Fundamental Theology and Science of Religion

Fundamental Theology is the interpretation of the reason of faith ("intellectus fidei") through fundamental listening to the Word of God ("auditus fidei") and through explication of its claim to truth in the situation of radical contestation today. Therefore, it is also a pioneer theology in the form of dialogue in the challenging context of our time. It has to develop a way of argumentation that serves as a bridge between believers and non-believers. In its general thematic areas - God, revelation and Christ, church - the factual and linguistic perspectives of all theological statements and truth claims come to the fore in a fundamental form in mutual deepening from within (hermeneutics as understanding of faith: question of identity) and without (apologetics as proof of faith for others: relevance). Therefore, all theological subjects have fundamental theology as the basis of their rational approach. This is to be explicitly reflected in fundamental theology in the theological doctrine of principles and knowledge and to be deepened in terms of scientific theory. The context of the dialogue is determined by the topic of religions and the various forms of ideologically shaped positions on faith (agnosticism, indifference, atheism - especially with the epistemic claims of the social and natural sciences). The following themes are to be discussed explicitly: faith and history, religious language, forms of mysticism, theology in relation to philosophy and science, theology of religions, man as a hearer of the Word.
Science of Religion:
Religious Studies as a modern academic discipline has its origins in the 19th century.From the beginning, it has been closely related to theology and yet methodologically clearly differentiated. Both sciences have their own autonomous field of research, but share essential focal points of their research interest. Religious Studies, with its methodological independence, is of indispensable importance for the study of theology. It is linked to fundamental theology because this subject develops the rational argumentation of theology and systematically unfolds the foundations of Christian theology of religions and interreligious dialogue in the present. However, a systematic orientation is impossible without an awareness of developments in the history of theology. Special attention is paid to the Abrahamic traditions in their diachronic and synchronic interconnections.

Dogmatic Theology

While the magisterium of the church has decided particular questions during the long history of the Church, Dogmatic Theology endeavors to develop a comprehensive view of the Church’s teaching from its Biblical foundations (this is in accordance with the Second Vatican Council’s wish that theology should be imbued with a “living contact with the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation” (Optatam totius 16). This also entails questions on how the various magisterial statements complement or critically qualify one another and whether inconsistencies and re-interpretations occurred in the course of history. Students should be enabled to perceive the teaching of the Church as translucent for the Christian mystery of faith – the triune God – in its fascinating reality to shine through; the inner unity of divine action in Christ, in the Church, in other religions, and in the world should be recognized. At the same time, Dogmatic Theology has the task of bringing the Christian teaching of the Church into a dramatic dialogue with the basic conceptions of our current culture and society. This serves on the one hand to criticize ideologies and powers of an idolatrous character, on the other hand to enquire how the teachings that were passed down through the centuries can be proclaimed in a credible way in an ever-changing context. At the beginning of the third millennium a “return of violence” into the social fabric on the one hand and the presence of believers of other religions, notably Muslims, in the area the University of Innsbruck services belong to these changes. Therefore, a dramatic dialogue with world religions that aims at a qualitative tolerance and includes the question of the relationship between religion and violence is indispensable. Dogmatic Theology contributes to this task by interpreting Christian dogmatic statements in a way that enhances both the task of overcoming violence and nurturing the freedom of religion, as they became visible in Jesus of Nazareth’s life, death, and resurrection.

Ecumenical Theology 

Since the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), Ecumenical Theology is a mandatory discipline during the studies of theology. In its Decree on Ecumenism ‘Unitatis redintegratio’ (UR), the Council values the knowledge of the thought and culture of the separated brothers and sisters. ‘To achieve this purpose, a study is of necessity required, and this must be pursued with a sense of realism and goodwill.’ (UR 9) The ‘Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism’ (1993) developed this regulation further. On the one side, the ecumenical dimension should pervade all disciplines of theology, on the other side, a specific course of Ecumenical Theology which is mandatory must be provided (see no. 72, 79–81). Ecumenical Theology is not a new theology but offers a perspective on the whole of theology, including its denominational distinctnesses. The search for truth shapes this perspective. Its roots lie within the origins of the Christian faith. The perspective aims at the unity of all Christians and has its foundation in love. In love and truth, wounds can heal, and ecumenism is not experienced as a one-way street but as a mutual learning process to the triune God.

