Nature/Revelation, Revelating, and Failing Well
If I say, “God cannot be known,” I have made a claim about God that I can only make if I know God; if I say, “God cannot be talked about,” I have talked about God; if I say, “The finite has no connection with the Infinite,” then I have made a claim about the Infinite that would require me in my finitude to have a connection with the Infinite in order to say meaningfully. If I say, “We can only say what God is not,” then I have said something about “Who God Is” (in trying to avoid speaking and thinking about God wrongly, I perhaps speak and think about God wrongly).
(My use of capital letters will be more liberal in this essay, as they often are when I write theology — an effort to suggest connections between the finite and the Infinite.)
The premise “God cannot be known” seems to be an axiom (which requires Reason to “take in”): it cannot be proven or disproven, regardless if it’s true. God is arguably by definition “Being-Transcendent,” and so if God Exists, God Exists as a Being Whose Knowing-of-Himself-as-Himself cannot be known, but is it possible that “God relative to us” can be known to some degree (which might say something meaningful about Godself)? Certainly, I cannot inhabit the consciousness of my friend, but I can know my friend as my friend is to me (such as “kind,” “thoughtful,” and/or “unknowable”): my inability to inhabit the consciousness doesn’t make it impossible for me to know my friend at all. I cannot know my friend unto herself, but I can know my friend as relative to me. Yes, my idea of who she is must always be tentative and ready for deconstruction if who she is unto herself “breaks in” and proves my idea of her wrong, but as long as I remain epistemologically humble, holding an idea of her isn’t a kind of idolatry, and frankly such is necessary, for otherwise she cannot “be” anyone to me at all. She would be nothing, and whatever is nothing to me is that which tends to be a space into which I project my reflections. I then become friends with myself, using another as a canvas for my creation.
(I will capitalize “Reason” and “Revelation” in this paper to denote categories, but I don’t mean the terms Platonically or something, please note.)
When we talk about God, we are talking about “Who God Is to us,” not “Who God Is Unto God,” for even if the first somehow has something to do with the latter, we cannot know for sure unless we are God. Yes, perhaps a given religion believes that parts or degrees of God’s Self can be known thanks to Revelation, but as a general rule, “God to God” is unknowable, just as “Daniel to Daniel” is unknowable to everyone but Daniel, and perhaps even to Daniel’s self, suggesting a difference between Daniel-to-Daniel and God-to-God is that God doesn’t engage in self-deception, self-concealment, or the like. Anyway, most talk about God is talk about “Who God is to us”; hence, it is talk about what cannot ever be totally confirmed (even if it is right, it cannot ever be known as right without inhabiting God’s Mind). This applies even to claims such as “God Cannot Be Known,” “the Thomist ‘analogy of being’ is wrong,” etc., which is to say that, funny enough, even claims that try to establish God’s Utter Transcendence require God not to Be so Transcendent that we cannot say “God Is Utterly Transcendent.” If God was Utterly Other, we couldn’t know that God was Utterly Other (and so the word “God” might not exist at all).¹
And yet, in all fairness, if the idea of “God” is to be meaningful profoundly, it must refer to a “Being Who Is Utterly Other” (from being(s) somehow) (to some degree), but following this logic, “God” can only be meaningful if we don’t know about “God.” Unless, that is, God somehow interacts “with us” (Speaks/speaks to us, per se), as God could do in God’s Transcendence, and that would be the role of Revelation, such as in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. In this paper, being more familiar with Christianity, I will speak in terms of Christian Revelation, but I believe the logic presented hence applies to all.
Does the idea that “God Is Utterly Other” come from Revelation or Reason? Reason can indeed come up with the idea of “God as Utterly Other” in a Deistic sense on its own, but the moment Reason generates this idea, it’s contemplating a “God Who Isn’t Utterly Other” (Reason might always birth a stillborn God). But what if Revelation tells us, “God Is Utterly Other” (or that God is inferable)? Then from Revelation we gain an idea which could be considered by Reason, and yet this idea is different from the idea when derived from Reason, because of the difference of the method via Revelation. The idea is identical in both examples, but the processes from which the idea arises are different, and that means there is a real difference (“difference” is not merely a comparison of final utility).
