Christian faith & human understanding

Christian faith & human understanding: studies on the Eucharist, Trinity, and the human person

Robert Sokolowski
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2850jf
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  • Book Info
    Christian faith & human understanding
    Book Description:

    In this collection of essays, renowned philosopher Robert Sokolowski illustrates how Christian faith is not an alternative to reason, but rather an enhancement of it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1658-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROVENANCE OF THE ESSAYS
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    We are distinguished as human beings by our ability to think. Our reason is the specific difference that makes us human and thus differentiates us from the other animals. Furthermore, distinctions in the quality of a person’s reason make him stand out among his fellow human beings, for better or worse, precisely as a human being.

    Human reason is not just the power to move from one proposition to another; it is not just the ability to argue, infer, and compute. More fundamentally, it is the capacity to let things come to light, to let the intelligibility of things show...

  6. I. FAITH AND REASON
    • [1] THE AUTONOMY OF PHILOSOPHY IN FIDES ET RATIO
      (pp. 9-24)

      The title of the encyclical names the two things that are to be brought together, faith and reason.¹ This essay will attempt to clarify each of the terms and to discuss the kind of autonomy reason, and specifically philosophical reason, enjoys within Christian faith.

      Reason in its widest scope can be considered to be the insertion of syntax or categoriality into human experience.² To move from simple experience into rational experience is to introduce—and to become explicitly aware of—distinctions between wholes and their parts. Instead of just perceiving an object, such as a tree, and reacting to it,...

    • [2] PHILOSOPHY AND THE CHRISTIAN ACT OF FAITH
      (pp. 25-37)

      How is Christian faith related to philosophy? What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? Does our engagement in the one compromise our pursuit of the other? The first thing to be determined is the difference between the act of faith and the corresponding theological virtue.

      Through our Christian faith, we believe that certain things are true, and we believe them because of words spoken by someone. We believe certain truths and we believe in a certain speaker. Christian faith is a virtue, an abiding habit or disposition to believe the things in question and to believe in the person...

    • [3] CREATION AND CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING
      (pp. 38-50)

      Creation can be understood in a narrow and in a wide sense. In the narrow sense, Creation is the divine activity in which the world—everything that is not divine—is made to exist. In this narrow sense, Creation refers only to the beginning of the relationship between the world and God. The continuation of this relationship would be called preservation.

      But we can also discuss Creation in a wider and fuller sense. We can discuss it not in its character of being a beginning, but as establishing a distinction and a relationship, a distinction and relationship that remain after...

    • [4] CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS DISCOURSE
      (pp. 51-66)

      Christian religious discourse is not the same as religious discourse in general. It would not be accurate, however, to say that the latter is simply a genus for the former. Nor is religion simply a genus for Christianity as a species. The way Christian religion and its discourse differ from religion as such and its discourse is complex, and this difference is based on the way the divine is understood in both cases. Sociologically or anthropologically, natural religion might be considered a genus for Christianity, but it cannot be so considered theologically.

      In natural religion, in the religion that exists...

  7. II. THE EUCHARIST AND THE HOLY TRINITY
    • [5] PHENOMENOLOGY AND THE EUCHARIST
      (pp. 69-85)

      The Eucharist calls for two kinds of response from us. It calls for the piety of prayer and the piety of thinking, of theological reflection. It is obvious why the Eucharist makes these demands. In our Christian faith, the Eucharist reenacts the central action that God performed in the world, the redemptive Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This action was performed not only through the power of the divine nature but also through the human nature that the Word of God had assumed in the Incarnation. Redemption was the work of both God and man, a divine and a...

    • [6] PRAYING THE CANON OF THE MASS
      (pp. 86-94)

      The priest celebrating Mass should try to fit his thoughts and sentiments to the words that he says. His internal dispositions should match the external expressions of the liturgy. In addition to the words, however, the structure of the Eucharist also provides a pattern to which the priest’s thoughts and sentiments can be conformed. In this essay we will discuss several structural elements in the Canon of the Mass that should be kept in mind, by both the priest and the people, during the celebration of the Eucharist.

      The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the Preface. The celebrant addresses the congregation...

    • [7] THE EUCHARIST AND TRANSUBSTANTIATION
      (pp. 95-112)

      Christian theology is reflection on the faith of the Church. The Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, receives and teaches her faith and when necessary defines it. Theology reflects on this faith, in a manner analogous to the way in which philosophy reflects on prephilosophical life and conversation. Theology is the exercise of reason within faith, and scholastic theology is reason’s self-discovery within faith.

      Theology helps bring out the intelligibility of the deposit of faith. The intelligibility is already there in faith and revelation, and theology helps to make it manifest. It performs this service for the benefit...

    • [8] THE IDENTITY OF THE BISHOP: A Study in the Theology of Disclosure
      (pp. 113-130)

      Our conference is dedicated to the theme of ecclesiology in the light of the Second Vatican Council, and the specific topic I was asked to speak about is the identity of the bishop.¹ I think we all are familiar with the concepts of ecclesiology, the episcopal office, and the Council. However, the title assigned to me also mentions something called the theology of disclosure. This is a term we may not be familiar with, so let me begin with a few remarks about it.

      I would like to define the theology of disclosure as a form of theological thinking that...

    • [9] THE REVELATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY: A Study in Personal Pronouns
      (pp. 131-148)

      In this essay, I wish to use the theology of disclosure to reflect on the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The theology of disclosure is a form of theological thinking that makes use of phenomenology. It may seem strange to invoke phenomenology to speak about the Trinity, because this mystery is certainly beyond any human perception and experience; in what way can the Holy Trinity be a “phenomenon” for us? We cannot have a phenomenology of the Trinity in the way we might have a phenomenology of artworks, or political things, or even religion. But although we may not have...

