Leo Elders s.v.d.Summary
Numerous sections of the encyclical Fides et ratio are devoted to a description of the nature and mission of philosophical studies as well as to an appraisal of some main currents in contemporary thought. The question of the collaboration between theology and philosophy occupies several chapters of the text: chapter II deals with the way in which in the Bible reason and faith are associated; chapter IV examines the relationship between faith and reason in the course of history; this part of the encyclical culminates in nrs. 43 and 44 which affirm that in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas a most harmonious synthesis between faith and reason was reached. The chapter concludes deploring the drama of the separation between faith and reason in modern tim. After some pages on the position of the Magisterium of the Church with regard to philosophical systems and theories (chapter V), Chapter VI of the text deals with the interaction and collaboration of philosophy and theology.
In this connection, following in the footsteps of Fides et ratio, I propose some reflections on the bearing of philosophical views on how one conceives the nature and value of the dogmas of the faith and the role of philosophy in defense of their immutability. Let me first briefly recall what is meant by a dogma, even if to many of you this reminder may be totally redundant.
Dogmas as the Church sees them
In the Hellenistic world the term «dogma» had the sense of opinion, decision and ordinance. In Stoic philosophy it acquired the connotation of the doctrine to which one must conform one's moral life(1). St. Paul uses the word to signify religious doctrine(2). In the early Christian centuries "dogmas of Christ" came to be used indiscriminately with "doctrine" or "teachings". In later centuries the term got the meaning of revealed truth as proposed by the Church and distinguished from what is not revealed. The First Vatican Council used it in its definition of papal infallibility(3). So a dogma is that truth which is revealed and as such formally ascertained and defined by the Church: "All those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the written or transmitted Word of God and which are proposed by the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium, to be believed as having been divinely revealed"(4). The content of dogmas depends on divine revelation, but dogmatic propositions as such have been made by the Church. They are the answer of the Church to God's self-communication and show that the Church understood the message of salvation. Dogmas bind the faithful together into a community of believers in the same creed(5). They signify the immutable truth of God's being and his indefectible faithfulness. In this way they become the starting-point for jubilant thanksgiving and praise of God's marvelous love(6).
Revelation itself took place in history and stretches from Abraham until the end of the apostolic period. The understanding of what was revealed also shows a historical dimension The constitution Dei Verbum of Vatican II speaks of a growth in the understanding of what has been handed down to us. "This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (cf. Luke 2, 19. 51), through the intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure charism of truth"(7).
Speaking of the historical dimension of dogmas one may first point to the language used in their formulation. The expressive power of words may sometimes change in the course of time. However, as the encyclical Mysterium fidei of Paul VI says, it is not without the help of Holy Spirit that the Church has established a rule of language and confirmed it with the authority of the councils.
"This rule must be religiously observed and let no one presume to change it at his own pleasure or under the pretext of new science. Who would ever tolerate that the dogmatic formulas used by the ecumenical councils for the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation be judged as no longer appropriate for men of our times... ?... These formulas, like the others which the Church uses to propose the dogmas of faith, express concepts which are not tied to a certain form of human culture, nor to a speicific phase of history, nor to one or other theological school. No, these concepts present that part of reality which necessary and universal exdperience permits the human mind to grasp and to manifest with apt and exact terms, taken from either common or polished language. For this reason, these formulas are adapted to men of all times and all places"(8).
What the Church defines is the sense of the proposition as she understands it, that is the objective intellectual contents signified by the sentence. This sense will often imply an analogous use of the terms, sc. when a dogma defines a supernatural mystery. The sense defined by the Church, always remains the same and remains true for ever, as Vatican I teaches(9). This Council condemned the opinion that dogmas once proposed must with the progress of time be given a meaning other than that which was understood by the Church or which she understands"(10).The terms in which the dogmas are stated, have been chosen with great care and not without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This does not exclude that the dogmas may not always be readily understandable to modern man or to people living in a different culture. They may need to be explained. "It may also happen that in the habitual usage of the Church certain of these formulas gave way to new expressions which, proposed and approved by the Sacred Magisterium, presented more clearly the same meaning"(11). It must also be noted that in the Eastern and Western Church different formulae have been proposed which, without mutual contradiction, express each an aspect of a particular mystery, as, for instance, the mode of procession of the Holy Spirit(12).