The knowledge of God that comes from Revelation isn’t automatically stillborn, for it is possible that God “gives us” ideas of Godself which actually have something to do with God (if God couldn’t do this, then God would be limited and arguably not God). Now, of course, we could say all Revelation is a delusion and Revelation doesn’t exist, but assuming Revelation does, then knowledge of God given to us by God is different from knowledge of God arrived at by Reason, even if the conclusions themselves are identical. This would suggest it is possible Reason to be “like Revelation,” but our epistemic justification for ascribing to it would be much less then if the idea came from Revelation. And yet at the same time an idea given to us through Revelation that “actually had something to do with God” would still have to be treated tentatively, for we would have to translate and interpret the idea into finite and personal terms which we could understand. There would be reason to believe there was a “Revelational core” at the heart of the notion (say from a verse in the Bible), but we couldn’t say the immediate words themselves necessary unveiled the fullness of the Revelation. Revelation would justify holding the words as “containing Revelation,” not gripping them in a tightened fist “as Revelation.”
Not all religions would agree with this view: Islam, for example, might see the Qur’an as more directly expressing Revelation, for Allah speaks Arabic and directly spoke the Qur’an. Fair enough, but I would argue that even the Qur’an must be interpreted, so the problem stands, though this problem doesn’t mean real knowledge about God is impossible at all. Interpretations can contain actuality, even if we can never relate to those interpretations with certainty, only confidence. Thankfully, I might add, for if certainty was possible it would by extension be possible for rulers to gain certainty about God and use that to impose power over others; similarly, there wouldn’t be a need to “wrestle with theology,” only memorize the right ideas, and humans don’t seem to flourish when they never wrestle.
Arguably, all thinking is “like Revelation,” for we will only think if there is “a core of actuality” to the ideas we are considering. We might not when we think (ever) have the whole of that “core,” but the existence of it incentivizes and motivates thought to try. This also suggests why the epistemological doctrine of “confidence” is so important (as argued for in The Conflict of Mind), precisely because it finds a path between “epistemic nihilism” and “certainty,” both of which remove the incentive to think. Furthermore, points of confidence can become points of real progress gaining access to that “core,” which both means we’ve gotten close at the truth and always have something to do (fighting boredom), and in that continual effort we are continually “conditioned” and transformed for the better.²
Anyway, Deistic ideas from Reason can “happen to be right” by happening to align with some Revelation, but Reason cannot be meaningfully tested as so aligned without Revelation, and so in a sense what is gained from Reason can actually be born “not stillborn,” and yet without Revelation, ideas of Reason can only be “known as stillborn” even if right. Reason alone, for theology, proves lacking: to speak of God without Revelation is to speak of a supreme principle under a word that seems hard to apply.
“A Truly Other God” must be given to Reason; the God is known by His extension in Revelation, not ours. At the same time, to focus on Christianity and give Reason its due, where in the Bible does it say that God can only be known thanks to Revelation? Where “upon Christ” or “in Christ” is it established that Revelation of God can only come from “upon” or “in” Christ? Can Sola Scriptura be found in Scripture? Can Sola Christus be found in Christ (or is Paul needed)? Perhaps it can be inferred, but this would suggest Reason must determine its own limitations and ontoepistemological need of (nonrational) Revelation. If Reason is humbled, Reason was willing, and if there was nothing like Reason to be so willing, Revelation could not be understood. As in Hegel “understanding” is needed precisely to fail into “reason” (“negation/sublation”), so Revelation needs Reason for Revelation to be “failed into” (but that would require Reason to be so willing).
Reason without Revelation cannot know a “True God,” for the moment “God” becomes meaningful relative to Reason, “God” has arguably become meaningless (a point reminiscent of Anselm). And yet without thought, how could a Christian read the Bible to know “God as Christ” (for example)? Isn’t it the case that the moment I read, hear, etc. Revelation, it enters into the human mind, and hence “The Utter Otherness of God” is lost? The ability to think is needed in order to know Revelation (though perhaps not for Salvation), and hence thinking must be reliable to some degree and cannot be so “fallen” that it is incapable of grasping “things that are true.” In other words, there must be some degree of “nature” that is reliable and/or “not broken” if humans are to be able to receive Revelation (for at the very least we must be able to rely on Reason enough to meaningfully conclude “Reason knows nothing”).
Perhaps only 1% of Reason is reliable and the other 99% is “utterly depraved,” but there must be some percent, and if that is the case, how do we tell which percent is in fact that percent which is reliable? We need Reason to figure this out, and if only some reasoning is acceptable, who gets to decide which is which?³ Suddenly, to determine this, someone requires a lot of power (and reasoning, for that matter), for even if it is claimed the Bible and/or Christ must be used as the standard, someone has to decide who has the right interpretation of the Bible and/or Christ, and hence reasoning must be used (the reasoning of those in power).
