Objective_and_Subjective_Elements_of_Fai.pdf - THE SAINT...

This preview shows page 1 out of 186 pages.

Unformatted text preview: THE SAINT PAUL SEMINARY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS Objective and Subjective Elements of Faith in John Henry Newman and Joseph Ratzinger A THESIS Submitted to the Faculty of the School of Divinity Of the University of St. Thomas In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree Master of Arts in Theology © Copyright All Rights Reserved By Bryce A. Evans St. Paul, MN (2017) This thesis by Bryce A. Evans fulfills the thesis requirement for the Master of Arts degree in Theology approved by William B. Stevenson, PhD, as Thesis Adviser, and by David P. Deavel, PhD and by Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, PhD as Readers. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– William B. Stevenson, PhD, Thesis Adviser –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– David P. Deavel, PhD, Reader –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, PhD, Reader ii Table of Contents: Introduction: ................................................................................................................................. 1 Part I: Objectivity and Subjectivity .......................................................................................... 16 A. Faith’s Objectivity.................................................................................................................................. 16 B. The Subjective Aspect ............................................................................................................................ 24 i. The Individuality of the Human Person: Newman’s Personal Liberalism ....................................... 33 ii. Implicit - Explicit .............................................................................................................................. 40 iii. The Imagination ............................................................................................................................... 50 iv. Conscience ........................................................................................................................................ 62 C. Conclusion: the Apologia and Overcoming Modernity from Within ..................................................... 72 Part II: Reading History ............................................................................................................ 80 A. Development and Stability ..................................................................................................................... 80 B. Personalism and the Christian “Idea” ................................................................................................... 100 C. Ratzinger’s Christocentric Imagination................................................................................................ 108 Part III: Important Objections ................................................................................................ 118 Part IV: Communal Subjectivity ............................................................................................. 123 A. The Church as Communal Subject in History...................................................................................... 123 i. Revelation as Dialogue ................................................................................................................... 126 ii. The Role of Tradition ...................................................................................................................... 129 iii. The Communal Subject.................................................................................................................... 136 iv. Authority and Subjectivity............................................................................................................... 141 v. The Hermeneutic of Faith ................................................................................................................ 147 vi. The Redemption of Reason .............................................................................................................. 153 B. History and Truth ................................................................................................................................. 159 Conclusion: ................................................................................................................................ 162 Bibliography: ............................................................................................................................. 173 0 Introduction: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” It is a noteworthy curiosity of modern thought that, however much it may be typified by its famed “turn to the subject,” it has nevertheless been marked at nearly every crucial step by a quest, not for subjectivity, but for objectivity.1 It was for the sake of dispelling the illusions of intellectual caprice so as to focus us resolutely on solid, practical reality that Bacon waived consideration of formal and final causality in favor of the material and the efficient.2 Similarly, it was to clear away the crooked and irregular alleyways3 of scholastic controversy that Descartes took up his “wrecking-ball” of methodological doubt,4 uncovering the self-knowing cogito as the foundation of shared certainty. And it was to overcome Humean skepticism that Kant set upon a new course for knowledge through his thematization of the transcendental subject.5 Yet at each juncture, the result was a recession from, rather than a securing of, the object of the mind’s quest.6 A tragic dimension emerges here. The more the mind sought to grasp, the less it possessed. Bacon, by effectively silencing its deepest questions, helped pave the way for a positivism that could no longer discern being as an object for the mind, but only the “factual” “Objectivity” is loosely defined here as shared knowledge independent of incommunicable individual perspectives. Naturally, the notion undergoes significant alterations through the course of the centuries. Kant, for instance, entertains a quite different understanding than Aquinas would have had in his day. Hence a broad application of the term is necessary here. As the two terms are correlative to one another, the same must go for “subjectivity” as goes for “objectivity”: its application must be similarly broad. Initially we can define it as the incommunicable sphere (or locus) of experience and action. As the paper proceeds, both concepts will attain to greater clarity. 2 See Francis Bacon, Cogitata et Visa. cf. id., The New Organon, Book II, aphorism 9. 3 cf. Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part II. “When one observes their indiscriminate juxtaposition…and the consequent crookedness and irregularity of the streets…I thought that I could not do better than resolve at once to sweep them wholly away.” 4 The expression is Hume’s, but it captures well the Cartesian approach. cf. Descartes, Mediations on the First Philosophy, I: “The removal from below of the foundations necessarily entails the downfall of the whole edifice.” 5 See Immanuel Kant, Introduction to Critique of Pure Reason. 6 This cannot be regarded as purely innocent or accidental. From the outset, the modern project involved a certain subordination of theory to the “relief of man’s estate” (see Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Book I, v, 11), which cannot but also entail a subordination of the intellect to the will that inhibits the pursuit of truth. Nevertheless, this is not the whole story. There is a sincerity in these figures’ quest that needs to be respected. 1 1 phenomena presented to the senses. Descartes, with his “new” foundation of knowledge, set the table for all manner of skepticism, and generated a dualist occasionalism that could no longer bridge the gap between the intellectual and material realms. The same pattern echoes down the centuries. Husserl’s clarion call in his development of phenomenology was “back to the things themselves,”7 but this did not prevent his desire for scientific rigor from eventually forcing him into solipsistic starting point.8 And Heidegger, for all his moments of brilliance in recalling the mind to an attentiveness to being-as-it-unveils-itself, ended by resolving philosophy back into a poetic agnosticism.9 Amid this rather desperate slide, Kant might briefly have appeared as a beacon of hope, and would seem almost to have succeeded in his quest, if only his assertion of the universality of the forms of transcendental understanding could be believed. But this dream was short-lived. With the rise of cultural and historical consciousness in the nineteenth century, it soon dissolved into the mists of Germanic folklore. For “cultural consciousness” amounted to the realization that men of different places and tongues often think in strikingly different ways, ways not easily reducible to so many erroneous deviations from the Prussian ideal. And to this realization, “historical consciousness” provided the diachronic complement. For to be deep in history is, among other things, to see that men of different ages also think in ways far different from men of one’s own: working with different assumptions, asking different questions from different angles, even estimating the value of logic in different ways. The upshot of all this is that the mind, far from 7 Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations, Vol II. i.e., in the development or shift from the more “realist” approach of the Investigations to the phenomenological idealism detailed in Ideas. Husserl’s legacy remains ambiguous: while many positive fruits have emerged when his methodology is paired with other complementary modes of analysis, many of his followers and intellectual descends have only continued along the trajectory towards an ever-more isolated and incommunicable subjectivity. cf. Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2000), 211-27. 9 cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s analysis in The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Vol. V: The Realm of Metaphysics in the Modern Age. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 429-50. 8 2 being a stable bedrock of universal knowledge, is something that moves and varies over time, whose structures cannot be taken for granted from some pure a priori perspective that might claim to provide us with a shared framework. Kant’s bold synthesis thus left us all the more confined in the prisons of our modern minds. Yet again, each bold step forward served only to cement us further in our banishment. Granted, it was no coincidence that Kant’s project was derailed in this way. The schematization of the structures of human subjectivity led naturally to a heightened sensitivity to the variations which the mind might undergo in different times and places. When coupled with a critical methodology that effectively sealed itself off from the “voice of being,” this newfound awareness was left without a hermeneutic by which to discern a unity within the variety.10 Hence, as the “turn to the subject” progressed, the danger of total relativism loomed ever greater.11 The roots of this development predate the nineteenth century, of course, and all of the philosophers mentioned here. The seeds of disintegrating historicism, positivism, and subjectivism can be seen as early as the fourteenth century,12 and acquire a special vigor in the Protestant Reformation. The purpose here has not been not to lay out a strict chronology, but to point out the fruition of these trends in late modernity and the challenge which they presented to the faith in that time. cf. Joseph Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today” in Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: the Ratzinger Conference on Bible and Church. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 15. Commenting on the shortcomings of historical-critical scholarship, he states: “The real philosophic presupposition of the whole system seems to me to lie in the philosophic turning point proposed by Immanuel Kant. According to him, the voice of being-in-itself cannot be heard by human beings. Man can hear it only indirectly in the postulates of practical reason…small openings through which he can make contact with the real…For the rest, as far as the context of his intellectual life is concerned, he must limit himself to the realm of the categories. Thence comes the restriction to the positive, to the empirical, to the ‘exact’ science, which by definition excludes the appearance of what is ‘wholly other.’” 11 The next attempt at unification came with Hegel and his all-embracing theory of history. This project too was bound to fail. Knotted as it is by the often irrational decisions of human freedom, history is far too thorny a reality to squeeze into elegant philosophical schemas. 12 cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, Vol V, 10-21. 