Thursday, August 11, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: Progress of Dogma (Part 14)

Most people will likely be shocked by the use of the term "progress of dogma," but this is precisely the one Zubiri quite deliberately uses. The reason is not that he wishes to take issue with John Henry Cardinal Newman that doctrine ought not to undergo a transformation from one thing into another thing, as macroevolution suggests. Indeed, Zubiri affirms that there must be some manner of observable continuity ("notes," as Newman calls them), but he notes that, as an apologist, Newman only set out to observe the existence of the phenomenon rather than the mechanism. But as a metaphysician and theologian, Zubiri wishes to be more precise, and it is for this reason that he wishes to distinguish his own notion from Newman's analogies, quite particularly the notion of the development of an acorn from an oak, which suggests that doctrine inevitably develops according to some inherent principle. By contrast, Zubiri wishes to confirm that the "development" of dogma is in fact "evolution" in the strict biological sense of that term: it is the expression of traits within a substrate (genetic potential, in the biological case) based on contingent circumstances. Thus, Zubiri rejects the notion of dogma developing "on its own," relatively independent from outside pressures according to some internal law, as a seed develops into a plant. On the contrary, dogma develops as a response to contingent circumstances, making itself manifest from what has gone before in response to the demands of history.

In Christianity (© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged), Zubiri begins the discussion of revelation by returning to the basic concept of donation of the reality of God that requires reception by intellgent humans for manifestation:

Revelation, above all, is a donation from the part of God. It is God giving of himself his own real truth. In the second place, this donation is certainly a knowing, but a knowing through intimacy, as the Hebrew verb yada’ mentioned above expresses. This is the knowing of a friendship, the intimacy of a person. It is not a speculative and theoretical knowing, but a knowing through intimacy. And this donation through intimacy of God as real truth is principle of life. It is essential not to forget this, that it is intrinsically necessary for revelation, as its own constitutive ingredient, to be principle of life. The rest is speculation. And in third place, precisely by revelation being a principle of life, it is in the life of man with all its dimensions where this donation is clearly manifested.

Manifestation is in what revelation precisely consists. This is the reason we shall never be able to understand the donation of God to man based on revelation, but (the reverse) we have to understand the revelation of God from the donation he makes of himself to man. And he can make it precisely because man is constitutively and formally a religation. Therefore, in his religation man has {456} the manifestative experience of that to which he is religated. In the first place, man is religated to the power of the real. This is a fact common to all men. In the second place, in that power of the real is discovered, through intelligence, the reality of God. In that case, it is manifestative experience, in one form or another, of the reality of God. And in third place, through an option of faith, if one thinks that God is the Christian God, then it is not only the manifestative experience of the power of the real, and the reality of God. It is but a special and concrete manifestative experience of that, which thematically we shall call revelation.

This is nothing that we haven't seen before. In applying this concept to revelation, however, Zubiri notes three different levels in which revelation develops:

A) There is a stratum that is, in a certain way, the most obvious, revelation seizes man, an intelligent being. And this intelligent being, naturally, tries to understand in an adequate or inadequate way that, which is given to him and has seized him. It is the case of a seizure in which he has made a personal surrender of his human reality. Then the historicity of revelation as dialectic of the seizure consists in that the seizure, with which revelation seizes the intellect, this intellect understands better that which has been offered. In this sense revelation has a progress. Historicity means a progress, but a progress on the line of a better intellection. It is, what in a more or less generic way, I would denominate a theologic progress. {461}

B) Nevertheless, there is a deeper stratum, anterior to the theologic progress. And it consists in the fact that the seizure, with which revelation seizes man, not only carries with it that intelligence conceptualize that which is offered to it, perhaps in a richer or more exact way theologically, but also that it may assimilate it better vitally. Here resides the dimension of donation in revelation. That which is offered to man can be assimilated vitally in a richer way in some moments more than in others, in some persons more than in others, perhaps in some eras more richly than others. Here the progress of revelation is not a progress at the conceptive level; it is formally a progress at the religious level. Revelation as fountain of riches seizing man and transforming his whole religious life does not coincide with theologic progress. But it is subjacent to the theologic progress, and without revelation there would be no such progress. Nevertheless, this progress is not the same as the theologic, but is a deeper progress, which we could call theological progress. It is not theologic; it is theological, it is the whole life of man in its theological dimension.

