Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bonino on Aquinas on the theology of the religions

"The Fathers did not find the seeds of the Word in the great religions, but in philosophy, i.e. in the application of critical reason to the [(le processus de la raison critique face aux)] religions."

Joseph Ratzinger, Chemins vers Jésus, trans. Linnig (Parole et Silence, 2004), 73-74, as quoted by Serge-Thomas Bonino, "'Toute vérité, quel que soit celui qui la dit, vient de l'Esprit-Saint': autour d'une citation de l'Ambrosiaster dans le corpus thomasien," Revue thomiste 106, no. 1/2 (2006): 102n6. But Bonino qualifies this considerably for Aquinas, who "discovered [these seeds] first in philosophy" (102), but "did not limit the illuminative action of God exercised among the pagans to the rational speculation of the philosophers alone" (104). For St. Thomas there was always "the possibility that [even] the religious institutions of the Gentiles--in particular their prophecy and their scriptures--functioned as vectors directing them to some of the supernatural truths that come from the Holy Spirit and lead to Christ (though not without passing [ultimately] through Jerusalem!)" (126, italics mine). That "non sans passer d'ailleurs par Jérusalem!" is important. Because this is no abandonment of the orthodox denial of an extra ecclesiam. "Clearly, this revelation made to the Gentiles does not institute a way of salvation that would be complementary (still less parallel) to the economy of biblical revelation that culminates in Jesus Christ. It is strictly ordained to Jesus Christ, [the one] Mediator and Redeemer, whose mystery it announces and in an embryonic fashion explicates, in such a way as to prepare the minds and hearts of pagans to accept him" (114). Hence, "it belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ to purify these traditions, to recapitulate these captive and partial truths in order that they might be reintegrated into their 'natural place': the Church's confession of faith. It is only in this whole, to which they are ordained, that they find their full signification" (128).

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