Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A dialogue on Covenantal Theology… ah, at last!

[I'm quite disinclined to post dialogues (friendly "fisking", as they're called) like this. I know I've done it before at FCA, but I know as well as anyone else that reading over the shoulder of people having a conversation you may not even care about or follow, is pretty grim stuff, even for a nerdfest like FCA. Nonetheless, I think the substance of Mr. O'Sullivan's comment, and my attempts to reply, warrant some front-page publicity.

Before I begin, however, I want to present the past posts of mine that deal with CT. This may help Mr. O'Sullivan get more of the reply he's seeking, and it should help others get somewhat oriented in this discussion. This page of search results for "Keefe" should be enough for now.

Look out world, here I come! Mr. O'Sullivan's words are in normal font, while mine are in italics.]

… I got the two volume C.T. back then. It doesn’t include the appended chapter that deals with its reception. So maybe the difficulties I mention below are dealt with there.

It will be best for me, at a later date, to review that Appendix in response to critics and then go through it with you in absentia.

…And of course, with that German goblin, “Q” reconciling everything like Einstein’s cosmological constant.

Mr. O'Sullivan, anyone that refers to "Q" as a German goblin is always welcome at my blog!

… Father Keefe’s book, especially in its introductory chapter, and vividly in the notes, sets out to show not only how but why this collapse of the Catholic quaerens happened. For Keefe, I believe, the collapse was inevitable: the result of an insufficiently converted pagan metaphysics that underlay the whole enterprise. I had some reservations about how adequately supported this conversion thesis was but I haven’t the scholarly competence to really specify them for myself.

It might be less rebarbative to look at the collapse as a result of invidious Enlightenment rationalism in modern Catholic discourse, and then see that rationalism as a fruit of the failed stalled conversion process. Calling it simply latent paganism is too otiose, and I don't think Keefe does that, though of course he has no qualms about getting right to what he sees as the heart of the matter. It is pagan for theology to make the fundamentals of a faith rationally respectable in the world's eyes, on the world's terms, rather than on terms of the radically Christocentric nature of Catholicism. That I take to be Keefe's main premise. As he says on pg. 122:

"The theology which identifies the covenantal a priori with this existential intuition of fallenness dominated Catholicism in the Latin West for the nearly thousand years between Augustine and the rise of nominalism; its rationalization set thereafter the problematic with which modern theology has been concerned.

"Out of this pseudo-Augustinian nominalist rationalism arose the critique of religion which preoccupied the Enlightenment; the recent, even current rejection of this critique has amounted to that rediscovery of the Augustinian tradition which continues to be the major preoccupation of contemporary systematic theology."

As I proceeded with further chapters I found it more and more difficult to follow the logic of his exposition. I couldn’t get my bearings in that I couldn’t identify the standpoint or even recognize the context within which he was speaking. Part of it was stylistic, I’m sure. Keefe conducts his argument on so remote a level and with such compression of levels of application that its hard to keep up, especially if you’re not sufficiently conversant with the scholarship he assumes you’ve digested.

Yes, any way you slice it, CT is a head-splitter! But we wouldn't have it any other way, would we? ;)

But it’s also deeper, I think. How does he manage to escape the metaphysical constraints---the cosmological consciousness and its fallen logic, as he calls it--- that bind our thinking? How does he arrive at the Archimedean point that allows him to talk about a free Eucharistic order, so encompassing that it can ground all reality. I’m not saying that he hasn’t succeeded in his endeavor. I’m only saying that I haven’t been able to follow his steps in way that allows me to see things from his position. As it is, his approach seems baffling if not inconsistent.

What I will say in response is only metaphorically apt, but I think it sheds some light on the problem: precisely by positing an Archimedean point, you draw up a vision of some absolute point of rest outside the world. But this is exactly what Keefe will not allow. The world, for him, IS the Eucharistic immanence of Christ; it is the prime analogate of being. Therefore, even the idea of stepping back from it to dissect, analyze, challenge, or modernize it, based on some other prius, refutes its entire hegemony for Catholic covenantal thought.

An essay by James Ross, one of my favorite philosophers, "Musical Standards as a Function of Musical Accomplishment" (PDF warning), makes the point that there simply is no valid place outside the sphere of production, apprenticeship, tradition, and innovative excellence from which music (or any other craft and/or discourse) may be judged. It can only be assessed and appropriated from within the hermeneutic, aesthetic circle. I suspect you, as an artist, know as much. In a way, then, Keefe is refuting in principle any standpoint outside the Eucharistic 'circle'. It is, after all, the living index of divine Revelation and wholly positive in itself, although it does allow for the analogiae entis et fidei––or perhaps I should just say it allows for the former to exist only as a FUNCTION OF the latter. As he says on pg. 440:

"[W]e find in the Eucharist the permanent criterion of metaphysics. … [T]he failure of the conventional Thomist analysis [is] that of implying the necessary and nonhistorical character of … intrinsic intelligibility. That implication has been shown to be explicit in the nonhistorical Thomist prime analogate, the Deus unus who is utterly unrelated to history because absolute, in the nonhistorical analysis of the Incarnation. … The theological prime analogate, the God revealed in Christ, is not absolute in the absolute sense of defying all relation, but is intrinsically and extrinsically related precisely as the Father sending the Son to give the Spirit, which relatedness terminates concretely in the New Covenant."

Take, for example, the fall of man. In C.T. he keeps insisting that the fall is an event simultaneous with the creation of man. But how can Adam be responsible for something that happened to him in the very act of being created and not after he was created? …he relies on a conceptual framework that was opaque to me. … Again the answer was impenetrable.

This just cracks me up. Not at all out of scorn, but out of sympathy. CT is a head-splitter, a crucifixion of the fleshly mind, intellectual ascesis. I feel your pain! Keefe's exposition of the Fall was and is unquestionably one of the most abstruse and rebarbative elements of CT. But if he is right, any less challenging a thesis would be inadequate, since it would, in its palatability, challenge the fleshly mind less than Keefe believes covenantal theology should and does. It's like Heisenberg (?) said about quantum mechanics: if it doesn't startle and baffle you, you clearly aren't getting it.

Now, to address the problem of the fall, I would reverse your statement of it to suggest Keefe's answer: how can Adam be responsible for something that happened to him anywhere or anywhen BUT in his act of being created? How could he be RESPONSIBLE for an order imposed on him before he was created? His substantial independence on the second Adam cannot be a merely temporal sequel, but must be constitutive of either his most fundamental 'option' towards that Adam or towards his own Adamic autonomy. Were the fall from some pristine antecedent order, it would exclude the freedom of the first Adam, precisely in that, only if he were forced to choose in one way over another, would that order remain pristine. The only substantially good order IN WHICH humans exist is one rooted in the integral freedom of the Second Adam, which is only appropriated historically and freely in the Eucharistic synaxis. Once that pristine order is posited as something which excludes the first Adam's freedom, it becomes a Platonic flight from history.


Moreover, the primacy of Christ in creation is coterminous with His primacy in redemption, as the one Mission of the Father by means of the One Flesh. As Keefe says on pg. 235:

"Offered 'headship,' and thus the ability to appropriate integrity for all humanity, the first Adam appropriated fallenness, i.e., existence as sarx rather than as pneuma; his use of freedom is decisive for the totality of mankind, which, by the fact of the offer of headship to him, are in solidarity with him. … Because the Immanuel by his obedience is irrevocably man, he is by the fall of the first Adam historically immanent in fallen humanity, in sarx. His obedience to his Mission by the Father is thereupon redemptive as well as creative; it is directed to the second giving of the Spirit by which sarx is re-created, recapitulated, to become pneuma, first in the Head, then in all those in solidarity with the Head who is Jesus, the Christ.

"We are in an unfree solidarity with the sin of the fallen Adam, whose refusal of freedom eliminates the freedom of our solidarity with his original sin, for that solidarity, as in fallenness, is not integral and not free."

This indicates how we can be 'punished' in original sin (originatum, 'from birth') and yet not actually 'guilty' of the original sin (originans, 'from the start'). Insofar as we are the very flesh of the first Adam, we are literally incorporated in the punishments and woes due to that Adam, yet without actually incurring personal guilt for his individual sin. And yet, even then we cannot plea, "But Adam did it!", as if we ourselves were not involved––precisely because the first Adam is a metaphysical, not a temporal, prius in our very constitution as the children of Adam. By virtue of his covenantally offered headship, rooted even more basically in the trinitarian goodness of the immanent Immanuel, it might be less confusing to replace (or at least parallel) the truth, "In Adam [originans] we sinned all" with the truth, "In us all [originatum] Adam sinned". Fr. Keefe elaborates:

"Inasmuch as the original sin originans could only consist in a refusal to be, its only actuality is that of a responsible refusal to be free: the primordial nonappropriation of the covenantal freedom of the Good Creation, after which there remains to us only servitude. The original sin originans in which we are solidary is then a free refusal of our own free reality as this is offered for free appropriation in the metaphysically primordial moment of our creation. Because original sin in us (originatum) is not voluntary, the original sin in its active sense cannot have been an act of humanity as such, in and by which the responsible freedom of each human being would have been engaged."


