Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Da Heretic is IN DA HOUSE!

Define Irony:

I begged and pleaded and prayed that one of our 2 class electives for my Master's program would be Christology. That beg/plea/prayer was answered and in this, our last semester, we are studying Christology. I love the class, I love our professor, and while sitting in the class itself, it all nearly seems clear! What is stated makes sense, what I write down makes sense, and I have come to appreciate the necessity of a philosophy degree when seriously studying theology (especially because I don't HAVE a philosophy background).

So I went to work on my first Christology paper...and managed to turn in heresy, albeit a really minor one that came down to a simple misuse of a term. Easily fixed.  That same month I turned in a heretical Social Ethics paper. Great. Good news:  I'm a material heretic who reasons just like Augustine. I think it's a compliment.

Last month I worked hard on Christology paper #2, finding that what was so "clear" in class was not so clear at home, and for the first time in 3 years I nearly called my professor to explain the ENTIRE CONCEPT to me. But no, I thought. I am nearing the end of my degree program and I NEED to be able to "reason" out these problems. I won't always have my professors. I KNOW the answer is in my text and  in the Summa....and other places. The question we had to answer is a doctrine of the Faith!

So I struggled and angsted and finally stuck a fork in the paper, turning it in with a caveat to my prof: "I have no idea what I'm talking about, but here it is anyway.  I'm sorry."

I got the paper back today....huge heresy. HUGE! Thankfully he pinpointed my exact area of confusion and told me what it was. And you know what?  IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE NOW! *scratching head*...sorta... *cough*.

I've resolved that if anyone ever asks me about Person and Christ, I'll simply explain that Jesus is the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, He is fully human and fully divine, He is the Son of God, and if that is not sufficient, I'll point them towards a faithful Theologian who actually understands Person and Christ.

I'm so frustrated! I want to understand, and yet, I see how completely unequipped I am to grasp what is probably a simple concept for others.

I still got a good grade on the paper, probably because I made all the right arguments, but without the key that  could unlock them. The prof knows we struggle with this, he intended it to be a difficult paper, and it was. Not to torture us, but to help us learn how to put these difficult concepts together. I didn't get a good grade because of what I know, but, I think...because of the way I put together what I do know, even though it has fallen short.

My intent is to be faithful and to understand...and to know what I need to know to earn this degree. And of become holy.

Therein is the lesson. I'll graduate with my Master's not with a course in Christology, but in gaining through Christology, an experience of humility. Of realizing the limits of my own understanding, that no matter what I have behind my name, now or EVER, I won't ever be able to grasp everything and I will NEVER, on this side of Heaven, be able to fully grasp the mystery of God Incarnate.

Over the last three years of studies, more and more I've learned that, well, the more I've learned, the more I recognize my deficit of knowledge.

It underscores the point of getting a "Masters" degree.  One who has this degree isn't an expert. Rather, it is the threshold to something more, an entry point only.

Anyone who graduates with a Master's degree and considers themselves an expert or a "Theologian" **, well...wasn't paying attention.

I'm happy, therefore for my chance to be a heretic; better now, when my thought processes can be corrected and my errors pinpointed, than later on where I might lead souls astray with no one to snap a muzzle on me. God knows that's what happened to Hans Kung, Charles Curran, and Notre Dame's Rev. McBrien, professional dissident.

They didn't start out to be unfaithful. Nor do I. But there, but for the grace of God, (and good, holy, faithful  professors), go I.


Author's Note/ Definition of terms:

** My understanding, based on what my professors have stated, is that, to be considered to be an authentic Theologian one must, at minimum, possess an STL or STD degree.  This EWTN article places it at a Master's level in some cases. In spite of what it says, I would NEVER call myself a "Theologian" I simply don't know enough to claim such an auspicious title, and honestly, don't know any MA's or MTS's that could really be considered to know enough to be a "Theologian". 


Anonymous said...

Ha, I can't tell you how many times I've been a heretic. The beauty is that we always walk in faithful obedience to the Magisterium, knowing that if there is fault, it is in our understanding, not in the teaching of the Church. It's important to be able to work these things out, including in writing, and to have them examined, and we do so with a free conscience knowing that if we accidentally have contradicted a teaching of the Church we immediately submit to Church's authority, at least in those matters which are dogmatically defined.

As for the definition of a theologian, I submit that under normal circumstances it would require an STL or STD, though the exception being one with a MA in Theology who has also been published by a reputable scholarly press. That's my own personal definition, though. Many of us are theology students, you and I included. But that's something quite different from being a theologian.

Though, I suppose we can make an Aristotelian argument that in terms of final cause we are theologians, if that is part of our purpose. But that's a stretch :)

Adoro said...

Michael ~ You said it well here:

"...if there is fault, it is in our understanding, not in the teaching of the Church."


On the definition of "Theologian" I did a quick search, didn't find anything formal, and really, even if an MA is published in a scholarly magazine/ formal publication, I don't even thing that is qualification enough. It may however point towards that person BECOMING a theologian with the proper education to back it up1

There's so much to KNOW to meet that status, and, I'd argue, to be authentic, a certain holiness that comes only through obedience.

A Theologian without virtue is simply a dead horse that needs to be beaten a bit more.

Dr. Sanders said...

"Thankfully he pinpointed my exact area of confusion and told me what it was."

Yes, it is good that your professors care enough to do this for you. I shudder to think of how many (hopefully only minor!) heresies I hold which won't be corrected, in part because there is virtually nobody around save my peers to do that.

"I'm happy, therefore for my chance to be a heretic; better now, when my thought processes can be corrected and my errors pinpointed, than later on where I might lead souls astray with no one to snap a muzzle on me."

Not to mention, heresies can seem somehow less important once they become familiar. Example: how often do you hear Protestantism referred to as a heresy, even on those rare occasions when it is brought up in a homily? I rarely hear it discussed as such outside of the realm of apologetics. And it is harder to break free of a heresy once it becomes ingrained habit.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I am happy for you that you did get that course in Christology -- for all the reasons you mentioned and for benefits that perhaps you will encounter later.

Denise said...

I'm pretty sure I won't feel comfortable calling myself a "theologian" when I get my Masters either! There's just waaay too much to learn!

Mark said...

Evagrius Ponticus (4th century monk): "the one who truly prays is a theologian, and the true theologian is one who prays".

Hans Urs von Balthasar - one of Pope Benedict's favourite theologians - used to say that theology is done "on the knees, not at the desk".