Sunday, July 31, 2005

Interlude: Caveat Emptor

I received a couple of questions about Zubiri's view of original sin that reminded me that I may be taken for granted my own conclusion that Zubiri's view can be reconciled with Catholic dogma. Since I believe myself to be a faithful Catholic in submission to the Magisterium, obviously I think that Zubiri's belief can be so reconciled, but on the other hand, it is not my intent to substitute my judgment for that of the Magisterium or for anyone's spiritual discernment. Just to make clear that these matters are simply my own fallible (although I hope well-intentioned) judgment, I wish to lay out what my position is on Zubiri's orthodoxy and what I understand to be the relevant magisterial teachings on the matter.

For the record, I have what some might consider a "liberal" view of our first parents. I do believe that there were actual human beings, Adam and Eve, and that Adam committed a personal sin substantially as described in the Genesis account that permanently affects the metaphysical standing of all subsequent human beings with respect to God. In other words, I do not believe that the account of original sin is some kind of moral parable referring to a kind of collective social sin as the "group monogenism" theory would suggest. But whether the metaphysical effect of that original sin is passed by generation through natural descendancy is, by my lights, a matter of legitimate diversity of opinion.

In the classical metaphysical account, original sin was passed by nature, and thus, it was a practical necessity that the corruption of nature be passed by generation. But the East has always had some difficulty with the Western suggestion that in being "sinners by nature," one might have actual personal guilt transmitted in this fashion. It would seem to me that all of this difficulty ultimately ties back to viewing metaphysics in terms of subject and relation rather than substantivity and respectivity. The only real options for "locating" the effects of original sin were individual person and shared human nature; the notion of real respectivity between subjects simply wasn't there. In Zubiri's case, the respectivity of human beings with one another is more complex than having a shared metaphysical nature, so while Zubiri's system is amenable to incorporating the patristic concepts, Zubiri's system also has explanatory power beyond the patristic view in areas where Greek metaphysics faces difficulties. I would analogize this situation to the paradigm shift from classical mechanics to relativity theory. Relativity reproduces the results of classical mechanics at velocities far from the speed of light, but it also provides better explanations where the older system faced difficulties (e.g., the perihelion of Mercury).

This is all well and good, but if original sin by generation has been dogmatized, then this explanation is inadequate regardless. The most relevant magisterial pronouncement on the matter would appear to be Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis (1950), which states inter alia the following:

36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is no no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12]

As I read it, the difficulty is not with concepts other than the transmission of sin by natural generation in themselves, but rather, how to reconcile such concepts with the patristic testimony on the subject of original sin. It seems to me that the metaphysical explanation I have provided accounts for the Fathers' formulation of the dogma and preserves the essential dogmatic teaching on original sin. Indeed, it seems to explain both the Eastern and Western version without negating the truth of either view, which strikes me as being faithful to the Tradition in the larger sense. But that's just me, and I don't want to pretend that I'm the last word on the subject.

Zubiri seems to have taken a much stronger line. From his own training in biology, he concludes that monogenism is untenable. But as I said, it's not clear to me that this in any way differs from the Catholic position, especially given that he affirms Adam's sin both in being personal to him and in having universal effects that are not themselves personal. This is Zubiri's explanation from Christianity (© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged):

But here appears again the subject of sin. Because, at any event, there is in that will to origination, and in the entity originated by it, a sin of origin. What is all this about original sin?

Above all, there is no obligation to think that the whole of mankind descends from just one couple. Monogenism is an interpretation, and that is all it is, an interpretation, besides there is no obligation to affirm it. Also, it would be biologically improbable that the whole of mankind, which covers such extraordinary dimensions in the biosphere, would proceed from only one couple. That would be absolutely improbable. Humanity proceeds from several, multiple couples. Then we can assume that it proceeds at least from a unique group of couples. And in this case we would have what I would call a group monogenism. For example, Rahner, a great theologian has suggested this1. But it seems chimerical to me, who has ever suggested that the Pithecanthropus of Java and the Archanthropus of Morocco constitute a group? There would be not one group, but several groups. In other words, I do not believe there is a one couple monogenism, or even a group monogenism.

At any rate, humanity, which has been sprouting by evolution and by the intrinsic and exigent action of God in many {227} points of the Earth has become involved in a mass of sin. Our question is, in what does the originating characteristic of this sin consist? Let us be aware in this problem that it is precisely by the body that human beings are open to each other and to the whole world. Men form groups and resemble God precisely by that dimension of corporeity man’s own reality has. Hence, this corporeity is not a corporeity consecutive to what man is, but it is a constitutive corporeity. Man constitutively would never be turned (in the form he has to be) towards other men if it were not because of his body.

From this follows, on the one hand, that the original sin, which was certainly personal in Adam, is not personal in the rest of men. No one has been born with a sin for which he is personally responsible. That is chimerical. No one has been born with a personal sin. It will then be said that it is a kind of hereditary epidemic. It is not said that way, but in the end the immense majority of the classical expositions of original sin deal with it as if it were a sickness that man is always inheriting. No, that is completely chimerical.

The original sin is not a personal sin or a natural epidemic. It is something different. In Spanish we can say it quite well, it is a preparatory stage for peccability (Sp. estadio primero de empecatamiento). Man is born with a constitutional structure, with respect to other men, prepared for peccability. Certainly, not because of each man, but because of those that naturally constituted the origin of humanity. Man is born in a situation prepared for peccability as the result of a personal rejection by those who constituted the exordium of humanity. It has left men constituted in such a way that they possess the molding or the result of this {228} rejection. The result of this rejection is not a rejection. No one has a rejection of God because of original sin. But also there is no full possession of the Trinitarian life. Then, what is it? It is precisely a Trinitarian life lived with a deprivation. Man in original sin has no act of rejection; he has a state ready for peccability, which formally consists in a privation, in the privation of the fullness of the Trinitarian life.

The Genesis account (Gn 3) is completely legendary, no doubt about it. But what it is trying to say is that precisely because of that, moral evil had its beginning. Man, in one form or another, personally lost in all those who performed an act of rejection, the positive relationship with God, and he began to live and establish himself on Earth on the basis of that rejection. Everything else belongs, of course, to the literary and conceptual genre of the text of Genesis.

Taken from every possible angle, in each person or in history, the question from the part of God is of a will to deiformity staged for peccability. Staged for peccability, i.e., that each man is virtually someone who has the possibility of being an anti-God. And he is so precisely by virtue of his own Trinitarian structure. As I said above, this is a stupendous and extreme paradox, precisely the reality of the condemned man. Man has the possibility of acquiring the stage ready for peccability, of being in a state of peccability, and living his Trinitarian life with respect to God rejecting it. That is the reason why the radical sin is precisely the sin of pride.

I think that suffices to make plain the doctrinal issue in order to allow individuals to make their own judgment. Coming as I do from a background in physics, I have a great deal of respect for the way Zubiri, himself scientifically trained, handles both metaphysical and theological issues. But it is not my intent to advocate for "modernism" in any sense nor to lead anyone into error, so I urge people to take their own responsibility for evaluating whether they consider this position to be a tenable interpretation of Catholic dogma.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Crucifixion (Part 8)

In Zubiri's account of salvation, he incorporates the notion of a person's experiences being part of his reality. Thus, in Christ, the personal assumption of the experience of human life by the Word of God makes the experiences of Christ's life part of the divine reality. It is in this sense, the sharing of the very life of Christ, that Zubiri means salvation. As Christians, we are molded to the life of Christ in a process of deiformation, which can be contrasted with the concept of theosis in that it takes place at the level of personal reality rather than being (ontological union). Yet it is quite similar in that both begin with the image of God in human beings (in Zubiri's view, the formal reality of God in creation; in the Eastern view, the uncreated core of being), viewing the process of salvation in terms of being conformed by the Christian life to this image so as to become "little gods." Zubiri, then, describes the purpose of the Incarnation as follows (taken from Christianity © 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged):

The incarnation appears within a process in which, I was saying, the Trinity is projected ad extra in its own life. And this means that creation and the created entities have a condition I call deiformed. Not deification because that involves the idea of making gods. That is not the point, but that in themselves insofar as made and created they are deiformed. In second place, this process, I was saying, culminates with the personal incorporation of God in his second Person to this creation. An incorporation that has several characteristics, out of which I chose three of them as important. In first place, a biographical characteristic, in second place, a historical characteristic, and subjacent to biography and history, a religious characteristic within the religious history of humanity. Naturally, I would have to add that the question does not end here. Indeed, we have to add that this process of deiformity, which culminates in the personal incorporation of Christ to the reality of the world and history, occurs precisely by and for the human deiformity.

