160 Chapter 13
WHY IT WAS WORTHWHILE
To some extent, then, academics, scientists, and intellectuals rightly have to pay more attention to each
other than to us in order to do their job, which in part at least is to get the human race beyond what we think
we already 'know.'
On the other hand, no academy, Catholic or otherwise, can make any dehistoricized claim. An argument
that precisely the problem with the Catholic academy is what it 'knows' can not simply be dismissed by
academics. It is not true that if 'normal people' just leave academics alone forever, everything will always
work out fine.
Since Fr. Keefe's argument is both very faithfully Catholic and also very learned and creative, it is likely
that academics who learn his language well enough to apply it to their theological interests will find his
language to be both powerful and fruitful. I have tried to provide a few hints of that potentiality in this text.
Just to hazard a wild guess, it might be a good idea for Catholic theologians to take seriously Fr. Keefe's
call for the reconversion of Catholic theology to the New Covenant. 'Normal people' like you can not do this
work, but you can urge that it be done. Considering the remarkable intellectual and scientific complacency of
the Catholic theological academy in all its current embodiments, it may even be necessary for 'normal people'
like you to urge this, before Catholic theologians find that they are willing to do so.
However, to be willing is different from being able. The challenge Covenantal Theology makes to all
present day Catholic theology is very considerable. To think like a child, but not childishly, is really beyond
the abilities of most of the human race at any particular time. Catholic theologians can be no exception to this
exceedingly well-established observation.
Even more, the task of reconverting Catholic theology to the New Covenant, a task obviously suitable
only for children, if children of all ages, may also be primarily a young man's game as a practical matter.
Taking up new intellectual categories is difficult. Giving up a large measure of one's present intellectual
categories -- be they 'liberation' or the Deus Unus -- in order to take up new ones, at least doubles the work
needed. If those categories have become cherished by years of personal and institutional use, then it's all the
To be young, smart, optimistic, even a little brash, and relatively uncommitted, can have its advantages --
if what the grown-ups 'know' is incorrect, and if a better alternative is at hand. Physics found this out at the
turn of the twentieth century. I'm hoping that Catholic theology will also find this out at the turn of the
The example from physics is not a bad one. Einstein did not 'defeat' Newton. Newton's law of gravitation
is still studied by every physics student. What has happened is, in part, that what was studied by Newton, and
the circumstances under which and by which it applies, are now better defined and understood.
Furthermore, subtextual notions of 'dominance,' 'defeat,' and 'revolution' with regards to scientific
developments -- often entertained -- miss the main point: it's not about who wins. If a physicist works his
lifetime to understand three things that are all superseded by better theories five minutes after he retires, he
was still a physicist. Only recourse to a non-existent time-less 'totality' will ever show otherwise. Thus, it is
horrifying for Augustine or Aquinas to be deeply wrong, only if the object of the 'game' is not genuinely
historical "searching" in spirit and truth, but being the first to write the time-less Catholic Theory of
Further, as Fr. Keefe insists, the two main streams of Catholic theology, Augustinianism and Thomism,
are not going up against the wall, come the 'revolution.' They are and will remain Catholic theology's two
streams. There is no "covenantal" theology. The two streams of Catholic theology are Augustinianism and
N.B. This is an html-ized copy of a page from the pdf file, The Knucklehead's Guide to Covenantal Theology.