Monday, October 05, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Agency of God

Recently, I saw the following comment posted by a fan of Bultmann:

"Faith paradoxically understands as God's action here and now an event which is completely intelligible in a natural or historical sense" - Bultmann

To falsify the above statement, one would only have to witness one miracle, one clear act of free supernatural agency. The point of the quote, however, is that Bultmann and others exclude the miraculous from the outset. "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead."

The Bultmann quote is interesting to me in how it expresses quite concisely the split between faith and knowledge: that is, knowledge is something objective (where objective is conceived of merely as empericism); faith is personal opinion, a subjective feeling, incommunicable. Even God cannot communicate himself to human beings. I appreciate meeting a fan of Bultmann because he holds explicitly what most Protestants and Catholics already hold implicitly.

If God truly has become an agent in the world, in addition to and beyond the immanent flux of natural and historical forces, then the way of verification would necessarily have to go beyond what Bultmann proposes - beyond an intellectual effort at interpreting God's invisible hand. It would necessarily demand the whole person: body, soul, spirit, reason and feelings (or more simply the unity which the Bible names heart) - fully human, and therefore, in communion with others. It would demand an openness to the possibility that God could reveal himself in the vulnerable form of a human among humans. Is it possible to meet God in ordinary, human life? Or will we harden our hearts against the assault of God's terrible meekness? I ask this question to myself first of all, and secondly to my fellow Catholics. As witness of the miracle, I feel no attraction to Bultmann any more than that which Jacob would feel. We who limp as a consequence of wrestling with "God's infinity / Dwindled to infancy" must proclaim what we have seen and not claim that it's due to something merely banal like sciatica.
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