The Study of Theology: Human Challenges and God-Given Possibilities

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

Since our first parents, humankind has struggled with learning about and knowing God, the one who is being. He seems so far, so vast, unintelligible; how could we properly speak and know of him, and is that even possible at all? However, we have found the possibility for proper theology: God, through the gift of his communication with us, chiefly through the incarnation of his son Jesus Christ, has made it possible for us to speak intelligibly about him, however, our ignorant human nature still remains an obstacle for us to achieve this in perfection.

God himself makes it possible for his created children to learn about him. Upon Moses’ request for a name to give Pharaoh, God responds, “I am who I am… I AM” (Exodus 3:14). From then on, he speaks with Moses to reveal more and more of himself to his people. While God did, in fact, give a name, showing that it is possible for us to theologize him, he gave a vague one, one that you could say leaves much to be desired. And so lies the challenge of theology: we cannot know everything about God here on earth; some of that knowledge about himself will be shrouded until we reach heaven. So, we must do the best we can, in our small human capacity, to learn about and teach him.

Dionysius, or as some could say, Pseudo-Dionysius, stresses the reality of our humanity versus God’s divine nature in his writing. He writes, “Just as the senses can neither grasp nor perceive the things of the mind… by the same standard… beings are surpassed by the infinity beyond being, intelligences by that oneness which is beyond intelligence. Indeed the inscrutable One is out of the reach of every rational process” (ODN, 588B).

Because God transcends us, we can not know about him on our own. But, with his help, like Moses, we can learn of him. Dionysius continues to explain, “the Good [God] is not absolutely incommunicable to everything. By itself it generously reveals a firm, transcendent beam, granting enlightenments proportionate to each being” (ODN, 588C-D). What Dionysius means is that God himself grants to us as individuals knowledge of him, but the amount of knowledge we are granted lies in the capacity of our minds.

God also makes knowledge about himself possible through the gift of our minds and rational reason. Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that our natural knowledge is originated in our sensations, but we cannot perceive God as we perceive the things that are clear as day to us, like the sky, wind, and rain, because we are unequal to God (ST, 1.12.12). He goes on, “from the knowledge of perceptible things the whole power cannot be known. But because they are his effects and depend on their cause, we can be led from them so far as to know of God… and to know of him what must necessarily belong to him as the first cause of all things” (ST, 1.12.12).

To take a philosophical step back, Aquinas borrows this from Aristotle’s ancient philosophy of the first mover unmoved, that everything is put in motion by something else, but there cannot be an infinite chain of reaction of motion; something must be an unmoved mover. What Aquinas means is, while we cannot directly see God, he gives us means to catch glimpses of his power and glory. As a table cannot make itself without a carpenter, and you see the qualities of the carpenter in his work, whether the table is done poorly or well, so can a human being not be formed without God, and we therefore can see glimpses of God in the beauty, kindness, and love of other human beings, and the beauty and perfect formation of nature.

And predominantly, God gave the greatest revelation of all: his son Jesus Christ, coming down from heaven to be formed into a fellow full human being, while still remaining fully God. And God’s words of Scripture quite literally became flesh, as Jesus heralded God’s message to humanity. In this assertive way, this gift showed God wanted humanity to learn more about him.

Jesus is the miraculous “Word made flesh” to dwell with us- Jesus came to eat, sleep, get sick, work, cook, and more- he came to experience human nature (John 1:14). God sent him to deliver people from their sins, but Jesus also served the purpose of making more clear God’s teachings and commands, and his love for us. It is like a teacher or parent coming down to the level of a toddler- with the person above them in authority, they may feel afraid and confused about the proper actions they should take. God did what a good parent or teacher would do to help a child better understand and not be so afraid- he sent Jesus to come down to earth and speak softly to us.

Because people could literally see Jesus Christ and talk to him like they talk to a fellow human, it helped them develop a closer relationship with God. Also, because Jesus “practiced what he preached,” like forgiving others and turning to God in prayer, people could know how to better live out their faith- if God himself is doing it, and you want to be a good servant of him, why would you not follow? He clarified what strict, ancient rules did not need to be followed any longer, such as precise washing of hands and abstaining from pork. And he revealed the depths of the Father’s love, in his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

When people see things in front of their own eyes, they more deeply learn about it through their experience. And God, since he made us, knows that! So he decided to come down and let us watch and learn, that we may be better servants of him, and also see truly his love, so we can love him more. Clearly, God wanted his creation to know of him if he chose to reveal himself to them. He could have chosen to not do so, as he transcends being, but yet he did- the possibility for theology is certain, because of the revelation provided and our natural skills.

However, despite this undeserved gift of grace to know about God, we still have our human nature in the way. Because of our free will, we can choose to do things that go against God’s will. We have a large capacity for fault and inadequacy, meaning because of our nature, we could tarnish the image and teachings of God we present to others. And also, as humans we like to believe we are immortal, invincible, that we know everything, leading to us suiting faith to fit our “needs,” which leads to false teachings and “conveniently” leaving out truths of the Church.

Additionally, in recent months, revelations of horrific abuse by priests, the Church’s shepherds and theologians, has brought heavy confusion. When we hear of one bad priest, we can become wary of all the priests we know. We think, how can we trust any theologian when they may be doing awful, unholy things behind closed doors, or covering the rears of those who are doing so? In our proper study and teaching of theology, we can become disillusioned by human depravity of those teaching it and our own poor choices to be selective in the tenets and proper practices of our faith.

But ultimately, we must remember this: despite the challenges that lie in theology, thanks to our nature, we have the mercy of God to redeem this and bring us hope. He loves us enough that he came down, died and rose again, all for our salvation, and so that we may more truly know him. God gave us the gift of possibility- we have to choose to chase the knowledge of theology, to grasp it, study it, live it as true disciples. We must look past our own selfish desires and sin in our Church’s theologians and remember, to paraphrase Saint Augustine, the grace from God that flows through the stained human instrument does not taint it. We must stand strong against sin but remember the truth and power of the Church are not in the persons holding office, but God himself.

Cite this paper

The Study of Theology: Human Challenges and God-Given Possibilities. (2021, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-study-of-theology-human-challenges-and-god-given-possibilities/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out