The above lines present very briefly the position of the Church with regard to the dogmas of the faith and their use of terms and propositions consecrated by Councils, the Magisterium, Tradition and Christian piety. The Church upholds the immutability of the contents of these propositions. The dogmas unfold the riches of Gods love, preserve the mind from subjectivity and aberrations; they bring us closer to the eschatological fulfilment of our present life, when faith will be turned into vision. Vatican II expresses the wish that the treasure of revelation entrusted to the Church may increasingly fill the hearts of men(13).
However, in recent years this doctrine has been criticized by some theologians. Several difficulties have been raised against it. In order to solve them one has to make use of philosophical considerations.
The desire not to be tied to anything
A first objection appears to be based on the desire of freedom. Certain Christians do not want to be bothered by a set of complicated propositions they cannot understand. Instead of being a group of people who profess the same faith, they want to be a community of people seeking truth, each in his own way. Only what we feel or experience ourselves is authentic. Their battle cry is: «Away with dogmatism".
This objection proceeds from a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian faith, which is not an undertaking like a cultural club where each member can pursue his own way of thinking. The faith is an invitation to something beyond nature and the visible world. When one does not understand this aspect of our Christian vocation,, it is obvious that the dogmas - which summarize what the faith is about - do not make much sense. Quite typical of modern man is the desire not to be tied to anything. In his encyclical Veritatis splendor John-Paul II writes that the desire of freedom of modern man is that of a freedom which has lost its connection with truth, sc. with the ontological order. The desire of autonomy and of disengagement from rules and institutions leads to serious consequences: a certain disorder in organizing one's life and a lack of consistency in one's actions. Instead of reason, instincts become the commanding factor. One's personal life has no longer an overall purpose but obeys the urge to be uninhibited in what one does. Institutions become something threatening. Virtues and traditional moral rules are no longer considered positive values, for they impose constraints. This position leads to the collapse of faithfulness. Instead of being attached to stability, people crave for constant change. Philosophy shows that the roots of this attitude lie in existentialism, and beyond it in a view which reduces the faculty of free choice to a power cut loose from the intellect(14). To counter and overcome this powerful trend we should develop ethics along the lines of Aquinas' insight that the good of man is to live according to reason(15).
Are true sentences possible?
A second criticism concerns dogmas as propositions. It is very problematic whether there are true sentences as such. The terms of a proposition come to be understood differently in the course of time, as reality itself is constantly changing. According to this view there is a disjunction between reality and our knowledge. Knowledge is at best a process parallel to reality; our concepts may show some similarity with things, but do not really grasp their intelligible contents. In other words, our mind considers its own concepts but not things and the outside world is not really attained(16). For all practical purposes one could say that propositions are simultaneously true and false(17). If propositions which are thought to contain and to express the same truth for ever, do not exist, dogmatic definitions cannot be absolute statements, and will have to be replaced by ever new formulas.
That dogmatic formulas do not express the fullness of the mystery of faith has been known ever since the beginnng of christianity(18). St. Augustine drew attention to the poverty of our language which hardly succeeds in expressing what we inwardly think(19). However, this does not mean that absolutely true propositions are not possible. As the philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas shows, things have an essence. In the process of knowledge they give their intelligibility and truth to our intellect which, with the help of the senses and in particular the cogitativa, can form judgments about reality which are absolutely true(20). Our knowleddge is not about likenesses but about things. In the field of scientific studies also certain propositions are believed to remain always true. Propositions about the message God sent us are necessary: we would not even be able to think about it and give account of it, if we could not seize and express it in judgments. To this effect the dogmas are necessary.
Dogmas are anything but a sort of straight jacket of thought. We are invited to enter by faith into a new realm; a window opens on God's being, but in the still obscure twilight we would lose our bearings if we did not have the dogmas to guide us and to teach us. They invite us to penetrate ever deeper into the treasures of revelation and to grow in love of God.
