Professor of Theology
Mark Lowery, Ph.d., is Professor of Theology at the University of Dallas, departmental chair, and the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Social Science Review. He has published articles both in theological journals such as Communio, The Jurist, Faith and Reason, The Catholic Social Science Review, and The Irish Theological Quarterly, and in such popular periodicals as the This Rock, New Oxford Review, The Catholic Faith, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and The Social Justice Review. His introductory book on moral theology, Living the Good Life, is published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. He and his wife Madeleine have nine children and live in Irivng, Texas.
Two key elements are at the heart of my vocation as scholar and teacher: First, a commitment to the Christian intellectual tradition, seen and understood through the lens of the Roman Catholic church. I am thoroughly committed to teachings of the Catholic Magisterium, and I am proud of my mandatum. Second, a commitment to taking the questions of modernity and post modernity seriously. The truth claims of the Christian tradition, properly understood, are capable of both a serious engagement with those questions, and an intellectually responsible answer to them.
My approach tries to avoid two erroneous ways of considering the Christian tradition in relation to secularity. First, it is wrongheaded to "deconstruct" the traditional doctrines of Christianity in order to make them compatible with the canons of secular orthodoxy. Such deconstruction infuses Christian doctrines with radically new meanings that are fundamentally incompatible with the originals. In such a method, the doctrines no longer are genuine truth claims, but rather become mere approximations relative to a variety of other approximations. The alleged goal of such relativizing - under the guise of "neutrality - is greater tolerance and openness, but the end result is all too often a tyrannical imposition of a pure relativism that isn't really neutral at all.
Second, it is equally wrongheaded, though quite understandable, to take a fundamentally defensive stance against secularity. Unconcerned about meeting its questions and objetions, one disappears into a kind of fundamentalist and paleomorphic ghetto in a vain attempt to retain the purity of one's beliefs. Often such a reaction takes a fideistic tone, unconcerned about the inner intelligibility of the truths being protected. Tragically, the heteronomous element of such an approach is precisely what caused many moderns to recoil from Christianity in the first place.
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor, notes that authentic Catholic theology rejects both the autonomous position of modernity (embraced by some Catholics themselves) and the heteronomous position of many reactionary religious groups (including some withing Catholicism itself). Authentic freedom is neither autonomous ("I can do what I want as long as I don't hurt anyone else") nor Heteronomous ("I'll submit to these extrinsically imposed truths") but rather is described as a "participatory theonomy" by which the truth is built for man's nature and man's nature partakes in that truth. Put simply, the truth is friendly to our being.
In the classroom, as well as in my scholarly work, I strive to embrace this higher plane above the extremes of autonomy and heteronomy. There really is an objective truth available for our discovery. But it must be discovered, and the penetrating (and not-so-penetrating) questions of secularity, far from being a threat to the classical tradition, are avenues by which that tradition can come alive for the modern student. As Cardinal Newman noted, "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt" (see CCC 157). Let the questions flow.
I am proud to be at UD because it is the ideal setting for the kind of exploration just described. We are not afraid of modernity and post modernity. While the conclusions found in these multi-faceted intellectual, spiritual, and cultural movements may be incomplete and at times erroneous, nonetheless they ask good questions, the right questions, which cannot be ignored. So, rather than rejecting modernity and post modernity, we work in and through them, and then across or beyond them. It seems to me that we are the ideal (and one-of-a-kind) transmodern university. And I think that is the university most capable of being infused with the Catholic faith.