Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Robert Barron on the Key Question: "To Be" and the Meaning of Person

Barron on the Key Metaphysical Question of Our Times

Ratzinger’s Trinitarian-personalist theology claims that “the First Person does not beget the Son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving  oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving… In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’”[1]
Now, consider Robert Barron’s remarks on St. Thomas’s notion of creation: “We notice as well that Aquinas refers to creation as a ‘kind of  relation,’ implying that it cannot be described in Aristotelian terms as a rapport between two already existing things. In point of fact, the creature, according to this radical ontology [“giving esse”], does not so much have a relationship it is a relationship. The Zen-like quality of this affirmation is confirmed in the play between the seventeenth objection and response in article 3 [of the De Potentia]. The objector argues, reasonably enough, that in order for God to give being, there must be something preexisting in order to receive the gift. But if this is the case, then God does not, strictly speaking created ex nihilo. In answer, Thomas says that ‘in giving being, God simultaneously produces that which receives being.’ I would challenge anyone to grasp the nettle of that observation within the framework of ordinary being-to-being relationships. Coinherence is built into the very structure of creaturely existence.”

This remark of Barron speaks to my own attempts[2] to address St. Thomas’s “esse” the ontological component of person, and person as constitutively relational or, as Barron says, “coinherent.”

I submit that this is the question that Pope Francis is taking on with his pontificate and with this year-long Synod.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius [(1990) 131-132.
[2] R. Connor, “Relational Esse and the Person,” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, Vol. LXV 1991); [2] Robert A. Connor, “The Person as Resonating Existential,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly Vol. LXVI, No. 1 (1992) 39-56.

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