Thursday, 16 September 2010

Radical Orthodoxy on faith and reason

I was trying to find out how Radical Orthodoxy understands the relationship of faith and reason in Aquinas. They certainly do not deny that Aquinas has this distinction. However, they say that it is far more porous than usually thought.

So: in what way more porous? I quote my summary:

Milbank hopes to show that the distinguished approaches “can at the very most be thought of only as distinct phases within a single gnoseological extension exhibiting the same qualities throughout. Then we will further establish that even the phases are not clearly bounded in terms of what can or cannot be achieved.... Having established these points concerning Aquinas’s method, we shall then show how his ‘rational’ treatment of Creation is informed by faith, while his exposition of the revealed Trinity is in fact highly demonstrative. [So what’s new about this?] Throughout we hope to show how a ‘radically orthodox’ position (primarily characterized by a more persistent refusal of distinct ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ phases and a consequent assault upon an autonomous naturalism as ‘nihilistic’), can indeed be rendered as an attentive reading of Aquinas.” [21.]

So the rejection of the natural-supernatural distinction – see de Lubac – is fundamental to RO. Wonderful. Something to be chewed upon! See Guy Mansini, who calls this the fundamental theological point – a watershed – in the 20th century. See also Michael Stebbins’ excellent reading of Lonergan on this point in his The Divine Initiative. See my notes on this topic somewhere – perhaps on this blog. I have also downloaded an article by Raymond Moloney, “De Lubac and Lonergan on the Supernatural.” But Stebbins is far superior on the point.

My feeling: what RO is trying to say might not be that different - or radically new - when compared to someone like Lonergan. In fact, my feeling is that Lonergan will be far superior on the proper understanding of the natural-supernatural distinction. From my cursory reading of Stebbins, I have the impression that Lonergan even corrects de Lubac, and certainly brings a far more sophisticated reading to the distinction. 

Whatever: I must admit that Mansini - despite his snide remarks on Lonergan - seems right on when he identifies the distinction as a watershed in 20th century philosophy. 

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