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Freedom For a new Understanding of the Gospel

Freedom For a new Understanding of the Gospel

From Breakthrough pp. 157-227

By Mark Schoof, O.P.
Translated by N.D. Smith
published by Gill And Macmillan 1970
and reproduced on our website with the usual permissions

Only Via a Side-Road

In his very readable chapter on the 'pathology' of Catholicism ('Pathologie des katholischen Christentums') in his Handbuch der Pastoral theologie a book that is strongly marked by the ideas of Karl Rahner, A. Görres discusses, among other things, the gradual distortion of the Catholic principle of tradition. The content of the gospel as handed down in the Church has come to be too easily identified with the concrete forms which it has assumed in the Church in the course of history and these forms are regarded as guaranteed by the Church's 'infallibility'. As a result the normative power of what already exists in fact in the Church has become so firmly rooted in the Church's consciousness that anything new is regarded as a suspect who has to prove his innocence beyond all doubt. This became clear especially after the Reformation, with its accompanying polemics. The via moderna in thinking and 'modern devotion' were regarded as positive factors until the end of the Middle Ages, but the terms 'modernism' and 'new' theology were, in the recent past, only used by those who opposed them and were expressly avoided by their advocates. (1)

When viewed in this light, it is not really surprising, at least at first sight, that any quest for theological ideas about the right of a new understanding of the gospel to exist in the Catholic Church produces very meagre results. There is undoubtedly an element of truth in the witticism that the Catholic theologian studies for many years to discover something new and then goes on studying for at least the same number of years to prove that what he has discovered is not new at all. Given the structure of the Church as it was until the very recent past, there could scarcely have been any other possibility. The modernists and, far more hesitantly, the supporters of the 'new' theology explicitly raised the question of pluriformity in theology, although at first they did so very cautiously and principally in order to defend themselves against official criticism from the Church. In both cases, an encyclical soon put an end to their hopes, expressing the view that the traditional system of thought, neo-scholasticism, had to be maintained, and offering very little latitude indeed within this rigid framework.

In spite of this, some Catholic theologians were compelled, by their experience of the world and the Church, to undertake a renewal of their field of study and we have, in the preceding sections of this book, briefly examined their aims and achievements within the context of various attempts to renew the Church. Although they were not able to obtain permission to put up entirely new edifices of the kind put up by Barth, Bultmann, Tillich and later Pannenberg on the other side of the confessional boundary, they were able to carry out a valuable service in planning and undertaking certain smaller structural alterations in the old house of scholastic theology, some of which were hardly noticeable from the outside. If they were called upon to answer for this, they tried to give as realistic a report as possible about the urgent need for such limited adaptation, usually calling what they had done 'restoration', which it often was to a great extent. Anyone wishing to trace the search made by Catholic theologians for freedom for a new interpretation of the gospel, which is all that we are really concerned with here, might analyse the way in which the alterations which were in fact made came about and compare, one with another, the various ways in which these were justified and the official point of view of the Church. I have tried in the preceding sections to focus on this process at least in its broad outline, but the very many themes involved in this process would make it almost impossible to narrow it down to the more retrospective summary that I aim to provide in the remaining part of this book.

For this purpose, it ought to be enough to limit our excavation to a sample trench with perhaps a single side channel—the most promising being the theme of the development of dogma. I choose this theme because this question seems to present us at once with such fundamental concepts as revelation, faith, Scripture, tradition, the Church and the Church's teaching authority and above all with the factor of history, a factor which has fascinated theologians since the beginning of the nineteenth century—many of them specialised in historical theology. These are the central aspects of the theme of the development of dogma. On closer inspection, all these basic elements that I have mentioned are in fact discussed in the context of the search for freedom of movement in theology and both problems often merge into each other almost imperceptibly—for example, in the case of modernism. Anyone who has once recognised the factor of historicity in the development of dogma would certainly be very naive if he were to assume that this development suddenly ceased at a definite point of time in the past. It would therefore appear that Catholic theologians have also tended to regard the debate about the development of dogma as a kind of test case in which the chances that any 'new' theology might have of success could be tentatively measured by discussing analogous situations which raised less resistance, either because they were not 'new' or because they were more readily acceptable to the experience of the Church. An example of this latter category is the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. Development could, of course, also be traced via the constantly changing views about the whole structure of theology and this is especially noticeable in the increasing unity between historical and speculative theology. A fairly strong magnifying glass, however, is needed to observe this and it is probably advisable therefore simply to refer to this question from time to time in passing.

The problem of the development of dogma has, in any case, led to one of the most obvious trials of strength that have taken place between neo-scholasticism and a new theological approach. It was precisely in connection with the development of dogma that neo-scholasticism was confronted with almost insuperable difficulties, yet it was the neo-scholastic version of the draft constitution on revelation which was presented to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. The dramatic rejection of this draft during the first session of the Council marked a definite turning-point. After this, Catholic theologians used the material that had been accumulated in connection with the question of the development of dogma in their attempts to formulate explicit 'rules' for man's new, contemporary and developing understanding of the gospel which might assure their due parts both to man's contemporary experience and to the continuity of Christ's message within the community of the Church.

The Unchanging Truth

As a theological problem, the development of dogma is ultimately based on certain fundamental data shared by all the Christian Churches although the emphasis, of course, varies in each case—that our faith has a certain content of truths or judgements about reality which are expressed in human terms, that God's revelation took place within a clearly defined period of time and in a historical situation which is now past, that later Christian tradition has nonetheless accepted elements of truth which are, in comparison with the original revelation, clearly new or different and which consequently give rise to questions about their continuity with the gospel. In the narrower sense, however, the development of dogma is a typically Roman Catholic problem—the characteristic concepts of infallibility and of development of dogma make the question particularly urgent. As the Protestant theologian, H.M. Kuitert, has said, the Catholic Church has to re-interpret, but Reformed Christianity can go further and re-formulate, re-opening superseded or faulty doctrinal decisions.(2) The infallibility which the Catholic Church claims with such conviction and the emphasis given to this infallibility in clearly defined pronouncements by the Church's teaching office would seem to place that Church in a very vulnerable position, especially since she also believes that God's revelation came definitively to an end when the direct followers of Christ died and that the holy Spirit only calls to mind and elucidates what has already been proclaimed by Jesus, but what those who heard him directly 'could not bear'. The official interpretations of Christ's gospel which the Church has laid down in certain cases—a clear example of this is the very 'factual' pronouncements that the Church has made concerning Mary—must therefore be consistent with the gospel and with each other. If they are not, the Church would, so to speak, be able to catch the holy Spirit out in making mistakes.

This emerged most clearly when, during the post-Reformation period especially, the Catholic Church presented 'faith' more and more as a form of knowing, as an acceptance of a number of truths which were not open to human insight and for which God's authority, represented in the Church and confirmed by certain visible signs, was the guarantee. The polemics of the Reformation resulted in the attention of the Catholic Church being concentrated on 'points of doctrine' which were used as theses. What is more, because Christians of the Reformation tended to stress the subjective aspect of faith as a complete surrender in trust, Catholic theologians reacted by placing even more emphasis on the objective aspect of truth as something which man could know. When finally, after the time of Descartes, knowledge itself became more and more concerned with faith also began to assume the character of pure unchanging truth, the characteristic of God's own knowledge. It was not difficult to graft rationalistic thought—a purely mental activity which took place 'somewhere in a lofty chamber full of pure light where the turbulent movements of life itself never penetrated'(3)—on to formalised scholasticism and the reactions against this process were few. Thus, externally, the method of scholasticism was retained, while the living content of scholastic thought lost more and more of its basic ideas.

The Catholic Church was, then, convinced that this clearly defined content of faith and even the concrete institutions and practices of the Church went back directly to explicit pronouncements and decisions on the part of Christ and his apostles. With the aid of the holy Spirit promised to the Church, they had been handed down intact, almost literally from hand to hand. Different words were, of course, used from time to time, but only to prevent the possible occurrence of misunderstanding by defining even more clearly and precisely what had already been known for a long time. Just as an American looking for 'suspenders' in a shop in England learns quickly enough to ask for 'braces' if he is to be given what he wants, but certainly knows from the very beginning what he means, (4) so too has the Church never been in doubt as to what she means and has therefore always been able to recognise something new or different at once as something alien and as not an essential part of Christ's revelation—the source, in other words, of the distortion in Catholic understanding of tradition already referred to.

Bossuet made spectacular use of this idea as the central point of his apologetics against the Reformation—challenging his opponents to prove that the slightest change had ever occurred in dogma during the history of the Catholic Church and saying that, if they did succeed in demonstrating this, he would withdraw his argument. Understandably enough, the Protestant theologian P. Jurieu could not refrain from taking up the gauntlet and pointed out errors and gaps in the writings of the early Fathers of the Church. He brought the Jesuit Pétau as heavy artillery into the field, (5) but Bossuet, the celebrated representative of triumphant French Catholicism under the Sun King, had no need to take up a defensive position as quickly as this—in the case of the early Fathers, he maintained, it was simply a question of a difference in terms. The modern reader would hardly be prepared to believe in Bossuet's good faith in connection with this explanation, but it was accepted almost without question by the Church of Bossuet's own times. How could the divine truth, guaranteed by so many wonders, be imperfect—in other words, how could it change? Bossuet himself expressed this principle as 'the Catholic truth which has come from God has its perfection from the very beginning'.(6) In the zealous search for proof in the Church's past, whenever texts were brought to light which were contrary to everyone's expectations, the most fantastic theories were put forward to disprove such unwelcome evidence provided by historical research. Such awkward documents were, for example, called deliberate forgeries by heretics or else they were regarded as pieces of camouflage put up to conceal from those outside the Church her most profound mysteries, which were supposed to be preserved exclusively by oral tradition. Finally, if all else failed, it was always possible to withdraw to the last line of defence and argue that the unanimous teaching of the Church provided a more certain guarantee than historical research, which was, in this way, placed as a whole outside the law. Most theologians were moreover hardly concerned at all with historical discoveries and tended to resort, without knowing very much about the matter, to Bossuet's carefree affirmation that everything could be explained as a difference in terminology or, at the most, in what was made explicit and what remained implicit.(7) The unchanging character of the truth of faith—unchanging even in the forms in which it was expressed in the Church— remained, for the time being at least, axiomatic.


I have made grateful use of H. Hammans' very clear survey of the development of dogma, Die neueren katholischen Erklärungen der Dogmenentwicklung (Essen 1965), in my discussion of this problem in the foregoing sections. An American translation of this book has been announced. It is especially important as a study based on the bibliography of this subject from the nineteenth century onwards—and has a bibliography which is one of those discouraging but useful lists of books and articles which adorn all theses. The author's survey of the most recent 'theological' views will be found spread over different themes, which does not always help the reader's understanding of the subject. Hammans published a summary of his book in Concilium (3/1) 1967, and this number of the journal also contains other interesting studies of revelation, faith, theology, the Church and the Church's teaching authority. H. Rondet's book Do Dogmas Change? ('Faith and Fact' series, London 1961), which was written for a wider public in 1960, also provides a good insight into the problem. J.H. Walgrave's article 'Révélation foi et développement du dogme' in his Parole de Dieu et existence (Cahiers de 1'actualité religieuse, 22), Tournai 1967, is a penetrating statement of the problem with a marked historical emphasis. The substance of this article is to be found in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, IV under the heading 'Dogma, Development of. A major work by Walgrave endtitled Unfolding Revelation: the Nature of Doctrinal Development is scheduled to appear in the course of 1970 in the series 'Theological Resources' (Washington, D.C.). A number of the articles on the development of dogma in the most readily available Catholic encyclopedias are characterised by the personal views of their authors. Examples of these are Rahner's article, 'Dogma' in Sacramentum Mundi II, Schillebeeckx' article, 'Dogmaontwikkeling', in the Theologisch Woordenboek I, 1952, which also appeared in his Revelation and Theology, London and Melbourne 1967, pp. 63ff., and Geiselmann's articles 'Dogme' and 'Tradition' In the Encyclopédie de la Foi, I and IV, which deal especially with the attitude of the Tübingen school towards this problem. P.A. Liégé's contribution (entitled 'Dogme') in Catholicisme hier, aujourd'hui, demain III (Paris 1952) and E. Dublanchy's in some ways rather out of date, but nonetheless very detailed dstudy of 'Dogme' in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique IV, n1911, are more general in their orientation. Dublanchy's article contains many data about Bossuet, but the history of the whole problem will be found, very scientifically based on accurate historical research and equally well presented—a combination which the British seem above all to be able to bring off so successfully—in O. Chadwick's book, From Bossuet to Newman, op. cit. (see bibliography, p.44). For the narrowing down of the concept of faith since the Council of Trent, M. Seckler's article 'Glaube', in the Encyclopédie de la foi II, may be consulted.

Several Protestant studies on the development of dogma according to Catholic theology either by G.C. Berkouwer himself or in some way connected with him deserve special mention, especially because they often throw a completely new light on the problem for the Catholic reader. In English the only one of these works available is Berkouwer's reflections about the Second Vatican Council: The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism (Grand Rapids 1965: original ked. Kampen 1964) see especially chapter III.

The Tübingen School

Following Sailer, the Catholic members of the Tübingen school reacted creatively against such a narrow concentration on pure knowledge. Influenced by the theology of experience and the dialectic philosophy of their own times, they were able to reveal new depths in the scriptural and patristic views about tradition especially and thus to give a new, fuller and more dynamic content to revelation, faith and the Church also. Their theological achievement within the Catholic Church was that they did not allow any element of the Catholic tradition to slip through their fingers, even though it did, in the course of time, become apparent that their originally rather vague definitions needed to be more precisely formulated. They were convinced that man's personal experience of revelation had a decisive influence on his integration of that revelation, but they placed this personal faith from the very beginning within the framework of the community and placed it, what is more, within the community of the Church over the entire range of her history. Individual faith learns Christ's word as living tradition hands it down. Von Drey emphasised the dynamic power of the holy Spirit in the community of the Church and, on the basis of this, re-interpreted the current form of the doctrine and the organisation of the Church—unchangeable in their essence, these nonetheless adapt themselves in their outward form to the needs of succeeding generations; in this way the rich content of revelation is unfolded. This is also what Christ expected of his Church—that she would be a living organism in constant growth, dynamically and actively handing on his word and work and bringing it to fulfilment. The development in the life of the Church and consequently also in her dogmas, which have gained a more realistic place in this much more comprehensive whole, need not therefore arouse any surprise. This progress is inevitable and healthy and should not be explained away. The development of a living organism such as the Church is simply a sign of vitality. This progress has not, however, been in a straight line. The many different modes of human experience and the many ways in which this is determined by history mean that this growth is a dialectic process. The theologian in search of the gospel in the living tradition of the Church will therefore have to consider the whole life of the Church in his investigation within the whole of history, which is equally moved by the Spirit. The criterion for a lawful development is therefore the agreement of the whole Church, within which the Church's teaching authority has a supervisory function.

