Utrum exsistat methodus theologiae, etc.
Archival Number: A542
Author: Lonergan, B.
6 handwritten schematic pp. Dated Feb. 8 1963. Beginning of spring 1963 course De Methodo Theologiae.
Database and descriptions Copyright (C) 2017 by Robert M. Doran. Transcription (summary) below (C) 2010 by Robert M. Doran.
The course began on 8 February with a discussion of the question, Does there exist a method of theology? It would seem perhaps that there does not, since theology is not one science but a combination or mixture of sciences, and so there cannot be one method but there must be a combination or mixture of methods. This is a new starting point for his reflections on method, one that seems to pick up on the issues treated under the heading ‘problematica altera’ in the course of the same name in the previous spring. Theology today is a combination of literary-historical studies of the scriptures, the councils, papal documents, the Fathers, the medieval, modern, and contemporary theologians, the liturgy, Christian art, the sociology of religion, philosophical, psychological, phenomenological, and social studies. Again, according to some there is the faith which believes, and there are the mixed conclusions that take premises from faith and premises from reason to yield theological conclusions, where the first premise is from faith, and the second from literary-historical studies. Reference is made to Albert Descamps, Sacra Pagina, vol. 1, Paris: Gembloux, 1959, pp. 132-57, frequently referenced by Lonergan ever it first emerged in his notes little over a year previously; Descamps influenced Lonergan on literary-historical methods of scripture studies. Thus, it would seem, the method of theology is learned principally by learning the method of literary-historical, philosophical, phenomenological, social, etc., studies, and by adding what pertains to faith.
But, Lonergan responds, there is another conception of theology that is possible and even probable. Everything depends on the conception one has of theology and of its principle. If things are learned by enumerating authors and by taking one’s bearings on the basis of literary-historical studies, prescinding from the pre-predicative, pre-conceptual, pre-judicial realm, then one’s principle is not real, that is, it is not the subject operating in such and such a manner; rather it is logical (the premises) or the given (the theological loci, fonts); and since there are many premises, loci, fonts, so also both theology and theology’s method is a mixture; there does not exist one relatively autonomous science and method. On the other hand, another conception of theology is not only possible but probable, and in accord with it there would exist a proper method for theology. According to db 1795 (ds 3015) the principle is distinct from the object, which includes everything that is known by reason and everything that is believed by faith; the principle is something real, where ‘reason’ means the subject endowed with the light of reason, and ‘faith’ means the same subject endowed also with the light of faith; and according to db 1796 (ds 3016) the principle of theology is a third, compound principle: ratio per fidem illustrata, reason illumined by faith.
Attending to this real principle excludes any extrinsicism regarding objective truth. Truth is not given apart from an affirming mind. There is only one eternal truth, that is, divine truth (Summa theologiae, 1, q. 16, a. 7). Truth is not given apart from the subject pondering the evidence, rationally judging, reasonably believing. Concepts detached from this principle and floating as it were in the air are either Platonic Ideas or something derived from things without the mediation of intelligence. For every stage in the progress of understanding there are concepts that express understanding, and so there is a history of concepts of the same thing, and there is an understanding of this history and a crisis of this history. (The three steps of lived history, understood history, and a crisis of the history and of the understanding are key notions in this course.) There arise real problems to be solved by us, and they will not be solved simply by pointing out and blaming the errors of our adversaries.
Theology is threefold: natural theology, the theology of us who are on the way, and the theology of our eternal homeland. Again, there is theology as a particular science and theology as wisdom. The object of theology as a particular science is God and everything that is ordered to God. The principle of such theology is the natural light of reason strengthened by the light of faith or by the light of glory. As for mediation, there is the mediation of creatures in natural theology, that of Christ and the church in the theology of us who are on the way, and the immediacy of the theologia patriae. Theology as wisdom is not treated at this point.
As for the principle and proper object of theology, the proper principle is reason illumined by faith. Again, by ‘reason’ is meant the fundamental natural tendency or dynamism that intends being, everything about everything. The light of faith extends the range of this natural principle. Under ‘proper object’ Lonergan lists three things. (1) There is intelligentia mysteriorum, the understanding of mysteries achieved by one who inquires soberly, reverently, and perseveringly; this understanding is not reached by reason alone, since we are dealing with mysteries; and it is in process, precisely because it is understanding, not judgment. It is an understanding by analogy with what is known naturally; it is not a new mode of understanding through phantasms or a mode proper to the mysteries. It entails the connections of the mysteries with one another and with our ultimate end, but these are not connections that are naturally known. (2) To understand a doctrine is to understand the history of the doctrine. Thus db 2314 [ds 3886] on the most noble task of theology; thus the understanding of the process; there is the dogmatic end, namely, that one oneself understands, and there is the apologetic end, that one helps others to understand. And (3) there is the growth in understanding also spoken of in db 2314 [ds 3886].