On Changing My Mind (and my theology)

A couple weeks ago I received a note from a friend from college, asking about my current pursuits and whether I had “changed” since college. It’s helps to know that, in college, I fell to the left of where I would currently plot myself on the proverbial spectrum. In fact, I’ve taken to calling myself a “recovering liberal,” in so far as I’ve stepped back from some of my unexamined assumptions but not quite gotten to where I would describe myself as conservative.

Back then I was still “fresh” to theology and, like a lot of people my age, found myself poorly catechized to the teachings of the Church. As I’ve deepened my studies I’ve been exposed to a wider variety of thought (both Catholic and otherwise) that I’ve had to wrestle with and account for. I’m unsatisfied with the stock answers of both the right and the left and, for myself, prefer to steer a middle path (which is making decisions of a political nature increasingly difficult).

In the last few years I have been (quite by surprise!) energized by Benedict XVI’s papacy. Maybe it’s my own academic inclinations, but I’m drawn to his clarity of thought and “back to basics” approach. Jesus of Nazareth was a sort of watershed read for me, because it skilfully navigates both rigorous study and fidelity to the Tradition. This was one of my main struggles in college — how to reconcile the head with the heart without losing the strengths of both. (In fact, it’s still one of the main sticking points in my spiritual journey.)

As I reflect on my own developing approach to theology I find that it is informed by the four characteristics that form the basis for this blog:

  • Openness to insights from a variety of sources;
  • A fierce loyalty to the faith of the Church;
  • Approaching the faith as an answer to Christ’s call in hope and love;
  • An “evangelical” faith that is technologically savvy.

To summarize this approach I’ve appropriated John Allen’s term “affirmative orthodoxy,” which he defines as “a tenacious defense of the core elements of classic Catholic doctrine, but presented in a relentlessly positive key.” I find this approach extremely attractive and vital to the Church at this particular moment in time, especially as someone working in the catechetical ministry.

In grad school I heard a story (most likely apocryphal), that when brought before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to defend some of his writings, Edward Schillebeeckx just shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of: “That’s what I wrote then, it’s not how I would write it now, and who knows what I’ll write tomorrow?” Schillebeeckx was never censored, and it’s that spirit of inquiry and humility that I’m trying to cultivate in myself.