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Back to the Future

In the period leading up to Vatican II, a vigorous effort of fundamental reflection and education deepened and developed the understanding of faith in the modern world. The existential Thomism of Maritain and Gilson, Gabriel Marcel’s Christian Socratism, Dietrich von Hildebrand’s realist phenomenology, Karol Wojtyla’s phenomenological personalism, Albert Dondeyne’s existential phenomenology, Blondel’s dialectic of action, the revival of forgotten patristic themes by the ressourcement theologians, Karl Rahner’s engagement with Heidegger and German Idealism, Hans Urs von Balthasar’s opening to the whole of European culture—these are only some of the more influential initiatives, which reach back to such men as Newman in the previous century, and forward to some of the most promising initiatives today. Our experience of teaching seminarians suggests that such legitimate developments of classical theology are presupposed but not studied (above all philosophically) in their courses of dogmatic theology. An adequate map of sacred studies should endeavour to articulate and coordinate this very significant terrain.

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Our ‘Map Year’ is not in competition with the standard programs of philosophical and theological studies; it certainly does not merely reproduce them. It is a catalyst for disclosing an underlying coherence too often obscured, providing a vantage point from which the whole terrain of theology can better be surveyed.