Further objections and answers

These things are simply a matter of the 'logic' of the incarnation, at any rate of a Chalcedonian Christology. It is, of course, possible for Christian theologians to abandon the logic, and some do explicitly, as we have seen Hick does; though it is more common for Christian theologians thoughtlessly to dismiss the Chalcedonian Christology, unaware that in doing so they run the risk of abandoning the subtle and complex logic of transcendence on which it relies. As McCabe says, it is one thing to wish to construct a modern Christology in terms other than those of Chalcedon -and there is every reason for doing so, in view of the archaically esoteric character of the technical language of ousia, hypostasis and prosopon in which it is couched, the historical senses of which are so difficult to retrieve. But it is quite another thing to construct a modern Christology in such terms as entail the falsehood of Chalcedonian Christology.38 For quite apart from considerations of historical continuity of doctrinal tradition which such an abandonment would put at risk, there is the consequence that, in rejecting Chalcedonian formulas on the score of their falsehood, the doctrine of God on which they rely, and, together with it, the logic of the ratio Dei, will be thrown out as baby with the bathwater. And that, in Thomas's view, would place at risk the whole theological project as such.

Now what is clear from Thomas's reconstruction of this 'incarnational logic' is that, although constructed in a manner in key respects different from Bonaventure's (canvassed in chapter 3), it has much the same outcome: it is that that logic is central not only to his Christology, but to the whole theological enterprise as such, for the simple reason that his Christology is central to the whole theological enterprise as such. What counts for the ratio Dei Christologically must count for the ratio Dei for theology in principle. Not only is Christ at the centre in terms of what theology is substantively about - in terms, that is to say of its material object; Christ is also at the centre of theological method, regulatively normative of its formal object, and so of how it knows its own object. What

38 McCabe, God Matters, p. 55.

we must say about God as adequate to the central Christian doctrine of the incarnation, must be said about God simpliciter.

As we have seen, what 'must be said about God' - how this ratio Dei is to be understood - is governed by the double nature of the 'logic of transcendence', and this logic places upon the theologian an obligation to construct theologically within the complex tensions - constraints which are also opportunities - of the apophatic and the cataphatic, of the absolute transcendence of God, a transcendence intelligible only in so far as it cannot, as transcendence, be set in any relations of disjunction with the divine immanence. And these are tensions which require us to say that the 'difference' between God and creation is neither a difference, on all fours with other, created, differences, nor, that being said, is it a difference which simply collapses into identity - God is different, therefore, 'by indifference'. These constraints of'logic' are not, however, imposed as regulative upon theological method, as if imported from some alien territory of the philosophical, even if it is very hard to see how they could ever have been formulated with any degree of precision without the resources of metaphysics and logic derived from philosophical traditions far more ancient than Christianity itself. In themselves, however, these constraints are imposed upon the theologian as necessities of thought imposed by the articulation of Christianity's own central doctrines, and especially of Christological faith.

But what appears to emerge from Thomas's account of that logic of transcendence, that ratio Dei, as required in the construction of his Christology, is that the 'incommensurability' of the difference between God and creatures is not such as to entail the impossibility of inference from creatures to God. For that is precisely what, on his view, the doctrine of Christ does allow us to see is permitted: in Christ, what is true of the man who is God is true of the God who is man. This is not to say, to repeat, that what is true of man qua man is true of God qua God, for the nature of man, as a creature, is incommensurable with the nature of God, who is the Creator. But it is true to say that anything predicable of the man Christ is predicable of the God Christ and e converso. Hence, from the fact that Christ the man died on the cross, it follows that God died on the cross; from the fact that Christ was born of Mary, preached, was thirsty, became exhausted, suffered torment in his passion and died, it follows that God was born of Mary, preached, was thirsty, became exhausted, suffered torment in his passion and died. Hence, in Christ, inferences from what is true of a creature to what is true of God are possible, notwithstanding the fact that, even in Christ, there is no possible 'common logical ground' which the divine and human natures occupy; as Chalcedon puts it, the divine and the human natures remain 'unconfused'.

