[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.