--------------- CHRISTIANITY by Xavier Zubiri ------------------------------------- Chapter 5 (467-478) ---------------


{467} (cont’d)

a) What is the characteristic of the suppositum? For reasons that would be too lengthy to explain here I have never been satisfied with two concepts, which theology has used to conceptualize in what the progress consists. {468} Theology does not mention suppositum, but what I call suppositum has been conceived, in the first place, as a germ. A parable is brought in, which Christ used not for this problem, but in general for the entire history of the Church, saying that “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed (...) it is certainly the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of herbs and becomes a tree...” (Mt 13:31-32). Another concept, taken also from a parable of Christ that has been used by some theologians, is the yeast, which ferments the bread dough, and gives it a greater volume (cf. Mt 13:33). Germ and ferment, this would be the progress of revelation1.

However, I tend to believe that the characteristic of supposition for the progress of revelation does not have the characteristic of ferment or germ, but is something different. And it is different because that is the substratum upon which progress is riding. A substratum does not have to be a germ necessarily, not at all. Furthermore, the characteristic of substratum is precisely what impedes that the thing acting as supposition may acquire the characteristic of an internal and intrinsic increment. Certainly, all the abilities of the germ are given in the germ, but it is quite easy to project on the germ ideas that would be completely alien to the progress of revelation.

But then, it seems that to say it is a substratum is to enunciate the most obvious fact in revelation. This is not true because, for example, all the revelation of the Old Testament does not have the characteristic of substrate. It is a revelation in which there is, not only a substratum, but also a real {469} progress. The revelation of the Old Testament is progress insofar as revelation, and not only a progradient tradition. The content of revelation keeps increasing, which means that each stage is imperfect. It keeps increasing, and in addition it is always open. Yet, in the New Testament just the opposite occurs. Certainly, in the life of Christ and the Apostles revelation was imperfect, it kept increasing and it was open. And it was open in the very person of Christ. Christ received his Messianic mission at the baptism in the Jordan and only afterwards, after leaving Galilee, he thought he had to die. And only later thought that death had to be expiatory. Needless to say with the Apostles, who even after the resurrection of Jesus Christ had asked him “are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Of course, Christ told them no. Anyway, revelation in the New Testament has not had the characteristic of a substratum; it has been much more than a substratum. What is certain is that with the death of the last Apostle revelation was finished, which means purely and simply that revelation as deposit, proposition, and supposition merely has a characteristic of substratum. That is another question.

However, in some manner this substratum is destined to have more internal ingredients. Certainly, this characteristic of substrate has a negative moment; there are no more new revelations. But a second characteristic is often forgotten, which is essential to the question. There are no more new revelations, but with those we have there is an exigency to have a real progress. Then, in what does this internal exigency consist? This internal exigency, so far, affects the totality of revelation, what I might call its synoptic moment. Nevertheless, it is the exigency for the revealed to be revealed more. This is the second point. What is it to progress?

{470} b) What is it to progress? To progress is, of course, to give of itself. And what it gives of itself is the real truth of God, which consists in Christ. Christ is not only at the beginning of tradition, he is not only continuing the tradition, but he is there revealing more of that, which he revealed once. And therefore, that which is being constituted in this progress of revelation, more than the revelation in it, is that compact characteristic of this substratum that has been revealed to us. It is precisely what St. Irenaeus called the sóma tes aletheías, the body of truth2. The progress is the progress of the substrate. The revealed deposit cannot, at certain moments, continue to be the same except by progressing. And precisely that is the essence of progress. It is not only the case that there may not be new revelations, this would only be a merely statistical question. The important point is that there are moments in which the initial revelation cannot continue being same to itself except by progressing. And then, in that necessary moment of progressing towards identity is in what the very essence of the progress of the substrate consists. It is the actualization of sameness.

For example, it will be enough to remember what the Council of Nicea was. With its philosophical concepts inherited from Alexandria and Antioch the Council of Nicea defined the consubstantiality of the Father with the Son. However, there is no doubt that these philosophical concepts did not form part of the dogmatic definition. What is certain is that at that moment what constituted the essence of revelation (that the Father and the Son may be the same thing, the same what) could not be expressed except using the concept of “consubstantial”. The same happened afterwards in the Council of Chalcedon. This council {471} tells us that in Christ there are two natures and one person. Undoubtedly, these concepts do not form part of revelation. Christians during the time of the Apostles would have never had an idea of the difference between nature and person. However, at that moment it could not have been possible to maintain the reality of Christ as only one who and two what’s except by using the philosophical concepts of nature and person. We have seen that something similar took place at the Council of Trent. It was not possible to enunciate the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, facing the nominalist controversies, except by using the concept of substance.

The only way to maintain on certain occasions and under certain conditions the identity of the revealed deposit, of the propositum and the suppositum, consists precisely on having this progress of definition. Therefore, historicity is not only extrinsic to revelation, but in one form or another belongs to it intrinsically. Progress is an actualization and reactualization of the sameness in different forms, which in addition always leave open a problem of adequation. There is no dogma defined in history (even taking the entire history of mankind at the end of time) with which the sum of all the dogmas may adequately enunciate the content of revelation. In conformity with revelation, all of them, but adequately, none.

