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What Is Catholic Theology?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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Catholic theology is the body of knowledge and beliefs on which the Catholic faith is based. In general, the terms "Catholicism" and "Catholic theology" refer to the Roman Catholic Church, though there are several other denominations — such as the Eastern Orthodox and Orthodox Catholic churches — that also describe themselves as "Catholic" but hold some differing theological viewpoints. The theology of the Roman Catholic Church is primarily based on a fusion of scripture and tradition. The Magisterium, which is composed of the Pope and the bishops and which serves as the teaching body of the Church, is responsible for interpreting and teaching tradition and scripture and is largely responsible for defining theological matters.

One of the major foundations of Catholic theology is Sacred Scripture, namely the canonical books of the Bible. Catholic theology says the Bible was written by humans but that those human authors were divinely influenced, so the Bible can be seen as the word of God. Catholics do not, however, take the Bible completely literally, as many other Christian denominations do. They instead believe that everything in the Bible has an element of truth that is not necessarily related to its basis in fact. Catholics, for instance, tend not to accept that the world was literally created in seven days, choosing instead to interpret the Bible's Creation story figuratively.

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Another important element of Catholic theology is a body of tradition known as Sacred Tradition. It, just like the Bible, is considered to an extent to be divinely inspired, particularly because many aspects of it are believed to come from Jesus Christ. Sacred Tradition includes practices and beliefs that are important elements of the Catholic Church but that are not directly called for in the Bible. The supremacy of the pope, for instance, is not explicitly explained in the Bible but, through Sacred Tradition, papal supremacy is an important aspect of Catholic theology.

Catholic theology is highly expansive and nuanced, though there are a few major points that are particularly defining aspects of the Catholic faith. One is belief in the Trinity, or in one God composed of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As in other Christian denominations, Catholicism places great emphasis on the idea that salvation from sin can only be achieved through Jesus Christ, the son. Following Jesus leads to immortal life and heaven, while freely and willingly rejecting the love of God leads to eternal punishment in hell. Catholic theology does not hold with the Calvinist idea that only a select few are predestined to go to heaven.

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