Bonaventure and Chinul: Christian and Buddhist Models for Integration of the Intellectual and Spiritual Life

Doctoral Dissertation


In both Christianity and Buddhism, there has long been a conflict between the learned study of doctrine and spiritual practice, or between theology and spirituality. This tension is informed by a deeper tension between the immanence and transcendence of the divine or the ultimate, and different modes of discourse on it—positive (cataphatic) and negative (apophatic).

Those who advocate scriptural and theoretical study insist that the nature of the ultimate is effable, and intellectual exercises involving the use of language can be of use to soteriological ends—to union with the divine in Christianity or enlightenment to the ultimate reality in Buddhism. On the other hand, there have been others who concentrate on meditation and spirituality with an emphasis on gaining first-hand experience of the divine or ultimate reality. Some who emphasize spiritual (or meditative) life discount intellectual efforts; they doubt the efficacy of learning and study of scriptures and doctrines.

In spite of this tension between the intellectual and spiritual, both of them have contributed to forming, developing, and sustaining religious traditions. Acknowledging significant contributions made by both intellectual study and spiritual practice, some religious adepts have striven to integrate both ways. This dissertation will explore in detail two of these efforts, one by Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (c.1217-1274)—a Franciscan theologian, and Pojo Chinul (1158-1210)—a Korean Sǒn (or Zen) master. Both of them held that the balanced incorporation of theoria into praxis would more efficiently advance a practitioner toward union with God or enlightenment. Through the comparative study of these two attempts to synthesize learning and practice, I will examine the nature of these tensions—that between theoria and praxis and between cataphasis and apophasis—and will consider the interrelationship between the two tensions. I will also analyze how the distinctive doctrines of the two religions shape their respective views of the theoria/praxis and cataphasis/apophasis dynamics.


Attribute NameValues
Author Yongho Francis Lee
Contributor Kenan B. Osborne, Committee Member
Contributor Robert M. Gimello, Research Director
Contributor Ann W. Astell, Committee Member
Contributor David A. Clairmont, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2017-07-25

Submission Date 2017-08-09
  • Medieval Dionysianism

  • Cataphasis (Kataphasis) and Apophasis

  • Korean Buddhism

  • Transcendence and Immanence

  • Kanhwa Sŏn

  • Franciscan Studies

  • Theory and Practice

  • Comparative Theology

  • Chinul

  • Bonaventure

  • Itinerarium or The Soul’s Journey into God

  • Christianity and Buddhism

  • English

Record Visibility Open Access
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.