Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John C. Robertson


Can Catholicism's claim to permanent and normative truths be reconciled with the changes in that religion brought to light by modern historical-mindedness? Such a question frames the modern problem of doctrinal development. The argument of this thesis is that the method in theology developed by Bernard Lonergan contributes much to the clarification and solution of this problem.

The thesis is divided into two parts. Part One introduces the problem of doctrinal development and examines the context of Lonergan's approach to the problem. The first chapter analyzes the French Modernist Alfred Loisy's position on doctrinal development. It is shown that the modern problem of doctrinal development turns on the issue of synthesizing the normative and the historical elements of doctrine; and it is argued that such a synthesis must be grounded in theological foundations appropriate to historical-mindedness. In the remaining two chapters Lonergan's contribution to the formulation of such foundations is discussed: his analysis of the transition from classicism to historical-mindedness (Chapter Two) and his development of transcendental method (Chapter Three). This discussion provides the context for our analysis of Lonergan's position on doctrinal development.

Part Two addresses in detail Lonergan's efforts to synthesize the permanent and the historical elements of doctrine. Chapter Four traces changes in Lonergan's reflections on doctrinal development over the past forty years, showing that the basis for his affirmation of the permanence of doctrine has altered significantly with changes in his understanding of the method and foundations of theology. Chapter Five examines Lonergan's Christian Philosophy, showing how transcendental method provides a basis for the synthesis of the permanent and historical in doctrine. And Chapter Six discusses how the method and foundations of theology proper to Lonergan's notion of functional specialization can provide for a viable mediation of the permanent meaning of a doctrine through varying cultural and historical contexts. On the basis of the foregoing analysis there follows a response to several criticisms of Lonergan's affirmation of the permanence of doctrine.

The argument of this thesis is of value in three related areas of scholarship. First, the thesis addresses students of Lonergan's thought by showing the strengths and possible shortcomings of his theological method with respect to the specific problem of doctrinal development. Secondly, the thesis addresses Catholic theologians by illustrating the significance of Lonergan's method in theology for problems arising out of Catholicism's engagement with modern historical-mindedness. Thirdly, the thesis addresses students of modern Western thought by elucidating Lonergan's efforts to work out the foundations for modern historical-mindedness in general and a historically-minded theology in particular.

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