The changing circumstances of our lives and our own individual needs may cause us to consider the revealed message from and angle which differs somewhat from that of earlier generations. Yet this does not lead to a reformulation of dogmas because these convey God's immutable truth and are so intimately connected with man's deepest being, needs and longings and formulated in such a profound and general way, that they always retain their validity.
Nowadays a special difficulty is that the set of values prevailing in modern society is very different from the world of faith. Instead of there being a harmonious unity between the doctrine of the faith and prevalent ways of thinking, there is often a rupture and faith is juxtaposed to other convictions. It is the duty of Christians to adapt their thinking to that of the Church, and not to that of the society in which they live, and, if necessary, to take even a heroic stand in defense of the faith.
The critique of analytical philosophy: dogmas are non-sensical because not based on experience
A further difficulty against reliance on dogmas is raised by some analytical philosophers: propositions which are supposed to express a truth beyond our experience are meaningless. They may perhaps be emotionally significant to some people, but in reality they are non-sensical, because they cannot be related to valuable experiences(21). If the propositions of the creed are to have a meaning, they must be understood as referring to certain aspects of our life(22).
In answering this objection we first make a concession: human knowledge is in fact derived from sense experience; our mind cannot think without uninterrupted reference to the contents of sense knowledge. Yet the intellect forms general concepts and formulates laws of being and even infers the existence of causes which as such do not fall under sense experience.
In the act of faith there is real contact with God, but this takes place in the darkness of our defective and analogical way of knowing: we use concepts which God has chosen among the words of our language and our experiences (or which at least reflect these experiences in those dogmas in which are expressed in a more philosophical language). These concepts obtain an analogous sense to express the mystery of God's being and will, who decided to save us because of Jesus, his only begotten Son. By faith we touch God himself through the intermediary of revealed doctrine. Our language and our concepts become instruments to express a truth which is far beyond the immediate significance of the words. In this way they are an anticipation of a coming experience. In the last analysis, all propositions of the faith go back to the original message of the apostles, that is to human experiences of those who witnessed the events through which God revealed himself and who received a message to hand it on to others.
It is not surprising that each individual Christian does not have an immediate experience of the events of salvation nor receives a personal revelation. We may see here an analogy with what happens in human society: we are born in a certain society and receive a language as a house we did not build ourselves. In a similar way we also receive the language of the faith. Because of its particular nature, dogmatic language combines several seemingly opposed characteristics: it states facts, but it is also tied to an attitude of the will; it expresses convictions but is also adorative. To those who do not have the faith, it is only mythical, because it proposes things of which we have no evidence.
The immutability of dogmas and the historicity of man
Another difficulty with regard to dogmas is is believed to be caused by the historicity of human thought. The assumption of ever true statements does not seem to do justice to this historicity. If man himself constantly evolves, there is no place for a body of unchangeable dogmas. The Church too lives in history and cannot produce ready-made formulas applying to all situations. Faith is not present in its purest form when one hands on a set of dogmas which have no connection with the historical situation of contemporary Christians(23).
The answer to this difficulty comprises a philosophical and a theological consideration. There are undoubtedly people in the Western world who experience the historicity of their being and feel that they are constructing their own truth which is valid only now. However, relativism as the denial of any absolutely true statements is simply impossible. If we think that there are no absolutely true statements, we already assume that there is at least one. A real sceptic would have to seek refuge, like Pyrrho, in aphasía(24)The theory of the relativity of our knowledge goes against the grain of thought itself which tends to become certitude. The case of Hans Küng illustrates this point: in his Unfehlbar? Eine Anfrage he doubts about the possibility of affirming wholly certain propositions, yet he seems entirely sure of the correctness of his own theories. To be of value thought must possess certitude. No one cares for mere opinions, if they do not help to reach certitude.
