Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What Are We To Do?


What’s up? The world must make the noetic shift, which is Christian faith translated anthropologically as the gift of self. Man must be defined in terms of the working person with Jesus Christ, the worker, as prototype. The working person is the ultimate economic and moral value. All economies must take the working person as measure. All morality must take the acting person as criterion.

Hence, we cannot continue to order freedom by ideologies such as Socialism, Capitalism and the rational animal. The ground has had to be cleared of conceptual constructs which become symbols of reality but which hide it in the very disclosure of it. The great move that must be made consists in accessing the really real of the self in the moment of free action. We have not been philosophically prepared for this. The realist tradition has been frightened of the turn to the subject as a turn to subjectivism, and hence to relativism and the negation of truth. Truth has been identified as a judgment of the “adequatio” of our conceptual constructs with the sensibly real. Science has immortalized this epistemology with unbelievable successes, at least until the advent of particle physics. The global situation is now demanding deeper access to Being - the very “I” - as part of the reality – in fact, the principle part – that is experienced, but on this distinct level of the “I.” The key is the disclosure of the experience, and thus the reality of the Being of the “I.” This was the work of Karol Wojtyla in his “Acting Person.” The task involves the migration from exclusive objectivized knowing to the experience and consciousness of the subject, without leaving the objective. This is what Benedict XVI is insisting on in his insistence in the last two years on “the broadening of reason.”

Consider the revolution that we are engaged in on multiple fronts at the same time: the national and international economic and political, morality and faith. On what level is the healing to take place? What have we failed to understand?

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger hazarded to assert that the Second Vatican Council had not been understood as of 1984, nor as of his own election as pope in 2005. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla wrote in 1968 that “the Pastors of the Church [i.e. “the Conciliar Magisterium as a whole”] were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe? ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer…”

The Revolution in Philosophy: Doing Precedes Being; Hence Doing “Broadens Reason” as Required by Benedict XVI

Faith Activates and Enlarges the Self

Consider the following text in the light of philosophy following on the dynamic of faith:

“Metaphysics can no longer provide the first principles of ethical life when philosophy has itself become a mode of ethical life. This is precisely the revolution under way in the history of modern philosophy. It is ethics that now provides the foundation of metaphysics, for we have no access to the order of being other than through our participation in it. Speculation is not a separate avenue toward what is but rather the result of a prior existential openness.”[2]


The real question for the Second Vatican Council was: What does it mean to be a subject believing? What does it mean to be a believing person?

The Council in Dei Verbum #5 answered: the obedience of the whole person as self-gift. It read: “‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom. 16, 26; cf. Rom. 1, 5; 2Cor. 10, 5-6) must be given to God as he reveals himself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals.’”

Wojtyla commented: “Man’s proper response to God’s self-revelation consists in self-abandonment to God. This is the true dimension of faith, in which man does not simply accept a particular set of propositions but accepts his own vocation and the sense of his existence. This implies, at least in principle and as an existential premises, that man has the free disposal of himself, since by means of faith he ‘abandons himself wholly to God.’ This dimension of faith is supernatural in the strict sense of the world.”

Revelation, then, is a Person and the act of faith is the act of the total person of the believer – quite literally – “becoming” the Person of the Revealer and experiencing the consciousness of the revelation as within his very self. It is not primarily conceptual knowing as in propositional knowing. Hence, it is not concepts formed by so called “instrumental reason” whereby we cognize Jesus Christ.

This is why Ratzinger says that “faith in God is not a form of knowledge that can be learned like chemistry or mathematics, but remains a belief. That is, it has a perfectly rational structure… It is not just some dark mystery or other with which I have dealings. It gives me insight. And there are perfectly comprehensible reasons for accepting it. But it is never simply knowledge.

“Since faith demands our whole existence, our will, our love, since it requires letting go of ourselves, it necessarily always goes beyond a mere knowledge, beyond what is demonstrable. And because that is so, then I can always turn my life away from faith and find arguments that seem to refute it.”
[4] But faith is the consciousness of the experience of self-gift and therefore transcends the conceptual. The knowledge of a person is not a concept but a consciousness arising from experiences. They are inexpressible conceptually. Hence, St. Cyril of Jerusalem says: “These are the secrets which the Church unfolds to him who passes on from the catechumens, and not to the heathen. For we do not unfold to a heathen the truths concerning Father, Son and Holy Spirit; nay, not even in the case of catechumens, do we clearly explain the mysteries, but we frequently say many things indirectly, so that believers who have been taught may understand, and the others may not be injured.” And again, “We must hide that wisdom, spoken in mystery, which the Son of God has taught us. Thus the Prophet Isaias has his tongue cleansed with fire that he may be able to declare the vision; and our ears must be sanctified as well as our tongues, if we aim at being recipients of the truth. This was a hindrance to my writing…”[5]

[1] Karol Wojtyla, “Sources of Renewal,” Harper and Row (1979) 17.
[2] David Walsh, “The Modern Philosophical Revolution – The Luminosity of Existence,” Cambridge University Press (2008) 93.
[3] Ibid 20.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “God and the World” Ignatius (2002) 33.
[5] John Henry Newman, “Arians of the Fourth Century,” UNDP (2001) 48-49.

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