Academic journal article Theological Studies

Revelation and Interiority: The Contribution of Frederick E. Crowe, S.J

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Revelation and Interiority: The Contribution of Frederick E. Crowe, S.J

Article excerpt

NOVEMBER 18, 2005, marked the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). The significance of this document both with respect to the overall orientation of Vatican II as well as to subsequent theology cannot be overestimated. George Schner wrote "that the document Dei Verbum is the most fundamental of the council's documents. In asking for a reassessment of the basic rules of Christian discourse and action, involving a reappropriation of the place of scripture in the life of the Catholic Church, the Council Fathers were indeed taking seriously Pope John's request for a pastoral and ecumenical Council. (1) Given this appreciation, Gabriel Moran's remark in his recent book on revelation is striking: "In recent years the question of revelation seems to have been relegated to a small band of philosophers." (2) The reason for this, he argues, is the foundational character of the question. Since revelation is a notion that refers to "a premise of Christian theology ... the hope is that philosophy is taking care of it." (3) Moran suggests that this situation is in some ways the result of how we speak about revelation. (4) I wish to modify this suggestion and propose that the potential development of a theology of revelation will be a function of how we transpose the question of revelation itself. To develop this proposal, I wish to present a reflection on the contribution of the Jesuit theologian Frederick Crowe.

In 1978 Crowe published The Theology of the Christian Word: A Study in History. (5) In the literature on revelation, little reference is made to this book. (6) However, many insights evident in Crowe's recent publications, Developing the Lonergan Legacy and Christ and History serve to remind us of the singular merit of his 1978 text. (7) That merit consists in the way Crowe transposes the question of revelation from a focus on its conceptual form to a focus on acts of understanding that are the basis for the development of the concepts of revelation. (8) The aim of this article is to explore how Crowe introduces this strategy and to show how it offers new avenues for a theology of revelation. In large part, his strategy is developed by appealing to Lonergan's notion of interiority.

I shall develop this article in three steps. First, I will clarify the significance of Crowe's approach to the question of revelation by situating it within a summary account, provided in a recent article by Francis Schussler Fiorenza, of Roman Catholic approaches to revelation. Fiorenza's account will facilitate my initial comments on the import of Crowe's invitation to shift from an emphasis on the concepts of revelation to the sources of such concepts in operations of understanding. Second, I will elaborate the basis of Crowe's own transposition of the question in his appeal to interiority. In this context, I will refer principally to his text Theology of the Christian Word in order to present the significant transitions outlined by Crowe in his thematization of the Word of God. Finally, I will comment on the significance of Crowe's approach for our understanding of revelation and how it might assist us in an ongoing development of a theology of revelation.

TRANSPOSING THE QUESTION

In his overview of recent Roman Catholic thinking on revelation, Fiorenza underscores its theological diversity. (9) In arguing his claim, Fiorenza refers to the approaches developed by Dulles, Rahner, Kasper, and Ratzinger, as well as by himself. In his overview, Fiorenza does more than simply describe the present diversity. The reference from one thinker to the next represents a broadening and deepening of an understanding of revelation. First, he recognizes Dulles's achievement in his Models of Revelation, in particular, his account of the diversity of models. (10) Attempting to respect the best of each model, Dulles advanced a position that he called "symbolic realism. …

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