Fr. Keefe then examines the 'injustice' of our fallen condition, on pg. 236:

"To be fallen is to be unfree, so that a free solidarity in fallenness would be a contradiction in terms. … [H]ad there been no fall our solidarity in the integrity of the first Adam would have been effective in each of us as a spontaneous, personally free commitment, as finally our redemption must be. … [T]o be integral, unfallen, plena gratia, is to be constituted in the free community of the One Flesh, in Covenant….

"We tend to picture to ourselves an 'original situation' or status quo ante of humanity relative to the fall as a condition of responsible freedom or 'original justice,' whereas our original situation is our solidarity with the primordial refusal of this status, the covenantal ordo of integral free existence, and our solidarity in the diminished human substance that results in this loss of freedom….

"This rejection, or aversio a Deo, in its spontaneity is the external sign, the very utterance, of our schismatic and alienated human substance, whose diminution is in the order of being, of life, of freedom, therefore of decision. It is thus that the refusal of integral because covenantal life … is actual in us without need or possibility of personal decision."

It is precisely because the first Adam's rejection of the nuptial One Flesh of the Second Adam is integral to his headship over mankind that original sin originans is a moral and historical, as opposed to cosmological and rational, primordiality corruption of the Good Creation. Fr. Keefe elaborates on pg. 239:

"It is not enough to speak of our moral immaturity, of the burdens of the flesh, of the 'sin of the world,' or of the iherently [sic] tragic condition of man, unless this unhappy state is also affirmed to be a moral evil, irreducible to any psychological, sociological, physical or whatever other human flaw that is in principle susceptible to human remedy, or to any explanation reducible to a prior possibility necessarily inherent in humanity as such. …

"The doctrinal tradition requires a fallen moral solidarity in a moral event of sin. To refuse the tradition is to refuse the historicity of the problem of evil, and so to fall back once again upon cosmological rationalization of evil.

"However, the historicity of our solidarity in the sin of the first Adam and Eve is secondary to and radically dependent upon our solidarity in the redemption effected by the sacrificial union of the second Adam with the second Eve. We have no other history than that which is signed by the life, death and Resurrection of Christ. Therefore history is a theological category, because all historicity is grounded in Christo, and only in Christ may its meaning, its intelligibility, be appropriated. … "[T]he fall is headship refused, the negation of the integrity which headship appropriates."

…the same densely allusive language that he uses in C.T. I sympathized with the blank expression on the face of that earnest seeker. If Fr. Keefe were a gnostic there wouldn’t be a problem. He would simply be claiming to have a special insight that the rest of us, caught up in illusory ways of thinking, couldn’t share. …

You crack me up, man; I love your candor and way with words. But remember: gnosis is not bad, if it is exoteric, as CT is. Gnosis of Christ is, in fact, one of the most central themes in the NT. Keefe just insists Christian gnosis can ONLY be Eucharistic in form and in content. Consider the disciples who "knew Him in the breaking of the bread" (in Luke), and not before that.

I’ve read Keefe’s book on Tillich and most of his on line articles. I haven’t been able to find many reviews of the book. There was one in America that only superficially engaged his thinking: and a brief notice in First Things. I read Kelleher’s “Knuckleheads Guide”---great title and helpful too, if a bit breathless. The early part on Plato and Aristotle with the clever sidebars was brilliant. The later parts just raised more questions for me; e.g. what does he mean: “there was no ‘before’ before the fall.” The materialist approach of, say, a Pinker is hardly the only strong alternative to Keefe’s approach. The “Skyhook” piece he followed up with, where Dennett replaces Pinker, sets things up equally artificially, I think.

Please elaborate on the artificiality you perceive in Kelleher's essay.

Besides, what makes a term like radical historicity any less timeless an abstract analytical concept than hylemorphism?

See, the thing you have to keep in mind here, is that you are much more erudite than me. This is not just a matter of age (I was pre-born or just-born when you returned to Church!), but also of your obvious amount of learning in these matters.

Now, as for the "no before before before" problem, this is not endemic to Keefe's view. Cosmology has faced this problem for decades. It is not simply an empirical lack on our part that we can't peer back beneath the first nanoseconds of the cosmos. It is actually intrinsic to the coherence of scientific exploration that, as we approach the limits of physical structure, we lose the ability to apply the same categories that guide our inquiry. If we reached absolute zero time, the laws of physical, which are rooted in time and motion, would not apply, and thus our inquiry would shut down. Hence, there is not even conceivably a 'before' prior to the inception of time. St. Augustine dealt with this in his Confessions, as I'm sure you know.

What Keefe is doing, is simply shifting the index from a cosmological prius to a Eucharistic prius. There is no cosmos that began and then saw the historical emergence of this thing called the Eucharist. Rather, the Eucharist is the metaphysical prius not only of substance but also of time. Hence, in CT, there is not even conceivably a 'before' prior to the one prius that is the One Flesh. This means, I venture, that Keefe is not intrinsically opposed to cosmological thought ONCE it is predicated on the Eucharist, but he gives no quarter to the hint of cosmological autonomy. This means that he does not in principle reject analytic categories à la hylomorphism, only that the Eucharist is the only coherent grounds for hylomorphic analysis. St. Thomas, the prince of hylomorphism, followed Aristotle's lead by saying there are no nonsubstantial (i.e., non-existent) forms, but only substances individuated in matter. This however, according to Keefe, immediately opens the can of worms that subjects the Church's theology to Aristotle's autonomous cosmos. Only if we, by antithetical contrast, root hylomorphism (or Platonic Augustinian Forms, for that matter) in the prescribed Event-structure of the Eucharist, can we hope to generate a coherent AND orthodox metaphysics. The Eucharist CAN be analyzed hylomorphically, but the analysis must follow the historical structure of the Eucharist, rather than impose upon it a cosmological pattern. Such an analysis––which, it must be stressed, is not the only way to explore the Eucharist––will show how Christ fulfills the role of form and matter and substantial union; thus, hylomorphism is converted to Christ, rather than pasted over Him as in a lot of Thomism (according to Keefe).


Another essay by James Ross, "God, Creator of Kinds and Possibilities: Requiescant Universalia Ante Res" (PDF warning… and another head-splitter warning), presents powerful reasons why divine exemplarism is incoherent, and this would extend to imagining some divine exemplar for Adam before he actually existed in his possibly integral freedom, which ultimately terminated in his non-integral servitude as fallen caput hominis. Ross's main point is that possibility (i.e., creatable exemplars) are logically subsequent to actual creation. Only if Adam is, in the existentially replete manner of his actual existence, does possibility and contingency coherently apply to him. Only because Christ, the Word, as the Second Adam, was the absolute archetype of Adam, the image in the likeness, as the First Adam, is a divine Person, could He function as an 'exemplar' for actual creation. It just happens, however, that even His archetypal status is only actually and freely possible by the historical Event of His immanent offering, in sarx, in the Eucharist. His archetypal primacy for creation, and for Adam as the head of that Good Creation, is only immanent and actual in the Eucharist. Ross does not go into this, but his anti-exemplarism dovetails nicely with Keefe's so-called Eucharistic actualism.

In any case, let me cite Fr. Keefe at some length (pgs. 429–431), in order to clarify what I mean by his Eucharistic inversion of metaphysics, and how, while it may not 'escape' analytical thought, does at least 'delegitmate' and dethrone it, baptize and convert it:

"[T]he Eucharistic transubstantiation must be seen to be normative for metaphysics as only an a priori can be normative; transubstantiation is thereupon not an exception to metaphysical intelligibility arbitrarily inserted into reality as a requirement of faith, but the very criterion of metaphysical intelligibility. This is no more than the immediate implication of the recognition of the New Covenant as the prime analogate of substantial being. …

"St. Thomas… attempted, without success, to understand transubstantiation within th ea priori context of a cosmological notion of objectivity that he took for granted as already in place, and which controlled a priori what transubstantiation should be. … [T]he properly theological task is that of understanding reality under the Eucharistic criterion of historical objectivity: viz., under the a priori of the prime historical objectivity, the Eucharistic Event of transubstantiation and of Sacrifice. … [T]he problem before us is not that of fitting transubstantiation into a prevailing act-potency system, but of reinterpreting the act-potency analysis of being under the norm of this historical-liturgical a priori….

"To repeat: the task of a Thomist Eucharistic theology is not to develop an account of the Event of transubstantiation in terms of a metaphysical analysis of the intelligible immanent necessity of being, but to develop a historical and theological metaphysical analysis of being as intelligible immanent freedom in the covenantal terms which are manifest and effective in Eucharistic transubstantiation. …

"[O]nly in its theological and covenantal development does the act-potency analysis come into its own, for only in the New Covenant are the conditions of the free intrinsic intelligibility which its analytic and its hermeneutic presuppose actually met. …

"The intrinsic intelligibility of change within a material substance depends upon discovering within that substance its specific formal cause; apart from this… a devolution from act-potency to the universal hylemorphism of Neoplatonic dualism is inevitable, for the formal cause, when understood to be extrinsic to or transcendent to material substance, can only be divinity in some guise… in such wise that all formal differentiation is reductively quantitative, grounded in a greater or lesser materiality. Once again, the sole remedy for this act-potency dilemma is the free immanence in creation of the New Covenant, the formal cause of man and man's world. … [W]hen the analysis is thus normed, the cosmological notion of a substantial human species composed of formally identical but materially discrete members gives way to to that of the substantial New Covenant, membership which is free, covenantal, and intrinsically intelligible precisely as connoting a maritally-ordered and liturgical-constituted community of covenantally unique masculine and feminine persons.

