Sunday, November 08, 2009

Two Theological Models in Comparison: Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard

Alonso Cano 1601-1667
The Vision of St Bernard
c. 1650
Oil on canvas, 267 x 185 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Tomb of Abélard at Saint-Marcel
19th century
Ink on paper
m 0,525 x m 0,400
Musée du Louvre département des Arts graphiques, Paris

On 4th November 2009, the Holy Father continued his discussion about the monastic and scholastic approaches to theology in the twelfth century.

"Today we continue our comparison of the monastic and scholastic approaches to theology which we began last week, by looking again at Saint 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."