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Introduction to Sacred Theology

Fr. Jeffrey Kirby
Purchase for $450

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Course Description: In the Catholic intellectual tradition, sacred theology pursued as an academic discipline involves “faith seeking understanding”. To acquire this understanding, one must prayerfully immerse himself or herself in what Augustine calls the scientia fidei, “the science of faith”. As an introduction to this discipline, this course provides an overview of both the contemplative and practical areas of theological inquiry. Students will obtain familiarity with all of the special fields of theology and how they integrate together into a unified whole. Students will also obtain a preliminary understanding of the basic notions and vocabulary employed in theology, the general history of the development of Catholic theology, and the distinctive characteristics of particular schools of thought and individual theologians. (1.5 credit hours)




(1) Become familiar with (a) the nature and scope of Catholic sacred theology, (b) the fundamental doctrines and resources of the Church associated with the science of sacred theology, and (c) the specific task of sacred theology. 


(2) Ability to discuss the course content by writing periodical essays on related topics.




(1) The student’s knowledge of the course content is assessed by means of reading quizzes, exams, and especially the cumulative standardized final exam.


(2) The student’s ability to discuss and write about theological topics is assessed by means of four short papers assigned in the course.




1. Overall grades. Typically, final grades will not be posted in order to respect student privacy. The final course grade is obtained from periodic quizzes, two exams, four short papers, a final exam, and student participation. The course grade cannot be changed after it is submitted at the end of the semester.



2. Paper grades: This course involves completion of four short papers (1-2 pgs. each). More information regarding the paper assignments will be given in class. It is expected that student papers will be original. Please review the institutional policy on plagiarism and academic honesty. A copy of the student’s paper should be submitted on or before the assigned due date. Papers are ordinarily returned for the student to keep within two weeks of submission. 


3. Extra credit. Extra credit assignments will be given only at the instructor’s discretion. No extra credit will be given once the academic term is over.


4. Incompletes. If a student desires an “incomplete” for the course, he or she must request the incomplete prior to the last day of class with no exceptions. Incompletes are given only for extenuating circumstances and all work must be completed by the agreed upon date of completion (see the Catalog for more details regarding the standard resolution dates for incomplete coursework). After this date, the student’s grade will not be changed.


5. The course grade will be determined as follows:


Weekly Reading Quizzes (10 x 15 pts.) 150 points 

Exam 1 150 points

Exam 2 150 points

Paper 1 50   points

Paper 2 50   points

Paper 3 50   points

Paper 4 50   points

Cumulative Final Exam 250 points

Participation (Attendance & Preparedness) 100 points


(Total 1000 points)


A 1000-940 B- 839-800 D+ 699-670

A- 939-900 C+ 799-770 D 669-640

B+ 899-870 C 769-740 D- 639-600

B 869-840 C- 739-700 F Below 600




(1) The Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997. 

(2) Dei Verbum, Second Vatican Council. 1965.

(3) The Shape of Catholic Theology. Aidan Nichols. Liturgical Press, 1991.





  1. Class attendance and participation grade. Attendance is required for each class. Roll will be taken in each class. If the student is not present when the roll is called, the student will be marked absent. Per institutional policy (see below), students are given two grace absences for a 3 credit course and one grace absence for a 1.5 credit course. After the grace absence(s), without a valid reason for missing class, points will be subtracted from the student’s participation grade for each subsequent class missed. Valid reasons include verifiable medical problem, hospitalization, verifiable athletic commitment, auto accident, jury duty – involuntary reasons for missing class. Students exceeding more than four total absences (more than 2 weeks of class) without a valid reason may be at risk for administrative withdrawal from the class.


  1. Values Commitment and Plagiarism. All students are expected to adhere to the Holy Spirit College Honor Code: I pledge on my honor that I will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor condone others doing so. Plagiarism is a very serious form of academic dishonesty. Students plagiarize when they do not give credit to the sources of their writing – the words, information, ideas, or opinions of others. Holy Spirit College takes plagiarism and all forms of academic dishonesty very seriously. Students of Holy Spirit College are expected to avoid plagiarism of any sort. Students who plagiarize or otherwise cheat are subject to penalties up to and including dismissal from the College.





August 30 Introduction to theology as a science, art form, and source of prayer

Saint Edith Stein and the role of faith in theology

Catechism #144, 153-165, 80-82, 84

Shape of Theology, pp. 13-38


September 6 The definition and living reality of Sacred Tradition

Yves Congar, Sacred Tradition, and the Holy Spirit

Catechism #51-67, #74-79, 83

Shape of Theology, pp. 165-180


September 13 The Canon, Inspiration, and Inerrancy of the Sacred Scriptures

Jean Danielou and the Catholic interpretation of the Scriptures

Catechism #101-108, #120-130

Shape of Theology, pp. 99-140


September 20 The Magisterium and the Deposit of Faith

Henri DeLubac and the nature of the Church

Catechism #85-95

Shape of Theology, pp. 248-262


September 27 Paper Due: Explain the three principal fonts of sacred theology.

The Ecumenical Councils

St. Charles Borromeo, Pope Bl. Pius IX, and the conciliar spirit

Catechism #880-887, 890

Shape of Theology, pp. 200-220


October 4 Vatican II and Resourcement 

Pope St. John XXIII and authentic aggiornamento in the Church

Catechism 65, 109-114, 820-822


October 11 Review of Dei Verbum

Avery Dulles and the Importance of Systematics

Read the entirety of Dei Verbum


October 18 Paper Due: Explain the internal outline of Dei Verbum.



October 25 The Catechetical tradition

Pope St. John Paul II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Read the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (in front of the Catechism of

the Catholic Church


November 1 Paper Due: Explain the difference between theology and catechetics.

The Ascetical tradition

Hans Urs von Balthasar, mysticism, and private revelation

Catechism ##2559-2565, #2725-2745


November 8 The Liturgical tradition

Romano Guardini, Joseph Ratzinger, and the spirit of the liturgy

Catechism #1066-1068, 1071, 1077-1109

Shape of Theology, pp. 181-199


November 15 The Pious tradition

Sts. Maximilian Kolbe, Faustina, and Pio and their witness to theology

Catechism #66-67, 1667-1676


November 16 Paper Due: Explain the relationship between the pious tradition and theology.

The Moral tradition

Servais Pinckaers and Veritatis Splendor

Catechism #1691-1696, 1701-1709, 1716-1724


November 22 EXAM


November 29 The vocation and craft of the theologian

The Example of Luis Ladaria, Martin Rhonheimer, and Raniero


Catechism # 904-907, 2471-2472, 2500-2503

Shape of Theology, pp. 221-234, 349-355


December 6 FINAL EXAM


Here is the class outline:

1. Meet Fr. Kirby & Syllabus & Lesson 1

Meet Fr. Kirby & Syllabus

2. Lesson 2

Video for Lesson 2

3. Lesson 3

Lesson 3

4. Lesson 4

Lesson 4 Video

5. Lecture 5

Lecture 5:

6. Lecture 6

Lecture 6 Video

7. Lecture 7

Lecture 7 Video

8. Lecture 8

9. Lecture 9

10. Lecture 10

11. Lesson 11

12. Lesson 12

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