The signs of the times as word of God: Recent developments in Catholic ecclesial experiences and reflection and their implications for theological method
Forgetfulness of the living experience of the church in history and of the events of history itself as fundamental sources for theological reflection have marked much of western theology up to the present. Also, Catholic systematic theology had not been able to respond adequately to the challenges of the contemporary world by using the traditional loci theologici.^ These facts together with the renewed appreciation of revelation as the mystery of God's self-communication to humanity has led Catholic theology to re-examine the traditional loci theologici. The hypothesis that guided this dissertation was that Catholic theology is presently rediscovering the significance of the signs of the times. The signs of the times are those events, phenomena or movements of a given era that characterize that era and bring about or reveal new awareness.^ In order to appreciate the significance of this rediscovery this dissertation brings together the development of the methodological breakthrough by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council in Guadium et Spes with the theological efforts of Karl Rahner, Gustavo Gutierrez and Walbert Buehlmann.^ The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, introduced Catholic theology to the method of starting with the signs of the times in theological reflection. This methodological development represented a significant break from the traditional methodology employed recognized that the Church's theological reflection could be remain separate from the great events of history. Theology is necessarily rooted in and related to history. It can both provide an answer to the questions raised by the events of history and be interpreted by those events. It also called the Church to a greater involvement in history, acknowledging the critical importance of the praxis of Christians in the world.^ The emergence of the signs of the times as an integral part of the starting point of theology requires the recognition that God's word is not exhausted in the Scriptures or even in the living tradition of the Church. Rather it challenges the Church to be attentive to the word that God is speaking to her in contemporary history as well. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.) ^
Anthony Joseph Cernera,
"The signs of the times as word of God: Recent developments in Catholic ecclesial experiences and reflection and their implications for theological method"
(January 1, 1988).
ETD Collection for Fordham University.