A stab at the analogia entis

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.

—David Bentley Hart 

What is the analogy of being? Here's my stab at a clear, sympathetic description.

The analogy of being is a Christian theological claim about the relationship between God and creatures and the ontological conditions of the possibility for the latter to know and/or speak about the former. As I understand it, it entails three core claims.

First, God is and creatures are;
Second, God is the creator of all that is that is not God, that is, creatures have the source and sustenance of their being in the one triune God;
Third, God speaks to human beings, as the rational embodied creatures they are, thus eliciting their reply and constituting a unique relationship (compared to other creatures' relationship to God).

The analogy of being makes the claim that the ontological condition of the possibility for human knowledge of and speech about God is this threefold set of affairs. If this is a fair summation, what follows about what it is not?

The analogy of being is not first of all an epistemic principle: it does not say how creatures come to know God or anything true about God; it offers no criteria for measuring claims about God; it does not insert itself explicitly into the process by which theological claims are made. Further, not being an epistemic principle, it is not concerned with the source or medium of knowledge of God, whether through revelation or nature or anything else. Further still, it does not make a claim to be itself a generic or universally perspicuous or philosophical doctrine: it is a Christian theological claim about the ontological conditions "on the ground," so to speak, that in fact obtain, conditions necessary for knowledge of and speech about the triune God to occur.

Finally, the analogy of being does not make any positive claim about the human capacity for speech about God, whether it is pre- or post-lapsarian humanity in view. Humans must be addressed by God—admittedly my own semi-innovation on analogy—in order to reply to him, but even once addressed, God remains the enabling condition of their speech about and to him. Moreover, after sin, all true knowledge of God may indeed be wiped out apart from wholly gracious divine revelation. The analogy of being still obtains, because humans remain creatures and God remains their creator; it is simply that the human reply to God's initial speech fails so utterly that the possibility of faithful speech is eliminated, unless and until God intervenes to make it possible again. Barth's analogy of faith may indeed enter in at this point, and it may reserve to itself exclusive claim to truthful knowledge of and speech about God—but just as the economy of grace reconciles lost creatures to God—it does not make new creatures ex nihilo—so divine revelation reestablishes and renews the proper relationship of creator and creature, so that creatures may offer their reply to God's initiating address in Spirit and in truth. But the ontological conditions never changed; and if they did not obtain, there would be no speech about God on humans' behalf.

Put differently, and in the context of theological language, the analogy of being is an analysis of how speech about God works in the first place—but note, Christian speech, from a Christian theological perspective, assuming the truth of the gospel, working within and not (hypothetically) without the event and domain of revelation. It is not a denial of the necessity of faith to know and speak truthfully about God. It is faith's reflection on how the language of faith succeeds, given that God is and believers are and that God is the creator of all, how faith's words work one way when applied to God and another way when applied to creatures.

I said it was a stab, and so it was. Where I've erred, I welcome correction.

Comments

  1. My question would be what the analogy of being offers to Christian theology that is not already in place. It seems that this definition is so broad as to be included within almost any Christian theology worthy of the name. That may be valuable, in that it points out an underlying commonality, however, it seems to strip all the punch from the claim.

    Maybe put differently, is this different than Przywara's Analogia Entis? He seemed to have much more expansive claims for it (as does DBH). Are you offering an intentionally deflationary account in order to mediate? How would the 4th Lateran Council's defintion figure?

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    1. Hi Johnny,

      What do you mean by "...that is not already in place"? My sense is that the commitments I outline above are in place where they are articulated, and where they articulated (coherently, together, in service of the work I put them to in the post) they just are the analogy of being as it plays its role in Christian theology. You're right that I define it broadly; it can be defined and put to use much more expansively, which my more restricted definition allows but does not require.

      I suppose it's deflationary *in the sense that* I'm trying to boil down what's at issue—and precisely because I don't think what's at issue is really that disputed, included by Barthians and by anti-AoB-ers, I'm trying to draw that out.

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