Corps de l’article
Writing for contemporary but learned seekers, Roy presents a highly readable, provocative discussion of the affective, reasoned and transcendent dimensions of the human faith journey. Acknowledging warranted suspicion about founding arguments addressing matters of ultimate concern on appeals to cultural or religious authority, Roy adopts a deliberately anthropological approach that resonates with the analysis of open immanence found in the work of his fellow Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Approaching a complex topic with a patient, circling pedagogy, Roy probes the intermediating synergies of three dynamisms: affective craving for communion, reasoned questing for meaning and a receptive aspiration for truth beyond subjective manipulation. For readers willing to reflect about and beyond conventional religious practices and theological theories, Roy elucidates these contributing vectors in the journey of faith. Engaging an impressive range of classical and contemporary authors – Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman and Bernard Lonergan being his principal interlocutors – he locates a viewpoint and opens a horizon for a critical retrieval and a thoughtful appreciation of the roles of affective knowledge, intellectual reflection and revelation in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Although Roy would not object to characterizing his text as apologetic, his account of Christian faith readily acknowledges distortions associated with each of the three vectors: the excess of emotionalism with affective knowledge, reductive rationalism with intellectual reflection and authoritarianism with revealed truth. By offering a realistic account of the perils and successes of maturing faith, Roy locates the theatre in which dramatic contentions within and among the vectors play out. While this reader agrees with the general direction of Roy’s discussion of a constructive contention among the three vectors – notice his recurring use of language such as balance and equilibrium – a more explicit treatment of the provisional nature of achievements in history might help to relate his contribution to discussions of polarity in post-Hegelian authors such as Gaston Fessard and Romano Guardini. Nonetheless, Roy’s praiseworthy choice to locate his contribution within a discussion of the phenomenon of hope and a probing of the (theological) anthropological grounds of affective, intellectual and critical desire presents a credible opportunity to broaden the scope of sometimes unnecessarily constrained theological conversations.
Roy peppers his text with insights that clarify and reframe some of the presuppositions that underly such constrictions, often drawing out the implications of Lonergan’s tag that “genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity.” His discussion of quests for meaning, for instance, flags the personal quality of journeys to understand and appropriate the significance of received truth in the context of particular life stories. The depth of Roy’s insight stems from his ability to draw upon and interrelate nuanced interpretations of traditional authors such as Aquinas and Newman to join Lonergan in identifying, clarifying and addressing contemporary concerns in an open conversational manner. His treatment of credere Deum (belief or cognitive affirmations about God), credere Deo (trust in God as the warrant for belief) and credere in Deum (orientation to affective fulfillment in union with divine transcendence) brings clarity to Newman’s distinction between notional and real apprehension, contextualizes Lonergan’s distinction between understanding and judgment and locates complementary invitations to faith and belief in the contemporary context. By identifying and elucidating the distinction and intermediation of the knowing of affectively engaged affirmation and the understanding of hypothetical cognitive apprehension of revealed mysteries, Roy presents a credible account of the journey to faith that resolves the human person’s self-transcending desire and the journey in faith that seeks progressive understanding and expression in action. For Roy, the search for personal meaning is not bound to unfettered relativism but opens to a contextualized plurality of perspectives. A variation of perspectives that can harmonize with received truth, elucidate these divine mysteries and integrate them into the course of everyday living. The lucidity of Roy’s discussion of the progressive, differential appropriation of religious truth by diverse human subjects implicitly challenges the fruitless skirmishes of the divisive culture wars that today divert the attention of far too many western Catholics.
