Thursday, September 22, 2011

JP II's "Fides et Ratio" for Dummies

Workshop MHP September 12-18, 2011

Introduction: “Know Yourself.” The meaning of this introduction: The self as real being, not mere consciousness, is the content of faith and reason. It is impossible to know the self by reason only, or by faith only. Why? Because reason and faith are two distinct ways of experiencing being. One without the other is like one hand clapping.

Source of Confusion: We confuse the way faith “knows” with the way reason “knows.” We experience reason to know through concepts or ideas. We see something. We form a mental likeness of the thing, and we assume that Revelation gives us “supernatural” or religious likenesses of God in the same way.

Vatican II underwent a radical development in speaking of faith.

John Paul II in dialogue with Andre Frossard: Get this, and you have got the encyclical.

            “Perhaps we should first cone to an understanding about the very term ‘definition’ [of faith]… Personally I would not discount the old catechism definition which I learnt at primary school: faith is ‘to admit as truth what God has revealed and what the Church gives us to believe.’ However, I will  not send you back to the catechism, for this definition, as it stands, can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the very phrase ‘admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the subject. It also indicates the cognitive character of faith in its reference to the truth that motivates it…. [Going to Vat. II’s Dei Verbum #5] We read further on in the same text: ‘To God who reveals himself we must bring the obedience of faith by which man entrusts himself entirely, free, to God, bringing to him who reveals the complete submissions of his intelligence and heart and giving with all his will full assent to the Revelation which he has made.’ Thus faith is man’s reply to the Revelation by which God ‘communicates himself.’ The constitution Dei Verbum expresses perfectly the essentially personal character of faith.

            “In the words ‘man entrusts himself to God by the obedience of faith,’ one must see, if only indirectly, the thought that faith, as response to the revelation by which God ‘gives himself to man,’ implies through its internal dynamism a reciprocal gift on the part of man, who in a way ‘also gives himself to God.’ This gift of oneself is the profoundest and most personal structure of faith….”

            “In the act of faith, man does not respond to God with the gift of a bit of himself, but with the gift of his whole person. Of course, in this reciprocal relationship the disproportion remains.[1]

            “I have already drawn your attention to the difference between the catechism formula, `accepting as true all that God reveals,’ and surrender to God. In the first definition faith is primarily intellectual, in so far as it is the welcoming and assimilation of revealed fact. On the other hand, when the Constitution Dei Verbum tells us that man entrusts himself to God `by obedience of faith,’ we are confronted with the whole ontological and existential dimension and, so to speak, the drama of existence proper to man.

“In faith man discovers the relativity of his being in comparison with an absolute I and the contingent character of his own existence. To believe is to entrust this human I, in all its transcendence and all its transcendent greatness, but also with its limits, its fragility and its mortal condition, to Someone who announces himself as the beginning and the end, transcending all that is created and contingent, but who also reveals himself at the same time as a Person who invites us to companionship, participation and communion. An absolute person – or better, a personal Absolute.
“The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, to the very heart of personal existence. This is how we should understand this `commitment,’ which you mentioned in your question and which presents itself as the solution to the very problem of existence or to the personal drama of human existence. It is much more than a purely intellectual theism and goes deeper and further than the act of `accepting as true what God has revealed.’”[2]

Joseph Ratzinger’s Habilitation Thesis: “Here, `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”[3]

Therefore, the subject, the believer – not concepts or ideas or symbols of any sort – becomes Revelation. (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” Mt. 16, 16; “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt. 16, 18). The key is to know that Christ is the “cornerstone,” Peter is rock, and like is known by like. This is the meaning of Vatican II’s understanding of faith: “obediential act” – total gift of self that is the reception and becoming of the Person of Christ. Note that the only person you know experientially is yourself, since only you can exercise the freedom of mastering yourself to get possession of self and then to make the gift of self. Therefore, only by becoming “another Christ” by imaging Him Who is pure relation (gift) to the Father, can you “know” Him. The notion of relation is putting  into a human category what is revealed by Christ when He says: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30) and “The Father is greater  than I” (Jn. 14, 28). How can those two statements both be true at the same time and the same way unless the Person are relations and not individual substances?

