--------------- CHRISTIANITY by Xavier Zubiri ------------------------------------- Appendix (585-596) ---------------


{585} (cont’d)

1) The historical reality of revelation makes this problem spring from its own reality. If revelation consisted only of a series of true enunciations it would be enough with their faithful repetition to transmit it. But we have already seen that revelation is primarily manifest reality insofar as reality, and its transmission consists in “re-actualization”, i.e., in maintaining in act, before the intelligence and the whole man, this manifest reality. Its historicity is not an external vicissitude, but its intrinsic concretion, the very form of its actuality, an actuality that is, at the same time, an intrinsically possibilitating principle of supernatural life. It is something, which in its own integral reality is made to be appropriated by man. As principle of life, revelation is such in the form of actuality of manifest reality; and this actuality as possibilitating principle is eo ipso “historical”. These two moments, taken at one and the same time, characterize the concrete reality of revelation. As possibility appropriated by man, it seizes him, not as a simple idea or a mere program, but as an actual reality, which is the inchoation, in some form “physical”, of a supernatural life. It is true that on this line revelation is a principle that can be impeded; but only for isolated individuals, never for the entire Church. And only insofar as they still belong to it, they can contribute, however, to the dogmatic progress. Hence, when seizing man, manifest reality is empowering the possessional (Sp. posidente) dimension of the intellective manifestation. This is the dawn of a strict supernatural intellective “life” (gnósis). By virtue of this, we shall say that the entire man “flourishes”, so to speak, in revelation and revelation also flourishes in man. I use the term “flourishes” so that the “real” aspect of actuality {586} and the subsequent process to it may echo in the phrase. Man flourishes in revelation because it is not only an idea that orients life, but also a reality whose actuality “really” molds man at all levels. Making use of the Evangelical parable, revelation is the yeast that ferments the entire dough. But, at the same time, revelation itself flourishes in man, because by being an actual reality qua reality, engenders in man a “connaturality”, an intimacy, which makes that revelation, the revealed substrate, may uncover for him new aspects, aspects he is expressing in ideas and concepts. Revelation has modified man making of him a “new” man, but man continues to discover an incessant novelty in revelation because of the inexhaustible fertility in it; man never finishes knowing well the totality of everything he believes in. And in this sense, modifies revelation. This flourishing, which is at one and the same time a flourishing of man and of revelation, is the “real” structure of a seizing on the part of a strict actualized reality and, I repeat, this occurs realiter in the very intelligence, in its possessional dimension.

In order to avoid confusion please allow me to make a terminological clarification. Until now, I have distinguished several times the dogmatic-real progress from the mere theologic progress I have called “doctrinal progress”. But there is an intermediate state of development, the one in which a doctrine is still not yet defined as a dogma, but is capable of being defined and is on its way to be defined or to be definitely eliminated as a possible dogma. Insofar as not yet defined as a dogma, this development is still merely doctrinal; but insofar as it refers to a point formally definable, it is different than the other merely theologic developments. Hence, since in this work we are not concerned ex professo with theology, we shall reserve from now on (except when we indicate otherwise or by the sense of the context) {587} the name of doctrinal developments or developments of doctrine for those particular types of development; these are the dogmas in fieri.

Thus, the flourishing is not brought about except by trials, which are sometimes painful. Man indeed expresses in ideas and concepts, taken from the possessional inspection of manifest reality, the aspects it is discovering in it. This reality, in its original simplicity easily reabsorbs the idea it has produced. However, even in its first steps the matter becomes complicated. Because the idea in a certain way is being incorporated to the perception of reality precisely by the reabsorption that reality is performing on the idea. And, when expressing this “whole” in subsequent ideas, these others are not only ideas of manifest reality, but of “conceived” manifest reality; in good measure they could be ideas of ideas. In this manner a great doctrinal development is accomplished (here I am referring only to the aspect of development). The simple actuality of manifest reality continues, however, exercising its reabsorbing tension. And this operation is no longer as simple as before. The doctrine expresses, or at least tries to express, manifest reality; but the traversed road has been long; the doctrinal result accomplished is a system of complex enunciations, which will never exhaust the reality, and often seems to distance itself from it. In this mutual interaction between intelligence and revelation the risk has been great of a deformation of the reality manifested by the doctrine, in such fashion that if it were not by the assistance of the Holy Spirit the revelation in history would have been suffocated. As such the unity of doctrine with the initial revelation has remained, not broken, but indeed, distended. In other words, attracted by the initial revelation in its primary simplicity, doctrine, however, remains floating by distention over revelation due to the intelligence that has reached it just by having appropriated the revelation. And this {588} “floating” is precisely the form of intellective apprehension we call “problem”. It is not the case of a purely speculative interrogation, of a mere “posing”, but of “energy”, i.e., of a “real” process that surges and occurs by the real structures of revelation seizing the intelligence. This is the problem as form of reality. The seizure of intelligence and the whole man by the actuality of manifest reality, is what by its own flourishing leaves undecided realiter in the intelligence, the unity between doctrine and revelation. And this unity is precisely the legitimacy. The problem thus activated realiter is nothing but the problem of legitimacy.

