Theology is the academic study of God, and examines theological questions in light of the still developing Christian theological tradition. Theology considers answers to questions of an ultimate nature from the deep reserves of the Catholic intellectual tradition and in conversation with responses of other Christians and with practitioners of other faiths.
The Bishops at Vatican II lifted up so beautifully questions that theologians continue to explore in light of developments of science, psychology, and history: "What is humankind? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? From where does suffering come, and what purpose does it serve? What is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: from where do we come, and to where are we going?" (Vatican II, Notre Aetate, para. 1).
Whereas Catholic Studies is the study of Catholicism, and focuses on reception of the Church's official magisterial teachings and sacramental system, the academic discipline of theology examines the Christian theological tradition, including its magisterial teachings and sacramental system, and seeks to propel the tradition forward by interpreting the Bible and history in light of contemporary issues raised, for example, by advancements in scientific knowledge, neurological understanding, and sociological, economic, and cultural insights. In 2011, America Magazine attempted to help readers understand distinctions between theology and catechesis, as well as the critical role of the theologian in the modern world.
Members of our department specialize in Bible, both in Hebrew scriptures and the Greek New Testament, in order to guide biblical interpretation informed by discoveries related to authorship, original context, and spiritual development. We have world-class historians who ensure that our students understand how the Christian theological tradition developed in each historical period, from the formulations articulated by bishops in the early churches, to medieval developments enunciated especially by monks and friars, to critiques of the tradition communicated under the impulse of the reformers and the emergence of Protestantism, to the spirit of aggiornamento expressed at the Second Vatican Council. Moral theologians are applying the virtues to issues in the contemporary world, including biomedical ethics, mass incarceration, the ecological crisis, and war. And systematicians are interpreting the Catholic theological tradition in a way that engages the modern world, addressing such issues as atheism, religious fundamentalism, evolutionary theory, global warming, globalization, redemptive violence, and dehumanizing degrees of suffering.
St. Anselm once wrote, "[W]e believe that [God is] a being than which nothing greater can be conceived." The department of theology at the University of St. Thomas continues to work in the spirit of the great saint. We endeavor to interpret the faith in light of human advancements in every field of inquiry at the University and, in this way, we continue to think of theology as the "Queen of the sciences."