"Finally, the intrinsic intelligibility of the immanence of form in matter, and consequently of the multiplicity of human beings within substantial human unity… depends upon the actuality of, and their participation in, the freely immanent formal perfection of humanity. In cosmological act-potency metaphysics, form is actually immanent in matter only as participated, not in its full perfection, which is actual either nowhere or in some version of a divine idea extrinsic to materiality. But with the conversion of act-potency metaphysics from cosmology to Covenant, this plenary formal cause of substantial humanity is freely immanent in historical human substance by the free historical ordo of the New Covenant."

… It [theology] is an extension of the liturgy and it has the same infallible actuality for the theologian as data has for scientific research.

I take this to be Keefe's most important axiom, though not one exclusive to him. T. Torrance has written a great deal about the analogously objective priority of physical reality in science and divine revelation in theology. In my 1996 edition of CT, I find five references to Torrance in the index. You should begin with Torrance's _Space, Time & Incarnation_. For Keefe, if you are somewhat conversant in general relativity theory, the Eucharist is the speed of light which grounds the whole rest of the project that is Christian theology.

For what it’s worth I think the reason Keefe is so difficult to follow goes back to the nature/grace controversies of the earlier 20th C. with people like Chenu and especially De Lubac trying to redefine or recontextualize the supernatural. But I’ll leave that for another post if you wish to respond.

This again shows how you are my better in this dialogue. But it's so nice to have a dialogue partner at last! You are right, though, considering there are something like ninety references to de Lubac in CT's index.

You seem much more at home in Keefe’s approach. Was it already familiar to you from other theological reading? How does one catch on?

I was completely unaware of Keefe's work until… gosh, I can't even recall how I found it. It must have been Kelleher's blurb about CT as Keefe's "highly abstruse but devastatingly important masterwork," which I must have found just by Googling one day. I'm kind of a masochist for hard books. Plus, when I sensed a connection between Keefe and S. Jaki (there are ten references to him in CT's index), I was like a bloodhound on the trail. I am a major "Jakophile", you see, and even started a Catholic quarterly, inFORM, to broaden awareness to his work (not to mention demystify it for less eggheaded persons than myself). http://informmag.wordpress.com/

Fr. Jaki's relentless emphasis on realism and the singular reality of the cosmos as wholly contingent on God resonate nicely with CT. … And yet, having said that, I am also mindful of the possibility that even Keefe's most important sources/ guides (e.g., John Paul II, Jaki, de Lubac, Torrance, von Balthasar, et al.) would be stunned and repulsed by ways in which their views have been deployed in CT. To wit, I suspect S. Jaki is more cosmological than Keefe would like (although it's not entirely apt to put it in terms of "liking"); Fr. Jaki, after all, is one of the leading proponents of the cosmological argument in a revised fashion. This is only to say that, while I am a huge admirer of Fr. Keefe's work and simply floored by his erudition, I am not necessarily a dogmatic Keefian. In point of fact, I am a very content Thomist, so it was and is hard to sustain the criticisms Keefe applies to Thomism. I am fully prepared to see CT suffer major critiques and blows, once it is given the proper attention by Keefe's theological peers. The fact, however, that his work, like that of Fr. Jaki, has so far been suspiciously under-attended, stirs in my poetic depths an intuition that CT really is a hidden treasure. It is neglected perhaps in the same way the Greco-Roman establishment tried to marginalize the early Gospel: and this because CT is just about as big a ticking timebomb of a
skandalon as the Gospel it aims to glorify.

Now, as for how I was able to "take to" CT, I would say two things prepared me spiritually, dispositionally, for CT, if not intellectually and theoretically.

One, in college I had gotten fairly deeply into presuppositional apologetics and, in turn, Reformed epistemology. This made me see just how feeble worldly thought is, when challenged apologetically from a radically Christian foundation. When I had both the founder and president of the campus atheist club literally at a loss for words in a debate we held on faith and reason, I lost all fear of the wisdom of man compared to the authority of God's Word. CT is Eucharistically presuppositional, yet not positivistically, but in a way that shows the flaws in a non-Eucharistic worldview. You might say presupps and Ref. epist. gave me an analogous theoretical prep for CT.

Second, the one thing that really drew me into the Catholic Church––and indeed the only thing I think that should draw anyone––is the Eucharist. Although I am a very shabby Catholic in many ways, I have never and pray I never will lose my bedrock love for and confidence in the Eucharistic Christ as my Savior and Healer. The Eucharist, to be blunt, is just about the only thing that has unambiguous value and meaning for me. So, when I find a book that roots the entire world in the Eucharist, in a way that I find my own entire life is rooted in it, I am all ears.

But trust me: CT was one of the most challenging, humbling intellectual experiences of my life. And I'm still not even really done with it. I've been making my way through the notes for months, between my other reading efforts, and intend to re-read the entire beast again.


P.S. Are you any relation to the Confederate officer at First Bull Run?

I doubt it. My paternal great-grandparents came from Greece in the early 20th century.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Elliot,
I am trying to read through Kelleher's introduction at present, so pardon me if my question is ignorant. What does Father Keefe have to say about the distinction between the economic Trinity and the Trinity in itself. If "dehistoricized cosmology" is a no-no, then it would seem that our only knowledge of the Trinity is economic and that this tells us nothing about God in Himself. Moreover, isn't there a difficulty with creedal formulas which speak of the Word of God as "eternally begotten of the Father"? How is such a phrase to be understood if it is to be "historicized" in some sense?
Again, pardon me for my ignorance here.

Ed

the Cogitator said...

Ed:

Fr. Keefe is explicit about the identity of the immanent and economic Trinity. I would go so far as to say that the very insistence upon such a dichotomy is, for Keefe, to beg the question in favor of cosmological thinking. To quote him (pardon my typing, I haven't much time):

"…the nonhistorical immanent-Trinitarian notion of pre-existence… is ruled out of discussion. It is simply incompatible with the Johannine use of the word elsewhere, which contrasts sarx with pneuma… not with some prior cosmological dissociation of God as Logos from humanity, as also it is incompatible with the Pauline understanding of the Logos ensarkikos…. Such exegesis assumes that the New Testament's attribution of pre-existence to the Son… has the nonhistorical sense that pre-existence had for Middle Platonism. This cosmological mistake imposed a two-stage Christology upon the patristic imagination…. [He cites F.-X. Durrwell:] 'It is the Christ of glory, and not the Logos considered outside the mystery of the Incarnation.' … The cosmological mindset… poses the impossible because false problem… of understanding how the absolute and immutable God can pass from a prior condition of nonrelation to created human finitude to a subsequent one of free relation to it…. Such rationalist speculation betrays its cosmological basis by its immediate substitution of a nonhistorical immanent-Trinitarian status quo ante for the historical revelation… the same sort of dehistoricization… [which] prevented any metaphysical inquiry into the concrete historical-covenantal reality of the Mission of the Son which is the actual economy of our redemption. … [T]he separation of the Trinitarian faith from the revelation in Christ which grounds it deforms its truth…. As Mary's maternity cannot be restricted to her Son's humanity, neither can the exegesis of the scriptural references to the pre-existence of the Son restrict this to his divinity…. The cosmological imagination insists upon visualizing this Mission nonhistorically, understanding it as ab aeterno… and thereafter is trapped in the false problem of finding a passage from cosmos to history. … [N]either Paul's Gospel nor John's are cosmological statements; rather, they bear upon the historical man, Jesus the Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, who is known to be such only in his institution of the New Covenant, behind which theology is forbidden to go for further information about the 'pure' nonhistorical natures of God or man antecedent to the Mission of the Son. … In sum, the pre-existent Christ, whether the Logos of John 1:14 or the subject of the kenosis in Phil 2:5–11, is not pre-human, and the sarx egeneto of Jn 1:14 and the kenosis of Phil 2:7 do not refer to his hominization, but to his being 'made sin,' his entry into our sarx or fallenness, and not simply into our humanity."
(pp. 284–285)

Keefe does not deny God exists from eternity; he simply denies that we exist to and in Him in any way apart from the actual historical Mission of the Son, WHICH IS BOTH CREATIVE AND REDEMPTIVE. There is simply no other 'structure' or 'reason' antecedent to the Trinity's actual creation of the actual world, a creation which is one with its redemption in the New Covenant, which, in turn, is only actual in the historical action of the Eucharistic synaxis. Eternity, apart from creation, is meaningless, since it is only in contrast to the creation's temporal finitude that we have a sense of divine eternity. Eternity, however, in relation to creation is a METAPHYSICAL priority, not simply a temporal 'run up' to the actual world. Likewise, 'God' is only a coherent term in relation to creation (as nature's God and man's God). Consider: Is the Father 'God' to the Son? Is any divine Person 'God' to any other divine Person? I should say not. God is simply the covenantal ontology of the divine Persons in their being as Love. Once, however, 'God' exists in the act of creation, there is simply no way, according to Keefe, to know to and worship the CHRISTIAN God outside the free, historical immanence of the Covenant Event.

