The Importance of Good Theology Teachers

Let me tell you a story: When I entered High School, I was a cafeteria Catholic, and didn’t really care. I guess I was anti-abortion, but was very iffy in cases of rape and incest, and while my parents were against gay marriage I was starting to wonder if this really made sense. My freshman year of Catholic High School changed one thing for me: a pro-life speaker completely “converted” me on abortion. I now believe it’s the most important secular issue in the country, and it was because of that speaker.

Otherwise, my Theology class Freshman year was interesting, and I learned a decent amount, but it also didn’t do a lot to convince me that Catholicism was the way to go. Listening to my Aunt, a Protestant (and an amazing person, by the way, one of my role models), I was starting to wonder. And as I looked into the arguments for the existence of God I found the gnu atheist objections – which seemed pretty convincing against their strawman arguments! I started really questioning my faith.

I’m not like most people, though. When I question my faith, I don’t just question; I look for answers. And there was one thing that bothered me with the gnu atheist objections: Could Aquinas have really been that stupid? Seriously, “Who caused God” is such a glaringly obvious objection to what I thought were his arguments that I had to come to one of two conclusions: Either Aquinas was a moron, or something is very wrong with the common objections.

So I went looking, and found Dr. Feser. He is one of the biggest reasons I’m not an atheist. His defenses of Aquinas’s arguments are brilliant, and I realized that it wasn’t Aquinas who was the idiot; it was the gnus. And so I went into my sophomore year pretty firmly convinced that God existed, and after reading Dr. Feser I had a lot more solid footing on the gay marriage debate too. But despite my new-found orthodoxy, I was still a pretty liberal Catholic. I just did not get why women could not be Priests, and my concept of the Sacraments was vague at best. Papal infallibility was also difficult for me to grasp. The difference was that I was starting to take the Church a little more seriously. Hey, it seems as if they were right about gay marriage; perhaps they had more right than I first thought. And so, enter my Theology teacher.

More than anybody, he totally changed the way I looked at Catholicism and Christianity in general. Sophomore year was really about the Sacraments, and we had a pretty rigorous regimen to follow, with a lot of note-taking and detailed tests. Despite this, I found the class absolutely fascinating. All of a sudden, Catholicism was no longer “just” a religion. It was almost a science that could be studied extensively, analyzed logically, and understood, not JUST on a “spiritual” level, something I still have yet to experience, but on an intellectual level as well.

I do not believe in the Real Presence because I’ve had any sort of powerful experience with the Eucharist, I’m sorry to say. I believe in the Real Presence because I think the substance/accidents distinction explains it in a totally logical way, and thus there’s no good reason to see Jesus’s words as symbolic. They’re very clear, and now I understand how it makes sense. I believe in Purgatory because I think there’s actually some Scriptural basis and because I believe in the Deposit of Faith. I am Catholic because I believe it to be the most historically valid religion. And almost all of this was due to that Theology teacher. I took him again Senior year in a college-level Apologetics class. I became his best student because the class absolutely fascinated me. I’ve reached a point where I’m not only a theist, I’ve gone from the idea of atheism as the “default” to theism as the “default”, because I see the existence of a Creator God as something obvious by using simple logic. My personal burden of proof has shifted. Without this teacher, I don’t know if I’d even have remained Catholic. I wasn’t yet convinced on contraception, masturbation, or even the idea of absolutely no divorce, even in cases of adultery. But he really, in a huge way, changed everything. You can thank/blame him for this blog.

So what am I getting at? We need better theology teachers. If my CCD (Catechism class, basically) teachers were anything like him, I’d never have had a faith crisis. In retrospect, while they were good people and made a real effort, they were terrible teachers. None of us had any business taking Communion. We had no understanding of what we were doing. That’s the whole point of waiting until the “age of reason”.

You want to understand why Catholics in America are really liberal? Ask the theology teachers.

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4 Responses to The Importance of Good Theology Teachers

  1. Crude says:

    As someone who went to a Catholic school, I have to agree. There’s a lot of ‘going through the motions’, or at least there was in my school. Aquinas? Didn’t hear of him in high school. I had to find those things for myself. Hell, I didn’t hear about ‘metaphysics’ in high school, and I’m pretty convinced that if more people understood even the mere fundamentals of these things, they’d have a completely different attitude towards God and religion.

    It also doesn’t help that there is a pretty powerful media culture that intentionally perpetuates a lot of stereotypes and falsehoods.

    • After hearing stories of other CCDs and worse Catholic schools than mine (I was VERY fortunate to go to a “real” Catholic school, as in an orthodox one with a huge pro-life emphasis), I’m absolutely convinced that ignorance of real doctrine is the biggest problem with American Catholics today. Right now I can probably teach a High School Theology class.

      But I mean, my Ethics Professor is a Catholic who teaches Bible studies. He once (half-jokingly, but to make a point) referred to God as “she”, selectively quoted from the New Testament to make the point that the Bible is sexist, and thinks that Aquinas’s arguments have been conclusively disproven to the point that discussion is pointless (I wonder if it occurs to people that if you’ve “disproven” the argument within a couple of sentences you’re probably wrong, considering that for roughly 1,000 years or so it was considered iron-clad before Hume basically wrote books outlining extremely complex rejections – I have no clue where this idea that they were “easy” to disprove came from), going as far to say that “even theistic philosophers admit that the proofs don’t work” (prompting me to think of 6 or so people off of the top of my head, not all of them Christian, who argue some sort of proof for God, but whatever).

      I mean, the man teaches BIBLE STUDIES to Catholic School students. He’s no dummy and I actually like him (he was willing to hear me out), but honestly he’s part of the reason that the Church is in such terrible shape right now. People have no idea what Catholics are required to believe. Believe it or not, you can’t just “not believe” certain verses you think are sexist just because. The Church just doesn’t work that way, and it’s thinking like that that causes cafeteria Catholicism.

      • Crude says:

        Well, I will admit that the state of Catholic education is absolutely wretched, and I’d like that fixed first and foremost.

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