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§ 2. Meaning of the terms, Natural and Revealed

By Theology we understand, according to the etymology of the term, the knowledge of doctrine of God and of divine things [1]. Such a knowledge we gain, partly in a natural way, by the use of reason alone, partly in a supernatural way, by special revelation; and hence Theology is divided into Natural and Revealed. [2] In both cases, however, Theology is not a mere outward knowledge, by which the understanding alone is enriched, but is of such a nature as to make man truly wise, and show him the way to be saved; hence Theology, strictly so-called, must be defined: “Eminently practical wisdom, teaching from the revealed Word of God all things which sinful man, who is to be saved, needs to know and to do, in order to attain true faith in Christ and holiness of life.”[3] (HOLL.1.) If 7however, we leave out of view the influence which Theology exerts upon man, and consider only its subject-matter, Theology may be defined as the doctrine concerning God and all religious truths, the province of which is to instruct men concerning the means by which they may be saved. “Theology, viewed as a system and in a secondary sense, is the doctrine concerning God, which teaches man, from the divine Word, as to the true method of worshiping God in Christ, unto eternal life.”(HOLL.7.)[4]

[1] QUEN. (I, 1); “Theology, if you consider the force and usage of the word is nothing else than λογος περι του θεον, what is said about God and divine things, as πνευματολογια is what is said about spirits, and αστρολογια, what is said about the stars.”

The word is sometimes employed in a wider and sometimes in a narrower sense. The different significations are thus stated by HOLL. (3): “The word Theology is employed in a fourfold sense; (a) most comprehensively, for every doctrine concerning God, whether true or mixed with errors; (b) comprehensively, for true Theology, either in itself considered, or as communicated; either of men on earth or of saints in heaven; either natural or revealed; (c) specially, of revealed Theology, that guides mortal man to eternal life; (d) most specifically, of the doctrine concerning the one and triune God.”

In all these significations, reference is had merely to the Theology of the creature, i.e., to the knowledge which creatures have of God, and not to that which God has of Himself. Theologians distinguish also between these, and call the former theologia εκτυπος (derived Theology), and the latter theologia αρχετυπος (original Theology), by which they mean to say that our knowledge of God, although derived and not original, is, nevertheless, absolutely correct, because derived from God, and only the faithful copy of His own knowledge. HOLL. (3 and 4): “Archtypal Theology is the knowledge which God has of Himself, and which in Him is the model of another Theology, which is communicated to intelligent creatures. Ectypal Theology is the science of God and divine things communicated to intelligent creatures by God, after His own Theology, as a pattern. We thus prove our assertion: (1.) Man was made complete, in the image of God. But the image of God consisted in a knowledge of God conformed to the divine wisdom. Therefore its archetype was the infinite wisdom of God. (2.) Fallen man “is renewed in knowledge after the image of God,” 8Col. 3:10. Therefore his prototype is the divine self-knowledge. For the knowledge of God and of divine things, which divine revelation communicates to the minds of men, is called by the Apostle knowledge after the image of God, for no other reason than because it is expressed in imitation of the knowledge which God has of Himself and of all divine things.” Considered in its relation to Christ: “Archetypal Theology belongs to Christ essentially, and through His nature, inasmuch as He is eternal God; it belongs to Him, as to His human nature, personally, and through the communicatio idiomatum, by virtue of the personal union.” Concerning Ectypal Theology, QUEN. further adds (I, 5): “We have one Ectypal Theology in Christ, viewed as to His human nature, another in angels, and a third in men. (I, 6.) The Ectypal Theology of mere man is either that of the Way, i.e., of this life, viz., of mortals, or that of the Home,111 This distinction is founded upon 1 Cor 9:24; 2 Cor. 5:6, 8. It is made as early as Thomas Aquinas. i.e., of the other and happy life, viz., of the finally saved. The Theology of the Way, or of mortals, is twofold, viz., that before and that after the Fall. That which describes man before the Fall, in the state of integrity, is called also the paradisaical, from the place in which man was placed.” But, in reference to all these divisions, BAIER remarks (4): “As the usus loquendi does not allow us to call either God, or Christ, or men in heaven, or angels, theologians, it readily appears that the meaning must here be rejected, which obtains elsewhere when we add to the definition, ‘the theology of the way.’”

[2] HOLL. (5): “The Theology of the Way is twofold, natural and revealed (supernatural). The former is that according to which God is known both by innate ideas, and by the inspection of created things. The latter is the knowledge of God and of divine things, which God communicates to man upon earth, either by immediate revelation or inspiration (to prophets and apostles), or by mediate revelation or the divine Word, committed to writing.”

[3] Still more frequently Theology is called a practical habit. As it appeared to the theological writers that the expression science gave too much prominence to the mere acquaintance with the subjects concerned, they therefore sought a definition in which it should be distinctly expressed that by Theology there was meant a divinely-wrought knowledge, such as urged its possessor to put to practice what he learned.

[By dogmaticians follow the mediaeval mystics and some scholastics, in defining Theology as “wisdom” rather than “science,” thus emphasizing the need of spiritual illumination for the apprehension 18of the truths. Scotus taught that Theology could be a science only to the glorified; to others, it could only be a matter of faith. On this, GRHD. (II, 4): “To believe and know are particularly unlike; for scientific certainty depends upon internal and inherent principles, but that of faith, upon external, viz., upon the authority of the Revealer. Besides, the subject of Theology is Christ, the knowledge of whom cannot be acquired in a scientific way, but from divine revelation. Matt. 16:17; 1 Cor. 2:7. In Theology, the intellect is not the source, but the end. ‘We believe, that we may know; we do not know, in order that we may believe.’ Cf. Is. 7:9.”]

QUEN. (I, 11): “We are here speaking of Theology, not as to what it signifies in a book, but as to what it is, subjectively in the mind.”

