I’m revisiting my idea of natural theology, trying a different approach. Bear with me. So, I’ve decided February will be a good place to talk about the theology of revelation. For the Rest of the month, we’ll be dealing with a theology of revelation, or at least until I get bored with the topic, or run out of things to say.
This is Part 1, On Analogia Entis and the work of Karl Barth
The analogia entis means the analogy of being, or the justification of seeking to know the Creator in and through the created order and known objects.
We must ask the question is it the wisdom of God, or the invention of the anti-Christ?
Barth is rightly concerned that natural knowledge renders revelation unnecessary. Based on Kantian assumptions, one can only see the logical connection and sound the alarm. However more surely before Kant was, St. Thomas Aquinas and Christianity’s eschatological hope is.
Barth’s concern is that either we are caught up in the sphere of grace and revelation, or we are not. He wants to establish a radical distinction between the realm of grace and the realm of nature. But all this is a pious and devoted form of Deism, it separates God from the created order, revelation from everything that the revelation has claimed belongs to it. It too radically separates creation from Creator.
Barth has created a great divorce between that which God has united. If there is no natural knowledge at all, the only thing left is the clockwork God, whose purpose in the world is absent, who has abandoned the masses or will save them all regardless of their creed or confession. If there’s no natural knowledge, no analogy between creature and creator, we’re actually engaging in Docetism. While universalist hope is our task, because Love hopes the impossible, we cannot teach this as fact. If the world is abandoned and analogy is impossible, we’re living in and with a total depravity of the created order.
Barth may say that Christ is reprobate as well as elect, but his program necessarily shifts total depravity onto the world as we know it. It shifts complete depravity from individuals onto systems in the world, but these systems like the created order are still maintained by God. These systems are still good despite their rebellion under the power of evil. Just as man is saved through transfiguration so too, Reason, Nature and inference are fallen, but can point the way through being drawn up in the life of faith.
The Old Testament vision of systems of the world is that despite their seeming to interrupt the flow of God’s time, they’re actually participating in a larger liturgical framework, thus Daniel’s vision of the seventy years of weeks. The whole point is that ten jubilees or the fulfillment of jubilees will establish the glorious kingdom and that despite the kingdoms of the world represented in the vision of the man made of different materials, their order is as nothing, because the true calendar, the calendar of God’s divine liturgy endures.
Despite the exile, despite the fallenness of the created world, the heavenly liturgy is drawing all things up into itself. (For more information on this interpretation of Daniel see John Bergsma “Cultic Kingfoms in Conflict in the Book of Daniel” Letter and Spirit, volume 5; 2009, 51-76.)
We can retain the infinite qualitative diffference, the supreme otherness of God, without descending into Deisitic notions because of the work of Christ, and the fact that the analogy is not essentialist in a static framework. Christian apologetics does not argue for deity, or for a gnostic ladder by which in our philosophical questions we ascend to God. The analogia entis is not ontologically progressive in a hierarchy of being that seeks ultimate similarity, but analogizes infinite difference and their relation. If being is taken as becoming, then the difference is retained, and the Desitic platonism that necessitates Barth’s response is done away with.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar has argued that Barth oversteps what needs to be done; what response is demanded is not reducing the gospel to the propositional truths. Barth’s enemy is not really natural knowledge but the proprietary absolutization of this knowledge. What is necessary is avoiding the reduction but just because a reduction is possible does not mean the whole analogy is impossible altogether.
It would have sufficed to reject the reduction of revelation to logical principles based on a prior understanding on the nature of God based on reason. Von Balthasar gives the example that if someone sees a stranger, they can say that they know him, even if they have never spoken to him or met him formally, so long as they know something about him; yet it is just as legitimate to say he does not know the stranger, both are true. (Hans Urs Von Balthasar Love Alone is Credible, San Francisco, Ignatius; 2004), 47.