Philosophy as Faith Seeking Understanding: An Interpretation of Bernard Lonergan's 1972 Lectures on Philosophy of God and Systematic Theology
This dissertation seeks to answer the question, arising from Bernard Lonergan's 1972 lectures on philosophy of God and systematic theology, of why he thinks philosophy of God, or natural theology, should be included within the functional specialty Systematics. The author argues that a key to the answer is an analysis of the concrete operations performed by philosophers as they pursue the question of God. Relevant to the distinction between and unity of philosophy of God and Systematics are both natural knowledge of God, which consists of affirmations and negations that can be immanently generated, and supernatural knowledge, which consists of affirmations and negations that cannot be immanently generated and thus require belief in divine revelation in order to be made by humans in this life. There is a way in which Systematics presupposes truths unknowable without revelation that the natural knowledge of philosophy does not, since Systematics includes hypotheses that attempt to account for how those truths could be so, doing so in a way that goes beyond what natural knowledge alone provides. However, even if philosophy results in natural knowledge, when the philosopher is Christian, it often performatively presupposes supernatural knowledge of revelation inasmuch as its inquiry into the question of God often in fact is preceded by and originates from the philosopher's horizon of Christian faith, which is partially constituted by affirmations of truths unknowable without revelation. Performatively, Christian philosophers often seek to understand the Christian God in whom they already believe. This explains Lonergan's practical recommendation to transfer philosophy of God to the theology department, as well as his comment in the essay "Dimensions of Meaning" that once philosophy becomes "existential and historical...the very possibility of the old distinction between philosophy and theology vanishes." Sublated by Systematics, philosophy of God is the aspect of faith seeking understanding that results in analogical understanding and affirmation of God as an unrestricted act of understanding, affirming, and loving. This knowledge provides an explanatory (though analogical) understanding of the God in whom Christians believe through faith. It is even included in theological hypotheses, such as Lonergan's possibly relevant explanation of the Trinity, which takes its starting point from the psychological analogy in which the one unrestricted act of understanding gives rise to a judgment of value and decision. Philosophy also contributes to the control of meaning in systematic theology by ruling out explanations of revelation that are incompatible with natural knowledge. Incorporating philosophy of God into the functional specialty Systematics such that philosophy of God attains "its proper significance" and "effectiveness," the theologian can answer the question of God in a more complete way than is possible through philosophy alone. The dissertation begins in Chapter 1 by giving an account of the distinction between natural and supernatural knowledge of God--as well as the more basic distinction between nature and supernature--in a way that attempts to be adequate to the "the third stage of meaning," in which metaphysical distinctions must have a basis in self-knowledge and self-appropriation. Chapter 2 then explains Lonergan's approach to philosophy of God as that which results in natural knowledge, as in chapter 19 of Insight. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the functional specialty Systematics, which pursues understanding of truths affirmed in the light of faith, including truths unknowable without revelation. Chapter 4 discusses why philosophy of God, when considered in terms of its concrete performance by the Christian philosopher, often is preceded by and emerges from a horizon of faith (and belief) and so is an exercise in faith seeking understanding, with its natural knowledge contributing to Systematics' task of explaining the conditions for the possibility of truths unknowable without revelation. The Conclusion raises and begins to answer further pertinent questions, such as whether Lonergan's understanding of philosophy of God as Systematics holds for non-Christian philosophers.