Revelation is how we can know a True God, seeing as Revelation is God’s extension to us, but since we can only ever experience Revelation through Reason, even when reasoning about a “True Revelation,” we can only know God “darkly.” Yes, from Revelation, truths that are aligned with Truths about God can be known, but the moment they enter our minds, we are dealing at best with “a partial Truth” (Truth/truth versus “truth” or “Truth”). To experience Revelation (Truth) is to know it as Truth/truth (Revelation/nature): it is to succeed at failing.
Reason and Revelation, the finite and the Infinite, are inseparable. Christians are people of “Christocentric (In)finitude,” of “Reason/Revelation,” always aware they are wrong about God (thanks to Reason), yet also aware they must be wrong to some degree to know anything about God at all (thanks to Revelation). To believe is to be humbly paradoxical, devoted to successful failure.
There is a tradition of theologians who believe we can claim things about God (such as “God Is Love,” “God Is Good,” etc.), even though we cannot know “God-to-God,” only “God-to-us.” Other theologians are horrified by this, believing it opens the door to Reason eclipsing God, and perhaps they would prefer it if all we claimed was that we could say, “God Is Christ,” “God Is The Word,” or the like (Revelation/Christ). These latter thinkers have worked hard to make modern Christian theology much more Christocentric, and for that we should be grateful. At the same time, some of them have arguable treated Christians who defend Reason as heretics (even if Reason is required to establish that “Reason leads to heresy”). Reason must bow before Revelation (like rationality must honor nonrationality for Hume), but if we think without Reason we can read, understand, grasp axioms about God such as “God Cannot Be Known,” or practice Revelation, we are fooling ourselves (perhaps in complicated, brilliant ways that require incredible reasoning to create). And yet, at the same time, if we think that we can use our reasoning to know God Fully, we too are fooling ourselves.
Paul wrote epistles to the Early Church precisely to help them Reason through what the Revelation of Christ meant for them in their daily lives, exploring questions ranging from if they could eat food devoted to other gods or if they could marry nonbelievers. Christ did not provide direct answers to these questions, but Christ did provide an example that Paul, in “the spirit of that Revelation,” could grope for answers that “might have been correct” (perhaps insomuch as they are confirmed by the Holy Spirit, but due note that determining when the Holy Spirit has spoken to us versus we only spoken to ourselves requires Reason). Paul devoted incredible amounts of time reasoning and philosophizing about the impacts of Christ’s Revelation (like a man tracing out the circumference of a crater, to allude to Karl Barth’s image), and Paul saw this reasoning as part of his Christian identity: he did not share the view that being Christian meant leaving behind Reason. A Christian who lives only on Revelation is not for Paul a Christian, but more like a contradiction who believes in a Good Creator but not the Goodness of Creations like Reason.
According to N.T. Wright, Paul arguably invents theology, and he does so by “reasoning Revelation”: Paul doesn’t simply Reason, nor does he simply repeat what Christ said verbatim. Paul is engaged in something new: he is reasoning with-in Revelation: he “Realations” or “Revelates” per se (I prefer “Revelates”), not simply Reason nor simply reciting Revelation. Paul is reasoning with-in a new world, a new system that accepts different axioms and premises about reality than those axioms and premises accepted outside Revelation (“in the world”). These axioms can only be found “in Christ” (“in The Word,” “in Revelation”) and thanks to Christ, we trust they are true, and hence we trust that Christian theology is “grounded” in reality (through the person of Christ), even if “the world” doesn’t agree. Yes, Christians may disagree in the conclusions drawn from these premises, but the premises themselves (which can only be known by Revelation and Grace alone) are the fundamentals upon which disagreements are “held (up)” (we disagree about what holds a bridge together while standing upon it).
If all we have is the Reveled axioms and don’t Reason from them as does Paul, we cannot know how to live out these premises. All we can do is guess, and though that doesn’t mean we’ll guess wrongly, it does mean we are at risk. Rather than theology, if we believe we should “declare the Gospel” and let the Holy Spirit do the work, how are we to “declare the Gospel?” Can we ignore Malcolm Muggeridge and use television? Should we use art? To answer these questions regarding how Revelation should speak for itself we must Reason — it’s inescapable, which is to say if we believe we aren’t reasoning, we are without owning it. The axioms of Revelation require it, not because Reason makes Revelation “more true” or something, but because Reason helps us determine how to live truly.
