- Faith Comes from What Is Heard: An Introduction to Fundamental Theology by Lawrence Feingold, and: Fundamental Theology by Guy Mansini
The theological revolution bookending Vatican II presents severe challenges for theological education. While teaching the basics had been the work of theological manuals prior to the council, the theological style of conciliar teaching is at some distance from any of the manuals then in use. As a result, the manuals virtually disappeared. While it would be foolish to dismiss the standard list of their shortcomings, it is unwise not to notice that the manuals served a necessary purpose. They provided a systematic view of the whole of Catholic teaching on a particular topic and set the terms for the work of academic theology in sharpening the Church's thinking through disputation. As the conciliar dust begins to settle, it is not surprising to see a revival of this once-scorned genre. It is equally unsurprising that the first of the new "manuals" to appear deal with fundamental theology, that discipline that lays the conceptual foundation for the special themes of properly dogmatic theology. The present review exams two recent works, one by Feingold, well-known for his work on the natural desire for God, and the other by Mansini, a leading expert and vigilant critic of Catholic Modernism in its historic and contemporary incarnations.
Feingold's work arises out of his teaching, and its accessible style is a strength as Feingold guides his readers through "theology's reflection on itself as a discipline, its method, and its foundation in God's Revelation transmitted to us through Scripture and Tradition" (xix). He divides this reflective exercise into six parts: (1) revelation and faith, (2) theology as faith seeking understanding, (3) revelation's transmission through Tradition and magisterium, (4) the [End Page 115] inspiration and truth of Scripture, (5) historicity of the Gospels, and (6) biblical typology. The fact that more than half of the work deals with Scripture reflects Feingold's sense of the evangelical urgency in presenting a distinctively Catholic approach to the Bible in the face of Protestant claims to its revelatory uniqueness and secular criticisms of its historical credibility. Accordingly, it is fair to judge the success of the work, in part at least, by how well he carries out that task. It is also the most significant point of contrast with Mansini.
In introducing the concept of revelation and its reception in faith, Feingold employs the image of a twofold movement: God lowers himself to human beings in order to elevate them to himself.
God's Revelation has a double focus: the God who descends towards man and man who is mysteriously capable of being elevated to union with God. Thus, there is a double mystery at the heart of Revelation: the mystery of God who is love and the mystery of man who is capax Dei—capable of God despite the mystery of sin.(20)
The purpose of this movement is not merely to communicate important truths (although this is entailed) but to affect our supernatural end of "nuptial union with the Incarnate Lord." Appropriate to a taking up of the human into the divine life, God reveals in a manner commensurate with the way human beings come to know (i.e., through encounter with sensible realities) and with how we attain happiness as social beings. Revelation, therefore, is primarily a matter of historical events that form community. Revealed history begins with the preparatory hints regarding humanity's supernatural end in the divinely infused prophetic speech of the great figures of ancient Israel, and it attains definitive expression in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as the prophets and lawgivers formed Israel into a people, the Church is created by God's revelation of...