Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Reasonable Definition of Reason

From Nouvelle Theologie, comes an excellent article on the role of reason in Biblical study.

"In a previous post, I noted that Catholic art and music, liturgy, prayer, theology, ethics, and canon law have a tremendous Scriptural depth to them — everything in Catholic culture has been profoundly formed by Scripture even if this reality too often remains implicit.

At the explicit level, however, there are problems. That is, when Catholics deliberately study the Bible, they run up against difficulties. In my experience, these difficulties stem from the traditional Catholic teaching that faith is reasonable combined with the uncritical acceptance of an untraditonal notion of reason that is rationalistic and scientistic.

Fr. Giussani expresses the traditional approach to reason succinctly: "the capacity to become aware of reality according to the totality of its factors. The term reasonableness, then, represents a mode of action that expresses and realizes reason, the capacity to become aware of reality" (The Religious Sense, 12). By contrast, reason in its novel and commonplace sense of the word refers narrowly to one or another of the roads (methods) that the human capacity of reason takes in order to come to an awareness of reality.

To confuse this or that method with reason itself is an unreasonable position."

I wonder if, using this definition of "reason," it would be correct to understand the common approach to the academic study of the Bible using the historical critical method exclusively (as occurs, for example, in most university and seminary classrooms) as being unreasonable. I would think so. This post goes on to say:

"The problem I have seen in years of adult education, Catholic Bible study, and in university theology classes is the dominance of one or another of these narrow methods. In my undergrad "Christ in Scriptures" class, we studied three Gospels using the historical-critical method alone.

We learned a great deal about the cultural context of the Gospels and about their philological texture, but any other way of understanding the Gospels was outside the scope of the class. We were left with a pastiche of hypotheses and opinions, and I asked my professor: "where is Christ?" As a professor, she did not want to impose faith on her students, not all of whom were Catholic. She did not seem too interested in proposing Christ to them either. This was not a reasonable approach . . ."

Exactly. This problem, of course, is not limited to Catholic institutions of higher learning nor to the liberal ones from which it came; Evangelical institutions struggle with this sort of unreasonable teaching in a bid for "respectablility" and "approval" from secular liberals. What a waste of time and effort that is. At Tyndale University College we struggle with being academic and faithful, but I think we get it right to a greater degree than most. Students regularly come out of class having been challenged by an encounter with Christ mediated by the text. That is education worth sacrificing for and education that makes a difference. And that seems reasonable.

1 comment:

Fred said...

Thank you for this. The ills of the age impact us all, but I discreetly limited my post to my own situation. Have a happy Easter! He is risen, as He said!