C) But there is still a deeper stratum. Because, in this seizure man not only can better conceptualize that which is given to him (progressive revelation theologically), but can have more assimilation of revelation, and in this sense can have a greater discovery of the internal riches, which compose the revelation that seizes him. But there is also something apparently more modest, but quite crucial. The fact is that revelation itself, which is given and seizes man, becomes more manifest than it was before. This progress is not simply a theologic progress. Also, it is not a theological progress; {462} it is a much deeper progress. It is a real progress, which affects revelation itself. That is the question. Suffice it to remember, for example, one of the dogmas defined in the last era, the Immaculate Conception. Up to the IV century there are no testimonies that anyone believed it. By the time just before the definition of the Immaculate Conception there was an enormous school of theologians pressuring Pius IX to make the declaration. St. Thomas was wrong, together with other saints, with respect to the deposit of revelation; he believed the Blessed Virgin was not immaculate. Neither St. Thomas believed it, or St. John Chrysostom, or someone of the standing of St. Bernard despite being the one who wrote the Salve Regina2. Nevertheless, revelation has had a real progress. And in this real progress is where we precisely find the important difficulty concerning the historical existence of revelation. Because this third stratum of the real progress indicates to us that revelation, insofar as a manifestation and donation of God, is a manifestation that intrinsically has a progress. Therefore, from the point of view of God, revelation has an intrinsic historicity. What does this mean?

In the case of Christian revelation, we must also confront the fact that revelation is closed; it is limited in some sense, so it must be the case that the pronouncement of dogmas is a matter of preserving the essential quality, of reactualizing what is already revealed. Zubiri explains:

What is it to progress? To progress is, of course, to give of itself. And what it gives of itself is the real truth of God, which consists in Christ. Christ is not only at the beginning of tradition, he is not only continuing the tradition, but he is there revealing more of that, which he revealed once. And therefore, that which is being constituted in this progress of revelation, more than the revelation in it, is that compact characteristic of this substratum that has been revealed to us. It is precisely what St. Irenaeus called the sóma tes aletheías, the body of truth2. The progress is the progress of the substrate. The revealed deposit cannot, at certain moments, continue to be the same except by progressing. And precisely that is the essence of progress. It is not only the case that there may not be new revelations, this would only be a merely statistical question. The important point is that there are moments in which the initial revelation cannot continue being same to itself except by progressing. And then, in that necessary moment of progressing towards identity is in what the very essence of the progress of the substrate consists. It is the actualization of sameness.

For example, it will be enough to remember what the Council of Nicea was. With its philosophical concepts inherited from Alexandria and Antioch the Council of Nicea defined the consubstantiality of the Father with the Son. However, there is no doubt that these philosophical concepts did not form part of the dogmatic definition. What is certain is that at that moment what constituted the essence of revelation (that the Father and the Son may be the same thing, the same what) could not be expressed except using the concept of “consubstantial”. The same happened afterwards in the Council of Chalcedon. This council {471} tells us that in Christ there are two natures and one person. Undoubtedly, these concepts do not form part of revelation. Christians during the time of the Apostles would have never had an idea of the difference between nature and person. However, at that moment it could not have been possible to maintain the reality of Christ as only one who and two what’s except by using the philosophical concepts of nature and person. We have seen that something similar took place at the Council of Trent. It was not possible to enunciate the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, facing the nominalist controversies, except by using the concept of substance.

What is fundamental in this concept of sameness is that the thing which is being confirmed must be the same thing as what is confirming. In the context of Christ, since the revelation is Christ Himself, the announcement of dogma must itself come from the presence of Christ subsisting in the Church. It is the identity, the one Christ, that is the same yesterday, today, and always. The progress of dogma is what establishes this presence, that which continually demonstrates the identity of the proclaiming entity with what was revealed. This theological identification is not anything like historical identification, as Zubiri makes clear:

Hence, it is essential to underline that the concept of tradition {472} we have used here is not an historical concept; it is a theologic concept. From the point of view of a historical science tradition is understood as the continuity of a documentary proof. Is there a tradition that Pythagoras may have discovered the mathematical theorems attributed to his name? Not an extensive one, some have said no, and others have said yes. However, they are in the Elements of Geometry of Euclid, and clearly we do have an historical continuity of this. However, this is not the concept of tradition we are discussing here. The concept of tradition here is purely theologic; it is the reactualization of the revealed deposit. Let us take the case of the Immaculate Conception. Even though during many centuries it may have been unknown and denied by many, this privilege of the Blessed Virgin, there is no doubt indeed, belongs to tradition. Because (whether known or not known by man) it forms part of that, which was in the revealed deposit, and therefore, is reactualized at each moment. Tradition does not consist in having testimonies of the Immaculate Conception, but in that, which is reactualized identically throughout history, involving or not involving the idea of the Immaculate Conception, which is a different matter. Hence, this is the case of a theologic concept, not historical.