This process is not only individual, but also collective. In the body of the Church the doctrinal flourishing of revelation has taken place in different directions. Inchoatively, perhaps all of them may stem from manifest reality being known intellectively, by the very richness of this reality, irreducible to any miserly uniformity. But this is only inchoatively, because in its doctrinal development the situation has become more acute if at all possible. Up to what point is this diversity the normal richness of an inexhaustible substrate in its ineffable simplicity? And even if it were, we do not know at first sight if it is the case of developments that revelation arouses, but do not formally belong to it, and are nothing but plausible things, pious possibilities, etc. On the other hand, it might be the case of false modifications, accepted in the beginning perhaps in good faith or through ignorance or through the disorientation inexorably produced by something still not yet clearly explored. The social body of the Church also tries to reabsorb these doctrinal developments. And the real indecision in which it finds itself is a real problem of legitimacy, the legitimate reality in the form of problem.

{589} Therefore, individually or collectively there is a “natural” process of reabsorption. It is a strict “reflection”, not primarily a logical reflection, but a real reflection. The reflection of an intelligence that in the grasp of a manifest reality qua reality is under the weight of a doctrine aroused, at least in principle, by the flourishing of such a reality, which this reality makes it revert upon itself by the attraction of its actuality. If this reversion is achieved in effective reabsorption of the doctrine by the reality, i.e., by the substrate, the flourishing has been aspectualization. If the absorption is not possible, it has been a transformation, a corruption, the doctrine is an alien body to the revelation. The indecisive floating of the doctrine in its reversion to the manifest reality is formally a problem of aspectualization or transformation; i.e., it is legitimacy as problem. Thus, we have not “reached” it through speculative sharpness, but rather on the contrary we “have been taken” to it by the historical structure of revealed reality. That is, on the strength of a real occurrence, which by its own characteristics, also real, places history in the field of light of revelation. This is revelation trying to reassume in its simple theological truth the doctrinal evolution, the history.

2) But then, the very theological truth is seen “occurring”, i.e., incarnated in history. Let us not forget, in order to avoid false interpretations, that history is a mode of reality, that mode we call “occurrence”, and that occurrence formally consists in the realization of possibilities. Theological truth incarnated in history means the theological truth as characteristic of a reality, manifest reality, which offers itself as possibility at any levels, and especially in the order of self comprehension (auto-possibility). Incarnation is not, therefore, extrinsic incorporation, but occurrence as mode of actuality. Theological truth is absolute truth, but {590} in the historical concretion as an occurrence, in the sense I have just defined. Consequently, in the occurrence the imprint of theological truth is molded. Reciprocally, this imprint is the theological logos of history and what allows “discerning” in it its theological truth. This is the “criterion” of theological truth. What is the characteristic of this imprint, i.e., of every theological criterion? We have just seen that the flourishing of revelation into “doctrine” leaves the latter floating indecisively over the former. This indecision is nothing but the distension of the unity of doctrine with the simplicity of the initial revelation. The imprint of theological truth in the occurrence is “theological unity”, the theological unity of the occurrence (hína ósin teteleoménoi eís hén, Jn 17:23). Legitimacy is theological unity. And all the developments that may maintain this unity are legitimate, they are aspectualizations. I mentioned above that the initial directions of all the doctrinal developments perhaps are inchoatively suggested in the substrate, in the body of the initial revelation, but only inchoatively. The fact is that the reality of the revealed substrate has numerous auto-possibilities of being intellectively known. The question is that its realization, i.e., the occurrence, may be correct. It will be, if there is a strict unity with the initial revelation, i.e., if the occurrence is the very realization of the unity. Therefore, every “criterion” is nothing but a “signal” (semeíon) of unity in the realization of the auto-possibilities of intellection of revealed truth. Which one or which ones are these signals? That is the problem.