It is a fact that we can grasp the truth of doctrines proposed in other periods of history. We can indeed, accompany in thought Socrates, as he is arguing in Plato's dialogues, and evaluate his arguments. Our present instant becomes enlarged and is extended so as to comprise the intelligible contents of a discussion said to be held 2400 years ago. Our immaterial mind is able to reach beyond the moment of time in which it now exists: it makes scientific statements which are true for ever as are statements about historical facts. Things have their truth which can be grasped by the mind. Were there nothing but a Heraclitean flux, there would not be such a permanent intelligibility. Because things have their essences and their meaning, a truly certain knowledge is possible, a knowledge which is not subject to the fleeting moment of time.
It follows that on the level of supernatural faith propositions are possible which always retain their truth. The dogmatic formulas are supra-temporal. Ever since the beginning of the Church this permanence of the Christian message has been stressed(25). It was solemnly defined by the First Vatican Council(26). In the Constitution on Divine Revelation, nr. 8, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, while dwelling on the fact that further understanding of the revealed message is possible, refer nevertheless to the text of Vatican I, thereby indicating that the permanence of the same sense of the dogmas is presupposed. The identity of revealed doctrine to be preserved and to be handed down to the next generation of men does not exclude, rather demands that this doctrine is proposed to the faithful in a language which they can more easily understand.
Obviously dogmas are historical in so far as they are also, accidentally, the reflection of the thinking of the Church at a particular moment of time and of the circumstances which surrounded their definition. History is the soil in which dogma grows and develops. This is a logical consequence of the Incarnation. There is dogmatic development, but there is no change in the meaning of what the Church believed and defined at a particular moment of time.
Does historico-critical exegesis undermine dogmatic formulas which are based on Holy Scripture?
Dogmatic formulas are based on Holy Scripture either as restating what is explicitly written in the Bible, as a systematic representation of its contents or as inferences from what is implicitly contained in it. Opponents of the Catholic view of dogmas argue with Bultmann that the world of the Bible is a mythical world: a divine man, the logos, angels and devils, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension into heaven are typical myths(27). Since dogmatic formulas use and define material explicitly or implicitly cntained in Holy Scripture, it would seem that they must be interpreted on the basis of our understanding of the Bible and be divested of their mythological presentation.
Vatican II has answered this difficulty: through Tradition the full canon of the sacred books is known and are these books more profoundly understood. The faith of the Church is submitted to Holy Scripture, but it is also decisive for the determination of the sense of the text. This is obvious in such questions as the primacy of Peter and his successors, the sacred ministry and the special place of Mary. The mere scientific study of the text of Holy Scripture provides no guarantee for understanding the revealed truth contained in it. If some biblical scholars would hold that the New Testament references to the resurrection of Jesus do not imply the physical reality of the event, they understand the texts differently from the Church and thus fail to see the real meaning of inspired Scripture.
With regard to Bultmann's theory of the so called mythological view of the world which, as he thinks, pervades the writings of the New Testament, we argue that there is no question of such a total opposition between the view of the New Testament and that of modern man. Because of the supra-temporal aspect of man's thought there cannot be such a discontinuity between two mentalities. In the second place, certain events such as the virgin birth of Jesus and his resurrection were no less difficult to believe in for the people of those days than for our contemporaries. That certain expressions of Holy Scripture are fugurative was known to the early Church and there is no need to demythologise these propositions. Furthermore, what Bultmann calls the mythological mentality is far from being as primitive as he assumes it to be. It is rather a permanent aspect of the way in which man grasps reality. A consistent demythologisation along the lines stipulated by Bultmann would lead to a sort of anti-profession of the faith: "In believe in Jesus Christ who is not born from all eternity from the Father; who is not born in time from a virgin; who suffered under Pontius Pilate and died but not in expiation of our sins; who was buried but did not rise from among the dead; who did not ascend to heaven and does not sit at the right hand of the Father"(28).
