Some centuries ago, someone (a politician, I suppose) disconnected theology from the rest of the academy, hustled it down a dark hallway, and locked it in a basement office with stern warnings to “Stay put” and “Behave.”

Theologians, by and large a meek race, complied. They have spent their time holding long seminars and filling shelves of books with monographs on details of Scripture, on historical studies, on the arcana of systematic theology—many of them of great erudition and enduring value for the church. In exchange for the freedom to pursue minutiae, theologians agreed not to issue authoritative “Thus saith the Lord”s about liberal politics, serial music, Cubism, relativity, or epistemology. Few cared to make such pronouncements anyway.

“Theology and . . .” still pays homage to the strictures of modernity. Time was when “sacred doctrine” encompassed everything. Augustine wrote in the interrogative mood and for him every question about everything was a theological question, a prayer directed back to the Creator of all. Thomas was the greatest philosopher, as well as the greatest theologian, of his time, and he and Augustine are both among the great political theorists of the West. Thomas understood that all other sciences are ancillae, handmaids, to the science of God, and so all other disciplines are internal to theology. But Thomas didn’t think he was doing “theology and . . .” Like Augustine, he was just doing theology, studying and teaching and shedding the light of sacred Scripture on everything around him.

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