[Hort] points out that the contrast between truth of revelation and truth of discovery merely brings out a polarity in the human grasping of truth that is necessarily implicit in it. There cannot be pure truth of revelation: for to apprehend a truth which is received is to relate it to what we know already, to make it one’s own. But neither can there be pure truth of discovery: for no one starts from scratch, we take for granted a body of learning that has been handed down to us, we trust those from whom we learn, and those from whom they learnt. ‘Truth of discovery is received by everyone except the discoverer as much from without as if it were revealed. Truth of revelation remains inert till it has been appropriated by a human working of recognition which it is hard to distinguish from that of discovery.’ Hort draws attention to the danger of thinking that because much of the advance in knowledge since the Renaissance has been by criticism and rejection of traditions discovered to be false, it follows that tradition has no place in our knowing, and that we should accept only what we have proved for ourselves. The task is impossible; but more dangerously, the attitude behind such a determination is self-frustrating: ‘in knowledge as in all else he labours in vain to be independent: he is most himself when he receives most, and most freely acknowledges that he receives’.

Andrew Louth, Discerning the Mystery. An Essay on the Nature of Theology, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983) 55-56.

While Louth sees theology as more closely allied to the humanities than to the sciences (theologians work in “libraries, not laboratories”) he nevertheless want to avoid an absolute division between the two. Moreover, he questions whether the emphasis on method, experimentation, objectivity and a break with tradition that became prominent in the wake of the Renaissance is not something of a caricature. Such emphases have certainly proved successful, but “this may not mean that it is a complete way of developing human knowledge, only that it is effective within its limits.” (55) Drawing on Hort’s work Louth argues for a sort of continuity between scientific and theological knowledge in which the personal implication of the one who seeks is not something which one should seek to elide, but means rather an integral part in the process of undeception. In this the quest for truth acquires ascetical overtones. (For Hort’s description of this process, see here). Thus

From Hort there emerges a very positive attitude to the growth of the sciences which yet sees the pursuit of the scientist as part of the common human pursuit for truth, and not as fundamentally different from it in kind. Emphasis is laid on the importance of tradition; while the objectivity required of the one who is seriously dedicated to the truth is seen not as an impersonal elision of the observer, but rather in moral terms as a growth in wisdom and selflessness. Nor is there any reliance on some ‘method’ which holds the key of knowledge, rather there is an awareness of the manifoldness of the truth and of our perception of it. (59)

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