Master Class on "Bernard Lonergan’s Christian Realism and the Word of God as True"

Mar 2, 2019
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Open to current university students and faculty. Others interested in participating should contact us.  Copies of the readings will be provided to those who register.


Bernard Lonergan, SJ (1904-1984), is widely praised as a giant of twentieth century theology and perhaps the most brilliant philosophical thinker of his generation. Still, he is an outlier in a firmament that includes such figures as Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac, and others. His best known works are not in theology itself but in philosophy (Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 1957) and method (Method in Theology, 1972). Though a professor in Rome, he was mostly on the sidelines at Vatican II. His contemporaries were largely jaded by neo-Thomist revival and zealous to return to the Fathers, but Lonergan’s return was to Aquinas himself. The ferment of his generation would burst the old wineskins of neo-Scholasticism, but Lonergan was obliged to pour his theological ideas into them: two giant textbooks for his students at the Gregorian University in Rome (De Deo Trino, De Verbo Incarnato). They appeared in their last editions in 1964, which may have been the least propitious year on record for the presentation of a Latin manual to the theological public.

Lonergan stood apart from the currents of the day partly because he aimed to play a longer game. The renovation of Christian thought, he felt, required an intervention at the fundamental level of theological and philosophical method. In Insight he studied how understanding develops in mathematics, the natural sciences, common sense, and philosophy. His ulterior aim was to bring to light the principles of scientific progress in theology and so promote more effective collaboration and coherence in theology.

This seminar focuses on the relationship of Lonergan’s philosophical work to his project in theology, not in its entirety but in one key dimension. Our topic will be realism and the Word of God as true. The first session will focus on Lonergan’s philosophical articulation of cognitional structure, his realism, and his conception of the contemporary role of philosophy in Christian thought. The second session will consider his approach to the development and meaningfulness of Christian doctrine as an engagement with the truth-intention of God’s word to us.



  • Bernard J.F. Lonergan, “Cognitional Structure,” in Collection, Collected Works 4, pp. 205-221.

  • Bernard J.F. Lonergan, “Questionnaire on Philosophy,” in Philosophical and Theological Papers, 1965-1980, Collected Works 17, pp. 352-383.

  • Bernard J.F. Lonergan, “The De-hellenization of Dogma,” in A Second Collection, pp. 11-32.

  • Bernard J.F. Lonergan, “The Origins of Christian Realism,” in A Second Collection, 239-261.



  • Bernard J.F. Lonergan, “Christology Today: Methodological Reflections,” in A Third Collection, pp. 74-99.
  • Jeremy D. Wilkins, Before Truth: Lonergan, Aquinas, and the Problem of Wisdom (Washington, D.C.: The CUA Press, 2018). Chapter 3, “A ‘Wisdom of the Concrete’,” introduces Lonergan’s fundamental project.
  • Chapter 7, “Doctrine and Meaning,” explores his approach to the development and meaningfulness of Christian doctrine.



9:30am   Coffee & Pastries
10:00am   Session I, "Cognitional Structure" and "Questionnaire on Philosophy" 
11:25am   Break
11:35am   Session II, "The De-hellenization of Dogma" and "Origins of Christian Realism"
1:00pm   End, Optional Lunch