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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Various Approaches To Theology

I learned something the other day. No, it's true! I'm being totally serious - I actually had my eyes opened to a whole new aspect of the Catholic faith I had, until that point, never knew existed. Despite the fact that I sometimes come across as a know-it-all, the fact remains that even I am capable of learning stuff.

Here's how it happened - I was reading Terry's blog Abbey Roads last week, and a regular reader of his left the following comment:
Terry, this is a good exposition of what I'm sure you know is called the "classicist approach" to moral theology. It's an approach that sees theology as static and permanent. Thus the sexual norms enunciated in the fifth or sixteenth centuries continue to apply absolutely in the twenty-first century.

Yet there's another approach to theology that the church recognizes, that being the "historically conscious" approach. This approach sees theology as dynamic, evolving, changing and particular.
I was flabbergasted - all these years, and I had never heard of such concepts as "classicist" and "historically conscious" approaches to theology. I mean, I've been Catholic all my life - how come it wasn't until now, after nearly 46 years of existence, that I finally learned of these concepts through the words of a smug, intellectualized blog reader?

I'm pretty sure I stick to the "classicist" approach, mostly because I've seen Catholycs rely on the "historically conscious" approach. A lot. It only makes sense that my approach has to be the opposite of theirs. When I think of "classicist", I think of the Ten Commandments, the Catechism and stuff like sin, Hell and sacrifice. When I think of the other, I conjure images of Curran, the National Catholic Distorter, and stuff like liturgical dancing, so-called gay marriage and social justice.

The discovery spurred me into action - surely there had to be more than just these two approaches, right? Did others exist? Where could I find them? Who espoused them?

I directed the AoftheA Researching The Various Approaches To Theology Department to scour the Innerwebs, university theology departments, all 30,000 Protestant denominations and Catholyc blogs, and provide a synopsis on their findings.

In addition to the two approaches already cited, this is what they uncovered:
  • Defeatist Theology - these Catholics interpret current Church actions as proof that is is heading down the path of irrelevance and imminent destruction. And they're happy about it. They want the Church defeated. They can't wait to see the hierarchy vanish (or get arrested, whichever works) and replaced with a lay-run model of Being Church. In fact, a lot of them are meeting in Detroit in June - the American Catholic Council.
  • Personalist Theology - these Catholics base their thoughts, ideas and opinions on matters of faith and morals purely on their own feelings the moment they are occurring. Such folks tend to be highly irrational, as it's quite possible that what they believe on a Saturday afternoon upon awaking after an all-night bender, sometimes involving "committed safe sex" with someone they just met, will be completely different than what they profess to believe the following Sunday.
  • Self-oppressivism Theology - these Catholics blame the Church and the Bible and just about anyone else for their problems instead of owning up to their sins. They seek redress and compensation for their state of life, and refuse to acknowledge that their condition is due to their mistakes.
  • Spirivaticanical Theology - these Catholics believe that all Church teaching was radically changed at the Second Vatican Council, and anything that was said or taught prior to that has been nullified, and no longer holds for "thinking" Catholics.
  • Intermittentive Theology - these Catholics go to Mass when they get around to it - usually at Christmas and Easter - and have learned about their faith by watching the History Channel or reading the Huffington Post. They occasionally make erroneous statements about the Crusades or the Inquisition during conversations to show how much they think they know. They also try to quickly change the subject when someone who actually knows the faith starts talking.
  • Vaginal Theology - these Catholics (mostly women, but not all) want to tell everyone that the Church is wrong for oppressing women and not letting them become priests, but they tell the Church it has no right telling them not to use contraception or support abortion rights. This differs from 'feminist spirituality' in that 'feminist spirituality' is completely ridiculous, while this is just merely ridiculous.
  • Ecological Theology - we all know what this is.
I hope this list is helpful to you. I'm sure this is not an exhaustive list. And I suppose that many of these can be included under the "historically conscious" approach (which is just another way of saying "I wanna do what current society accepts and says is cool, and not what the Church teaches"). Perhaps you've run into people who demonstrate some or all of these variant approaches. You'll know right away, because they'll accuse you of utilizing the "classicist" approach to theology. Just smile and be glad - because you'll be in excellent company. Y'know - like the saints, the martyrs, the Holy Father...