This is a surprisingly new vision within the sphere of Catholic theology, though certain of its aspects clearly need further elaboration. The place occupied by Scripture and the criterion for continuity with Christ's gospel are still not clear and the concrete course and scope of the development and the relationships between the various stages have so far been given scant attention. The later members of the Tübingen school defined many of these aspects more clearly, but their elaboration owed most to the work of the leader of the school. The fact that the theology of development of the Tübingen school was later attributed to Möhler is largely because his two major works were so popular, whereas von Drey's youthful work which was given up to this question was not published until 1940 in a book edited by the tireless advocate of the school of Tübingen, J. Geiselmann.

The idea of development in Möhler's work, Unity in the Church., which was published (in the original German edition) almost ten years after von Drey's manuscript., was a personal extension of von Drey's basic insights. In Möhler, the holy Spirit is presented even more consistently than in von Drey as the origin of the event of the Church. Individual Christians are formed by the Spirit in an invisible manner into a living unity by an inward power which is concealed from human experience and which goes on procreating itself through the centuries. This power is the tradition of the Church. The Spirit thus arouses, within the Church, a common, shared consciousness of faith that is comparable with the Volksgeist, the 'spirit of the people', which sustains God's revelation throughout history. On the basis of this inward principle of life, the Spirit also calls the body of the Church, the visible forms, into being—the outward institutions and offices, the outward tradition and the living word of proclamation, which is itself 'embodied' in Scripture, creeds and other writings. These outward, visible forms keep the inward tradition alive, in other words, they enable it to continue to grow. This process is directed by the Spirit, but it takes place, at the level of the outward forms, in a dialectical movement, in which not only all kinds of time factors in the life of the Church, but also explicit heresies act as antitheses. This confrontation also enables unconscious material of faith to penetrate to the explicit consciousness of the Church. The criterion for an authentic development is the agreement in faith of the whole of the Church, in which the Church of the past also plays an important part.

Möhler partly revised this rather vague and romantic conception later, taking the outward instead of the inward aspect as his point of departure. The origin of the tradition of the Church is now no longer the holy Spirit, but Christ— the Church's preaching, which emanates from him, evokes faith and builds up the community of the Church. In addition to the common, shared consciousness of faith, which Mohler now called subjective tradition, Möhler also postulated an objective tradition in his later writings, the Church's deposit of faith built up in the course of history. Tradition itself is also more clearly distinguished—the divine revelation which is handed down in this tradition is unchanging, but the human factors which play a part in this give rise to variation in the outward forms. An arbitrator, a visible, living authority which can distinguish the truth with certainty, is needed to judge in the conflict of interpretation brought about by this dialectical process and the development can only be a gradual unfolding of what has already been given in its fullness by Christ, an increasing consciousness of the unchanging Christian truth.

Like so many schools of theology in Europe, Tübingen became more and more right-wing after the first quarter of the nineteenth century, as Chadwick has commented, clearly rather regretfully.(8) In any case, it was a conscious change of direction which was not made under pressure from the magisterium. The reaction against pure knowledge had clearly overreached itself in the early stages of the movement. The basic ideas were, however, preserved, even by the later generations of the Tübingen school. Kuhn also saw in tradition not only a principle of identity, but also a principle of evolution. This striking combination of conservation and development, which, almost paradoxically, makes tradition a principle of progress, was one of the greatest achievements of the Catholic members of the school of Tübingen. Tradition, which had hitherto been regarded in the Catholic Church above all as an additional treasury for truths of revelation, was given back its ancient character of being the living representative of Christ's speaking and acting in the Church. This function was furthermore placed once again within its whole human and social context as an expression of the contemporary life of the Church, but was also referred back, in matters of faith, to the early Fathers. By virtue of its shared sense of faith which is inspired by the holy Spirit, the living community of the Church judges the authenticity of this interpretation of Christ's revelation and the teaching authority of the Church acts as the ultimate arbitrator within this community. Kuhn concentrated, in his speculative thought, above all on the implications of the dialectical process of development and completely abandoned the image of the organism. The unfolding of the content of revelation takes place, he maintained, at the level of the speculative spirit, which gains an increasingly wide knowledge of faith through the dynamism of the contrasting ideas and concepts which base the message of the gospel on the various New Testament authors while at the same time taking full account of the religious knowledge gained since their time. A retrograde step in Kuhn's otherwise very fruitful synthesis was, however, his identification of the living tradition of the Church with the activity of the Church's teaching authority. Kuhn also did not define the relationships between the various stages in the development of faith very clearly. The Englishman Newman, who from the very beginning thought not in terms of an organism, but of human life, was able by his more concrete approach to throw more light on this question. It was, after all, his own, personal problem.


Most of the general surveys devote a fair amount of attention to the theology of the Tübingen school in so far as this was concerned with the development of dogma. The only special studies which need to be mentioned in this context are those of J.R, Geiselmann, which are far ahead of all others in this field. In addition to his general survey of the school of Tübingen, Die katholische Tübinger Schule. Ihre theologische Eigenart (Herder of Freiburg 1964), Geiselmann has also written two other studies that are well worth reading, done of Möhler in particular, Lebendiger Glaube aus geheiligter Überlieferung (Mainz 1942), and one of Kuhn in particular, Die lebendige Überlieferung als Norm des christlichen Glaubens (Freiburg 1959). Von Drey's youthful work is published in Geist des Christentums und des Katholizismus (Mainz 1940: this is part V of Deutsche Klassiker der katholischen Theologie aus neuerer Zeit). A concise summary will be found in Geiselrnann's article 'Dogme' in the Encyclopédie de la foi, to which I have already referred. There is an American thesis on Johann Adam Möhler's Theory of Doctrinal Development (Washington eD.G. 1959) but it does not appear to be easily available.

Newman's Way

There are astonishing parallels between Newman's ideas and those of the Catholic theologians of Tübingen although specialists in the field have, with some surprise, come to the conclusion that it is only in a very remote sense that any connection can be made between Newman, who began to look in very much the same direction as the Tübingen school at least twenty-five years after von Drey, and that school or even any German philosophical movement concerned with the idea of development. The fact that he was English and that he had an Anglican background gave a very distinctive colouring to his ideas, but he too found himself opposing those (in the concrete, many of his colleagues at Oxford) who narrowed down the content of Christian faith to what could be clearly pointed out by rational and historical research. He could not believe in such a reduction on the basis of his own experience—human knowledge embraced much more than those explicitly conscious concepts which could be pointed out. Whereas the idea of the full content of the Christian revelation, as this had existed in the patristic period, had been for the whole of the Oxford Movement a reason for stressing certain 'Catholic' elements in the Church of England which had become blurred in the Anglican tradition, Newman himself found it increasingly difficult to believe that the later 'development' of these elements in the Roman Catholic Church would have been a misgrowth. He also recognised various factors in the thought and life of the whole Church which were the guarantee of healthy development in personal thought and life, and became gradually more and more convinced that there was a clear pattern to be discerned in the sequence of historical events. Newman's invaluable contribution to the theology of the development of dogma consisted above all of an extremely concrete and consequently all the more convincing description of the various factors which play a part in the historical development of the Church's consciousness of faith, a process which he had personally experienced in his own development. I can do no more here than simply summarise his ideas without attempting either to justify them or to distinguish between the various stages through which they passed in Newman's thinking.

Newman himself made an explicit distinction between the two problems inherent in this development—how the content of faith in fact grew and how the identity of this growth with the gospel was guaranteed. Newman, convinced of the value of a comparison between this process of growth and the development of the individual personal thought, did not have recourse to the image of the growing organism so favoured by the theologians of Tübingen, but insisted again and again that the whole man was involved in development, but that this progress of the whole man only became a really human progress when it was guided by conscious human thought, which was in turn always directly concerned with man's life.in the concrete. Although he fully recognised the usefulness and even the necessity of abstract thought, especially in order to achieve clarity and to make indispensable communication possible, he insisted that not only the basis but also the aim of this abstract or 'notional' knowledge was always concrete, personal or 'real' knowledge. This polarity was, he claimed, also experienced in the development of thought. In the first place, thinking is an implicit, not yet non-reflexively conscious maturation in which the whole of man's personal life and especially his total orientation towards reality, his moral attitude, is involved. The (provisional) end of this development is a firm conviction which has not yet been analysed and which is strictly personal and uncommunicable. In the second place, it is possible to stand at a distance from this process of development, to reconstruct its stages and to reason in more personal, abstract terms about it, exercising supervision, so to speak, after the event, so as to make the result communicable to others, but without adding anything new or enabling the whole wealth of concrete experiential thought to be registered. This is why there is, in our attempt to justify our personal convictions, a place for a function which Newman called the 'illative sense' and which can, in the light of man's total orientation towards reality, estimate the true value of the bond which exists between man's different insights. It is especially by means of this illative sense that man's developing thought can keep in touch with concrete data. Human thinking thus develops from man's first, concrete and all-embracing experience of reality or 'idea'—and is, in this process, guided by 'first principles' which are at the same time closely connected with the whole person—via implicit and explicit stages forward to an explicitly new knowledge. In the same way, man's thinking about faith also develops, from a concrete experience of Christ's revelation—which comes to us through Scripture and preaching—via implicit and explicit movements forward—in other words, via faith and theology—and subject to the constant supervision of the illative sense of faith, which is itself nourished by a very real contact—'real' in the sense in which Newman used the word —with the reality of faith, under the impulse of the Spirit. In man's thinking about faith, however, the social aspects, which automatically condition all thinking, emerge particularly prominently. Like every community, the Church also has a collective 'idea' towards which she is, to a great extent non-reflexively, orientated and which provides the point of departure within the community for development. This is the whole of Christ's gospel, the sum total of all the 'impressions' of the apostles of the event of Christ—a real knowledge which covers the whole of Christ's revelation, which has, however, as yet hardly been worked out in detail. It is clear from the astonishing fertility of theology in the early Church that this collective experience of reality possessed a powerful dynamism which needed to be expressed. The collective idea of the Church is not, however, a pure datum of man's thinking, but is contained in everything that is 'handed down'—the community of the Church herself in her orientation towards Christ, her liturgical forms and normative structures and Christian life itself. This idea has brought about a Christian 'atmosphere' which is handed on from generation to generation and which expresses itself in collective 'first principles' of thinking and acting. In an argument which is clearly similar in many ways to that put forward by the Tübingen school about the function of the dialectical process, but which is different in its manner of thought, Newman also stressed the confrontation that takes place between the different forms in which Christians throughout the history of the Church have reacted and still react to concrete situations and how these different reactions are all inwardly directed by the Spirit and subject to the outward supervision of the Church's teaching office. It was through this confrontation, Newman maintained, that the Christian idea, in the course of its development, became more and more explicit.

This, then is a concise description simply of the fact of development according to Newman. How does he show the faithfulness of this growth to the basic datum, the Christian idea? In the first place, he stresses the probability of God's coming forward to meet the doubts of the individual who accepted the revelation of Christ with a visible Church possessing a teaching authority which was, as far as certain crucial elements were concerned, infallible and he claims that this probability became certainty as soon as it was recognised that there was in fact a community which regarded itself as such. Newman also believed, however, that there were certain characteristics which indicated a development faithful to the Christian idea and pointed out seven of these, without aiming to provide an exhaustive list: the preservation of characteristic outward forms of the idea, the continuity of guiding principles, the ability to assimilate earlier stages and their continued existence in a more comprehensive whole, the presence in embryo of later stages in an earlier stage, logical inter-connection and finally the lasting life of the idea without its falling into sterile conservatism. Newman was convinced that these characteristics, all of which could be traced in history, provided support, especially when they occurred together, for the collective judgement of faith which was inwardly directed by the Spirit and which was, in Newman's opinion, decisive.

Walgrave has remarked that Catholic theology was not prepared for Newman's originality.(9) This was strikingly apparent when he sent a summary of his views in elegant Latin to the very open Italian theologian, G. Perrone, for his approval. Perrone's comments were unimportant and showed very little understanding of what Newman was saying. The Church was, of course, passing through the critical years of the mid-nineteenth century, and neo-scholasticism, on the defensive, could spare little attention for new ideas, especially for those concerned in one way or another with the changeable character of the truth of revelation. What is more, it was just about this time that Günther had filled the Church with a deep fear of everything new because of his much more challenging theories. The work of the Tübingen school and that of Newman was forgotten until the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was eventually rediscovered by the theologians of renewal and gratefully accorded a place in their own studies, including those of revelation, faith, the Church, tradition and theology in a wider context.


A great deal has been written about Newman's theology of development, both in general works and in special studies, but, as in the case of the theology of Tübingen, one of the interpreters is outstanding among the rest. J.H. Walgrave's synthesis, on which I have to a great extent relied in the preceding section, will be found in an English edition, Newman the Theologian (London 1960), which is ultimately based on the original Dutch publication of 1944. A summary will be found in Walgrave's studies already mentioned in the general bibliography on doctrinal development (see p. 164). The recently translated book by C. Biemer, Newman on Tradition (London and New York 1967} can also be recommended. What Chadwick has to say about Newman in the book that I have mentioned several times in different contexts, From Bossuet to Newman (see bibliography, p. 44), should not be read without consulting Walgrave's detailed criticism in the Tijdschrift voor Philosophie (20) 1958, p, 510 ff. There are paperback editions both of Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and of his Grammar of Assent, Newman's most concise summary will be found in the Latin abridgement of his ideas sent to G. Perrone. This was published in Gregorianum (16) 1935, p. 402 ff.