Theology is “Revelating” (in Paul’s case, for the sake of establishing a relationship with God/Christ): it is “Reason with-in Revelation.” It is not simply reasoning nor repeating Revelation, but an act of Reason/Revelation (and by extension, Nature/Revelation). Whether in one instance an act of Revelating is more so of Reason than Revelation or vice-versa cannot be determined: the line is easily too difficult to be drawn.
For Revelating to be possible, we must believe that reasoning can be reliable, not “totally depraved”; otherwise, Revelating, rather from Paul or Barth, is a waste of time. Yes, we must always be open to letting Revelation and “The Word” deconstruct all conclusions we draw, but as long as we are so “open” (like a bird resting in the palm of an open hand, as Michelle will describe), given the conclusions are testable by Revelation (in a Popper sense), we should hold to reasoned conclusions. Couldn’t God have given us Reason to know Him? Or are there limits on what God can do (deciding of which requires Reason and knowing God, the Unknowable)? Reasoning is inevitably involved in knowing Revelation, and if we cannot believe it is reliable, then we cannot know Revelation reliably. This isn’t to say we can ever be certain about our conclusions or that we won’t be wrong, but rather to say that we can trust the mechanisms themselves by which we reach our conclusions. Perhaps God created us so perfectly that when we are broken, we still are not useless.
To extend the point, as also referenced in The Savior: Digression(s) by O.G. Rose, in Church Dogmatics, III.4, Karl Barth writes brilliantly on suicide:
‘The opinion that [suicide] alone is unforgivable rests on the false view that the last will and act of man in time, because they are the last and take place as it were on the very threshold of Eternity, are authoritatively and conclusively decisive for his Eternal Destiny and God’s Verdict on him […] God Sees and Weighs the whole of human life. He Judges the heart […] Even the most sincere believer may be hurled on his death-bed into the most profound confusion and uncertainty, even though there be no suggestion of suicide […] Yet if there is Forgiveness for him, why not for the suicide?’⁴
I personally find this insight invaluable, but is it found in the Bile? Did Christ preach it verbatim? No, and yet I believe Barth is right, for it follows from the Revealed axioms of “The Word”: it is a rightful conclusion reached through Revelating. Whether Aquinas, Barth, Anselm, Augustine, or so on, conclusions reached via Revelating from Revealed axioms can be valid, even though we can never enter God’s Mind to confirm them. We must live with uncertainty, but to be “uncertain” about a conclusion isn’t the same as a conclusion being wrong. “Uncertain” and “wrong” aren’t similes, though they can feel like one and the same.⁵ ⁶
That all said, if we Reason in a way that eclipses Christian axioms with Enlightenment axioms (for example), then we fail to Revelate and risk heresy (something perhaps the Thomists are at risk of doing). On the other hand, if we Revelate to those who are “in the world,” we must be aware that we will likely be speaking a language to them they don’t understand. Reason, if it’s to “leap” into Revelation, must change fundamentally (into Revelating), and if it “leaps out,” it must change back (into Reason). Perhaps one can be led by Reason up to the gap over which a person can “leap” into Revelation, but Reason mustn’t try to go any further without fundamentally changing; otherwise, when it lands on the other side of the divide, it will find nothing new.
Where in “The Word” is it expressed that God cannot be discussed at all? Surely God cannot be known fully, nor can “God Be Known as God Knows God,” but it is not clear from Christ or the Bible that when we talk about God, our talk is always “totally off” versus only wrong to a degree. Indeed, it is never “fully right,” but is it always “fully wrong?” Perhaps it is “infinitely off,” but some infinites are smaller than others, yes? Surely some talk of God “succeeds at failing” better than does others? Otherwise, rather than say “God Is Love,” why not say, “God Is Beaver?” Yes, by what humans mean by “love,” God is not merely such, but saying “God Is Love,” even when the word suggests our ideas of love, is arguably more accurate than saying, “God Is Beaver.” Both are ultimately inaccurate, yes, but missing a bullseye by ten feet and missing it by two are different levels of inaccuracy, one better than the other (even when it cannot be told which is which).
If it is the case that all language fails to capture God “equally badly,” then why not say, “God Is Cat” instead of “God Is Justice?” Doesn’t the signifier “cat” fail the same as does “justice?” Why bother using the word “justice” instead of “cat” if it isn’t the case that though both signifiers ultimately fail, one “fails better” than does the other?⁷ Even if it isn’t true and even if we won’t admit it to ourselves, we say “God Is Justice” because we practically believe this phrases misses “Who God Is in Himself” in a way that is “more true” than the phrase “God Is Cat” (even though this later phrase could be somewhat true, since “God Is Everything,” but still, at least in most contexts, the phrase “misses less well” than does the phrase “God Is Love”). Yes, all language ultimately fails, but not all equally. Perhaps one would argue that the phrase “God Is Justice” is more backed by Revelation than the phrase “God Is Cat,” and there is truth to this, but automatically this means we believe Revelation can provide “more positive meaning” to words (and thereby Reason): in other words, Revelation can enable words that fail to capture God “miss better” than other words that fail to capture God. Hence, what results from Revelating isn’t entirely “negative” but is more “positive” than what results without Revelating.
