Message of the International Theological Commission
Fides quaerens intellectum, theology exists only in relation to the gift of faith. It presupposes the truth of the faith and endeavours to demonstrate its “boundless riches” (Eph. 3:8), both for the spiritual joy of the whole community of believers and as a service to the Church’s evangelising mission.
The International Theological Commission gratefully welcomes, therefore, the invitation of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter Porta fidei (October 11, 2011), to celebrate a Year of Faith. Each member of the International Theological Commission will take part personally in various events commemorating this Year of Faith. But, as a community of faith, the International Theological Commission wishes to heed the message of conversion which is central to the Year of Faith and to renew its commitment to the service of the Church. In order to do so, on December 6, 2012, the International Theological Commission, led by its President, Most Rev. Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will make a pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major during its annual Plenary Meeting, and will entrust there its activities and those of all Catholic theologians to the intercession of the faithful Virgin Mary, model for believers, bulwark of the true faith, who is proclaimed “blessed” because she believed (Lk. 1:45).
In connection with the Year of Faith, the International Theological Commission is committed to providing – in medio Ecclesiae – its own specific contribution to the new evangelisation promoted by the Apostolic See, by plumbing the revealed mystery for the benefit of believers, using all the resources of reason enlightened by faith, so as to promote the reception of that faith in the world of today, since “the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past” (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta fidei, n. 4).
The recent document of the International Theological Commission, entitled Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria, develops the understanding that theology is entirely derived from faith, and that it is practised in constant dependence on the faith that is lived by the people of God under the guidance of its pastors. In fact, only faith allows the theologian to reach really the object of theological enquiry: the truth of God that bathes the whole of reality in the light of a new day – sub ratione Dei. It is also faith animated by charity which awakens in the theologian the spiritual dynamism needed in order to explore tirelessly the “wisdom of God in its rich variety … made known ... in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11). As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “when anyone has a ready will to believe, he loves the truth he believes, he dwells upon it and embrace it with whatever reasons he can find in support of it” [cum enim homo habet promptam voluntatem ad credendum, diligent veritatem creditam et super ea excogitat et amplectitur si quas rationes ad hoc invenire potest] (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IIae-IIae, q.2, a.10).
The theologian works to “inculturate” in human intelligence, in the form of an authentic science, the intelligible content of “the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). But the theologian also pays particular attention to the act of faith itself. It is the theologian’s task to “understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent” (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta fidei, 10). The theologian highlights the great human significance of that act (cf. Pope John Paul II, Fides et ratio, 31-33), investigating how God’s prevenient grace draws out from the very heart of human freedom the “yes” of faith, and showing how faith is the “foundation of the entire spiritual edifice” [fundamentum totius spiritualis aedificii] (St. Thomas Aquinas, In III Sent., d. 23, q. 2, q.1, a.1, ad 1; Cf. Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, q. 4, a.7), in that it informs all the various dimensions of Christian life, personal, familial and communitarian.
Not only is the work of the theologian dependant on the living faith of the Christian people, attentive to “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev. 2:7), but its whole purpose is to foster the growth in faith of the people of God and the evangelising mission of the Church. Theology “begets, nourishes, defends, and strengthens that most wholesome faith” (St. Augustine, De Trinitate, XIV, 1,3). Indeed, the vocation of the theologian, in responsible collaboration with the Magisterium, is to serve the faith of God’s people (cf. Instruction Donum veritatis of May 24, 1990).
In the same way, the theologian is the servant of Christian joy which is “the joy of truth” [gaudium de veritate] (St. Augustine, Confessions, X, 23, 33). St. Thomas Aquinas distinguished three dimensions in the act of faith: “It is one thing to say: ‘I believe in God’ (credo Deum), for this indicates the object. It is another thing to say: ‘I believe God’ (credo Deo), for this indicates the one who testifies. And it is yet another thing to say: ‘I believe unto God’ (credo in Deum), for this indicates the end or goal of faith. Thus, God can be regarded as the object of faith, as the one who testifies, and as the end of faith, but while the object of faith and the one who testifies can be a creature, only God can be the end of faith, for our mind is directed to God alone as its end” (St. Thomas Aquinas, In Ioannem, c. 6, lectio 3). Believing unto God (credere in Deum) is essential to the dynamism of faith. By adhering with personal faith to the Word of God, the believer consents to the supreme attraction exerted by the full and absolute Good that is the Blessed Trinity. It is the desire for happiness, deeply rooted in every human heart, which drives the spirit and leads the human being to fulfilment in confident surrender to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this sense, faith – and theology as the science of faith and wisdom – offers to all “lovers of spiritual beauty” (St. Augustine, Regula ad servis Dei, 8,1) a full-flavoured foretaste of eternal joy.