Seminary/School of Divinity


Spring 2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



William B. Stevenson

Second Advisor

David P. Deavel

Third Advisor

Jeffrey N. Steenson


The contest of faith in modern times has been intimately affected by the “turn to the subject” that typifies the age. In the modernist crisis of the early twentieth, the Catholic world was rocked by the twin threats of subjectivism and relativism, in response to which faith became identified with a rejection of the modern “turn” in favor of an objectivist intellectualism that coincided with a more or less ahistorical conception of faith. This trend was countered in the interwar period by the ressourcement, whose calls for theological and ecclesial reform bore fruit in the Second Vatican Council. The post-conciliar era, however, has witnessed a recurrence of the relativist and subjectivist dangers emblematic of modernism, inspiring many contemporary Catholics to return with sympathy to the apparent clarity and stability of neoscholastic theology. Thus, despite many good efforts, the Church remains caught in an oscillation between objective and subjective emphases, and between historical and transhistorical viewpoints, poles which are usually set in dialectical opposition to one another. This paper investigates the thought of two important modern theologians who frame the twentieth century at its bookends, John Henry Newman and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), and seeks to unveil a common structure in their thought that, it argues, fruitfully transcends these tensions. By positively correlating objectivity and subjectivity, dogmatic stability and historical development, both men achieve a theological balance that enables them to overcome the modern crisis precisely from within, and which emerges with greater clarity as they are read together. This balance, in turn, can help the Church to transcend the false-dichotomies that continue to threaten the vitality of the faith in the present times.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.