Friday, June 12, 2009

The analogia entis vs the analogia fidei, I

One of the things I love about Barth is his math-like nature. Take Anselm, for instance. FQI does a lot of explaining why the analogia fidei is the proper basis for theology, and why the analogia entis therefore fails.

Matrix: ratio and necessitas squared with ontic and noetic.
Ontic precedes noetic, because the object precedes knowledge of the object.
Necessity is consistent with rationality (and v.v., I think).
Ontic necessity precedes noetic rationality; ontic rationality precedes noetic necessity.
Necessity is primarily ontic; rationality is primarily noetic.
Necessity precedes rationality where this is so.

The ontic path goes truth --> object --> knowledge.
The noetic path goes knowledge --> object || truth.
(Gap is only bridged in faith)

In this way, the noetic leads back to the ontic, as the noetic ratio is the comprehension of the ontic ratio. This is the model of intellectus fidei. We take the articula fidei and work back to the necessary and rational object to which they point. This object and our knowledge of it, as ratio, accord with the ratio veritatis, and therefore with the truth of God.

But all of this only works, and here's the caveat that makes the "ontological argument" disappear, when faith is presumed from the start. None of it can be proven to the one who simply will under no circumstances believe. None of it can be proven absent an understanding of the force whose effects faith and the articula fidei are.

Anselm's "unbeliever" is one subject to the determining action of God, which is faith, who does not credit the teachings of the church as reasonable. Mind you, not a heretic, who believes otherwise, though this too is faith, nor an atheist, who will not believe, but an incredulous believer. (L. says, "Oh. You mean a Catholic.") This is why ratio and necessitas provide valuable proof: it is not that they demonstrate the existence of God from unrelated externalities, but that they demonstrate the credibility/intelligibility of the articula fidei as they stand in direct relationship to their ultimate ratio, the truth behind the object of faith about which they speak.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What it means that FQI is the key to the KD

More intus legere -- intellection as "deep reading" -- brings me to the point at which I can accept Barth's own word that writing Fides quaerens intellectum was the key to allowing him to write dogmatics properly. It is, as I said, a book he had to get done first. The Christian Dogmatics is Anselmian, but it is also profoundly involved in making the distinction between natural theology and revealed theology. All this stuff about proving the necessity of faith, when once he had done the Anselm work, he could see clear to calling it Church Dogmatics. This move makes it align with his entire theological thrust from Romans on: the work of theology is done from faith, inside the church, as the task of those who are doing it. It is not a task that can stand apart from belief that its object exists. The argument for faith is not a valid prolegomenon to dogmatics, which presume it, and dogmatics cannot be done without faith. All the wrestling of Barth's first two attempts bring him to the necessity that he acknowledges in his own ecclesiological critique in chapters 9-11 of Romans. This is always an inside job, and always therefore self-criticism as much as it is directed at others who are within the church. It cannot be an outside job. As in Calvin, natural theology is a job to be done after belief, as the demonstration of how the God whom we know by revelation, and who is wholly other, is also revealed in creation. It is by no means fit to stand as prolegomenon, as the bridge to revealed theology.

This is what Lindbeck means when he says his theology is fundamentally Barthian in The Nature of Doctrine, and it is why intratextuality and the communal nature of language are so key to his understanding of religion. Theology is an inside job, and to be done right, presumes the knowledge of the community to whom the religion is internal.

Anselm and the progress to KD (and SCIENCE!)

Much is made of the progress from the prolegomenon to Christian Dogmatics (CD) through Anselm's Fides quaerens intellectum (FQI) to the Church Dogmatics (KD). And so much of that is interpretation of the new Anselmian direction, to the tune of "FQI shapes KD." This seems silly to me, given my study of earlier Barth materials. The way I would map it, Barth simply became more comfortable with Catholic and Patristic sources through his time at Munster and Bonn. If you look at the CD, or read the foreword to FQI, Barth started writing a profoundly Anselmian dogmatics the first time around. And he and most of his colleagues were profoundly dissatisfied with it. And so Barth wrote the Anselm book first, and then the prolegomenon to dogmatics. If you look at CD, most of the organization is retained as it is reworked into KD. The overarching ideas about theology in Barth's mind don't change that much. And if you read CD, and then FQI, so much of the Anselmian content comes through in a more clearly elucidated form. FQI was a work he needed to have "under his belt," so to speak, and out of the way, in order to write the dogmatics correctly.

