“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Exodus 33:18; Psalm 27:8-9; Psalm 63-2-3; John 14:8; 1 John 3:2)
Pope John Paul II
Fides et ratio
Theology is the academic discipline that makes possible the full knowledge of truth. In order to know the truth about something fully, one must understand not only the object in itself but also the object within its proper context. But God is context for everything. Thus, if one desires the fullness of truth about anything, some measure of theological reflection is required. Theology has been defined in various ways, and by reviewing these definitions, theology’s importance to the pursuit of truth begins to be seen. • In the original Greek, “theology” means the study (logos) of God (theos), and this study advances the search for truth based on both reason and faith. Reason can show that God exists and is Truth. With faith comes the recognition that this God Who is Truth has given us the opportunity to know Him more personally and intimately in Jesus Christ, “who is himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation” (Dei Verbum, n. 2).
- St. Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109) defines theology as “faith seeking understanding.” Christianity proclaims that Jesus, Who is Truth Incarnate, entered creation as part of God’s plan to repair the damage caused by sin. Faith accepts this proclamation as true; theology seeks to understand how the divine plan is the truth in terms of being coherent, effective, and useful, especially when making prudential decisions about what we are to do until the divine plan is brought to completion.
- According to St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (d. 1274), theology is not only the study of God but an inquiry into all other things “so far as they have reference to God” (Summa theologica, I, q. 1, a. 7). Hence, as theology brings ever greater knowledge of God and salvation, one can more fully appreciate the contributions to truth from other academic disciplines and religious worldviews.