Pope Benedict: there exists a real analogy
When Pope Benedict XVI gave his lecture on “Faith, Reason and the University,” almost all of the discussion (and outrage) focused on his comment regarding Islam, even though this was actually a quote from another thinker whose statement he calls “unacceptable.” But what no one touched on was his statement on the doctrine of analogy. Here is his comment in full:
In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, “transcends” knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul - “λογικη λατρεία,” worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).Some questions for discussion in light of Pope Benedict’s statements:
- Why must our reason be “an authentic mirror of God”? Why must our thought alone, which is inherently individualistic and self-contained, reflect God and not some other facet of our being?
- Where is the effect of sin upon our reason? Where is the fall? What are the ontological and noetic effects of our estrangement from God?
- Is God revealed us in our natural reason? Where is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ? Is it not problematic that Benedict limits God’s revelation to the form of logos, that is, as reason and not as the person, Jesus of Nazareth? The words “Jesus,” “Christ,” and “grace” are not mentioned once.
- Where is the nearness of God in Jesus Christ? Where is the coming of God to the world in the incarnation? Is not this the proper locus of any doctrine of analogy? And must we not understand Christ in much broader (and less gnostic) terms than as Logos?
- What is the relation between analogy and divine freedom? Does the analogy of being confine God to a rational correspondence between divine being and human reason? Could not God be free in the sense that God can overcome the infinite unlikeness between God and fallen humanity in the revelatory likeness of the incarnation of Jesus Christ?
- While I agree with Benedict that a split between the ordained will of God and the hidden will of God creates the horrific possibility of a capricious God, are we actually limited to the dichotomy between a voluntarism which renders God unknown and capricious and the doctrine of analogy which insists “that between God and us ... there exists a real analogy”? Are not both options rooted in our natural, inherent human capacities—the capacity to push God away and the capacity to rationally understand God by means of an analogia entis?