Classical theology formulated a similar problem with a different title, but in the end intrinsically touching lightly on the subject I just mentioned, namely, what was the reason that motivated {314} the incarnation in creation? Theologians have divided into three positions. On one side the classical groups, inspired (needless to say) by numerous quotations from the Fathers of the Church with their point of view canonized in the maximum theology of St. Thomas. It consists in saying that Christ became man to redeem humanity, i.e., that the formal reason for incarnation is the redemptive salvation of man2. Another opinion is represented by Duns Scotus who had a different vision. He thought that the formal reason for incarnation consists in the very perfection that intrinsically and theologically concerns the incarnate Word as such. What moved God (speaking anthropomorphically) to incarnate was precisely the intrinsic perfection of the incarnate Word. That as a result he would also be redeemer is something else3. The third opinion is by Molina, a Spanish theologian, who was not in exact agreement with the other two opinions. His opinion was that certainly God has incarnated because of the intrinsic perfection called for by the reality of the Son of God made flesh, that is clear. But he thought God never “decreed”4 the incarnation independently from sinful humanity, which Christ was going to join. And, therefore, according to Molina, the two other points of view are associated in the decree of the incarnation5.

Personally, with all my clumsiness, I cannot agree with any of the three opinions. The one I might find somewhat acceptable is {315} the opinion by Molina, but with a fundamental difference. In every discussion of the opinions the incarnate Word is placed on one side, and on the other sinful humanity. But we ask, is that humanity, by virtue of which and for which the Word incarnated, necessarily and formally the humanity insofar as sinful? This would have to be proven, and I believe it is an absolutely erroneous supposition. The destiny of men was included in the formal reason for incarnation, but of men insofar as deiformed, not as sinners. To be sinners and redeem them will come afterwards, as I will point out immediately. The formal reason for incarnation is precisely the human deiformity. Men are covered by the decree (in scholastic terms) of incarnation; but not insofar as sinful humanity, but insofar as deiform humanity. Consequently the incarnation is a giving of itself ad extra in the deiformed creature.

Where Zubiri's view becomes radical is in the idea of being joined in reality to Christ's experiences, not merely by consubstantiality with Him or participation in the divine nature (energies), but in real respectivity to His human life. We will leave the exact process by which one is incorporated into Christ's life for now, and instead turn to the metaphysical aspects of certain major events in Christ's life. In particular, Zubiri addresses at length what it meant for Christ to subject Himself to the power of sin, most poignantly in His death on the Cross:

In the first place, the death of Christ. As a personal action, what was his own death for Christ? St. Paul tells us clearly, he was hupékoos (obedient) until death {321} (Phil 2:8). As I said above, obedience is not the formal reason for religation, but the other way around, obedience presupposes a religation. For the time being we must say that subsistent religation inexorably leads, in Christ, to an act of supreme obedience. An obedience to precisely acquiesce to the will of the Father being manifested to him throughout the whole of his life.

However, this death has two different aspects. In the first place, it has the aspect of being an event of his substantive reality. Then, the death of Christ, as the death of anyone else, means a de-animation of his organism or reciprocally a de-corporation of his soul1. But this is not what constitutes the profound reality of the death of Christ. The profound reality of the death of Christ does not concern his substantive reality, but his substantive being. Concerns that being Christ attains throughout his life, which is formally and precisely theandric. This formally theandric I is not an I that might be a subject of attribution or even subject of inhesion of his acts, but is the very figure of his substantive being. And in this figure is where his death is precisely inscribed, not simply the de-animation of an organism or the de-corporation of a mind, of a soul, but the configuration of his substantive being.

Let us remember then that Christ is incorporated to humanity in a biographic way, in a historic way, and also in a religious one. Incorporated to a humanity socially concretized, but in addition to a sinful humanity. What does it mean to be incorporated to a sinful humanity? We can answer quickly; Christ loaded himself with the sins of humanity. Of course, as long as we give an {322} authentic meaning to the verb “to load”. What does it mean that Christ loaded himself with our sins? We also have to explain that. We cannot say, formally speaking that it is the case of a load in the trivial sense of the term. The truth is that the answer to the question of what the incorporation to sinful humanity meant was given by Christ when he was apprehended at Gethsemane. He said to those accompanying Judas that it was, “the hour of the power of darkness” (he hóra kai he exousía toú skótous, Lk 22:53). To incarnate into a sinful humanity means, in one form or another, to live on a land, in a society, and in a world in which “the power of darkness” exists. “The darkness” here is an expression for sin, the power of sin. What do we understand by power? St. Luke uses the term exousía, which has several meanings. On one hand it means a power (Sp. potestad), for example, a juridical power. On the other, it may be equivalent to a potency (Sp. potencia), a dýnamis. Actually, the term exousía formally means a power that has a certain amount of juridical power. It is more than juridical power, but less than the physical meaning of the term dýnamis. Certainly, this exousía, this power, is not a mere value, not at all. But also it is not a cause in the sense of the efficient causality of a dýnamis. It is precisely the dominance of the real insofar as real, precisely the power2.

Being a power that is the dominance of the real insofar as real it has to be founded in some characteristic faculties, which constitute reality in its capacity of founding a power, i.e., in their condition. Therefore, this dimension of reality in which the power of sin is founded is {323} precisely the will of men standing in malice3. Precisely because men stand in the will to malice there exists in the world what is called the power of sin. That Christ may have incarnated in a sinful humanity means, however, that he has incarnated in a world where the malice of men constitutes a power. What is that power? Clearly, men are not only individuals they live among each other. And they decant through their socializing and coexistence on the world, their thoughts (their noémata), and their decisions (their boulémata). They are constructing a world. The world is neither each one of the individuals nor the sum of all of them, not at all. The world is something that certainly does not exist outside the individuals living in the world, but is not identified with them. The world has precisely that impersonal characteristic (consequently different from each of the individuals) of being precisely a tópos. The reality of the world is essentially and constitutively topical.

Nevertheless, this topic weighs, of course, on the individuals living in it, and not only as some sort of current exigency. The world, in a certain sense (sociologists love stories like these) is that which composes the thoughts, the decisions, the norms, etc, that have currency at a certain particular moment. This is quite true, but there is something much more radical. The fact is that this world, as arché of the individuals living in it, is not only a world in which there are things that have exigencies for the individuals, but is something more. It is a world that makes individuals live, at least inchoatively, the way it is, the way the world is. In this sense, there is not only an exigency, but also a power, {324} the power of the world over the individuals living in it. The world as power is essential to our problem.

Humanity has been depositing its amartémata on this world, its sins. The power the world has in which these sins have been deposited is formally the power of sin. The incorporation of Christ to a sinful humanity consists, in the first place, in living in a world of sin. And to live in a world of sin is, in one form or another, to be under the power of sin. We need to ask, in what sense? Certainly Christ is not under the power of sin as a sinner, not at all. Also, the power of sin is not something that necessarily forces or impels making the individuals living in it formally sinful. The sin consists in living aversely, but before each will on its own performs a personal act of living aversely it is immersed in a world, which is a world in aversion to God, i.e., a world of sin, of the power of sin. The power of sin hovers over the person of Christ without reaching his ultimate radical intimacy. Hence, to live in a world where the power of sin exists without personally being a sinner in any way at all is what formally constituted the incorporation of Christ to sinful humanity.

This incorporation was precisely the death of Christ. The death of Christ that, on the one hand, was the result of sin, and on the other, left him unharmed in his very filial reality. But his body and soul were harmed. He was left unharmed in his condition as Son of God, and precisely in the oblation of his life, an oblation that has a triple characteristic. In the first place, the characteristic of obeying the will of the Father, it is an act of adoration. In the second place, of beseeching him for what he said on the cross, “forgive them because they do not {325} know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Finally, of expiating the sins of humanity where expiating concretely means that next to the power of sin he has introduced a new power, the power of God. For this reason the supreme act of religion in Christ was his death because it was the supreme act of religion as Son.

Then we have to ask, what was that death of Christ as founding action of Christianity for the rest of mankind? First, I will say that the power of sin has functioned in a different way for the rest of all men than the way it functioned for Christ. In Christ the power of sin had an internal limit. Christ did not become a sinner by living in a world of the power of sin; men, taken historically just as they are, definitely did. Needless to say, we live in a world in which the power of sin transfuses with intrinsic sinfulness the reality of all that live in it. Man is internally abandoned to the power of sin, but why? Is it because of malice in some cases? Is it because of a radical weakness of its make up in others? Be that as it may, it is a fact.

Each one of the sins that humanity performs in one way or another continues to increase the power of sin. Or, at least, if it does not increase it definitely consolidates it. All the sins of humanity are in this sense equivalent without exception. They constitute the many contributions to the power of sin, which hovers as an integral element of the world in which humans live. This is no metaphysical spinning. Sufficient to read chapter 6 of Genesis on the account of the deluge where we are told that, “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (Gn 6:12). The sin of humanity had reached all of humanity. And then we find the phrase, which I will not address {326} now, “I am sorry that I made them” (Gn 6:7). Nevertheless, it is the explicit manifestation that the power of sin with all the sins of all men continues to expand like an asphyxiating wave throughout human history.

