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Monday, July 19, 2010

From Balthasar on Rahner to Hart on felix culpa

Weeding my Firefox bookmarks of old saved pages and articles. Here are some outtakes before I disappear them ....


Catholic traditionalists complained that Rahner, especially since Vatican II, had relativised the radical demands of Christianity. A famous example of such adversarial reaction to Rahner's understanding of Christianity is that of Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book Cordula oder der Ernstfall. This work seems to mark a significant shift in the relationship between Rahner and Balthasar. Balthasar's book is essentially a reaction to Rahner's anthropologically-oriented theology, which, in his view, tended to reduce Christian living "to a bland and shallow humanism." In particular, Balthasar claimed that Rahner's concept of the anonymous Christian had little to do with the message of the Gospel. This concept, moreover, overlooked what he called the "Ernstfall" or "decisive moment," which is the cross of Christ. Thus, Balthasar laid special emphasis on the readiness to suffer and on the value of martyrdom where the "Ernstfall," or cross of Christ, becomes the permanent pattern or form of Christian discipleship. Moreover, he felt that most forms of modern theology, including Rahner’s, were incapable of providing the grounding or motivation for such a vision of Christian living.
- Declan Marmion SM, Rahner and his critics: revisiting the dialogue, Australian EJournal of Theology


Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea* one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?* In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?
- David Foster Wallace, Just Asking, Atlantic Magazine, November 2007


The Declaration [the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges it necessary to recall that the Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination] claims that in refusing to ordain women the Church is following a perpetually binding “manner of acting” of Christ. Even if there were some criterion for ascertaining which actions of Jesus were normative for the sacramental activity of the Church (and if such a criterion exists it is not clear from the Declaration or Church practice what it is or how it can be applied) it would still be necessary in the question of the ordination of women to establish the fact that Jesus acted in such a way as to indicate his intention to exclude women, for all time, from priestly ordination ..... Let us leave aside completely the question of whether, in choosing only men to be among the Twelve, Jesus intended to exclude women as such, any more than by choosing only Jews he intended to exclude Gentiles as such, or in choosing only Caucasians he intended to exclude non-Caucasians as such, and so on.’’ A number of authors have already pointed out the invalidity of singling out sex as an object or as the only object of Jesus’ intentionality in his choice of the Twelve. St. Paul’s clear affirmation that the sexual distinction in matters salvific is abolished by Baptism into Christ (Gal 3:28) makes the Declaration’s position on this point even more questionable on theological grounds than it already is because of its lack of foundation in the historical attitude of Jesus.
- Sandra M. Schneiders IHM, Did Jesus Exclude Women from Priesthood?


Surprisingly many religiously serious people reject the doctrine of universal salvation on the pragmatic ground that it leads to moral and religious laxity. Withdraw the threat, and they doubt whether others--perhaps even themselves--would sustain the motivation for moral diligence and religious observance. My pastoral experience suggests, on the contrary, that the disproportionate threat of hell (see sections 2.2 and 2.3) produces despair that masquerades as skepticism, rebellion, and unbelief. If your father threatens to kill you if you disobey him, you may cower in terrorized submission, but may also (reasonably) run away from home.
- Marilyn McCord Adams, "The Problem of Hell: A Problem of Evil for Christians, from The New Christians blog


Joos van Wassenhove (active c.1460-80). Netherlandish painter, part of whose career was spent in Italy, where he was known as Giusto da Guanto (Justus of Ghent). He became a member of the Antwerp Guild in 1460, but by 1464 had moved to Ghent, where he was a friend of Hugo van der Goes. At some time after 1468 he went to Rome, and by 1472 had settled in Urbino, where he worked for Duke Federico da Montefeltro. Joos's only documented work is The Communion of the Apostles (also known as The Institution of the Eucharist, 1472-74), which is still at Urbino, in the Galleria Nazionale ......