Elsewhere, Ratzinger says the same: “Revelation always and only becomes a reality where there is faith. The non-believer remains under the veil of which Paul speaks in the third chapter of his Second Letter to the Corinthians. He can read Scripture and know what is in it, can even understand at a purely intellectual level, what is meant and how what is said hangs together – and yet has not shared in the revelation. Rather, revelation has only arrived where, in addition to the material assertions witnessing to it, its inner reality has itself become effective after the manner of faith. Consequently, the person who receives it also is a part of the revelation to a certain degree, for without him it does not exist. You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence.”[4]

            Therefore, Revelation is a Person, and faith is becoming that Person. You become that Person by going out of yourself to receive Him in yourself. Our Lady is the paradigm of the act of faith. She empties herself to hear the Word. She says “Yes” to the Angel and to Simeon in the temple that He will be a sign of contradiction and that a sword will pierce her heart. She takes Christ in by giving herself in prayer. She then prays the ordinary work of housework and whatever of Nazareth. Everything is important because everything is gift of herself. The small and the big are equally herself given. Hence, she gives Him His entire humanity. If her “Yes” weren’t total, He would not have become fully man.
You too. So, faith is “life of faith.” It becomes a contemplative consciousness of attitude rather than concepts and ideas. That is why faith is “hearing the Word of God and doing it.” The very early Church did not permit anything to be written down because then they would have the faith stored in some book. They had to memorize.[5]

Chapter II: Credo Ut Intellegam: I Believe in Order to Understand.

          Thought experiment: knowledge follows on the experience of being. Kind of knowledge follows on kind of being.   God is revealed to be Creator, and we and the world are revealed to be created. As Creator, God’s Being is different from ours: He will continue in Being when we cease to be. God has revealed Himself to be a three-fold relation. Therefore our experience of Him will be different from our experience of the world. The sensible world does not offer something that is pure relation. It offers relation only as an accident of an individual substance.

Now, remove the world. Make the gift of yourself to the revealing Christ so that you become relational as the divine Persons are relational. That experience is the experience of faith. And that knowledge is knowledge of the Absolute (as imaged). Reason is quiescent as contemplative.
Now, return the world. Your sensible and abstractive knowledge of the contingent world is now embedded in the knowledge of yourself as absolute imaging the divine Persons. There are now two experiences going on which gives you a knowledge of yourself as image of God, the Absolute.You now have recovered reason from the anemia of merely knowing “things” and having “wilted” into the relativism of an immensity of facts and data bases without any absolute to give meaning to them. As the faculty of perception, reason has now been broadened by the faith experience to perceive being as both created and Creator. 

This is the meaning of the “Introduction” to “Fides et Ratio:” “Know Yourself.” This explains the opening line of the encyclical: “In both East and West, we may trace journey which has led humanity down the centuries to meet and engage truth more and more deeply. It is a journey which has unfolded – as it must – within the horizon of personal self-consciousness: the more human beings know reality and the world, the more they know themselves in their uniqueness, with the question of the meaning of things and of their very existence becoming ever more pressing.”

Translation: the more you know things through sensation and abstract thought, the more you realize that none of them and all of them together do not give you the Absolute that you intellectually crave. This brings you to the reasonableness of trusting. Trusting is relational and gives you access to the consciousness of your uniqueness as an image of the revealing Son. We are sons in the Son. This is the prelude to Chapter III below: I understand in order to believe..

