Grace and human response: A retrieval of the notion of the fundamental option in light of recent critiques

Dominic Colonna, Fordham University

Abstract

Critics, notably the magisterium (Veritatis Splendor) and the philosopher Germain Grisez, argue that the fundamental-option theory is a misguided combination of flawed modern philosophical and traditional Christian neoplatonist ideas. Specifically critiqued is the distinction of transcendental and categorical dimensions of freedom and knowledge. These distinctions, it is argued, have led to impoverished understandings of human action. The proportionalist method of moral reasoning associated with the theory, furthermore, does not allow one to determine adequately the moral objects which are to be pursued and avoided. For these reasons, the theory has contributed to a lost sense of sin in the modern world.^ This study reviews these critiques and argues that they apply neither to the theory as it was originally formulated by Karl Rahner and others nor as it was applied to moral theology by Josef Fuchs. After examining the doctrinal and philosophical ideas related to the theory, this study finds that it is a synthesis of modern and traditional ideas which represents well the modern renewal in Roman Catholic theology. According to Rahner, a fundamental option is an act of human self-realization which is also a transcendental human response to God's offer of grace. This act is "expressed" and constituted by our categorical actions. God, according to the theory, is the intrinsic end of human self-realization.^ This description of our relationship with God implies a new starting point for moral theology, particularly, for the determination of the moral object. After analyses of the theories of freedom, value, and action associated with the theory, this study finds that the human person is a transcendent subject who possesses a dynamism for the pursuit of God as the absolute moral value. Proportionalism, although not a feature of the theory as originally formulated, is a logical extension of it.^ This dissertation concludes that, if the distinctions of transcendental and categorical dimensions of knowledge and action are understood correctly, the fundamental-option theory contributes not to a lost sense of sin but to a renewed sense of responsibility to live according to Christian values. ^

Subject Area

Education, Religious

Recommended Citation

Colonna, Dominic, "Grace and human response: A retrieval of the notion of the fundamental option in light of recent critiques" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9825857.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9825857

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