Austin Woodbury’s Introduction to Sacred Theology provides us with a typical neo-Scholastic presentation of the nature and method of sacred theology.
Chapter One begins with a consideration of the nature of sacred theology in itself. It first outlines sacred theology’s nominal definition (‘Science of God’) before looking at its real definition (‘Science of God under the reason of deity proceeding under the light of virtual revelation’). According to Woodbury, once divine revelation is admitted, sacred theology is the science which deals with all that can be logically deduced from this revelation. It principally deals with God under his proper character of, ‘deity,’ and secondarily with created realities as they relate to the ‘deity.’ Woodbury also investigates sacred theology’s relationship to faith, God’s own self-knowledge, and the gift of wisdom. He considers its relation to the natural sciences and how it employs the inductive and deductive scientific methods. Woodbury concludes this chapter by providing the appropriate order in which the theological sciences should be studied.
Chapter Two offers a beautiful elucidation of sacred theology’s history, as delineated into three theological periods: the patristic, the medieval, and the modern. Corresponding to these Woodbury identifies ‘Three Times of Splendor,’ arising from three important ecumenical Councils. After this he provides an extensive record of key Church Fathers, theologians and ecumenical Councils which influenced these periods, before outlining each period’s principal heresies.
Chapter Three concludes the text, offering a brief exposition of what the neo-Scholastics knew as, ‘Theological Notes.’ These are important for the modern student of theology since such identifiable certainties are not as readily forthcoming in more modern theological treatments.
Introduction to Sacred Theology is a truly beautiful text, offering precise foundations for theological study within the context of twentieth century neo-Scholasticism.
Who was Father Austin Maloney Woodbury?
Father Austin Maloney Woodbury S.M. (1899-1979) was a Marist priest and an Australian Thomistic philosopher and theologian, who in the 1920s received doctorates in both Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in the City (the Angelicum) in Rome under the renowned Dominican theologian Father Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P. (1877-1964). Woodbury founded Sydney’s Aquinas Academy in 1945, a school of Philosophy and Theology aimed at educating lay people in the rich intellectual tradition of Christianity. He headed the Academy until 1975, teaching a strictly scholastic Philosophy and Theology based on the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). In his own lifetime Woodbury was distinguished by some of his scholarly contemporaries as having penned “one of the greatest courses in philosophy ever written in the English language.”