Spirituality as natural theology: A Lonerganian approach

Robert Anthony Condly, Marquette University


Spirituality, the study of the pursuit of ultimate reality and meaning, has been explored from the perspectives of a variety of academic disciplines. Although informed by these different approaches, spirituality is beginning to emerge as a discipline in its own right. This dissertation attempts to aid this process by exploring the foundation, structure, and finality of spirituality. After covering introductory issues to spirituality, I present two models which try to organize its material. The first, the anthropological model, examines the human phenomenon of spirituality in four progressively encompassing horizons. It ranges from spirituality as a Christian phenomenon to spirituality as a general feature of humanity. The second, the cosmological model, uses a hierarchy of disciplines from religion to physics to explore the locus of the ground of spirituality. This model hypothesizes a spirituality of universal subjectivity, particularly as it is described by the constructive postmodernism of David Ray Griffin. However, the model is unable to determine the issue. I suggest that Bernard Lonergan is the resource best able to deal with the questions engendered by the two models. He provides spirituality with a foundation in cognitional structure, a structure in transcendental method, and a goal in natural theology. The metaphysical issues raised by the competing versions of spirituality can be resolved at the sublationary level of natural theology. Lonergan's theistic natural theology, composed of religious experience, metaphysics, and rational reflection on these elements, provides the best way of dealing with the issues of spirituality. It handles problems inherent in the panentheistic universal subjectivity of constructive postmodernism and verifies spirituality as the natural desire for God. Spirituality represents an expansion of the notion of natural theology to include experiential elements along with rational ones. Since Christian theologians are careful to situate natural theology within the larger scope of revealed theology, a future project can explore the relationship of spirituality to Christian theology. In this way, spirituality can find its rightful place both as an independent academic topic and in relation to broader theological enterprises.

Recommended Citation

Condly, Robert Anthony, "Spirituality as natural theology: A Lonerganian approach" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9953487.