Pope: Presumption Leads to Failure in Theology

Warns Against Being Blinded to Mystery

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says real theologians are those who are aware of their own limitations and do not fall into the temptation of trying to restrict God to the limits of human intelligence.

The Pope gave this definition Tuesday during his homily at a Mass he celebrated for the International Theological Commission, Vatican Radio reported. The commission gathered Monday for its annual plenary assembly.

The Holy Father proposed that presumptuous theologians who study Scripture and certain scientists who study nature can be compared to the ancient scribes who told the Magi how to reach Bethlehem.

They are, he explained, “great specialists: They can say where the Messiah was born,” but, “they do not feel they must go [to see him.]”

The news of the Messiah’s birth “doesn’t touch their lives; they keep a distance from it,” the Pontiff said. “They can give information, but this information does not become formation for their lives.”

Benedict XVI contended that something similar happens today: “In the last 200 years we observe the same thing. There are great gifted people, great specialists, great theologians and teachers of the faith who have taught us so many things.

“They’ve delved into the details of sacred Scripture and the history of salvation, but they have not been able to see the mystery itself, the true center: that this Jesus was truly the Son of God.

“One could easily mention great names from the last 200 years of the history of theology, [people] from whom we have learned much, but who did not open their hearts to the mystery.”

The Pope cautioned that doing theology in this way “places one above God.”

He said it is like “fishing in the waters of sacred Scripture with a net that only allows a certain size of fish, and what is bigger than that size doesn’t get into the net and thus doesn’t exist.”

“And thus,” the Pope lamented, “the great mystery of Jesus, of the Son made man, is reduced to a historical Jesus, truly a tragic figure, a phantom without flesh or bones, someone who remained in a tomb, who has corrupted, who is really dead.”

God’s wisdom

On the other hand, the Holy Father affirmed, Church history is full of men and women who were capable of recognizing their littleness beside the greatness of God, capable of humility and thus of reaching the truth.

He observed that this history ranges, for example, from “Bernadette Soubirous to St. Thérèse of Liseux — with a new reading of sacred Scripture that is not scientific, but that delves into the heart of sacred Scripture — to saints and blesseds of our own day: Sister Bakhita, Mother Teresa, Damien de Veuster.”

He said these humble hearts are role models for being true theologians who can proclaim the mystery of God because they have reached to the depths of his heart.

Among them as well, the Pontiff said, are the Virgin Mary, the centurion at the foot of the cross, and St. Paul, who “in the First Letter to Timothy, says he was ignorant despite his knowledge, but the Risen One touched him, he is blinded and becomes one who truly sees. […]”

“The great scholar becomes humble, and precisely in that way, sees the folly of God that is wisdom, wisdom that is greater than any human wisdom,” the Holy Father reflected.

The International Theological Commission is working under the direction of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada. The assembly continues through Friday.
 The commission is deciding on the themes that will be considered over the next five years. Cardinal Levada asked the commission to take up again the issue of theological method, a theme that was already considered over the last five years of the commission’s work.

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