If we now take tradition unitarily in its three dimensions we then find that it is nothing but the perennial actuality and reactualization of revelation. Tradition is purely and simply the actualization of the presence of Christ in the Church. Because of this, tradition and Scripture do not constitute two fountains of revelation, but two forms of revelation.

Hence, it is essential to underline that the concept of tradition {472} we have used here is not an historical concept; it is a theologic concept. From the point of view of a historical science tradition is understood as the continuity of a documentary proof. Is there a tradition that Pythagoras may have discovered the mathematical theorems attributed to his name? Not an extensive one, some have said no, and others have said yes. However, they are in the Elements of Geometry of Euclid, and clearly we do have an historical continuity of this. However, this is not the concept of tradition we are discussing here. The concept of tradition here is purely theologic; it is the reactualization of the revealed deposit. Let us take the case of the Immaculate Conception. Even though during many centuries it may have been unknown and denied by many, this privilege of the Blessed Virgin, there is no doubt indeed, belongs to tradition. Because (whether known or not known by man) it forms part of that, which was in the revealed deposit, and therefore, is reactualized at each moment. Tradition does not consist in having testimonies of the Immaculate Conception, but in that, which is reactualized identically throughout history, involving or not involving the idea of the Immaculate Conception, which is a different matter. Hence, this is the case of a theologic concept, not historical.

Thus, revelation insofar as terminus of a progress is precisely what is called dogma. For example, the dogma defined at Nicea, the dogma defined at Chalcedon, the dogmas defined at the Council of Trent. And to ask what this dogma is simply takes us to the third point.

c) What is the structure itself of progress? To answer this question it will be necessary to raise an issue, the most difficult. How are dogmas brought out from the revealed deposit? That is the central issue.

One of the most representative positions (I am merely {473} enunciating them) was offered in a book by Newman at the end of the XIX century, which made history in the theology of the evolution of dogma, on the development of dogma3. To me it seems like an error, not because I think everything Newman says is incorrect, but because it has been characterized as a theology book, and it is really a book on apologetics. The book tries to justify all the definitions that have been given, and does not refer to the inner mechanism of a dogmatic definition, which is a different matter. And in second place, because there is an incorrect point. Newman throughout his entire book (despite all the enormous variations) assembles the legitimacy of dogmatic progress around the idea of what an organism is, something developing from a seed towards its fullness. Basically, it is the idea of the biological germ. This is not correct. That which leads to a dogmatic definition, does it have to be necessarily the development of a germ? I do not think so.

The other point of view, much more classical, belongs to the speculative theologians from the XV to practically the XIX century. These have thought that what leads to a dogmatic definition is a reasoning in which the major premise (arranging the case in syllogisms) enunciates a dogma of faith. There is a minor premise, and if from faith, the conclusion is also from faith. This is obvious. But more frequently the minor premise is not from faith, but a proposition merely from philosophical reason. For example, Christ is really present in the Eucharist. Minor premise, it is the case that the radical reality is substance. Conclusion, therefore, there is transubstantiation; Christ is present by way of substance. But then, is this conclusion definable as a dogma of faith?

Thomists, always quite confident, have answered yes. But this is more than problematic by fact and {474} by right. Problematic by fact, when or where has the Church ever defended substantiality as the structure of reality and transubstantiation insofar as defined? To have faith this is so, and that even the Pope may believe it, is a different matter. For the Pope, does this function as a revealed truth? Evidently, at the present time, no. There is no doubt about that. And in second place, it is problematic not only in fact, but also by right. Even if that were the way (and it clearly was at the Council of Trent) to reach the definition of a dogma (in this case, that Christ is really and not apparently present in the Eucharist), this way does not form part of the definition itself. The same happens with the definition of the saints. Regardless of the number of miracles listed, none belongs to the canonization, which is purely and simply the indefectible act of a Pope who says that so-and-so is in the catalog of saints. The reasons that lead to define a dogma do not form part of the definition, unless it is expressly mentioned, and that case has never existed. Because of this, from my point of view, Suárez was perfectly right when he affirmed that what has been called theological conclusions are not definable4. They would be defined purely and simply by a special act of God who assists the Church, which Suárez considers as a kind of equivalent revelation. The equivalent revelation appears to me as the height of unacceptability, but on the other point Suárez was right. Actually, the dogmatic progress is not the case of a biological germ or a logical conclusion, but of something else.