a) It is a case of unity (hén). Manifest reality has as its first and closest auto-possibility the fact of being affirmed and intellectively known in the belief as something real and true. The unity of doctrine with the initial revelation is what confers to that doctrine the characteristic of a truth of faith, i.e., of a truth contained in one form or another in the revealed deposit. Consequently, since the deposit is constituted in the Church as such, {591} it turns out that in the deposit faith is not only a community, but a “communion” of the entire Church in the revealed reality. And then, reciprocally, the unanimity of faith in the entire Church is the imprint or the signal of theological truth in the body of the faithful; it is the very occurrence of the unity of doctrine with the initial revelation. The hén is concretely mía pístis, “one same faith”. And the occurrence of this sameness is the unity of universal “con-sensus”. Of course, I am not referring to a truth already defined by the teaching Church, but to the moment prior to the definition, i.e., to what may serve as criterion for the definable. And this criterion is the unanimous consensus of the faithful in the learning Church. This Church evidently does not have the capacity to teach by its own authority, and much less to define the revealed deposit; but it does have the capacity to believe in it. Furthermore, it is to this belief, that in the end the very existence of the deposit is ordered. Consequently, the body of the faithful is indefectible when there is in it a strict corporeity , i.e., a strict unanimity of faith in a doctrinal point. The contrary would be to admit a formal error into the whole Church in a matter of faith, something impossible because of the very assistance of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Christ, after having prayed to the Father for the indefectible unity of the Apostolic College of the teaching Church (“keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are”, Jn 17:11), prays also “for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one” (Jn 17:20-21). By virtue of this, lacking an infallibilitas docendi, the body of the faithful has an undeniable infallibilitas credendi. Therefore, the unanimity in believing that a doctrine is revealed truth, i.e., the unanimity of believing in the unity of a doctrine with revelation is a logos that allows the discernment of theological truth as different from a transformation. The “unanimity” of “con-sensus” is an indefectible signal {592} of real “unity”; it is the aspectual occurrence of this unity. Thus, for example, St. Augustine appeals to the unanimous consensus of faith in order to defend his doctrine of original sin against Pelagius. This unanimity is not a mere “voice” of the people (murmur the Pelagians would say ironically to St. Augustine), but quite the reverse, it is the theological “logos” resonating as faith. That is why it is a “signal” of faith.

Be that as it may, it is a signal with a very difficult and limited application. A most difficult application simply because there must be a patent unanimity of consensus in the whole Church, a unanimity with such a characteristic that to reject it would be equivalent to admitting a formal error of faith into the whole Church. Where there is a reasonable diversity of opinions, this theological unity no longer exists; at best there would be, depending on the case, suggestions of possibility, of plausibility, of greater or lesser probability, etc., but nothing else. In addition, this criterion is very limited. It can only serve for those points, which are within reach of the intelligence of all, and where they can find immediate resonance. Such was the unanimity with which the faithful rejected the errors of Nestorius because he denied Mary the strict title of “Mother of God” (theotókos). It would be chimerical, on the other hand, to ask for unanimity in knowing, for example, whether in the Trinity the principle of spiration is singular or not. In general, unanimity is produced as a consequence of the definition, and not prior to it; in other words, generally it is not a wide criterion. When there is unanimous consent it is really a criterion of evolution of the substrate by aspectualization. It is a theological signal of unity between a doctrine and revelation, and is the very occurrence of this unity.

b) This consensus is in a certain way “direct”. It directly concerns whether the doctrine belongs to the revealed deposit or not. However, it may adopt a somewhat “indirect” form. I shall {593} explain. Since the apostolic preaching constituted the revealed deposit, in order to know if a particular doctrine belongs to the revealed deposit it will be enough to ask if it was preached by the apostles. The object of faith is reached, the deposit, by way of the apostolic preaching. This is the sense in which I speak of an “indirect” way of using the unanimous consent. It would be a more properly historical dimension of it. The revealing “voice” of the apostles would still be resonating in history. It is another auto-possibility of manifest reality. At an earlier time, this reality had affirmed its reality as “sameness” in the consensus of the minds. Now reality affirms its reality as “permanence” of something identical in time. The occurrence of this unity would formally be a “continuation” of the primitive body of the Church (tó archaíon tés ekklesías sústema), as St. Irenaeus said1. We have thus reached the point of view of the great theoretician of tradition, St. Vincent of Lerins. Having put the question in this perspective, we must then ask which are the signals of this continuation.

