Lonergan and The Law of the Cross

Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit priest and one of the most influential Catholic thinkers in the twentieth century.  In an effort help others understand the redemption he proposes a theory called the Law of the Cross.  Lonergan looked to the development of western culture and developed his theology to include human science and degradation of human value.  Regarding this William Loewe writes, “it invites theology to enrich itself with the discoveries of the empirical and human sciences and of historical consciousness; more grimly, it presents the cultural crisis engendered by the deterioration of the objective status of meaning and value” (Loewe 162).  Lonergan proposes that Christian faith is the example that changed the world.

The goal of humanity is to make the world a better place.  In short, we want to humanize everything.  This does not mean that are seeking to get rid of God, but that we are seeking the greater good.  However, we are human and we get greedy, try to pump up our ego, and look to satisfy self.  Individual bias, group bias, and common-sense bias distort our humanity and development.  In our individual bias we do what is best for ourselves at all costs.  We make a God of ourselves and our satisfaction reigns supreme.  In our individual bias we look to the good of our group instead of the good of the whole of humanity.  The benefit of the group is what is important even it hurts someone else.  This is an individual bias that is taken to the next level.  The result is two groups that have a hatred for each other and the criticism of the group is not heard because it is not in their interest to hear it.  The only way to maintain “happiness” in the group is with more money and power.  Common sense bias states that one can solve all problems.  It is cocky and thinks too much of itself.  In short, this bias leads to over confidence and pride.  This bias can lead to a way of thinking that leads to a complacency in the way things are.  Since it has always been that way then it must stay that way.  This line of thinking has led to many evil and destructive acts in the world.

The solution to these three biases, or reign of sin as Lonergan puts it, is the Law of the Cross.  This view offers a fresh perspective on Christian identity and it s implications in the world (Loewe 163).  The Christian faith looks to the example of Christ, and the belief that he changed the world.  Through his work on the cross he gave the world a whole new meaning.

The three-bias mentioned above are counteracted by the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.  Charity, or love as we call it now, counteracts these acts of evil.  It is through charity that we let go of our egos and recognize the image of God in other people.  It is through charity that groups look out for the welfare of others to make the world better.  It is through charity that we look past our own common-sense views to see if there is a better way.  We hope that others see the sufficiency of Charity, and faith holds the other two together because it helps us grasp the truth of who God is.


Works Cited

Loewe, William P. “Lonergan and the Law of the Cross”. Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977) 162-74


Bernard Lonergan and Apologetic Methodology

In the Post-Reformation era theology, which had once been standard curriculum at universities, was pushed in the seminaries.  One of the unintentional results was that theologians began to only spoke with those in whom they were already in agreement.  In his essay Theology in its New Context, theologian Bernard Lonergan gives a critique of classical apologetic methodology.  The differences between a classicist mentality and historical consciousness will also be given.

The classicist mentality regarding apologetics has a starting point with proving the existence of God.  One with this mentality will employ classic argument such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments to prove God’s existence.  The classicist mentality relied on things that had always been assumed, and sometimes it continues to do so even considering new scientific discoveries or developments.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “The classicist thought standardized, but tended to overlook, that modern studies have brought to light, thematized, elaborated, illustrated, documented” (Lonergan, 413).  In this form we see that God becomes known to us through divine revelation (i.e. Scripture and Tradition), and in the material universe.  This approach falls into the category of Dogmatic theology as they were considered “considered settled beliefs of the universal Church” (Lecture notes).

In the 19th and 20th centuries a movement call historical consciousness began to creep into the church.  It raised a series of questions, with one of those being how traditional texts and teachings to be interpreted in the contemporary church?  This method became even more popular after the second Vatican Council, as the church began to seek unity among other Christian groups.  They seek to see historical Christian writing as something that can be applied the same way as they were when originally written.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “One type of foundation suits a theology that aims to be deductive, static, abstract, universal, equally applicable to all places and to all times” (Lonergan 415).

Though both methodologies have their place in apologetics, it is important to make way for new developments or discoveries.  This is not to say that some new doctrine will be unearthed, but our knowledge of apologetics is growing more by the day.  One example is when dealing with those who identify with the new atheist movement.  This movement seems to be more a religion than anything else, but they know all the arguments from classical apologetics.  The firmest adherents have taken the time to answer classical methods of proving the existence of God.  In is my experience in interracting with them, that they shut down when these arguments are brought up.  This is similar to what Lonergan describes when he discusses arguments being the same in all times.  We must be able to adjust and make room for new developments in physics and science when arguing for the existence of God.  In addition to presenting those facts from science and reason, it is also important to live a life that has been transformed by the Gospel.  This has been my experience when applying ideas classicist assumptions in apologetics.



Lonergan, Bernard J. F., et al. The Lonergan Reader. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly     Publishing Division, 1997. Lonergan Studies. EBSCOhost, accessed December 10, 2017.


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