Fernand Dumont

Fernand Dumont: A Sociologist Turns to Theology

Copyright Date: 2015
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    Fernand Dumont
    Book Description:

    Fernand Dumont (1927-1997) was a sociologist, philosopher, theologian, and poet. A prominent intellectual in Quebec, he is recognized for his research on the sociology of knowledge and the foundations of modern culture. Dumont's work conceives of culture in terms of both memory and distance, arguing that without culture, man would be immersed in the monotony of his present actions, never achieving the distance necessary to create a past or a future. In Fernand Dumont: A Sociologist Turns to Theology, Gregory Baum interprets Dumont's L’institution de la théologie, which studies the assumptions and commitments implicit in the rational reflection of Catholic thinkers on the meaning of their faith. Baum shows that while Dumont’s book is preoccupied with the theoretical, its methodology is informed by the cognitive presuppositions of the social sciences, and its contents - dealing with the spiritual, personal, and social struggles that constitute daily life - are concrete. For Dumont religious truth is insufficient, and may have no impact on everyday life. What counts is relevance, insights that reply to urgent questions and unresolved conflicts. He offers an innovative interpretation of Catholicism that is faithful to the Gospel and relevant to the problems of modern life and the serious questions Quebecers are asking themselves. In Fernand Dumont: A Sociologist Turns to Theology, Baum elucidates Dumont’s main ideas and connects the concerns of the Christian gospel with those of contemporary society.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8245-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    Jack Costello and SJ
  4. 1 Introducing Fernand Dumont
    (pp. 3-19)

    I discovered the thought of Fernand Dumont late in life. In June 2011 I decided to ask the department of theological studies of Montreal’s Concordia University to allow me to teach a graduate course on Catholic theology in French Quebec. While I had been a professor in the religious studies faculty at McGill University, an anglophone institution, I was an active participant in the francophone Church. I joined la Société canadienne de théologie and was a member of the editorial committee of the francophone revueRelations, sponsored by the Jesuit Community. Because of my integration into francophone society, I was...

  5. 2 The Theologian and the Community of Believers
    (pp. 20-38)

    In and for the community of believers, theologians think and speak as mediators. Mediation is a category of great importance for Dumont. He never forgets that our entry into personhood takes place through the mediation offered by parents, family, school, and culture. To recognize in what ways theologians are mediators in and for the believing community, we have to understand what Dumont means by Christian faith.

    The person who has faith is addressed by a message of new life, surrenders to it, and responds to it by reorienting his or her life. Faith takes place in the mind, touches the...

  6. 3 The Theologian and the Magisterium
    (pp. 39-60)

    The task of theologians is mediation. They mediate the spiritual insights and aspirations of the people to the teaching authorities, and they mediate the Church’s official teaching to the people by explaining it and showing its foundation in the sources of faith. Still, Dumont recognizes that in many historical situations the relation of theologians to the ecclesiastical magisterium has been a dialectic of distance and loyalty. He illustrates this with references to the theological debates before and during the Second Vatican Council. Theologians who had been critical of the Church’s official teaching were invited by the Council to becomeperiti,...

  7. 4 The Theologian and Tradition
    (pp. 61-77)

    It is possible to understand tradition as the ideas, values, and practices that persons or groups inherited from the past and that are part of their present culture. Here fidelity to the past creates a conservative social outlook, cultural conformity, resistance to new ideas, and unwillingness to recognize the dark side of one’s own history. This is not what Dumont understands by tradition! Still, the inherited memory and customs have their own usefulness: they enable us to do our daily work, meet the people that surround us, and behave appropriately in society.

    To illustrate what he understands by tradition, Dumont...

  8. 5 The Theologian and the Critique of Culture
    (pp. 78-98)

    The neo-scholastic theology taught in Catholic faculties and seminaries did not include critical dialogue with the culture in which the Church found itself. Theology was looked upon as universally valid, the same in Rome, in European countries, and on other continents, unrelated to the distinct cultural environment and indifferent to the economic and political problems experienced by society. Because this theology did not demand listening to the present, nor rethinking its inheritance, Dumont refers to it as “automatic theology.” It provided answers to questions people did not ask. Relying on nineteenth-century Catholic social thought, Leo XIII wrote the encyclicalRerum...

  9. 6 The Unity of Theology
    (pp. 99-115)

    Chapter 6 ofL’institution de la théologieraises the question of the unity of theology – its unity as an intellectual discipline and its responsibility for promoting the unity of the believing community. In a subsequent section, Dumont proposes three ways of doing theology today, in Quebec and in modern society in general.

    Dumont first raises the question of how one can speak of the unity of science and the unity of philosophy, despite the internal pluralism in both of these disciplines. He makes the following proposals.

    What the sciences have in common is that they rely on the same...

  10. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 116-126)

    This book is not a synthesis of Fernand Dumont’s theology. It is a summary and interpretation of hisL’institution de la théologiethat tries to bring out its practical meaning and its relevance for contemporary society. Dumont has written two other books on theology,¹ he has published many articles on theological topics,² and he has explored the meaning and power of religion in his anthropological studies of culture and society. It is regrettable that no symposium has ever been held to bring together theologians interested in exploring the various aspects of Dumont’s theology. Nor does there exist a collective volume...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 127-136)
  12. Index
    (pp. 137-138)