Monday, July 12, 2010

Blanshard and Lonergan on Religion: An Unexpected Complementarity

In Reason and Belief (1974), humanist philosopher Brand Blanshard (1892-1987) wrote:
Religion is an attempt to adjust one's nature as a whole to ultimate reality. In as sense all human life is that. But whereas the larger part of such life consists of an adjustment to what is immediately around us, religion seeks to go behind the appearance of things to what is self-subsistent, to something which, intellectually and causally, will explain everything else. And it must be conceived as a response of man's nature as a whole. . . . If we may take the old trio of cognition, feeling, and emotion, as covering the field of human faculty, we may say that religion employs all these activities at once and hence engages the whole man. On the cognitive side, the religious man is a philosopher ex officio, whether a competent one or not. Since he is trying to adjust himself to the government of the world, he will inevitably feel some interest in knowing the truth about it, and hence be carried on to form some conception of it. This conception, in turn, will evoke toward its object some attitude of reverence, love, indifference, or fear. Again, if he conceives the world to be governed by a personal being who is wise and good, as Christianity does, he will try to bring his practice into line with what he takes to be the divine will. His religion, then, will not be a function of thought or feeling or will; it will be the joint activity of all three; it will be the response of the man as a whole to what he takes as ultimate true and ultimately good. (434-435)
As though anticipating Blanshard, theistic philosopher Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) wrote in Method in Theology (1972):
To deliberate about x is to ask whether x is worth while. To deliberate about deliberating is to ask whether any deliberating is worth while. Has "worth while" any ultimate meaning? Is moral enterprise consonant with this world? . . . . Does there or does there not necessarily exist a transcendent, intelligent ground of the universe? Is that ground or are we the primary instance of moral consciousness? Are cosmogenesis, biological evolution, historical process basically cognate to us as moral beings or are they indifferent and so alien to us? Such is the question of God. It is not a matter of image or feeling, of concept or judgment. They pertain to answers. It is a question. It rises out of our conscious intentionality, out of the a priori structured drive that promotes us from experiencing to the effort to understand, from understanding to the effort to judge truly, from judging to the effort to choose rightly. In the measure that we advert to our own questioning and proceed to question it, there arises the question of God. . . . [H]owever much religious or irreligious answers differ, however much there differ the questions they explicitly raise, still at their root there is the same transcendental tendency of the human spirit that questions, that questions without restriction, that questions the significance of its own questioning, and so comes to the question of God. The question of God, then, lies within man's horizon. Man's transcendental subjectivity is mutilated or abolished, unless he is stretching forth towards the intelligible, the unconditioned, the good of value. The reach, not of his attainment, but of his intending, is unrestricted. There lies within his horizon a region for the divine, a shrine for ultimate holiness. It cannot be ignored. The atheist may pronounce it empty. The agnostic may urge that he finds his investigation has been inconclusive. The contemporary humanist will refuse to allow the question to arise. But their negations presuppose the spark in our clod, our native orientation to the divine. (102-103)

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