Moral Theology

Moral Theology assesses the social choices of Christians. Transcendence experiences and the personal relationship with Jesus Christ within the biography of a person’s life form the foundation for the norms of the moral agency. Theology of grace and salvation history form the horizon of a Moral Theology that combines dogma and moral agency. Since the Second Vatican Council Moral Theology has acknowledged that Sacred Scripture is the soul of all theology. “Special care must be given to the perfecting of moral theology. Its scientific exposition, nourished more on the teaching of the Bible, should shed light on the loftiness of the calling of the faithful in Christ and the obligation that is theirs of bearing fruit in charity for the life of the world” (Optatam Totius 16).

Spirituality, Sacred Scripture, and a theology of grace form together the foundation of the assessment of Christian social choices and their realization within a history of salvation. Fundamental Moral Theology deals with today’s ethical pluralism. Being capable of arguing one’s world view and fundamental values as Christians is important for a responsible and free ethical existence. Christian anthropology views women, men and queer as physical, psychic, social, and spiritual unity. Gender studies and the voice of Catholic women theologians are of special importance for understanding the Christian concept of dignity in the contemporary world.

Particular Moral Theology studies the ethical aspects of special important points of life such as the beginning of life, bioethics, sickness and healing, suffering and happiness, abortion, euthanasia, organ transplantation, the right of life and the right of self-determination as social life and the family. Awareness for racial, sexual, economic, religious discrimination, awareness for justice and peace and violence are important concerns of the ethical assessment of the social choices of Christians.

Social Ethics

Christian Social Teaching understands itself as a theological discipline. It has been explicitly assigned to become an “instrument of evangelization” (Centesimus annus = CA 54). This field of theology does not primarily aim at the formulation of concrete and technical models of social order but at the interpretation of reality and at a basic orientation to act. In this context the teaching of the Gospel has a special meaning (Sollicitudo rei socialis = SRS 41m CA 5) because social teaching deals in this light with concrete sociopolitical questions like human rights, family, state, the ordering of national and international society, migration, economic life, culture, war and peace und the responsibility to protect creation and a livable world for future generations.

Methodically we find at its center an “evangelical hermeneutic for better understanding life, the world and humanity, not of a synthesis but of a spiritual atmosphere of research and certainty based on the truths of reason and of faith” (Veritatis gaudium = VG 3). It enables a “careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church’s tradition” (SRS 41). In the face of technological and demographic upheavals and an enormous and worldwide ecological crisis a “bold cultural revolution” (Laudato si’ 114) is needed that has to go far beyond the realm of the church and that necessitates therefore an interdisciplinary dialogue between Christian social teaching and philosophy, the humanities, and social as well as natural sciences (CA 54; VG 4,c).

At the center of its academic courses and its knowledge transfer are the systematic unfolding of the magisterial Catholic social teaching as well as the fields of political ethics, peace ethics, environmental ethics, ethics of technology, business ethics and ethics in international relations.

Theology  of Spirituality

Theology of spirituality assesses the relationship of the individual woman, man and queer Christian with God. The theology of the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola is important for developing an Christian anthropology formed by spiritual experience and the objective criteria of the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. The important spiritual, mystic and ascetic movements and personalities of the history of Christianity show the contemporary Christians models of exemplary Christian lives and ways of life.
More than a special discipline of Moral Theology, the theology of spirituality has to be regarded as a foundational principle of all disciplines of theology. Traditionally dogmatic theology, pastoral and moral Theology showed a special interest for theology of spirituality. Yet theology of spirituality invites all disciplines of theology to a fruitful cooperation assessing the law of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Christians and the Church.
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