Loughton, however, who is happy to accept that such inferences from creatures to God are logically warranted within the articulation of a Chris-tology, further objects that Christ is a 'unique' case, known to us by revelation alone, and so what we know to be possible on that ground of faith bestows no general licence for a purely rational inference from creatures to God which could be established independently of that Christological faith. And this much must be conceded to the objection, that of course the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity in the person of Jesus is a contingent, and therefore historically particular, event; and that the vicissitudes of Jesus' life - his being born of this woman, Mary, in that stable in Bethlehem, that he lived for some thirty years or so, met with those particular followers, preached to those particular crowds, met with opposition from those particular factions, suffered in those particular ways and was executed by that particular method - are equally contingent. We could not know of the validity of just those inferences from the contingent events of Jesus' life to their being true of God on any grounds other than faith: we could not know them by reason alone, or as being true of any human person other than Christ. But it is not by virtue of just those historically contingent inferences that anything follows by way of licence more generally to predicate, on grounds of reason alone, anything true of creatures also of God. For that is not the point, as we shall see.

Secondly, it must be conceded that of course it is only by faith that we know that what can be said about the man Jesus can be said about God -for it is only by faith that we know that Jesus is God. If anything at all follows from the 'logic of incarnation' about the theological potential of a purely natural reason, then ex hypothesi it is on grounds of faith that we know it. But, as the reader will no doubt be aware by now, the proposition which it is the purpose of this essay to demonstrate is precisely that: namely, that on grounds offaith we know that inference from creatures to God is possible, or, more precisely, that to rule that possibility out on grounds of faith is in some fundamental way to misconstrue the nature of faith.

Even so, it is in only one sense that Christ is a 'unique' case, and in another not. For of course the individual person Jesus Christ is, as is any other person, unrepeatable; there cannot be two Jesus Christs, just as you are unrepeatable, and so am I: there cannot be two Denys Turners. Qua person, therefore, Jesus Christ is 'unique' as any person is 'unique'. This is simply a matter of the logic of individuation, having no theological consequences beyond what ordinarily follows from the unrepeatability of persons. But qua incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, Christ is not logically unique, for as Thomas says, we know from faith that there is and will be only one such incarnation, for just one incarnation is sufficient unto the divine salvific purposes. But there is nothing in the logic of incarnation to prohibit there being, or having been, more than one such incarnation,39 and since what is at stake here is a matter of the logic of incarnation and of what that logic entails for our knowledge of God, the objection cast in terms of the 'uniqueness' of Jesus Christ would seem to lack force relevant to my argument, either way, for or against it.

How near are we at this stage to demonstrating the proposition that a Christology demands in general, and not merely permits in the particular case, the possibility of rational inference from creatures to God? I said that it is true but beside the point that nothing concerning reason's theological potential is in general derivable from the historically contingent truths of the life of Jesus, and from the consequence that, if true of the man Jesus, they are therefore true of God. But what is derivable is that if any inference at all from something true about a creature to something true about God is theologically justified, then it must be inconsistent with Christian faith in Christ to maintain that, on grounds of logic alone, such an inference is in principle impossible. For nothing logically impossible is credible. Conversely, anything to be believed must be logically possible. For Christians to accept this impossibility would be for Christians to know that their faith in Christ is thereby destroyed. Since, therefore, as the first Vatican Council proclaims, 'created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth', Christians know, on grounds of faith, that it cannot be the case that such inferences are impossible. For if the thing is done, it is possible, ab esse ad posse valet illatio. The thing is done, Christologically. Therefore it is possible simpliciter.

Moreover, from the fact that it is by faith that we know that the impossibility of such inference must be ruled out, it does not follow that the possibility of such inferences cannot be known by natural reason. On the contrary, it cannot matter on what grounds we know that natural reason is capable of constructing inferences from creatures to God; if we know that it is possible for natural reason to construct such inferences, then we know that it is possible for natural reason to know of the possibility of doing so. For as I argued in chapter 1, it is easy here to confuse two propositions and vital not to do so: the first, which I maintain, is that we know on grounds of faith that inference from creatures to God is possible; therefore, inference from creatures to God is possible, whether or not within faith. For faith comes into it as illuminating a rational non-impossibility. But this proposition is not to be confused with a second, which Loughton maintains, that inference from creatures to God is possible only within the ground of faith, that is to say, that such inference is not otherwise

