Sunday, January 21, 2018

"the [idolatrous] thrill of the shadow of nothingness"

Department of Theology,
University of Notre Dame
"the great attraction of Heidegger's path" isn't just the attraction of what is "irrational, absurd, and superstitious."  It is "precisely the attraction of idolatry.  Indeed, Heidegger provides us with a bold statement of the very quintessence of idolatry in its purest and most distinctively postmodern form. . . . From the vantage point of Heidegger's enthrallment with finitude, we can see that people make idols and glorify the creature instead of the Creator, not because they just made a mistake and thought that the creature or the idol is the absolute being.  Rather, people make idols and glorify the creature instead of the Creator because they have made the judgment, at a deep level that is not altogether transparent to logical reasoning, that finite being is just more thrilling than absolute being.  And what is more indicative of the mood of our times than a mesmerization with finitude as such and a distaste, even repulsion, at the very notion of a perfection of being, a repulsion that even drives theologians to disparage the preoccupation of  'classical theism' with the attributes of divine being[?]  It is this mesmerization with finitude that is the existential wonder to which our epoch spontaneously gravitates!  Heidegger reveals to us that just as philosophy itself begins with wonder, so does idolatry.  But unlike the wonder invoked by both classical philosophy and theology, Heidegger's wonder is idolatrous because it is, despite all his elaborate protestations to the contrary, an arrested wonder.  It prostrates itself before the very combination of the eruption of being and the decline from being that characterizes finite beings, refusing to move on to the recognition of a perfect being that would lack the thrill of the shadow of nothingness falling over it.  Does not this 'mood' of idolatry utterly pervade our current existence?
     "If we compare the apologetic strategies of Athanasius and David Hart, we can see that they both make significant use of the argument from creaturely contingency to a perfect being, God.  But what is distinctive to Athanasius's approach is the insight that what prevents us from accepting this logical correlation is not just stupidity, the inability to appreciate the cogency of the logic which must posit necessary being as the ground of contingent being, but the deeper and more complex problem of idolatry, our intractable attachment to the finite things around us that makes us absolutize those finite things, both because they are sources of immediate pleasure and because they provide temporary evasions from the specter of death.  Heidegger, unwillingly, gives us an even bolder presentation of the distinctly postmodern form of idolatry, which is the glorification of finitude as such and the distaste for perfect being unadumbrated by the seductive shadow of nothingness."

     Khaled Anatolios, "The witness of Athanasius at the (hoped-for) Nicene Council of 2025," Pro ecclesia 25, no. 2 (Spring 2016):  234-235 (220-236).
     Have Hart and Milbank then, the two writers upon whom Anatolios relies, succeeded in reversing the French reversal of c. 1960 on Heidegger?

From the Neothomist point of view, Neoplatonism seemed an ally of modernity, a movement that preceded it and sustained its idealisms.  But the positive character of the current interest in Neoplatonism adheres to a reversal of that judgment.  In the last third of the 20th century, it is Neoscholasticism rather than Neoplatonism that dreams of an objectivizing rationalism and an ontotheology.  Towards 1960, the French discovered, despite the judgment of Étienne Gilson, that Heidegger would not object to [(ne ferait pas une exception à)] the identification by Thomas of God with ipsum esse subsistens.  Thus, Neoplatonism, above all in its Proclean and Dionysian branches, and medieval thought in the measure in which it is Neoplatonic, becomes more interesting for every attempt to respond to the questions raised by modernity.
Wayne J. Hankey, "Le role du néoplatonisme dans les tentatives postmodernes d’échapper à  l’onto-théologie," La métaphysique:  son histoire, sa critique, ses enjeux, Actes du XXVIIe Congrès de l’Association des Sociétés de Philosophie de Langue Française (A.S.P.L.F.), Québec, 18-22 août 1998) (Paris:  Libraire Philosophique J. Vrin; Québec:  Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2000):  38-39 (36-43), citing Heidegger's 1959 "Le Retour au fondement de la métaphysique" and G. Prouvost, "La question des noms divins," Revue thomiste 98, no. 3 (1997):  485-511.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Losing one's life as distinguished from saving it

Biblical "sexuality is not . . . an expression of an absolute power, but of relationship, the gift to the other, and reciprocal dependence.  In the Platonic myth [of that third kind [(γένος)] of human being, that 'double nature which was once called Androgynous'], the search for the partner [from whom one has been cut away, that other half, that person of the opposite sex,] is not oriented to the gift of self, but to nostalgia for a state of omnipotence.  Androgyny proceeds from the same principle, whether it be religious or not."

     Jean-Baptiste Édart, “L’androgyne ou la communion des personnes?,” Communio:  revue internationale catholique 31, no. 5-6 (septembre-décembre 2006):  95 (83-96).
     The point, I suppose, is that Zeus separated the three kinds of human being, the male-male, the female-female, and, most importantly for our purposes here, the male-female or "androgynous", in order to weaken them, "as punishment for the wrong we did him" (Symposium 193a, in the Hackett edition ed. Cooper).  Their original spherical wholeness or integrity, by contrast, stood (as in the divinity) for "absolute power", self-sufficiency, perfection (Eliade, 85).
     But in the biblical view, according to which God created them male and female, there is no fall into differentiation (indeed, sexual differentiation is presented in Gen 2 as a solution, not a fall), and no room for these other options.  (For a list of the ways in which the Genesis myth corrects the Platonic one, a list taken from Xavier Lacroix, see p. 93.)  There is only the one kind of human being, who "can only become fully aware of his identity in the encounter with the other sex, image of the encounter with God."  For this reason it can come as no surprise that Saint Paul, a very careful reader of Genesis 1-3, "associates idolatry with homosexual acts, making of these latter the consequence of the former", i.e. idolatry:  "If the sexual difference is the expression of the relational capacity characteristic of God, then he who chooses to adore the creature in place of the Creator, he who denies the true nature of a God [of] love, source of all communion, denies relationship, founded on the difference, in order to enter into the fusion that is sought with one's double [(identique)], with an eye to omnipotence" (96).
Biblical "sexuality is not . . . an expression of an absolute power, but of relationship, the gift to the other, and reciprocal dependence.  In the Platonic myth, the search for the partner [from which one has been cut off] is not oriented to the gift of self, but to nostalgia for a state of omnipotence.  Androgyny procedes from the same principle, whether it be religious or not."