The distinction between the truth contained in dogmas and the manner in which they are formulated
Some refer to Pope John XXIII to express their doubts about permanently valid dogmas. In his opening address to the Bishops gathered for the Second Vatican Council John XXIII spoke about the need to express the Christian message in a way which agrees with our time, making a distinction between the truth contained in the dogmas on the one hand and the manner in which they are formulated on the other(29). Some authors drew the conclusion that apparently the formulas are not the essence of the dogmas and can be changed They saw a basis for their view in a philosophical theory which distinguishes between the gist of a proposition and the terms in which it is expressed. This theory was proposed by some theologians of the Jesuit scholasticate of Lyon-Fourvières, such as H. Bouillard(30), and partly by H. de Lubac: the concepts used in the dogmas are not very relevant and are subject to changing cultural conditions. Behind this theory lies a view which sees divine revelation not as the communication of conceptual knowledge but as the manifestation of a Person. Some went far beyond the initial intention of these authors and suggested that the dogma about the transsubstantiation might not mean more than that the religious truth of bread and wine are changed in a eucharistic celebration(31) or that the definition of papal infallibility of Vatican I should be understood in this sense that the magisterium of the Church proposes in each period of history the message of Christ in a way which is convenient to people(32)
In his Encyclical Humani generis of 1950 Pius XII rejected the theory which assigns no more than a relative value to the terms in a dogmatic proposition. Who embraces this theory, risks to espouse certain tenets of modernism(33). As is obvious the debate also evokes a philosophical question, sc. the relation of the terms of a proposition to the proposition itself. A statement is nothing else but the acknowledgment that a term belongs to, is present in or characterized by another term. The statement itself is nothing but this connection of two terms, sc. of the subject and the predicate. St. Thomas speaks of componere and dividere. The judgment sees and pronounces the reality of this composition(34). Those who underestimate the importance of the terms in the propositions of the faith are likely to have been influenced by the intuitionism of Bergson(35).
If the enunciation of a dogma would not have its own particular signification, all the articles of faith would flow together in confusion. Faith would no longer be distinguished from a mystic feeling or a surrendering to the unknown. This would be against man's dignity and responsibility. God will only propose the message of salvation in a form adapted to man's intellectual life(36). The terms of the dogmatic formulas signify the realities of man's salvation. Some of these terms have been taken from Holy Scripture, others have been consecrated by their use and acceptance by Tradition. In fact, the dogmatic formulas are often the result of ages of prayerful meditation on the contents of revelation and were defined under the guidance of the Holy Spirit(37).
It is understood that the Church does not define any particular philosophy but, in her definitions, she may use philosophical terms, when she judges that these terms aptly express an objective fact of the revealed reality she wants to state. Those who reduce the significance of the concepts used in dogmatic formulas sometimes appeal to St. Thomas Aquinas who writes that the act of faith is directed to the reality which is signified and not to the terms of the articles of faith(38). However, Thomas does not say that the terms of a dogma are irrelevant, but that the object of the faith, God in his simplicity, is expressed by means of a composition in the human mind. God himself transcends our enuntiations. To signify even better that the reality to be attained in the act of faith is God himself, we use the form «I believe IN»(39).
Dogmas and archetypes
Over the past hundred years several authors have argued that dogmas are no more than an expression of religious feeling(40). In its most modern form this explanation is proposed by C. Jung. Dogmas such as that of the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Assumption of Mary, must be explained with the help of archetypes. In all these dogmas the spontaneous activity of the psyche is at work(41). Amost the entire life of the collective unconscious has been channelled into the dogmatical archetypical ideas and flows along like a well-controlled stream in the symbolism of creed and ritual(42). In this view the objectivation of psychic contents into dogmas is not quite harmless. Although dogmas do in fact protect the mind against the unknown forces of religious experience, they may be instrumental in the drying up of this experience. Hence Christians should not pay too much attention to these formulas, something which seems to be happening today.
Our answer is that this difficulty rests on subjectivism and the prejudice that revelation cannot come to man from God. As the modernists said, "revelation cannot be put into us from outside; it can be occasioned but it cannot be caused by instruction"(43). If this line of thinking would be true, one might as well resort to Jung's explanations which would allow us to discover some sense and beauty in the numerous dogmas. But over and against this sort of attempts at a re-interpretation, Christians cannot but stress the objectivity of revelation, without which the Christian message is no better than a dream or an illusion. When God reveals, something takes place in the prophet's mind, due to which the prophet or apostle understands the sense of the events he sees or of the words he hears and of ideas he receives, in relation to God's love for mankind. It is in this way that the apostles were given the understanding of the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection(44). The modernists appear to exclude this specific intervention of God. But the so-called "religious sense" to which they resort in order to explain the genesis of Christian dogmas, is a category of reality which subtracts itself from scientific research.