This is perhaps too hasty a reply, but we should keep the thread going. I'll be out of town for a little while, but please feel free to add on.

Anonymous said...

Daniel O’Sullivan
zeugmatics@verizon.net

Elliot:

Your 3rd insert on “pagan”
It is true that the breakdown of the scholastic synthesis got going with Ockham and nominalism, which provided Luther’s philosophical background, and then Protestantism and in its unwilling wake, naturalism, liberal individualism and the Enlightenment. But Keefe also stresses that Aquinas’ Deus Unus, Simple, Immutable etc. was a distorting pagan (read Greek) inheritance.

Another point. For Aristotle, to understand something is to grasp it in terms of its necessary causes---why some thing has to be the way it is. This led, Keefe holds, to vain searches for necessary reasons for the Incarnation, like St.Anselm’s: that original sin was the reason. “Propter peccatum sensu negante” is a phrase Keefe often uses dismissively to tag similar accounts of this reason for the Son’s mission. You could also add the explanation for Mary’s perpetual virginity, or difficulties about our cooperation with Actual Grace--- the de auxilliis debates. Rigorously following Aristotle can lead to Tolstoy’s apercu that free will is another name for ignorance about the future.

5th insert

You don’t deal with the “cosmological consciousness” that binds (and blinds) us. Aquinas didn’t employ Aristotle’s philosophy because of its prestige value. He thought that it was true because it was so convincing. With the proper updating it still is. Most scientists behave like Aristotelians in the lab. On soap boxes maybe not. His metaphysics explained the conditions that had to hold for things to be as they were, and his logic, modeled on these conditions, made us aware of why we reason the way we do. If the whole cosmos is fallen, (I’ll get to this later) then metaphysics and its logic, our reasoning, is fallen too. To talk about a fallen cosmos is something of a departure, I think, from Catholic understanding that talks only of fallen man. And if it is true that it is fallen how would someone even manage to realize it? Where would you stand to see what nobody else can see?

Which brings up the Archimedean point. Human thinking transcends itself. When we reflect on our own thinking or when we consider that a state of affairs could be otherwise than it is, we are doing something which, though natural, has no analog in nature. So we have nothing else to refer to, that would help us pick out what we are doing. “Transcend” just means to climb over. Standing away from ourselves at another place is another way of expressing it. I used Archimedean because Keefe wants to move the world of Catholic theology in another direction.

I understand that you were only picking up on the phrase to develop a point that I wasn’t really dealing with. But in a sense I was. There really is something timeless and spaceless about our ability to reflect, pace Kelleher. Take the proposition (not the verbal expression) “It is true that it was raining yesterday, the 12th of Oct. etc, here in etc.” Where is this proposition? When does it stop being true?

Now to the crucial issue. You say that the world, as the Eucharistic immanence of Christ, is the prime analogate for Keefe. I’m not sure that this is accurate, In the Keefe citation just below the first Ross entry it’s the Trinitarian mission that is so described. Perhaps Keefe extends the analogate to include the world covenantally. Anyway, in Thomism, as I understand it, we can talk about God positively only in terms of His creation. These are only dimly analogous terms that we can predicate about God. God is the prime analogate. The propositions, that God is, and what God is, point to identical and necessary realities. The other analogate, created substances, are contingent both in the sense that they need not be at all (existence), and that they need not remain the kind of things they happen to be (essence). They can become other kinds of things.

I don’t understand how the world can be the prime analogate even if it contains, in some fashion, the Eucharistic immanence of Christ. In the beginning of the fourth Gospel John says that all things were made through the Logos and “in Him was life.” This has traditionally been understood to mean that the Logos, as the conceptual presence of the Father to Himself and a person (a spiritual existence) in its own right was the medium or means through which the Father conceived and created the world. But the world is not the expression of the Father’s nature; and therefore neither of the Son’s., but a free ,if dependent kind of existence of its own. Its only similarity to God’s nature is that it is real (has esse.) The world is not a material elaboration or mirroring of what God is. Neo-Platonism is an intoxicating vision. And its modern version, which replaces this elaboration as vertical descent, with a horizontal development in time, is equally toxic to Catholic orthodoxy, it seems to me.

Ross and the hermeneutic circle.

That only professional insiders can determine aesthetic value is certainly true today in the avant-garde quarters of the various arts to which for a time I was a loyal adherent. It isn’t true of the popular arts: plays, movies, novels etc., and I don’t think it was true for the arts in general before 1870, when romantic individualism stopped revering the common ground of human nature and turned into alienation. Read the comments in a typical issue of Artforum and it might become clearer why the word, hermeneutics, is cognate with the word, Hermes. Among other things he was the god of frauds.

Insert 6 on the fall.

Keefe sometimes contrasts structure with order in this way. An order is a freely offered and freely accepted set of relations. A structure is built up out of forces that necessarily impose themselves--- a molecule, or a Marxist class system. Its attraction is that, once accepted, it is intelligible because predictable. When Keefe talks about the fall, he seems to be saying that in refusing the covenantal order of creation, Adam put himself under the domination of the “principalities and powers” who enforced the laws not only of an imprisoning logic, but also of an implacable universe that generated them. But it didn’t have to be this way. He also seems to say that Christ, covenantally incorporate (Eucharistically immanent) in the cosmos which was his body, became an incarnate Christ, weak suffering flesh, sarx, when this refusal of Adam happened. The Incarnation proper only manifested what was already the case. I find this a shattering notion and rebel against it because it means, I think, that even though risen and triumphant, He continues to suffer as sarx in the world today. He really suffers in His members. Many Catholic mystics say it is true.

When I used the word, responsible, I was trying to bring out not culpability but agency. How could Adam act at all until he had been created? Whether it was microseconds after his creation, or hours, or weeks, he had to have been constituted with a full human nature to accept or reject the offer. But Keefe insists it was simultaneous. Since I couldn’t see why simultaneity was so important to his discussion of the fall, I suspected that his reasons would give me as insight into his whole approach. That’s why I asked him about it at dinner.

What I think you’re saying is that Adam was created in the natural state that we share today but without the distorting burden of sinful habits that we have. If he had accepted the covenant which involved headship and integral freedom and implied some kind of recognition of the of the immanent Christ, then he would have actualized for himself and us the state of original justice with its concomitant graces and gifts and destiny of Glory. If this is an accurate picture of what you’re saying you would be describing not a fall from something but a failure to ascend to something higher.

In the second paragraph at “…were the fall from some pristine order…” I don’t follow; I don’t see the force of the argument. If Adam had the gift of integrity, it would mean that his sentient and emotional lives, his bodily appetites, were perfectly ordered to his rational life. It wouldn’t mean that a superior rational life, Satan, couldn’t mislead him.

But this is all beside the point. Keefe is saying that Adam emerged from the very act of creation as fallen. As Kelleher puts it, “there was no ‘before’ before the fall.” You comment on this along the lines of “there was no time before time began.” You might argue there was no history in the sense of moral action before the fall. But there would seem to be a natural history that preceded it. After all man appears at a certain point in this natural history. But you’re saying none of this applies. I’m relying on a pagan cosmological prius. Terms like “metaphysical prius” and the equivocal “primordial” are often invoked by Keefe to bypass these objections. But metaphysics lays bear what is ultimately implicit in actual things that happen.

Bernard Lonergan S.J. keeps stressing that insight comes from holding in tension the inchoate idea of something and its sensory image, a picture, an example. By the way that’s what I liked about that earlier post of yours with the series of proportions, a:b::b:c::c:d… Comparisons bring out the common feature more vividly, and comparisons of relations even more so. Lonergan sees this latter kind of correlation as the paradigm of explaining as opposed to describing.

The point is how can I picture this metaphysical prius? What kind of situation would it
Condition? Does God offer a potential Adam the covenant, which, refused, leads to the creation of a fallen cosmos and a fallen Adam? Does God foresee how Adam will, in fact, choose and then creates a cosmos accordingly? Neither of these is satisfying. Potentials can’t act. Foreseeing just begs the question.

I think the reason Keefe makes this strange claim is, perhaps, because he understands the natural order to be a fallen version of the supernatural order. If Adam actually enjoyed existence before the fall, for all intents and purposes, he would be a Christ proxy who couldn’t sin. (As I indicated in the first posting, I’ll deal with this nature/ grace issue in a later post) But Catholicism traditionally understands that only man is fallen not the rest of the cosmos, and which is simply a creation and not an expression of God. His fall was from supernatural graces and gifts on which he had no natural claim. His natural state was left essentially intact. You can explain what some stories mean. Other stories, like Genesis, just show.

Insert 8: some artificiality in Kelleher.

He wants to make Keefe the only way or the best way for Catholic theology to go. So he dismisses a range of alternative theorizing about the import of science on our understanding as not being brave or bright enough. But its really, I think, because people like Pinker and Dennett present such uncompromising, or better, exclusive, materialist claims that only Keefe’s theology, as Kelleher understands it, could accommodate them.

Think of the alternative that Roger Penrose presents. A Nobel laureate in mathematics who, though committed to a version of naturalism, still considers himself a Platonist of sorts. He undermined ,some would say definitively, the strong AI (artificial intelligence) position that human thinking is computational. He used Godel’s incompleteness theorems to demonstrate that no algorithm (read program) can escape certain formal limitations whereas the mind is free to step back and see why it’s blocked and go around another way.