     Jean-Baptiste Édart, “L’androgyne ou la communion des personnes?,” Communio:  revue internationale catholique 31, no. 5-6 (septembre-décembre 2006):  95 (83-96).

They're necessary, so use words

"he who is confirmed receives the power of publicly confessing his faith by words," "even in the face of the enemies of the Christian faith."

  "confirmatus accipit potestatem publice fidem Christi verbis profitendi," "etiam coram inimicis fidei Christianae."

     St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 2 & Resp.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Return to infancy and return to God"

Bernanos acknowledged "that in the middle of his life, populated already with so many of [the] dead, 'the deadest of the dead' was the little boy he once was.  But he soon made haste to add:  'And yet, the hour is coming [when] it is [that little boy] who will retake his place at the head of my life, reassemble my poor years right up to the last, andlike a young captain [reassembling] his [grizzled] veterans, [and] rallying the disordered troup—enter first into the house of the Father.'"

     Georg Bernanos, as quoted by Jean-Pierre Batut.  "De la nature à la gloire, la grâce de la maladie," Communio:  revue international catholique 39, no. 3 (mai-juin 2014:  105 (97-107).
     I now have the official translation by Michael J. Miller (Communio:  international Catholic review 41, no. 3 (2014):  515-528):
Recall Bernanos, admitting that in the middle of his life, which was already populated by so many dead people, 'the most dead of the dead' was the little boy he used to be, although he hastened to add immediately:  'And yet, when the hour comes, he will be the one to take his place again at the head of my life, he will gather up my poor years down to the last one, and like a young leader rallying the veterans in his disorderly troop, will enter first into the Father's House.'

Monday, January 15, 2018

"'as a Gentile and a tax collector'"

Matthew "means by the verb [(Terminus)] 'sins' [in 18:15] not every little misadventure, every mistake, not the venial sins that can creep up on the man and [the] Christian; rather, 'sins' designates those cases in which a Christian [1] seeks the life of another [Christian] or [2] misleads him into an apostasy from the faith.  In this most wicked of cases, the fellow Christian cannot and may not look on in indifference, but must help and protect.  To put it concretely, when Judas goes about his wicked work, Peter is not permitted to remain idle.  The protection of the [1] life and [2] faith of the third [party] is the necessary and sufficient reason for church leadership [(Kirchenleitung)] and church discipline.  Where the perpetrator can be converted off of [(von . . . abbringen)] his wicked path, that is good.  But where not, the community must then tell him what he has himself done [(bewirkt)].  He has, by his own behavior. excluded himself from the community.  The phrase 'as a Gentile and a tax collector' denotes precisely the impossible possibility of being deprived, as a Christian—from even the [merely] human point of view [an] incalculable [loss]—, of the [Christian] community and salvation [itself]. . . .
     ". . . the keyword ἁμαρτάνω in v. 15 is closely linked with another word that occurs in [v. 6]:  σκανδαλίζω:  to sin within the community means to endanger a brother or sister in [2] faith and/or [1] life.  Here there can and may be none of that neutrality that Matthew otherwise so clearly enjoins on his community.  Church discipline becomes necessary when (and only when) a [member] of [(in)] the community stands in need of th[is] protection-and-help-for-the-third-[party].
     "The procedure that Matthew here prescribes for his community carries the procedure for bilateral conflicts known from the 'Testament of Gad' [(Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs)] and Qumran into the three-way relationship.  This means that the situation addressed by the New Testament text is not covered by the cases just cited [(TestGad 6, 1Q 5:24 ff., CD 9:2 ff)].  The relative mildness of the early Jewish texts cannot be opposed to the sharpness and unmercifulness of Matthew.  On the contrary:  the procedure laid down by Matthew is of a breadth and circumspection that stands in striking opposition to even the later penitential prescriptions of the Church, as Origen, for example, so obviously gives us to understand in his interpretation of th[is very] passage.
     "That the three-stage process of admonition is meant to effect the conversion of the one confronted requires no further proof.  [But] If the worst case of public obliviousness of guilt [(Schuldvergessenheit)] obtains [(if, that is, the sinner, having been 't[old] his fault', 'refuses to listen even to the church')], then the community—obviously the local community—can at that point only bear witness to what the sinner [has] already effected [(praktiziert)]:  Community is by him already so obviously renounced that it can no longer be healed by [any] human power."

     Christoph Kähler, "Kirchenleitung und Kirchenzucht nach Matthäus 18," in Christus bezeugen:  Festschrift für Wolfgang Trilling zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Karl Kertelge, Traugott Holtz, and Claus-Peter März, Erfurter theologische Studien 59 (Leipzig:  St. Benno-Verlag GMBH, 1989), 140, 144 (136-145).