Saturday, June 05, 2010

Analogy of Being: Unleashing the Hounds

And so it has come to this.  A good friend (for this is a friendly conversation) below linked the analogy of being, subject of much debate at this forum, directly to Nazism.  Godwin's Law has thereby been fulfilled.  The person who uses the reductio ad Hitlerum, internet protocol dictates, automatically loses the argument.  I am not, however,  going to avail myself of web law.

But the move does, it seems, grant me permission to roll out the big guns in response.  1,2,3, 4 I declare a blog war is not here my intention.  I only hope to bear witness to a growing conviction regarding the trustworthiness of the analogia entis (which, from a certain Barthian perspective, is more like a growing tumor that may disqualify this particular venue from worthwhile engagement).  So, to have at this one more time, below are ten propositions regarding the analogy of being, supported by relevant quotations from David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite (to say nothing of other books).  Hart, needless to say, should not be held responsible for my attempt at distillation.

1.  Positing the question as a choice between Christ and the analogy of being sets up the debate so that opponents of analogy will always win.  This is a false start, and completely misrepresents the other side.  There may be an analogy of being that competes with Christ or attempts to replace him, but what does it have to do with this discussion?
All this talk of analogy is an abstraction if considered apart from the form of Jesus of Nazareth....   It is Christ, the Logos and measure of all things, who calls analogy forth, who shows the proportions, forms, and bounty of creation in their truest light.  If not for Christ, analogical practice would dissolve into a shapeless and insubstantial parataxis (in the worst sense: catalectic, anacoluthic, arbitrary); it could apprehend, ultimately, only the sublime interminability of things, rather than the beauty that pervades and embraces them...   In its resistance to every universalizing reduction, every assault upon its particularity, the figure of Christ sets free an interminable sequence of analogies; and this is itself a sign of his divinity. 
2.  The analogy of being does not reduce God to the category of being, but assumes a framework that exceeds such categories.
God is always... indifferent to metaphysical demarcations between transcendence and immanence, infinity and finitude, being and beings: precisely because God transcends and makes possible these categories, in their being, he inhabits them simultaneously without contradiction...  The divine has no proper "place," belongs to no hierarchy within totality; it is the infinite context of every place, the distance whose original grammar is love, prior to every division between high and low, supernatural and natural, transcendent and immanent...  God has always overcome every such horizon, passed beyond every border, by way of a greater transcendence - one that embraces, transfigures, and comprises the immanent in itself.  For Christian thought, it is equally impossible either to view the world as being sustained by the tension between immanent and transcendent or to view it as sealed off into a self-contained and yet interminable immanence; it has already cast aside the categories that all such styles of thought presume.
 3.  Which is to say, the analogy of being (as Jüngel grasped) does the exact opposite of what its critics accuse it of doing:
The analogy of being does not analogize God and creatures under the more general category of being, but is the analogization of being in the difference between God and creatures; it is as subversive of the notion of a general and univocal category of beings as of the equally 'totalizing' notion of ontological equivocity, and thus belongs to neither pole of the dialectic intrinsic to metaphysical totality: the savage equivalence of univocity and equivocity, Apollo and Dionysus, pure identity and pure difference (neither of which can open a vantage upon being in its transcendence). For precisely this reason, the analogia entis is quite incompatible with any naive "natural theology"
4. The analogy of being does not replace Christian revelation, but gracefully sets the stage upon which that revelation takes place.
The rejection of the analogy, far from preserving God's transcendence, actually serves only to objectify God idolatrously as a sublime absence or contradiction: one is left with a duality that inevitably makes of God and creation a dialectical opposition, thus subordination God to being after all.... apart from the analogia entis, the very concept of revelation is a contradiction: only insofar as creaturely being is analogous to divine being, and proper to God's nature, can God show himself as God, rather than in alienation from himself; there would be no revelation otherwise, only legislation, emanating from an ontic god separated from us by an impossible distance, or perhaps the ghostly call of the gnostic's stranger god....
5.  Modern thinkers like Heidegger did not successfully replace, nor did they even reject the analogy of being; they just never properly understood it.
Heidegger's approach to ontology... is nothing but the final expression of a modern philosophical forgetfulness of theology's vision of being...  The tradition that speaks of God as infinite being and creatures as finite beings that exist through participation is one that has thought through the genuinely qualitative difference between being and beings, and between the infinite and the finite, far more thoroughly than [critics of the analogy of being], who merely presumes a univocal ontology and blithely projects it back over a tradition to which it is alien and which it is not able to illuminate...
6. Postmodern thinkers such as Deleuze also fail to provide a compelling alternative. Their metaphysical ecosystem cannot support the "difference" they so keenly desire.
The dogmatically inflexible metaphysics concealed deep within [postmodern theory] can conceive of ontic difference only under the form of an ontological tautology, which reduces difference to mere differentiation (the indifferent distribution of singularities) and which suppresses the only real difference (the analogical) whose affirmation can liberate thought from 'totality.' The latter, more imaginative and radical thinking of difference belongs to the Christian logos.
7.  A Protestantism that bases itself on a rejection of the analogy of being is sealing itself off from a vital current of mainstream Christian belief (fortunately, this does not have to be the case).
Rejection of the analogy of being, properly understood, is a denial that creation is an act of grace that really expresses God's love, rather than a moment of alienation or dialectical negation; it is a rejection, that is, of Acts 17:28, and ultimately of Genesis 1:1 (and everything that follows from it). If rejection of the analogia entis were in some sense the very core of Protestant theology, as Barth believed, one would still be obliged to observe that it is also the invention of antichrist, and so would have to be accounted the most compelling reason for not becoming a Protestant.
8.  Conversely, when one embraces the Christocentric analogy of being, an entire theological world opens up, one that genuinely escapes modern and postmodern quandaries:
Analogy saves apophasis from assuming the form of a mere systematic privation of attributes, a mystical ascent toward annihilation in the divine silence, and saves cataphasis from becoming an absolute pronouncement that attempts to reduce God to a principle or object; analogy is that lambent interval between the two dreamt-of poles of totalizing metaphysics... Between the desert of absolute apophaticism and the immoblie hypotaxis of absolute cataphticism stands the infinity, the unmasterable parataxis, of analogy, at home in an endless state of provisionality and promise....  Analogy is a discourse of truth that has disabused itself of the notion that truth is a thing only to be grasped...   
9.  Such ways of thinking also provide a natural bridge to the best in extra-theological disciplines.  
A purely idealist metaphysics of the beautiful (such as, say, Plotinus's) can point in only one direction, away from the world toward the simple and transcendent source of all beauty; but Christian thought, with its trinitarian premise, must follow the path of beauty outward into the word, even into states of privation....  The sign that Christ is, in its boundless ramifying fecundity, constitutes the analogy that perfectly corresponds to the truth of the world - and so restores to the world its truth.
10.  Most importantly, an embrace of the analogy of being is not about the "genius" of one particular contemporary thinker (Hart).  Instead, Hart is articulating a tradition with monumental precedent, however much it may have been recently neglected:
I use the term 'analogy of being' as shorthand for the tradition of Christian metaphysics, that, developing from the time of the New Testament through the patristic and medieval periods, succeeded in uniting a metaphysics of participation to the biblical doctrine of creation, within the framework of trinitarian dogma, and in so doing made it possible for the first time in Western thought to contemplate both the utter difference of being from beings and the nature of true transcendence.