Or take John Searle, the British philosopher. He too is a secular naturalist. He objects to the brain only, materialist models of thought that people like Dennett and the Churchlands propose. They claim that personal consciousness if it even exists is just some phosphorescence and has no effect on brain activity. He thinks they skip over too much and their findings don’t match up with common human experience.

He sets up a famous thought experiment, called the Chinese Room, loosely based on the Turing test that purported to show whether computers think like people. For Turing, if you submit questions to two hidden recipients, one human and one a machine, and if you can’t tell from the answers which is which, then Turing would say, “Yes, they do!” Well Searle imagines a situation where some Chinese people submit messages in their language to you who are both hidden behind a curtain and know not a word of Chinese. You consult your manual to find a Chinese matching entry and follow an instruction about picking out another Chinese message from a stack (you’re very fast at this), which you slide back under the curtain. Your answer satisfies the recipient, but you don’t know what he asked or what you answered. That, says Searle, is what a computer is like. It’s not like the human mind.

There are many Aristotelians and Thomists around who wouldn’t be able to engage Dennett et al. positively, but who engage with science very well. (Check out David Oderberg’s online article, Hylemorphic Dualism, at his web site, for an interesting example.) But so what? The radical materialists are hardly likely to be right. I mean it’s pathetic to watch a Dennett try to persuade you to change your mind by rational argument about how you understand the world, including your own thinking, a world which he insists is purposeless, determined, mindless material events. The irony of his position seems to escape him. He should be written up in the psychiatric journals under “epistemic bilocation.”

As for the “Skyhook” vulgarism: The Immaculate Conception appeared over a series of days to St. Bernadette. Where did she come from? Where did she go? Did she just disappear into some task bar at the bottom of the world?

I’m skipping over to insert 10.

I’ll deal with the Ross and Torrance material in another post. I don’t remember reading about Christ as the speed of light. Fascinating. What could it mean? There is one other thing. The idea of a universal Eucharistic immanence seems to detract from the centrality of the actual celebration of the Mass. Wouldn’t an actually consecrated Host be only a more intelligible, transparent instance of something that is present everywhere anyway? Or is it that the Eucharistic immanence in the world is of the still suffering Christ as sarx, and the Host is of the risen, glorified body?

In my comment just above that insert you supply the word, “theology”, to identify “it.” The word should be “doctrine,” which is the bishops teaching and is an extension of their preaching in the liturgy. There was one other observation of Keefe’s that struck me as powerful and useful. I owe it to Kelleher for reminding me of it in his note on p.157 of Knucklehead. Christ has turned Himself into each of our own deaths, which we baptized have sacramentally anticipated, and whom the unbaptized can appropriate in real death. This is a far more compelling way of dealing fairly with the problem of invincible ignorance etc. than Rahner’s vague solution of the anonymous Christian or the “naturally graced” incoherence of De Lubac.

At insert 11

You mention presuppositional apologetics. Is this the kind of approach that Alvin Plantinga introduced?

By the way when you respond don’t bother to support what you say with quotes from Keefe. Put things in your own words so I can learn by comparing perspectives. Like triangulation. Keefe explaining Keefe just makes it harder.

Anonymous said...

[This is Elliot]

I would like to address you as Daniel, unless you prefer something else.

I haven't even read your whole comment yet but I wanted to clear up a HUGE misunderstanding in it about the prime analogate. The fault is basically mine, as I expressed the point poorly, or perhaps, too tersely. When I wrote "The world, for him, IS the Eucharistic immanence of Christ; it is the prime analogate of being.", I can see how you might take me to mean "the world… is the prime analogate", but as you sense, this is not in tune with what I cited from Keefe, and, indeed, is NOT AT ALL what I mean, nor at all what Keefe means.

The Eucharistic covenant is the prime analogate of being and theology.

Just wanted to clear THAT up, since it might color your basic response to my response.

Now I will continue reading your response to my response. Recursive.

the Cogitator said...

Daniel :

I will number the points henceforth, to keep things neat and tidy for future dialogue. You are in bold.

1. … But Keefe also stresses that Aquinas’ Deus Unus, Simple, Immutable etc. was a distorting pagan (read Greek) inheritance.

1'. I'm just about to claw my eyes out because I can't find my copy of Ratzinger's *Feast of Faith*… but I recall, unfortunately not clearly enough, he made comments along the same lines. Aristotle's Prime Mover is simply not the God the Church worships. Not that Thomism says it is, but Ratzinger is aware of the dangers of such a trend in Thomist thought. He is, after all, a self-confessed Augustinian. I also believe C. Yannaras lays into the idea in his book, *On the Absence and Unknowability of God*.

2. …“Propter peccatum sensu negante” is a phrase Keefe often uses dismissively to tag similar accounts of this reason for the Son’s mission. You could also add the explanation for Mary’s perpetual virginity, or difficulties about our cooperation with Actual Grace--- the de auxilliis debates. Rigorously following Aristotle can lead to Tolstoy’s apercu that free will is another name for ignorance about the future.

2'. Keefe writes from a Scotist-Salesian perspective, at least vis-à-vis the eternal order of the Incarnation, versus its more Anselmian formulation as a 'rescue'. He is certainly not a Scotist simpliciter (cf. eg., his rejection of Scotism's negation of illumination on pg. 527). Cf. St. Francis, Love of God, Bk. 2, c. 4. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/love.iii.iv.html

3. You don’t deal with the “cosmological consciousness” that binds (and blinds) us. Aquinas didn’t employ Aristotle’s philosophy because of its prestige value. He thought that it was true because it was so convincing. With the proper updating it still is. … His metaphysics explained the conditions that had to hold for things to be as they were… If the whole cosmos is fallen, (I’ll get to this later) then metaphysics and its logic, our reasoning, is fallen too. To talk about a fallen cosmos is something of a departure, I think, from Catholic understanding that talks only of fallen man. And if it is true that it is fallen how would someone even manage to realize it? Where would you stand to see what nobody else can see?

3'. I'm not sure how to reply to this. I'd rather avoid saying too much. It's a subtle and profound topic, so I need time for reflection. I agree that Thomism rocks! I am a Thomist, in fieri, at least.

3a'. As for the fallenness of the Cosmos in toto, however, I think it has more grounds than you realize.

3aa'. Consider Romans 8:18ff.:

[18] I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
[19] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God;
[20] for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope;
[21] because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
[22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
[23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.


3ab'. Consider also CCC §400f.:

The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.286 … After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin….

3b'. Where do we stand to see the fallenness of the world? In Christ, and that, in the Eucharistic Covenant. Recall how Keefe keeps referring to the Augustinian "intuition of unity" as primal sense of a higher good behind the temporal fragmentation of this world. The same problem, or Sehnsucht, if you will, is treated in Thomism in terms of actus-potentia (why some things are more real than others and how all things wither and die). There is in Augustinianism divine illumination (Jn 1:4) and in Thomism a trahi a Deo (Jn 6:44); these are, it is true, cosmological pointers to God, but Keefe insists this immanent intelligibility of the world AS God's creation can only be coherently and faithfully rooted and articulated in the historical Eucharist.

Just as I was writing, I began to see how I might reply to your point about the value of Thomism. I just don't think Keefe is as unilaterally dismissive of metaphysics as you think. I believe he grants them value IF AND ONLY IF they are predicated on the Eucharist as their prime analogate. This means that Thomism can still make sense of the world, but shouldn't do so, as a Christian philosophy, as if the Eucharist were simply a divine truth tacked on to an otherwise sound worldview. In other words, I think Keefe might say, if Thomism CAN 'explain the world' without reference to the Eucharist (as the root bed of the Incarnation), then it would not only fail to be a Catholic philosophy, but would also actually fail to explain the world by leaving out the Eucharist!

4. …the Archimedean point. Human thinking transcends itself. When we reflect on our own thinking or when we consider that a state of affairs could be otherwise than it is, we are doing something which, though natural, has no analog in nature. …

4'. I heartily agree. You can check my archives for the many times I've pondered the immaterial character of the intellect. That is just what I was exploring in this post at Philper: http://perennis.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/take-a-long-slip-of-paper%e2%80%a6/

4a. So we have nothing else to refer to, that would help us pick out what we are doing. …

4a'. Something about this strikes me as odd. My first problem is that I deny we can actually 'observe' our mental percepts; we can only observe perceived reality in our percepts. But I don't think this gets at your point. Perhaps I fail to grasp the relevance of your point vis-à-vis CT. The same goes for what you say next.

4b. There really is something timeless and spaceless about our ability to reflect, pace Kelleher. Take the proposition (not the verbal expression) “It is true that it was raining yesterday, the 12th of Oct. etc, here in etc.” Where is this proposition? When does it stop being true?