Anthony Esolen - Thomas [Aquinas] does hold open the possibility of the felix culpa [For God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good ... O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.] .... Thinking of such grace, then, Francis de Sales can say, with a tad more assurance than Thomas says it but with no heresy, that "our ruin has been to our advantage, since human nature in fact has received greater graces by the redemption wrought by its Savior than it would ever have received from Adam's innocence even if he had persevered therein." (Treatise on the Love of God).

David Bentley Hart - Aquinas is wrong—the incarnation is the premise of creation, with or without sin. But that is another argument. In any event, Francis de Sales is speaking nonsense .....

1) Logically, the end for which an intellectual creature is intended—even though that end be supernatural and gratuitous—is the perfection of its nature in the highest good, which is to say union with God. It would indeed be a deficient creative act of God were he to will in the creature anything short of the consummate perfection of that union proper to the creature in its divinized state (in, that is, the condition of grace). To imagine that for a creature created in the divine image there could be a sufficient natural fulfillment proportionate to the creature's capacity that is anything less than the supernatural elevation of his nature to the highest knowledge of God is to fail to grasp what it means to be created in the divine image. Without final grace, human "nature" cannot be complete. True, Aquinas would not seem to agree; though Henri de Lubac is very good at showing that in fact he does. Also, God wills the highest good possible for his creatures because he must: not to do so would be to fail to will the infinite goodness of his own essence (which is the sole "real" object of his will) in the reditio of all created things to him.

2) The mathematical model of greater and lesser infinities is not germane here, obviously, inasmuch as the question is one of finite consciousness of the infinite simplicity of God, not one concerning the size of a set. As God is infinite, and cannot therefore be the object of a finite intuition proportioned to eidetic consciousness, the vision of God must always be of the same simplicity—communicated by grace—ever more deeply apprehended, without surcease, term, or limits. If this is the end to which rational creation is called, it becomes meaningless to speak of greater and lesser graces. God's very being is manifestation of his essence in his Logos, in the light of his Spirit, and our being as logikoi is to be joined in perfect living knowledge of the Logos, which can mean only one thing. Divinization is not an extrinsic accommodation between two objects set over against one another: it literally is our eternal act of "becoming God," which is not something that comes in greater and lesser versions. A mathematical model of the infinite is a philosophical red herring here. Better to discuss Husserl's discussions of intuitions following from an infinite intention, or Henri de Lubac's treatment (better than Marechal's or Rahner's I think) of how the prior orientation of God's infinity is the ground of all finite consciousness, even of finite things.

3) Whether one wants to accept it or not, the simple and incontrovertible truth is that, if sin can lead to a greater grace than would otherwise have been available, then sin and evil are positive elements of the divine will, of created nature, and even of the divine nature: there is no other actus in which creation participates, and so if evil can even occasion an increase in the good, then evil has real being and must participate in God. And since God is infinite goodness, and wills his own goodness infinitely, and since a higher good could be accomplished by means of evil, then we must believe God does in some sense will evil, and that evil therefore resides in the divine essence. I doubt you are following my argument here, as this really requires about 200 pages, and it is 1:18 a.m. as I write this; but what I am saying is simply correct. Either you believe in the privatio boni view of evil (and so in the convertibility of all the ontological transcendentals with the divine essence), or you do not; only in the latter case can you assert the "hard" version of the felix culpa, though you can no longer believe God or subsistent being is goodness as such ....

To my mind, all talk of the felix culpa remains always on the homiletic plane, where it does some good perhaps. I am only a student of classical Christian metaphysics and you could not pay me to give a sermon; within that metaphysical tradition, the notion that we will profit from evil more than we would have done from innocence is not only morally problematic, but renders Christian ontology and any coherently Christian understanding of God impossible.
- David Bentley Hart and Anthony Esolen, Esolen and Hart Finale, Touchstone Magazine, January 06, 2005


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Interesting stuff here. I particularly liked the one by Sr. Sandra Schneiders, whose writing I always find compelling. The full article was well worth reading.

12:18 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks - I like her too.

12:24 PM  

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