Theology is at a turning point, says leading Catholic thinker

Theology at a turning point

Theology is at a turning point in a time when the Church is anesthetized by the lower number of vocations, ethical questions of society, and the pandemic, according to a leading Catholic thinker.

Christoph Theobald SJ was a major figure at a recent May 5, “Today and Tomorrow. Imagining Theology” Vatican symposium on the future of Catholic theology.

Following the symposium, the 74-year-old Theobald, who teaches theology in Paris, spoke with La Croix’s Christophe Henning about the challenges facing the future of theology.

“Pope Francis is pushing for in-depth theological work,” says Theobald. “The so-called ecclesiastical sciences – theology, philosophy, the humanities, etc. – constitute a laboratory for overcoming the crisis we are going through.”

“The pope emphasizes that we are not living in an epoch of change, but in a change in epochs. An anthropological crisis that affects the human being, but which is also planetary and environmental. His encyclicals Fratelli tutti and Laudato si’ make a fairly precise diagnosis of this crisis, for which there is no ready-made answer.”

Theobald says that the charism of theologians is to undertake a critical work and seek, in a forward-looking manner, solutions for the future.

“We cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s systems.”

There are three challenges Theobald identified for the theology of the future.

Firstly, the Church no longer reaches people in their daily lives.

“It’s a question of admissibility. Faced with de-Christianization, we must work on a theology of daily life and find a way to speak with our contemporaries.”

The second challenge Theobald noted is the need to enter into dialogue with the different significant traditions. He said it’s not only a question of dialogue with Judaism or Islam, but with all spiritualities, even agnostic ones.

“Now, this diversity is disturbed by a secularism which is not dying down anywhere in Europe. It is even more intense in France. We must work on a theology of politics that takes into account these different traditions.”

Finally, Theobald continued, it’s urgent to reflect on the enormous development of digital technology which is invading our lives.

“What remains of a theology of consciousness when everything is managed by algorithms and computers?” Theobald asked.

“We are at a turning point, especially in Europe. It is essential to develop foresight.

There is no vision in the face of uncertainty, even though we should live by the central virtue of hope and dare to develop, as in the Bible, “dreams” of the future.

This is the role of theology,” concluded Theobald.


La Croix International

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