Neo-Scholasticism and the First Vatican Council

The most important change suggested by Perrone in Newman's summary of his ideas was that 'new teaching' should be altered to 'new definitions',(10) which gives quite a clear indication of the horizon of neo-scholastic theology— that revelation is a collection of truths contained in propositions and preferably officially promulgated. This limited perspective certainly restricted the Church's vision, even when the Roman theologians were open to let new light shine on obscure questions, which was to some extent the case before the Church withdrew to a defensive position. Perrone had come across the problem in an early work by Newman and afterwards referred appreciatively to Möhler's Symbolik. Henceforward, he too saw tradition as an all-embracing datum in the Church, as a divine yet human event 'like the incarnation', but identified it in practice with the activity of the Church's teaching office, so that there was hardly any place in his view for criticism of the Church's teaching in the light of Scripture and tradition. Thus, in connection with the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he affirmed that a few unquestionable indications of this truth had at least to be found in Scripture and tradition, but that the really decisive factor was the conviction of the 'shepherds and faithful' as evidenced, for example, by the centuries-old liturgical celebration of the feast. The Church—and in this case the Church is in fact the teaching authority of the Church—has always been in conscious possession of all truths of faith. The development of dogma can therefore only be conceptual clarification. Traces can be found in other theologians of the neo-scholastic school, especially Passaglia and Schrader, of a concept of faith that was not purely intellectual, but this scarcely functioned in practice. Scheeben was representative of a more rewarding movement, with his concept of faith based on personal surrender and his view of theology as a science essentially characterised by its supernatural object which therefore does not lose touch with faith in thought, but aims to disclose the intelligibility of the data of revelation. The influence of these ideas is still noticeable even today, but they were not directly concerned with the development of dogma —Scheeben's thinking about this was in accordance with the schematic views current in his scholastic environment.

Opposition to Günther made the neo-scholastic concept of faith with its emphasis on the intellect even more clearly the centre of attention. Because of his one-sided concentration on intellectual knowing, Gunther's mode of thought could in fact be understood more easily by the neo-scholastic theologians of the time than that of the Tübingen school or Newman, both of whom kept close to the living experience of tradition and Scripture. On closer inspection, though, Günther's ideas are more comprehensive and more subtle than his opponents seem to have believed. They are also more apostolic. He had surprising insights into the problem of the development of dogma, but made practically no attempt at all to throw light on the question of historical revelation and living tradition with all its implications. Briefly summarised, his teaching amounts to this. Once the truths of revelation have been received in faith, this 'material' can be unfolded by Christian reflection, helped by the Spirit. It is, however, only with the help of philosophy that the believer can understand the 'why' of the truth of faith. In this way, his faith may become rational knowledge. In the whole of the Church and throughout her whole history, this has been a difficult way. The apostles did not attain the highest possible insight, nor did the Fathers of the Church. With the advance of knowledge, the earlier stages of insight would be constantly transcended .The Church's task is to establish the highest insight gained at every period. In this, the Church is infallible, but her definitions do not comprise the whole truth and will therefore have to be corrected or supplemented in the course of time.

In 1857, Pius IX rejected Günther's ideas in a significant statement which was reminiscent of Bossuet. In this pronouncement, Pius IX said that Günthcr assigned the function of the Church's teaching authority to philosophy and in this way threw everything into confusion, especially 'the constantly unchangeable character of faith, which is always one and the same, whereas philosophy ... is never consistent with itself and is always subject to a wide variety of errors'.(11) The First Vatican Council returned to the problems raised by Gunther and discussed them in detail in the Constitution on Faith. This was the first time that the teaching office of the Church spoke clearly about the question of the development of dogma and related problems. The finally approved document—in which the views of the two leading neo-scholastic theologians who collaborated in the final version can be clearly recognised—namely Franzelin and Kleutgen—does leave latitude for a more comprehensive concept of faith, but clearly takes as its point of departure the view of faith based on intellectual knowledge: 'helped by the grace of God, we believe that what is revealed by him is true'.(12) Faith is a manner of knowing which is different from 'natural' knowledge 'not only in principle, but also in its object', although reason, 'illuminated by faith', can attain 'some understanding of the mysteries of God'. But the 'doctrine of faith revealed by God has not been offered to human minds as a philosophical invention to be perfected, but as a divine pledge entrusted to the bride of Christ to be guarded faithfully and declared infallibly. That is why that meaning of the sacred dogmas which . . . the Church has once and for all time declared must always be retained and no deviation must ever be made from this meaning either in the name of or under the pretext of a deeper understanding'.(13) That there is a development in our understanding of faith is confirmed by the well-known quotation of Vincent of Lérins which it is so difficult to interpret, but then only 'in its own lineage, in the same teaching, in the same sense and with the same meaning'. For Vincent's norm of faith was 'what is believed everywhere, always and by everyone'.(14)

It was even more apparent in the theological discussions both before and after the First Vatican Council that the sphere within which neo-scholasticism operated was extremely limited. The argument was in fact confined to an investigation into the logical relationships between truths of faith defined by the Church. Kleutgen, for example, tried to limit the extent of the development as far as possible by showing the clearest possible logical bonds between the various 'truths'. To do this, an old argument was set up once more—the notorious question of the status of a theological conclusion drawn from a revealed and a non-revealed premise. Could not, perhaps, a truth concluded in this way be connected so closely with Christ's revelation that real development could be denied?

In all this controversy, Newman and the Catholic theologians of Tübingen were completely lost from sight. Their answer to Günther's 'ideal reconstruction of Christianity' (15) would no doubt have been that the development of dogma was not primarily a question of philosophical thought, but something which took place in the whole multi-coloured life of the Church. This attitude was quite outside the experience of neo-scholasticism, which was as much a victim of pure 'thought' as Gunther was. Furthermore, the ideal of a truth that was unchangeable even in its human forms so preoccupied neo-scholastic theologians that every attempt was made to limit the development of dogma to what was absolutely inescapable. Papal infallibility, which was dogmatically defined at the First Vatican Council, can also be interpreted as a new guarantee for the permanently unchangeable quality of truth. Infallibility has the function of'guarding the deposit of faith intact and interpreting it faithfully'.(16)

The polemics with Günther did, however, give prominence to a new aspect. Neither the Tübingen theologians nor Newman had a change in the prevailing formulations of dogma in mind. All that they wanted to do was to justify the historical development of dogma and to enrich the faith of the Church by assimilating traditional data that had become blurred into theology. Henceforward, the possibility of development or re-interpretation of the Church's dogmas would be an issue in theology. This question was to be discussed with some acerbity in modernism.


Information about nineteenth-century neo-scholastic theology will only be found in general works. There is, however, one exception, W. Kasper's remarkable monograph on the Roman school, Die Lehre von der Tradition in der Romischen Schule (Freiburg 1962). There has recently been a revival of interest in Günther's theology, but very little is to be found about his theory of development. There is also very little to be found dealing with the paragraphs on development in the Constitution on Faith of the First Vatican Council other than L. Orban's Theologia Güntheriana et Concilium Vaticanum, 2 volumes (Rome 1942 and 1949). There was in fact little debate about it and the original draft remained almost unchanged. For the First Vatican Council in dgeneral, R. Aubert's book Le pontifical de Pie IX 1846-1878 (see bibliography, p. 43) should be consulted, or his later book, Vatican I (Paris 1964), which also contains a French translation of the Constitution on Faith, the Latin text of which will be found in H. Denzinger's Enchiridion.

History and Dogma in Modernism

Baron von Hügel happened, almost by chance, to get hold of Möhler's Symbolik and was so impressed by it that he advised Loisy to read it. Loisy never did in fact read Möhler's book, but he did make the Baron share in his enthusiasm for Newman, the 'most open theologian since Origen' who had, he believed, only lacked followers.(17) When Loisy became familiar with Newman's ideas, his own fundamental ideas had already taken shape. Very broadly speaking, one may say that these ideas developed from his historical exegetical studies and were his own justification of the assumptions that he had made in confrontation with the points of departure of his colleagues outside the Catholic Church. As a typical representative of the 'historians' who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, were so inclined to research that was free of metaphysical preoccupations' and were therefore all the more absorbed in the reconstruction of factual evolutions, Loisy was almost diametrically opposed to the official theology of his own times, with its obsession with the unchangeable character of faith. These official theologians regarded the historical theologians as the inhabitants of an unknown territory who had to be approached with great suspicion. This made Loisy's surprise that Newman should postulate that the development of dogma was something characteristically Catholic all the greater. Seen in this light, it is also understandable that Loisy should take over from Newman what he believed provided an answer to his own questions, in other words, principally the more external, social and historical elements in Newman's works, all of which he certainly did not know, for that matter. In any case, he undoubtedly underestimated the ultimately intellectual character of Newman's theory of development. He himself had a vital, almost blind evolution in mind, not what Newman envisaged — a process, guided by thought and constantly supervised, of development in the Church of intelligible ideas which were entrusted to the Church, however much they were linked to the whole richly varied life of the Church.

Loisy himself was very well aware of what was at stake. Shortly before his final break with the Church, he presented his work 'firstly as a historical outline and explanation of the development of Christianity and secondly as a general philosophy of religion and an attempt to interpret the formulations of dogma, the official creeds and the conciliar definitions, with the aim of reconciling them, by sacrificing the letter in favour of the spirit, with the data of history and with the attitude of mind of our own contemporaries'.(18) He based his hermeneutics, in this attempt to re-interpret Christianity, principally on the conviction that, in comparison with the original, supernatural intuition and religious experience of the gospel, the dogmatic formulations which attempt to express this religious intuition suffer from two weaknesses—a metaphysical relativity, because they are not capable of reproducing their object adequately, and a historical relativity, because they have to be continuously adapted to changing thought. The living rule of faith of the Church's teaching authority is our guarantee that these socially conditioned expressions do really point to the inexpressible original religious experience. This authority, established by God, indicates the forms in which Christian experience can be expressed in the most adequate way within a given historical situation. The gospel is thus progressively realised in history, in changing historical forms. The gospel did not, as Harnack insisted, continue to live in this inward experience despite the Church—it had to go on living in the Church. But this inward experience, towards which the expressions of the Church point in their faltering way, is itself not a clearly defined content of consciousness and therefore eludes knowledge.

This assured Loisy of the necessary latitude for historical research. The price that he paid for this, however, meant a far-reaching inflation of the concepts of faith towards which his research was, after all, ultimately directed. The reality of the formulations of faith, however, was almost entirely outside his sphere of interest—he was so completely preoccupied by historical research and the historical method that he expected these to supply the answer to every question. On the other hand, as Duméry has observed, he shared the illusion which haunted so many of his contemporaries in the same field of study and which we have now to a very great extent seen through—that it should be possible to demolish the theological superstructure and practise pure history, investigate pure facts without reference to their significance.(19) Blondel's intervention made the consequences of this position strikingly apparent.

It was quite clear that Blondel had high hopes of Loisy when he sent him a complimentary copy of his Lettre about contemporary apologetics in 1897. Loisy's 'L'Évangile et l'Église, however, made him enthusiastic at first, but later raised certain questions in his mind. These questions, which he eventually put to Loisy, were all concerned in one way or another with the wall that Loisy appeared to have erected around the historical facts—if these facts were thus isolated, how could they ever be brought into contact with faith and was not an isolation of this kind as unreal as the division made by neo-scholasticism between the different sciences or the different approaches to reality? Historical facts were, Blondel insisted, themselves part of reality, and consequently the essential problem was not whether or not historical development took place, but whether this historical development was authentic or not. This problem could not be resolved without recourse to Christ's consciousness of his mission. Could this question be answered by pure historical research? The general tone of Loisy's answers, which become progressively less and less patient, is revealing—he had never thought that metaphysics would be irrelevant to history, but he had to protect his autonomy as a critic by defending the territory which was still immune from the tyrannical supervision of the prevailing theology. As a historian, he could do no more than simply describe Christ and his mission by reconstructing these from the testimonies of the time. (20) Blondel was, however, unable to convince himself that Loisy based his position entirely on practical grounds. In fact, he felt compelled to make a public stand.

He published, in the journal La Quinzaine, several articles on 'history and dogma' in which he not only dissociated himself, without mentioning any names, from what he had recognised as Loisy's 'historicism', which suggested that dogma was the exclusive product of history, but also from the 'extrinsicism' of the prevailing theology, which suggested that history was totally dependent on an unchanging and amply clear dogmatic ideology, without any influence being exerted on it by the indisputable data of the critical sciences. The most valuable contribution to the discussion was, however, Blondel's own view of the bond between dogma and history, in which he provided a new interpretation, clearly inspired by his philosophy of action, of the tradition of the Church. This can be outlined briefly as follows. The gospel is more than simply a message recorded in written documents or contained in the preaching of the Church — it is a living reality which has been given form in the whole life and experience of the community of the Church. This reality is above all handed down in the Church's tradition, an action in which God's grace goes together in the concrete with man's activity. (This is one of Blondel's fundamental insights.) From the very beginning, then, there has always been a living unity between (divine) dogma and (human) history in the Church, a collective consciousness which is more than simply intellectual. This includes the whole content of revelation — both, for example, in its written documents and in its outward institutions — and preserves it, but it must also, in its explicit implications and consequences, take possession of this content again and again by Christian action. This tradition, 'which includes within itself. the data of history, the efforts of reason and the experiences ...of faithful action', (21) is in the concrete the bond between the gospel and man's contemporary convictions of faith.

Blondel did not, however, succeed in convincing Loisy, who was unable to recognise his own intention in Blondel's ideas. It cannot be denied, on the other hand, that, even for Blondel, the demands of modern historical research continued to be alien — and it was modern historical research that Loisy most wanted to do within the Church and still hoped to be able to do without hindrance. He aimed above all to enclose his historical reserve within the fence of his 'philosophical' arguments and it was tragic that there was, at that time, no one within the Catholic Church who had sufficient insight and sufficient influence to guarantee that his investigations would gain a real place in theology, with the result that the expressions of faith at the time might be criticised in the light, for example, of a return to the sources of Scripture and tradition. Blondel, however, certainly put his finger on one very weak spot in historicism — it was almost as fanatically concerned with pure facts as neo scholasticism was preoccupied with pure truths. This is perhaps the reason why the confrontation between these two points of view continued for so long to be a pure antithesis. The wider context which Blondel indicated might have been a better basis for more realistic discussion.

