student in a Notre Dame theology t-shirt


Core curriculum requirements in theology integrate three interrelated understandings of theology as a discipline:

  1. Theology is talk about God and about all things as related to God, based on God’s self-revelation. Revelation is the Word of God, transmitted in Scripture and Tradition to and through the Church as the community of believers.
  2. Theology is faith seeking understanding of God’s revelation, which clarifies the nature and destiny of the world and of human beings from the perspective of God’s love. God reveals truths that are beyond the grasp of unaided reason but provide a comprehensive and fulfilling framework for understanding the world. This character is what is intended in naming these truths “mysteries” that are received in faith. Yet theology does not use reason to eliminate mystery. Rather, it uses reason to appreciate the meaning and significance of revealed mystery for all dimensions of human life, both individual and social.
  3. Theology mediates between faith and culture, examining changing cultural questions in light of the dynamism of faith itself. Human understandings of the mysteries of faith grow as theology examines changing cultural questions and changes in our knowledge of the world, and as it seeks to understand expressions of the faith embodied in different cultural settings.

Learning Goals

The overarching goals of the theology courses are, therefore:

  1. Students will be able to describe, appreciate, and engage in theology as a distinctive mode of inquiry, one that seeks to understand revealed mystery, using reason not to eliminate revealed mystery but to comprehend it, appreciate it, and work out its consequences for our understanding of ourselves and our world.
  2. Students will develop the capacity to articulate the distinctiveness of categories such as “creation,” “sin,” “redemption,” “revelation,” “incarnation,” and “grace,” in terms of which this inquiry is conducted, and learn to use them in their relation to other categories (proper to other disciplines) through which we attempt to understand God, our humanity, and the world.

First Course: Foundational

The first course in theology is foundational. Each course which fulfills this requirement will meet the following learning goal: Students will become familiar with the foundation of the mode of inquiry represented by theology. Courses that fulfill the foundation requirement focus on what Vatican II states to be the “permanent foundation” of theology: “the written Word of God taken together with sacred tradition,” i.e. Scripture and Tradition. The course fulfills its goal by guiding students toward the following objectives:

  1. Students will be able to define and explain what Scripture, Tradition, and revelation are. They will also be able to recognize and appreciate ways in which Scripture and Tradition interrelate in the transmission of revelation, as well as the categories and methods by which theology seeks to understand this transmission. This will include being able to identify and appraise the culturally and historically conditioned modes in which both Scripture and Tradition transmit divine revelation, as well to appreciate how this transmission occurs in and through this very mediation.
  2. Achieving the first objective requires working toward a second: Students will be able to explain and interpret a significant cross-section of major elements of the content of Scripture and Tradition. This could be done in one of three ways: (a) a survey of Scripture and of its interpretation and reception in the Tradition of the Church, especially the period of the first four ecumenical councils (First Nicaea in 325; First Constantinople in 381; First Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451); (b) an investigation of the person and significance of Jesus Christ that is both scripturally grounded and examines the reception and development of the Scriptural witness in the ongoing Tradition; (c) an introduction to the Catholic faith as a coherent whole arising from Scripture and Tradition as received by the Church.

Second Course: Doctrine in Development and Dialogue

Each course that fulfills this requirement will meet the following learning goal: Students will understand and appreciate how theology, as reflection on a living Tradition, is at once and inseparably both doctrinal and dialogical.

In addition, each course that fulfills this requirement will meet one of the following two learning objectives:

  1. Students will acquire in-depth knowledge of at least one historically significant, characteristic doctrine of the Christian faith and develop a heightened appreciation for the way doctrine develops as questions and insights from culture prompt a search for “understanding.” In other words, students will demonstrate both knowledge of the core teaching on the doctrine and the ways in which articulation and understanding of the doctrine have developed in the give and take from questions that arise as culture and history change. Courses that fulfill the requirement under this rubric will focus on the dynamic of continuity and discontinuity in the articulation of doctrine even as they teach the content of the doctrine. In the process, students will learn, at a level of greater depth, to think in theological categories and to appreciate how these categories are distinctively theological. Examples: Theology of God, Theology of Grace, Fundamental Theology, Sin and Redemption, Theology of Creation, Liturgy and Sacraments, Catholic Social Teaching, Mary in Catholic Theology, Theology of Ecumenism, Preferential Option for the Poor.
  2. Students will acquire in-depth knowledge on an issue or perspective in which theology engages the doctrines of the faith in dialogue. Courses that fulfill the requirement under this rubric include, for example, theology and science, theology and evolution, comparative theology, theology and literature, theology in dialogue with another religion, theology of inculturation, theology encountering atheism. In the process, students will learn, at a level of greater depth, to think in theological categories and to appreciate how these categories are distinctively theological, promoting a “seeking for understanding” that respects and engages the Christian faith as well as the questions people actually bring to that faith as it is lived in engagement with the world.