FAITH AND REASON IN THE THOUGHT OF JOHN SCOTUS ERIUGENA
The topic of this dissertation is faith and reason in the extant texts of Eriugena. The dissertation is unfolded within the context of the theological doctrine of the ascent of the Christian to wisdom, or the movement of faith going to understanding.
The problem of faith and reason is not only important in Eriugena, its persistence over a long period has been an abiding impediment to the proper interpretation of this highly significant medieval thinker.
Reading the texts we come to the conclusion that an adequate discussion of Eriugena's doctrine on the relation of faith and reason has been frustrated by the fact that little attention has been given to (1) Eriugena's anthropology, (2) the distinction between the audiences to which his works are addressed, (3) the distinction between what Eriugena says in theory and what he does in practice, and (4) the humanistic elements in Eriugena's thought. A detailed consideration of the appropriate texts of Eriugena leads to the following conclusions: (1) Eriugena views the tragedy of man as centered in a lack of knowledge which is primarily explained as a natural consequence of his status as creature but also as a result of his fall. It is these deficiencies manifested in man's epistemological limitations that frustrate his efforts to know God. The way out of this tragic situation in which man finds himself is faith. (2) The relation between faith and reason varies in Eriugena's work depending upon whether he is speaking to the "simple" or the "perfect." The knowing of the simple is inferior to that of the perfect, but for the simple, faith without reason is more desirable than faith aided by reason. (3) The relation between faith and reason also varies in Eriugena's work depending upon whether we are considering his theory or his theological practice. In theory there is nothing unorthodox in Eriugena's doctrine. In our opinion he has said no more on the subject than Augustine. In practice, however, he often goes beyond the limits of what the Church considers acceptable interpretation of the teaching of Scripture and the Fathers. (4) The final conclusion of this dissertation is that Eriugena is a Christian humanist in the tradition of Augustine, anxious to convince the Christians capable of understanding his message that they can follow the dictates of reason without abandoning their faith, which means that in the discussion of his handling of faith and reason the authorities have been looking for more philosophical and theological rigor and acumen than they should have. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)