All sins, in this sense, are included in this power. Clearly, Christ died for all the sins of mankind not just one. It is said that there was a first sin. I already referred to original sin when dealing with creation. However, in what does the original sin consist, and its originating characteristic? Certainly it is not an inherited sin. The idea of an inherited sin is something completely alien even to St. Paul. When St. Paul describes the situation of man he begins with Christ not with Adam. This is essential, he sees Adam from Christ, he does not see Christ from Adam. He tells us that just as Christ has brought to us redemption from sin by the unique action of his life, which his death was (at least it culminated in his death), in the same way, “through one person sin entered the world” (Rom 5:12). It does not say that men inherited that sin. It is not the case of a hereditary epidemic. Original sin has its originating characteristic by being the first sin of humanity, i.e., the sin that established on Earth, on the world, the power of sin. If Adam had not sinned any other sin of those committed in humanity would be in the same condition. The original sin established the power of sin upon Earth. And the seat of this sin is precisely the world as such. The domination of the power of sin consists in the fact that all individuals born immersed in a world of sin find themselves in the moral impossibility of being subtracted from it. Original sin is a reality of the moral order; {327} it is not a kind of chromosomal ingredient we are always inheriting.

We find ourselves in the moral impossibility of subtracing ourselves from that sin. And this happens with the sin of Adam, and with the rest of the sins of humanity. There are no differences between the sin of Adam, and all the other sins of men. The sin of Adam was the first. It is the one that brought the power of sin, which in that sense facilitated the entry of all the other sins. However, essentially, all the sins of humanity are on the same plane. The whole of humanity continues sinning, most of the time increasing (at other times consolidating) the power of sin, and the power of evil. Nevertheless, this does not mean that if we find ourselves in the moral impossibility to avoid having sin, whose power is present in the world, from hovering over us we are sinners. It is not the case that we are committing sin, but that we are in a sinful condition that may lead to sin (Sp. empecatados), which is a different thing. To be in a situation leading to sin simply consists in belonging to a world where the power of sin exists confronting which, when the time comes, each one of the individuals that perform acts subject to responsibility will not be able to subtract himself from the power of sin. Before living aversely in a personal sin man lives subject to sin in a world where the power of sin resides hovering over each individual, a power by virtue of which each man lives deprived of God.

This is the reason why man, in his deepest reality (regardless of what may be thought), is intrinsically subject to the power of sin, and therefore, intrinsically and formally in need of a redemption or a salvation. Man is in need of salvation, and of redemption. Of a redemption that for him means not only the moral forgiveness of sins. {328} Clearly, this is true, but we have the right, and the obligation to ask what is true forgiveness. To forgive is not simply to forget or to think, “well, he has done it, but as if he had not done it”, absolutely not. In order for forgiveness to have a real and effective sense it must produce an internal transformation in the one that is forgiven. Probably because of this, forgiveness (in the strict sense of the term) is an exclusive attribute of the divinity. The rest of us can forgive in a very wide sense; even help the transformation of the other. Only Christ is capable of intrinsically transforming humanity, and to transform it, not in its substantive reality, but in its being. That transformation consists in the fact that the power of sin has been subjected to the power of God. That is in what redemption consists.

The power of sin is nothing but a situation leading to sin, which will produce personal sins when its time comes. The power of God also is a power radically conferred to the being of man, which will not produce its effects except when that man performs personal acts. Because of this the death of Christ (that is the first act we had to consider) for him was that numerical identity between the personal life of Christ and the transformation of man. Man has been molded as a reality in the power of God precisely and formally by the very act with which Christ gave his life on the cross numerically for each one of us. In that supreme act of religion that for him was his death Christ molds the substantive being of all other humans. And he molds it not symbolically, but really and effectively. He places really and effectively the being of man within the orbit of the power of God. And in this sense placed under the orbit of God we are liberated of the power of sin at least as a subjugating power. We always have in our own being the intrinsic possibility by our {329} incorporation to Christ of being realities that are more under the power of God than under the power of sin.

Certainly, this is a radical expression of the power of sin far different than many of its predecessors, yet it follows rather naturally from Zubiri's metaphysical system. There are several notable aspects. First, original sin is established by human beings coming into existence immersed in a sinful reality. Remember that for Zubiri, reality (apart from God) is never entirely de suyo (in its own right) so as to be out of respectivity with the rest of reality; thus, being situated within reality has real metaphysical significance to that reality. In particular, being immersed in this fallen world has metaphysical consequences, consequences that only God has the power to release. Second, the affliction of original sin is in significant ways far more radical than an affliction of nature. It affects one's personal reality, even though it is not personal "guilt" in the sense of one's own of rejection of God. This is, I think, quite similar to the Eastern view of original sin, although I would argue that there is a sense of being in real metaphysical respectivity to sin and to God that would harmonize with the Western view as a real metaphysical "taint" on the person (as I understand the Western view, no particular metaphysical explanation of original sin or how exactly it is transmitted has been dogmatized, so while the explanation here is very different, I do not believe it contradicts Catholic teaching). Third, from a Christological perspective, it provides a much cleaner metaphysical explanation of how Christ was subject to the power of sin (viz., his personal reality as Word of God was in respectivity to sinful reality according to His human existence) without actually being a sinner Himself (because He never personally chose to appropriate the experience of sin). Fourth, from a Mariological perspective, it explains how God could have protected Mary from the power of sin with respect to personal guilt through grace without negating her need for a Savior. On the other hand, it effectively obviates a significant part of the Western reasoning behind the dogma, which is the explanation for Christ's own sinlessness. However, I think that this too is addressed by Zubiri's metaphysical system, as it puts such a strong primacy on the Word's actual experience of human life. In this sense, it fits quite well with the recapitulation theology of St. Irenaeus regarding Christ's life as a very literal "undoing" of the Fall, and the Christological significance of the New Eve in that larger picture becomes more apparent.

Of course, the Crucifixion cannot be fully understood without viewing its obverse: the Resurrection. We will proceed to this subject in the next installment.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Incarnation (Part 7)

From the Zubiri's definition of reality in respectivity to God, it is now logical to move to the exceptional case in which the respectivity reaches the point of actually terminating within the Trinitarian life itself. This is exactly the Incarnation. Zubiri introduces the concept in the following manner, taken from Christianity (© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged):

We have seen in the previous chapters that God, as absolutely absolute reality, is an absolute “giving of itself” because all reality is active in and of itself. And this giving of itself is what in an active way, although analogously conceived, must be called, and is called procession. This procession in God has different aspects. There is a procession in God himself, and by God himself, namely, the double aspect of generation and spiration. But there is something else, a procession that freely initiates something that is outside God or is not God himself, what we call the initiating procession. And yet, this initiating procession is in itself identical to the processions of generation and spiration with the only difference that its terminus is free. On the other hand, the other terminus is absolutely necessary. Precisely because of this, while giving of itself to himself in His internal reality is really and definitely a procession ad intra, a constitution of the very Trinitarian reality of God, this giving of itself, when it refers to an initiating procession, is just what we call donation.

Hence, this donation can have different degrees and aspects. We have seen one, which is a donation that consists in molding the very Trinitarian life outside of God. That is the formal reason for creation. Creation, from a concrete point of view, {234} and not from what it might have been de potentia Dei absoluta (it is useless to talk about this), is really and effectively the molding ad extra of the Trinitarian life of God. But there is a second degree in which donation and the giving of itself can refer not to molding the Trinitarian life of God ad extra, but to give creation the very personal reality of God, which He gives to himself as reality. However, in this case that initiating procession, free by reason of its terminus, makes that in this terminus the Trinitarian processions be identified with the terminus of the initiating procession. And this identity is just the personal reality of Christ. This is what we have to consider in this chapter.

To begin with, let us remember that as every operation ad extra (and the Incarnation, undoubtedly is an operation ad extra, since God does not incarnate inside himself) is an operation performed by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, here the terminus of the procession (of the Incarnation) is the Word as such. And consequently, here it is the Father who in the Holy Spirit and by the Holy Spirit gives the reality of his own Word to creation. Of course, for this he needs to give it (at least in fact it has been done that way) to a reality Trinitarially structured. In the concrete case we are studying, in a man. It follows that this man will be eo ipso the Word of God, and therefore his Son. This is the fact of Incarnation.

Zubiri notes that the Incarnation has suffered from a tendency to separate the "functional" description of the New Testament from the "speculative" dimension of theology inaugurated by Ephesus:

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that here, just as in the case of the Trinity, an enormous abyss separates the language and concepts of the dogmatic definitions of the Church, from the concepts and terms used in the New Testament. If the New Testament had been written in terms of person and phúsis, who would have been able to understand it? There is an unfathomable abyss. This abyss has led to the thought that they are two completely different perspectives, which in a certain sense is true. The New Testament and Biblical perspective, called “functional”, expresses the divinity of Christ in this {262} case, and in general in all theological matters, within the dimension of functions of religious life. Next to it we have this other dimension, which is not illegitimate, but just different. It would be a speculative dimension adopted by the Church precisely after Adoptionism and at the start of Nestorianism.