4b'. I think you are trying to argue that the immaterial, timeless character of intellectual and propositions truth cuts against Keefe's radically historicized theology. But I'm not sure it does. His point is not that God, as pure spirit, does not transcend the world, nor, consequently, is his point that our minds cannot transcend the world in an immaterial way. His point is rather that the only way in which God can be known IN the world to transcend it, is by means of His Presence in the Eucharist. It is the source and summit of all our knowledge of God. That does not, however, negate the fact that you or I can grasp idea by immaterial, timeless means, viz., the intellect. Keefe states bluntly: "St. Thomas denied all real relation of God to creatures (ST Ia, q. 13, a. 7, c.), and made God incapable of the Chalcedonian 'one and the same'." (pg. 677)

4ba'. I cite Keefe mainly to get his material on the internet, that universal notebook from which I can always copy and paste materials for later essays.

5. Now to the crucial issue. You say that the world, as the Eucharistic immanence of Christ, is the prime analogate for Keefe.

5'. Noooooo! I already addressed this misunderstanding in my previous comment, so I will move on.

5a. Anyway, in Thomism, as I understand it, we can talk about God positively only in terms of His creation. These are only dimly analogous terms that we can predicate about God. God is the prime analogate. …

5a'. Yes, God is the prime analogate… but how do we know God? Keefe argues only IN the Eucharist, in Christo. Once that is granted as the axiomatic controller of all subsequent discourse, metaphysics can hammer away at the world for apologetics, etc. So again, Keefe is not wholesale rejecting analogy and metaphysics, but simply refusing a premise that we can work from a 'de-eucharized' cosmos to God. God created the world to reveal Himself to us, yes, but He reveals Himself to us in Christo, in the Eucharist. That is how Catholic metaphysics can stay true to itself and resist the cosmological pessimism of paganism, et al.

5b. …But the world is not the expression of the Father’s nature; and therefore neither of the Son’s., but a free ,if dependent kind of existence of its own. Its only similarity to God’s nature is that it is real (has esse.)

5b'. Agreed. Here I want to try to clarify a point about the spiritual existence of God. What seems to irk you most about Keefe's Eucharistic realism, is how it seems to deny spiritual existence (divinity, angels, souls, intellectual ideas, etc.) as a dehistoricized vestiges of the cosmological imagination. I don't think CT poses that kind of threat. All I see it saying is that, while God exists 'in Himself' as pure spirit, three Persons in one divine nature, He exists as Creator only by means of, and in the mode of, Christ in the Eucharist. God did not need the creation, therefore, to be God (qua divinity); but He does need the Eucharist to be the God of creation.

5c. The world is not a material elaboration or mirroring of what God is. Neo-Platonism is an intoxicating vision. And its modern version, which replaces this elaboration as vertical descent, with a horizontal development in time, is equally toxic to Catholic orthodoxy, it seems to me.

5c'. Are you referring to the evolutionist paradigm here?

6. Ross and the hermeneutic circle.

That only professional insiders can determine aesthetic value is certainly true today in the avant-garde quarters of the various arts to which for a time I was a loyal adherent. …


6'. Well, let me put it this way: Who can tell the composer his piece is bad: the audience or the composer's fellow musicians? Who can better improvise and create? A formally trained, apprenticed 'insider' or a freewheeling non-musician "messing around in his garage"?

Who can tell a native English speaker his style and diction are weak: fellow native speakers or non-native students of the language?

Who, for that matter, can tell us more about our faith: the New Atheists and a horde of anti-Catholic apologists, or fellow Catholic who have been 'apprenticed' in the faith and have sensibly lived its 'life-ways' (à la Wittgenstein)?

Ross is not talking about high-art snobbery, but about the very bounds of artistic 'wisdom' and tradition.

7. … The Incarnation proper only manifested what was already the case. I find this a shattering notion and rebel against it because it means, I think, that even though risen and triumphant, He continues to suffer as sarx in the world today. He really suffers in His members. Many Catholic mystics say it is true.

7'. This gets back to Keefe's Scotist-Salesian view of the Incarnation as a basic order of creation. V. Lossky, e.g., makes it clear in *Orthodox Theology* that this view was de rigeur for the eastern Fathers as well. You should read "Cur Deus Homo? The Motive of the Incarnation" by Fr. George Florovsky, available here: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/voploschenie_florovsky_e.htm

7a'. As for the suffering of Christ, well, yes I think that's a reality. But it's only true in a sacramental sense. By that I mean something I honestly cannot articulate right now. But what I am trying to say is this: just as Christ is truly BUT SACRAMENTALLY present in the Eucharist (as one and the same offering at Calvary), so I think he truly BUT SACRAMENTALLY suffers in those who receive Him in the Eucharist. Sacramental presence is a special, weird kind of presence; so I think His ascended suffering is also weird and counter-intuitive. But I know He is risen as the Intercessor, ante Patrem semper interpellans. His intercession still means He is, mysteriously, entangled in the sufferings of us for whom He intercedes. As we read in Colossians 1:

[26] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
[27] Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.


8. …I couldn’t see why simultaneity was so important to his discussion of the fall, I suspected that his reasons would give me as insight into his whole approach. That’s why I asked him about it at dinner.

8'. You might want to ponder the nominalist problem with the "hoc est enim corpus meum", which Keefe goes into. Is the utterance of "hoc" the key word? Or is it "est"? Etc. Keefe says that only by taking the whole phrase as one sacramental action, or covenantal event, can we render it both as a historical act (emitted in spacetime from a man's mouth) AND SIMULTANEOUSLY as a supremely metaphysical act that grounds all of creation in Christ.

9. …he would have actualized for himself and us the state of original justice with its concomitant graces and gifts and destiny of Glory. If this is an accurate picture of what you’re saying you would be describing not a fall from something but a failure to ascend to something higher.

9'. Again, the fall, patristically understood, is not a fall from some good on its own, but actually a fall from the path God intended for mankind all along, namely, to be one with Him in Christ. It was a fall not from nature as such but from nature as a means of theosis. Unfallen human nature is, thus, like the material of a sacrament, the Sacrament of Theosis. But now only in the person of Christ can mankind find that sacrament for itself. The second Adam is now the redemptive guide for fallen humans, but also was the metaphysical paradigm from which the first Adam fell. The fall of man, thus, was not a fall from an intrinsically inadequate state of nature, but a fall from a state of nature created in order to be divinized, thus, extrinsically inadequate, as it were. Adam was, thus, not 'guilty' of being less than God, but, upon sinning, guilty of blocking his, and all humans' created natural capacity for God (epektasis, trahi a Deo).

10. In the second paragraph at “…were the fall from some pristine order…” I don’t follow; I don’t see the force of the argument. …

10'. I was also unhappy with how I phrased the point. I will see if I can polish it up. Assuming it even makes sense to me, of course! The basic point is that, for Keefe, positing some prior METAPHYSICAL mode of existence which is not an 'encounter' as it were between the first and last Adam, is to subject that first Adam either to the rational necessities of that structure, or detach him from meaning as being 'thrown' (à la Sartre) into an arbitrary order. The fall of Adam is not a fault that took place 'in history', but rather a primally moral action that engenders history in which its consequences are worked out.

11. … As Kelleher puts it, “there was no ‘before’ before the fall.” You comment on this along the lines of “there was no time before time began.” You might argue there was no history in the sense of moral action before the fall. But there would seem to be a natural history that preceded it. After all man appears at a certain point in this natural history. But you’re saying none of this applies. I’m relying on a pagan cosmological prius. …

11'. Even if we grant the evolutionary saga of homo sapiens (which I more or less do and which I believe Keefe does as well), at whatever point in geological time the biological matter of our species of 'hominized', it was THAT moment in which mankind fell in Adam. And, yes, it is THAT moment that engenders history as a moral and theological category, insofar as that 'episode' occurred in moral opposition to the Eucharist Covenant ordered in the last Adam. We have to "go to Mass", in other words, as historical tradition and historical action, because the first Adam, mysteriously, in the very depths of creation, did not go to the last Adam in celebration. We have to cling to the Tree of Christ because Adam clung to the tree of gnosis. By analogy, imagine if you objected to the fall of HUMANKIND because it never had a chance 'before' Adam. Our birth (creation) in Adam is simultaneous with our fall in him. Adam was the serial mode of our united fall in spacetime, just as Keefe says his simultaneous creation and fall was the metaphysical mode of our fall in the eyes of God.

12. … By the way that’s what I liked about that earlier post of yours with the series of proportions, a:b::b:c::c:d… Comparisons bring out the common feature more vividly, and comparisons of relations even more so. Lonergan sees this latter kind of correlation as the paradigm of explaining as opposed to describing.

The point is how can I picture this metaphysical prius? What kind of situation would it Condition? … Does God foresee how Adam will, in fact, choose and then creates a cosmos accordingly? Neither of these is satisfying. Potentials can’t act. Foreseeing just begs the question.


12'. Admittedly a very hard thing to visualize. I am sympathetic to your point. But I am also skittish about the power of visualization in certain matters. We can all 'picture' the Trinity, but we also know each analogy is crucially 'off'. Our imagination and reason, as St. Thomas argued, can only take us so far.

