Over the past two years, I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with my own inability to articulate clearly what theology is. In conversation with colleagues, I find that I give various accounts depending on the context, and that I have never sat down to the hard labor of unifying all my thoughts into a single, coherent view. For the sake of my friends who have been or intend to be my partners in exploring the question, I would like to keep notes on this blog along the way to finding clarity.
I enter the question with two basic intuitions. First, I think that theology is what happens when faith gets to follow its inclinations. That is to say, fides quarens intellectum—“faith seeking understanding”—is a pretty good nominal definition of theology, and corresponds to what faith wants: faith is by its nature not at rest but seeking, and by the very nature of faith the object it seeks is understanding. So the key to arriving at a careful account of theology is to begin with a careful account of faith.
The second intuition is that “theology” has more than one meaning. In general, one never finds “the” meaning of a word: any given word has multiple, analogous meanings. So the goal should not be to find the one true meaning of “theology,” but to discover the various meanings of the word “theology” and put them in order. Some meaning of “theology” will be primary, another secondary, and so on, each being a true and legitimate meaning of the word.
Because I have not had an occasion to read it before, I would like to begin by walking through St. Thomas Aquinas’s account of faith in the Secunda secundae of the Summa theologiae. But that will be its own post.