39 ST 3a q3 a7 corp.

possible than within faith, where faith functions as a premise of an inference. If the first is true, then, of course, reason could in principle know, on its own ground, that it is capable of inference from creatures to God, a matter which it is for natural reason to demonstrate; and I emphasise again, nothing at all in what either Thomas Aquinas or Vatican I says about faith endorses any particular arguments of reason to that effect. Of the success or otherwise of such arguments it is for reason alone to judge. Indeed, one can go further than this: since all that faith entails about the natural capacity of reason is that that capacity cannot be denied access to knowledge of God, and since it is entirely a matter for reason to discover what arguments there are which succeed, it is neither here nor there from the point of view of faith whether any actual arguments have been discovered which do succeed. And it is equally irrelevant, from the point of view of faith, whether any valid arguments to God are ever discovered. What matters from the point of view of faith is that the possibility of such an argument's being valid is not ruled out in principle. We know that, in a sense more than usually concrete, in Christ.

But to say this is to take a step into territory of theology beyond the scope of this essay, though that step was first adumbrated in chapter 6. For what links the argument here from the logic of the incarnation with the account I gave earlier of what I called the 'sacramental shape' of reason in the wider sense of the word is the proposition that creation itself has a quasi-sacramental character. To say this is to return, once again, to the language and thought of pre-modern theologies. That creation in its own character as creation has a quasi-sacramental form is there in Hugh of St Victor, who concedes a certain general sense in which the words of Scripture, but also all creation, being in both cases 'signs of something sacred', maybe called 'sacraments'.40 It is there in Bonaven-ture, for whom Christ's human nature, being the resume of all creation, and so a minor mundus incorporating all the meaning and reality of the maior mundus, is the explicit 'sacrament' of the world's implicit created sacramentality.41 But it is there in a form most significant for the purposes of my argument in Thomas, who argues that anything at all in the sensible world is a sign of something sacred, and so in a general sense is a 'sacrament' even if, other than in the cases of the seven sacraments of the Christian dispensation, they lack the character of a sacrament in the strict sense, for only those seven are 'causes' of our sanctification. And, significantly, it is just that text in Romans (1:19-20) to which Thomas appeals in support of his view that rational proof of God is possible that

40 Hugh of St Victor, De sacramentis I.ix.ii; Migne, Patrologia Latina, 176:317D.

41 Bonaventure, Itinerarium Mentis in Deum 1.12.

Thomas here appeals to in support of his saying that 'the created things which we can sense are signs of the sacred'.42 The connection of thoughts between creation's power to disclose God and its possessing in a general sense the form of the sacramental is in Thomas incontestable.43

Now the sense in which creation as such may be said to have that character of the sacramental is a matter which the next chapter will go some way towards exploring in purely philosophical terms. Of course those 'philosophical terms' do not include within their vocabulary the term, or the conception of, 'sacramentality' as such, for we can know the 'shape' of creation, and so of reason, to be 'sacramental' in form only from within what is revealed to us in Christ. But it is, precisely, 'in Christ' that that 'shape' is disclosed for what it is. On account of which, it seems to me that at the theological core of the case for saying that there is some imperative of faith which requires the possibility of a rational knowledge of God is a Christological consideration, a consideration which Chris-tology as such demands precisely because of the need to read a doctrine of creation and a doctrine of Christ in terms of mutual dependence, and certainly not, as in chapter 1 we noted some to suppose, as if threatening each other in terms of mutual exclusion. It is not, therefore, some 'uniqueness' of Christ which prevents this theological entailment of reason's power to know God, but, on the contrary, the universal significance of Christ which requires it. Such is the territory of theology on to which this essay cannot, as I say, beyond this point venture.

In fact, of course, the position of natural reason is not limited to a merely abstract philosophical possibility conceded to it by faith, although all I have attempted to show by way of philosophical argument in this chapter is the negative case that there are good reasons in logic for resisting the philosophical case against the possibility of such inference. Conversely, any philosophical case more positively claiming to justify such inference from creatures to God beyond the bare possibility of it in principle, rests, as I have conceded, on the success of an actual demonstration of the existence of God. This is for the reason that any technical devices of logic available to us within our human language for the construction of language about God - the forms of analogical predication -depend for their validity upon a causal nexus being established between God and creation - that is to say upon a proof that the world is created, and so that there is a Creator. It is therefore to the task of showing what the general shape of such a strategy of proof must be that we must finally turn.

43 ST 3aq60 a2ad1.

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