Blog Template Theology of the Body: David Bentley Hart: Conclusions on the Analogia Entis

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

David Bentley Hart: Conclusions on the Analogia Entis

I'm pretty sure he accused Barth of being an Arian.

The thing about hearing Hart lecture is that you become transfixed; more of the serious theologians should earn their keep by becoming such masterful rhetoricians. But when I did brace myself to descend from the heights to which Hart took us, even though he was not at all feeling well, I was amazed by his suggestion that- rather than off-handedly deciding that the analogia entis is inessential- Hart urged us that rather, a robust construal of the possibilities for analogy between God and creatures is "synonomous" with Christianity..."an expression not of presumption but of delighted response to the revelation in Christ."

Hart first congratulated Bruce Marshall for pointing out that, as Aquinas understood it, an analogy is analogy is an analogy to the end: it's a matter of grammar and logic, while (of course) the ontological reality remains that God is utterly transcendent and alien to the common canopy of being that creatures inhabit, with all the distinctions and comparisons that we may use to describe it. There is no such God who falls within our universe; we would thus become an abyss to ourselves. Our own contingent essence lies beyond us, grounded in the Being who is beyond. Etc.

And yet, against fussy allegations that the analogia entis might seem to posit us in an Object:object relationship with the Creator, we recall that God remains utterly incarnate in Jesus, and that Being itself has thus been seriously disrupted.

This is Barth's emphasis, of course; Christ is the analogy between God and the creature. What Hart insisted is that the analogia entis that Barth wished to discard is necessary for the preservation of coherent intellectual obedience to Chalcedonian Christology- because really, the Incarnation has undone any sense of contradiction between God and the creature. Chalcedeon called the Church to worship a God so infinite that He could become Man without ceasing to be God, and without erasing the Man. Amen.

Here, Hart recalled Arianism- the heretical idea of a God that required the ancient metaphysics of the Logos as a secondary, subordinate divine principle, which was sent to connect the world below to God through itself. This would be a Being given to the limited creature by which the creature might overcome an infinite proportional difference, a kind of second moment of the real from the "first" really real Principle. This Logos reduced itself in scale to touch the finite and thereby translated divinity to humanity. The idea is full of a kind of benevolence, but recall that such a Logos was not worshipped as God proper, but was honored only as God with respect to the lower realities who needed its mediating function for the "diffusion" of the divinity in the world. God Himself, in this scheme, never actually touches the world.

...And so the world got a bland metaphysics that operated on an henology of the One: a Being beyond all that emanated into all things to give them being by annhialiting their creaturely particularities and overcoming the supposed rivalry between the finite and the infinite. As the creatures were supposed to re-approach Absolute Being through the mediating Logos, the goal was to return to the only One Being. And clearly, such a metaphysic does not admit of "analogy."

On the contrary, Nicene Christianity made some corrections. We've revised our grammar of the Logos to honor Him not as a subservient, mediating factor, but as very God from very God, who is essentially Himself in His manifestation and in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. The Incarnation of Christ has added new confidence to our joyful confession that the utterly transcendent God made creation to be, as the act which truly reflects His simple, eternal, abundant providence, such that the particularity of the creature is not to be seen as a tragic alienation to be overcome, but the joyful recollection that we were called to be from nothing, so that becoming what we are is to become more real, not less. The Word has been made flesh (as Barth would put it, in the body of this Man) and it's in Him that we, in our particularity, can be made one with God... so let the analogies roll.