Still, many theologians have been concerned with people believing they can talk of God even indirectly, which is to say they are concerned with the idea that humans can say “God is wise” and the sentence have any connection at all with “God Is Wise” (and how can we do anything but “speak in lowercase letters,” per se?). Indeed, no sentence ever accurately describes “God’s Wisdom Unto God’s Self,” and it is important that Christians never think that when they talk of God, they talk of God-to-God (no more than we ever think we can speak of a person as another person experiences his or her self). However, when Christians talk of God, they are often actually talking about God’s relationship to them (how to them God is wise, loving, fatherly, and so on, and please note that we use words like “father” precisely because we have fathers and can relate to this word: the risky of heresy is precisely why the term is valuable). These descriptions are used to try to capture the nature of the relationship, and while none of them quite capture it all in themselves, each can have value as an attempt. This is perhaps why the Bible is full of countless names and descriptions of God (God is a father, a shepherd, a king, etc.). No single description does God justice, and in the end, all of them fall short and none of them describe God’s Essence. But God doesn’t need us to fully succeed in this endeavor; rather, the effort to try to find words for how God relates “to us” is for our sake: to capture in words the experience so we can better discern when we are in the presence of the Living God versus our mere ideas of God. Yes, we risk misrepresenting God, but as long as we remain open to letting our words and phrases melt away upon encountering “The Word,” holding onto these descriptions can help us relate to God. Furthermore, these descriptions must emerge not simply from Reason but Revelating, lest the images and names describe a God not backed by Revelation.
Love risks idolatry. If I never buy my wife presents, she can feel neglected, but if I do buy her presents, I risk us beginning to think that people cannot love one another without presents. The expression of love risks losing sight of the essence of love. Likewise, to express my love of God, I must use language and images that, upon using, I can forget that these expressions aren’t essential, and fall into idolatry. Likewise, to know of Christ, I must read the Bible or history books, but in doing so I risk losing sight of the person of Christ in the records about Christ (I can raise scripture over God). There is always the risk of any expression of an essence coming to be held over the essence itself: this is part of being human. As we risk forgetting the word “cat” isn’t the “thing that is a cat,” so we risk forgetting that the word “God” isn’t “God Himself” (the same logic applies to any descriptions for God — or of anyone, for that matter). But this doesn’t mean all talk of God must cease, but rather it means that we are human, tragic in that we must play with fire to stay warm.
When we talk of God in a language that results from Revelating, we speak of God in a way that describes Him without fully doing so. We fail, but we can fail well. We do not necessarily avoid this problem by speaking of God negatively and saying “what God is not,” for if I say “God is not good” (because God is not “good” like the word means when I as a finite person say it), I am still saying something about God, for I am indirectly saying that I positively know that what I mean by “good” has nothing to do with God (that finitude is diametric to, versus part of and/or contained in, Infinity), which requires me being God to know.
To be clear, there is something valuable to be gained from recognizing that human language can never fully capture God, but we mustn’t forget that “negative theology” doesn’t necessarily avoid the potential pitfalls of “positive theology,” and it makes sense if I can assert some positive things about God (such as I knowing I can’t know God). There is no escape from potentially being arrogant: all theology must flirt with heresy and idolatry (and theology most at risk might actually be that which believes itself to be most “negative” and humble: if an angle of light can be a devil, so humility can be a fall).
If we describe Jesus as a “lamb who was slain,” we have suggested Christ is “like” something, and this is an which will require Reason, for the Bible does not define a lamb for us or tell us what it means to be “slain” (it does not provide definitions). Austin Farrer suggests all language is “analogous” in that if I use the word “cat” then I am saying that “something like a cat” is appropriate and fitting for the sentence that I am uttering. To speak of God then, even if totally based on Revelation, is necessary to rely on ideas outside Revelation, in the same way that a definition of a word requires words themselves, which must be defined, which also consists of words that must be define — on and on (to allude to Derrida’s point). We simply cannot speak of Revelation meaningfully and what we say be utterly confronted to the text: there will always be slippage, even if every metaphor, word, and notion we reference is found in the Revelation. We cannot avoid excess, and thus we cannot avoid Reason (as “rationality” must always “slip in” a reference to “truth” and “nonrationality.”
