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Theological Conclusion


The expression theological conclusion is used to signify the conclusion of an argument one of the premises of which is from faith, the other from reason. Such is, for instance, the conclusion of the following argument: The same divine nature is common to all the Persons of the Holy Trinity truth from faith. Now, nature is the remote principle of operation truth from reason. Therefore operations are common to all the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

In order to have a real theological conclusion the consequence must follow from the premises by way of demonstration; i.e., it must be the result of a deductive, not of an analytic, syllogism. But, in practice, it is hard to say when a syllogism is analytic and when it is deductive. Consequently it is hard to distinguish real from apparent theological conclusions. A case in which this difficulty created great confusion was that of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a truth formally revealed, which, however, before the bull Ineffabilis Deus, was considered by many a theological conclusion, i.e., a virtually revealed truth.

The main objection against theological conclusions is that no syllogism built on premises belonging to two different levels of knowledge (one to the level of reason, the other to the level of faith) is correct, because it violates one of the fundamental rules of logic, the rule that prescribes that the middle term must keep the same meaning in the two premises. One may take as an example the following argument: The word proceeds from the intellect. But the Son is the word of the Father. Therefore the Word proceeds from the intellect of the Father. It is claimed, as regards this argument, that the conclusion is wrong, because the meaning of the middle term, word, is not the same in the major and in the minor premises: what one knows from reason about the word and the intellect is entirely different from what one knows from faith.

The answer to this objection is that the fact of a concepts belonging to two different levels of knowledge does not prevent it from having the same meaning, and, therefore, it does not prevent it from satisfying the rules of a syllogism: terminus esto triplex and aut semel aut iterum medius generaliter esto. To deny this with regard to faith and reason is to wreck the intelligibility of faith and to fall into the Averroistic theory of double truth, or into the Marcionistic theory of the unknown God. It must be said, however, that theological conclusions are legitimate only when the middle term expresses something pertaining to the essence of a thing and not to a peculiar historical circumstance. This point has been brought out with the utmost clarity by F. Marin-Sola in his Évolution homogne du dogme catholique, where he distinguishes between the essence considered in itself, i.e., in its metaphysical ratio, and the essence considered in the concrete, i.e., in its historical and physical realization. On the ground of this distinction he shows that one is allowed to apply to Christian realities only the predicates that belong to them essentially, otherwise the terms would be equivocal and the conclusion would not be valid. For instance, if it is revealed that God has become man in Jesus, one is authorized to conclude that He is endowed with reason and free will, but not that He is white or red. An important contribution to the understanding of theological conclusions has been given by (Y. M. J. Congar, who has shown that theological conclusions are not so much the result of speculative procedures as of the development of faith in its existential conditions, both human and supernatural (Y. M. J. Congar, La Foi et la thologie 113.)

Theological conclusions are strictly connected with revelation and, consequently, enter into the domain of the infallibility of the Church. It is, however, disputed whether they enter into such a domain directly or indirectly, i.e., whether they are objects of ecclesiastical or of divine faith, and whether they are to be treated as dogma or not.

See Also: analogy, theological use of; argumentation; dialectic in theology; error, theological; methodology (theology); reasoning, theological; revelation, virtual; theology, articles on.

Bibliography: y. m. j. congar, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant, 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 15.1:341502. s. shngen, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 6:453454. j. f. bonnefoy, La Nature de la thologie selon saint Thomas d'Aquin (Paris 1939) 6772. a. gardeil, Le Donn rvl et la thologie 162186. p. wyser, Theologie als Wissenschaft: Ein Beitrag zur theologischen Erkenntnislehre 112120. Sacrae Theolologiae Summa, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus, Professors of the Theological Faculties in Spain (Madrid 1962) 1.3:698737. e. dhanis, "Révélation explicite et implicite," Gregorianum 34 (1953) 187237. m. r. gagnebet, Un Essai sur le probleme theologique, Revue Thomiste 45 (1939) 108146. e. lang, Die Gliederung und die Reichweite des Glaubens nach Thomas von Aquin und den Thomisten, Divus Thomas 20 (1942) 207236, 335346; 21 (1943) 7997. a. m. lubik, "De conclusionibus theologicis ad mentem M. Cani," Antonianum 36 (1961) 2968. r. m. schultes, "De definibilitate conclusionum theologicarum," La Ciencia tomista 23 (1921) 305333.

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