But this separation comes from an imprecise metaphysical understanding of functionality in the realm of metaphysics:

In a certain way all this is true, but it is not the radical truth. From my point of view this is simply so because of two reasons. One, because it may be said with clarity and truth that the metaphysical system the Church has used in its expression of dogmas is a Greek metaphysical system, and as such is not canonized at all. This precisely leaves open to human ways a different metaphysical answer than the one left to us by the Greek world concerning what reality may be. On the other hand, less pleasing to those in favor of the functional dimension, is it true that the content of the New Testament, by not being speculative, only provides us with a functional perspective? And what is meant by functionality? No one tells us. It should have been made explicit when two theologies are going to be confronted the speculative theology, and the critical theology. The abyss that separates these two theologies essentially depends on a fundamental question. What is understood by that functionality?

Where Zubiri can get beyond previous metaphysical explanation is by putting personhood, "his-ownness," at the level of reality, which is prior to self-expression through intellect and will. Thus, one can understand how "his-ownness" can be expressed both through a divine intellect and will and a human intellect and will in one personal reality. In the case of God, the respectivity that connects the divine "his-ownness" to the human is related to the fontanal presence of God in all reality as reality, but transcending all lesser degrees of such presence to an entirely different level of intimacy (contra Adoptionism). It seems more straightforward to me to explain Zubiri's conclusions before explaining the reasons for those conclusions, although Zubiri himself did not do so. This is because I believe many readers will be more familiar with the language of Christian history (particularly Chalcedon and Constantinople) than with Zubiri's use of terminology, so that it will be easier to explain Zubiri in better-known terms rather than vice versa. Therefore, I advance to the conclusion, in which Zubiri explains the Incarnation of the Word in the following way:

And that Person gives itself to creation, to the creation of a concrete man to whom in its physical reality that Person is now physically immanent. Or, putting it from the other point of view, this human reality is constitutively immersed in the divinity. Nevertheless, in this immanent presence of God in creatures (after all the humanity of Christ is a creature like any one of us) there are many degrees.

In the first place, we do have the reality of the divine presence in all of creation by reason of the very fontanality with which God has produced all things, and is in the depths of them after being created. That is the fontanal presence.

But there can be even deeper presences. For example, the presence the Trinity has (the One and Triune God) in the depths of the soul of the just. Of course, with degrees of internal presence more or less intimate in accordance with the degree of sanctity (let us put it that way) of a particular person. Naturally, this is not {288} only an external verification. Theologians, above all the Spanish theologians of the XVI and XVII century, speculated on this problem, and indeed some said a few things that appear somewhat quaint to me. According to Vázquez the presence of God in the soul of the just is nothing more than a greater or lesser modality of the universal presence of God in the depth of all creatures1. Also, that God does not have a greater presence in Palestine, in his house, than in any other thing present in the world... This, of course, is true from a certain point of view. However, is it the only truth? We had a great Spanish Jesuit theologian that insisted on the opposite. That the presence of the Trinity in the soul of the just is of such a caliber that He would be present with that special mode in the depth of the soul of the just and the holy2. And this would be so even if God were not present in creatures by any reason due to creation. This may seem a somewhat exaggerated thesis. After all, are we going to say that the presence of God in the soul of the just has nothing to do with the fontanal presence of God in all creatures? At any rate, there have been theologians that have maintained that the one is founded on the other3. Be that as it may, it is a presence different from the fontanal one, which increases with the increase of sanctity. In that case sanctity consists in an immersion of the soul of the just in the divinity. And reciprocally, in the degree of immanent presence of the divinity in the soul of the just.

Now, let us imagine that we are rising from immanence to greater immanence, from intimacy to greater intimacy. To such an extent that this man becomes not only immersed in the reality of God who has produced it, but has really {289} been incorporated into the very generating procession by which the Word is Word in the bosom of the Holy Trinity.

In that case we encounter an exceptional situation right from the outset. This man does not belong to himself; he actually belongs to the Word who possesses the his-ownness conferred to him by the fact of being incorporated to the generating procession of the Word as such. Reciprocally, let us start from what we have expounded when dealing with the Trinity, i.e., that in God the reason for person is anterior (if you will, a conceptual anteriority) to the reason for nature in which that person is realized. And this in such a way that God (the One Triune God) is intelligent and volitional because he is his own, and not the other way around (that he may be his own because he is intelligent and volitional). Then, we must say that the human individual who is immersed in that generating procession is of such a quality that the his-owness of the Word is realized, not only in the physical infinitude in which the very divinity consists, but also in a mysterious way (here is where the mystery resides) in that finite nature of man who is intelligent and volitional. And instead of being a person because he is intelligent and volitional he is a person because his intelligence and will are immersed in the generating procession in which the Word consists. Therefore, to say on the one hand that the Word is realized in a finite nature, and to say on the other that this finite nature does not belong to itself, but belongs to the Word is to say the same thing. And precisely in this identity, from my point of view, the formal reason for the divinity of Christ consists.

Seeing how the primacy of person in reality relates to the matter of intellect and will, one can now see the distinction that Zubiri makes between the somewhat indefinite concept of "person" in previous metaphysics and Zubiri's own notion of "his-ownness." This in turn illuminates Zubiri's analysis of the Council of Constantinople's rejection of Monothelitism, followed by a nice summary of the major Christological heresies:

Furthermore, we have the right to ask, in what does that mysterious (because it is) personal unity of {258} Christ consist? In what does the formal reason for being a person consist? Here, a third step was taken, precisely when it was affirmed that to be a person consists in having will, freedom, and being responsible for one’s own acts. That was Monothelitism, if Christ is only one person it means he only has one will and one freedom.

The Church in the third Council of Constantinople (680-681) energetically reacted against this intellectual conception of the person, in Christ there are two wills (DS 549). Clearly, the Church has never defined what is the formal reason for being a person, neither in the case of Christ nor in the case of the Trinity. We must keep this in mind. And so, leaving aside the somber history of Honorius, the Church has defined against the Monothelites the existence of two wills in Christ. The question is what is the sense of this definition? It has been said, and reasonably, that the sense of this definition consists in that humanity in the hands of the Word is not a kind of Aristotelian substantial compound, with prime matter, substantial form, and some faculties. But rather that He is a man taken individually, with all his morality, and personal responsibility. That is the case of Christ, it is true, and it was necessary to affirm it.

However, was this the last sense of the definition of the Council of Constantinople? I do not think so. One may think that there is a deeper reason, which affects not only the case of Christ, but of all human realities. It is said that freedom is what constitutes the person, but that is not true. Freedom constitutes the person if and when freedom may be my own, mine, my freedom. Now, the moment of “my” is anterior to the moment of freedom. And this is what happens in the case of Christ. The freedom of Christ is a human freedom, perfectly different from the divine freedom. In the {259} “my” is precisely where the divine person of Christ is. And of this person the Church has never given a dogmatic definition. The same problem of freedom appeared when we spoke about the persons of the Trinity. To imagine that the persons of the Trinity are three persons each having their responsibility is an enormous and heretical tritheism. Here, for the opposite reasons, it would be to affirm a kind of great Docetism to think that Christ does not have a proper personal freedom that is his very own insofar as man.

In such fashion we have been present to this kind of colossal theological dialectic, which starting from the New Testament text elevates us to an apprehension a little more precise (only a little bit more) of what the divine filiation of Christ is. A filiation, which is not adoptive, but physical. A physical reality, which does not consist purely and simply in a mere dwelling, but in a true unity. In a unity, which is not a unity of nature, but a unity of person. And of a person constituted by what I have called the his-ownness (sit venia verbo), and not by the exercise of freedom.

This truly colossal dialectic, which made the Church throughout all its eras place the first four ecumenical councils in a certain way close to the Gospel, in the end it is a dialectic essentially religious. All reasons that in general have been proposed against all the errors and deviations have been much more than speculative, they have been theological. They have been religious reasons. We have seen it in the case of Docetism, if Christ had not possessed a complete humanity there would have been no redemption. We have seen it in the case of Apollinarianism, if the humanity of Christ had not possessed a complete rational soul, the human spirit would not have been redeemed. The same in the case of Adoptionism, the unique {260} and exceptional position of Christ in his divine filiation would disappear. And the conception of Nestorius and the Monophysites leads us precisely to a dissolution of what has always been understood by divine filiation in the New Testament itself, not in the theological speculation. Because, for example, if it were true, as Nestorius said, that in Christ there is nothing but the presence and total dwelling of the Word [NOTE: referring to the Antiochene view of the personal union as kata charin -- JP]in the humanity of Christ, what reason could we offer to call the Blessed Virgin “Mother of God”? Actually Nestorius himself said it; she is not mother of God, but mother of Christ. This is absolutely chimerical. If we grant a certain causality to the fiat of the Blessed Virgin in the union, in that case she is Mother of God. This of course, by communication of languages, but she is authentic Mother of God.

The reader will perhaps notice that my comments in this entry are sparse, and that is simply because Zubiri's exposition on this subject is too excellent to allow for paraphrase. The implications of Zubiri's Christology will be the subject of subsequent installments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: Creation and the Freedom of God (Part 6)

Zubiri incorporates his metaphysics all the more clearly into his theology by proceeding into the question of creation. The quoted material below is taken from Christianity, subject to the following copyright notice: © 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged.

Zubiri first points to the notion of creation as effusion of the divine love, one which will be familiar to many Thomists, in order to affirm that the creation is not in any way a "second act" apart from the eternal Trinitarian life and reality of God. In other words, there is no "separate" act or activity of self-giving from which creation proceeds:

The fact is that these two concepts [necessity and contingency] lead us to something anterior to necessity and contingency. And for once, this most subtle commentator of St. Thomas, which Cajetan was, while dealing with a completely different matter, pointed to the notion that we needed to find an idea superior to necessity and contingency. He did not do it, but that is irrelevant because this is one of the great statements ever made in theology. Is there any doubt that we must decide to step (in the same manner we have stepped from being to the reality of God), from the necessity and contingency with which we conceive the realities of this world to something that is beyond necessity and contingency. Because actually the activity in which God consists, that internal activity of procession, is precisely effusion. It is an effusive activity.

In a certain way effusive love can be irremediable without ceasing to be love, and produces the Trinitarian processions. But it can have a different characteristic because the infinite love of God places its fruition on something that is much lower than Him. Liberty consists precisely on this. The same act that on one side is effusion towards the Trinitarian processions is, on the other, freedom to create. God is a giving of Himself that is effusive. And precisely because it is effusive the act of creation is not a second act added to the act with which God loves Himself. It is the very act with which God loves Himself insofar as He places that fruition in which love consists upon a reality that is inferior to the act of effusion. The reality of God is always above that which He loves. Naturally, theologians have also said that the freedom in which the creative act consists is terminatively unnecessary. But they have not positively explained in what that terminative characteristic consists, that it is the effusive characteristic of the very divine activity.

But one might have already noticed something distinctly different in Zubiri's explanation from previous Thomist expressions: namely, that the object of God's effusiveness is not God Himself even though the activity is the same as the activity that produces the Trinitarian processions. Remember that, by Zubiri's lights, God is not a being, willing Himself into existence. Rather, the dar de si (giving-of-self) within structure, the Trinitarian life itself (although we know that it is Trinitarian solely by revelation), is *reality*, to which being is merely ulterior. Real freedom is free autoformation: the possibility of person ("his-ownness") to choose the expression of his own reality, to make his own reality beyond what it is. This is precisely what Zubiri means by an open essence, and this is precisely God's own freedom.

Of course, from the point of view of what God is, the divine essence is already an essence open to His own characteristic of reality. And here resides that numerical identity on which the foundation of the Trinitarian life consists, the Trinitarian processions in God. It is an open essence. To be open is what we call ecstasy, to be outside oneself. The divine essence is ecstatic. That is the second characteristic, which I consider important.
The ecstasy of the open essence of God formally consists in the fecundity of the divine essence. This open essence in which God consists is first and above all open to His own reality, the characteristic of the Trinitarian processions. But {187} in second place, in it He is open to the whole of reality, precisely because of His own fecundity. And inasmuch as this fecundity is founded on the Trinity the road is now open for what we are going to show further on, namely, that the terminus of creation consists in the molding ad extra of the very Trinitarian life.

Zubiri explicitly contrasts his view with the Neoplatonic idea of God as absolute being from which creation emanates:

The divine essence as ecstatic essence is an open essence. And the open essence (leaving aside for the moment that it is open to its own Trinitarian processions, which we have already covered) is open to the initiating procession, to the creative procession. It could be remarked that this is just another way of saying what most of the theologians have said. For me that would not be an objection, just the opposite. That is the idea of the divine essence being imitable. The divine essence would be imitable in an infinite number of ways outside God, and that would constitute the terminus of that ecstatic action, and of that ecstatic characteristic of the divine essence. Beg indulgence to put this idea of being imitable in parenthesis. It is an absolutely Platonic idea inserted into theology. Not that I consider it an objection, but where does the imitation and the being imitable come from? This would be true if God were a being, but what if He is not? If God is not being, but is reality essentially real, a reality absolutely absolute? Then we would have to say that what constitutes the ecstatic characteristic of the divine essence is much more radical than a formal imitation, it is His intrinsic, metaphysical and theological fecundity.

But we must also consider the infinitude of God, which leads rather straightforwardly to the following account of omnipotence and omniscience: Omnipotence is potency of reality, and omniscience is eternality of that which at least is not only possible, but is real in the form of a posteriori. The latter refers to God's knowledge, in an eternal mode, of His own effusive initiatives, which are reserved from a temporal perspective (hence, "real in the form of a posteriori"). But Zubiri is also careful to note how God's providential love applies to all of reality (omniprovidence/omnibenevolence): Because God creates a world in which things not only are produced by omnipotence and known through omniscience, but also in addition are loved for themselves in their ultimate reality. That is precisely the idea of providence.

I hope that it will be apparent from my earlier introduction of Eastern theology that the number of ways in which God expresses His reality are analogous to the divine energies. And indeed, Zubiri himself makes the same connection that Eastern theologians did in recognizing the good and the glory of God in creation:

Applied to our problem this means that the terminus of the creative act is, in first place, the naked reality of things willed by God really and effectively qua reality. God wishes things simply by reason of love for things themselves, for their own reality. But then, does this mean that reality has no meaning for God? Indeed it has. {191} The fact is that the creative effusion of God deposits its fruition in a reality, which as reality, without ceasing to be reality and precisely because of it, is infinitely lesser than the effusion that finds in it its own fruition. This excess is manifested as a kind of weight the divine reality has in and above the whole of creation. This weight is what in Hebrew is called kabod, which in Greek was translated as dóxa, and in Latin by gloria. Reality is meaning-thing precisely inasmuch as it is glory of God. Where glory does not mean that it may be a very glorious thing, but only what it may mean for a modest and humble father that his glory may be the reality of his own son and nothing more. The reality of the world qua reality is precisely that in which the glory of God formally consists.
Therefore, all reality qua reality has one condition with respect to God, precisely to be able to be His glory. And this condition by virtue of which the real qua real is precisely something that is meaning-thing in the form of glory of God, is what we call the good, goodness. Genesis tells us that God saw that light was good, that the sea was good, etc. Here “good” does not mean something moral, nor well done (how can God make {192} bad things?), but from my personal interpretation, it means what I have just pointed out. It is the condition the real has qua real to be effectively and formally kabod, glory of God.

I will digress for a moment on a subject that has caused no small amount of disputation between East and West: the matter of the distinction between essence and energies. There is little doubt in my mind, although I have not found an explicit statement to this effect, that Zubiri would dismiss this distinction as a relic of ancient metaphysics. The operative question in Zubiri's metaphysics is not the ontological question of what things are at the level of being, but what is the reality? To quibble about whether any particular being is created or uncreated in part or whole entirely misses the point; to the extent anything is real, it is so by respectivity to God. In turn, the respectivity to God as personal ("his-own") reality is exactly the extent to which God appropriates the reality to His own personhood. It is exactly in this respectivity that we consider the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, for example, or charis (grace). Make no mistake; this respectivity is real. Granted, only in the Incarnation is the respectivity so complete that the reality literally is assumed by God's personhood, but that does not diminish the reality of other forms of respectivity. Thus, it is spurious to question whether the Old Testament theophanies were "created" or "uncreated;" they constitute a real respectivity of the person to God, and that is enough. Ditto the beatific vision; it is a question of respectivity in reality, not a question of ontology. Zubiri affirms the reality of respectivity as follows:

One might suggest that God also belongs to reality and is not respective. Yes and no. What does it mean that He is not respective? That He may have no respectivity towards what He is not? That is not possible. We have already considered this. It may be fundamented to the greatest degree, but the procession of initiation with respect to divine fecundity is inexorably consecutive, and also inexorably inexorable in God. The world might not have been created, and in this sense God does not have an essential respectivity towards the world that he has really and effectively created. Does it mean, however, that He has no respectivity? He freely has it, and that is a different matter. But no doubt He has it. And the proof that He has it is in the act of redemption. Are we going to say that God has no respectivity to the redemptive death of Christ on the cross? The respectivity is perfectly {193} real. It may be free in the case of existences that God has created. And it may be merely consecutive in the order of the possible fecundity of the divine essence. But that respectivity, in one form or another, belongs to God qua God. However, that respectivity is not constitutive of the divine reality, but merely consecutive to it. By virtue of this, God, who produces the respectivity, formally has no actuality in it; the divine reality in itself is not respective. Therefore, God, cause of respectivity, by having no actuality in it, lacks being. God, cause of respectivity, is cause of that subsequent act of created reality that is to be. But in Himself God is beyond being.

Finally, Zubiri summarizes what it means for God to be fontanal reality in the realm of cause, particularly with respect to free human beings:

If we now take at the same time what the creative action is from the part of God and what the created world is for His glory and open, we can say that in creation God appears to us {197} as the fontanal reality, as I explained somewhere else3. But this fontanal reality has a particular characteristic. God has wished (He could have made things differently) something more radical and profound than just to have realities in this world. He has wished that these realities might be the most divinely real possible, i.e., that they may be able to form themselves. It is the will to autoformation with which God has wished a world that is forming itself, and in addition is going to make that it be forming itself in good measure by different initiatives. The will to creation is a will formally autoformative. It is not a fiat in the sense that there is the world, and let the world do whatever. And it is not a fiat in which he has to be shoring each one of the steps of that world by means of His creative capacity. It is neither of these two things. It is simply the formal will that the world autoconform itself, autoform itself. And proportionately the world is not simply a copy of what the divine reality was, but is a copy precisely of what is the very existence of the divine life.

Certainly, this does not authorize to say that the world has a vestige of the Trinity, as the NeoPlatonic leaning theologians believed, like St. Bonaventure. That is not the case, but it is the case that the Trinitarian characteristic of the creative action is the one that molds and has willed to mold a world effectively. A world that is not composed of independent monoliths, but is precisely an autoformation where the different divine interventions are present in good measure, as I have just pointed out. God is fontanal, and in addition forming the nature of this open world. This world is never alien to the reality and action of God. {198}

Classical theology has promoted the thought that each one of the creatures must have an immediate concurrence from the divine reality to produce its effects. This starts the great divide among the Thomists, led by my paisano Báñez4 or by Molina5. They have affirmed that this concurrence that God provides to things, either is predetermining from the part of God, as Báñez and his disciples would say, or is a simultaneous concurrence as provided in accordance with a scientia media as Molina would say. In this scientia media God would foresee what a creature would do in certain circumstances and then would provide His concurrence. Of course, we may ask, why assume that the concurrence of God has to be immediate? What if it was only mediate? Modern theologians have attempted an exegesis of St. Thomas using the idea of a mediate concurrence. This endeavor appears to me more or less arguable. At any rate, the idea of mediate concurrence is perfectly acceptable6.

According to the mediate concurrence there is certainly a “substratum” in reality, which in the end has to be attributed to God, not only as substance, but also in the order of its activities. But there are also the activities that substratum is going to develop precisely because it is supported in the reality of God. God, in this mediate way, makes that things make themselves and continue to make what they are. The concurrence is mediate. And it is that some realities ordered towards others is what produces this autoformation, which is in what the formally creative will of God consists for the whole of creation. Not only that there be realities, but that God has willed that realities make themselves real in the most divine manner possible, i.e., by themselves. That is why creation is a giving of itself, {199} but a giving of itself as donation of God. Not only in the order of giving reality, but also to give it in the most divine way possible. That with a primary substratum, subjacent to which God is there fontanally, things may continue to make themselves in a mediate way.

Thus, we can see how Zubiri's metaphysical system proves useful for resolving several problems that have been the subject of much wrangling over the years between various schools of Christian thought.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Transcendence of God (Part 5)

To introduce Zubiri's discussion of the reality of God, I will first summarize the traditional Eastern view of the subject, which Zubiri parallels quite closely. In the Eastern view, the divine essence is "beyond being" or "no being," hyperousios ousios. Indeed, what we think of as "existence" is, according to Gregory of Nyssa, only a pale shadow of what being really is. But since we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as real, it is necessary to put God in a wholly different category, entirely incomprehensible to the human mind (even the name "God" itself is a misnomer in that sense; the divine cannot be named). This essence is devoid of any metaphysical composition or other limits that apply to anything that exists (from our view), and indeed, can only meaningfully be described by its absence of finitude, which explains the use of Greek "alpha privatives" ("not-X" in English) to describe divinity. Thus, God is Un-created, In-finite, Im-mortal, In-effable, etc., etc. It is important to understand that when such terms are predicated of the divine essence, it is solely for the purpose of indicating how utterly transcendent God is, so that when we speak of immortality or eternal life for creatures, those properties still remain utterly unlike the Immortality or Eternity of God. The infinity of the essence allows it to be expressed in an infinite number of ways according to what we understand as "real;" these are the divine energies. The infinity of the energies in no way impugns of the divine simplicity of God nor does it mean that such expressions are not really God, being true expressions of the divine essence. Let us recall Zubiri's own words, which complement the description of the energies as "indivisibly divided":

The life of God, with all the immutability and simplicity one may wish to consider, is not the simplicity and immutability of a mathematical singularity, but is the unfathomable unity and simplicity of a real and effective activity. That is what the very divine activity is, which is not determined by the operations it “performs”, but is the infinite plenitude of the reality it formally is, insofar as active in itself and by itself.

Thus, one can immediately see the harmony between the Eastern view of God and the basic outline that Zubiri presents in his works Man and God and Christianity. Note that the material is subject to the following copyright notice: © 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged.

Zubiri suggests the following salient points about the reality of God:

a) God has to be the fundament of the power of the real. Therefore, he is eo ipso an ultimate fundament, possibilitating and impelling. If, by way of religation, we reach God, then we shall have reached a God qua God. God is not only a first cause, a first {131} unmoved mover, etc. To such a God no one would address a prayer or a supplication. The celebrated exclamation tu causa causarum miserere mei (Oh you, cause of the causes, have mercy on me) makes no formal theological sense. But the way we have taken avoids a limine the dissociation between ultimateness on one side and possibilitation and impellence on the other, precisely because the power of the real has, at one and the same time and formally, all three of these moments; it is the idea of a God qua God.

b) This God has to be a supreme reality, but not a supreme being. The identification of what is real with being is an important consequence of the acceptance of Greek philosophy. It is what I have termed the entification of reality: things are not entities unless they have being. Now, to be is always but an ulterior act of the real. Whatsoever a being may be, it is always and only being “of” the real. Ulteriority is the precise meaning of this “of”. Therefore, reality and entity are not formally identical. Prior to being entities, and precisely in order to be able to be so, things begin by being real. The fundament of being is reality. And this is still more true, if it is fitting, when we are dealing with the reality of God. God is not the subsistent being, is not the supreme being, not even when festooned with the attribute of infinitude. God is not a divine entity, He is supreme reality. The important assumption common to St. Thomas and Duns Scotus, to which I referred above, is just the entification of reality and, therefore, the identification of God with the supreme entity. No. God is beyond being. God has no being; only worldly things have being, which by virtue of “already” being real, “are” in the world. As fundament of the power of the real God would formally be supreme reality that is ultimate, possibilitating and impelling. {132}

c) In what does the “supreme” character of this questioned reality consist? The power of the real is the fundament of the constitution of my I. And my I, according to what we have seen, is something absolute. That my I should be absolute means that it is I “confronting” the whole of reality, that is, confronting reality as such. But this I is only relatively absolute because it is an I acquired by “confronting” reality as such, i.e., because it is an absolute, which needs this reality as such in order to be absolute. In other words: the I is absolute, but in its own manner, relatively. If there is a God, He will be a reality, which is the fundament of my relative absolute being. Therefore, He will be an absolute reality, not in His own mode, but simpliciter; a reality, which is fully real and absolute, not “confronting” reality as such, but “in and by itself” qua real. This is what I shall call “absolutely absolute reality”. In this problem “supreme” means “absolutely absolute”.

From these points, Zubiri proceeds to his analysis of the "problem of God" that I described in Part 1 of this series. Because his proof is not the subject of this installment, I will not attempt to summarize that argument, but I do suggest that those interested in Zubiri's philosophy study the argument carefully, because it is difficult to understand the connection of Zubiri's metaphysics and his theology without it. But for now, I will simply proceed to his theological conclusions. First, Zubiri describes the dynamism of God as reality:

Because He is absolutely absolute reality, He is absolute “dynamism”. Every reality qua reality is in fact dynamic, not only in itself (which is obvious), but as I see it, by itself. Dynamism is neither action nor operation; to my way of thinking, it is what I have called “self-giving” (“dar de sí”). Every reality is real by being the plenitude of that, which it is; and this plenitude is a moment of the “self-giving”, a formal moment as such. Dynamism is not consequent upon reality as action or operation might be, but is a constitutive moment of it, of its formal constitution qua reality. And so, God, as absolutely absolute reality, is absolute dynamism, an absolute “self-giving”. Since by virtue of being absolutely absolute reality He is absolutely “His-own”, it follows that this self-giving cannot be transitive, either in the sense of making another out of Himself, or in the sense of making Himself out of Himself. It is a giving to Himself that, which He already is as His-own. It is, then, purely and simply auto-possession in His-ownness. Now, auto-possession is that in which life formally consists. Because of this, auto-possession in absolute its-ownness is Absolute Life. In it God does not make himself as a reality, that is, {169} the divine life is not a becoming; the only thing that in this life “occurs” (if I may be permitted such expression) is the plenary actuality of the absolutely absolute reality for itself: absolute auto-possession is but “auto-actuality”. Therefore, God is absolute life because He is absolutely His-own, i.e., because He is a person. Contrary to what is usually said, I consider that God is not a person because He is living, but is living because He is a person. His life, his auto-possession, is founded in his His-ownness. That God has absolute auto-possession means that His possession is a consequence of the fact that the autos is absolute dynamism; and this is so because He is an absolutely absolute reality, i.e., absolutely His own, indeed, because He is a person. We can then affirm that the absolute concretion of the divine His-ownness is to be life.

But Zubiri cautions that we must not confuse these metaphysical concepts with their human analogs. He reminds us that our own reality, our own auto-possession of experiences in formation of ourselves as persons, is only relatively absolute compared to God's absolutely absolute auto-possession:

When we say that God is personal, living, intelligent, volitional, etc., we must avoid the serious error of taking these {172} terms in an anthropomorphical sense, as if God were a kind of gigantic human spirit, although purified of all the human limitations. This is absurd. How the reality of God may be in itself, it is impossible for us to know. Consequently, the aforementioned characteristics have to be taken in the strict sense according to which we have proceeded to conceive them. When we say that God is personal, the only thing we say is that He is a reality absolutely His-own. When we say that He is living, we understand that God is a reality, which fully possesses itself. When we say that He is intelligent and volitional, we wish to express purely and simply that He is absolute actuality of His own transparent reality and sufficient to itself, etc. Neither should feeling (sentimiento) be conceived anthropomorphically. That these characteristics may also be found in man in some measure, cannot be denied. But we should observe, first, that we have not arrived at them through man, but through what the absolutely absolute reality is. And second, that if man possesses them it is precisely because his being is relatively absolute, i.e., because God possesses them in an absolutely absolute way. God is not a kind of immense spirit or soul but rather absolutely absolute reality. From this stem the characteristics, which concern God insofar as He is formally and constitutively present in things.

Thus, Zubiri can describe the fontanal and transcendent presence of God in all reality:

1. Above all, fundamentality is presence of God in things. As we saw, it has the character of a formal presence. It is not a presence derived from its eventual effector character, but on the contrary, God is effector in order to be present in things in a formal way, as their foundational formality. And as this formal presence concerns the character of reality of each thing, it turns out that this formal presence is intrinsic to real things. Not every intrinsic presence is formal, but every formal presence is intrinsic. That is, the presence of God is formal to things, and only because it is formal is it also intrinsic. Furthermore, it is what is most radically intrinsic in them because, as I just pointed out, it concerns reality precisely as reality. However, that God is present in real things as intrinsic foundational formality does not mean that between God and things there is no real distinction. It only means that there is no “separation”, either physical or metaphysical. Distinction is not separation. This characteristic, according to which God is present in things with a formal and intrinsic presence, yet things are not God, is precisely what I call the transcendence of God “in” reality. A formal and intrinsic presence is a transcendent presence. Here is the first characteristic of the fundamentality of God: transcendence.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to fix the exact meaning of {175} this transcendence. To my way of thinking, to transcend does not mean to be “beyond” things, because on the contrary, God is formally and intrinsically in them. The transcendence of God does not consist in being beyond things, but the other way around. Transcendence is precisely a mode of being in them, that mode in accordance with which they could not be real in any sense, unless they formally included in their reality the reality of God, without this in any sense making God identical to the reality of things. The way God is in things is to be transcendent in them. And this is, to my way of thinking, what is essential about the divine transcendence: not to be “transcendent to” things, but to be “transcendent in” things themselves. For this reason I shall constantly use the expression “God transcendent in things”, the precise meaning of which we have once and for all explained. Each thing, in what it is, in and by itself, has in itself its own transcendent formal foundation. From this it follows that each thing leads us, not to go out of the thing itself, but to enter into it deeper and deeper, into its own transcendent foundation. To be in the thing is to be transcending it, not outside, but inside the thing itself. To be in the full reality of a thing is eo ipso to be in God in it. As we shall see, to march towards God is to penetrate further and further into a thing. Each thing itself makes me transcend in it.

The preceeding allows us to forcefully eliminate two serious errors, between which it has been common to oscillate. The first is the error of thinking that the formal presence of God in things turns them into moments of the unique reality of God: this is pantheism. It is impossible. God is formally in things, but “making” that they be in God realities different from Him. Here “making” {176} simply means “founding”. The “in” is an “other-ifying” (if I may be permitted the expression) “in”. Things are different from God precisely and formally because God is “in” them, but transcendent. The second error is the opposite. It consists in thinking that because He is radically different from things, God is the great absence, the great foreign to the world: this is agnosticism in its varied forms. In all of them, this is the extreme way of conceiving God as “beyond” things. But it is equally impossible. The fact that God is not things does not consist in His being distanced from them. If this were so, things would not be real. That God is in things, means that things are real only by formally “including” in their own reality that reality, which is greater than themselves, God. God is transcendent, but in them. The transcendence of God is neither identity nor remoteness, but transcendence in things. The realitas fundamentalis is, above all, a transcendence in this sense. The transcendence “in” makes God to be, in some sense, intra-worldly.

2. God is transcendent in real things qua real. Furthermore, any reality is, qua reality, constitutively respective. And this unity of respectivity is what I have called “world”. Hence, the formal and transcendent presence of God in things is a presence in the whole world as such. God is transcendent in things, and because of this He is transcendent in the world. Indeed, for the same reason that the transcendence of God is not identity or remoteness, the presence of God in the world is neither remoteness nor identity. It is not remoteness because God is not the “other” world. God is not extra-worldly, He is absolutely intra-worldly. But He is not identity either: God is not the other world, but is other than the {177} world in which He is, because His otherness is just the formal fundament of the respectivity of the real qua real, i.e., the fundament of the world. To the unity of the world corresponds not only the uniqueness of God, but also the very worldliness of God. God is not present in the world simply because He is present in each and every thing, but rather He is present in the world precisely, and formally because any real thing is essentially and constitutively worldly. God is simply transcendent “in” the world. The fundamentality of God is the worldly transcendence of God. The world formally carries God in itself.

3. This presence of God in things is not only formal and intrinsic, but also constituting. The reality of God, in its whole fundamenting concretion, is an absolute self-giving. On this point the absolute of the self-giving means that He is giving reality to things, constituting them as real. The presence of God in things is a constituting self-giving. This means He is in things “making them be real”, i.e., making them be de suyo, and to act from what they are de suyo. This is what I have usually called the fontanality of the absolutely absolute reality. God is realitas fontanalis. In the special case of man, this is what comprises what I have called “theological tension”; the sheer fontanality in everything real is the homolog of the theological tension in man. The transcendence of the reality of God is a fontanal transcendence.

This is the definitive essence of the fundamentality of God: to be fontanal transcendence. And He is such because He is an absolutely absolute reality. Precisely because this reality is absolutely concrete, His fontanality is {178} also personal, living, intelligent and volitional. We have seen before that God is a possibilitating and impelling ultimateness because He is the fundament of the power of the real, of a power in its turn ultimate, possibilitating and impelling. Hence, we now understand why He is, and has to be what He is, since we are viewing God not only from the perspective of real things, but from Himself also. It is because He is personal, living, intelligent and volitional that God is in Himself adequately, an ultimate, possibilitating, and impelling fontanal reality. That is why His manifestation in the power of the real is what makes of this power something likewise ultimate, possibilitating and impelling, which in turn constitutes the fundament of religation. This is, to my way of thinking, the intellectual justification of the reality of God.

But this presentation leaves some questions regarding the manner of God's self-giving in various situations of interest, such as the creation and the Incarnation, as well as the distinction between ad intra and ad extra self-giving. These nuances will be explored in subsequent installments.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Trinitarian Life (Part 4)

I suggested at the end of the last installment that Zubiri had surpassed Byzantine theology to some extent, in that he got more out of revealed concepts by use of his formulation of "sentient intelligence." Specifically, he was able to connect the "who" and "what" of hypostatic generation in a conceptual way so that the image simultaneously conveyed both the monarchy of the Father and the procession of ousia around the persons of the Trinity (perichoresis). But it cannot be appreciated just how fundamental an improvement Zubiri has rendered until that can be tied back to the flip side of Zubiri's concept of "sentient intelligence," i.e., reality as dar de si (giving of itself) and as structure. The reason that sentient intelligence provides so much more useful a conception of hypostatic generation is that the reality that it reflects is so much more accurately captured by Zubiri's notion. And it is in this where I believe Zubiri has provided a theological framework that surpasses all that has come before it.

Let us recall that Zubiri considers reality itself more fundamental than being (which is simply an expression of reality's self-giving), and reality precisely is dar de si in structure, with the unity of the structure being the substantivity of the reality. But if one considers the previous discussion in light of these concepts, it will not fail to become apparent that Zubiri is arguing that the substantive reality of God just is the Trinity. It is not a question of real persons being in active relationship with one another (as in the Greek understanding), but rather, it is a question of real persons-in-active-relationship; the structure just is the reality. Nor is this a matter of simply putting the label "Trinity" on the divine essence and reasoning from there; Zubiri's approach could not be farther from such a view! No, it is instead a question of the reality of God being a structure and an activity, which Zubiri calls the Trinitarian life.

Zubiri's own explanation is useful here, and again, I refer to Joaquin Redondo's translation of Christianity, subject to the following copyright notice:

© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo
Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged.

Zubiri begins his explanation of the Trinitarian life by first noting that there is an implication of the Persons within one another. This implication is inseparable from the personhood of the Trinity, so it cannot simply be relegated to circulation of the divine ousia as the Greek explanation of perichoresis would suggest. Instead, it must be viewed in terms of the personal giving-of-self, which more closely resembles the "active interpenetration" of the Latin circumincession, although being completely alien to the "passive coinherence" of circuminsession, a development which Zubiri views as a consequence of exactly denying the primacy of personhood ("his-ownness") in favor of the divine essence. As Zubiri puts it:

Trinitarian respectivity is not a question of perichóresis of nature, but an implication of his-ownness, i.e., of the personal characteristics of the person as such. It is precisely the internal respectivity of the his-ownnesses as such. Of the Father insofar as Father, of the Son insofar as Son, and of the Holy Spirit insofar as Holy Spirit. In other words, it is a moment of his-ownness. Undeniably, there is a circulation of nature, but it exists as a consequence of this structural unity of the persons. Inasmuch as each person implicates the others we can speak of a circulation of that which the first person is, with that which the second is, and that which the third is.

The perichóresis is the circumincession, as the Latins said translating the Greeks. But they rather called it circuminsession, with which the Latins made both the concept and the term banal, because then it is not the case that a person may circulate through the others, but that one is in the other. The difference, from my point of view, is radical because it concerns the very concept of procession. From my own personal view, I think it is a processability, by virtue of which the persons implicate each other insofar as persons. God is an absolute self-giving, and gives of Himself. On the one hand, each his-ownness gives the other out of Himself; and on the other hand, the three give of themselves a unique essence.

But Zubiri does not dismiss the importance of the Greek understanding, because it affirms that there must be active interpenetration. This concept of activity is what Latin theology has difficulty conceptualizing with its focus on the divine essence as subject. The importance of this point for understanding Zubiri's theology cannot be understated, and on that account, I will reproduce Zubiri's explanation in its entirety:

Then, we articulate the question; if the nature is the same, in what does it consist {142} to have this alleged circulation? It is difficult to answer this if one starts from the idea of essence. That is the reason why the perichóresis, after all, has not had any effective and fruitful place in the conceptiveness of the Trinity in Latin theology.

However, if we place ourselves under the perspective of his-ownness the question changes aspect. Of course, we have no other alternative but to apply human similarities to the Trinitarian cases. Instead of using the simile of circulation let us propose another. In the case of two people in love, we say that the one sees through the eyes of the other. This is just metaphorical. But let us assume it is not a metaphor, but a reality. That is precisely what the essential perichóresis is. In the Trinity there is an internal interpenetration by virtue of which that which the Father is, is precisely what the Son is. And the Father sees, in a certain way, through the intelligence of the Son, as the Son is what He is by seeing what the intelligence of the Father has actualized. There is a true interpenetration. And this interpenetration is not simply a circulation.

The concept of interpenetration is supremely important. Latin theology has been in the habit of starting from the idea of the divine essence as pure act. The proof for the existence of God was based on the absolutely existing essence, the essence that is pure act. That is the way St. Thomas proceeds in his Summa theologica. But if we start from the person, from the his-ownness of the Father, then the matter is different. Because then what we would have to say is not that the essence of God may not be a pure act (He could not be otherwise), but that the purity of His act, speaking in human terms, is constituted by the Trinitarian processability of His persons. We could assume that each person is a God in a certain way complete in Himself. There is no doubt. Let us take the case of the Father. Certainly the Father is a God complete in Himself, but He is such insofar {143} as Father. And insofar as Father involves the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because if His condition of Father is eliminated He is not a complete God, He is not even God.The purity of act is mysteriously constituted by the processable Trinity in which the persons consist. God realizes Himself; He auto-realizes in pure act in and by the processable Trinity of the persons. The pure act is a characteristic that mysteriously cannot constitute the starting point of the Trinitarian theology, but rather is in a certain way (humanly speaking), the precipitate of that marvelous Trinitarian processability in which the divine his-ownness precisely consists in its three his-ownnesses. To be his-own as fontanal reality; to be his-own as actual truth; and to be his-own as identically truth and reality in the Spirit of Truth. Because it is the case that the essence is founded on the person, and not the person on the essence. The procession is formally personal. Therefore, the unity is a unity, which is in a certain way decanted in the constitution of the pure act in which the divine essence consists.

As I said, the importance of this point cannot be overstated, and so I will summarize it once again: the pure activity of God is in reality, not simply being. St. Thomas has identified reality with being (entifies reality); Zubiri instead puts reality before being, as more fundamental than being. It is in this respect, more than any other philosopher that I have encountered, that Zubiri can seize the Trinity as the absolutely fundamental concept of reality by rendering the acting structure itself (as opposed to acting subjects) the substantive reality of God. Thus, Zubiri can elucidate what has been missing in the previous attempts of both Latin and Greek metaphysics to explain the Trinity:

We have something else besides this implication and this interpenetration. There is, in the third place, something that seems to me absolutely important. Namely, that the three persons, because they have this type of structure, have a unity by virtue of which they cannot be a person unless making another proceed nor can they possess one nature if it is not communicating it to another. This nature will not be a numerical one (this would be equivalent to perforating the Trinity or admitting with Cajetan2 a fourth subsistence proper to the divine nature), but consists in the personal life of God.

The fact is that the term “life” can have two meanings. It can have the meaning of an act, which proceeds from nature, from the essence. And, in that case, obviously, in God there is only one life, and in addition identical in the three persons, precisely as {144} His own essence. But if we understand life from a personal point of view, then personal life is not formed by only one person. It is just the reverse. The fullness of the personal life of God is formed by several persons. And these several persons, personally different, constitute just one personal life, which is not numerically one, but does have an intrinsic unity of respectivity.

That is the case of the Trinity. Mysteriously, not by a numerical unity (since they are three really distinct persons qua his-ownnesses), but due to the processable characteristic in which these persons are implicated and interpenetrated in their essence, the life of God, from the personal point of view, is a “single” life which is Trinitarially personal. There is a unity in God, which is not numerical (otherwise this would be to introduce a fourth personality or perforate the three persons), but of persons, which by their difference constitute one single Trinitarian life, which is really and actually the life of God.

We are accustomed to “trichotomize” the life of God for the benefit of the Trinity of persons in which God exists. This is absolutely absurd. In God there is only one life, a purely respective unity and not numerical, as it might exist among several human persons, which in their personal differences, however, live a single type of personal life. Reversely, the personal divine life in the very Trinity is essentially lived in three different persons. In God there is “one” Trinitarian life, which has in a certain way this particular unitary structure, as a unity of respectivity. The Father is not the Son as his-ownness, nor the Son or the Father are the Holy Spirit as his-ownness, but none of the three can exist and be who He is unless making the other proceed. This is an activity, which has a unity of respectivity, and this unity of respectivity is, from my point of view, what constitutes the Trinitarian life of God. {145}

The life of God is not simply the life, which emerges as the immanent action of His own nature, but is primarily and formally a Trinitarian personal life, which is based on the very divine essence in the form of a pure act. This divine life has a modal characteristic, what is usually called eternal life. But this is an equivocal term. It suggests what He is and what He will be from the “whole of eternity”. That is the unfathomable duration of God. But there is something anterior and primary. Everything God is and does possesses an eternal mode. Eternity is the modal concept of the divine life. And if He is durationally eternal, this is the result of being modally eternal. Even in those acts ad extra, which presuppose a temporal created reality, God lives those realities not from the whole of eternity, but rather eternally. I shall return to this.
Nevertheless, let us not forget that the unity of these functions precisely constitutes the molding of religation in religion, and in this case, in the Christian religion [NOTE: Here the relationship between Zubiri's thinking and the idea of "economy" becomes more apparent -- JP]. Now we can readily understand that in the end the Trinitarian life of God precisely consists in the {146} unfathomable and transcendent divinity to which the constitutive religation of the being of man is anchored as such. That is the place we must start from in order not to lose ourselves in multiple metaphysical convolutions about the Trinity. They are three his-ownnesses (understanding that each proceeds from the other), which have an internal structure by virtue of which each one cannot be present without the other. Also, they are realized in a “what”, and that “what” is not realized except to be communicated or to be ratified. Precisely in this internal and primary processability, which constitutes the unity of respectivity of the three his-ownesses (of the three divine persons, in common language) is where the principle is found that God is pure act. No one has said that we have to start from God as pure act in order to conceive the Trinity. We could try the opposite way. With all due modesty and aware of the limitations of a human intellection, I do consider that perhaps present theology is in dire need of unburdening the Trinity from an enormous mass of metaphysical concepts.

Thus is established the fundamental metaphysical basis of Christian theology in Zubiri's metaphysical system. It is from this point that one can proceed to the analysis of other areas of Christian doctrine, and we will follow Zubiri in those pursuits in subsequent installments.