Friday, December 9, 2011

Theological Argument

I keep meeting people who (though they should know better, and even have degrees in theology or its ancillary disciplines) appeal to everything but divine revelation to answer theological questions. They argue from experience, from other people's claimed experience, from history, from principles of ethicists or liturgists or ecclesiastical bureaucrats, from the social sciences, and from vague moralistic renderings akin to "What Would Jesus Do?" But arguments from revelation are rare. The usual theological loci are neglected. Even broadly metaphysical arguments (from the nature of the First Cause, or from the disproportion between human action and supernatural effects) are missing.

In its most disturbing form this comes from zealous Catholics who are on the side of the angels. I'm thinking of Radical Orthodoxy, positivist Catholic ethicists, moral arguers, culture critics, and fans of the ressourcement movement. It's hard to say what's missing. Deep theological formation? Continuity with living tradition? Instinct? Maybe just the basic point that theology draws its principles from the mind of God. (Recently I heard a priest class theological arguments from authority as the very weakest sort of argument -- forgetting what he must have learned in seminary, viz that such arguments are indeed weak, except when, as was the case in this instance, the authority in question is God. THEN the argument from authority is strong indeed, and properly theological.) Oh, well.

Grouse, grouse. Maybe next I'll review this new book, coming out of Ireland, about the ressourcement movement. It's expensive, so I must find a journal that wants a review!