Intimate knowledge

Fr Gregory CSWG offers a different view of the work of the Christian theologian

 

Bishop John Saxbee [ND August] affirmed that ‘To be truly a theological argument, whatever the subject matter may be, the object of the argument must be God.’ It seems to me that there is a confusion here, one that is widely prevalent.

A truly Christian theology must begin with the self-manifestation of God. In particular, God accomplishes this through the incarnation of Christ, whereby human nature is united to God in the Word made flesh, and the Christian theologian is granted thereby a direct participation in the mind of Christ. He shares in a common mind, grounded in the Scriptures, which unfolds through the tradition of the Church, as the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ to clarify them for his people [cf John 16.12–15].

God is thus no longer an ‘object’ to the human thinker; but rather he is the Father of all mankind who would now share an intimate knowledge of his inner being with his children through their participation in his creative and redemptive activity. In all this God retains his essential holiness: he does not take away the absolute distinction between himself as Creator and his creation, nor does he reveal to the creature how he is God; but nevertheless this radical distinction does not any longer imply any separation between human creatures and their Creator.

Our God therefore is a God who is constantly revealing himself to his believing people by what he does. His actions are set forth for us in the Scriptures, not just as past events, but rather as present realities to be perceived by the light of faith, as being operative in all that is happening to us in our present circumstances. All the Mysteries of Christ, from his incarnation to his coming again in glory, all come to us from God as present realities for the on-going needs of our salvation.

This the Holy Spirit does for us through the liturgical cycles of the Church, and most powerfully at every Eucharist. Moreover the mere calling upon the holy Name of Jesus, for those whose memory has been trained by the Eucharist to look forward to the End in hope, enables the Spirit to transform all the events of life into Christ-originated and Christ-sharing occasions.

For God has a final goal (telos in Greek) for his creation, which he wants to share with his people because all his actions are directed by and from this goal, and he wants the same to be true of the direction of our own lives in time too. That is why we can no longer have two sources of reference for our actions within this world, as Bishop Saxbee seems to suggest: one taken from the Scriptures with the object of glorifying God, and another taken from ‘the fundamentals of anthropology, sociology and historical theology’.

At our Confirmation, the bishop as the present-day representative of the apostles, laid his hands upon us so that there might be fulfilled in us the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the gifts of the Spirit, ‘the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.’ It is in order to cultivate these gifts that we are bidden to live in and for the goal of God’s plan for a new creation, the unity of all in Christ as Head.

This being so, we cannot follow along a line of thought which asserts that ‘theological arguments about who can and cannot be bishops are essentially subjective, and cannot be objectified without subverting God as the only author and finisher of our faith.’ The incarnation of Christ has taken away the dichotomy between subjective and objective, which had entered the consciousness of fallen human nature, by making Christians to be participants in the mind of Christ. Our business is no longer with theological arguments, but rather with discerning the one holy tradition of the undivided Church, of which the Holy Spirit is the Creator and Guardian.

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