It is certainly true that what Barth learned from his Anselm studies shaped his philosophy of Theologie-als-Wissenschaft, and mostly in the direction of understanding the limitations of a science when understood with respect to the proper material of theology. Theology must be a science, for three reasons which Barth gives in KD §1.1 (11):

1) the necessary solidarity and humility that theology retains in its knowledge of itself as one human concern for truth among others;
2) the persistent disputation of non-Christian notions of scentific "certainty" as a member of that community of human concerns for truth; and
3) the persistent refusal to separate itself from the idea of science just because it differs from the dominant non-Christian understanding of science.

It is quite clear that science is subordinated to its object. This is true in two basic ways. The first is basic to all sciences. It is always necessary that the formal methods of a science be appropriate to the material content of its object. Foucault becomes slightly relevant here, in his discussion of discursive formations and enunciative modalities, but mostly this can be demonstrated by any paradigm shift. New disciplines regularly develop out of older ones, as new objects are distinguished. Methodological shift happens as the disjunction between objects grows. As the basic questions are answered in ways appropriate to the new object, a new discipline emerges whose methods will be different from the old because of the shift in basic assumptions.

The second reason for subordination of the science to its object moves this observation from the general to the particular case. Theology, as a science, cannot simply co-opt the methods appropriate to the object of any other discipline. "If theology allows itself to be called, or calls itself, a science, it cannot in so doing accept the obligation of submission to standards valid for other sciences." (10) And yet the trouble here is that it cannot therefore consider itself exempt from its nature as a science. Theology is only "a stop-gap in a disordered cosmos," and does not participate itself in the order of that cosmos. (ibid.) I have called this the nature of theological science as a modeling language. "The only way which theology has of proving its scientific character is to devote itself to the task of knowledge as determined by its actual theme and thus to show what it means by true science." (ibid.) Only people faithfully engaged in the discipline of theology can determine what methods are appropriate to the object, the "actual theme," of the discipline of theology.

This is where the discussion of the sixfold definition from Monday's post should be going. And, along Kuhn's development of the paradigm shift, we are perhaps in a period where our perception of the object of this discipline is shifting. The goal of a modeling language is to better approximate the reality described, and no modeling language has any business being fixed in stone. Barth himself is laying claim to better modeling, as are Rahner and Pannenberg. And it is good to keep in mind that Barth isn't comfortable with "systematic theology" as an encompassing whole. He wants cognate theological sciences, and starts by defining three: fundamental, practical, and doctrinal. And they overlap, for Barth, as three circles whose centers are each within the other two. There is no master circle, no center of theology. (4) The image to the right is my attempt at an illustration of this using the CMYK gamut. The question is never which color is right. The question to the church is whether the gamut expressed in its theology is true to the reality of God in Christ. Dogmatics is no master discipline. In fact, on this analogy, you could break theology into cognate sciences that express the gamut using RGB. The question of faithfulness is the important question, and to the extent that theology is a science, it is the church's self-examination of its own utterances for exactly this faithfulness. Are we modeling the reality well? Could we model it better? Where are we wrong? Always, always back to ground truth. Always back to God in Christ, and the action of God. For which the analogy gives us the Anselmian caveat: the gamut is a representation of the human perception of truth. Credo ut intelligam. Intellection follows faith, or it gets lost. Faith is our contact with ground truth, because faith is God's action determining our existence. We can theorize on the basis of our understanding, and there is joy to be had in that search for understanding, but it must always be fides quaerens intellectum.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Barth on theology-as-science

(KD §I.1 on Theologie als Wissenschaft)

Barth gives a definition of science which makes strong contrast with the way theology must work. This definition is six-fold, and is still fairly normative among modern sciences:
1) non-contradictory in its postulates ("formal consistency")
2) coherent with respect to its object ("inherent consistency")
3) testability/verifiability of postulates ("openness to control")
4) congruous with the possible ("antecedent credibility")
5) independent of prejudgment ("impartiality" or "accordance with sufficient reason")
6) axiomatically demonstrable ("formalisability")

Barth wants theology to be a science, but it cannot agree to these. The first is his basic problem: the resolvability of all paradoxes is simply not possible for theology in view of its object. And the problem here becomes that of objectivity.

