Details of Thesis

TitleThe Metaphysical Realism of E. L. Mascall and Anglican Doctrine
Author Ireland, Robert
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2010
AbstractAIMS: The twentieth century Anglican theologian, E. L. Mascall, made an important contribution to Anglican theology by incorporating into it the philosophical doctrine of metaphysical realism, developed by Thomas Aquinas. The Thesis asks about the relationship of Mascall's theology to Anglicanism and how it may be of benefit to Anglican theology, particularly since he represented an increasingly marginalized party within the Church, that is, Anglo-Catholicism, and also since his writings seem somewhat neglected today. SCOPE: In order to assess the significance of Mascall's approach within the world of contemporary Anglican theology, this Thesis examines the question of whether the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion which are salient representative texts of official Anglicanism and a significant exemplar of the so-called Anglican method intentionally incorporate an ontological understanding into such fundamental accounts as those of the doctrine of God and of Christ. The provisional conclusion is that the Articles include an ontological presumption only, which, within the distinctive Anglican approach to ecclesiology and theological method, puts in jeopardy an ongoing and settled place for such fundamental doctrines. In order to do this, the Thesis examines the distinctive nature of essential Anglicanism, noting its balanced, dialectical, and provisional nature. Such a settled placement of these fundamental and other doctrines is, however, a necessary aspect of the fulfilment of a distinctive Anglican ecclesiology as professed by historic Anglicanism. The doctrines of God and of Christ are part of a fundamental set which necessarily enable the distinctive nature of Anglicanism to achieve its goal of attaining catholicity through apostolicity. At the heart of this goal is a distinction of things deemed necessary for salvation and those not necessary. The Anglican method, therefore, encapsulates what is distinctive about Anglicanism, and so, the identity of the church is created and maintained. Its primary outcome and concern is with a balanced synthesis/symbiosis of scripture, tradition, and reason. In times of cultural change, such fundamental doctrines may be radically questioned in the name of contemporary accounts of reason. Alternative interpretations may in turn place such accounts outside the ambit of catholic faith as it has been traditionally conceived, and so introduce into Anglicanism irreconcilable pluralities of belief. The balanced synthesis may be ignored and so Anglican comprehensiveness is strained to breaking-point. The question of the benefit of an incorporation of metaphysical realism into Anglican theology is not only discussed with reference to these fundamental doctrines, but also with reference to three contentious doctrines, namely, the doctrines of justification, the Blessed Sacrament, and of Apostolic Succession. The latter three doctrines represent points of contention within historic Anglicanism, but above all they illustrate a lack of an intentional ontological and creational thinking to be found throughout the Articles. The Thesis explores the intellectual integrity of Mascall's natural theology. It concludes that Mascall is correct to believe in the fundamental character of being and of our knowledge of it. To support the conclusion, the Thesis presents and answers a major contemporary challenge to this approach in the form of a charge of the historical relativism of natural theology by the Protestant theologian, J. B. Cobb. Taking up the relative nature of personal evaluations as the basis for philosophy, it nevertheless concludes with Mascall that natural theology may be learned by anyone willing and able to do so, and that such people may find that their faith commitments may be realigned as a result. The Thesis concludes with an account of the range of Mascall's ontological thinking and how such thinking allows us to appreciate a creational approach to doctrine in general. Finally, there is an attempt to re-state the three contentious doctrines by intentionally incorporating into their expression ontological thinking. The theme is that Grace perfects, but does not destroy or ignore, nature. CONCLUSION: The conclusion is that Anglican theology and ecclesiology may significantly benefit from an intentional and intelligent incorporation of metaphysical realism. Such an incorporation fulfils the distinctive Anglican method, and wards off misappropriations of scripture, tradition and reason that may unbalance the synthesis.
Thesis 01front.pdf  223 Kb
02whole.pdf 1,852 Kb

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