Daniel L. Migliore in the book he authored, the 2nd edition of Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, made an effort to “strengthen the ‘fullness of Trinitarian faith’ and its relational understanding of God, creation, reconciliation, and consummation”. It is an expanded and updated version to the earlier edition which presents a foreword to “Christian Theology that is both critically respectful of the classical theological tradition and critically open to the new voices and emphases of recent theology”. As an introduction to Christian Theology, Faith Seeking Understanding contains fundamentally theological themes which are “catholic” in nature and critical of the beliefs and way of living of the faith community. Its basic coverage makes it suitable to first readers in theology and its criticism from the liberal theologians’ point of view recommends reflection to renew and rethink the beliefs and practices of traditionalists or of those who observe the beliefs and practices they had but have totally forgotten the core message of what they believe and practice.
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In line with the spirit of optimism, humility of heart and open-mindedness, the criticisms employed, having their respective criterion, entails a challenge to rediscover the journey of faith. Upon reviewing it, one was reminded that a believer in the true sense is a learner who constantly looks for the truth and searches for the way.
As the impetus of various theological movements became obvious, the first edition of the Faith Seeking Understanding was born in the immediate context of the mainline Protestant church in North America. The author’s reflections on the inseparability of faith and practice were formed in a small Presbyterian congregation in Pennsylvania. Unsatisfied with its inadequacy in the present human situation of widespread anxiety and insecurity, Migliore brought to existence these updated and expanded edition. This was done to respond to the need of the church especially in times of crisis where clarity of conviction and purpose is certainly necessary in this time of uncertainty.
In order to obtain a better understanding of the values it points, one needs to notice where the author with his reflections is coming from. Three methods were utilized and influenced its contents in one way or another. First, theology was presented in a way that highlighted the Word of God posing questions to man. Second, theological questions were “formulated by an analysis of the human situation in a given period as seen in its philosophy, literature, art, science, and social institutions.” Lastly, praxis approach of liberation theology is apparent.
Faith Seeking Understanding discusses the importance and purpose of the pursuit of faith for understanding. “Here and now, faith sees only dimly and the questions of faith abound.” There are events that will challenge our beliefs and practices which may, at the same time, open us up to a praxis that may overcome evil and suffering, violence and ambiguity. Faith seeks understanding not for the sake of obtaining knowledge but seeks wisdom that will illumine life and practice of Christian virtues. It is not speculative knowledge! Quoting various philosophers, theory without practice is empty, practice without theory is blind. When faith is rethought and understanding of it is sought, its purpose and meaning gains clarity.
The author provides sources from which believers may claim to have knowledge of God in relation to human condition. It does not confirm what we already know about Him rather utterly surprises and disturbs a believer. God reveals himself but remains hidden. As Tersteegen states, “A God comprehended is no God.” Understanding of faith does not mean to know all the known and the unknown but the application of what was understood in service of God and his creation. Although man can’t fully understand God or faith, the seeking is not a waste but leads one to become a better person with better understanding and better witnessing with an open mind and a humble heart.
The Triune God revealed and celebrated in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit attested by the Sacred Scripture viewed through the eyes of those who are suffering and weak connects the main points. It tells the reader that the understanding of God is always an initiative of God! Man’s is a response. The tradition of faith is interpreted from its center, in Jesus Christ, allowing Him to become a transforming power in human life. Faith seeks development not in theory but through personal encounter and witnessing of God sought through faith. This lays down the liberating love that creates a new community.
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In this time of crisis, in a world characterized by violence, nuclear threats, ecological crisis, spiritual confusion and what not, “a right understanding of the confession of faith in God the Creator is perhaps more important today than ever before.” A Christian faith that seeks understanding clearly emboldens, sharpens and makes patent its identity respecting the character of other religions. Understanding may be achieved through attentive and trustful reading and hearing of the witness of scripture in company with other members of the people of God.
Faith Seeking Understanding truly captured its purpose of reexamining faith in order to appreciate it fully and become an active and responsible believer who consciously recognize our identity as we freely respond in faith and in joyful hope of discovering the truth of what was handed to us and what was hidden from us. This will help us posses a new perspective and a new criterion of understanding. There is so much to discover in faith thus the use of intelligence is essential to avoid reducing faith into a euphoric feeling. There is lot of things to learn about the Triune God thus we are in need to intensify our witnessing of charity. As Pope Benedict XVI states in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, “Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him, this standing with Him points towards and understanding of the reasons for believing.” Faith’s real prize is not realized until its worth is examined.
Faith Seeking Understanding by Daniel L. Migliore proves to be a timely response to the signs of the time as the world encounters crisis of ambiguity and precariousness. The honesty of the author is to be commended for there is no pretension as he acknowledges that some topics remain broken and incomplete. However, it is also just to subject the criticism of the author into criticism for he is also doomed to human condition. In addition, Catholic readers should remember the background of the author to reconsider the apparent biases towards Catholicism.