One important corollary of this observation is that the progress of dogma is not limited either to historical or to intellective processes. Indeed, any aspect of the religious life may prove valuable in this regard:

It is the case, in the first place, that the dogmatic progress always occurs within a perfectly determined human situation. A particular situation of the whole man, {475} not only his intelligence. And of the whole man in a completely religious situation. The matter is quite clear, for example, in the same case of the Immaculate Conception. Thomist theologians attempted to lock into a syllogism the definition of this dogma. Not in the famous enthymeme attributed to Duns Scotus, but probably by Eadmer of England, according to which potuit, decuit, ergo fecit, but in a syllogism with the major starting with kecharitoméne (Lk 1:28). At any rate, with hindsight anything can be fitted into a syllogism, including reading these pages. But this does not mean it was the way to discover it. The great masters of speculative theology did not admit the Immaculate Conception. On the other hand, a few poor Franciscans felt the devotion to the Blessed Virgin as the Immaculate Conception. And it is there where the truth of the deposit of revelation was. The revealed deposit, and therefore, the progress, is inscribed in a situation of the whole man, and also in a religious situation.

It it on this account that Zubiri criticizes the notion of dogmas being present implicitly in any sense other than historical possibilities. The definitions of dogmas are actual events in the lives of actual human beings; it is a historical process and not a biological process, so that revelation does not develop itself, instead providing a context in which the historical events of progress take place:

Then we can ask how were these dogmas present before they were brought out? After what we have just said, I do not believe they are there virtually. This matter of virtualities is something never clearly defined in theology. I do not believe they are there implicitly. What do we mean by implicit? Do we mean, for example, that in the kecharitoméne the Immaculate Conception is implicit? {479} Why implicitly? I do not believe it is there virtually or implicitly. It is there in a different way. It is there as possibilities are in the reality that has properties, which makes that these possibilities may exist. The air, metals, engines have real properties dating back for a long time. Only recently a few years ago these properties have been the fundament of a possibility, aviation. Are the possibilities of aviation contained in the metals germinally, virtually or implicitly? This seems absurd to me. Does this mean metals have nothing to do with that reality? This also seems absurd. The possibilities are in the reality from which they emerge and of which they are possibilities in a different way that I might call fundamental. Every possibility is founded on real properties, and this is precisely what fundamentality is.
Here, it is not the case they may or may not be in act, but that they are not as act in historical actuality. {480} Before its definition the Immaculate Conception had no historical actuality. The dogmas are revealed, they are contained in revelation as possibilities are contained in that, which fundaments their possibilities. That is the reason why the definition itself, as I have said, is not a new revelation. Not even on its own, because with the death of the last Apostle revelation is finished and concluded. And not even in an equivalent way, as Suárez argued, a great theologian, but unfortunately the heir of the syllogistic prejudices of the XV century. It is not the case of a revelation, formal or equivalent.

Let us return to the starting point. All the history of revelation is purely and simply something that occurs in the body of the Church qua body of Christ, and personal communion with him. In other words, occurs with Christ present in the depth of the Church. Which means that just as the sacraments are the actions of Christ, which continue repeating the actions of his life in the persons that receive them, analogously the definitions revelation continues to experience in the course of history are really his actions. Certainly, men construct them, but with reference to Christ. Just as baptism is an action of Christ, also the dogmatic definitions that take place in history are his action. An action of his, which has a most precise characteristic, a dogmatic definition is not an action in which the Church defines revelation, but is purely and simply Christ defining himself, which is a different matter.

Accordingly, the infallibility of dogmatic definitions just is the infallibility of the Church qua Body of Christ, the extent to which the Church may be identified as the Body of Christ:

Then we may ask how do we achieve the definition? Precisely by that, which constitutes the presence of Christ in the bosom of the Church, the Spirit of Truth. This is the reason I mentioned above the infallibility of belief (infallibilitas credendi) in the entire body of the Church {482} taken historically. In some of its hierarchs there is the infallibilitas docendi, but the truth is that this second infallibility is granted and is real inasmuch as it forms part of the first. They are not two different infallibilities. To think that an ecumenical council receives its infallibility from the Pope is chimerical. It would not be infallible without the Pope, but it is not such because of the Pope. That was a bad theory of conciliarism, to believe that the Church is the Pope, the cardinals, and the bishops, while the rest of us join in. Not at all. The fact is that taken at one and the same time the infallibilitas docendi and the infallibilitas credendi constitute only one thing, the infallibilitas corporis Christi, the infallibility of the body of Christ. This infallibility is not merely negative, i.e., it is not assistance in order not to err, but in addition it is an interior illumination. Certainly, not in the form of a new revelation, but in an interior illumination that will allow us to be able to define accurately the identity of the revealed deposit. This is why infallibility is not something extrinsic, like a kind of guillotine, which falls on the history of revelation, but precisely the opposite. Infallibility is the organ of the historical identity of revelation. It is an organ of historicity. And this is precisely what makes it possible that there be a progress. The opposite would be to leave revelation in the hands of a motion, without knowing what it is going to give of itself in the course of history. Clearly, there is no progress except where we have a substrate of identity, whether in revelation or anything else.

