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Pope Benedict on the theological battle between reason and the heart

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Pope Benedict XVI spoke at his general audience today about the clash between what he called the “theology of the heart” and the “theology of reason”.

Here’s what he said at the end of the audience in English:

Today we continue our comparison of the monastic and scholastic approaches to theology which we began last week, by looking again at St Bernard of Clairvaux, this time in comparison with Abelard. Both of them considered theology as ‘faith seeking understanding’; but whereas Bernard placed the accent on ‘faith’, Abelard emphasized ‘understanding’. Bernard, for whom the aim of theology was to have a living experience of God, cautioned against intellectual pride which makes us think we can grasp fully the mysteries of faith. Abelard, who strove to apply the insights of philosophy to theology, saw in other religions the seeds of an openness to Christ.

The respective approaches of Bernard and Abelard – one a ‘theology of the heart’ and the other a ‘theology of reason’ – were not without tension. They therefore illustrate the importance of healthy theological discussion and humble obedience to ecclesial authority. Theology must respect the principles it receives from revelation as it uses philosophy to interpret them. Whenever a theological dispute arises, everyone, and in a particular way the Magisterium, has a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of the faith. As we strive to deepen our understanding of the Gospel, may God strengthen us to extol its truth in charity.

Photo: Benedict XVI receives bishops at the end of his weekly general audience today (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm

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