As we learn from Hayden White that it is impossible to write history without including subjectivity, so we cannot engage in Revelation without including Reason. A chronicle could be a pure list of historical facts for Hayden White, but otherwise to do history is to write something akin to literature; similarly, if we are not simply quoting Revelation verbatim, without any interpretation at all, we must be incorporating Reason. Which doesn’t mean we err, please note, no more than subjective involvement in history renders our thoughts wrong: the point is only that “autonomous Revelation” is impossible beyond a mere reciting of text (similarly to how we cannot refer to “things” outside “situation” for Leibniz). Thus, if theology is possible, like history, it will combine Reason and Revelation, as history will come facticity and subjective organization of that facticity. This is simply the way of things — it doesn’t necessitate error.
O.G. Rose discusses often how philosophy has been plagued by “autonomous rationality”; funny enough, theology has often had the opposite problem, “autonomous nonrationality” in the form of “autonomous Revelation.” As a dialectic is needed between “truth” and “rationality,” so a dialectic between Revelation and Reason is required to avoid autocannibalism and self-effacement. Now, as Heidegger would have Reason and philosophy lead us to a “clearing” in which we can experience Being “disclose itself” (versus we find and systemize Being as we like), so we must in theology use Reason to reach a “clearing” in which Revelation can “disclosure itself” to us (there is something profoundly theological about Heidegger, in my view). In this way, there is a dialectic, but there is also an order: Reason is to “make a clearing” for Revelation, versus Revelation “make a clearing” for Reason. That which is beyond our control is ultimately what has the final word — but for that we will be glad once it occurs. The experience of a Revelation, after all, tends to be more moving than the experience of Reason.
Aquinas suggests in the Summa Gentiles that “we can know God Is That Which we Cannot Fully Know,” writing at the start of Book I:
‘we must first show what way is open to us in order that we may make known the truth which is our objects. / There is a twofold mode of truth in what we profess about God. Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like.’⁸
There are things about God we can know and things we cannot, and Aquinas attempts to navigate the implications of this point (which neither fits neatly in “autonomous Reason” or “autonomous Revelation”). Aquinas goes on:
‘That there are certain truths about God that totally surpass man’s ability appears with the greatest evidence. Since, indeed, the principle of all knowledge that the reason perceives about some thing is the understanding of the very substance of that being […] it is necessary that the way in which we understand the substance of a thing determines the way in which we know what belongs to it.’⁹
How we know a thing depends on what that thing “is” (“how” and “is” are indivisible), and God is unique in God’s “Is-ness,” meaning theology must be epistemologically unique as well. ‘For the human intellect is not able to reach a comprehension of the divine substance through its natural power,’ and furthermore ‘the intellect depends on the sense for the origin of knowledge,’ which God Transcends.’¹⁰ Thus, it is not possible for Reason to even access the origin of knowledge about God, which is God’s self (while the origin of a rock is the Big Bang, to make an example), which means we can only begin thinking God thanks to Revelation (a gift of Grace).
Furthermore, if we believe God is known through Revelation, then how God is known is indivisible from Revelation, and furthermore we can posits that God wants to be known through (the form of a given) Revelation, and thus knowing God without it would violate God’s Will, even if we were genuine in our pursuit (the Deist God could be an idol). Can we know God if we don’t know God as God Wills? Arguably no, for God must be the origin of knowledge about God through Revelation, so if we learn about God outside God’s Will, we learn about God outside the origin of Revelation we require, meaning we know nothing about God at all. For this reason, Aquinas notes that we cannot say ‘everything that [can be] said about God [can] be investigated by reason,’ meaning there are possibly “nonrational truths” about God thanks to Revelation.¹¹
Meteors, Craters, and the Continental-Analytical Divide
On discussing topics “negatively” by “tracing around them,” and some differences between Analytical and Continental…
For Aquinas, theology always traces an “outline of a crater” — an image from Karl Barth (employed in “Meteors, Craters, and the Continental-Analytical Divide” by O.G. Rose) which I find infinitely useful. Barth writes:
‘The effulgence, or, rather, the crater made at the percussion point of an exploding shell, the void by which the point on the line of intersection makes itself known in the concrete world of history, is not — even though it be named the Life of Jesus — that other world which touches our world in Him. In so far as our world is touched in Jesus by the other world, it ceases to be capable of direct observation as history, time, or thing.’¹²
For Barth, it is only where Christ “touched history” that we can speak of God, and if we believe the Bible is “touched by Christ” through the Holy Spirt, then we can speak of the Bible as Revelation (though Karl Barth personally wants to emphasis Christ as Revelation more than the Bible, not that the Bible doesn’t matter). It’s also interesting to note how Barth here suggest our world itself cannot be understood where Christ has “touched it,” meaning the world itself is changed by Revelation which requires Revelation to understand. If Christ was Lord and came to earth, then the earth cannot be understood without Revelation: the epistemological method of theology is a method that must be used more widely. This also suggests that all truth requires theology, which might be a reason that it seems difficult for the Christian to not consider Science, History, etc. “as a Christian” (Revelation always changes the whole, for indeed if Revelation is true the whole has changed).