Zubiri concludes by noting that the entire question of revelation is one of defending Christianity against challenges from alien ways of thinking that are distinct from the Christian worldview. Really, the entire challenge of "defending" the Christian view of revelation is precisely defending the Christian meaning of history from being redefined by outsiders:

This historical moment is essential to Christianity. Christianity in the modern world found itself facing, in first place, {484} a form of reason, scientific reason. She found herself facing scientists. This was the occasion for a lot of noise, but it had little effect on theology. In the second place, she faced philosophical reason. That was more serious. It was a philosophy that had an idea of intelligence and concepts quite different than the one the Greek world had. The Church debated, not with great success, because it did not have much, but it was not a total disaster. But at the same time Christianity had to present the content of revelation facing a third type of reason, historical reason, which acquires its great plenitude in the philosophy of Hegel.

Historical reason presents, from my perspective, a problem that is not usually considered in theology, but it should. Theology books, when they discuss dogmatic progress understand it in a way similar to the question, for example, whether the dogma of Chalcedon was or was not in the Synoptic Gospels. Or if transubstantiation is or is not in the account of the Last Supper, etc. They try to justify each dogma. Of course, this is essential, and without it there would be no question, but I believe the question must be approached from a different point of view. We must approach the history of dogmas in the totality of the constitution of the sóma tes aletheías, the body of truth. Not each dogma, but the set of all dogmas in their internal connection, unfolding and constituting themselves during the course of history. That is the question, history as a whole. The history of dogmas is not purely and simply the history of one or twenty dogmatic definitions; it is precisely the very historicity with which revelation lives historically in the bosom of the Church. Because of this I believe the problem is much more important than justifying, as Newman did, each one of the dogmas. The history of dogmas, from the point of view of the present, is the confrontation of Christianity {485} with the entire theological history as a whole. For some, God in his history is dead, that was the phrase of Nietzsche. For others, like Hegel, God lives. The life of God consists in God making himself, is becoming a being. It is a becoming in himself. In that case, the historicity of Christianity as a becoming of God himself would be purely and simply the absolute reason, the idea, which is being molded in finite concepts through the course of history. It was, for example, the method introduced into the history of dogmas by F. C. Baur precisely at Tübingen3.

Nevertheless, in all modesty I do not believe that is the structure of the historical totality of the dogmas. In the first place, the history of dogmas is not the life of God. It is not the life of a God who is making himself, and is reaching to be, but is the life of a God who is making being by donation, something quite different. He is not making himself, but is making that creatures be. Therefore, the occurrence to which revelation is subjected in its most intimate and deepest strata is purely and simply God giving of himself, i.e., occurring in another, in this case, in the body of humanity. This occurrence, in the second place, is a projection ad extra of his Trinitarian life. And this projection manifests. The history of dogmas is the history of this revelation, and not the history of the physical reality of God himself. But still, in a deeper dimension, God not only gives himself ad extra to creatures, but also gives himself concretely and historically in the person of Christ. Therefore, God is not only in history, but in addition he is in it historically. And this historical being-there (Sp. estar) is a theological experience of the possibilities for manifestation of Christ. The dialectic of revelation is not the conceptual unfolding {486} of an idea, but the theological experience of God, historically, ad extra.

However, historicity is not what is most radical in Christianity. What is radical is that historicity is a giving of himself by God. And this giving of himself really and formally consists in deiforming that, which he creates, and that in which he is going to be realized. Because of this, above and below of history is precisely the personal deiformation of each man. Each man has to make his own substantive being religated by the power of the real. In this religation a problem formally occurs, which is the problem of the reality of God. And to this God that the intelligence discovers as personal reality, living and unique, man can surrender. And this action of surrender is precisely what we call faith. Molded in the entire reality of man, individual and collective, it is what we call religion. And, in the option of Christianity, it is precisely Christ and Christianity, as person and also as history.

Thus, the question of dogmatic development is essentially resolved by the metaphysical identity of the Church with Christ, realized in the actual human context of Christians molded in the life of Christ, so that it is the same Christ proclaiming and revealed. And here, with Zubiri's perfect image of Church as the living Christ Himself molded in the lives of Christians, is an excellent place to conclude the series.