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Three Styles of Contemporary Theology

according to G. O’Collins
 Sitting
 Walking
 Kneeling
Three Styles of Contemporary
Theology - Sitting
 Description
 Theoretical, Objective,
Systematic (Orthodoxy,
Doctrinal, Dogmatic)
 Context
 Universities, Theological Studia
 Goal
 Seeks Truth as Source of Divine
 Inspiration
 Theologians
 Sources
 Scriptures, Church Documents,
Other Ancient Materials
Three Styles of Contemporary
Theology - Walking
 Description
 Praxis Oriented, Promotion of the
Common Good and Justice
 Context
 Life situation of the Poor or any
dehumanizing condition
 Goal
 Liberation of the Poor from their
dehumanizing situation
 Inspiration
 Jesus’ solidarity with the Poor,
Deprived, Oppressed, Exploited,
 Sources
 Immersion with the Poor, Consult
the poor on matters of Doctrine,
Morals and Spirituality
Three Styles of Contemporary
Theology - Kneeling
 Description
 Contemplative: focuses on
Prayer and Worship
 Context
 Church at prayer both personal
and communal
 Goal
 Witness to God revealed and
reflected in Liturgical
 Inspiration
 Faithful Worshippers
 Sources
 Spirituality, Church at prayer,
feast days
Compare and Contrast

 1. Classical Language  2. Theological Virtues

(Latin): fides quaerens
 Scientificum  Faith
 Iustitiam socialem
 adorationem
 Love
 Hope
3. TRUTH: where is theological truth?

S1:Within oneself (reason)

S2:Other people (experience)

S3:in God (worship/ritual)

4. LAW

 laws of believing, living, and

praying (the lex credendi for
knowledge, the lex vivendi for
behaviour, and the lex orandi
for worship)
5. Munus Triplex

 prophetic interpreters of revealed truth

 work pastorally for the good of those who


 allow their share in Christ’s priestly ministry

to promote prayer and worship
6. Use of Scriptures

 a book for study,

 action, and

 prayer.

 The first style of theology

searches for truth, the second for
the good that justice demands to
alleviate human suffering, and the
third for the divine beauty
encountered in common worship
and personal prayer.
Risks and Possibilities

 In the case of all three styles of theology, a

unilateral cultivation of one style risks
producing deficient or even deplorable
 Christianity needs an inclusive approach that
allows these three styles to complement and
mutually enrich each other.
8 Guidelines

 1. Be scriptural: Scripture should not only be

the norm but also the primary inspira- tion for
all theology.
 2. ‘Be historical’ equivalently calls on
theologians to ‘be traditional’. Tradition
conveys to each generation the collective
experience of previous generations, the
cumulative experience of the history through
which they have lived. To ignore or belittle
tradition is to ignore or belittle history.
Guidelines cont.
 3. Be philosophical : All theology will remain
low on clarity and substance unless it puts
what it gleans from the Scriptures and
history/tradition into dialogue with
 philosophical reason sharpens the questions
to be asked, helps to organize approaches to
the material, partly illuminates the nature of
human beings and their world, and brings
conceptual clarity to bear on biblical texts,
which by and large are pre-philosophical.
Guidelines cont.

 4. Be provisional: Any affirmation

about God must be qualified by a
corresponding negation and the
recognition that God infinitely
transcends our human categories and
Guidelines cont.

 5. Be ecumenical : The advice to

‘be ecumenical’ applies in the
widest sense: to relations with
Jews, Christians of different
denominations, and all those
others who are not Christians.
Guidelines cont.

 6. Be local : In the late twentieth

century theological concern
became more focused on the
need to ‘be local’: that is to say,
the need to inculturate theology
in particular settings.
Guidelines cont.

 7. ‘Be converted’ could be re -

phrased as ‘practise the Christian
faith’; otherwise, you will not be
attuned to God, fruitfully engaged
with the divine mystery, and
capable of seeing something of
Guidelines cont.

‘kneel down in your little

 8. Be prayerful:
room and pray to God with real
humility and earnestness, that he
through his dear Son may give you his
Holy Spirit, who will enlighten you,
lead you, and give you