I am getting tired. I can only cite St. Francis right now:

"God knew from all eternity that he could make an innumerable multitude of creatures with divers perfections and qualities, to whom he might communicate himself, and considering that amongst all the different communications there was none so excellent as that of uniting himself to some created nature, in such sort that the creature might be engrafted and implanted in the divinity, and become one single person with it, his infinite goodness, which of itself and by itself tends towards communication, resolved and determined to communicate himself in this manner. So that, as eternally there is an essential communication in God by which the Father communicates all his infinite and indivisible divinity to the Son in producing him, and the Father and the Son together producing the Holy Ghost communicate to him also their own singular divinity;—so this sovereign sweetness was so perfectly communicated externally to a creature, that the created nature and the divinity, retaining each of them its own properties, were notwithstanding so united together that they were but one same person. …

"Furthermore the sacred providence determined to produce all other things as well natural as supernatural in behalf of Our Saviour, in order that angels and men might, by serving him, share in his glory; on which account, although God willed to create both angels and men with free-will, free with a true freedom to choose evil or good, still, to show that on the part of the divine goodness they were dedicated to good and to glory, he created them all in original justice, which is no other thing than a most sweet love, which disposed, turned and set them forward towards eternal felicity.

"But because this supreme wisdom had determined so to temper this original love with the will of his creatures that love should not force the will but should leave it in its freedom, he foresaw that a part, yet the less part, of the angelic nature, voluntarily quitting holy love, would consequently lose glory.

"He also clearly foresaw that the first man would abuse his liberty and forsaking grace would lose glory, yet would he not treat human nature so rigorously as he determined to treat the angelic. It was human nature of which he had determined to take a blessed portion to unite it to his divinity. …"

–– TLG, Bk. 2, ch. 4

13. He [Kelleher] wants to make Keefe the only way or the best way for Catholic theology to go. So he dismisses a range of alternative theorizing about the import of science on our understanding as not being brave or bright enough. …

13'. No comment.

14. …it’s pathetic to watch a Dennett try to persuade you to change your mind by rational argument about how you understand the world, including your own thinking, a world which he insists is purposeless, determined, mindless material events. The irony of his position seems to escape him. He should be written up in the psychiatric journals under “epistemic bilocation.”

14'. Oh, yes, Dennett is a sorry case. I suspect your familiar with the work of Finnis, Grisez, and Boyle on the self-refuting character of espoused determinism. Check my archives here and at Philper for Dennett and the like. I love the "epistemic bilocation" tag.

15. As for the “Skyhook” vulgarism: The Immaculate Conception appeared over a series of days to St. Bernadette. Where did she come from? Where did she go? Did she just disappear into some task bar at the bottom of the world?

15'. No comment.

16. I’ll deal with the Ross and Torrance material in another post. I don’t remember reading about Christ as the speed of light. Fascinating. What could it mean?

16'. I think Augustine or some Father spoke long ago of Christ in almost relativistic terms as moving uniformly through the world, as the lumen mundi, just as light fills a room in a twinkling. The idea is that Christ is THE invariance for rational discourse and value, and that this is disclosed 'empirically' in the Incarnation, Scriptures, and Liturgy.

17. …The idea of a universal Eucharistic immanence seems to detract from the centrality of the actual celebration of the Mass. Wouldn’t an actually consecrated Host be only a more intelligible, transparent instance of something that is present everywhere anyway? Or is it that the Eucharistic immanence in the world is of the still suffering Christ as sarx, and the Host is of the risen, glorified body?

17'. As I said in the annoying thread at Philper (with that Wheeler Hellenophile), I don't think the FUNDAMENTAL nature of the Eucharist entails it is EXHAUSTIVE in the ecclesial life. Since the Mass is one, any particular offering of it, is a particular instance of a deeper truth, only that, recursively, this 'deeper' truth and order is as a matter of FACT historically actuated only in the particular acts of worship.

18. …Christ has turned Himself into each of our own deaths, which we baptized have sacramentally anticipated, and whom the unbaptized can appropriate in real death. This is a far more compelling way of dealing fairly with the problem of invincible ignorance etc. than Rahner’s vague solution of the anonymous Christian or the “naturally graced” incoherence of De Lubac.

18'. No comment.

19. You mention presuppositional apologetics. Is this the kind of approach that Alvin Plantinga introduced?

19'. No. Presupps began, formally, I would say, with Bavinck and Dooyeweerd, also C. van Til. Plantinga is far more 'rationalistic' than most presuppers would condone.

20. …Keefe explaining Keefe just makes it harder.

20'. That should be a bumper sticker.

* * * * * * * * *

Let me close this round by saying I am still quite wobbly on CT (as well as the tons of scholarship it presupposes), so you can't expect too rigorous of a defense from me. I have a feeling you are looking to me as the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. ☺ I am, let us say, a "soft Keefian".

Are you familiar with Muller's and Duncan's responses to Keefe's précis of CT in the St. Anselm journal? And how about D. Meconi's short Keefian article on history and pessimism? Meconi studied under Keefe, and is now at Oxford, last I knew.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

Daniel O’Sullivan zeugmatics@verizon.net

Elliott:
Ed’s question goes to the heart of many of the issues we have been dealing with. Why is discussion of the Immanent Trinity ruled out of court? You respond with two important points of Keefe’s. First, a revisionist reading of the Incarnation and of kenosis as referring, not to the entry of the Logos into history at a certain moment of time, but to the “primordial” immanence of Christ in the world as sarx because of the fall---sarx as weak, suffering flesh, as opposed to pneuma, the spiritualized, glorified body. Whether Keefe thinks this immanence is actually or potentially present I do not know. What I mean is, does it only become actual at the Paschal mystery and its subsequent representations in the Mass? I assume it is actual all the time but in different ways. I’ll get to this later. The first point could be a valid reinterpretation of Jn. 1:14. It doesn’t clearly violate the “…incarnatus…et homo (not caro) factus est…” of the creed.

Second, he also says that Thomas’ Deus Unus, (the Immanent Trinity) with its Aristotelian profile, has no relation to the world and could not intervene in it, at least if Thomas were really systematic. But Aristotle’s isn’t Thomas’ God, even on the level of metaphysics. Aristotle had no notion of creation from nothing. His God, at the summit of the cosmos, as pure self-reflective form or essence, was still a part of the cosmos; but had nothing to do with the lower forms, generating and corrupting in an eternal substrate of prime matter. (Prime matter, by the way, would obscure our understanding of transubstantiation as Thomas analyzed it. Mike Liccione’s post on transubstantiation and the comments there, bring this out. I’ll come back to this later.) The eternity of his cosmos kept Aristotle from realizing that “being” has a distinct existential as well as an essentialist meaning. “Being” does not just mean being this kind of thing. The closest Aristotle came to the existential understanding of being was in the affirmation, or assertion. But it was still an affirmation of being some kind of thing.

It is in this existential order that Thomas sees the relation that God has to the world, as its creator, sustainer, and in the charity he lavishes on the variety of ways of existence that it displays. In the citation from the Summa that Keefe cites Thomas is not denying relationship per se, but change in relationship. For the most part he is dealing with the biblical depictions of God as angry, or repenting, etc. Thomas says the change is not in God’s relationship to us, but in ours to God.

The most important reason for Keefe’s ruling out is that discussion of things like the Immanent Trinity or the quality of Adam’s life before the fall rely on what Keefe calls a “cosmological a priori” (CAP.) It is a natural (read fallen) or pagan way of looking at things that still infects our thinking. Rather, we should rely on a Eucharistic criterion to guide theological reasoning. This strategy may be effective in dealing with the in-house confusions created by the capitulation to the world of current Catholic theology. But at what a price! It’s hard to imagine what common ground Catholic theology would occupy to address the secular world in order to press its claims of moral truth. Postmodern discourse? Arcane deconstructions of an opponent’s premises? Does anyone really understand what Milbank or Pickstock are saying? And what about their own tacit presuppositions? That’s why I asked why Kelleher’s “radical historicity” isn’t as timeless and abstract an analytical concept as hylemorphism.

CAP thinking seems unavoidable to me, and it is helpful. It is basically about picturing a wider context in order to understand. A good example of CAP thinking, and why it is helpful is provided by scientists’ admonitions about imagining the expanding universe. They tell us that we shouldn’t picture it as expanding into some kind of empty space. It creates space as it expands. But then what does it expand into? If the answer was “nothing,” then why isn’t space annihilated by its expansion? We have to picture it CAPwise as moving into something. And what we imagine that something is, I think, is potential being. And that is a very good image of potential being. A parallel: Aquinas was right when he said that an infinite numerical series does not actually exist; only potentially: it actually exists only up to the point that you’ve counted. But the series still is potentially real in some way.

How do we describe covenantal immanence? The Old Testament speaks of many covenants. The most important was the Mosaic Law. As the living word of God one might say that, metaphorically, it was an immanent reality for Israel’s life. But many in Israel went to their death for upholding the principle that God was absolutely other and couldn’t be understood as somehow immanent in nature as the gentiles believed. So you have Israel on one side, God on the other, and covenantally linking them, the Law. Keefe provides a set of correspondences in triads that mutually illumine one another, the middle term linking as covenant the other two. It helps to make the covenantal theme intelligible. Eve-one flesh-Adam; Old testament-New testament –Kingdom; sarx-mia sarx-pneuma etc. There’s a book by Monica Migliorino-Miller--- I think it’s called Sexuality and Authority in the Catholic Church---which in part develops a defense of the male only priesthood through a profound analysis of these covenantal patterns. She was a student of Keefe’s and her book is a lot easier to follow.