I think part of the problem, also, is that Barth is writing of science in 1932. Which is ironic, considering that Heisenberg was working at Gottingen during the end of Barth's tenure there. But the objectivity principle that Barth takes to be critical to science is a major part of what breaks theology as a science on the terms of modern science. Barth speaks (correctly!) of theology as a science that is done from within the auspices of the church. And, as an objective science, theology then becomes this impossible possibility of speaking about God. But the reality of Christ is not a new reality, so much as the intensification of the old reality. The proper object of theology, done from within the people of God -- who have faith, therefore -- has always been the relationship between God and humanity. In Christ, God's faithfulness to this relationship is cemented permanently, in that God dwells in the relationship far more profoundly than was true of the covenants. And if the reality proper to theology is expanded to an understanding of the relationship between God and humanity, the impossibility and paradox become comprehensible as the subjectivity of faith. Our fingerprints, so to speak, are always on the object of our study.

This is a bit Copernican, and it has much the same effect on theology as science: what fails to resolve as an objective reality external to the observer becomes comprehensible in a new way as a reality to which the observer is inextricably internal. And I'm grinding down, so I'll chase that particular avenue down later.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Barth gets a bad rap as a man who airs theological grievances in public, and perhaps Nein! has something to do with it, but to read his correspondence, it is truly remarkable the lengths to which he goes to present common fronts in public with scholars with whose work he disagrees. Barth prefers his theological wrangling to occur in private, where a nosy world can't see it and use it for leverage. At least in the early period, he and Thurneysen start out trying to learn what can be learned from someone, before judging the disagreements. I continue to be amazed at how Luther's 8th this all is.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why aren't you writing your paper?

My wife likes to yell at me for not doing my work, when I'm doing three different pieces of work at the same time. This reminds me of my childhood, when nobody understood me reading three books at a time. But the more I study theology, the more I realize that this discipline, "systematic" or "dogmatic theology," is like a limb of the body. It isn't the brain, it isn't the heart, and if I keep going with that analogy, I'm tempted to say it isn't the hands or feet. Maybe it's the arms and legs. Disconnected from scripture and the Spirit, it can do nothing. And yet it is capable of binding and shaping the ministry of the church, whether well or poorly.

("Nicely done, Matt, you've just wedged Faith and Order in the middle of Life and Work.")

Well, that may be a necessity. And maybe it's a sign of the brokenness of creation, and maybe it's cross shaped, but maybe I'm just pasting pretty pictures over the problem. The problem is that we've disconnected dogmatics/systematics from exegesis, on the one hand, and bound ministry to it firmly on the other. And the one is trying to reconnect, and the other is trying to escape. And I think it's because we make dogmatics into its own, autonomous and superior thing.

This is not the old way of doing things. My advisor suggested that the entrance board didn't recognize what I wanted to do because theology isn't done this way anymore. Nobody is both a New Testament professor and a Systematic Theology professor. Barth was, Luther, Calvin and their era all were, but we aren't any more. And we recognize the need for "fundamental theology" to build under us and support us, but not so much the need to do it before we can build. Rahner says as much in TI1. So we do theology from the imperatives of theology, bootstrapping ourselves on structures whose foundations we have not checked. And then we ask someone to go down and make sure the foundation will hold. (Or that it exists at all.)

Lindbeck gives me part of the answer, in the idea that theology should be intratextual, and in the more basic idea that it is a language. Screw Wittgenstein. He's not wrong, if you understand him correctly, but if you read Lindbeck, read him after Saussure. Then, you'll avoid the whole set of mistakes around his Sprachspielen Gedankenversuch. That way lies Chomsky and grammar-dominance. Languages are intimately bound up with speaking communities. They stand over the current constituency as an externality that enables communication and common life, but they belong within the community as part of that common life. And they change and flex because the longer life of the community changes and flexes. Extrapolating the rules of the game is always and only secondary to playing the game.

But I digress. The reason I'm "not writing my paper" is that I'm ripping apart the Gospel of John so that I can study it intensively. To be sure, I'm also reading and studying Barth and Rahner. And Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza. But fundamental theology is something I have to do, if not first, then at least at the same time. Comes with being a Barthio-Lutheran. Got to keep "theology" in its proper theological place, so it can live, and enable life in others.