The doctrine of revelation does not say that revelation is necessarily an abrupt or violent invasion of man's mind. The ordinary perception of events and the mechanism of man's sensitive and intellectual life are in most cases an integral part of it. With regard to Jung's theory one could say that a psychologist may discover that certain dogmas show an analogy with the contents and basic structures of the conscious or unconscious life of the mind. It could be that what Jung calls the archetypes did facilitate awareness and the formulation of certains dogmas. However, when Jung does not want to consider (and perhaps does not want to admit) the objective meaning of dogmas and their basis in revelation, he locks himself up in the subjectivity of psychic facts(45).
Dogmas have no relation to modern life
There are also those who argue that dogmas serve little if any purpose. Dogmatic formulas are frequently the result of a theological dispute and are a reaction of the Church against certain dangerous developments. They have a "Sitz im Lebeen". In recent years Christians have become very sensitive on the question of the teaching authority fo the Pope and the Bishops. They also feel that the faith has become far too complicated. Jesus himself did not speak in dogmas and taught only two commandments. Therefore, dogmatism should be transcended and the function of dogmas should be reduced to that of signposts for Christians underway(46). W. Kasper argues that a reduction of dogmas to simpler affirmations is possible(47).
Many of us have noticed that there is a gap between Christian doctrine and the pattern of life and thought of a good number of our contemporaries. But does this mean that Christian doctrine has to go into the melting pot? At first sight it may seem that the vast mass of dogmas is too much of a challenge and too much of Greek intellectualism to modern man. Moreover, there has been a shift of interest. Nowadays people are more concerned with questions of social justice and personal freedom than with that of their own salvation(48). However, there is no obligation to know and to study all digmas in order to be saved. As J.H. Newman has pointed out, a Christian may approach the dogmas in a more intellectual or in a more "real" way, meaning that he uses them as an inspiration in daily life(49). In this second way, Christians of good will, who have no theological training, can certainly discern the sense of the dogmas. If the sometimes abstract formulas seem far removed from daily life, it is the task of catechists to make Christians see the meaning and value of the treasures of the doctrine of the faith.
It is doubtlessly true that heresies, theological controversy and other external factors have led to the formulation of many dogmas. Yet if the Holy Spirit guides the Church, those factors had a special function in bringing about more clearly the true doctrine. The accidental origin of certain dogmas does not detract from the lasting value of their substance. This becomes even clearer if one reads the acts of the councils, as Trent. The only thing the Fathers were concerned about was to render account of the catholic faith, as this faith lived in the tradition of the Church. If the expression of this faith as to certain points of doctrine has become especially difficult for modern man, could it not be that modern man has adopted certain ways of thought and attitudes which do not favor acceptance of the faith(50). What is called for is a conversion of man rather than a change in the doctrine of the Church.
In certain ecumenical endeavours a number of Christians seem to be willing to bypass doctrinal differences in order to bring about a practical union with our separated brenthren in Protestant churches. They pay special attention to some certral dogmas and neglect what according to them lies at the periphery of the faith. However, Vatican I reminds us that all dogmas must be believed with the same faith with which we believe the Incarnation and Redemption(51). When God reveals his being and his plan of salvation, this divine truth is not known by us in one single intuition but by means of a variety of concepts and propositions. Some of these are more fundamental than others which are derived from them or related to them(52). There is a certain order in which the faith must be presented. But a reduction of the doctrine of the faith to a few simple propositions is illegitimate and contrary to the faith.