  8. III. THE HUMAN PERSON
    • [10] SOUL AND THE TRANSCENDENCE OF THE HUMAN PERSON
      (pp. 151-164)

      As human beings we are animal and organic, but we also carry out spiritual activities. We are not only animals; there is a spiritual side to us that becomes manifest in what we do. The spiritual activities of human beings stem from our reason and the kind of freedom that reason makes possible.

      What do we mean when we say that human beings have a spiritual dimension? We mean that in some of our activities we go beyond or transcend material conditions. We go beyond the restrictions of space and time and the kind of causality that is proper to...

    • [11] LANGUAGE, THE HUMAN PERSON, AND CHRISTIAN FAITH
      (pp. 165-178)

      I wish to discuss the human person and its relation to language and Christian faith. I will begin with a point that I take from the work of the German philosopher Robert Spaemann.¹ The point deals with the logic of the term person.

      The word person functions in an unusual and interesting way. It is not what philosophers call a “sortal” noun. It does not mark off a species or a genus in the way that terms like tree or animal or house or even the term man do. Each of these terms—tree, animal, house, man—expresses a kind...

    • [12] THE HUMAN PERSON AND POLITICAL LIFE
      (pp. 179-198)

      I wish to discuss the relationship between the human person and political life, with some reference to the way this relationship has been understood by Catholic thinkers. My remarks will be a venture into political philosophy, but it would be appropriate to begin with a few comments about our present historical situation.

      Political philosophy has been short-changed in Catholic thought in the past century, during the Thomistic revival following the encyclical Aeterni Patris of Pope Leo XIII in 1879. In the departmental structure and the philosophical curricula that prevailed in many Catholic colleges and universities during the first two thirds...

    • [13] THE CHRISTIAN DIFFERENCE IN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
      (pp. 199-213)

      We wish to discuss the difference that Christian faith makes in the relationships that occur among persons. In order to develop this issue, we first should explore the understanding we have of persons. There are, of course, persons in God—the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity—and angels are persons too, but we wish to discuss the human person. In exploring this topic, I will especially draw on the work of Robert Spaemann, a German Catholic philosopher who is now emeritus professor at the University of Munich. I would especially like to use his book, Personen, which has...

    • [14] WHAT IS NATURAL LAW? Human Purposes and Natural Ends
      (pp. 214-234)

      Ethics in general, and medical ethics in particular, are obviously related to human self-understanding, to what we could call philosophical and theological anthropology. Our understanding of what is ethical and unethical is connected to what we take ourselves to be. The relationship, however, is not one-sided. It is not the case that we could work out a comprehensive description or definition of human nature as a purely theoretic enterprise and then apply this knowledge to practical issues, the way we might work out some ideas in mathematics and then apply them to problems in engineering and physics.¹ Rather, the working...

  9. IV. FAITH AND PRACTICAL REASONING
    • [15] THE ART AND SCIENCE OF MEDICINE
      (pp. 237-249)

      Just as a mathematician is most fully himself when he is calculating, so a physician is most fully himself, as physician, when he is engaged in medical activity. Medical activity is the actuality of medicine, and both the art and the science are to be defined and understood in relation to it. The art and the science both are as potential activity. It would be a distortion to regard medicine as, say, essentially a science, essentially an understanding of certain natures and relationships, something to which applications were accidental; or to consider it as an art that could be itself...

    • [16] THE FIDUCIARY RELATIONSHIP AND THE NATURE OF PROFESSIONS
      (pp. 250-267)

      It has not proved easy to determine what a profession is. There is no problem about the existence and definition of skills and arts: clearly, some people know how to repair refrigerators, treat sick animals, cut hair, and the like. They have cultivated these skills and hence are obviously different from people who cannot do such things well. If the people who have the skills also understand what they are doing, if they have knowledge as well as skill, if they can teach and explain as well as perform, they can be said to possess not only a skill but...

    • [17] RELIGION AND PSYCHOANALYSIS: Some Phenomenological Contributions
      (pp. 268-285)

      How is the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion to be examined? It might seem that the best approach would be to study what each of them has to say about the human condition. We might compare religion and psychoanalysis as two theories about the human estate, two competing claims to truth. But there would be something abstract about treating them in this way. Psychoanalysis is a special kind of science and art, and religion comprises a way of life as well as a set of beliefs of a special kind. In many ways the two are incommensurate. I propose therefore...

    • [18] CHURCH TRADITION AND THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 286-298)

      There are a number of things that are obviously required for a Catholic university to remain and to flourish as a Catholic institution. It must have a sufficient number of faculty and students who share the Catholic faith and an even greater number who are dedicated to the university’s religious mission; it must implement its mission in its curriculum and public activities; it must be attentive to the spiritual welfare of its students, faculty, and staff; and its administrators must be devoted to its Catholic identity. These requirements, which are mentioned in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, are well recognized. I wish...

    • [19] PHILOSOPHY IN THE SEMINARY CURRICULUM
      (pp. 299-310)

      I wish to discuss the purpose of a seminary program in philosophy as well as the structure and content of such a program, but I will begin by making a few institutional and pragmatic remarks.

      The determination of a seminary curriculum is not primarily the work of the faculty, but of the institution that sponsors the seminary. To use modern secular categories, a seminary provides a professional formation; in this respect, it is much like a law school or an engineering or architecture program. We are all familiar with the stringent requirement that professional associations impose on professional schools. Such...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 311-318)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-320)