            God has revealed Himself to be One God in Three Persons: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30); “The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28). The great mystery is that the Father, Who is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, are One as “communio” of Persons. That is, one cannot be without the other, and so, as constitutively relational, they are One Reality: God. The only way that Father and the Son can be “one” and yet distinct Persons, is that they be pure relations to each other. Benedict offers: “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….”[6] Likewise the Son and the Spirit are pure relation to each Other and the Father. Benedict comments: “Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world; the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality… a new plane of being comes into view.”[7]
        Since it is also revealed that we are created in His image and likeness (Genesis 1, 26), then we can know Him only by becoming like Him. We become like Him by becoming relational like Him. This involves becoming relational, which, as we have seen, is the meaning of faith. 
               Returning to the thought experiment, if knowledge depends on the experience of being, and if the knowing subject is always yearning for the experience of absolute being which drives him on through all the partial knowings of sense experience and abstract thought, then the moment that the searching subject “sees” itself as “like” the Being of the Creator, a rest and peacefulness comes over him in the possession of actually being the absolute as imaging the Son. Reason rests in the illumination of the believing subject that has become relational as the Creator is relational. Thus, faith and reason are the two wings[8] whereby the believer-reasoner experiences the truth of himself as imaging the Creator.
               I would insist: the relation of faith and reason is not a sharing of natural and supernatural concepts. It is a consciousness of becoming like God.
               The key to the thought experiment consists in dropping sensible reality out of the equation which is the actual history of the relation of faith and reason at the time of the Exile: Greek myth meets Abrahamic faith. The sensible created world basically drops out for the Jews. The God of faith returns in startling clarity. 
Historically: It was the notion of Creation that was forced powerfully on the memory of the Jews because of the Exile. Benedict writes: Israel had lost its land and its temple. According to the mentality of the time this was something incomprehensible, for it meant that the God of Israel was vanquished – a God whose people, whose land, and whose worshippers could be snatched away from him. A God who could not defend his worshippers and his worship was seen to be, at the time, a weak God. Indeed, he was no God at all; he had abandoned his divinity. And so, being driven out of their own land and being erased from the map was for Israel a terrible trial: Has our God been vanquished and is our faith void?
            “At this moment the prophets opened a new page and taught Israel that it was only then that the true fact of God appeared and that he was not restricted to that particular piece of land. He had never been: He had promised this piece of land to Abraham before he settled there, and he had been able to bring his people out of Egypt. He could do both things because he was not the God one place but had power over heaven and earth. Therefore he could drive his faithless people into another land in order to make himself known there. And so it came to be understood that this God of Israel was not a God like the other gods, but that he was the God who held sway over every land and people. He could do this, however, because he himself ha created everything in heaven and on earth. It was in exile and in the seeming defeat of Israel that there occurred an opening to the awareness of the God who holds every people and all of history in his hands, who holds everything because he is the creator of everything and the source of all power.”[9]

          And so, it was here and now in the 6th century B.C. in the slavery of Babylon after their fall from a living faith, that the Abrahamic faith as living experience was recalled and written in a vital confrontation with the conquering religion of Babylon that explained that “the world assumed its form when Marduk, the god of light, appeared and split in  two the body of the primordial dragon
Chapter III: Intellego Ut Credam: I Understand in Order to Believe.

What does this mean? I long for the truth as absolute, but I am confronted with empirical and partial reality through sensation. I drive forward always searching for the absolute, the meaning of this and that. I undertake science, I read everybody, I choose people I trust. In Toronto, I chose Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson to lead me to truth. I sensed in myself that they had found it. There was a tone to everything they wrote (and said). There are people I trust. I believe in them as possessing and communicating truth and meaning, and I believe what they say. 

Chapter IV: The Relationship Between Faith and  Reason:

            What we have seen from the beginning: The believing person (imaging God) is the absolute that reason is searching for. That is, the person is “known” by a different kind of experience than things.

 Therefore, St. Anselm: #42:   St. Anselm was the first to do the philosophy of the act of faith, and his importance can scarcely be exaggerated for the development of the Christian philosophy that followed. The Pope locates  him (#42 and indirectly in #66) as the significant first in the intellectus fidei as Christian philosophy:


     However, Robert Sokolowski recasts the obvious classical interpretation of Anselm’s argument of proving reality from thought by declaring that the being whom we believe God to be is greater than any being that can be thought. That is, God is not only “something greater than can be thought” but God’s greatness and difference as a being is such that if all the being of creation that can be thought were not to be, God would not be less. Or, having created all the being that can be thought, God being is so great and different that it is not more (being). He says:
 “Anselm’s argument works explicitly with the contrast between being in the mind and being in reality…. But besides this explicit premise for his argument, there is another, an implicit premise, which the argument requires but which is not expressed openly by Anselm in chapter two [of the Proslogion]. This implicit premise also contains a contrast. It might be formulated as the statement that: (God plus the world) is not greater than God alone; or: (God plus any creature) is not greater than God alone. This unstated premise also involves something’s being greater than something else, but it does not move between mental and extramental existence. The premise implies that God is to be so understood, and the world or creatures are to be so understood, that nothing greater, maius, is achieved if the world or creatures are added to God. To bring out this implication, and to state the premise in terms more akin to Anselm’s own expression, we must say: (God plus the world) cannot be conceived as greater than God alone; or: (God plus any creature) cannot be conceived as greater than God alone.
   “Earlier in the Proslogion, in the preface, Anselm had stated this understanding of God when he said he wished to establish that God is the highest good `nullo alio indigens; requiring nothing else.’ This is the understanding of God that is needed for Anselm’s argument; it is implied but not explicitly stated in the phrase `that than which nothing greater can be thought,’ for if the world or any creature were to contribute greatness to God, then God would not be that than which nothing greater can be thought”[10] (underline mine).