10 3 Indeed, it is not difficult to see what a threat such a situation would pose to the life of faith. From its inception, Christianity has been concerned with the bold proclamation of sure and certain truths, truths on which men could stake their lives, and for which they have been willing to die. Yet it was just this sort of thing that modern thought had difficulty embracing. Indeed, it seemed preternaturally indisposed to such claims. No wonder, then, that attempts at a rapprochement between faith and modernity were so often plagued by perils, and that the Church in turn grew so readily suspicious of appeals to subjectivity and historical research. For these appeals, which seemed necessary if faith was to retain its vitality in the modern age, tended toward the devaluation of dogma in favor of a subjective experientialism that inevitably blunted the edge of the Church’s kerygmatic proclamation. On the Protestant stage, this trend was initiated by Schleiermacher and his definition of faith as the “feeling of absolute dependence.”13 In the Catholic world, it was advanced especially by Alfred Loisy, who reduced dogma to the symbolic expression of faith’s experience, and finally relativized its value altogether.14 In response to such distortions, Catholic orthodoxy countered with a firm insistence upon the objectivity and stability of its confession.15 This took the form of a presentation that placed a heavy emphasis on faith’s doctrinal or propositional aspect and left very little room for notions of historical development.16 Again, the correlations here are no coincidence. The need to insist upon 13 See Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith. cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory. Vol III: Dramatis Personae. trans. Graham Harrison. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 60-2. 14 cf. Marvin R. O’Connell, Critics on Trial: An Introduction to the Catholic Modernist Crisis. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1994), 1-9, 178-83, 194-7, 240-51, 312-14. cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible. tans. D.C. Schindler. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 40. 15 Once again, like the malady it sought to address, this response had its roots in earlier controversies, specifically in the anti-Protestant polemics that sought to oppose the Reformation’s assertion of a rupture between scripture and tradition. Nevertheless, it took on new shape and energy in the controversies of the nineteenth century. cf. O’Connell, Critics on Trial, 22-39, 132-54, 333-54. 16 Cardinal Manning provides us with an example of this viewpoint when he described Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus as “the triumph of dogma over history.” See Kenneth L. Parker and C. Michael Shea, “The Roman Catholic Reception of the Essay on Development,” in Receptions of Newman. (Oxford: University Press, 2015), 46. 4 faith’s objectivity led naturally to a focus on its conceptual content, since it is precisely by the abstract concept that the human mind is able to transcend the particularities of its individual experience and arrive at a shared knowledge that measures the mind. Lacking this transcendence, we find ourselves still enmeshed in a subjectivism that is unable to enter into a communal profession. Hence the felt need, in the contest against modernism, for theologians to insist upon the distinct conceptual clarity of faith’s content, and the concomitant tendency to conceive of faith as a list of propositions to be believed on the basis of verified authority.17 This identification of the faith’s object with its propositional content was connected in turn to an insistence upon a more or less absolute continuity of the faith’s articulation throughout history. If the content of faith simply is its propositional articulation, then any serious variation in this articulation would seem to undermine faith’s essence. Thus the only allowable form of “development” within the tradition was that of the occasional deduction drawn from the combination of various previously held propositions.18 Aside from such logical exercises, no other ambiguities were allowed. This naturally left little room for history in theology. Insofar as it was admitted into the field at all, it took the form of the radical “successionist”19 narratives typical of anti-Protestant polemicists like Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, wherein every modern credenda had to be explicitly traceable to the oral tradition of the Apostles.20 But this practice more often resembled proof-texting than it did rigorous historical study. 17 i.e., not an authority dependent on subjective experience but on a combination of preambula fidei and supernatural signs, all of which can be established by apodictic proof. 18 Such were the theories of the Baroque Scholastics: de Lugo, Suarez, Molina, Vazquez, et. al. 19 This term is used by Parker and Shea to refer to an “a-historical vision of the Christian past.” See Receptions of Newman, 32. 20 Bossuet stands as the classic example of this style of quasi-historical argumentation. In his Continuity of Religion, he sets forth the perfect uninterrupted continuity of the Church, in contrast to the deviations of the heretics, as the principal sign of her divine provenance. “What continuity, what tradition, what wonderful concatenation!” JacquesBénigne Bossuet, The Continuity of Religion. (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 1930), 190-1, 201-6. See also Owen Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman. (Cambridge: University Press, 1987). 5 At this point, we can risk a summarizing thesis, drawing together the abovementioned correlations: the more one exclusively emphasizes subjectivity in faith, the more likely one will be to admit fluctuations in its doctrinal articulations; and the more one exclusively emphasizes objectivity in faith, the more likely one will be to deny any such fluctuation.21 If the first of these tendencies finds its extreme instantiation in the modernism that eviscerates the ongoing significance of past dogmatic commitments, we can discern the opposite extreme in some of the reactions against modernism. With the rise of neoscholastic Thomism after the promulgation of Aeterni Patris, the fight against heresy became identified with the construction of an ideal conceptual system, built on the buttresses of a rigorous natural philosophy, whose crystalline clarity and apodictic proofs left little room for appeal to subjective experience. The result was an understanding of faith that can justly be called “ahistorical”: since truth was adequately secured through appeal to dogmatic promulgation and rigorous metaphysical reasoning, historical study became, strictly speaking, superfluous—nice window-dressing perhaps, but not essential to theology.22 This resurgence of Thomism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries played a pivotal role in defending orthodoxy against the modernist incursions of its times. Nevertheless, it did not take long before certain expressions of dissatisfaction began to be voiced from various quarters in the Church regarding this mode of theologizing. The concerns centered on the q...
View Full Document

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture