Thursday, August 04, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Life of Man (Part 12)

Now that we have established the Christian framework in which man lives, we can talk briefly about how man lives in it. I say "briefly" because at this point it is chiefly a manner of summarizing what has gone before. Obviously, Zubiri's phenomenology provides an exceptionally detailed account of human experience, which could not be easily summarized, but here I will focus on that experience as particularly related to Zubiri's theology.

In Christianity (© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged), Zubiri describes the molding of the Trinitarian life ad extra (the making of man in God's image) as follows:

a) In the first place, we find that the human person is relatively absolute because it has numerous limitations, that is clear. But there is a more profound metaphysical reason. While in the case of God his own essence is that which is founded on what He is in each of his three persons as his-own (God is intelligent and volitional because he is absolutely his-own), in the case of man the situation is the reverse. Man is a person precisely in the measure in which his substantive reality is intelligent and volitional. In man the person is consecutive to his substantive reality. {211} Man is his-own because de suyo he is intelligent and volitional. It is not as in the case of God who has a characteristic of being intelligent and volitional because He starts by being his-own. This intelligent and volitional reality, the substantive reality in which each man consists, is what constitutes the finite root, in its intrinsic finitude, of all man is and is going to be for the rest of his life. As fountain and principle of his life this finitude is precisely an accurate image of the first terminus which the Father is.

b) Now we ask, what does this man do with his life? What this man does, as I have mentioned in another place2, in the greatest diversity of all his acts is to construct the figure of his I (Sp. Yo3). This I is that in which resides, explicitly and formally as second act, that in which the relatively absolute characteristic of his person consists. In a certain way I am absolutely I. This I expresses in second act that figure, which my substantive being is acquiring through the successive performance of my acts. The I is the substantive being of man. And this substantive being of man is precisely what reveals and primarily constitutes what really and effectively belongs to me, and what I have willed to make of myself. Insofar as real truth of my substantive reality, the I is precisely an accurate image of what we called Son in the Trinity, it is my real truth.

c) Of course, this substantive being is not divorced from the substantive reality in which I consist. Just the opposite. Precisely in the I there is a reversion by way of identity from what I am as substantive being to what I am as substantive reality. And precisely in this reversion by identity is in what intimacy consists. Intimacy consists of the identity in act between the I and the substantive reality {212} from which this I, this substantive being proceeds. It is exactly the spirit of truth. The spirit of truth is just the intimacy. What I have really willed to make of myself and what I am from myself is what the truth of my own substantive reality expresses. In the Trinity this Spirit of Truth constitutes the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit as intimacy.
The Trinitarian life definitely has its exact image, in the case of man, in that triplicity of reality, being and intimacy. Only that, while in the case of God it is the case of three different subsistencies or his-ownesses, in the case of man it is only the case of three aspects of the same life. Man, in his substantive reality, constructs his own being to which he reverts through identity in the intimacy of his own internal life.

From this resemblance, Zubiri can then derive one of the attributes classically attributed to the image of God -- the free will:

As I said above, these three moments that in God are three his-ownnesses in man they are nothing but aspects {215} of only one finite reality. And the radical unity of these three aspects is precisely what constitutes freedom. If man had nothing but substantive reality he would not have freedom. If man were nothing but a being, an I, he would be hanging in a vacuum. Man is a freedom because he is a reality that really and effectively from his own substantive reality is going to elaborate on top of it the second act in which his substantive being consists. Because of this in the case of man freedom is, not the root of his-ownness, but precisely the molding (sit venia verbo) of what man as his own reality, as person, is a potiori.

Therefore, this freedom, placed along this line of thought has three characteristics that make it to be the root of the molding of the Trinitarian life in man. In the first place, freedom thus understood is the finite participation in the sovereign and inalienable independence of the Creator. Not even God himself, except to annul human freedom, can impose on freedom anything that may be above its internal and intrinsic sovereignty. Certainly God can annul freedom. What He cannot do is to preserve it unless it is in the fullness of its independence. In the second place, not only is man independent, but free man is always making himself through a real and positive activity. Consequently, he does not simply have a characteristic more or less similar to the one God has, but in addition has a mode of realization that is divine, he is making himself through himself. Freedom is not only divine because it is a property of God, but also because it is the divine way of making oneself. And in the third place, freedom is not only a property of independence through which man is making himself, but in addition is making himself in an initiating way. Freedom initiates in its truly free act an unpredictable novelty in the rest of creation. {216} Freedom is formally initiating, and it is precisely here where the mysterious, profound, and unfathomable relationship is grounded between human freedom and the Trinitarian reality of God. Because actually human reality with all its freedom is a reality that takes initiatives. I had mentioned above that the world is a world open to divine initiatives. Therefore, human freedom in each of its free acts is the second cause through which God takes an initiative in creation.

That is the structure of the open world. Because of this the creation of man as open essence is the will to deiformation of his life in freedom. It is the realm of the open world.

It would be facile at this point to suppose that God had yielded his sovereignty or eternality, as the open theists would allege. It is not a question of God going through a process of self-development; rather, it is the world that is willed to develop itself (autoformation) but within the context of successive divine initiatives.

Hence, this world and this respectivity (let us now also take the cosmos) have a characteristic that is important to insist upon. That the world God has created is in fact a world I shall call “open”. I will explain what I mean by that. At first sight this may be clear, the world is forming itself, and in this sense it is open. I am not referring to that. It is not the case that the world continues to form itself. There is, from the part of God, an undeniable will to autoformation. God has willed that things continue with autoformation. This is evident, and above all, it is a fact of experience, the world continues to form itself. There is no doubt about it. I am not referring to this, but to the fact that it is an open world from the part of God himself. What do I mean by that?
The world, in this sense, is a world open to the divine initiatives because God has been pleased not to take just one initiative in which all the details of the world have been exhausted.

{196} This open characteristic of the divine initiatives, which terminatively transcends in the reality of the world, under my point of view qualifies this world with two stepping concepts, each one founded on the previous one. The world God has created in His first fiat, is above all and formally, the theatre of His own later initiatives. This theatre is the whole of material reality. God has not exhausted his initiatives with his first creative fiat. In the second place, the world is not only the theatre of his initiatives, but is also something else. The divine initiatives are not independent from what God initiated with the previous initiatives. The termini produced by the previous initiatives are not only theatre, but in addition are the substrate upon which are mounted the next divine initiatives. Certainly God could have made that some initiatives have nothing to do with others. In fact that is not the case.

But the world is not only theatre and substratum of the divine initiatives; it is something else. Taking he whole world of the divine initiatives, this open world that is being conformed is purely and simply the theological occurrence of the very divine initiatives, i.e., of the initiating action with which God constitutes things ad extra. Certainly, God constitutes things. God does not develop in himself[;] that would be absurd. But He develops in another, in the world. And this developing in the other is precisely the systematic and progressive concatenation, the theological concatenation of His own divine initiatives.

Thus, God can still be meaningfully understood as the author of historical context, the set of conditions in which freedom is exercised, and indeed, those conditions that must be present in order for freedom to be exercised:

The vicissitudes of this world and the men who live it are what constitute the sequence of history. Nevertheless, God is the director of history. History is not composed only of the interplay of human freedoms. That is a myth, on the part of history and on the part of man himself. History is not composed of the interplay of human freedoms because if man did not have a context in which these freedoms were to play it would be lost in a vacuum. Freedom would simply disappear. Kant said with respect to a different problem and in a different way that if doves could think, they would think that without air resistance they would be able to fly better2. That is the case, without a context freedom could not be freedom. But the context is not the lack of freedom; on the contrary, it is what makes freedom possible. The possibility of freedom in this sense is precisely what thematically I have just called context. The contextual condition of history is absolutely undeniable. Because of this each man born in a particular society, besides the abilities he has to perform and the decisions he takes as author of his own acts has the context of the life he has been given to live.

And God is precisely the director of this context. An author of this context not in the sense that He may command in what direction history must proceed. No, the ways of God are much more complicated and definitely much more efficacious, of course. Because in the end the interplay of freedoms is not annulled. So much so, that whatever the interplay of these freedoms may be, the goodness for which God traces the outline of the context of history will be achieved inexorably. In the physical world the interplay of merely probabilistic freedom of the elementary particles does not impede the construction of a machine or a locomotive. Analogously human freedoms, regardless how free they are, are precisely something that is in the hands of a context within which each one may go in its own direction. However, the set contextually will proceed towards the indefectible point God has willed to take it. As Isaiah says, “For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down, and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful... So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Is 55:10-11).

One can analogize this difference between the historical and the biographical to the one that Zubiri draws between the power of sin and personal sin. The "power of sin" refers to the subjection of reality to the effects of sin lived by individuals, the state of being immersed in a sinful reality and in that respect enslaved to sin. That is something from which every human being must be saved by the power of God (grace); only the power of God can displace the power of sin. This can be contrasted with sin at the personal level, which is how one chooses to incorporate sin into one's personal being (one's biography) and into one's respectivity to God. That decision to incorporate sin into one's personal being is actually an expression of the Trinitarian life, but lived aversively to the actual Trinity (viz., a use of Trinitarian freedom to reject the Trinity).

Man not only lives in a Trinitarian God, and Trinitarially, but also lives with God. Because of this, the majority of the things man feels in his life, that in his own quiet perception thinks are emerging naturally from himself, are in their great majority the work of grace. And, of course, all without exception are formally the accurate image of the Trinitarian divinity of God.

Nevertheless, this grace is a grace in liberty. Of course, whenever there is liberty we face a problem, which seems it might destroy everything we have said so far, what happens with sin? Let us begin remembering that every created will even the will of Christ is intrinsically and of itself fallible. The very will of Christ can sin like any other will. He did not sin, for other reasons; but by reason of having a created will He had the internal possibility of opening to a sin. However, a sin is not simply a moral fault; it is something much more profound. A sin is not a moral fault, but consists in a rejection of God, more or less direct, more or less aggressive, etc. One would not commit a sin if one did not know that {218} doing that particular thing one is doing something God does not approve. That is a rough definition of what a rejection is. Sin is not only a moral fault, but also a rejection.

Definitely, this does not invalidate what we have said. Because the reality of a man in sin and the concrete reality of sin precisely consist in living the rejection of the very Trinitarian life. Without Trinitarian life there would be no sin. Sin is, in this personal dimension (as personal sin) the Trinitarian life lived rejecting it. Obviously this is a paradox, a paradox that has its special characteristic in the other world. It consists precisely in the reality of a condemned man who lives rejecting the Trinitarian life. This is an internal laceration, the penalty of the condemned man. It is not a penalty imposed on him from the outside, but the one he wants. Since this is so, every sin is clearly Trinitarian. And reciprocally every good act of any type is eo ipso Trinitarian. Let us not think that natural goodness is one thing and the supernatural goodness another. These scissions do not exist in human reality.

It is apparent, then, why God allows sin to exist: to preserve the good of freedom. It would be impossible for human beings to incorporate contextual experience into reality without the Trinitarian freedom to do so, but the context itself creates the possibility of aversive Trinitarian life. And yet, without this autoformative process, human beings could not be deiform; they could not truly live the Trinitarian life. To my way of thinking, this is precisely the notion of arete (virtue, excellence) in Greek philosophy, explained in a Christian context by way of the Cappadocians and St. Maximus Confessor and summarized well by my friend Perry Robinson in this article. Perry explains the situation thusly:

The answer I think lies in the notion of virtue. Here I am following roughly Plato and Aristotle’s notion of a virtue as an excellence or arête of a thing. The excellence of a knife is its sharpness. The excellence of a human being is justice. Following Aristotle a virtue is a natural capacity which is guided by reason as a mean between two extremes attained by habit. The reason why one wants to be virtuous as opposed to akratic or weak willed is so that one doesn’t have to deliberate about what the good act is to perform on a specific occasion. A virtuous person just does out of habit the good act. Mother Theresa didn’t have to reflect about helping poor or sick people on her doorstep-she just did it. The goal of habituation is to become so fixed in virtue, in the Good as to just naturally do the good act. But more precisely to be fixed in virtue doesn’t imply that deliberation per se is the problem. The reason why deliberation is problematic is because we deliberate between real and apparent goods. We suffer from a kind of ignorance about the Good. If an agent were to only deliberate between real goods and not apparent goods deliberation per se would be harmless.

Zubiri puts it this way:

Of course, then one may ask, what is in the end the supreme good God has pursued in that unique will that mysteriously ties approval and permissiveness? It is very clear and very simple, freedom as supreme good. A great affirmation, but enormously mysterious. God has estimated that the freedom with which the condemned wills his suffering is superior to the existence of the suffering itself. This appears mysterious to us and it certainly is. The supreme good and the supreme reality of creation are precisely the freedom, which crowns the structure of an open essence. In freedom man is what God is. And in a human way, in it and through it man lives the way God lives, by Himself and from Himself. For this reason the biographic will is the will to build his substantive being, his I, divinely. It is the Word biographically molding his his-ownness in the being of man.

Zubiri's account of the eschaton thus follows naturally from this concept of autobiography as a free choice:

Death is not a limit, but a limitation of a state of life in this world. It is a limitation of the processability. Therefore, death has a second characteristic; it is fixation. Death is fixation to the manner of being that one has definitely acquired and has freely achieved. The éschaton, what is last and final, is something decided through freedom. What will happen to me in the next world is what I have desired to be (through an efficacious will, of course) in this world. It is an éschaton, which consists in a fixation into that, which I am now engaged in wishing to be.

Nevertheless, fixation is not some kind of stubbornness because that, which constitutes the presence of God in the human spirit (whether conversely or aversively) is, as I mentioned when discussing the baptism and the life of Christ, a power, the power of God. Therefore, that in which man is fixated is in the seizure that man {449} suffers, bears or experiences of that which seizes him. Fixation is seizure. The fact of the matter is that this fixation and this seizure are not univocal. That is the question. Death as limitation, as fixation in the éschaton, and as seizure, does not have a univocal sense for the one who dies seized conversely or for the one seized aversively. The phenomenon is univocal from the point of view of an organism that disintegrates; that is another question. But from the point of view of the characteristic with which it affects my personal reality it is essentially different.

The power that seizes the one living aversively towards God, and is fixated in the aversion is precisely the power of sin. That is why the éschaton of these persons is precisely what we call hell. Hell is not a jail where sufferings and punishments are imposed. God does not impose sufferings or punishments on anyone, not even the condemned. That is absurd. The sufferings of someone condemned are something different. The fact is that the one condemned is really and actually wishing with all his freedom, but also with his entire fixation the seizing of sin in which his situation consists. If someone condemned could say, “well, the truth is that I have been an imbecile, why have I done these things? If God would only forgive me...”, at that moment God would forgive him, and he would enter heaven. What happens is that he cannot say it, simply because he is seized by the power of sin. The one condemned does not suffer pains that have been imposed on him, but suffers the pains in which his situation consists. That paradoxical situation is to live Trinitarially the aversion to the Trinity, and therefore, to be really and actually wishing to be in the situation he is.

The case of the one that dies conversely, i.e., of the one that dies seized by the power of God is different. Then, death has a different sense; it is an incorporation to the very death of Christ. The sacrifice of the Cross precisely consisted {450} in that, in overcoming the power of sin, which had taken him to the cross, by the power of God, to whom he made the oblation, and the offering of his life as expiation for all sins. For the one that accepts death seized by the power of God, Christ took on himself that death, and made and makes for each one, what his own death was for him, a step from Earth to Heaven. But, in what does Heaven consist? Heaven consists purely and simply in being fully and eternally what we have wished to be in and for Christ. After all, condemnation or Heaven does not consist in anything but giving us the being that really, actually, and freely we have acquired and are wishing. In the case of Heaven it is the full and positive deiformity.
And this is precisely the éschaton, to be what we freely have willed to be, in aversion to God or immersion in God.

It seems to me that this is an eminently logical presentation, as it is not a question of freedom being removed by death, but rather, of living that freedom precisely in the manner that one has chosen. The fixation of the glorified or the condemned is equally a matter of freedom; it is not something forced in either instance. Rather, one is seized by exactly one's chosen manner of being. It is important to note that this cannot even possibly be mistaken for a static kind of salvation, a permanent being in a state of beatitude. Rather, it is an eternal participation in the Trinitarian life, conversively or aversively, which is exactly the apokatastasis (ever-moving rest) of the Eastern Fathers. We are deiform in activity, in living, not by a permanency of state, just as the eternality of God does not indicate that God is somehow static or lacking activity nor does His fixity in virtue indicate a lack of freedom.

It is in the picture of man as the image of God that I think Zubiri has most truly honored Byzantine theology. By preserving the essential elements of the image of God (reason, free will, and immortality) and by tying the eschaton to an individual's free self-making, he has presented a faithful picture of the apokatastasis that was the essence of the Greek account of salvation.