   Sokolowski then points to what Anselm has been the first to do: “Anselm begins something new. Before him reason was used within faith, but it was not turned toward faith. In the earlier councils, and in the work of the church fathers believers made distinctions, drew relationships and analogies, made identifications, defined things, settled arguments, and provided explanations; such activities were carried on within faith and they articulated what was believed. But in Anselm there is an attempt of reason to make belief itself  its theme; the attempt is carried out by the serious entertainment of what the unbeliever might mean when he expresses the opposite of belief. And Anselm thinks about belief and unbelief, not in regard to some particular of the Creed, but in regard to the being of God[RAC1] . Reason seems here to establish a distance toward faith; it seems, in contrast to what it had done in previous centuries, to come out with a kind of independence, almost a claim to judgment over faith, even as Anselm continues to say that he does not try to understand in order to believe but believes in order to understand”[11] (emphasis mine).

B.  Union and Distinction between Faith and Reason: St. Thomas Aquinas
- Daring Use of Reason to Explain this Novelty of Faith -

#43: St. Thomas took the work of reason in Aristotelian philosophy, particularly the notion of nature which is identical with being, and applied it to the contents of revelation. “Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness.” He applied the “always be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope [faith] that is in you and make it with modesty and respect (1 Pet. 3, 15-16). 3, 15-16). The Pope, borrowing from Paul VI pinpoints two major areas in the thought of St. Thomas with great insight: 1) “a reconciliation between the secularity of the world and the radically of the Gospel;” and 2) “wisdom… by way of connaturality.”

            The separation of faith and reason leaves reason defunct. It cannot find the absolute it was created for, and languishes. It wilts and languishes under the burden of a technical world awash in an infinity of facts and data bases. The miracle of “Google” is drowning the mind triviality. To languish means to collapse into relativism and nihilism. Nothing is true, since truth always is an absolute. Without the obediential act of faith, the experience of personal being that is absolute is not available. We cannot understand now the meaning of difference of male and female nor defend Christian heterosexual marriage. Consider Quebec.

Chapter V: The Magisterial Intervention in Philosophical Matters:

Consider again that person is an ontological tendency toward the Divine that is the Absolute. The appearance of the Word of God as Person and Absolute speaks to the human person who is in search precisely for Him, without knowing it explicitly. This Revelation is not a contradiction to reason but its fulfillment. So also, when the Church speaks the Word to human reason, it is a true Enlightenment to a search in relative darkness.
            Benedict explains that the Magisterium, as teaching organ of the Body of Christ Who is revelation, speaks to the person as ontological tendency searching out the absolute. The Magisterium is not then a problem for reason, but its fulfillment. It has a maieutic function.

            “The anamnesis instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself. But this “from without” is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but is ordered to it. It has maieutic function, imposes nothing foreign but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely, its interior openness to the truth.”[12]

[1] JPII and Andre Frossard, Be Not Afraid  St. Martin’s Press (1984) 64
[2] Ibid. 66-67.
[3] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “God’s Word, - Scripture, Tradition, Office,” Ignatius (2008)52.
[5] John Henry Newman, “The Arians of the Fourth Century,” UNDP (2001) 47-50.UNDP
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 131-132.
[7] Ibid. 132.
[8] “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men  and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex. 33, 18; Ps. 27,  8-9; 63, 2-3; Jn.  14, 8; 1 Jn. 3, 2).
[9] J. Ratzinger, “‘In the Beginning…’” Eerdmans Publishing Co. (1995) 10-12.
[10] R. Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason, UNDP, (1982) 8.
[11] Ibid., 6.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Ignatius (2006) 34.

 [RAC1]This is rather huge. Sokolowski is talking about the Being of God as accessed by another kind of experience than sensation and abstract concepts and reasoning. He is accessed as self-transcending Person,and therefore, if everything else were to cease to exist, then He would continue to exist because He is Creator. We tend to access God as “Part” of our world experience through sensation and concepts. And so faith and reason are not in conflict because they don’t inhabit the same noetic world of experience, and the way of knowing is distinct.

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