Saturday, October 3, 2009

Torrell on the danger of identifying the faith with a theologoumenon

The legitimacy of theological intervention in matters scientific or philosophical [(l'intervention possible de la théologie à l'égard des sciences ou de la philosophie)] stems from this: "that the theologians [in question] have themselves made the effort to acquire the competence that permits them to intervene advisedly. If, in particular, it is a question of the rejection of a philosophical conclusion that would be contrary to the faith, [the legitimacy of] this [rejection] presupposes that one has made the effort to specify exactly what the faith is on the point at issue. History bears eloquent witness to the fact that one has [all too] often identified the faith with disputable theological conclusions, or with a doctrine widely accepted, but enjoying the guarantee of a formal doctrine of the Church not at all, [even] when it was not simply the spontaneous convictions of another age that one [had] dressed up in the name of tradition [(quand ce n'était pas simplement des convictions spontanées d'un autre âge qu'on habillait du nom de «tradition»)]. A place for them in the Credo was not assured for all that. Indeed [(pourtant)], theologians have at their disposal a whole arsenal of ways to distinguish between simple theological opinions and what can really be called a revealed truth. When this is not purely and simply ignored, it is too often neglected, and the temptation then is great to overestimate [the strength of] the link to the revealed deposit by overvaluing the authority of reasons [merely] theological or [even] declarations on the subject made by the Magisterium [(des raisons théologiques ou des déclarations magistérielles à son sujet)]. The argument from authority has its place in theology, but it is not necessary to exaggerate this."

Jean-Pierre Torrell, “Philosophie et théologie d’après le Prologue de Thomas d’Aquin au Super Boetium de Trinitate: essai d’une lecture théologique,” Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale: rivista della Società internazionale per lo studio del medioevo latino 10 (1999): 346. Torrell goes on to stress that when the theologian intervenes, he does so not "in the internal development of philosophical reasoning, but . . . as an external norm: by rendering [him] attentive to the consequences of an erroneous conclusion, he invites the believing philosopher to retrace his steps, but . . . does not [meddle in such a way as to] do this for him" qua theologian (347, italics mine).