Author Topic: Theological Vocabulary  (Read 318 times)

Offline TerrorDæmonum

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Theological Vocabulary
« on: January 04, 2022, 11:35:30 PM »
This is a fundamental examination of the need for respect and usage of theological terminology here, or whenever discussing theology or expounding on the doctrines of the Church.

A Term of Art is a specialized and specific use of a word in a given field. These are usually in contrast to the same words used by everybody else, usually, in a far less precise way, or even in contradictory ways. Sometimes, excessive jargon can make straightforward ideas difficult for people to understand, such as when extensive legal and financial terminology is used in documents intended for non-professional readers. Professionals who use excessive jargon can make themselves hard to understand or even cause misunderstandings.

Other times, the terms of art are abused so much that professionals have to deal with misuse of terminology and go along with it. For example, people refer to computer cables as "wires". Cables usually contain wires, but cables are almost never a wire. And the writer has never been able to convince a person who called a cable a wire to use the correct term (and has since ceased trying).

The writer's personal annoyance at such things is hardly a significant matter, but it does illustrate the need for respect of terms of art when one is in fact discussing that art.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the Sacred Science and fields of theology and philosophy. In fact, the most fundamental doctrine of the Church, the First Article of the Creed: The Blessed Trinity. The revelation of this doctrine resulted in the precise formulations of it in the first centuries of Christianity, and many heresies that were addressed.

Scripture and Apostolic writings do not contain words we have used now for over a thousand years consistently. It took the first few centuries of Christianity for the terminology to become established, although, the Creed contained the revelations in full, it does not expound on them. The mystery of the Trinity is the most difficult, for it is knowledge revealed directly by God, about God Himself, and God is incomprehensible to any created being.

The terms used in all languages are used consistently and precisely, and one should not deviate from them, as doing so would certainly be heretical. One should not even inquire too much into them for they concern matters we cannot understand:

Quote from: Catechism of the Council of Trent
Practical Admonitions Concerning The Mystery Of The Trinity

Since nowhere is a too curious inquiry more dangerous, or error more fatal, than in the knowledge and exposition of this, the most profound and difficult of mysteries, let the pastor teach that the terms nature and person used to express this mystery should be most scrupulously retained; and let the faithful know that unity belongs to essence, and distinction to persons.

But these are truths which should not be made the subject of too subtle investigation, when we recollect that he who is a searcher of majesty shall be overwhelmed by glory. We should be satisfied with the assurance and certitude which faith gives us that we have been taught these truths by God Himself, to doubt whose word is the extreme of folly and misery. He has said: Teach ye all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and again, there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.

It is with this theological foundation we have simple Catechisms such as:

Quote from: Catechism of Pius X
The Second Article of the Creed

1 Q. What are we taught in the Second Article: And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord?
A. The Second Article of the Creed teaches us that the Son of God is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; that, like the Father, He is God eternal, omnipotent, Creator and Lord; that He became man to save us; and that the Son of God, made man, is called Jesus Christ.

2 Q. Why is the Second Person called the Son?
A. The Second Person is called the Son, because He is begotten by the Father from all eternity by way of intelligence; and for this reason He is also called the Eternal Word of the Father.

Changing any number of the keywords in those statements or trying to come up with a novel explanation of them would probably result in an already condemned heresy.

In AD 1228, Pope Gregory IX wrote to theologians concerning the use of novel terminology derived from various philosophical schools which were not of the Church a warning, concluding with:

Quote from: Pope Gregory IX
But content with the terminology established by the Fathers, you should feed the minds of your listeners with the fruit of heavenly words, so that after the leaves of the words have been removed, “they may draw from the fountains of the Savior” (Isaiah 12:3); the clear and limpid waters which tend principally to this, that they may build up faith or fashion morals, and refreshed by these they may be delighted with internal richness.

Saint Paul even advised Timothy in inspired writing:

Quote from: 1 Timothy 6:20
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words, and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called.

The richness of the vocabulary we have now is a treasure. It allows for communication of sublime doctrine across time, geography, and language. The Greeks and the Latins use the same consistent terminology (although, even the slightest discrepancy in understanding of words can lead to massive repercussions, but that is another topic), and the translations of these words into various languages, including English, have allowed for orthodox doctrine to be communicated to everybody.

This vocabulary is found in all aspects of theology, although, the further one is from the core doctrines, the more flexibility one may have, and the issue of different theological schools of thought using different words can result in misunderstandings and accusations of heresy which may not be true. In fact, in some theological schools of thought, there can even be disagreements on exactly what the terms mean on a finer level.

Before one can address those disputes, one must already have established vocabulary for doctrine, and the care to use consistent terminology in theology already, otherwise, there is no hope of ever having any meaningful discourse.

Lack of respect or lack of knowledge of the appropriate theological terminology precludes the possibility of any pious or meaningful theological discussions, and may, at its worst, result in heresy, blasphemy, and other grave evils.

Most people do not need to know or use theological terms: the Creed and the Catechisms used to explain it are enough.

But when the subject is beyond that, one must be mindful that discussing things that are above one's understanding is imprudent at best.

Appeals to personal understandings, descriptivist secular dictionaries, brief Catechisms for non-Catholics, and the like as authoritative in the context of theological discussions are totally inappropriate and disrespectful to the subject matter.

Offline james03

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Re: Theological Vocabulary
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2022, 09:06:29 AM »
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The terms used in all languages are used consistently and precisely, and one should not deviate from them, as doing so would certainly be heretical.

Solid point.  Best illustrated by example.  Here's two quotes to consider:

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The particular union of the "Theotókos" with God - which fulfils in the most eminent manner the supernatural predestination to union with the Father which is granted to every human being (filii in Filio) - is a pure grace and, as such, a gift of the Spirit.

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The biblical teaching taken as a whole enables us to say that predestination concerns all human persons, men and women, each and every one without exception.

The term predestination is an example of what P. is talking about.  This is more so due to the historical disagreements among different schools in the Church.  For example, predestination is infallible.  What is predestined will infallibly come to past.  Second, when the term "predestination" is used without any qualifiers, it is talking about predestination of the elect.

Bearing that in mind, even the most radical Molinist, who still resides within the confines of Catholic Dogma, would not dare to utter the above quotes which are so shocking to pious ears.  It's heresy.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2022, 09:21:34 AM by james03 »
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."

"Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him"