Tag Archives: Kasper

New Article on the Trinity, touching on Kasper and Ratzinger

My latest article was just published. It is entitled, <<The “I-Thou” Argument for the Trinity: Wherefore Art Thou?>>

It was published in Nova et Vetera (English Edition) 15 (2017): 113–159

Abstract of Article: Recent Trinitarian theology, though rich and fruitful in many ways, often suffers from a lack of scientific theological precision. A notable example is the inclination of recent thinkers, such as Kasper and Ratzinger, to describe the Trinitarian faith in such a way as to imply that God cannot be rightly conceived except as Trinitarian. As they imply, if we know that God is a person or an “I,” we must know that he is Trinitarian. Correlatively, little attention has been paid to the divine unity, and much less attention to the content of the preambles of the faith, the truth of which is discernible by natural reason. The implications for inter-religious dialogue remain unconsidered, yet they are disastrous, since, on this line of reasoning, all faith commitments except the Trinitarian faith commitment must be false, and since the rational conclusion to a being that is intelligent, personal, and one must be false. This line of thought rises to the distinction of persons at the expense of the excellence of the divine nature. The current essay seeks to expound the pith of this recent line of thought and to evaluate it critically, suggesting a major reconfiguration of the noble insights that inform the problematic outcome.

The argument that undergirds the recent approach to theology is what I call the “I-Thou” argument for the Trinity. Roughly, it runs thus. God is an “I,” but he is not a bachelor. Since he is not a bachelor, he has a “Thou.” This thou cannot be limited or finite or created. Therefore, God is an I in relation to another divine I. Eventually, this argument works in another divine person and stops there. I call this logic “Evel Knievel” logic:

You can read the Introduction on the following page of the website ACADEMIA.

 

The Evel Knievel Logic of some Recent Theology

Imagine the great Jewish thinker Martin Buber hearing,

“The living God can therefore be thought of only as Father and Son, while a non-trinitarian, purely monotheistic God would in fact have to be declared dead.”

Now, imagine him discovering that these are words of a high-ranking Catholic prelate devoted to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, Walter Cardinal Kasper. Finally, imagine Buber unearthing the following thesis as the prelate’s founding premise:

“An I without a thou is unthinkable” (Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, 1992, pp. 188, 241 [GJC]).

If Buber’s light unveils all personal being, was he too timid to shine it through the vault of the firmament? Or was His Eminence mounting up as Icarus?

Walter Kasper of course would say that he never tried to proved the Trinity to be true. But let’s look at his actual words:

If God is not to be understood as a solitary narcissistic being who (to put it paradoxically) would be highly imperfect by reason of his very perfection and would inevitably suffer from his own completeness, then God can only be conceived as co-existent (GJC, 306).

Well, let’s see whether a conclusion could be drawn from the first premise if we suppose the conditional enunciates a correct inference. Well, let’s see, last I checked, God is probably not a narcissistic being. Voilà! Therefore, he must be The Holy Trinity.

This is what I call Evel Knievel logic. Only, instead of 24 automobiles, the Cardinal has rocketed beyond all finite being to the very essence of God… all by a simple premise!

Chances are, something went wrong in the logic. After all, the Holy Trinity is a mystery of faith. But Vatican I is clear about mysteries: Human reason can never demonstrate their truth. Not today, not back in Isaiah’s time, not in the future. Never. Hence, the appearance of a demonstration – which surfaces again and again in they systematic portions of Kasper’s God of Jesus Christ, is problematic. Whatever he might say in words against this is edifying, indeed, but contradicts the performance. Lonergan called such things “performative contradictions”.

Why pursue this matter? Because Kasper’s is no isolated thesis. Scores of Christians have been subjected to homiletic spinoffs of the core argument, such as the “God is Not a Bachelor” sermon. Terse is the logic however rhetorically embellished: “Since God is not a bachelor, he is the Holy Trinity.” What should one do in face of the iron wit of this inference? Laugh hysterically—laugh at the Evel Knievel logic, all the while bewailing the caricature of a premise. What actually happens? Faithful crowds howl in laughter at “mere monotheists” who reject the premise, somnolently nodding in awe of an argument that must be sound because its conclusion is true. The sermon succeeds by the preacher’s rhetorical mastery and the good will of the laughing stock.

But scientific theology does not proceed with Evel Knievel logic. It attempts to state clearly its first principles and to work from and (where possible) towards these. It sometimes leaves us hungering for more to be said. This is the invitation to prayer, not the invitation to invent theological fictions—as has often been done since the rebellious usurping of scientific theology by the poets—that escape condemnation perhaps only because they are poetical.