Tyrrell's views were very similar to those of Loisy, but he expressed them with prophetic eloquence and was more open and radical and consequently clearer. By nature he lacked the patience and caution of the scholar. He was more directly concerned with Christian life itself and with Christian mystical experience and believed that these could no longer be nourished by the dried up formulae of the prevailing theology. It Is interesting to observe how he interpreted Newman's 'idea' as a 'spiritual power or impulse' (22) which took from the surrounding cultural environment expressions which as symbols pointed to the religious experience that is given with the gospel. Tyrrell freely admitted that he had, in accepting this view, departed from the Roman Catholic belief in a treasury of faith 'deposited' with the apostolic Church and in the infallibility of the Church. His attitude contrasts sharply with that of the devout philosopher E. le Roy, who tried explicitly to achieve harmony between strict orthodoxy and modern scientific thought by defining the concepts of faith as an orientation towards community with God and Christian action. He was, however, insufficiently adept in the use of the traditional vocabulary of the Church to be able to avoid the suspicion that — as became clear later on he had no intention of denying that the Church's formulations referred to reality.

As Vidler has observed, it was almost inevitable that, in their attempts to bring the gospel into harmony with the results of historical research and to restore its relevance for men of their own times, the modernists went astray in this virtually uncharted territory and became the victims of the one-sided pragmatism and anti-intellectual evolutionism of their age.(23) Spiritual experience is certainly one aspect of faith and the Church has never thought that it was possible for the concepts of faith to reproduce the reality of revelation adequately. But the modernists gave an exaggerated emphasis to the immanence of God and to the empirical aspects of the data of revelation. This overemphasis was, however, a reaction to the one-sided concentration on the transcendence of God and on rational thought in the theology of the period. No solution to the real problem was provided by the powerful confirmation of this in the papal condemnations of modernism.

Among the affirmations condemned in Lamentabili are Loisy's famous aphorism, that dogmas are 'not truths which have come down to us from heaven' (24) the statement that 'the dogmas of faith have only to be retained in accordance with their practical meaning . . . and not as the norm of faith' (25) and the assertion that 'truth is no more unchangeable than man himself', (26) The encyclical Pascendi did not really discuss the problems raised in a direct and positive manner. All that it in fact did was to cut off a new road, insisting that the old road was still quite good enough and had been — so it would seem by implication — mapped out often enough. About two thirds of this quite lengthy document was devoted to a logical exposition of modernism — an achievement which, in view of the very divergent material, certainly commands respect. The result, however, is very reminiscent of an impressionistic composition by a romantic pupil after it has been corrected by his classical teacher. As Tyrrell himself said, in his famous reaction in The Times: 'When the Encyclical tries to show the modernist that he is no Catholic, it mostly succeeds only in showing that he is no Scholastic — which he knew'. (27) The teaching of the Church, for the most part, only emerges indirectly in the ironical descriptions of the modernist 'system', sometimes supplemented by earlier pronouncements made by the Church. Thus, the development of dogma is rejected in Pascendi with quotations from Vatican I, especially the condemnation of Günther already referred to, and with the words of Pius IX on 'those enemies of divine revelation' who 'wish to introduce . . . with great audacity . . . human progress . . . into the Catholic religion, as though that religion were not the work of God, but that of men or some philosophical invention which was capable of being perfected by human means'. (28) In a later section, the 'first and most important cause' of the errors of the modernists was explicitly called their 'ignorance'. (29) It was only because they did not know scholastic philosophy—· Tyrrell, who had once been a convinced Thomist, must have sighed when he read this—that they embraced modern thinking with its 'deceits and trickery'. (30) One of the recommended cures for modernism., therefore, was the promotion of neo-scholastic thought, but an insertion was also made recommending positive theology, on condition that 'no harm, was done to scholasticism', because 'more importance must clearly be attached to positive theology than in the past'.(31)

The task that had to be fulfilled by this theology is not mentioned in Pascendi, but it was clearly not to be a 'deliberate mutilation of history', of which the modernists were accused in their research under the inspiration of a false philosophy. It is also hardly possible that it would include a reconstruction of the development of dogma, in view of what had been said before this mention of positive theology. Many Catholic historians must have agreed in their hearts with what Dom Cuthbert Butler wrote to Baron von Hügel: (The only freedom in Biblical things and the rest [Butler was here referring to the development of dogma] is that of a tram, to go ahead as fast as you like on rails, but if you try to arrive at any station not on the line, you are derailed'.(32)


Not only general works, but also several special studies of modernism, especially those by Rivière, Vidler, Poulat and Duméry (see bibliography, pp. 70-72), provide a good survey of the ideas of the modernists on the development of dogma. L. da Veiga Coutinho's Roman dissertation, Tradition et histoire dans la controversy modernise 1898-1910 (Gregorian University, Rome 1954) gives a useful picture of the different points of view and is explicitly written in the spirit of J. Rivière. There is also H. Gouhier's more sympathetic contribution to Herméneutique et tradition, an account of one of the colloquies organised in Rome by E. Castelli and published in Rome and Paris in 1963.

As for the authors discussed in the preceding section, Blondel's 'Histoire et dogme' has been republished in Les premiers écrits de Maurice Blondel (Paris 1956), in the series 'Bibliothèque de philosophie contemporaine', and is therefore fairly easily obtainable. The English translation is The Letter on Apologetics and History and Dogma, London 1964. Apart from Tyrrell's Christianity at the Crossroads, which was reprinted in London in 1963, the works of the modernists are no longer very easy to find. Loisy's most representative writing on the question of the development of dogma is his chapter on the origin and authority of dogmas, 'Sur 1'origine et l'autorité des dogmes', in his Autour d'un petit livre, Paris, 1903, and Tyrrell's is not his reprinted book, but his Through Scylla and Charybdis, London, 1907, a collection of essays, some of them already previously published, in which the author, in his own words, 'throws down his cards on the table'.(33) The book by E. le Roy, to whom I have referred in the preceding section, is called Dogme et critique and was published in Paris in 1907. The article to which I have already referred by Walgrave in his Parole de Dieu et existence, defines the limits between Newman's ideas, the modernist view and the most recent interpretations.

Re-orientation within Neo-Scholasticism

Modernism was certainly the most daring venture in the search for freedom for a new understanding of the gospel in the recent history of the Catholic Church. The answer to the modernist challenge to scholasticism was, however, not entirely negative—new impulses within the theological tradition of neo-scholastic thought itself gave rise to an interior tension between those who continued to follow the course that had been set since the change in direction brought about by the polemics against the Reformation and post-Cartesian rationalistic thinking, and those who, confronted by the modern problem, went back to the medieval vision. This scholastic return to the original sources was, in turn, evident in two different directions and traces of the differences between the two directions that this new movement within neo-scholasticism took can still be discerned in the quite distinctive approaches of the later representatives of the two schools—-the Dominican school which began with Gardeil and later included, among others, Chenu, Congar and Schillebeeckx, and the Jesuit school which goes back above all to Rousselot and continued with de Lubac, Bouillard, Rahner, Schoonenberg and others. Compared with the older, 'authentic' neo-scholasticism, however, there is also a very striking similarity between these two schools in their approach and in the results that they achieved, even though Rousselot, for example, experienced rather more opposition from the prevailing neo-scholastic theologians than did Gardeil.

Faith is at the same time both a human reality and a reality that is sustained by God's grace. This was the central point from which all the questions about faith radiated. To what extent can human experience lead to faith? Is faith itself a religious experience? How is this religious experience related to man's explicit knowledge of the truths of faith (which has consequences for the development of dogma) ? How is faith as an experience related to theology and especially to positive or historical theology? In the technical neo-scholastic formulae, then, the fundamental questions raised by modernism were realistically discussed.

Gardeil's basic rediscovery would seem to have been the function of the light of faith, the inward illumination by the Spirit who brings to light the truths of revelation as religious values and thus makes faith into an inward experience— although this term was, Chenu remarked later, too suspect when Gardeil was writing for him to use it explicitly. (34) Faith is therefore not a purely neutral acceptance of the truths of revelation, guaranteed by God's authority and imposed by the will. It is an inward recognition of truth, truth that concerns one's own salvation. Theology tries to let this inward light penetrate as deeply as possible with the help of scientific means, not only into the content of faith which comes to us through the Church, but also into the human, philosophical context of this. Theology, therefore, is not a neutral science which can simply be practised without faith. The only way in which the science of faith, theology, can be practised is by keeping in touch with and being totally committed to the data of revelation. This means that theology must be historical, but this research directed by the light of faith is a quest not for 'pure facts', but for the religious meaning of history. The theologian is therefore able to envisage the development of dogma quite calmly. All the concepts of faith suffer from 'metaphysical relativity'—Loisy was not wrong when he claimed that neo-scholasticisrn also accepted this—and they are only an analogous grasp of the divine reality. This is the basis that makes historical specifications of the concepts of faith possible. The model in which Gardeil saw this possibility made concrete was still that of premises leading to a new theological conclusion. His pupil Marin-Sola was to apply these principles and all their consequences to the development of dogma. (35) In this way he was also to put his finger unintentionally on the weakness of the still too formal point of departure. It was only when Chenu and Congar and later Schillebeeckx also turned explicitly to consider the living reality from which the formal procedure had been abstracted that Gardeil's vision reached its real aim.

Rousselot also emphasised the light of faith—I should mention here that Gardeil was greatly indebted, as far as his ultimate position, which I have outlined briefly above, was concerned, to Rousselot's criticism of his earlier formulations—but he concentrated his attention especially on the elements which played a part in man's way towards faith. Impressed by Blondel's philosophy of action, he rediscovered Thomas' dynamic concept of faith and consistently stressed that God's grace was already at work in the concrete attitude with which man was open to revelation as preached and as confirmed by outward signs. Because he had at the same time come to the conclusion that, for Thomas, knowledge was characterised not by discursive reason, but by a much more deeply rooted 'sense for the real', (36) he too was able to see more in faith than simply a neutral acceptance of the truths of revelation and more in the development of dogma than simply a process of logical steps. The only document by Rousselot on the latter question that is still preserved, apart from a note of no more than a few pages, is a youthful work which has been recently published. This contains several very striking ideas and a number of significant references to Möhler, Newman and Blondel's 'Histoire et dogme'. Rousselot's great achievement was that he made a place within the scholastic tradition for the genuinely scholastic data of spontaneous judgement inspired by the whole of man's attitude to life and for love as the basis of all real knowledge.

The German theologians of the period between the two world wars did not reveal any new points of view in connection with the problem of the development of dogma, at least not directly. The subject was no more than incidentally discussed in the theology of renewal in the German-speaking countries. Schell made the general affirmation that, on the basis of the 'dialogical structure' of the event of revelation, the association of God's revelation of himself and man's trusting surrender of himself, a development of dogma was not simply possible, but even required. Revelation was in principle closed with Christ and deposited, as far as its content was concerned, in Scripture and tradition, but this content of revelation in fact required a further unfolding which was not a strictly logical deduction. Schell's dynamic and existential thought, in which theology functioned as the extension of the concrete, personal surrender in faith, includes many important points of departure for a new approach to the therne of the development of dogma, but these ideas have found very little response until quite recently and can consequently be given no place in this very general survey.

Guardini, Adam and the kerygmatic theologians centred in Innsbruck found the freedom to reflect about faith in contemporary terms mainly outside the framework of the prevalent theology. They too did not concern themselves directly with the debate that was taking place elsewhere about the development of dogma. Not even Karl Adam, who had gone deeply into the history of dogma when he was at Munich and had explicitly followed the tradition of his predecessors at Tübingen, dealt directly with this subject. Nonetheless, both Guardini and Adam, together with their contemporaries G. Söhngen, E. Przywara and K. Eschweiler, did make important, though indirect contributions to the discussion about the development of dogma. What they did above all was to reconsider the distinctive character of the knowledge of faith and therefore of theology as a science, taking especially Scheeben's approach to the problem as their point of departure.

It was natural, of course, that greater personal depth was given to faith within the dynamic 'movements' with their intense social consciousness, their feeling for the Church, their interest in the liturgy and its symbolic language and their concentration on Christ. The narrow basis of'accepting truths on the authority of the Church' was broadened in many different directions. The reaction against the neutral, purely rational knowledge of faith which had begun with Blondel, Rousselot and Gardeil was strengthened by the influence of the phenomenological ideas of Max Scheler, who described man's orientation towards the highest religious values and his experience of God which was sustained by this, and by the inspiration of the basically related ideas of Augustine and Newman. On the one hand, faith was more deeply rooted in the human personality with its many-sided, concrete dimensions and associations, while, on the other hand, it was also inwardly orientated towards the living God, who comes forward to meet us personally and makes faith a specifically religious knowledge. This specific knowledge of faith had, these theologians believed, to be given a more important place in theology. Theologians could not, they insisted, analyse the truths of faith, after these had been accepted, with purely rational means, but could only attempt to unfold the intelligible element inherent in the vision of faith itself. This ideal of a theology continuously sustained by the .life of faith was to play a very important part in the ensuing discussions about the development of dogma.


Gardeil expressed his views about faith and theology in Le donné révélé et la théologie. This book was published in Paris in 1932 with an introduction by Chenu, which can also be found, together with a commemorative note of 1956, in Chenu's La foi dans l'intelligence, Paris 1964, pp. 269 ff. (see p. 190, footnote 34). R. Aubert's thesis, Le probleme de l'acte de foi, Louvain, 3rd ed. 1958, a book which is still unrivalled in its field, can also be consulted in connection with both Gardeil and Rousselot, a detailed exposition of whose work is contained in Aubert's thesis. Many more articles have been published, mainly in theological journals, about Rousselot than about Gardeil, but it should be sufficient to refer here to H. Holstein's study, 'Le theologien de la foi' which appeared in the special number devoted to Rousselot of the Fourviere journal, Recherches de science religieuse (53), 1965, which also contains Rousselot's youthful work on the development of dogma, presented by de Lubac. Rousselot's later 'Note sur le developpement du dogme' was also published in the same journal—vol. 37, 1950, p. 113 ff. The two best books on the German debate about faith and science are undoubtedly Karl Adam's Glaube und Glaubenswissen-schaft im Katholizismus (2nd ed. Rottenburg 1923} and K. Eschweiler, Die zwei Wege der neueren Theologie, Georg Hermes-Matth. Jos. Scheeben (Augsburg 1926). As a footnote to Eschweiler's book, it may be said that the conventional neo-scholastic theologians did not greatly appreciate the striking likeness drawn by the author between the neo-scholasticism officially approved by the Church and Hermes' semi-rationalism which was condemned by the Church.