Because theology “traces out a crater,” per se, we can’t say anything “fully positive” about what is within the crater; rather, we can only say, “To me, there is something there shaped like a crater.” Perhaps it ultimately isn’t a crater (and we always must be ready for this humble acknowledgment), but we can at least say, “To me, something shaped like a crater is there.” Likewise, we can never say, “God’s Justice equals human justice,” but we can say, “Something that to me is like justice is there (even if I’m totally wrong).” As the Anti-Thomists warn, could this lead to humans worshiping an “idea of God” versus “the Revealed God?” Perhaps, but for Aquinas (like Anselm according to Barth), theology is always engaged in “from a position of worship,” and so it is necessarily humble, and that helps “check and balance” the concern.
All theologians and believers for that matter are at risk of worshiping “an idea of God” versus “God” (and since God Is Infinite, isn’t this ultimately the fate of all of us, to some degree?). For Calvin to assert his theology, he must make claims about God that could, theoretically, be wrong. If we are to believe something, all of us must, and whether we’re Thomists are not, theology always entails risk (and since we are finite, whatever we say will ultimately be “not good enough”: theology is always inadequate, “a science of things failing”). What counters this risk is worship, and seeing how many hymns Aquinas wrote, I think he “checked and balanced” himself well. At the end of his life, Aquinas said all that he wrote was straw, but he didn’t say that about his worship. At the end of his life, worship was all that he had, and the worship is what he carried inside perhaps thanks to his writings — but that “inner worship” is what ultimately counted. Reason is to fail Gloriously.
Reason proceeds Revelation, and so if Reason is unreliable due to the Fall, so too is Revelation, for Revelation is approached and read through Reason. It is the experiencing of the world on its terms that “causes” or inspires a seeker to go experience it through Revelation; it is not Revelation that “causes” a seeker to experience the world. Revelation comes after being born and an experience of life (no one is born having read the Bible even if they are born with “a sense of God,” which if considered part of Revelation, is still not the full Bible and/or life of Christ). The world is in the “schema” of Revelation, and yet Revelation is also within the “schema” of the world insomuch as it is realized through a finite book found in finite libraries by finite beings. The Infinite and the finite cannot be separated ((In)finite)).¹³
As discussed in “Austin Farrer and the Problem of Verifiable Education” by O.G. Rose (indebted to William Wilson), before knowing either way, to go see if “it is raining outside” is to act “as if” the statement is true. A person does this, and is able to do this, because the statement is meaningful before verification (regardless if it is ultimately true). Similarly, before verification, to live a life of faith is to live “as if” the faith is true and to do so meaningfully. Whether or not such a life reflects “ultimate truth” is another question, but to act as if all meaningfulness is contingent upon a final revelation is incorrect. We can live by faith and must live by faith, which means Reason must act “as if” following something like Revelation. In theology, this “(non)rationality epistemology” which defines O.G. Rose is simply more directly acknowledged (suggesting all fields have something to learn from the theology they might have dismissed).
As described in “The Theological Methodologies of Austin Farrer and Metaphor of Tolstoy” by O.G. Rose, for Tolstoy to write War and Peace was for him to live “as if” War and Peace was already an actuality (he believed in it), and Tolstoy was able to do so because War and Peace was meaningful to him before its existence could be verified (by others). To believe in God is to live like an artist: it is to believe in something that is meaningful before “it is” and that has the possibility of being actualized because of that belief. Perhaps the act of writing War and Peace was ultimately legitimized by its completion, but it does not follow that the act was meaningless before the novel was completed.