GRH. thus defines (II, 13): “Theology, viewed as a discipline and concretely, is a divinely-given discipline, bestowed upon man by the Holy Spirit through the Word, whereby he is not only instructed in the knowledge of divine mysteries, by the illumination of the mind, so that what he understands produces a salutary effect upon the disposition of his heart and the actions of his life, but so that he is also qualified to inform others concerning these divine mysteries and the way of salvation, and to vindicate heavenly truth from the aspersions of its foes; so that men, abounding in true faith and good works, are led to the kingdom of heaven.”

QUEN. (I, 16): “A distinction is made between theoretical habits, which consist wholly in the mere contemplation of the truth, and practical habits, which, indeed, require a knowledge of whatever is to be done, but which do not end in this, nor have it as their aim, but which lead to practice and action. Theology, we refer, not to the theoretical, but to the practical habits.”

HOLL. (8) thus states the reasons for this distinction: “(1) Because the immediate aim of Theology is true faith in Christ, the operation of which is twofold, viz.: internal, which embraces Christ with His benefits, and external, which produces good works, the fruit of righteousness. The ultimate end of Theology is eternal happiness, which consists not only in the intuitive knowledge of God, but also in the enjoyment of God. (2) Because Theology treats of man, not theoretically, as the subject of its description, as certain qualities are ascribed to man in Physiology, but as the subject of its operation, or how he, as a sinner, is to be freed from his misery and transferred into a state of blessedness . . . (3) Because Paul himself defines Theology to be ‘the knowledge of the truth which is after godliness.’ Tit. 1:1


[4] QUEN. (I, 11): “The term Theology is taken either essentially, absolutely, and as a mental habitude, for the knowledge which the mind holds and to which it clings, or in as far as it is a habit of the human mind;22See explanation of scholastic terms, Appendix II. or accidentally, relatively, systematically, in so far as it is the doctrine or branch of learning which is taught and learned, or contained in books. The former is the primary, the latter the secondary application of the term.”

As to the subject-matter of Theology, systematically considered, out of which it is drawn, HOLL. (11) states: “It consists of theological truth, i.e., of facts or conclusions known or deduced from the supernatural revelation of God.” In regard to the subject-matter concerning which it treats: “Theology in general discusses God and divine things, in so far as they have been truly revealed through the divine Word to sinful man, to be believed and practiced. Specifically, it teaches by what ways and means mortal man, corrupted by sin, is to be introduced into eternal life.”

Theology is divided, according to KG., (3) into: “Catechetical, or simple, such as is required of all Christians, and acroamatic, or more accurate, which is the province of the learned and ministers of the Word. The latter is divided, according to the method of treating it, into exegetical, which is employed in the exhibition of the sacred text; didactic strictly so-called, which discusses theological subjects in order and systematically; polemic, which treats of theological controversies; homiletic, which teaches the method of preaching to the people; casuistic, which solves doubtful cases of conscience; ecclesiastical, which treats of church discipline, visitations, synods, etc., etc.

Corresponding to the two definitions of Theology, we have (HOLL. 13 seq.): “The Theologian properly and strictly so-called; a regenerated man, firmly believing in the divine Word, that reveals the mysteries of faith, adhering to it with unshaken confidence, apt in teaching others and confuting opponents. A Theologian, in the general sense of the term, is a man well instructed in the department of Theology, whereby he is rendered prompt in expounding and defending heavenly truth. The Theologian in a wider sense may be one who while rightly discharging the office of a Theologian by expounding, confirming and defending theological truths, is, nevertheless, destitute of sincere holiness of disposition.” The “theological knowledge of a truly regenerated and renewed man” is described as “spiritual knowledge, by which the literal sense of the Biblical language is applied according to the use designed by the Holy Spirit and produces spiritual and godly emotions of the heart;” 20the “knowledge of an unregenerate Theologian,” on the other hand as “a merely literal knowledge, which is applied to the investigation, development, and apprehension of the sense of Scripture, and not to the use designed by the Holy Spirit.” Concerning this spiritual knowledge, we have the remark: “Far be it from us that we should assert, with the fanatics, that spiritual theological knowledge is derived either from the immediate illumination of the Holy Spirit, or from the internal light or mnemonic power of the soul, through introversion into the hidden recesses of the soul, or that it comprehends only the mystical sense! We know that the literal sense of the Biblical language is primarily and immediately set forth in the words inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Literal theological knowledge is, moreover, distinguished as “external, by which one treats the words of Scripture, in so far as they are analogous to human words, according to the rules of grammar and rhetoric, and searches out and extracts some meaning from them; and internal, by which one properly estimates the word of Scripture as the truly divine receptacles or vehicles of the mysteries of the faith, and apprehends with firm assent, their true literal sense, conformed to the mind of the Holy Spirit.” And, with an illusion to QUEN., he adds: “To understand the internal literal sense, which is spiritual and divine, the illumination of the Holy Spirit is needed; the illumination may be imperfect, of which the unregenerate are capable, or perfect, such as the regenerate enjoy.” This internal, literal knowledge is, therefore, not natural or carnal, but supernatural. “It is supernatural (a) by virtue of its origin, for it is derived from the light of supernatural revelation; (b) by virtue of its object, . . . for the mysteries of the faith are the object of literal knowledge (But what is a mystery other than a doctrine transcending the grasp of unaided reason?) (c) in view of the impotence of the intellectual subject, 1 Cor. 2:14; (d) on account of the intimate connection between the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. For, if the literal internal knowledge of believers be not supernatural, the Holy Spirit is not perpetually and inseparably united with the Holy Scriptures. But the Holy Spirit is perpetually and inseparably united with the Holy Scriptures; therefore,” etc.

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