The Development of Dogma in Le Saulchoir

Similar ideas were also expressed in France and even explicitly applied to the problems of the development of dogma and the position of theology, although in the less spectacular and more technical language of traditional neo-scholasticism. Chenu's theology, so concerned with life and so fundamentally linked to history, has already been briefly mentioned in the preceding section in connection with Gardeil's work—Gardeil's rather barren vision was ultimately transformed by Chenu's emphasis on the contemporary context, his realistic approach to history and his consistent elaboration of the full humanity of the scientific study of theology.

Chenu reacted, with the Germans, against a purely rational approach to the data of faith and fully accepted their emphasis, which originated with Scheeben, on an inward unfolding of the vision of faith itself. He, however, regarded this as already implied in Thomas' authentic view of faith and theology. Chenu's idea of faith and theology, based on this point of departure, can be outlined as follows. Faith is directed towards 'God as my salvation' and is therefore a knowledge in which a decisive part is played by the will by spurring thought on to a never completed, but also never ceasing, attempt to fathom the transcendent mystery. The impatience of a faith which has surrendered itself to a reality which is constantly eluding the grasp of human understanding impels the believer to a restless quest in thought, with the aim of deepening and throwing light on his own inward experience of God by means of the 'outward' revelation in history—in other words, in Scripture, in tradition and in man's contemporary experience of faith. In this way, our religious attitude is given backbone (37) in a process which is constantly supported by the inward light of faith, but which at the same time uses every possible means of human, technical thought.

The knowledge of faith is therefore entirely 'divine' and has its own consistency on the basis of the light of faith, but it is also entirely 'human' in its mode—a paradox which forms the basis of a God-centred or 'theologal' humanism. Theology can therefore never go outside the sphere of the experience of faith without running the risk of letting the 'object' of its study slip through its fingers. The use of the scientific method makes this risk very real—there will inevitably be a certain divergence between the theological 'conclusions' and the experience of faith as such, but that is precisely why theologians have to study the original experience of faith again and again, and especially this experience as recorded in history. They can try to gain an insight into the problem in two ways—by means of philosophy, which is concerned with what is universal, necessary and unchanging, and by means of history, which considers the incalculable datum of the concrete reality of faith. The theologian does try to gain as universal an insight as possible, but only in so far as the history of salvation in the concrete is not opposed to this. 'As soon as it is authentic, the smallest fact is normative': (38) if no place can be found for it in the theory, the theory must be discarded. This primacy of the facts also explains the tension between the experience of faith and theological formulation, a tension which results in there being no possibility of theology 'without new birth', a saying of the Tübingen theologian Kuhn which Chenu used as a motto to introduce one of his articles.(39)

Chenu only applied this incidentally to the development of dogma. But, when he did define his position in greater detail, he provided an elucidation, once again based on Thomas, which, in principle, overcame the impasse of scholasticism. Looking back, it seems almost incredible that Chenu should have been the first to point explicitly to this distinction which is now so obvious to us, or at least that he should have rediscovered it in the scholastic heritage, because he freely acknowledged that, in so doing, he was only incorporating Newman's description into the Thomist doctrine of knowledge. The weight of the absolutely unchangeable character of the truths of revelation pressed heavily down on Catholic thought and Chenu pointed out the only place where the revealed truth was in fact unchangeable—the reality of God himself who is the real end of all our judgements about faith which are built up of limited and therefore changing concepts. For, according to Thomas' pregnant phrase, 'the terminus of the act of faith is not the proposition, but the reality', (40) just as every judgement, by the connection or separation of different conceptual contents, comes into contact with the reality itself under constantly new aspects.

Of course, even before Chenu the scholastic theologians were aware of the analogy between the development of dogma and the progress of human knowledge, but only Chenu seems to have realised that this process of knowledge was not simply an analogy, but the very principle and psychological basis of the development of dogma. 'What is known is adapted in the knower to his mode of knowing': (41) God could only speak to us in a human manner, that is, in human words which, with the progress of human thought, become more and more numerous and more and more explicit. Although Thomas only applied this to the progress of revelation, it can just as well be applied to the development of the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church. With the help of the Spirit in the light of faith for every believer and therefore in the whole of the Church, our knowledge of faith is directed towards the unchanging reality of God, but this is only attained in accordance with the necessarily limited content of the concepts of faith, which consequently need to be inwardly supplemented and deepened.

This fundamental idea, which can be called humanistic, and which secularises man's knowledge of faith in principle, was not elaborated by Chenu in all its consequences. The theme was, however, taken up again by Congar, who encountered the problem in a much wider context—that of the question put by non-Catholic Christians to the Catholic Church. This almost automatically raised the problem of the relationships within the Catholic Church between Scripture, tradition and infallibility in particular and Congar, under the pressure of his ecumenical contacts, became more and more 'conformed to the gospel'. (42) The different steps in his development cannot, unfortunately, be considered here.

The basis of Congar's theology was very little different from that of Chenu. In working it out in the concrete, however, he brought out more and more clearly an element which not only set the problem of the development of dogma against a more realistic background, but also threw light on a neglected aspect of this subject—the fact that the life of the Church consists of both tradition and reformation and has an unchangeable pole, to which the word, the sacraments and the apostolic office belong, and a reformable pole, the life of the Church and her institutions. The development of dogma is only one aspect of this whole. These two poles evoke each other and complement each other—a fact which can be understood when they are seen as the concrete result of God's activity in the world, which is a history of God's invitation to salvation and man's response to this. God is faithful to his promise of salvation and the faithful realisation of this promise is reflected in the constant progress of tradition. Man's inconsistency and the freedom of God's initiative, however, give rise to breaks and re-orientations in this tradition and, since the full revelation of salvation in the event of Christ, these breaks and new orientations are brought about in the concrete by a return to this original source.

Christ's revelation 'once and for all time' continues to live in the Church as tradition, but this is not regarded, according to the distinctions which have become prevalent since the teaching of the Tübingen theologians and which Congar defined, simply as the activity of handing down itself, but also as the very content of that activity—what is, in fact, handed down. This includes everything that the Church passes on as Christ's heritage—Scripture, for example, and the Church's practices, forms of life, liturgy and Church order. In addition, the meaning of the 'unwritten' tradition that has been accentuated by polemics must also be borne in mind here. Tradition, then, is fundamentally God's invitation to salvation in Christ as handed down in concrete forms from generation to generation within the community of the 'people of God on the way'. Tradition is continuous with the gospel and this continuity is realised not in spite of, but precisely within, this progress through history.Tradition takes place in the midst of the challenging changes of history and, in confrontation with these, its unique invitation to salvation assumes new forms and expressions. In this process, too, the content of knowledge of the data of revelation is also developed, under the impulse of Christian life itself, which has its focal point in communal worship and personal prayer and its expression both in spontaneous reflection and in scientific elaboration. The light of faith of the community of the Church as a whole, which is sustained by the Spirit, guarantees that this progress will be homogeneous. This light forms the basis of an inner 'sense', which directs the faith of the whole people of God and the proclamation and the ultimate interpretation of that faith towards the authentic revelation of Christ.

By no means everything in the Church is guaranteed, however, by God's promise or by the help of the Spirit. Even in Old Testament times, it was clear that it was necessary for the unwilling people of God to be corrected again and again and, after the definitive offer of salvation in Christ, man's response continued to be fickle. Congar, therefore prefers not to call the Church the continuation of the incarnation. Within the Church, he has explicitly pointed to such a reformation, which has as its aim a return to the central truth of revelation, only in the life of the Church, including the decisions of the hierarchy, and not in the authoritative proclamation and interpretation of the data of revelation. Because of the wide context within which this is discussed, however, Cougar's view at least implies the possibility that elements of the Church's faith can be given too much or too little emphasis within the whole of the Church's tradition and that their importance can be increased or diminished according to the function that they fulfil in the life of the Church. For example, under the influence of the polemics directed against the Protestant Reformation, the meaning of tradition itself became narrowed down. In the present ecumenical situation, however, tradition can take on a much wider significance in the light of the source of the living gospel itself. Congar has shown—and here he is consistent with the whole development of his thinking—a certain preference for the idea that the Church is 'indefectible' rather than 'infallible'. The term 'infallibility', which, with its emphasis on knowledge, became, as it were, 'established' only in the nineteenth century, obscures the Church's hesitations and the errors she may make in her speaking in bearing witness to the gospel. Certain acts of the Church are infallible, but the Church herself or the pope are not simply infallible.(43)

In building up on the basis of Thomism a synthesis of the ideas of Newman, the Tübingen school and Blondel, a work of integration which Chemi had already begun, Congar infused new life into scholasticism. The real value of his contribution can, however, only be seen fully against the background of his own efforts to renew the teaching of the Church, which even resulted in Mohler being involved in posthumous difficulties with the Church more than a hundred years after his death—there were official objections to his Unity in the Church being included in Congar's series 'Unam Sanctam'. Congar's theology itself is a prophetic search for freedom for a new form of theology, a reform of theology and the Church, which, in the nineteen-fifties, gave rise to considerable scandal.


Chenu gives quite a clear indication of his own ideas in his articles on Gardeil, but only in some of his other articles, collected in La foi dans l'intelligence (Paris 1964), did he outline systematically his plan of theology based on history and the modern world and the Church. Two of these articles are particularly worth reading—'Position de la théologie', op. cit., p. 115 ff. and 'La théologie au Saulchoir', p. 243 ff. Only the first of these has been included in Faith and Theology, op. cit. The second was the central chapter of Chenu's private edition dealing with the direction of the theology of the Dominican house of studies (see footnote 64, p. 155). His contribution to the theme of the development of dogma will be found in the same collection between his articles on faith —'La raison psychologique du développement du dogme d'après saint Thomas', p. 51 ff.

Congar's ideas can be found in the two volumes of La tradition et les traditions., Paris 1960 and 1963 (see especially the first chapter of volume II): the English translation is Tradition and Traditions, London 1966; and in part 20 of his series 'Unam Sanctam', Vraie et fausse reforme dans l'Eglise (Paris 1950), a book which caused a great stir when it was published. It was republished in 1969 as part 72 of the same series with revisions and retrospective reflections by Congar. A shorter work by Gongar on tradition is a part of the series Je sais, je crois, which led to the greater work, La tradition et la vie de l'Église (Paris 1963); the English translation is Tradition and the Life of the Church, No. 3 in the 'Faith and Fact' series (London 1969). The two poles of tradition and reform have been explicitly brought together in Jossua's study of Congar (see bibliography, p. 119). I am greatly indebted to Jossua in my outline of Congar's work in the preceding section.

The Heart of the Problem in the 'New' Theology

In the years preceding 1950, Catholic theologians began to get nearer to the real heart of the problem of the development of dogma which had been discussed since the nineteenth century—the status of the concepts of faith that were in fact used in the Church. After centuries of unquestioned acceptance, these concepts were quite suddenly placed in an awkward position. As a result of historical studies, questions were asked about the identity of these concepts with the authentic gospel of Christ and, thanks to an increasing awareness of the fact that man's thinking was closely interwoven with the progress of history and society, doubt was cast on their value as an interpretation of modern Christian experience.

After various attempts at a solution had, for the time being at least, failed or died out and the way followed by the modernists had been closed, the problem became rooted within the quasi-official theology of the Church. A creative group of neo-scholastic theologians accepted the contributions that had been made by the Tübingen school, Newman and Blondel especially, and tried to integrate their ideas into neo-scholastic thought by referring this back in certain points to its original source. They described knowledge as a view of reality which was borne up by man's whole attitude to life and especially by love and which transcended the purely discursive use of concepts. They also rediscovered the function of the light of faith as the basis of Christian experience and specified the function of the concepts of faith by showing that these concepts were not in themselves the reality of revelation, but only pointed to that reality, which was the real end of all knowledge about faith. The increasingly urgent question now was how this relationship between the concepts and the experience of faith, which would, for example, throw clear light on the model which was currently used, that of 'explicit' and 'implicit', was to be interpreted. The pressure of external circumstances, such as the debate about the theological method, the facts leading to the controversy around the 'new' theology and the expected definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary which was already casting its shadow on theology, also sharpened the reactions of the conventional neo-scholastic theologians.

The current neo-scholastic theories put forward by M. Tuyaerts, R. Schultes and F. Marin-Sola especially to explain the development of dogma were basically extensions of the logical interpretations of the nineteenth-century neo-scholastics and attempts to define the extent to which the theological conclusion could provide an explanation. Because of their conceptual view of revelation and faith, they took it for granted that this could only be found in reasoning. One dilemma, however, caused them sleepless nights. If, on the one hand, it was accepted that the conclusion of reasoned argument yielded a really new insight, how could such a result of human reason be revealed by God? On the other hand, the alternative was to cling to the older view that all that could be found for truths that had already been known for a long time were new words. But how could this be reconciled with the findings of historical research? There seemed to be no solution to this fundamental difficulty, despite the introduction of the most ingenious distinctions and an appeal for support to the spontaneous life of faith.

