The Method of Theology 3:2
Sku: 30600A0E060
Archival Number: CD/mp3 306
Author: Lonergan, B.
Language(s): English,
Decade: 1960

CD/mp3 306, second part of third lecture in the 1962 Institute 'The Method of Theology.' Sponsored by Rev. Conrad Dietz. Lonergan is discussing the major theological problems at the present time. He has introduced the issue by recalling the Aristotelian-Augustian conflict over the locus of a basic theological conception, and indicated that eventually, through Thomas, the Aristotelian view prevailed. Moreover, there is in Aristotle a certain integration of theory and common sense, and of the interior and the exterior. But the limitations come to light when one considers the notion of science presented in the Posterior Analytics. Aristotelian science is certain, concerned with the unchangeable, the unmovable, the per se, the necessary, and the universal, whereas modern science is not certain, never claims to be more than probable, and is not knowledge of the unchangeable. And because modern science deals with the per accidens, with change, with empirical intelligibility, it has an understanding of the particular. The modern notion of science also affects the human sciences. What is studied is human beings as they actually are, and that means that they are involved in a theological context: with original sin, with a need of grace, with the gift of grace and its acceptance or rejection. The human sciences are concerned with the people who have been, who are, who will be. They are concerned not with the ideal family, the ideal society, the ideal morality, the ideal education, but the family, the society, the morality, the education that de facto exist. Such human science does not fit into the medieval synthesis in its general outline. It sets up a new problem of integration. That problem can be expressed in terms of historical consciousness. The shift has from substance to subject, from an ideal order to what de facto is, and from ideal meanings to the actual meanings that people intend. The movement to historical consciousness has not yet really happened in the Catholic context, except to a limited extent. Tradition ceases to be the norm as people become aware that men and women in the past created their societies, their families, their economies, and their states, and that we can do the same, do it better, profit from their experience, and eliminate the old mistakes. This first aspect of historical consciousness is joined to a number of others. The sources of theology, the scriptures, the writings of the Fathers, of the medieval theologians, of the orthodox and the heretics, have been studied in accord with historical-critical methods. The scriptures have been taken out of the context of interpretation provided by dogmatic development and placed within the context of the history of religions and studied just as any other historical document is studied. Theological doctrine itself has been invaded by historical consciousness. For instance, consider the notion of the person. A classicist theology could simply lay down the definition of what a person is and proceed from there. But one who is teaching in a historically-minded milieu has to be ready to explain the evolution of the definition of the person. This is true of every other theological notion and of the study of the text of St Thomas. Finally, there are new developments (phenomenology, existentialism, personalism) that at least to a certain extent tend to foster an eclipse of theory. They unite the world of common sense and the world of interiority, including the world of religion, but downplay the theoretical component. And that means also the eclipse of dogma, which has a certain theoretical element. The difficulties involved in accepting the advances of these developments while avoiding the eclipse of theory are discussed.

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Audio restoration by Greg Lauzon


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