An examination of the attempts to attenuate, to change or even to reject a number of the dogmas of our Catholic faith reveals some underlying common facts and tendencies: a lack of interest in the supernatural and a this-worldly attitude. Supreme value is given to one's own experience and to sense perception over and against objective statements. People seem to seek what is of immediate usefulness to them. There is furthermore the conviction that nothing is definite: laws and rules ought to be changed in the course of time. Many are reluctant to accept as binding a doctrine proposed by others, worse, by bishops of past ages who had no inkling of modern life. Finally, pluralism in doctrine appears to have become the normal situation in our modern societies. In addition there are underlying philosophical theories, such as conceptualism, idealism and its derivatives, historicism and neo-positivism.The debate about the lasting value of dogmatic formulas illustrates the need of adherence to sound philosophical views about the mind and human knowledge which one will find in the works of Aquinas.
One may hope that when people become aware of the spiritual impoverishment brought about by the above mentioned factors, they will acquire again a greater esteem for objective order, tradition and doctrinal authority. Yet the conversion necessary for believing the doctrine of the faith can only be the work of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth.
Leo Elders s.v.d.
Summary of the paper of Fr. L. Elders
The theological debate about the value and immutability of the dogmas of faith offers an occasion to illustrate the relationship between philosophy and theology, with which the encyclical Fides et ratio deals in several of its chapters.
The paper brings together under eight headings the criticism and difficulties raised against the traditional view of dogmas as retaining for ever their sense. A brief discussion points out the underlying philosophical theories. The difficulties are the following: The desire not to be tied to anything; doubt as to whether true sentences are possible; dogmas are non-sensical because not based on experience; the historicity of man vs the immutability of dogmas; historico-critical exegesis as questioning dogmatic formulas based on Holy Scripture; the distinction between the truth contained in dogmas and the manner in which they are formulated; dogmas and archetypes; dogmas are devoid of a relation to modern life.
The epilogue stresses the need of sound philosophical views on the mind and human knowledge as found in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas
1. See M. Else, "Der Begriff des Dogmas in der alten Kirche", in Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 61 (1964), 421- 438.
2. Ephes. 2, 15; Col. 2, 14.
3. DS 3073.
4. DS 3011.
5. Cf. Karl Rahner, "Was ist ein Dogma?", in Schriften zur Theologie, V, 54-81.
6. L. Scheffczyk, "Satzwahrheit und Bleiben in der Wahrheit", in K. Rahner, ed.., Zum Problem der Unfehlbarkeit. Antworten auf die Anfrage van Hans Küng, Freiburg i. Br., 1971, 148-173, esp. 166 ff.
7. Dei Verbum, 8.
8. Mysterium fidei, nr. 14 and 15. See also the Credo of Paul VI, nr. 5.
9. DS 3020.
10. DS 3043.
11. Declaratio Mysterium Ecclesiæ,in Acta Apostolicæ Sedis, 1973,, n.5.
12. Cf. Vatican II, Unitatis redintegratio, 14.
13. Dei Verbum, 26.
14. See L. Elders, "Contemporary Theories of Freedom and Christian Ethics", in Freedom in Contemporary Culture. Acts of the V. World Congress of Christian Philosophy (20-25 August, 1996), vol. II, Lublin 1999, 7-21.
15. Q. d. de veritate, q. 13, a. 1: "Bonum hominis est secundum rationem vivere". See L. Elders, "Bonum humanæ animæ est secundum rationem esse", in Revue théologique de Lugano, IV (1999), 75-90..
16. The type of conceptualism was upheld by Avicenna, by Suarez (De anima, lib. III, c. 2, n. 5 ff.) and is found in the philosophies of Kant and many other modern authors.
17. H. küng, Unfehlbar? Eine Anfrage, Zürich 1970, 95-121.
18. Cf. 2 Cor. 3, 16; Justinus, Dial. 127, 2; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. II, 2; Irenæus, Adv. hæreses, IV, 20, 5.