This impasse was underlined by L. Charlier, who pointed out, in a book which dealt directly with the 'scientific' character of theology, that Chenu had already looked for a solution to this problem outside the sphere of the theological conclusion by asserting that the end of all knowledge of faith was the reality of revelation.(44) In this context, Charlier himself had been one of the first to affirm explicitly that revelation was not primarily the communication of a number of truths, which might then become the principles of ordinary deductive science, but above all a reality: 'God, giving himself to us through Christ in the mystery of the incarnation, of which the mystery of the Church is only the extension'. (45) This reality of revelation evolves, as given to the Church, and this very growth is the source of our evolving knowledge. This progress, however, is determined by the divine logic of the reality of revelation itself, which is wrapped in mystery and which only becomes clear to human knowledge in so far as God himself plays a part in the processes of human thought. Ultimately, then, the development of dogma cannot be registered either by deductive thought or by strictly historical research, but only by the Church's consciousness of faith. In coming to this conclusion, however, Charlier accepted a simplification that is always present as a real danger in Catholic thinking—that the Church's consciousness of faith is in fact the same as the teaching authority, which is in turn equated with 'active tradition'. It is not surprising, then, that Charlier's book was sharply criticised. One exception to this was his professor at Louvain, R. Draguet, who in any case shared his opinion about the decisive role of the teaching authority in the Church. Nonetheless, Charlier's point of departure—that revelation was a reality—was worked out in greater detail and in various ways later.

Replying to an article by the Roman theologian, C. Boyer, de Lubac also joined in the fray after the war with a study in which he reacted against the purely logical explanation— the mystery of salvation, he insisted, shatters our human concepts. In this, he took, as the point of departure for the development of Christ's act of redemption, the 'totality of dogma' (46) which is contained in a very concrete, living knowledge that embraces the later formulations in a higher unity. (Although this idea of de Lubac's is very reminiscent of Newman, surprisingly enough it was apparently not derived directly from him.)

This more limited debate about the development of dogma was, however, quickly eclipsed by the fundamental discussion about the concepts of faith in which the whole of the 'new' theology was involved. The preference which the theologians who were associated with the Jesuit faculty at Fourvière showed for the categories of Scripture and patristic literature, which were closer to Christian experience and less conceptualised, and above all their adoption of the typological and allegorical interpretation of Scripture, were the principal reasons for this change in the centre of theological interest. Daniélou regarded this typology as the best possible means of expressing the development of thinking about faith, as indeed the Fathers of the Church had done. What is more, the new theology pointed out that, after heretical views had been condemned by the Church, it frequently happened that the Church's preaching overemphasised the opposite view, with the result that authentic elements in the Christian tradition were thrust into the background of the Church's consciousness of faith. A reaction on the part of the Church against error—the anti-modernist oath, for example—does not necessarily comprise the whole teaching of the Church. As de Lubac said, even before the war, and using the familiar terminology of the Church as a fortification, a part of the rampart is not the whole city.(47) Various statements made more or less in passing, for example, that there had been more than one theology throughout the centuries in the Church and that we do not attain one absolute truth, but only reach more or less perfect approximations of the truth, in the end culminated in the more fundamentally constructed argument which Bouillard set out in connection with his study of the medieval doctrine of grace.

The point of departure which Bouillard took for his theory was a distinction in the theological process of knowledge between the judgement that is pronounced and the idea or representation that is used to contain that about which a statement is made. The judgement of faith covers the absolute, unchanging reality, but the ideas that have to be used for that judgement are taken from changing social patterns and ways of thinking and are therefore determined by the prevailing time and situation—they are, in other words, relative. They do, however, form a connected whole. The statement about unchangeable truth which is meant to be absolute can therefore be retained because the ideas connected with it are at the same time constantly evolving, with the result that the relationships between the statement and the ideas remain the same. Bouillard's much debated slogan, that 'a theology which is not actual must be a false theology', (48) has also to be seen in this light—the evolution of the ideas of such a theology has ceased somewhere, with the result that the whole balance is upset. Several aspects of Bouillard's theory, however, are still obscure. Did he, for example, regard idea or representation and concept as the same? Did he intend to apply his distinction to dogmatic statements as well? Did he, in other words, equate theological concepts with concepts of faith? As far as the last question is concerned, he spoke in principle only about the theological process of knowledge, although the examples that he gave do seem to indicate a wider application.

The challenge was accepted in the Revue Thomiste first by M. Labourdette and later also by M. Nicolas. They insisted that the 'new' theology made all human formulations of the truth of revelation relative and that the cause of this was an inclination to regard everything in the light of history and from the point of view of the subject. In their passionate joint reply, the 'new' theologians pointed out that there was also a form of relativism in the exclusive choice of the theology of the thirteenth century, which they saw as a criterion that had to be used to measure everything. Even more important, however, was the fact that, in this debate, two different views of the Christian revelation emerged. The argument of the 'new' theologians, in which the hand of de Lubac is clearly discernible, was that revelation was not the communication of a system of ideas. Revelation, according to this interpretation, was 'first and foremost—and will always be—the manifestation of a Person, of the Truth in Person . . . This does not mean that revelation never has to express itself in concepts and that the passing of time does not make it necessary for this conceptual expression to be defined more precisely and to be amplified . . . But it does mean that the Catholic truth will always go beyond its conceptual expression and, a fortiori, its scientific formulation in an organised system'.(49) Labourdette and Nicolas replied to this by stating that this revelation in Christ is only communicated to us in human language and human concepts. The way in which these concepts of faith are related to the reality of salvation is something that is beyond man's knowledge, but the existence of this relationship is guaranteed by God's authority. It is this which gives these concepts their absolute validity— and this is where the antithesis between Labourdette and Nicolas, on the one hand, and de Lubac and those like him, on the other, is clearly revealed. The concepts of faith can thus be used as bricks to build up a scientific, theological system. The truth of that system is founded on the concepts of faith, by virtue of their unseen but guaranteed relationship with the reality of salvation. The aim of theology must therefore be to define as precisely as possible the limits of what is expressed in the concepts of faith and to purify its content. Theological formulation must leave less and less latitude for misconception and in that way come closer and closer to absolute validity and unchanging truth. The official dogmatic formulations of the Church have attained this ideal and may therefore be regarded as definitive and unchangeable.

In this last formulation, one is aware of the whole environment of the century to which these two theologians ultimately go back—the time when human thought dissociated itself as completely as possible from the bewilderingly concrete character of man's individual and social life and when every attempt was made to strip concepts as fully as possible of their compromising human associations, until a point was reached when what was left was a precisely defined element which could be manipulated like a thing and was extremely suitable for the logical operations of reason. In the conventional neo-scholastic view, the reality itself is always out of reach—the conceptual content of the divinely guaranteed concepts of faith is not only the beginning but also the end of all thinking about faith. Outside these concepts, we are given nothing that could add anything essential to our knowledge of faith. The new theological approach, on the other hand, following Gardeil and Rousselot, regarded these concepts simply as a means of access to the concrete reality with which everything began and as the inadequate and socially conditioned interpretation of something that, by means of these concepts, can to some extent be seized hold of and understood. The aspects of man's concrete experience which are so determined by time and situation not only act as a brake on our knowledge of the reality that transcends us—they also make it possible for that knowledge to be objective. These concepts are, after all, only one function within the much more comprehensive knowledge of experience.

The discussion about the 'new' theology was made very difficult by this basic difference between the two ways of approaching reality. It was made even more difficult by the fact that the justification offered by the theologians of Fourviere appeared to be the result of thinking afterwards about the implications of a theological project inspired by historical studies, so that it was not a completely balanced reply to the criticism which their attempts to renew theology had rather unexpectedly evoked. Once the word 'modernism' had been uttered, the 'new' theology seemed indeed to provide reason for suspecting that the concepts of faith did not grasp the content of revelation really and objectively. Their opponents, on the other hand, spoke the discouragingly certain language of the teacher explaining yet again to a slow-witted pupil what he knew had been firmly established for centuries—and the encyclical Humani Generis seemed to prove them right.

This papal document pointed out that the view of reality as subject to 'evolution, by which everything that is absolute, firmly established and unchangeable is repudiated' was one of the principal errors outside the Church. It also added to the pernicious 'idealism, immanentism and pragmatism', which had already been condemned in the earlier encyclical Pascendi, not only the latest secular philosophy, existentialism, 'which considers the unchangeable essences of things as of little account', but also a 'false historicism', which, while confining its observations to the events of human life, overthrows the foundations of every truth and of every absolute law'. Catholic philosophers and theologians had the 'grave task' of 'guarding divine and human truth', but there were among them men who, for reasons which were not valued very highly in the encyclical, were trying to achieve a false irenism and not only to perfect, but even totally to reform current theology. The most important part of the encyclical was devoted to dogmatic relativism. This, the document maintained, was not only a constant danger in the new tendencies in theology, with their movement away from scholastic categories, their return to scriptural and patristic ways of speaking and their use of terms derived from modern philosophy—it was in fact already present in those theological tendencies.

The positive exposition in the encyclical was a balanced synthesis of traditional neo-scholastic principles—that towards which faith is directed is always described as 'truths', the concepts of which 'have, in a work lasting many centuries. . ., been formulated and worked out with the most subtle shades of meaning, with the purpose of expressing the truths of faith even more accurately'. These terms could be 'perfected and worked out even more subtly', but they could not be pushed on one side without making dogma 'like a reed shaken by the wind'. 'Whatever the human mind, in an authentic search, may be able to find in the way of truth cannot be in conflict with the truth that has already been acquired.' The Church's teaching office had been given the task of 'preserving, guarding and interpreting the deposit of faith' by Christ, 'in order to throw light on and explain in detail those things which are contained in an obscure form and so to speak implicitly in the deposit of faith'. 'The task of the theologian is to show how what is taught by the living teaching office of the Church is contained, "either explicitly or implicitly" in the sources of holy Scripture and divine tradition'—a definition of the theologian's task which was significantly adorned with a quotation from Pope Pius IX, and to which was added that Catholic exegetes should not replace the literal meaning by a 'symbolic' or a 'spiritual' meaning and should not explain clear statements by obscure data. The last comment was probably one more allusion to the return of the theologians of renewal to scriptural and patristic ways of speaking. In a later section of the encyclical, scholastic philosophy was defended in some detail against the criticisms of rationalism and once again prescribed for instruction in theology.

Schillebeeckx regarded the affirmation of the objective value of the concepts of faith and therefore of the theology that is built up on these concepts as the most important point in the encyclical. This objectivity had to be more precisely defined, especially with regard to the relationship between concept and experience, but the encyclical aimed to limit itself to indicating the boundaries within which a more precise definition might be looked for. (50) Schillebeeckx and Rahner, among others, did in fact take up this problem.

A few months after the publication of Humani Generis, Pius XII defined another boundary for theology by declaring the dogma of Mary's Assumption. In this way, he gave emphasis—to quote the words of Humani Generis—to one of the things 'which are contained in an obscure form ... in the deposit of faith' and did not rely on strictly historical or rational arguments. It is said in Louvain that Draguet put out the flag to mark this confirmation of his theory about the development of dogma.


The classical neo-scholastic syntheses of Schultes, Tuyaerts and Marin-Sola, which are together known as the 'logical' or 'dialectical' theories, can be found, in essence, in the general scholastic works on the development of dogma. J.H. Walgrave has described very clearly the difficulties which confronted these logical theories in the article in his Parole de Dieu et existence that I have already quoted several times. The discussion about the concepts of faith is not usually dealt with in the context of the development of dogma, but supplementary information will be found in the general works on the 'new' theology (see bibliography, p. 120-21). Two additional studies which may be consulted in this connection are the fundamental studies collected in E. Schillebeeckx' Concept of Truth and Theological Renewal (London and Sydney o1968) and T. Deman's well documented account, Tentatives francaises pour un renouvellement de la theologie', Revue de l'Université d' Ottawa 1950, 129-67. Deman was not a protagonist of the 'new' theology, but his study is objective.

Progress between 1950 and 1958

The extremely cautious and subtle wording of the dogmatic pronouncement in 1950 would seem to indicate that Draguet's conclusion that Pius XII had proved him right was itself not entirely founded on facts. Be this as it may, the theologians who continued to concern themselves with the central problem of the development of dogma after 1950 did not follow Draguet's narrow path. The theological tradition which had begun with the Catholic school of Tubingen and continued with Newman, Blondel and the theologians who had re-vitalised neo-scholasticism by going back to its sources, asserted itself more and more. In this, it was particularly influenced at this time by a renewed study of historical theology and by the use to which it had been put by the speculative theologians. Helped by the encouragement given to it shortly after the war by two of Pius XII's documents, patristic, liturgical and above all biblical theology flourished anew during this period and played a decisive part in the almost unanimous abandonment by the more advanced theologians of the idea that revelation, and consequently also tradition, did no more than simply provide a set of clear truths. Research into the Bible showed only too distinctly that the biblical 'stories', which seemed, at first sight, to be so translucent, and even more particularly the various expositions and testimonies contained in the Bible, were connected in many different and often barely tangible ways with other, similar texts and concealed allusions, combinations, extensions and sometimes even compelled changes in the traditional ideas. All this was recognised as a form of witness to God's speaking which consequently could no longer be seen in isolation from the total context, which included not only the historical context of the Old and New Testaments—in which lines of development were perceived with increasing clarity—but also the constantly changing context of the life and proclamation of the Church up to the present. The insight into the fact that God's word was also directed towards the post-apostolic Church led to the idea, inspired by the Church Fathers and the liturgy, of the 'fuller' sense of Scripture—a dynamism transcending the historically conditioned meaning of Scripture, in the same direction, on the basis of God's speaking which was also addressed to later historical situations. This led in turn to a renewed reflection about faith and the knowledge of faith, about speaking and listening and about the various psychological and 'logical' ways in which the content of knowledge could be contained in the whole of revelation, even according to the 'intention' of the divine speaker.

