Studying theology today seems to demand from the student a loyalty of either one or the other camps. These camps have true and worthy goals, but they also have firm fences built between them. One camp is the world of academia. It is the center of masterful texts of philosophical and theological wisdom, and it is here that intricacies are discovered and explained, heresies refuted, and the wonders of the Logos extolled. The other camp is the world of “popular theologians.” They teach and inspire others to love God and their neighbor, always keeping their work focused on the salvation of souls and so bring orthodoxy to a more basic level of understanding. This is the dichotomy drawn between “popular theologians” and the world of academia. On the one hand, academia seems to believe that the works of popular theologians are of less worth. On the other hand, the world of missionaries and popular theologians criticize the world of academia for its apparent lack of passion and lack of emphasis on what is ultimately important. As I attempt to find myself in this world as a recent theology graduate, I am presented with these two camps as distinct and separate. I have been told that if I try to have some of both, then I will not truly have either.
Why does this have to be the case? Why can’t I study and then shout to the world the wonders of St. Augustine, of Josef Pieper, of the Greek New Testament, of Psuedo-Dionysius?
One aspect of Catholicism that has fascinated me is what some people have called “the Catholic And.” This is the principle that Catholicism does not take to extremes but rather includes in a perfect balance. Thus, we have the principles of faith and reason, body and soul, tradition and scripture, etc. Most importantly, we have the Word made Flesh, the incarnation, the “catholic and” of God and man brought together in the God-man, Jesus Christ. I think that the very Word of God preaching to the crowds on a mountaintop gives me some reason to believe that I can have “popular academia.”
This blog is also at least partly inspired by the Dominican way of life, that is, “To contemplate, and give to others the fruit of our contemplation.” I love the part-active, part-contemplative Dominican spirituality that proves that you can have fullness in a road that chooses both. In my theology classes, I kept finding fascinating nuggets of wisdom that made me instantly wonder how I could best teach it to another. I want to be able to share all of this wisdom to the world, which is starving for the depths of the gospel.
Hopefully, then, this blog will not just be another one of those “let me tell you what I’ve been thinking about lately” blogs. (Though it will have personal reflections because I believe in the Catholic And!) It will integrate what I’ve been learning in my research and personal reading with my recommendations for where you can learn more about what strikes your fancy. I hope to make this somewhat of a database for the wells of awesome Catholic thought that I dig up whilst perusing the Catholic world of academia.
Like St. Therese said, “I choose all.” A Catholic life is full of many things, so why not delight in everything?