Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Consciousness of Creation:  the Hidden Reality that "Laudto Si'" Is Aiming At.

I offer the opening gambit of the "General Introduction" to Bishop-Elect Robert Barron's thesis on St. Thomas's notion of creation as a way to understand what is the mind of Pope Francis in his writing of "Lauda to Si.'" I take it that we are all in a state of amnesia concerning the created state of the universe, and that we cannot be brought to see it except by being shown the result of our not seeing it. I can be brought to see that there is something in my way in a dark room by tripping over it and falling down. Francis is saying that what we have in front of us in common ordinary life is not a malleable and formless object  that we can do what we want with. It reminds me of Newman speaking about angels: "Supposing the inquirer I have been describing, when examining a flower or a herb or a pebble or a ray of light, which he treats as something so beneath him in the scale of existence, suddenly discovered that he was in the presence of some powerful being who was hidden behind the visible things he was inspecting, who, though conceling his wise hand, was giving them their beauty, grace and perfection, as being God's instrument for the purpose, nay whose robe and ornaments those wondrous objects were, which he was so eager to analyse, what would be his thoughts? Should we but accidentally show a rudeness of manner towards our fellow-man, tread on the hem of his garment or brush roughly against him, are we not vexed, not as if we hade hurt him but from the fear we may have been disrespectul?" ("Newman's Vision of Faith" Bouyer,76-77)

    I take this to be the case with Creation in general, and offer Robert Barron:

Bishop-Elect Robert Barron:

The meaning of Bishop-elect Robert Barron’s “non-competitive”God: Not "A" Being, but "Being Itself" (Ipsum Esse). 

Blogger: What is distinctive to Judeo-Christianity is God the Creator. There is no intellectual grasping of a Creator  because it demands that everything else that is, including the intellect trying to grasp it, drop out of existence. That is, it has to be thought as not having to be. Let me present Barron’s work-up of the problem from the general introduction to his thesis (“A Study of the De Potentia of Thomas Aquinas In Light of the Dogmatik of Paul Tillich – Creation as Discipleship” [1993]).

                “I am intrigued by the strangeness of the doctrine of creation.  To say that the universe is created is to claim that all finite being might just as well not have been, that there is absolutely nothing necessary about the existence of the world, that nature, as such, must be placed radically in question. But such claims are, from a classical philosophical perspective, non-sensical, self-contradictory, since they challenge the condition for the possibility of reasoned discourse about the world. How can one seek after the causes and principles at work within nature if the integrity of nature itself is doubted, if the entire context of questioning is questioned?
                Of course, the concept of creation implies the existence of a God who makes the world, who continually sustains the finite realm, who acts as ground and source of what the ancients called ‘nature.’ But this notion of a creator God, in turn, raises especially knotty problems. If God makes all that there is, there cannot any pre-existing ‘stuff’ from which God fashions the universe. But God certainly cannot produce the world from his own substance, allowing, as it were, some of his perfection to go out from himself. First, such a process implies that God is changeable, that he can lose’ some of his being. Secondly, it presumes that there ‘is’ some dimension outside of God into which the created realm can ‘go,’ some space that is neither creature nor creator. Thus, it has to follow that God makes the world ex nihilo, from nothing at all. But how can the ‘something’ of the universe come from absolute nothingness?
                “Even if we presume that God does indeed bring the universe into existence ex nihilo, how can we articulate the difference between the infinite, perfect God and the conditioned world? If God is not the world, and the world is not God, what separates the two dimensions?  It would seem that, in order to mark the difference between infinite and finite being, one would have to posit the existence of some realm of absolute non-being (neither infinite nor finite) that stands, as it were, between the two. But what is this absolute non-being which ‘exists’? And even if we admitted per impossible, that this non-being ‘is,’ what would separate it from creation, on the one hand, and the creator on the other? Wouldn’t there have to be some further dimension of even more absolute non-existence to mark this distinction. And wouldn’t this process continue ad infinitum?
                “Don’t these puzzling questions demonstrate in fact that the very notion of creation is problematic, even ludicrous? Don’t they show that it is impossible to leave the confines of a classical world view, to place finitude as such in question? Don’t they indicate that creation, though perhaps a spiritually significant myth, cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds?
                “Or is it perhaps possible that the very strangeness of the notion and the very knottiness of the questions indirectly indicate the radicality of what is at issue when one speaks of creation? Is it possible that connundra and difficulties arise precisely when one fails to appreciate the fundamental difference signaled by the symbol of creation and when one tries, as a result, to articulate it in terms of the very worldview that it questions? Is it possible that the idea of creation presupposes that God is not a being in or alongside the world, not one agent among others, not the highest or first cause, not anything in nature, but rather the sheer  act of being itself which escapes all categorization? And thus is it possible that, as Robert Sokolowski insists, creation is the doctrine which decisively distinguishes a Christian from a pagan perspective, which shakes and undermines a purely ’natural’ philosophy, which opens one to the ever greater mystery which is God?[1]
                Is it perhaps possible that the strangeness of the creation teaching is a clue and a hint, a vague and often misunderstood indication that our normal view of the world is perhaps not sufficient, that ‘something else might be the case,’ that there is something uncanny at work in the ordinary [my under line], that the reality we call ‘God’ is ever stranger than we can imagine. But if that is true, if creation signals the essential otherness, difference and indefinability of God, then it is the Urfrage of Christian faith, that question around which all the other theological questions turn. Finally, it is this uncanniness and this inescapable centrality of creation which intrigue and attract me and which led me to this project of research.”

[1] Robert Sokolowsii, The God of Faith and Reason: Foundations of Christian Theology, (Notre Dame Press, 1982 12-52).

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