The most remarkable part of this debate took place, from about 1950 onwards, in the German and the Dutch-speaking countries. There was a great deal of sympathy in the Netherlands for the discussions among the French-speaking theologians about the theological method and I have already mentioned the highly personal way in which Schoonenberg decided in favour of the course followed by the theology of renewal. For him, theology is 'tracing back the mysteries of faith and uniting them'. It is more a question of rendering and interpreting than of justifying. 'At the end of a treatise, there is as much mystery as there was at the beginning.' (51) Since theological reflection can never take place outside faith, the concepts of theology contain more than those used by philosophy. Their content is also different, although they may well sound similar. A theological argument which employs both kinds of concept indifferently is consequently a syllogism with four terms. It is therefore necessary to refer the concepts of faith back to the source of revelation again and again. Speculative thought in the theological field must therefore always be subject to the criticism of historical theology. On the other hand, however, historical theology can never dispense with the light of faith, which is scientifically extended, as it were, in theology, because it is looking for God's word in history. According to Humani Generis, this tentative sounding out of tradition does not have to be restricted simply to laying bare the roots of the Church's already established teaching. It should also be extended to the hidden riches of revelation. In this way, theology is not primarily a question of going back to the New Testament and then, through the New Testament, to the Old Testament. 'Before being a dialogue with natural thought'—something which involves a renewal of scholasticism based on modern philosophy—'theology must be a dialogue with both testaments.'(52)

Schoonenberg, however, only applied these ideas in practice to the problem of the development of dogma in a short commentary on the definition of 1950. Rahner and Schillebeeckx, on the other hand, discussed this question in some detail. To illustrate the way in which the ideas of these two theologians converged in the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council, I shall conclude this general survey with a brief summary of their contributions. There are striking parallels between the ways in which both approached the subject. Both, for example, based their arguments on a palpable familiarity with the phenomenon of development and consequently confronted the concrete factors objectively, including those of the so-called 'logical' theories. Both theologians not only sought their inspiration in positive theology and even more especially in biblical theology, but also tried to find a place for the various themes of those who had approached the problem before them by giving considerable attention to the psychological and sociological aspects and above all to the philosophy of man's knowledge and development. On the other hand, however, they clearly came from different theological schools, a fact which emerges with even more clarity because their contributions were made quite independently. Schillebeeckx' publication, in 1952, preceded Rahner's by six years, but it was written in the language which Rahner later said was 'only accessible with great difficulty to us poor non-Dutchmen'. (53) Although both Schillebeeckx' and Rahner's studies do no more than, in Schillebeeckx' words, offer 'perspectives for a synthesis', (54) scant justice can be done to their many-sided treatment of the problem in a summary and the final result can hardly be satisfactory.

In this rather difficult task, the most realistic course seems to be to give an outline of the last article which Rahner wrote on the subject of the development of dogma before the Council, in which he expressed his basic conviction that revelation was a revelation of God himself directed explicitly towards man—a communication of the very reality of God, in other words, and not simply a revelation of a number of truths. This reality, however, is made manifest as something intellectually knowable, in words. In this way, Rahner's views are very much in accordance with those of the increasingly numerous defenders of the idea of revelation as a reality, yet at the same time he does not underestimate the importance of the part played by human knowledge. The implications of this view are apparent in almost every aspect of his argument. What is remarkable in the first place is that, in accordance with modern exegesis, he also points in this article to the development of dogma within the Bible itself, including the New Testament, which does not detract in any way from the Bible's revelatory character, since the whole of the document, which came about by a process of theological growth, is revelation precisely as a whole. It would indeed have been surprising if there had been no history of the unfolding of revelation, since both the development and revelation itself take place through human forms in which God speaks to man, in other words, through history. This development is therefore unique and as unforeseeable as all history and cannot be embraced in adequate laws.

The difference between the two phases—revelation and the development of dogma—is based on what has been called the 'closing' of revelation at the end of the apostolic period—'closing' because God's communication of himself through incarnation and through grace as glorification already initiated, of its nature absolute and unsurpassable with regard to man, is eschatological. This calls for a definitive saving community, a Church which is the object of God's revelation of himself and which is also definitive in its response in faith as a community. If there were no 'hearers', there would be no reason for God's eschatological revelation of himself to exist. Because it is of necessity contained in human words and forms., this definitive revelation of reality is bound to have a part in the history of those who believe and, in the development that is given with this participation in history, various elements, such as the Church's teaching office, the inward grace of faith and the progress of human knowledge, also play a part. These elements are the inward consequence of the one whole of revelation and for this reason all of them always appear, though not always with the same degree of prominence. It is, however, useful to consider them separately.

The part played by the Spirit of God, who manifests himself humanly in the grace of the light of faith, is fundamental. Without this personal presence, revelation would not be God's revelation of himself and would not enable us to share in his reality. On the basis of this presence, we have not only a witness to God in his word, but also a contact in experience, although this only takes place in man's knowledge of the word. The part played by the Spirit in the development of dogma is therefore not purely negative, a help to prevent the Church from erring, but, on the contrary, a positive orientation which is present in an intangible form as the basis of various human factors in the Church.

The first of these factors which comes to mind is the teaching office of the Church. God's word comes to us in the proclamation of this witness to which full powers have been given and development thus takes place in constant dialogue with the teaching office. Nonetheless, progress does not, in the first place, rest with the teaching office of the Church, the fundamental task of which is to preserve and to distinguish what the charismatic dynamism of the life of the Church and theological thinking about faith propose as the development of revelation. This can indeed only be a proposal, because the only adequate bearer of the content of revelation is the Church's collective consciousness of faith. On the other hand, the Church's teaching authority must also receive the 'material' for its decisions from this collective consciousness of faith.

Another factor, which is a consequence of this, is that the development which takes place is determined by the human concepts and words within which God's revelation of himself has been given form. In this sense, the development of dogma is always a theological development and there must always be an inner connection between the ancient deposit of faith and any newly established dogma. It would, however, be unrealistic to expect this to take place simply on the grounds of syllogistic logic. Ordinary human experience provides grounds for certain knowledge which are not those of reason and Rahner's rather disconcerting example of this is the certainty that he has that his mother would not deliberately poison him. It is precisely because reason is not the only source of certainty that the theologian offers his justification to the whole Church and it is only if it is accepted by the Church that this justification can become valid.

This in turn opens up a view of the handing on of the content of revelation, of (active) tradition as a developing factor. The most essential aspect of this handing on of the content of revelation—a process marked by time and space and therefore with a perceptible historical course—is the activity of the Spirit of God and the part played by the light of faith. In the human process, after all, a speaking from person to person always takes place—the content of revelation is inwardly addressed to us. For an interpretation of the twofold movement which can be discerned in the development of dogma, Rahner points to his dynamic philosophy of knowledge, inspired by Maréchal. Just as being is the a priori sphere against which the spirit, in its transcendence, grasps individual objects and makes them intelligible, so too is the light of faith, borne up by the Spirit and ultimately identical with him, the a priori sphere within which the separate objects of revelation are grasped. On the one hand, the infinite breadth and intensity of this supernatural a priori of necessity urges a more and more articulated unfolding of the content of revelation contained within its sphere. On the other hand, every separate object is only grasped as an aspect of God's communication of himself, to be understood as an increasingly clear vision of the one mystery that the spirit is trying to grasp. By drawing attention to this dynamic progress towards an increasingly intense, yet simplified and concentrated knowledge and by applying it especially to the field of theological thought, Rahner has given an important, but frequently unnoticed element in the development of dogma its rightful place.

Finally, there is also another element to which Rahner has given special emphasis—the question of how the Church ultimately recognises a new element as a datum of revelation. This transition, which constitutes the central problem of the development of dogma, is traced back by Rahner surprisingly to the analogous question of how and where, on the way to faith, the transition of the preliminary human stages to consent to faith, inspired by God's light, takes place. This question has played some part, at least in the background, in all discussions about faith and in all apologetics. Rahner's approach to this problem was made, in the spirit of Rousselot, from the vantage-point of the inner light of faith. In the development of dogma, there is also a decision in freedom, which cannot be traced back simply to insight, but which leads to a 'coming of the light' (55) in which the spirit recognises itself—a new confirmation of the basic idea that God's revelation of himself adapts itself to the 'hearers' to whom he addresses himself.

The article which Schillebeeckx first published in 1952 was a summary of a part of his course on faith and the part played by tradition in the Church. This article on the development of dogma, then, simply deals with one phase of his thought about tradition, with the result that his treatment of the subject is rather different from that of Rahner. Faith itself is, moreover, seen in Schillebeeckx' article as man's response, borne up by the inner revelation of the Spirit, to the 'outward' revelation and Schillebeeckx had already explicitly characterised this, in an earlier stage of the treatise, as sacramental saving history, in which the revelation in reality and the revelation in word formed an inseparable unity. Seen against this total background, then, there is a striking similarity between the views of the two theologians. I shall therefore draw special attention to the distinctive elements in Schillebeeckx' view in the following oversimplified outline wherever necessary.

On the basis of a broadly constructed, historical theological investigation, always one of the pillars of Schillebeeckx' studies, the limits of his synthesis are defined in advance. In the first place, he prefers to call his subject the development of tradition rather than the development of dogma, so as to relate the dynamic handing on of revelation to the entire reality. He also affirms that only the element of intelligibility in it—this is no more than an element, because knowledge must proceed from the terrestrial visibility of the transcendent reality—brings this development within our reach. Secondly, in order to gain as wide a perspective as possible, we have to ask, not about the bond between the Church as she is now and the apostolic Church, with her Scripture and normative tradition, but about the principles which govern the close connection between the unchangeable and the developing elements within the whole history of the Church. If one speaks in this context, with the documents of the Church, about explicit and implicit, then one has to make this pair of concepts more concrete. What has to be made especially clear is how a later development, which, it is assumed, does not occur in its explicit form in Scripture or in the earliest tradition, does really form a part of God's speaking that is 'closed' in this deposit of faith.

Schillebeeckx considers this question, which Rahner also touched on in passing, in some detail in the light of studies by E. Dhanis and the linguistic philosopher K. Bühler, according to whom three aspects can be distinguished in speaking—a description of the subject of the discussion, a call to reaction (which may take the concrete form of an invitation to faith in the speaker's testimony) and finally a self-unveiling. Seen in this light, it is clear once more that revelation is essentially God's communication of himself and that the invitation to surrender in faith (the inward speaking which manifests itself in the light of faith) forms an essential part of this communication from the very beginning. This opens a way of making it clear that, if the Church should, at a later stage in history, discover some new depth in the original formulations of the apostolic deposit of faith, this can nonetheless form part of the historical revelation. After all, in this historical 'subject of conversation' God wanted to give form to his later revelation of himself and his invitation to faith. This idea of the 'double context' of the historical revelation, which is closely related to the idea of the 'fuller sense' of Scripture, has many points of contact in everyday life. Even such a trivial statement as 'Paul has written a novel' may, according to the intention of the speaker, have the meaning of 'Read the manuscript and publish it' in a specific context, namely, if the other person in the conversation is a publisher. An external factor may therefore be necessary to bring explicitly to light the meaning of a datum of revelation which is nonetheless (also) really intended. It is in this wider context that the essence of the truth which is present in the traditional concept of the 'theological conclusion' is rediscovered.

Once this point of departure has been clarified., the factual developments can be considered in a much more realistic light. Here Schillebeeckx avails himself of Newman's convincing description of the psychological and social factors in the process of development. On this basis, he is able, as a critic of the 'logical' theories, to state that the advocates of the logical view confused the progress in a straight line of logic with the richly varied psychological process of development. Even more important in this instance—and here Schillebeeckx deepens Newman's analysis—is the fact that the development of dogma is a progress of faith and consequently requires a principle which, indeed, does not bypass human knowledge, but nevertheless transcends it. The whole of Schillebeeckx' argument is thus based on the light of faith as the principle which gives direction to the development of tradition and which guarantees continuity in that progress.

Schillebeeckx thus follows a line of reasoning which goes back to Chenu's and Gardeil's interpretation of Thomas. He is moreover clearly inspired by Newman's 'illative sense' in his analysis of the concrete manner in which the light of faith functions in human knowledge and also at the same time bases his analysis on de Fetter's philosophy of knowledge. The development of human knowledge takes place through the continuous conceptual explication of the intuition, related to the whole of reality, which is implied in every explicit item of knowledge, as the horizon one is implicitly aware of. Similarly, the development of our knowledge of faith also takes place through the continuous unfolding in concepts of faith of the intuition of the reality of revelation, the contact with reality which is, by virtue of the light of faith, implied in all explicit knowledge of faith.

The central point of this view is that contact with reality is based on the content of faith, the object, thus preventing any division between concept and experience. On the other hand, this interpretation also leaves latitude for all kinds of concrete factors of development, such as pre-reflexive and explicitly conscious 'reasoning' and psychological and social influences. In the complex totality of this development, both in the individual Christian and in the community, the light of faith is actively at work, that 'inner sense, "lost" as it were in the consciousness, that tells us what we should believe and what we should not', thus bringing about, within the community of the Church, 'a constant process of friction and purification, in which all members of the Church community play a part' and in which 'all the various voices eventually converge'. Finally, then, the new insight is seen to be 'like a fortunate word suggested to us for the purpose of formulating one of our most intimate . . . convictions, but a word that so far we were simply unable to find'. (56) The Church's teaching office, finally, is able to declare whether a collective reaction on the part of the Church community has really come about by virtue of the light of faith.

One more striking aspect of Schillebeeckx' ideas on this subject is worth considering—the idea of what he rather paradoxically calls 'development through demolition'. This idea did not emerge explicitly in Schillebeeckx' thought until just before the Council. (57) It would seem to be closely related to Cougar's pair of concepts to which I have already referred—tradition and reform—or to Rahner's idea of the 'Church of sinners', but Schillebeeckx explicitly applies it to the sphere of the knowledge of faith and formulates it positively. It is in fact an idea which most theologians have used in one form or another, but its explicit application to the problem of the development of dogma is something that I have not encountered in any theology except Schillebeeckx', although there are indications that there were attempts to use it in connection with this problem in the 'new' theology. The central element of this progress is that the dogmatic formulations contain representational elements which were determined by a particular historical period and situation and which must be relinquished later if the essential aspect of these formulations is to be preserved. Thus, the ascension of Christ was later stripped of its Ptolemaic mode of expression. Before a 'demolition' of this kind can take place, the Church does not have to be conscious of the distinction between the essence of what is said and the way in which it is said and this is, in fact, not usually the case. It is hardly necessary to say that man's thinking about faith is normally expressed in images and ideas taken from his contemporary view of the world. On the other hand, however, it is important to understand that, when man becomes conscious of the fact that it is possible to separate the essential underlying thought from the way in which it is expressed, this does not imply a retrogression from or a rejection of truths that were made explicit at an earlier stage in history under the pressure of modern ideas, but, on the contrary, it implies progress in man's thinking about faith. This becomes especially relevant in the very practical context of, for example, marriage and Schillebeeckx has drawn attention to a very important fact in his study of the natural law and the Catholic view of marriage, the article in which he first made explicit use of this idea of'development through demolition'. Our present, clearer insight into the distinctive character of human corporeality, he insisted, called for a renewed study of the earlier pronouncements made by the Church about the regulation of birth, which could not have passed an explicit judgement about a reality which did not at the time live explicitly in the Church's thinking about faith.


