6 May: What is theology saying today? I: How to change without losing the essentials.

gate,roman

Secular society changes its laws, its structures and even what it believes. Most of us have been brought up to believe that the Church did not do this. The answers given in the catechism would always be valid; God guides the Church to teach truth.

Indeed, people worry when it seems the teaching is changing. Examples: more inter-faith dialogue; greater involvement of the laity in Church matters; relaxing the laws of fasting; changes in the Mass… People are entitled to worry about these things, and are entitled to ask questions before accepting such changes. Changes are not necessarily good. We need to know what to change without losing the essentials.

Theology tells us there is only one good way to discover the criteria for change – it is the common sense way of looking at the history of Church teaching. Teaching developed very slowly and even stormily over the ages.

Jesus did not give the Apostles a catechism or creed. They didn’t explain things as they are explained now. The Apostles and generations after them would not have understood the catechism. They probably would have said it went against the teachings of Jesus, and made everything complicated. The Catechism was accepted as Church teaching on faith and morals.

Church teaching has constantly changed and will continue to do so. But if we would understand what is happening now we need to ask about the process used for changing explanations of faith and the rules of morality in the past. Newman in the 19th Century was very concerned about this. As an Anglican he pondered the claims of the Catholic Church to make pronouncements about doctrine – how would one know what was a true development of doctrine and what was erroneous? The Protestant Churches at that time accused Catholics of changing the teachings of Jesus constantly.

Newman’s basic premise for change: doctrines are ideas, ideas always change because they exist, not in books, but in people. Ideas change as people change through varied experiences and new insights resulting from them. When our experience of living in our world changes because of new inventions and the discoveries of science, our ideas about everything will be shaped accordingly.

AMcC

Roman Gate, Lincoln.

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2 Comments

Filed under Daily Reflections

2 responses to “6 May: What is theology saying today? I: How to change without losing the essentials.

  1. Intriguing thought about what the Apostles might say about the catechism. Looking forward to the rest of the series…

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  2. Hello Christina,
    There will be plenty to keep you reading over the next few months. I’ve split this series, like the Little Flowers of S Francis, and will put out a few at a time, with other trifles (walks in the woods!) in between. A shame we did not record Austin’s lectures, but these are his working notes that formed a series of lectures, so what you miss is the interaction with the audience. You’ll have to supply your own! please feel free to share it here.

    Will.

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