Saturday, August 19, 2006

Hart, week 4: Trinitarian theology

Well, let's face it kids: it just isn't happening this week. Not like it should. Here are some bits and bobs for your consideration:

(But first, have you seen what Gaunilo has to say about it all?)

It was a great constructive chapter in which he took up a Trinitarian metaphysics to show difference as (ultimately) harmony, a position which sustains an ontology of peace. The infinity of God turns out to be the site of the finite creation, showing it (creation) to be utterly contingent and foundationless, arising out of the plenitude of the Trinitarian relations and hence a gratuitous creation.

(Much of what follows I lifted from my comment on Gaunilo's blog.)

I think that Hart has sustained his constructive themes more effectively than Milbank, in a strikingly similar project. And, as someone said, he does so in deeper, more explicit connection with the theological tradition. (More scriptural work would be helpful, I think.)

As to glory he has said very suggestive things at various points, but nothing in great depth or analysis. I want to follow up on and deepen his statements in a post/ essay/ article to follow having read the entire work (to incorporate all he says).

Here is my sense about glory and (to some extent) beauty in Hart and why we might not be satisfied, yet. Since he is explicitly commiting himself to a rhetorical elaboration more than an analytical construction, his argumentation is not going to be heavily analytical (except as that analysis furthers the persuasiveness (indeed, the beauty) of the rhetoric). That's not to say that I think he is sloppy or careless (not yet, anyway), just to note that this is a different form of writing than much Western systematic theology (and thanks to him for that), although it shares some surface features with such theology.

Which gives rise to two notions that might be worth keeping in mind with Hart, and I have found to be operative in my own project:

1) To be successful, Hart's account has to participate in what it discusses. It need not autopsy beauty; it does need to be beautiful. To the extent that it is not beautiful (or persuasive, etc.) it fails, even if its arguments are watertight, because it then serves (at least) to separate out the transcendentals, so that truth is unrelated to beauty.

2) To the degree that we admit nonlinearity in the subject matter (even if we don't eschew it in all argumentation -- why would we?), then it seems that a faithful rendition need not be completely linear, either. Which means, concretely, that we might find ourselves wondering just what he means by beauty at this point, because he hasn't gotten to it yet. This isn't to excuse incoherence or sloppiness, just to bracket our concerns about that until everything is said and done in the book. (And if we take our knowledge to have eschatological, unresolved elements, what does this do to our trying to say anything, ever? But I should stop before I despair of saying anything!)

Finally, a question about his distaste for dialectic and dialectical theologians. I found this to be an odd, offhand dismissal -- not beautiful. And I wonder what I'm missing, because I think that both dialectic and analogy are effective tools in talking about God. Is there really such a divide between dialectic and analogy? Aren’t they both means of steering between univocity and equivocity, albeit with differing emphases? Both try to affirm similarity between humanity and God, while also affirm vastly greater dissimilarity. The distinction, I think, lies in emphases: dialectic more consistently rests in negativity (in the sense not of pessimism, but negative theology), whereas analogy seems to press forward with construction despite dissimilarity. I do not mean to dodge the issue, but it seems that genuinely fruitful and faithful theology will make use of both: always keeping in mind the utter dissimilarity of infinite and finite, while also affirming (in affirming the infinite) that this is a particular infinite, and we do not come to know a bare infinite, but the gracious, historied God who is this infinite. Both methods are needed to avoid idolatry, whether of positive (saying too much, too certainly) or of negative (saying too little, out of a misplaced modesty) character.

Anyway, more again next week, when I'll be away on holiday with, presumably, more time to blog!


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