Date of Award
Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.
Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL)
We are currently living in what has been dubbed “a secular age.” Religious affiliation has gone down, leading to a phenomenon in the West known as “the rise of the Nones.” At the same time, from the time of the Gospels, the Church understands herself to be charged by Jesus Christ with the obligation to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). Recent popes have likewise affirmed that we are obliged to go out and propose faith in Jesus to the world. Beginning with John Paul II, a “new evangelization” has been proposed, where the Church evangelizes and makes disciples in places where Christian belief once was common, but has now waned. This work seeks first of all to advance the project of the New Evangelization.
Evangelization cannot happen in a vacuum, however, and we must be mindful of what people find credible. Just as Jesus did not berate Thomas for his doubt, but rather gave Thomas what he needed for belief, so too the Church cannot merely berate the modern world for unbelief, but give it what it needs for belief. Thus, it is necessary that we first ask what people need to believe in general. In the first chapter, drawing heavily from Charles Taylor’s work A Secular Age, we will get a feel for the conditions of belief in the contemporary world, and then flesh out our notions by drawing upon various sociological and historical studies of current unbelief, especially Cristal Manning’s book Losing our Religion.
In the second chapter, we once again begin with Taylor, focusing on the excarnate trend in knowing, where starting in the Enlightenment our senses, feelings, and experiences were obstacles to knowing. We will then contrast this with the approach of 19th century British thinker John Henry Newman, whose work Grammar of Assent sought iv to push back against these excarnating trends, especially in the concept of the Illative Sense that he developed in the book.
Finally, we will explore how Newman’s Personalism—his grasp of the dignity of the whole person—can be seen in how he proposes Christianity for belief to others. Newman prioritizes reality over ideas, and so will stress Biblical images, saints, sacraments, liturgy, and history—all as a way of gaining an image of the person of Jesus. From these images and experiences had by the whole person, we may propose Christianity in a credible manner, and the Church may continue to be faithful to her mandate from Jesus to introduce Him to all peoples.
Paternostro, David C., "Belief in a Secular Age: Charles Taylor, John Henry Newman, and the New Evangelization" (2018). Jesuit School of Theology Dissertations. 29.