Theology and Sanctity

One of my readings for class this week was an essay by Hans Urs von Balthasar entitled “Theology and Sanctity”.  He noted something interesting in the Catholic faith: at the time of his writing, not one theologian had been canonized as a saint since the 13th century.  There have been numerous spiritual writers and exemplars of charity, but no systematic theologians.  The reason, he argues, is that theology and spirituality soon afterward grew to become separate disciplines.  Theology became a science of dogmatics while spirituality became a study of experience.

The issue that he eluded to was that up until that time, theology and spirituality were a single reality.  There was no separation.  Evagrius of Pontus once wrote, “A theologian is one who prays truly, and one who prays truly is a theologian.”  They were not separable.

While there have been unquestioned advances in theological depth and nuance and clarity and so forth, there is still something lost when theology is separate from spirituality, when dogma is separated from virtue.  Balthasar argued that any theology undertaken not for the purpose of the fostering of one’s relationship with God and the relationship of those who will follow after is pointless.

It brings up a good question for theologians.  Why are they engaging in their discipline?  That may be a crucial question to explore in prayer.  And once in prayer, that may be true theology.

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