There is one triad I want to look at, because it might allow me, perhaps. to nail down how Keefe understands eucharistic immanence: Offertory-Consecration- Communion. This is my own theorizing; so it’s just hypothetical, as Father Keefe would say. Bread and wine, through transubstantiation, make God really and truly present in the Paschal Mystery on the altar, and personally present on our tongues. The reason that this is possible at all is (and here I invoke Keefe, but from a more conventional Catholic perspective) because all the individual substances of the world are only actual by borrowing existence from the Second Person, of the Blessed Trinity. They have their own free and unique natures or essences, which are not manifestations of God’s nature or essence (nature being the why, the functional rationale of an essence.)

Let me explain. I mentioned earlier the confusion in understanding Aquinas’ explanation of transubstantiation and Mike Liccione’s post. It’s partly because the word substance can be used in two different ways. We can say that this piece of Carrara marble is a substance, an individual thing. We can also say that Michelangelo’s David is made of this substance. In the first case we’re talking about its individual act of existence. In the latter case, we’re talking about its substantial form, which includes all the essential accidents, qualitative and quantitative, including dimensive quantity, that it has. Existence on one side, essence on the other, in a substantial composition. The problem is that Aristotle bequeathed a different compositional pair: prime matter on one side, substantial form (essence) on the other, making a substance. This shouldn’t be right for Thomas. If you look at the top of Porphyry’s Tree---a part of the neo-platonic stream that flowed into Thomas’ thinking--- substance divides into material and immaterial substance, and prime matter cannot be a component of immaterial substance. Pure potency can be, but potency for what? I think it can only be for existence. I think prime matter should be renamed or redescribed as contingent esse. This notion of pure potency could never have occurred to Aristotle because existence in itself just wasn’t a significant factor for him.

The conversion in transubstantiation is not on the essential side but on the existential side. The common note in all applications of the word, “substance,” is existence; the distinguishing note is essence. In the case of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, homoousios, same substance, is used of the essentialist aspect; hypostasis, person, is used of the existential aspect. Now God’s essence is His existence, but not vice versa. There are three Existences (Persons) in one identical essence. I think that in transubstantiation the bread and wine remain as, essences, bread and wine; however, they are no longer supported by their own act of existence, but by Christ’s, whose essence, human and divine, is His existence.

Here is where the traditional understanding and Keefe part ways, I believe. In the usual understanding, the existence (esse) that things participate is not the personal existence of Christ, but a contingent, analogous, derived existence; from the Father through the Son. For Keefe, I think, substantial forms, like bread and wine and everything else, are actualized by really participating Christ’s personal existence. Because of the fall, Christ has been, and is now in agony or joy in all the created forms, including mankind, that individualize with their own natures His existence. I find this a shocking vision, if it is true. I’m only giving an interpretation; but it’s the only way things fall into place for me from studying Keefe. An odder, and even more shocking corollary of this interpretation: Christ suffers in Hell with the angels and damned souls who also participate his personal existence. Von Balthazar anyone?

For Keefe, the key difference between Christ’s Eucharistic immanence in the world and in the Sacred Species is this: in the former the immanence is as sarx, suffering flesh; in the latter, as pneuma, the glorified body. So the conversion is from suffering existence to glorified existence. The pneumatic presence, here and now in our world, is sacramental and we must await our own death to live permanently his glorified, supernatural existence. We can partake sacramentally now, because we have baptismally anticipated our own death in Christ.

So, in effect, I think that Mike Liccione’s insight is true: there is a parallel between the hypostatic union and transubstantiation. I just think he need not have gone into so much detail on the essentialist side of the composition, the accidents.

One more note on prime matter. In particle physics, as David Oderberg points out in that article I referred to in the previous comment, no matter how deeply you explore, there doesn’t seem to be any material stopping point, any indivisible element. Quarks and gluons and leptons are not yet measurable, but if they should be there would possibly be only form all the way down. But form isn’t real in itself. It’s just the pattern of physical activity, energy transformations, whatever. Perhaps the only common term that physicists will be able to apply to these transformations is that they are simply real; that they have existence, contingent esse.

Because I don’t understand Keefe’s forbidding of CAP thinking. I’m still puzzled about the notion of simultaneous creation and fall. Why must he rule out any speculation on a period of time intervening between the two by denying that there could be any? The thoughts of St. Francis De Sales, at comment 12’, beautiful as they are, supply only hints in a pastoral approach. If God foresees that an unfallen Adam will fall and bring the cosmos down with him, and consequently chooses to create a fallen Adam in a fallen world, then God has not truly foreseen what actually happens---a logical muddle.

Why does Keefe insist on so strange a claim? To avoid controversies about evolution and struggle and death in a world that certainly preceded the fall of man? Indirectly, yes. But theologians have been able to reconcile these “material evils” with God’s goodness. More importantly, I think it can be traced back to the nature/grace controversies and the massive shift in the understanding of the supernatural that began with modernism and was redirected in more orthodox directions by representative theologians like De Lubac and Rahner.

Science and technology and a developing secular mindset contributed, of course, to a basic estrangement of man from a supernatural reality, envisioned as separate from this world, but intervening freely through the grace of the sacraments and through a revelation that made what seemed irrational demands on intellect and will. Even more important was a shift in the meaning of time that these representative theologians tried to accommodate. Thomist metaphysics, for all its potency/act dynamism, saw time as only the measure of these changes or motions within a stable framework of essence. But time now seemed to be a creative dimension of reality, a kind of revelation that bestowed meaning in a constantly transcended vector. It was seen by some, like Hegel, as a divine advance; and by others, like Darwin, as a brutal and dangerous adventure.

De Lubac went so far as to claim that that the traditional theology with its radical separation of nature and grace --the supernatural order affecting man--created the space for agnosticism and atheism to flourish, and prevented man from seeing that his most urgent secular concerns were really a seeking for the face of God.

Perhaps Catholic theologians overstressed the distinction of these orders in their efforts to underline the gratuitousness and freedom of grace. Certainly, though, following Protestant and Jansenist claims that the fall had corrupted human nature, and possibly nature in general, the Church had insisted that natural reality and especially human reality retained their intrinsic natural goodness after the fall. In the case of man, the loss of grace and the promise of a glorified destiny, were seen as the loss of something “superadded” and extrinsic to our natural state. We had no natural potency for grace and no claim on it. Indeed, the Church argued, or its theologians did anyway, if man’s natural state entailed an intrinsic supernatural dimension that the fall had destroyed, then it would follow that God could be accused of creating defective human souls with corrupt natures, given original sin. For those protestant nominalists for whom God’s will determined the good, this argument was irrelevant. But to Catholic Jansenists it was telling. I think the argument, if you accept that theological context of original sin which framed it, is quite powerful.

Returning to the main point, De Lubac and Rahner, tried to integrate the supernatural into this new vision of time. You can consult a very helpful entry at Joel Graver’s website for the details, Basically and more or less in Garver’s words, “De Lubac tried to supernaturalize the natural, and Rahner, to naturalize the supernatural.” Nature and grace, effectively, were collapsed into each other. Personally, I find De Lubac, who comes off the better in that entry, and his notion of a natural potency for the Beatific Vision, despite the fall, to be incoherent. “Naturally graced” makes no sense.

Keefe’s work seems to me to be another effort in this direction, if my earlier interpretation of Christ’s personal existence composing with substantial forms is accurate. This would mean that we are living in a fallen version of the supernatural order---the only order there is. It would also mean that, if there had been no fall, we would be living in a supernatural order. We would be participating as individual human instances in His full supernatural existence. But clearly there never was a supernatural order here before Adam. There was only death struggle and upheaval. As a purely natural order it can be shown to be good. But in Keefe’s theology it is a surd that he blocks out with a theological maxim.

One other point on your comment at 3aa’ and 3ab’: Scripture often has nature rejoicing or suffering as an accompaniment to man’s condition. So it could simply be a literary device. On the other hand, if it is meant literally in Romans and the CCC, it can be interpreted as a higher destiny awaiting nature. It doesn’t have to mean that therefore nature is fallen. Of course the references to man and his cultural world and its impact on nature are true. I’m not denying that man is fallen from grace and that this condition eventually affects his nature; only that his natural state begins as good, and that the world is good.

At comment 20 you ask if I’ve read Duncan and Muller responding in the St. Anselm review. Yes. As a matter of fact I wrote to Keefe outlining the idea I discussed above, about renaming or redescribing prime matter as contingent esse. I thought it offered a Thomist solution to the problem Keefe found in Aquinas: that Aquinas contingency was only logical, not existential. His argument, as usual, was difficult to follow. I thought it came down to this: all that the notion of contingency in Thomas’ metaphysics amounted to was that, logically speaking, a form and matter might not have composed with each other; not that they composed, as a matter of fact, but still didn’t exist. Keefe found my idea interesting and asked me to visit him for talks. He’s very old now and living in retirement at the Fordham Jesuit residence. He’s trying to finish up Volume III of C.T. I decided not to go because I have so many confused reservations about his work that I would just be a distraction to him. I’m in awe of his intellect and erudition. He may really be opening a path for authentic Catholic theology to follow. I may be grossly misunderstanding Keefe’s thought. But as it is, I have a lot of questions.

Dan