Si th. habeat proprium methodum
Archival Number: A543
Author: Lonergan, B.
4 handwritten schematic pp. Dated Feb 12 (1963), part of spring 1963 course De Methodo Theologiae. Basic questions on method in theology
Database and descriptions © Copyright 2017 by Robert M. Doran
What follows is not an exact transcription (though close) and is subject to correction -- RD
February 12: 54300D0L060
If theology has its own proper method, then it is not just a mixture of other sciences. But this entails withdrawing from extrinsicism with regard to truth and concepts and to the pre-conceptual, pre-judicial, pre-predicative, that is, to understanding. Then it will have its own principle, which is not reason and not faith, but reason illumined by faith. And it will have its own object, namely, the mysteries as to be understood (and understood not just with a catechetical understanding). This is a function of reason inquiring soberly, reverently, perseveringly. But the understanding achieved will be thematic. The understanding to which we appeal is known by experience, as are hearing and seeing. ‘Thematically’ here means (a) systematically, as in Insight, (b) historically, as in Verbum, and (c) as systematic application, as in Divinarum personarum, and (d) with an application to the evolution of dogma, as in De Deo Trino [i.e., the 1961 ‘Pars analytica,’ which is what BL is referring to here].
This understanding grows in two ways. db 1796 refers to systematic understanding by analogy and by the connections of the mysteries with one another. db 1800 speaks of understanding, knowledge, wisdom growing with regard to the doctrine of the faith, in individuals and in everyone, in the whole church, and by stages over the ages. But also it is to be kept in mind that to understand a doctrine and to understand the history of a doctrine are reciprocally related. Where the process is understood, one can proceed from any given age or situation to any other.
Again, the proper principle and object of theology: the proper principle is reason illumined by faith. Reason is the subject as inquiring (‘What is it?) and reflecting (Is it? Is it so?). It is the subject as oriented to being (everything about everything), the one, true, good. Faith corresponds to ‘we believe everything revealed by God to be true,’ whether this be that which could have been naturally known or that which could not be known by us had it not been divinely revealed. Faith is not a new faculty or potency, but a determination within the intellect regarding an object in being. Reason illumined by faith is not partly reason separated off and partly faith separated off but a new and composite principle.
The proper object is, first, an understanding of the mysteries, which is attained insofar as reason illumined by faith inquires soberly, reverently, perseveringly. This understanding differs from the understanding constitutive of faith itself and from catechetical understanding. As such an understanding it is distinct from faith, and as an understanding of mysteries it is distinct from reason. Faith adds to natural reason truths whose ‘exquisite’ understanding theology as a particular science adds to what is naturally known, and whose order with other truths theology adds as wisdom. This understanding does not occur through new, infused species but by analogy with what is naturally known. It is not through species proportionate to the object of faith. Thus it is said to be ‘obscure.’ But this obscurity does not remove or do away with understanding. Inverse insight [is involved here].
Second under ‘proper object’ is the statement that understanding a doctrine and understanding the history of the doctrine are mutually dependent sets of operations that illuminate one another. Thus db 1800: understanding, knowledge, and wisdom grow in the course of the ages; and db 2314 regarding the most noble task of the theologian. Whoever does not understand mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc., cannot write a history of these disciplines or discover the principles or connections. And whoever does not understand the history of a doctrine cannot exactly grasp what needs to be developed, what is already complete, or a connection of the elements. Thus we are speaking of an understanding of the process itself with its many internal intelligible connections which can be ordered in several ways: in accord with what is first dogmatically, or what is first apologetically, or first in terms of the knowledge that is to be further developed and perfected, or first in regard to a controversy, or first in regard to preaching.
[Theological mediation can be considered materially or formally. Mediatio materialiter is contained in this set of notes, and mediatio formaliter in the next (54400D0L060).]
In mediation considered materially the principle (reason illumined by faith) is applied, and through it theology proceeds to the object. The medium considered materially is twofold: (A) first, Christ and the Church, the body of Christ, which provide the object to be understood; and second (B) the revealed, preached, handed down, and declared word of God, which supplies the logical premises.
(1) Aincludes (B), since what Christ and the Church are cannot be known without the word, and what the word of God is cannot be known without Christ and the church – and not only without the word about the Church, but without the very sign itself lifted up among the nations, and not only without the word about Christ, but without the historical, crucified, and risen Christ himself.
(2) Again, (A) adds a social, cultural, and historical context or surrounding (ambiens) to which theology necessarily turns in order to understand the word. Language, literature, and doctrine are not subsistent realities. They do not exist except within a community or society. They are not understood unless one takes on the mentality of the community. And modern linguistic studies are concerned not with written words but with living speech.
(3) A also adds other sources, other determinants
(a) such as dogmatic facts; the sensible aspect of Christ crucified, of the Word become flesh; an artistic aspect; a personal, intersubjective, symbolic aspect.
(b) and an ordering in the social, as the theologian is subject to the magisterium, to the legal requirements of ‘ne doceat.’
(4) A opens the way to full mediation, the full function of theology as a wisdom that proceeds logically in accord with understanding. As the word is included in the Church, so the Church is included in the world; there is a dialectic between the Church and the world. And theology is one science among many, and must take its place in relation to sociological, historical, psychological, etc., studies.