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Prayer is the best place for answers and it best helps us find our way. In the mean time...
Q: What is a FAQ?
A: FAQ is an acronym for "Frequently Asked Questions." Hence "just the faqs ma'am...."
Q: Who is this site for?
A: Anyone who curious about delving deeper into the language of discussing the Sacred. This is not an apologetics site or a site for debating the pros and cons of religions or religious belief or secular humanism. This is a place to contemplate things that have to do with the human exploration of the divine.
Q: What is Theology?
A: Theology is literally the study of God. In that sense it is a human endeavor and while inspired by and provided for within us by God, it is limited by our reason, experience, and frankly, our sinfulness. For that reason it requires the weight of history and the community to be borne out. It is not the Truth of Revelation but is the exploration of the Truth of Revelation. Bank not on theologians but upon "every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." (Mt 4:4)
Q: How can prayer answer questions?
A: "I thought only scripture can answer questions!" Prayer takes myriad forms, many of which start and end in Scripture. Still personal (also known as private) revelation differs from public Revelation (Oral/Written Tradition), and it is personal revelation that concerns us in prayer. God seeks to speak to each of us as He speaks to all of humanity and answers all of our questions. All we have to do is listen. Prayer is that conduit.
Q: Why a theology Web site?
A: Just a place for a guy who loves theology to congregate and exchange ideas with others of a like mind.
Q: why bother?
A: We are "wonderfully made" and we are made to seek God. Theology is not the path but an aid, a walking stick if you will, on that path. Theology is a lived experience, not an intellectual exercise. We are all about coming to know the LORD better in order to serve Him better. Having a consistent and rich language in which to share our experiences of God is important, and theology gives us that common ground/language.
Q: What about all of our 'un-common' ground and language? for instance, What's the difference between a "Catholic Bible" and a "Protestant Bible"?
A: Our language about Scripture and Tradition can color our discussions. So let us start with how they are similar. Catholic and mainstream Protestant Bibles both include all 27 books in the New Testament as laid out by Eusebius in the 4th century, used by others, and 'officially finalized' in the West by the Council of Trent (~1546). Protestant Bibles have only 39 books in the Hebrew Testament, however, while Catholic Bibles have 46. The seven books excluded in Protestant Bibles are Tobit, Judith, Maccabees (1 and 2), Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. Catholic Bibles also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel which are not found in Protestant Bibles. These books are based in the Greek "Septuagint" version of the Hebrew Scriptures as translated into Latin by Jerome in the early 5th century and are called the deuterocanonical books (meaning outside of the canon or official list of books). The Catholic Church considers these additional books to also be inspired by the Holy Spirit having been available to Jesus and the Apostles; some Protestant sects accept this as well, others do not; some put them into their own section often called 'The Apocrypha' some do not. This is different from the Orthodox bibles that also contain books not found in either the Roman or Protestant canons.
The 'difference' then is the decision about the source of those book. The effect is that certain doctrines espoused by the Catholic and Orthodox Church are not found in groups without those writing. This can cause some confusion when discussion certain ideas like Purgatory.
Q: Does OUR differences mean we cannot discuss theological points?
A: No; Discussing these issues is not new, especially in a Church 2000+ years old. While some of the topics seem new, they are not.
Catholics just need to be aware that their Protestant friends may not know some of the tenets which they profess and Protestants need to be open with their Catholic friends to discussion based in these widely available and accepted writings. When both speak with Jews and Muslims then we all need to focus on the portions of Scripture and practice which are shared, in order to understand those which are not. Besides, it is more up to us to live the Gospel than to argue its finer theological points.
Q: if we accept "Non-canonical" books into the discussion, what about all of the other books, like the Gospel of Thomas Or mary?
A: Those books have their place in the discussion as well. Their historical value lies in their ability to speak to the beliefs and practices of their times, giving better understanding to the decisions of those who created the canon -- after all, history is always written by the victor. Do these books hold any authority in the discussion? No, but they do add depth.
Q: What about all of the Patristic writings?
A: The decision to ignore those writings in the discussion flies in the face of the early re-formers, like Luther and Calvin - they were well aware of them, even if they disagreed with them. The Church Father's insights into doctrine and practice are important to the discussion as well as to the formation of the Canon and therefore speak to the authority of Scripture. Often modern disagreements are as old as the Church and have been addressed within the writings of these Fathers.
Q: Most of these Questions come down to the question of Authority. What is authority?
A: God is the ultimate authority, but throughout time and Salvation History we see that God has entrusted His authority to humanity in order to teach. The nature of that gift may be in dispute, but the need for it is not. To trust the canon of Scripture is to trust the gift of that human authority, which is guided by the Spirit and vetted within the larger community. Authority then, is the legitimate ability to teach Revelation, and to be trusted in that teaching as we would trust God. As God gave authority to Jesus, so Jesus gave that authority to us. As long as teaching remains within God, then it has authority.
Q: What is Tradition?
A: Tradition is the gift of God, which comes to us in both written and oral form. Faith is both heard and read. Doctrine is based on Tradition but is not Tradition, merely the teachings aided by the language of theology, on the Tradition. Tradition embraces both the written Scriptures and the oral teachings which helped to define and select both of them. Tradition is a complete package and none of its parts can be removed without loss of context and understanding. Tradition is tied to Authority and is legitimate where it holds true to the Spirit.
Small 't' traditions are not the same as big 'T' Tradition and may change like liturgical language or devotional practices.