Theology takes center stage at CAS symposium

Theology takes center stage at CAS symposium

by Liza Alvarado, CCO on September 9, 2013 - 5:21 pm


Rev. Prof. O’Callaghan (right) and Fr. Bermejo during the “Dialogue between Faith and Reason in the World of Work”

In celebration of the Year of Faith, the Department of Religion of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS)  played host to Rev. Prof.  Paul O’Callaghan, Director of the Department of Dogmatic Theology of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy, who spoke on two occasions in the University about faith and reason in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei  and the role of theology in liberal education. 

A symposium, entitled Dialogue between Faith and Reason in the World of Work,” was held on July 23 at the PLDT Hall in collaboration with the School of Economics (SEC) and the School of Sciences and Engineering (SSE). The half-day affair, attended by UA&P faculty members and students, as well as teachers from other schools, featured the lectures of Rev. Prof. O’Callaghan, Ms. Jovi Dacanay of SEC, and Dr. Theta Ponce of SSE. Present in the symposium also was Rev. Fr. Jose V.C. Quilongquilong, President of the Loyola School of Theology.

Lumen-Fidei-coverIn the said symposium, Rev. Prof. O’Callaghan discussed the relationship between faith and reason from the early centuries up to the contemporary Pontifical magisterium, touching the Christian notion of faith and the new lights from Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei. “We believe people all the time,” he said. “If we didn’t, we simply couldn’t survive. It is part of our structure as social human beings. If faith disappears in general terms, social relations disappear.” However, he emphasized the need to think through one’s faith.  He said that faith needs an openness of spirit, of taking on things which people are not completely in control of, things that in a certain sense could take control of their lives. “That is why it is a real adventure that the one who reveals is Love, the God of Love. We are asked to accept something from somebody who loves us and knows us better than we do. And once we have taken that thing, it is not enough just to eat it. We need to digest it. We have to make it our own. We have to identify with it.” He related the similar quest for truth of the early Christians and philosophers, and how some had identified with Greek philosophy, which was limiting.  Although Christianity is in agreement with the Greek idea of revelation coming as an illumination, O’Callaghan said that the problem about illumination is that it imposes itself on the person. “It does not allow to make up our minds. We just have to accept it. In that sense, illumination, in general terms, does not give much space for freedom, for personal response.” Quoting Lumen Fidei, he said that the revelation of truth is brought about in man as a truth of love. It is not a truth that is imposed or can be imposed. It is not meant to squash an individual person.  “Faith is communicated to one another always with a total respect for other people,” he stressed.

Ms. Jovi Dacanay presented her study entitled “Beyond Needs Gratification: Happiness Economics as Human Flourishing,” discussing happiness as seen by the science of economics. Dr. Theta Ponce, on the other hand, ushered the audience into a closer look at faith and science in the university. She presented the contrasting views of physicists as to whether science is at war with faith or not.


Dr. Dumol, Dr. Tionco, and Dr. Toralba during the Special Faculty Colloquium

The following day saw a more intimate gathering of faculty members and staff of the University to listen to Rev. Prof. Paul O’Callaghan as he discussed the role of theology in a liberal university education. His talk was followed by the comments of three reactors: Dr. Paul Dumol and Dr. Corazon Toralba from CAS, and Dr. Celerino Tiongco, dean of the School of Education and Human Development.

On this special colloquium, Rev. O’ Callaghan examined briefly, among other subtopics, the falling away of theology in the university, the restrictions of theology, and the contribution of theology to a liberal education. He stated that theology was the “queen of all sciences,” and that according to Cardinal Newman, “a university would not be a university should theology be absent for it would no longer be a center of universal learning, but rather one of partial or sectorial learning.” He narrated how theology lost out strongly—from the prohibition of philosophers from discussing God up to the exponential growth of natural sciences, to which this Irish priest exclaimed, “It is interesting to hear from the professor yesterday [Dr. Ponce] that  those who stayed with physics ended up being atheists. In the beginning, it was not like that. They saw themselves as true discoverers of the nature of God because they could see the designs of God there.” He stated that God, who is the source of all truth, is an infinite being; thus, “there is no limit to the truth that can be known.” However, truth is not arbitrary. Its restrictiveness or concreteness is entirely based on God’s Son, who became incarnate.  As to the contribution of theology to a liberal education, Rev. O’Callaghan mentioned three: unity, love, and dialogue. He explained that theology has an extraordinary capacity to unify, to bring disciplines together. It aims at making God known and making God loved. It also promotes the idea of an overarching truth that gives dialogue and pluralism meaning and explains the inner nature of human dialogue.

The “Dialogue between Faith and Reason in the World of Work” is the second installment on the Three Symposia on Creative Dialogue between Faith and Reason in the Academic Community coordinated by the Department of Religion. The first symposium, which dealt with faith and reason in societal affairs, was held on April 23 with priests, religious, media practitioners, and lay people participating. The third symposium, which will tackle faith and reason in the fields of education and culture, is slated in November.


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