Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Curmudgeonly Note on Undergraduate Theology

A Catholic college or university should, of course, have courses (and requirements!) ensuring that undergraduates are suitably educated in the doctrine, history, and culture of the faith. Typically, though, undergrads are no more ready for theology than they are for law or medicine. Future theologians would be well-served by a good philosophy program, supplemented by spiritual formation (the liturgy and sacraments, private prayer, lectio divina) and by courses in the positive religious sciences, loosely so called. My scheme would be for the undergraduates to study the Scriptures, Church history, and perhaps apologetics, making it clear that these are preparatory subjects for theology proper.

Who should teach undergraduates theology? Those qualified and willing, of course. A Dominican with an STL, if he reads widely and constantly in theology, is an excellent candidate. I don't think, though, that simply teaching undergraduates is a good work for Dominicans with doctorates in theology proper. Unlike the brethren with doctorates in most secular subjects, theologians don't have a subject that lends itself to undergrad presentation. Nobody would dream of sending new high school graduates into a major seminary to begin a B.Div. (STB, MDiv, or whatever); but somehow we think the same rudimentary theology courses can be watered down even further to make them part of the BA curriculum. Well, maybe. But I doubt it.

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