Commentary
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Commentary on the Text I. General argument of the text. In a mere seven pages of the Quaracchi edition, Bonaventure argues concerning the relation of all forms of secular knowledge to the study of Scripture, or to theology. In doing so, he incorporates all the familiar and new forms of knowledge in the arts and sciences into an all-embracing, theological framework and integrates them into the journey of the human spirit into God. All must be situated in the context of the going-forth from and the return of creation to God. Bonaventure thus presents a thought-provoking charter for any serious form of Christian spirituality and education . He argues, in effect, that spirituality and theology do not have to by-pass or bracket the so-called secular disciplines in order to find God elsewhere; for the entire world is drenched with the presence of the divine mystery. It is a world that bears at least the vestiges (=foot-prints) of God, and at some levels even the image and the similitude of God. It is the task of the human person situated in such a world to learn how to detect the symptoms of that mysterious, divine presence. Why do human beings find it so difficult to do this? For Bonaventure, the answer to this lies in the mystery of our fallen nature which has distorted our vision and deformed our intellectual capacities. Once these have been reformed through the grace and light of Christ, we will again be able to read the glorious book of creation in which we corne to know God precisely as creator, and to see the relation of creation to salvation, which is the primary concern of the book of the biblical revelation. This theme we will see running throughout the whole of the De reductione. In essence, the argument of the De reductione looks like a broader version of the argument Bonaventure carried out especially in his later years against the radical philosophical movement. By that time, it had become specifically an argument against any claims to the self-sufficiency of philosophy. A philosophy which ignores the world of faith and theology will most likely be incomplete. It may also be seriously distorted. Therefore, the world 12 Zacfiary Jiayes, o17Jvf of philosophy must always be open to further insight and to possible correction in the light of revelation. While the strong focus on the issue of philosophy is obvious in the Collations on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and finds its strongest expression in the Collations on the Hexaemeron, the same concern can be detected in the De reductione, but here in reference to the entire range of human disciplines. All of them may be seen to be important sources of insight and truth, but none of them individually nor all of them together can be seen as adequate. All must be seen, finally, in relation to the basic insights of the biblical revelation. This is not to be taken as a form of anti-intellectualism. Bonaventure sees the human intellect as an outstanding gift of God, and all knowledge gained through the use of that faculty is truly a gift from God. Yet, as we have seen, he frowns on knowledge for its own sake. And he urges his scholarly colleagues to avoid "idle curiosity." Important as the intellectual life appears to be for Bonaventure, it is clear that no form of secular knowledge, including that of philosophy, will be sufficient in itself. All knowledge should eventually lead to and find its fulfillment in the knowledge of the Scriptures and theology. But even that is not sufficient, for knowledge itself is not the end of the soul's journey. It is Bonaventure's conviction that knowledge should move to love and to union with God. Only when that is the case does the soul truly "come home." We can see this text, therefore, as a pre-eminent statement of the vision of a unified Christian wisdom which echoes the ancient monastic tradition but places it in a significantly new context. There are, so argues Bonaventure, three foundational elements in the biblical revelation. These are: (1) the eternal generation of the Word in the life of the triune God, and the incarnation of that same Word in Jesus of Nazareth; (2) the fundamental pattern for human life; (3) and the goal of human life as a transforming love-union with God. The general flow of the argument throughout the De reductione...