Frans Jozef van Beeck, SJ
Let us open with a statement of fact: of late, theology (I mean the art of pursuing and clarifying the Christian understanding of God and things divine with scholarly integrity) has become far less didactic and far more hermeneutical, and consciously so.
Theology has greatly profited from this. By way of examples, let me mention Eberhard Jüngel's Gott als Geheimnis der Welt: Zur Begründung der Theologie des Gekreuzigten im Streit zwischen Theismus und Atheismus, 1 Michael Buckley's At the Origins of Modern Atheism, 2 and Louis Dupré's Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture. 3
A passage from Vatican I can help us put this in perspective. The Council demands that in the construal and elucidation of doctrine, biblical interpretation should respect the true sense of Scripture, which the Church has always held and still holds. It equally firmly insists that Catholic dogmas are to be understood to mean what Holy Mother Church has once and for all declared them to mean. 4 Still, instead of ordering theologians to reiterate the doctrinal tradition, it urges them to study it as a complex of mysteries, as follows:
if reason, illumined by faith, inquires in an earnest, pious and sober manner (cf. Tit 2, 12), it acquires by God's grace a certain—and most fruitful—understanding of the mysteries, both by analogies drawn from what