Some questions on the basics of theology


I know theology is the science of religion–the study of God. Who He is and what He has done. My question is really harder to put into words because I don’t know much about the study of theology.

I hold to the tenets of the CCC. Sometimes when I’m talking with other Catholics about some doctrine (they may be taking a position different from the CCC), they’ll say, well…when you study theology then you’ll understand.

I don’t get it. Isn’t the catechism, to an extent, the theology of the church?

Are there different schools of theology? It seems that some people follow St. Augustine, while others St. Thomas Aquinas? How are they different? What are the more contemporary issues in theology and who are the main men and women discussing those issues? How is Catholic theology different from Protestant or Jewish theology?


The type of questions you are asking are impossible to answer in a post on an online bulletin board. This is the stuff of doctoral dissertations. In order to fully understand such, you do need to study theology in depth.

The Catechism is nothing more than a concise summary of what it is that the Church teaches. It presents doctrines taught by the Church, whereas theology seeks to explain these doctrines in detail or attempt to go beyond them in speculation. The Catechism would therefore be the starting point of any theology that seeks to be in harmony with the Church.


Eric is right, those are very broad questions.

Let me try to put it this way. The Catechism is the teaching of the Church. It contains the Church’s teachings on doctrines - in other words, it tells us various things that are true.

Theology is more a matter of why, how, or in what way those things are true. So for example, the Catechism tells us that Baptism regenerates. Theology would explain how baptism regenerates, and its implications for other aspects of the faith.

Now to a certain degree, the Catechism does contain theology, because first of all, theology is based on doctrines, and so any doctrine the Catechism explains will be the root for some other theological point, and because second of all, some points of doctrine simply are theology. For example, the definition of faith is a theological point.

Now a key difference is that theology can differ in some ways, whereas doctrine cannot. For example, we humans have free will. Now Thomistic theology explains that one way, whereas another school of theology might explain it a different way. The end result is the same, but the explanation for how it works is different. It’s like having a truck that moves, but some people think it’s got a gasoline engine and others think its got a diesel engine. If you know anything about engines, you’ll know that the two are quite different. What everyone looking at the truck would know for certain is that it drives. People might, however, have different opinions as to just how it does that.

So what the Catechism says is true. If someone differs on the catechism, then they are wrong, regardless of what theological idea they are trying to support their belief with. On the other hand, there might be the occasional case where a person seems to be contradicting the Catechism but they in fact are not because they are delving deeper into a given topic than the Catechism does. In general, what the Catechism says is pretty clear, but there are a few times where it doesn’t speak in as gnitty-gritty a way as would be necessary to explain the entire truth. In this occasional case, some person might indeed have an understanding of theology that does get into the gnitty-gritty and doesn’t in fact contradict the catechism.

It’s also possible that they are speaking in theological language that seems to you to contradict the catechism but doesn’t in actuality.

I do think, however, that these particular instances would be rare.

Can you give an example of such a time a friend said this? That would be helpful in explaining to you what I’m trying to say.

Peace and God bless


I was talking with someone about the fallen angels. I said that their choice was irrevocable. The other person, who is a sister, asked, “Who says that?” (with incredulity) I said, in a sort of questioning way, because I wasn’t exactly sure. She said, “I’ve never hear that.” Later, I looked it up in the CCC. When I pointed that out, she said, “Well, when you take theology, then maybe you’ll understand.”

Another example, I was talking about how I can kind of be a “Catholic snob”. Now, I try not to judge others, but I love the Church, and sometimes I can’t help thinking, “I can’t believe others don’t see how beatiful this church is! Why can’t they believe what the Church teaches!” I explained this to someone, again a sister, who said, “Well, there are lots of ways to God. Lots of truth. When you take theology, you’ll understand.”

So then I started thinking, What does learning theology have to do with THAT?


Perhaps you ought to narrow your next post to the specific theological quandary that you are having problems with. As posted here, your request is a little overbroad.


Haha, ok. Both of those things are extremely erroneous. Well, I should clarify. The first one is flat out false. The second one may have been intended in a false way, but there is some truth to it, albeit just a tad. There is only one way to God, through Christ and His Church. Now not every person in the Church will take the same path specifically. There is Franciscan spirituality, and there is Dominican spirituality, and all sorts of other sorts, for example. Those spiritualities do approach God in slightly different ways, but they are all consistent with the revealed truth that you’ll find laid out nicely in your Catechism. Or another example would be praise and worship music. Some people find it helps them on their journey with God. Others hate it. So perhaps it can be said that there is only one way to God - Christ through His Church - but there are different approaches to that path, each of which is entirely consistent with the path. Maybe like a highway with many lanes that all are still nevertheless on the same highway and go to the same place.

In any case, it sounds like this sister holds to some liberal modernist mumbo jumbo. It may be she is truely a dissident from the Church and is just using theology as an excuse. On the other hand, it may be that she is simply a sister that entered her religious order and was put in a bunch of theology courses taught by dissidents or heretics, and so she just thinks that that is how it really is. Can’t judge her. Though, I would like to ask what order she is from, just for the sake of my pure curiosity.

But yeah, those answers are both nonsense. In fact, theology has very well thought out reasons why the fallen angels can’t repent. It’s not just some teaching in the Catechism. If you do take theology, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of just why they can’t repent. For example, here’s some theology regarding the angels inability to repent:


Here’s another LITTLE problem for you, Klyde. Studying theology in our current climate of intelligent thinkers is going to cofuse the hell out of you!..or perhaps, confuse you towards Hell!

You may find that every theology teacher have their own version or interpretation to the next one! Sadly, this is also true of many Catholic tutors. I know that I’m in little ol’ NZ, but my theological studies for my Masters degree have included Catholic teacher who teach the old heresies as valid positions of theology!! Don’t ask!

The tutors also included professors / doctors etc. from other denominations and belief systems. It all seems to be indifferentism gone haywire. The underlying tone seems to be that ‘there is no wrong or right’ and everyone gets to Heaven!! For couple of semesters, I was the only Catholic. You have to guess how much patience it took to just sit there and listen as the tutors and rest of the class accuse the Catholics of this, and the Catholics are wrong about this, and the Catholic Church is the work Satan…etc. Thankfully, what this did is drive me back into church history and all the material I could find on everything Christian. It was during that search that I found the theological thought in NZ seems to be shared globally. Fortunately, the truth is where my parents taught me where to find it. Catholicism and more accurately, Roman Catholicism.

You’re in the same position I was in many years ago. A nun started me on theology when she taught our ‘Bible class’ that Jonah and the whale was a MYTH?!?!?!?

Bottom line, the study of theology, will help you understand the multitude of reasons why people have differing views about the word of God.

Then again, maybe it’s just me!



I don’t think it’s just you, but I also think it may be bad luck on your part in terms of where you are. There are theology programs a fellow could take without encountering such overwhelming problems. You can find them where you won’t have any poor, or perhaps just one poor professor whose class you just have to grind your teeth in.


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