Above all, the unanimity in firmly maintaining themselves in the same “received” teaching, the unanimity with which “all” (quod ab omnibus) believe that the apostles taught the doctrine in question. Where and how can we find this unanimity? First geographically, it is that which is believed by all “in all places” (quod ubique). When there are discrepancies, it will have to be examined which of the affirmations is the oldest one, the one that has “always” (quod semper) been believed, the one that reaches back to the time of the preaching of the apostles without interruption. This is the famous tryptic of St. Vincent of Lerins, quod semper, quod unique, quod ab omnibus. In the previous criterion we had a case of {594} formal unanimity in what was believed insofar as believed reality; it was unanimity of consensus. But here it is a case of unanimity of continuation. It is faith as historical “fidelity”. Of course, the continuation is not a mere mechanical repetition, nor could it be. Much less since the preaching has taken place in order to live by it. And one moment of this life is precisely its intellection. But this intellection is nothing but “better intellection” of what was taught in the original preaching. The aspectualization would only be assimilation; any innovation with respect to what was expressly taught by the apostles would be a corruption. In this sense, the essence of aspectualization would be a continuation of the expressly manifested.

This continuation is undoubtedly one of the auto-possibilities of manifest reality. Without it the entire Church would also fail in its faith. How could unity exist in the Church if there is no continuity in the expressly revealed? For this reason, when that triple unity that St. Vincent proclaims exists, its value is unexceptionable. But this does not exhaust the question, because what we have just mentioned, does it mean that where this triple unity is lacking there is no unity between the doctrine and the initial revelation? It would be absurd to presume this. Because, above all, it is a fact that in he course of time there have been expressly revealed truths that have been “obscured”. It is true that this obscuration can never reach the level of constituting a formal and strict negation in the entire Church; but in some part of it, at some time, and in some men it has been possible to reach a negation or at least an ignorance of it. The subjective possibilities, which are open to intelligence, can also be negative. St. Vincent does not consider this situation. The strict continuity of the apostolic teaching may admit some caesura in the sense of an obscuration of the expressed. But, in addition and above all, it is completely false that the identity of the revealed deposit {595} is only permanence in continuation of what is taught in an express form. Because, in the first place, there is no true enunciation that may adequately exhaust the reality it enunciates; it is true in the sense of a conformitas with reality, but not in the sense of an adequation with it. In this case, without reduction of the continuity it is necessary a dogmatic progress that does not only consist in a better assimilation of the expressly enunciated, but in defining with more rigor and even more extensively the manifestation itself. It is not mere continuation. And, in second place, something more important, that not everything taught by the apostles was under the form of something expressly enunciated. Certainly, they taught many things expressly. How could it have been otherwise? But they did not teach everything in this form. One thing is to manifest something to the intelligence, and quite another to express the manifest in formal enunciations. The apostles taught many things in an inexpressive way, by simple actualization of reality in an antepredicative knowing. Therefore, progress consists not in a better assimilation or a stricter precision, but in expressing the inexpressible. Under these conditions, any attempt to reach the express apostolic preaching in order to find in it the doctrine to be defined, makes no sense at all, something, by the way, in which the great majority of people believe. Because given that it is the case of an inexpressible doctrine, it is known beforehand that there does not exist nor can there exist a prior express enunciation of it. When expressing it, it is true that there continues to be identity and conclusiveness in the revealed deposit, but in the deposit qua manifest reality and in the antepredicative knowing of it, but not in the fact of being there expressly enunciated. By limiting himself to these enunciations, the criterion of St. Vincent of Lerins fails at its base, what has been taught has been confused with what is expressed. For this reason, when he writes his well-known eodem sensu, what he says is only “better intellection”, a more {596} precise intellection of what has been expressly enunciated. However, today we use this phrase applying it to the body of the very manifest reality, regardless of whether it is expressly enunciated or not. The profectus of St. Vincent of Lerins is a profectus intelligentiae, while in many cases (recalling the dogma of the Immaculate Conception) it is a case of profectus fidei, a true evolution in the substrative deposit, not in its content, but in the way of being there manifest. This is just aspectualization, i.e., pure evolution. Taken in the sense of St. Vincent, we must say that the “con-tinuation” of the expressly enunciated is only one auto-possibility among others of the manifest reality. “Con-tinuation” of the expressly manifested, fidelity to it, is only one mode of occurrence of the theological unity of doctrine with the initial revelation.

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1 Cf. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus hæreses, bk. 4, ch. 33, no. 8, in J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series graeca, bk. 7, op. cit., col. 1077.



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