Finding God in All Things: Celebrating Bernard Lonergan, John Courtney Murray, and Karl Rahner. Edited by Mark Bosco and David Stagaman


Pp. 221 , New York , Fordham University Press , 2007 , $50.00.

Bosco is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Theology and English at Loyola University Chicago, and author of Graham Greene's Catholic Imagination. Stagaman is Professor of Theology at Loyola University Chicago, the author of Authority in the Church, and principal editor of Wittgenstein and Religion. Together, these two editors have compiled twelve essays on three of the most influential Catholic theologians of the twentieth century – Bernard Lonergan, John Courtney Murray, and Karl Rahner. This collection presents a sampling of lectures given at various places on the 100th anniversary of the births of Lonergan, Murray, and Rahner, who were all born in 1904, at the height of the Roman Catholic Church's rhetoric against all things considered ‘modern’. In this culture of suspicion, Lonergan, Murray, and Rahner joined the Jesuits, and by the time of their mature work in the 1950s and 1960s, they had helped to shape the critical dialogue between modern thought and contemporary RCC theology. After the Second Vatican Council, they brought the RCC into closer relationship with modern philosophy, history, and politics.

The book begins with an introduction by Bosco that gives the reader some background material requisite for placing these scholars into their proper contexts, and also gives a preview of the remaining chapters of the book. The heart of the book consists of four essays concerning each of the three men. Donald L. Gelpi initiates the discussion of Lonergan by giving concise treatment to his major positions in theological methodology and provides what he thinks are primary issues for the contemporary application of Lonergan's work. In so doing, he is critical of Lonergan's endorsement of Kantian transcendental logic and supplements it with the pragmatic philosophy of C.S. Peirce, contending that Peirce provides a sounder philosophical grounding than does Kant for Lonergan's work. Patrick H. Byrnes explicates Lonergan's usage of the phrase ‘the passionateness of being’, showing how this self-appropriation is connected to theology and how it indeed becomes the major task of theology. In one of the most important chapters Elizabeth A. Murray delves into Lonergan's view of human understanding in order to find the ‘key’ to his philosophy. She notes that Lonergan begins with human interiority; as such, it helps one avoid the denial or neglect of self that is common to empiricism, rationalism, and phenomenology. John C. Haughey uses the recent discovery of a mutated gene in primates about 2.4 million years ago that allowed larger brain size as a springboard for a discussion of Lonergan's advocation of ‘emergent probability’, a view that describes how the accumulation of data helps account for the complex interdependency of evolution, both biological and cultural.

The second set of essays concern J.C. Murray, who was a staunch advocate of religious tolerance and political pluralism. Michael J. Schuck highlights the important relationship of Murray's philosophical positions and his immigrant roots in New York City, contending that they depend upon an immigrant's vision of human freedom, genuineness of dialogue, and hard work. Mark Williams, a nephew of Murray, offers the most personal contribution of the volume. Williams provides insightful anecdotes into the life of his uncle, highlighting the humanity of Murray. In the most convoluted contribution Leon Hooper describes Murrays ‘hatred’ of the idea of Americanism, the professors at the Catholic university of America, Protestants in general, and atheists in particular; I say ‘convoluted’ because I do not think Hooper adequately shows how Murray came to love one's enemies, though the title of the essay connotes that Murray did in fact do so (‘Murray on loving One's Enemies’, i.e.). Thomas Hughson ends the discussion of Murray by explicating his relationship between the American experience and the legacy of RCC political thought.

The last set of essays concern Rahner, and is begun by the contribution of Leo J. O'Donovan, who argues that Rahner rightly qualifies as a ‘postmodern’ theologian and that there is a running critique of modernity throughout his writings. Having studied under Rahner, Harvey Egan provides a personal reflection upon Rahner, noting that while there were many influences on him, Rahner's own contention was that the Christian mystics and his Jesuit predecessors had the most significant impact upon his work; Egan asserts that Rahner deserves the appellation of ‘Doctor Mysticus’ of the Church. George Griener extends O'Donovan's and Egan's line of thinking, averring that Rahner should be understood as a pastoral theologian, especially in view of the German world in which Rahner lived. James Voiss offers the final constructive essay of the volume, pairing Rahner with Hans Urs von Balthasar, in an attempt to find a conciliatory reading between these two important thinkers in the twentieth century. Voiss essentially responds to Balthasar's critiques of Rahner by offering a nuanced view of Rahner's theology.

The book ends with a postscript from Stagaman asserting that to understand these three philosophers, one must appreciate the influence on all three of Joseph Maréchal, a professor of philosophy at the University of Louvain. These essays celebrate the legacies of Lonergan, Murray, and Rahner after a century of theological development. Together, they offer an accessible introduction to the distinctive character of three great thinkers. The editors note that their aim is to give the reader a multifaceted composite that honors each man's contributions and shows the continued importance and relevance of that contribution to contemporary theological discourse. They have succeeded in their goal.