The Notion of Faith in the Early Latin Theology of Bernard Lonergan
This dissertation, an exercise in interpretation, is on Bernard Lonergan’s notion of faith as expressed in his early Latin theological writings—especially his scholastic supplement Analysis Fidei (1952). This interpretation consists largely of an analysis of the intellectual horizon in which Lonergan did his earliest thinking on faith; without a grasp of this horizon Lonergan’s early, especially scholastic notion of faith is almost overwhelmingly difficult to understand. The horizon analysis is completed in the first four chapters of the dissertation. Chapter One aims to show that Lonergan’s analysis of faith is rooted in the theological context informed by the decrees of Vatican I (especially Dei Filius) and its focus on the question about the relation of faith to reason, and by the effort especially in Catholic theological circles of the time to mine the works of Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor of the Church, for a deeper understanding of the revealed mysteries. Chapter Two situates Lonergan’s notion of faith in his understanding of a developing world-order; coming to faith is understood as a part of a larger process that, on the one hand, begins with a natural desire to see God (a natural desire to understand everything about everything) and, on the other, terminates in the absolutely supernatural goal of beatific knowledge: knowing God as God. Chapter Three narrows the scope and situates the act and virtue of faith in Lonergan’s rigorously systematic theology of grace that distinguishes clearly between grace as operative and cooperative on the one hand, and actual and habitual on the other. Chapter Four offers a very brief sketch of Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of the notion of faith, from which Lonergan’s own work takes its bearings. After this horizon analysis, Chapter Five offers an exposition of Lonergan’s own treatment of the notion of faith as found in his early Latin theology. The chapter investigates three principal sources, giving most attention to the third: first, the Gratia Operans dissertation (1940) together with the Grace and Freedom articles (1941–42); second, De Ente Supernatural (1946); and third, Analysis Fidei (1952). The chapter claims that Lonergan’s early presentation of faith breaks new ground by bringing into view, alongside a logical analysis of the act of faith, the psychological dimension of the conscious process of coming to believe revealed mysteries. Finally, a brief concluding chapter looks ahead to Lonergan’s later understanding of faith in Method in Theology (1972) in order to indicate some of the challenges that would need to be met in a full-scale treatment of the development of Lonergan’s notion of faith throughout his entire intellectual career—a project for which this dissertation can serve as a perhaps helpful prolegomena.