July 15, 2008

St. Bonaventure's Perfect Science

Today is the feast of St. Bonaventure, the great doctor of the Franciscan family. In his honor I preached on a line from his Breviloquium, which is a kind of short summa of theology.

The Seraphic Doctor writes:
And so theology is the only perfect science, for it begins at the beginning which is the first Principle, and proceeds to the end, which is the final wages paid; it begins with the summit, which is God most high, the Creator of all, and reaches even to the abyss, which is the torment of hell. Breviloquium I:1:2.

It seems to me that this is a good meditation for us late modern people who live in a world so dominated by the power of natural science and human technology. As amazing as these human efforts and understandings are, they do not approach the questions asked and resolved by the first of the sciences, theology. Theology, after all, is the scientific reflection on divine revelation.

Here we have to struggle against two contemporary tendencies: scientism on the one hand and so-called fundamentalism on the other.

On the one hand we must live and preach against the error that natural science and human effort has priority over the truths of revelation and Sacred Scripture. Too often we give in to the "God of the gaps" model in which God is only left in charge of those areas of understanding that have not yet been explained by natural science.

On the other hand, we must also struggle against those of our brothers and sisters of faith who deny the rightful place of natural science and understanding. We believe that the cosmos was created through the Word of God, the logos as John the Evangelist puts it, and that this same Word or Wisdom of God became human as Jesus Christ the Lord. Therefore the natural world is a revelation of God in continuity with the revelations of Sacred Scripture and the Incarnation. So to understand the mysteries of the natural world is to reveal something of the mind, Word, or Wisdom of God. Those who deny, in favor of a very narrow "understanding" of the Scriptures, this full sense of the contuition of the human mind with the Wisdom of God in understanding the natural world do God's own revelatory intentions a grand disservice.

Pray for us, St. Bonaventure!

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