It may be useful to begin with a number of distinctions. If we can see what theology is not, we are in a better position to see its identity or what it is called to do. to begin with, theology is not a neutral discipline because, unlike “religious studies,” it is grounded in a commitment of faith. Similarly, it is not an individual project only but takes place within an ecclesial community of believers, and hence it is rooted in a rich tradition of reflection. But to insist on these two contexts for theology (faith and a community of faith) should not restrict theology to narrowly religious themes or only to being an ecclesial specialization. although its focus is on god and revelation, theology also deals with all things in relation to god (as thomas aquinas said). although it is grounded in a long history of thinking, it is asked to reinterpret or mediate that tradition for different audiences today—not just for the Church, but also for a pluralist society and for a pluralist intellectual world (as david tracy has argued). although its foundation lies in god’s Word, written and handed on, it is rooted also in the transforming experience of god’s love (as Bernard lonergan insists). although in an older meaning theology claimed to be a science, it differs radically from modern empirical sciences which begin from external data. theology can never claim that kind of evidence about its object which involves the mystery of god. It begins from revelation and faith, and aims at a different and relational kind of truth: in other words, as Vatican I put it beautifully, theology seeks obscure, imperfect and yet fruitful understanding of mysteries, and it does so mainly through analogies. this also means that theology cannot be equated with doctrine alone but also with understanding the spiritual depth and cultural significance of doctrinal truths. Therefore, it is not a question of repeating “a monolithic body of doctrine” as abstract theories, as Pope Francis has said, but ultimately of serving the “freshness” of faith for today, and doing so through discerning dialogue with “human experiences” and cultures.

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