 Pet 3:15).

The starting points of sacred theology are contained in the deposit of the faith, handed down to us from the Apostles, transmitted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Therefore, in the words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, “the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology” (Dei Verbum, 24). Sacred Scripture must, however, be read theologically — not as a dead letter, but as witness to the living Word of God. It must be read, then, “in the light of the same Spirit by which it was written” (Dei Verbum, 12), the Spirit of Truth that animates the Church and guides her into all truth (Jn 16:13). As Benedict XVI has recently remarked, “When exegesis is not theological, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology, and vice versa; when theology is not essentially Scriptural interpretation within the Church, then this theology no longer has a foundation” (Address During the 14th General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, October 14, 2008).

At Thomas More College, students spend two years building this foundation. We begin by considering the human search for God, its promise and its perils. We then examine God’s own initiative on behalf of man — the divine answer to the human question — as revealed in Sacred Scripture. Select texts of the Old and New Testaments are read in their essential unity — as manifesting the one plan of God centered on Jesus Christ — and within the living tradition of the Church — that is, as authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium and faithfully expounded by the Fathers and Doctors — St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great and St. Bernard, Newman and Benedict XVI. The Word of God is also considered as the source of the Church’s life of prayer and worship — as not only “informative” but also “performative” (Spe Salvi, 2).

Having secured the foundation, students pursue scientific theology proper in the fourth year, examining the mystery of Christ — the Word made flesh for our salvation — and the mystery of our new life in Christ. As the recent Holy Fathers never tire of repeating, “only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…. [Christ] fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Our principal guide here is St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Common Doctor,” whom the Church has always proposed “as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology” (Fides et Ratio, 43).

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