aa) It is the case, in the first place, that the dogmatic progress always occurs within a perfectly determined human situation. A particular situation of the whole man, {475} not only his intelligence. And of the whole man in a completely religious situation. The matter is quite clear, for example, in the same case of the Immaculate Conception. Thomist theologians attempted to lock into a syllogism the definition of this dogma. Not in the famous enthymeme attributed to Duns Scotus, but probably by Eadmer of England, according to which potuit, decuit, ergo fecit, but in a syllogism with the major starting with kecharitoméne (Lk 1:28). At any rate, with hindsight anything can be fitted into a syllogism, including reading these pages. But this does not mean it was the way to discover it. The great masters of speculative theology did not admit the Immaculate Conception. On the other hand, a few poor Franciscans felt the devotion to the Blessed Virgin as the Immaculate Conception. And it is there where the truth of the deposit of revelation was. The revealed deposit, and therefore, the progress, is inscribed in a situation of the whole man, and also in a religious situation.

bb) In the second place, this situation is a situation of seizure. Revelation is offered precisely to be admitted by man and therefore, to seize him. By virtue of this, revelation is offered to man as a system of possibilities, which may seize him or not, depending on whether he accepts the revelation or not. The seizure belongs to the order of possibilities, not the order of germs or logical conclusions.

cc) Among these possibilities, since they are manifestative, they all carry as an ingredient a possibility of comprehension. But it is of comprehension under certain completely determinate situations. In the ancient world revelation had to be made understandable to Greek reason. Afterwards the issue could be amplified, as I will show next, addressing what we might call the European or Western reason. But, {476} is it the case that with these the capacities and situations for the comprehensibility of a revelation that seizes man are exhausted? How can anyone say that other mentalities, other civilizations, other ways of thinking with a different religious tradition may not be the elements to which the revealed deposit directs itself in order to have a richer and obviously progressive comprehension, compared to what we have? How can we deny there are many mental and intellectual elements in the Brahmana texts to be able to apprehend in what the Incarnation consists?

Nevertheless, these possibilities involve possibilities of comprehension. And all these possibilities of comprehension are destined for man to appropriate some of them. Yet, in this appropriation there can be mistakes. The list of possibilities may be rather large and some possibilities may be suitable while others may not. What this means is that if we take the body of the Church as a set, it does not have a teaching infallibility, but it does have an infallibilitas credendi (infallibility of belief). If man appropriates some possibilities he has to investigate if they fit in the revealed deposit, if they do not there would be an error, and not a true progress. However, in order to fit we must have some criteria. Personally I tend to solve this problem in the following manner.

In the first place, there is a criterion for sameness, that they all may attest the same thing. It is the case, of course, of the original witnesses of the revelation. For example, for all to attest that they saw Christ resurrected. No contemporary of ours has ever seen him. Even though someone today may be blessed with a revelation, that revelation would happen today, and not during the day it happened, which leaves the question standing. It is sameness, a criterion for sameness.

{477} In the second place, there is a criterion of permanence. In this case we might consider sameness not only as testimony for what happens, but for the genuineness of the revealed deposit. From my perspective this is what constitutes the much handled testimony of St. Vincent of Lerins, “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ad omnibus”5, “that, which is believed everywhere, always, and by all”. The curious thing is that St. Vincent used that criterion against the concept of original sin of St. Augustine, which later became a dogma of faith. The fact is that this criterion is an assertive criterion, as a scholastic would put it. Certainly, what is believed always, everywhere, and by all can be definable. However, what is not said anywhere is that to be definable it has to be believed by all; assertive, yes; exclusive, not at all.

There has to be a third criterion. Together with the criterion of sameness, and the criterion of permanence or genuineness we would have to introduce a third criterion, what I would call the unity of “con-spiracy”, of cum-spirare6. Let us be clear about this, a conspiracy in which the entire body of the Church conspires. It is a spirare, and therefore, a way of sensing the life of Christ through the Spirit in their individual and collective hearts. But, in addition, it is a cum-, that is, that it leads to the same thing. And it leads to the same thing not by a mere material coincidence, but through a formal coincidence, precisely knowing it leads to the same thing. Indubitably, this con-spiratio has to be taken throughout long periods of history. Otherwise the contrary would be absurd, and would lead us to believe that Arianism was true during the time {478} of St. Jerome. The Church has, from my point of view, a con-spiratio, a conspiracy, a common aspiration. And in it is manifested not only the sameness of the revealed deposit, and its constant genuineness by everyone and everywhere, but something different, the very fertility of the revelation of Christ in the Spirit of Truth.

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1 Zubiri refers to the well known work by Cardinal J. H. Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, London, 1897 (10th ed.), specially pp. 73-74.
2 Cf. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses, bk. 1, ch. 9, no. 4, in J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series graeca, vol. 7, op. cit., col. 548.
3 Zubiri refers again to the book quoted above An Essay on the Development of Christian Dogma.
4 Cf. F. Suárez, Tractatus de fide, disp. 3, sec. 11, nos. 1-12.
5 St. Vincent of Lerins, Communitorium primum, no. 2, in J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina, vol. 50, Paris, 1846, col. 640.
6 The concept of conspiracy is used by Zubiri with respect to the dynamism of the social body in his Estructura dinámica de la realidad (Dynamic Structure of Reality), 1989, op. cit., pp. 265-266.



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