Adjectival Theology: Take 2

I was thinking about a post I wrote some months ago (so first read this) about the use of adjectives within theological discourse. I might be belaboring the point but today I read a most interesting post, What Are We Looking For in the Scriptures?, that starts with the author’s self-description as a person who:

… stands in the tradition of the magisterial Reformation …

A similar terminology has been used by Jonathan (from the same blog) in the combox. So I want to revisit the use of adjectives in theology. Allow me to illustrate:

    Are these three speaking about the same object:

  1. The Catholic faith
  2. The Protestant faith
  3. The Buddhist faith

My issue, in a nut-shell, is a form of the language debate that St. Thomas, amongst many others, enters into in ST 1a 13.5. So, in the above example is the noun faith used:

  • univocally: same word, same meaning, with exactly the same sense.
  • equivocally: same word, different meanings.
  • equivocation a consilio (analogically): by intention, using the same word in the two different contexts for some good reason, even though the senses are not exactly the same.
  • I am ignoring, for the time being the other option:

  • Equivocation a casu: entirely by chance, with no rhyme or reason and no connection between the various senses, just an accidental feature of the language.

My point: Do we, when engaged in theological discourse across ecclesial borders, use language in any one particular way? Or, to put it another way, can we assume the univocal use of language within theological discourse? Shared terminology does not necessarily indicate theological agreement. The use of similar language, even on the most fundamental level, does not mean that an agreement has been reached.

The other side: I do not want to define myself out of the possibility of any discourse. But I am aware that the univocal use of language can lessen the impact of an argument or give undue credence to divergent points. The law of logic states that two contradictory points cannot both be right.


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