The most fully elaborated résumé of Schoonenberg's ideas about theology as the interpretation of faith will be found in his article 'Theologie in zelfbezinning 5 in Annalen van het Thijmgenootschap (44) 1956, p. 225 ff. Rahner's most important studies of the development of dogma are his article 'The Development of Dogma' (1954) in Theological Investigations I and his two essays, 'Considerations on the Development of Dogma' (1958) and 'Virginitas in partu' (1962), both published in Theological Investigations IV. His article, 'Theology in the New Testament' (1962), in volume V of his collected essays and the questions that he asks in the light of fundamental theology about the components of theology in Theological Investigations VI also contribute to his study of the development of dogma. Schillebeeckx' article on the development of dogma will be found in the first volume of his translated articles, Revelation and Theology, London and Melbourne, 1967, where it is called 'The Development of the Apostolic Faith into the Dogma of the Church', p. 63 ff. Related studies will also be found in this first volume and in the second volume of his Theological Soundings: 'Revelation, Scripture, Tradition, and Teaching Authority' (1963), 'Revelation-in-reality and Revelation-in-word' (1960), 'What is Theology?' (1958), 'The Bible and Theology' (1963)—all the foregoing will be found in the first volume, Revelation and Theology, whereas the following will be found in the second volume, entitled in English The Concept of Truth and Theological Renewal: 'The Concept of "Truth"' (1962) and 'The Non-Conceptual Intellectual Element Dimension in our Knowledge of God according to Aquinas' (1952).

The Result

Even after the publication of Humani Generis, then, Catholic theologians did not cease looking for a more realistic understanding of the development of dogma in the Church. Among the various elements that were rediscovered were the light of faith as the basis of the Christian attitude which was embodied in the believer's whole experience, revelation as God's real communication of himself, the Church as the community in which this self-revelation of God is actually realised through human gestures and words, tradition as the historical progress of this handing on of the reality and interpretation of revelation to succeeding generations, and Scripture as the normative point of departure and the dynamic source of continuous insight into faith. If some of these rediscoveries already seem a little out of date now, this can only be taken as evidence of the very rapid development that has taken place in recent years. Compared with the official point of view of the Church, these theologians did seem, despite their care in integrating the traditional interpretations, like new modernists ten years ago. Their Protestant colleagues regarded them rather as commanders of distant outposts who had lost contact with the main force and who had perhaps even to act as spies, camouflaging the unchanged position of Rome.

On .the other hand, it has become clear, especially since we have considered Rahner's and Schillebeeckx' contributions to the debate, that an increasingly urgent demand for freedom for a renewed practice of theology was expressed in the interpretation of the development of dogma. Thus, the very problem which had preoccupied Catholic theologians of renewal since the beginning of the nineteenth century had itself passed through a process of development. The difficult point was to find a way to the consciousness of faith of the whole Church. Looking back, it is possible to say that it was not only because the theologians were inhibited by the scholarly nature of their own achievements, which made it difficult for them to corne into contact with everyday life, that their attempts were not entirely successful. The fact was that they hardly ever had the time and the opportunity to discuss their interpretations publicly in the Church. Every attempt that they made was followed extremely quickly by reactions on the part of the magisterium, which, because it was so closely bound to neo-scholastic thought with its absolute clarity and its firm emphasis on the unchangeable truths of Christian teaching standing outside the influence of history, could hardly be expected to need very much time for reflection before passing judgement. Because of the concentrated attention to the defence of the fortress, the work of the Tübingen school and of Newrnan was almost forgotten. But Loisy and Tyrrell, Chenu and Charlier, Congar, de Lubac, Teilhard de Chardin and those who supported them and finally, though less publicly, even Rahner and Schillebeeckx found out how difficult it was for their real intentions to be given a fair hearing.

Protestant observers have pointed out that this kind of impasse has occurred more than once in the history of the Catholic Church and has often given rise to a typically Roman phenomenon—looking forward to a reforming pope. This was certainly the case with Tyrrell and Reform Catholicism. (58) To a lesser extent, it also occurred in the underground reactions to the choice of Cardinal Roncalli as the successor to Pius XII—a seventy-seven year old man who appeared to lack the obvious interest in intellectual questions that his predecessor had possessed. After only a few days, however, disappointment changed to hope. This old man, a historian, was indeed going to grant the freedom that the theologians had been looking for to submit their ideas to a group, a group, what is more, which not only represented the experience of faith of the Church, but was also able to judge its 'development' authentically. The authoritative pronouncement of this group of men was to rehabilitate the theology of renewal and decisively improve its position in the Church.


1. See A. Görres, Handbuch der Pastoraltheologie II/i, Freiburg i. Br. 1966, 304-7.

2. H.M. Kuitert, De realiteit van het geloof, Kampen 1966, 187.

3. T.H. Walgrave, 'Révélation, foi et développement du dogme', Parole de Dieu et existence (Cahiers de 1'actualite religieuse, 22), Tournai 1967, 178.

4.This telling example is taken from O. Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman, op.cit., 19-20.

5. See O. Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman, op. cit., 74. This incident is also referred to in E. Dublanchy's article 'Dogma' in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique IV, col. 1628 ff.

6. 'La verité catholique venue de Dieu a d'abord sa perfection': quoted by Y. Congar in his article 'Théologie' in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique XV col. 439; E. tr. Congar, A History of Theology, New York 1968, 189— though Bossuet's phrase has been curiously misinterpreted by the translator.

7. See O. Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman, op. cit., 17-20.

8. O.Chadwick, From Bossuet to Newman, op. cit., no.

9. See J.H. Walgrave, Parole de Dieu et existence, op. cit., 150.

10. See J.H. Walgrave, Newman the Theologian, op. cit,, 52. Perrone expressed this suggestion most clearly as follows: 'non oritur dogma novum sed vetus veritas nova definitione explicite credenda proponitur'; see Gregorianum (16) 1935. 417.

11. De perenni fidei immutabilitate, quae semper una atque eadem est, dum philosophia . . . neque semper sibi consta(n)t neque (sunt) est a multiplici errorum varietate immun(i)s'; see Denz. 2829 (1656).

12. . . Dei aspirante et adiuvante gratia, ab eo revelata vera esse credimus . . .'; see Denz. 3008 (1789).

13.. . . Non solum principio, sed obiecto distincturn'; '. . . ratio fide illustrata . . . aliquam Deo dante mysteriorum intelligentiam . . . assequitur'; 'Neque enim fidei doctrina, quam Deus revelavit, velut philosophicum inventum proposita est humanis ingeniis perficienda, sed tamquam divinum depositum Christi Sponsae tradita, fideliter custodienda et infallibiliter declaranda. Hinc sacrorum quoque dogmatum is sensus perpetuo est retinendus, quem semel declaravit. . . Ecclesia, nec umquam ab eo sensu alterioris intelligentiae specie et nomine recendendum'; see Denz. 3015-16 (1795-96).

14.. . . In suo genere, in eodem dogmate, eodem sensu eademque sententia'; 'Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est'; see Denz. 3019-20 (1799-1800).

15. To make an 'ideelle Rekonstruktion des Christentums' was Günther's aim in his book, Vorschule zur Spekulatwen Theologie des positiven Christentums, Vienna 1828-29, 86; see Wenzel, Das wissenschaftliche Anliegen des Güntherianismus, op. cit. 13.

16. 'Ut . . . fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent'; see Denz. 3070 (1836).

I7. See A.R. Vidler, The Modernist Movement in the Roman Church, op. cit., p. 37, and footnote i, pp. 93 and 94.

18. A. Loisy, 'Chronique biblique', Revue d'histoire et de littérature religieuuses (11) 1906, 570.

19. H. Dumey, 'Le modernisme', Les grands courants, op. cit., 132-4.

20. See Loisy's first letter to Blondel, 11 February 1903, in Au coeur de la crise moderniste, op. cit., 80-85.

21. M. Blondel, 'Histoire et dogme', Les premiers écrits de Maurice Blondel II, Paris 195), 206-207: E. tr. The Letter on Apologetics and History and Dogma, London 1964, 269.

22. J. H. Walgrave, Newman the Theologian, op. cit., 295.

23. See A.R. Vidler, The Modernist Movement in the Roman Church, op. cit., 254.

24. 'Dogmata . . . non sunt veritates e caelo delapsae'; see Denzinger 3422 (2022); see also above, p. 61 and Its footnote 36.

25. 'Dogmata fidei retinenda sunt tantummodo iuxta sensum practicum . . . non vero tamquam norma credendi'; see Denz. 3426 (2026).

26. 'Veritas non est immutabilis plus quam ipse homo'; see Denz. 3458 (2058).

27.This quotation appeared in The Times of 30 September 1907; see J.J. Stam, George Tyrrell, op. cit., 172, and Tyrrell's Autobiography and Life, op. cit., II, 337.

28.'Isti divinae revelationis inimci... humanum progressum ... in catholicam religionem temerario , . . inducere vellent, perinde ac si ipsa religio non Dei, sed hominum opus esset aut philosophicum aliquod invention, quod humanis modis perfici queat'; see Pius IX's first encyclical, Qui pluribus, of 9 November 1846; see Denz. 2777 (1636). This quotation shows that, even before his 'conversion', Pius IX was, from the doctrinal point of view, far from 'liberal.

29.'Prima ac potissima causa . . . ignorantia'; Pascendi, art. 28.

30'. . . fuco et fallaciis'; Pascendi, art. 41.

31. 'Ut nihil scholasticurn detrimenti capiat. . . maior profecto quam antehac positivae theologiae ratio est habenda'; Pascendi, art. 44.

32. See A.R. Vidler, Twentieth Century Defenders of the Faith, op. cit., 37.

33. Tyrrell, Through Scylla and Charybdis, op. cit., ix

34.Chenu makes this comment in his preface to Gardeil's book in 1932; included in M.D. Chenu, La foi dans I'intelligence, Paris 1964, 278.

35. Marin-Sola did this in his book La evolutión homogénea del dogma católico, Valencia 1923, a work which caused quite a sensation at the time in neo-scholastic circles.

36.'sens du réel'; on p. v. of his L'intellectualisme de Saint Thomas, 2nd ed. Paris 1924, Rousselot called this concept programmatic for his book. The English translator used the expression 'faculty of the real', which seems rather too strong: see The Intellectualism of St Thomas, London 1935, 2.

37. 'C'est le "donné" qui . . . s'invertèbre par 1'intérieur et sous sa propre pression'; see 'La théologie au Saulchoir', 1937, included in M.D. Chenu, La foi dans rintelligence, op. cit., 246.

38.'Le plus petit fait, du moment qu'il est authentique, est regulateur'; Chenu, La foi dans l'intelligence, op. cit., 127; E. tr. Faith and Theology, op. cit., 26.

39. Ibid., 116, at the head of the article 'Position de la théologie' (1935); E. tr. p. 15.

40.'Actus credentis non terminatur ad enuntiabile, sed ad rem'; Summa Theol. II-IIj q. i, a. 2 ad 2; see Chenu, La foi dans I'intelligence, op. cit., 54.

41. Cognita sunt in cognoscente secundum modum cognoscentis'; Summa Theol. II-II, q. i, a 2; see Chenu, La foi dans I'intelligence, op. cit., 57.

42. 'converti a 1'Evangile'; see Congar, Dialogue between Christians, op. cit., 19.

43. See Y. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical Essay and a Theological Essay E. tr. Woodrow, London 1966, 308-14, especially p. 313.

44. L. Charlier, Essai sur le problème théologique, Thuilles 1938, p. 34, footnote 36.

45, Ibid. 69.

46. 'le tout du dogme'; see H. de Lubac, 'Le problème du développement du dogme', Recherches de science religieuse (35) 1948, 156.

47. See H. de Lubac, Catholicism, E. tr. Sheppard, London 1950 (no. 3 in the series 'Unam Sanctam'), 165.

48. 'une théologie qui ne serait pas actuelle serait une théologie fausse'; see H. Bouillard, Conversion et grâce chez S. Thomas d'Aquin, Paris 1944, 219.

49. H. de Lubac, 'La théologie et ses sources. Reponse', Recherches de science religieuse, op. cit., 396 f.

50. See E. Schillebeeckx, 'Humani Generis', Theologisch Woordenboek II, 1957, col. 2300-2302.

51. Schoonenberg, 'Theologie in zelfbezinning', Annalen van het Thijmgenootschap (44) 1956, 228.

52. Ibid., 236.

53. E. Schillebeeckx, 'Dogma-ontwikkeling', Theologisch Woordenboek I, Roermond and Maaseik 1952, col. 1087—1106; the same article was later published in the first volume of Schillebeeckx' collected articles under the title 'The Development of the Apostolic Faith into the Dogma of the Church', Revelation and Theology, London and Melbourne 1967, 63 f. For Rahner's comment, see p. 131, footnote 100.

54. See Schillebeeckx, Revelation and Theology, op. cit., 81; cf. K. Rahner, Theological Investigations IV, Baltimore and London 1966, 5. Rahner's article was first published in 1958.

55. 'Aufgehen des Lichts'; see Rahner, Schriften zur Theologie IV, op. cit., 45; E. tr. Theological Investigations IV, op. cit., 31.

56. For these quotations, see E. Schillebeeckx, Revelation and Theology, op. cit., 84, 88-89.

57. E. Schillebeeckx, 'De natuurwet in verband met de katholieke huwelijksopvatting1, Jaarbock 1961, Werkgenootschap van katholieke theologen in Nederland, Hilversum 1963, especially p. 26 ff.

58. See, for example, A.R. Vidler, The Modernist Movement in the Roman Church, op. cit., 194 and G. Maion, 'Reformkatholizismus', Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart V, op. cit., col. 902-903.

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