William Johnston’s Praise of Bernard Lonergan

October 27, 2006

A couple weeks ago I finished Arise My Love…: Mysticism for a New Era by William Johnston, SJ. Johnston has spent 40+ years in Japan teaching religious studies and is quite knowledgeable about Asian religions. In a few places he makes criticisms of JPII that I don’t like to hear, but there is much that is worthwhile and indeed fascinating in the book. Johnston comes across as a big fan and admirer of Lonergan, whom he quotes more than a dozen times. Above all, Johnston is impressed with Lonergan’s notion of conversion. Quoting Lonergan, he writes: “[R]eflection on conversion can supply theology with its foundation and, indeed, with a foundation that is concrete, dynamic, personal, communal and historical.” Conversion coincides with living religion. It is the experience by which one becomes an authentic human being. The true light enlightens EVERYONE. “For Lonergan conversion reaches a climax with religious conversion, wherein one’s being becomes being-in-love. If reflection on such conversion becomes the basis of fundamental theology, the theology of the future will be mystical theology.”

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