Friday, April 20, 2012

Response to Nathan Davis and Blogger: Response of Blogger "With a Twist"

Dear Fr. Bob and Nathan,

I just read your exchange that you posted on your blog. I have to say that I agree with the fundamental thrust: we must always do the "about-turn" to the personal experiential encounter with the Person of Christ in order to find what is real. However, I think that there must be a bit of a pushback from the "scholastic" and rational perspective, in the following sense:

The experience of Christ, which is the root and foundation of all life, is hardly a communicable experience. Language and conceptual thought are necessary in order to make it something that can be shared and preached. If all we need to focus on as a Church is the experience and always to return to that experience, and we have no way of setting its basic contours down in objective form, then we are losing a huge element of Christianity, which is apostolate. How can we explain to the world Who Christ is, if not through some abstraction and philosophical definition? If someone wants to introduce me to a girl they might think I could hit it off with, it is absolutely necessary for me to first form a conceptual view of her (through her objective, external characteristics as relayed by my friend) in order for me to have any truly human experience of her once I meet her: is she pretty? what did she study? is she from this place or that place?, etc. Because Christ took human form, He is also subject to this kind of objective, rational appraisal, which at least serves as an introduction, a pointer, to Who He really is.

Therefore, the Apostles were moved to write down something about Christ, even though He did not commission them to write, but rather to communicate to the world their encounter with Him after the Resurrection, and all the things He had taught them. The Gospels and the rest of the New Testament are, even if minimally, a form of objectification of Christ, because it was necessary to do this in order to make him communicable. If this is true, how do we explain the veneration we have for Scripture, and indeed for the highly theoretical formulations we sometimes find therein (notably in St. Paul).

All I'm saying is that I think that an excessive attention to the experiential, mystical, intuitive approach makes the need for communication of Christ difficult to do. It is not possible to introduce any human being to anything if not through some manner of conceptual explication or introduction (at least initially).

I have made this point to you, Nathan, and (I think) you agreed, though I don't know if this changed your views at all. I think that a balance is necessary. After all, Augustine's, Thomas's and Newman's formulations of theology and doctrine came from their experiential knowledge of Christ plus their training in philosophical language. There is a link between the two (the formulation and the experience), which means that there is a value in those formulations, at least in so far as they point to something, to that experience. This function is strictly apostolic and pedagogic, and it cannot be overlooked. Indeed, it is fundamental.

Moreover, they serve another purpose, which is as guardians of truth. The formulations help us make sure we are not going astray, and they do this precisely by virtue of their objective structure, though this is another point (but, I think, equally important).


Pedro José IzquierdoLL.M. Candidate, 2012

New York University School of Law

Dr. iur. Candidate, 2013

Universidad de Navarra

Dear Pedro,

I agree with a twist. The result of the experiential prayer of Simon with Christ (Lk. 9, 18) after being asked "who do you say that I am?" is the communicative/conceptual "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16, 16). It seems that the reflection on the experience/consciousness of becoming another Christ by the self-transcendence of prayer ("no one can come to me if he is not drawn by my Father" [Jn. 6, 44]) is the formation of the concepts ("You are the Christ...") whereby we can communicate what has been experienced.
Of course, the experience itself cannot be communicated because it is the result of a free act of self-determination to pray. But an experience can be communicated by repeating the experience. Only if another freely determines hmself to pray can he experience Christ (ab intus). As Ratzinger wrote: the word "intellegere" = ab intus legere = to read from within. I can only know another "I" by experiencing in myself what that "I" experiences in himself. Hence, the only real mode of communication is experiential. But that must go hand in hand with the human intentional abstractive way of knowing so that I can initiate the experience. So I agree with a twist. Fr. Bob

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