In two more technical passages, Roy advances a sanatio in radice of these skirmishes by examining objections to the role assumed by religious experience in Lonergan’s work. First, he engages the post-liberal Lutheran George Lindbeck who charges that, by claiming diverse forms of religious expression could be based in common human experience, Lonergan joins his fellow Jesuit Karl Rahner, and liberal protestants Friedrich Schleiermacher, Paul Tillich and Wilfred Cantwell Smith to promote a natural religion that is “logically derived from a rationalistic analysis of the human spirit” and that stands as a self-referential religious domain “prior to any revelation” and “independent of confessional belief” (141). Demonstrating a masterful review of relevant literature, Roy does not hesitate to appreciate how Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach identifies the influence of linguistic expression on experience but disputes the attribution to Lonergan of what the post-liberal thinker terms and criticizes as an experiential-expressive approach. Acknowledging that language does shape experience, Roy argues for a more balanced appreciation of the intermediation of what Lonergan terms the “inner word” and the “outer word.” The mutual mediation of self-transcending human desire and its social figuring as afforded by diverse interpretative traditions, intermediations which Lonergan parses ultimately as corresponding to the two missions of Spirit and Word, the religious transformation of human desire and the Incarnate Word mediated by scripture and tradition. While Roy does not delve deeply in this text into the plurality of mediating traditions, whose relations to the Incarnate Word are admittedly at point, he rightly highlights the close interrelation of the inner and outer words in the Jesuit’s thought. By overlooking the performative desire that engages and collaborates with cultural-linguistic traditions in the shaping of belief, a desire that is itself transformed by religious love, Lindbeck neglects the critical impetus underpinning the development of religious traditions. Citing the insightful analysis of Neil Ormerod, Roy correctly observes that Lindbeck appears to operate within the binding assumptions of a static conceptualism that traps communities of meaning within incommensurable worldviews and overlooks the divinely gifted, creative, critical self-transcending desire that advises and evaluates evolving human responses to divine initiatives in history.
Secondly, Roy addresses David Tracy, one of Lonergan’s former students, who had similarly challenged the foundational role of religious conversion in Lonergan’s Method in Theology. Tracy, Roy remarks, had supported the critical grounding of the theological enterprise offered by his mentor’s early analysis of cognitional theory and epistemology, a critical grounding contributing to what Lonergan would term an intellectual conversion, but rejected the no less foundational role Lonergan later attributed to religious conversion, the gifted experience of unconditional religious love, the love of God that enflames the human person’s self-transcending desire for the good, the true and the beautiful. Although Tracy would much later nuance his criticism in remarks offered following the 2004 Chancellor’s Lecture at Regis College, for over thirty years he would maintain that theology needed to be critically, that is, epistemologically grounded, apparently avowing the position criticized by Lindbeck. With Solomonic precision Roy guides readers to appreciate that Lonergan’s position on the role of religious conversion is neither an appeal to private experience nor a dogmatic assertion nor berift of publicly accessible evidence. The evidence, he notes, is supplied by the first four of functional specialties – research, interpretation, history and dialectics – that Lonergan elaborates in his methodological approach to theology. Evidence of doctrinal development that is assembled, interpreted and evaluated under the exigences of religious love, that is, the fruit of religious conversion. A conversion that is not focused first on credere Deum (propositional belief statements about God) but credere in Deum, an unconditional love of God, which evaluates and motivates the development of cultural-linguistic expressions of belief in changing social contexts. While religious conversion certainly does not exclude credere Deo (trust in God), religious conversion is a fundamental, self-transcending, performative orientation, the gift of God’s love by which the human person loves God. A gifted orientation that serves as the unbounded exigence for affective fulfilment, the quest for meaning, and the reception of truth. Although the affirmation of doctrinal statements counts prominently among the fruits of religious conversion, these fruits also include a fulfilling appreciation of beauty and meaningful action for just social relations.
By elucidating the religiously transformed ground of the human response to the divine initiative in history, Roy draws his readers attention to each person’s maturing agency within a providential project. He advances his reader’s appreciation of the profound, performative interrelation of gifted desire with socially mediated religious meaning. Drawing on his discussion of the intermediation of the three vectors of affective craving for communion, reasoned questing for meaning and receptive aspiration for truth, he deconstructs exaggerated emphases placed on either term of the binary of personal experience and public meaning. Roy relieves this neuralgic cultural conflict by reframing the issue from a renewed perspective within a more open horizon. In previous texts such as Transcendent Experiences: Phenomenology and Critique, Roy explicitly addressed transcultural and interreligious perspectives on the experience and social mediation of religious experience. Readers who have appreciated Roy’s foundation discussion of a theological anthropology of hope in this present text might look forward to further explorations of the transcultural and interreligious dimensions of the journey to faith and journey in faith, which he has put forth so ably here.