19. De Trinitate IX, 7, 12. Cf. also Vatican I, Const. De fide catholica, chapters 2 and 4..
20. See our The Philosophy of Nature of St. Thomas Aquinas, Frankfurt 1997, p. 182.
21. A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, ch. 1.
22. Cf. R.B. Braithwaite, An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief, Camvridge 1955.
23. W. Kasper, "Geschichtlichkeit der Dogmen", in Stimmen der Zeit, 1967, 401-416, p. 416.
24. Sextus Empiricus, Pyrroneion Hypotyposeon, I, 192.
25. Cf. Matthew 28, 20; Galatians 1, 8; Hebrews 1, 2; 12, 2; 2 Timothy 1, 13; 3, 10.
26. DS 3020: "Hinc sacrorum dogmatum is sensus perpetuo est retinendus, quam semel declaravit sancta mater Ecclesia nec umquam ab eo sensu altioris intelligentiæ specie et nomine recedendum". Cf. also the Decretum Lamentabili of 1907.
27. Das Evangelium des Johannes, Göttingen 1941; Die Theologie des Neuen Testamentes, pp. 162 ff.; Offenbarung und Heilsgeschehen, Münchewn 1941.
28. H. Sasse, Flucht vor dem Dogma. Bemerkungen zu Bultmann's Entmythologisierung des Neuen Testaments, Bleckmar 1965..
29. Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Vaticani II, vol. I, p. 172.
30. Conversion et grâce chez S. Thomas d'Aquin, Paris 1944.
31. Cf. C. Vanneste in Collationes Brugenses et Gandavenses, 2 (1956), 322-355.
32. This is the thesis of A. Houtepen in his Onfeilbaarheid en hermeneutiek, Brugge 1973.
33. A refutation can be found in the collective work Dialogue théologique, Les Arcades, Saint-Maximin, 1947.
34. Cf. In I Peri hermeneias, lectio 5, n. 73; R. McInerny, "Some Notes on Being and Predication", in The Thomist 22 (1959), 315-335.
35. See M. Labourdette and M.-J. Nicolas, "'analogie de la vérité et l'unité de la science théologique". in Revue thomiste, 1947, 417-466.
36. Cf. L. Malevez, "L'invariant et le divers dans le langage de la foi", in Nouvelle revue théologique, 1973, 353-366.
37. Encycl. Mysterium Fidei: Acta Apost. Sedis, 1965, 758.
38. Summa theologiæ Iia-IIæ, q. 1, a.2 ad 2: "Actus autem credentis non terminatur ad enuntiabile, sed ad rem".
39. Q.d. de malo, q.6, a.1 ad 14.
40. In particular F. Schleiermacher..
41. Psychologie und Religion in Gesammelte Werke, 11, pp. 46 ff; Versuch einer psychologischen Deutung des Trinitätsdogmas , o.c., 119-218.
42. Psychological Reflections, Trinceton 1970, 46 ff.
43. G. Tyrrel, Scylla and Charybdis, p. 306.
44. St. Thomas, Q.d. de veritate, q. 12, a. 3 ad 11.
45. On the epistemological difficulties which beset Jung's theory of archetypes, see L. Gilen, "Das Unbewusste und die Religion nach C.G. Jung", in Theologie und Philosophie, 1967, esp. pp. 494-500.
46. Cf. B. Sesboué, "Autorité du Magistère et vie de foi ecclésiale", in Nouvelle Revue Théol., 1971, 327-359; Y. congar, "Du bon usage de Denzinger", in Situations et tâches présentes de la théologie, Paris 1967, 11-133. J. Nolte, Dogma in Geschichte, Freiburg 1970, speaks of an "Exodus aus unhaltbaren Positionen".
47. Einführung in den Glauben, pp. 96-98.
48. Cf. G. Widmer, "Sens et non-sens des énoncés théologiques", in Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, 1967, 644-665.
49. Grammar of Assent, ch. 5, & 3 and his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk on Certain Difficulties Felt by the Anglicans, II.
50. See R. Guardini, Die Sinne und die religiöse Erkenntnis, Mainz 1950, p. 36: "Wir nehmen unsere heutige Erkenntnissituation als ob sie die natürliche und wesentliche wäre. Wir müssen unsere Erkenntnissituation als Ergebnis einer Geschichte sehen, die voll Schuld ist und Bekehrung fordert".
51. DS 3011. See also Pius XI, Encycl. Mortalium animos in AAS 1928, 10-15.
52. Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiæ.