The Theology of Me


“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

G.K. Chesterton

When something just doesn’t seem right, you tend to remember the time, place and surroundings of when that event occurred. Everything becomes predicated on that one moment that set the pace for the rest of the day or week. Whether it’s something someone said or an action performed by someone the human condition can be quite unpredictable at times.

One of the greatest fallacies taught by the human condition is that everything is dependent upon man. When I pose this thought every time I teach the obvious response I get from the audience is “no.” However, there are some who would argue that if we don’t use our God-given abilities then we’re wasting our human faculties. There is truth to this point but we cannot forget that in order to utilize these gifts we are asked to respond to God’s call, this is turn is called the gift of grace.

Grace is a participation in the life of God. The Catechism (1997) tells us that without grace our relationship with God would lack an intimate union. Taking these points a little further, God provides us with an opportunity to respond to His grace so that we can participate in his plan for our salvation. God’s proposition makes perfect sense when we freely and knowingly open ourselves to receive His grace. And yet, this seemingly easy path to holiness often times is rejected.

The book of Titus says that we should: show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us (2:7-8).

What is the Theology of Me?

Titus reminds us of the need to exercise a charitable character rooted in love and faithful to the mission of the Church. This should be the mindset of anyone involved in the Apostolic work of the Church to witness and teach the Catholic faith. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Many of us have experienced the catechetical practices of teachers that tend to profess a personal theology rather than the Deposit of Faith.

A brief analogy to this would be an aeronautical engineering constructing an airplane based purely on his-own experience. Upon completion of the airplane, he turns to you and says, “Alright, let’s take it for a test flight.” Would you join him on the test flight? The answer is probably not due to the fact that he relied purely on his own experience of building planes and did not use an established blueprint.

In essence the example just described represents the methodologies used to teach the Catholic faith e.g. the “Theology of Me.” Overnight this particular methodology became the preferred model of teaching the Catholic faith in the late sixties holding form for the next couple of decades until the publication of the Catechism Catholic Church (1992) and a renewal in Catholic apologetics prior to that in the early to mid-eighties.

The reality of this methodology placed more emphasis on the teachers experience skewed or not over what had been transmitted by the Church for over two-thousand years. This approach inevitably led to a catechesis by personal experience versus the Creed of the Church.  Instruction was not built on grace, instead it was built on the personal disposition of the teacher whether he agreed with the Catholic Church or not.

The Catechism reminds that:

“The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men to share in his own divine life,” to which he calls all men in his Son. “The Father… determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ.” This “family of God” is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. In fact, “already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvelous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Alliance. Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time (CCC 759).

What are the Characteristics of the Theology of Me Person?

There are certain characteristics that I have come across in over seventeen years of teaching. These characteristics are neither exhaustive, nor definitive as I’m sure we come up with many more. In general, the most common characteristics I’ve experienced are as follows:

They tend to talk about themselves more than what the Church teaches.

Their outlook is neither black, white nor grey instead it’s a multi-colored view where everyone can choose what to believe as they deem fit.

They tend to balk at anything that comes from the Vatican as “not applicable to the societal trends of the day.” 

Their motto tends to be: “I believe the Church needs to. . .” 

 “Doctrine” and “Dogma” are viewed as harsh words and are replaced with “acceptance,” and “freedom.”

You would hardly see the use of Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in their lesson as these resources “inhibit academic freedom.”

Another motto is: “You don’t have to believe in everything the Church teaches to be a faithful Catholic.”

As I said earlier there are many characteristics we can come up with but this is a fair start. Even though the Church has made great strides in clearing up the catechetical mess we have had to live with for the last forty plus years, the characteristics I mentioned are still happening to this day albeit more infrequently than say fifteen years ago. Nonetheless, it’s no wonder we’ve seen a generation brought up with no sense of a Catholic world view which includes a proper understanding the Rule of Faith, the sacramental life, the moral life or prayer.

You can attribute the curious rise of Atheism, Gnosticism, and Narcissism to the “Theology of Me” approach. It never set a firm foundation on who we are or what to believe. The Theology of Me in many ways was a result of looking at the Christian ideal and finding it too hard to follow as alluded to by Chesterton. How do we correct the “Theology of Me” syndrome, by teaching the fundamental of the faith or as the Catechism states: “teach the motives of credibility.”

Copyright 2014 Marlon De La Torre


About Author

Marlon currently serves as the Director of Catechist Formation and Children’s Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. He is an adjunct professor of Catechetics for Holy Trinity Seminary serving the Diocese of Dallas and Fort Worth and an adjunct professor of Catechetics for The Catholic Distance University. His published works include Screwtape Teaches the Faith. Learn more about Marlon's work at his blog Knowing Is Doing.

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