Personalism and Implicit Faith: Theology of Revelation part 3
Barth is rightly concerned as I have been that the analogia is a purely philosophical idea divorced from faith, divorced from the life of the Church it can be a reduction to propositional truths. However, I’m going to try to correct my own positions from the past towards natural theology and say that there are two ways to approach the analogia. One is from the position of implicit unfaith, and the other is implicit faith.
The position of implicit unfaith is any suggestion of some causal principle that would relate human imperfection and limitation to and explain it in terms of some anteceding reality possessing all perfections. Basically, the idea of the Divine. I think that this is what Barth is rightly accusing some post Tridentine theologians of. Post Tridentine theologies of revelation often set revelation as a set of impersonal truths to be accepted instead of seeing them as the continued dialogical relation between the God of Israel and His people.
However, just because there has been an emphasis on propositional approaches to revelation does not by any means negate their power or general ability to work with the personalist approach of Christ as revelation. The relationship of the Revealing God and the believing man is foremost a living experience, and Barth is rightly stating as much.
However, this does not mean opposition to propositional truths. If we approach this from the Charismatic vantage point we see that the entire tradition and all our truths are authoritative forms of experience. This then means that this living experience will produce propositional truths that are to be believed because of the nature of the experiences we’ve had. The church feels the need to set out these truths because of common experience derived from the same source.
If one finds the well, does he not desire to give his neighbor a cup of water?
Of course some theologians have focused on these truths to the exclusion of the subjective and personal dimension, but that’s merely an excess, not grounds for rejection of the entire schema altogether. Barth rightly rejects the Protestant appropriation of revelation as formal truths divorced from the church, especially in liberal German theology, where the problem was exacerbated to allow the Nazi regime to be seen in continuity with the Christian faith.
The creation of propositions is not the problem but the way in which it is gone about, and if these propositions become substitute to the Christian story, there is no Christianity, and Barth is right. He is critically sounding the alarm for a world that no longer has a Christianity. I only wish that there were voices like his today in the American milieu.
The problem however is not with propositions in themselves but the equation of these propositions with the center of the theological method, and identity as the essence and summation of Revelation. Christ Himself is the revelation, and it is important that when we engage the theological task we keep that in mind, Barth is right in that respect. Vatican II affirms as much to us in the document Dei Verbum.
Implicit Faith on the other hand a position that concedes that there is an implied and ultimately substantiable ‘perfection’ to complement perceived imperfection and limitation. Von Balthasar’s own aesthetic theology approaches this from the standpoint of love, and the failures of Love. This goes hand in hand with the eschatological perspective of the Christian faith. There is an imperfection one that we might feel by looking at the natural world but we have more concretely a revelation that makes it known to us. One might acknowledge our own failure to love, but we see it most clearly when we see the divine love of the cross, the height of beauty.
I think when we speak of a theology of revelation, it too will have to be known that the church is the answer to the world, the elect are the answer to those who are not elect. Israel is the servant of the world, and in a theology of revelation, what we know serves those who do not know as we do, with the revelation.
Nature is not a hierarchical ladder up to Christ, but it is more like a journey along which there will be various similarities and differences. Inference from nature is then not condemned, but reclaimed by the fulfillment of the kingdom of God. Any similarity is apprehended by a still greater dissimilarity. Love stands completely outside us, even as humans in ordinary life, it overwhelms, overpowers and weakens, it corresponds to the event of the divine love without being this event. It can be spoken of in analogy but does not reduce the one to the other.
When we speak of Love as revelation, it demands a radical conversion even with the intimation and anticipation of perception. Love creates anew the epistemological framework, recreating vision as if we have seen things for the first time. Love refashions what we thought was sight, and dispels blindness, but in acquiring this sight, everything we thought we knew is judged, done away with and refashioned.
Natural knowledge then demands correspondence with the event of the the coming Kingdom. When we speak apologetically or inferring from the created world we can indeed begin with things as we see them, but quickly move to embrace the eschatological vision of the church, and subsequently move to Christ Himself.