Tolstoy had reason (by which) to write, and it was by this reason that he could enter into the “revelation” of War and Peace and manifest it, per se. Similarly, we have Reason in the world by which we can believe in Revelation, “see” Revelation acting in and through creation, and meaningfully manifest it through our own lives. There cannot be belief without Reason (for the act of ascent itself to Christ is not “in” the Bible): belief is an extension of Reason and the groundwork for the possibility of participating in Revelation.¹⁴ Without Reason, there would be no possibility of Revelation being something that existed in the world “as if” it was real before it was verified — it is Reason that makes possible belief and the “causal joint” between the infinite and finite (as “(In)finite”). It is thanks to Reason and belief that the “Revelation” of creation can manifest and be participated in, which would mean that God had to generate a Creation in which Reason and Revelation existed in tension and in need of being properly ordered for God to be known at all (and God wouldn’t be Good if God Existed and didn’t make a possible way to know God).
Theology teaches us to think not through “verification” but through “tracing,” like walking around a crater. Now, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for debate, such as between Aquinas and Karl Barth, which is why a work like “A Proof of the Faith” by William Wilson is still needed. A few paragraphs from Dr. Wilson’s essay suggests possible grounds of disagreement:
‘Barth’s analogy of faith states that since God is his own knowability, the statements we make about him are true, coram Deo, as he gives himself to be known. In rejecting the analogy of being, Barth primarily rejected the system of ‘proportion’ at work in scholastic philosophy, viz., that there exists a proportion of being between a cause we name and its effect to which we give the same name; for this is the natural structure by which we are able to climb independently to the first and final causality of God and it was on the basis of this that scholasticism based the veracity of speech about God.¹⁵ Now in rejecting this independent approach Farrer also rejected this aspect of the analogy of being. The validity of our speech must be based on that pure intelligibility, pure activity, which God is and in which God acts toward us. Our speech is a ‘faint approach’, the ‘stammering of children,’ he said, given the uniqueness of God. Nevertheless, since Farrer’s project was to establish the rational structures in the direct apprehension of God we should not expect him to stop at this point. Given that we apprehend God in his own being through the window of finitude, he argued that there is, despite its poverty, a real connection between what we say of God and what he is in himself.¹⁶
‘Perhaps an illustration will best explain this: my will is the overall bind on the pattern of focused action which is myself, and though it is a poor and broken and frustrated simulacrum of what I know the will which is God to be, it remains that I know of his plenitude through my own poverty. Now Farrer has tried to establish a metaphysical connection between the finite and the infinite, and it is a connection based solely on the given relation between the two, not on any sort of inference. Thus my will, or any finite being, in being reduced and impoverished, is the very way in which we know God in his uniqueness and perfection. So in breaking our terms and fracturing our language to make it express the divine reality we are in fact seeking to express that real relation in which God bears down upon us. Thus I borrow a mathematical term, ‘the infinite’, to modify my belief that God is will, and say in essence, that God is what I would be if my will were not always determinant and contextualized. Of course I do not know what that would be like; nonetheless, I say it, and believe it, because I do apprehend the unrestricted nature of his will in and through and with my own willing in jointless effect.’¹⁷
Reason is an effort for Austin Farrer to think beyond our finite context, which is impossible, but it doesn’t follow from that if Reason could think beyond our finite context, it wouldn’t meaningfully “touch” the Infinite. We cannot assume that Reason itself is inadequate, but rather Reason could instead be “held back” by the finitude which Reason is necessarily situated in: it must fall short, but that doesn’t mean it must be broken (a point with which Hegel might agree). On Farrer, Dr. Wilson continues:
‘In this way rational analogies based on a knowledge of being are true, and in being true are the windows through which the God known first to himself reveals himself. This is an important point to grasp in Farrer’s thought, for it explains his recourse to imagery in scriptural narrative. Biblical images, Farrer argued, have the same noetic structure as rational analogies and are likewise true windows on God’s condescension. The traditional images of God as Lord, King, Rock, or Shield are equally ‘stammering’ terms seeking to express the uniqueness of God. In the New Testament stories we see this stammering taking place with a vengeance. Given the work of Christ and the firm belief that God had dwelt among them, the New Testament authors in response to this evangelical pressure set out a ‘rebirth of images.’ Now the picture of God as King has to be made to ‘look all wrong’ as we have to make our will ‘look all wrong’ to express our rational understanding of God. Now it is said that the King is also the ‘suffering servant.’ If you can think that riddle, Farrer said, then you can think humanly the incarnation of God. Or it is said that the High Priest is also the bloody lamb, the prophet is the sanction, the temple is a body, the righteous man is also a blasphemer. Such images, Farrer argued, are those terms that structure the New Testament stories, that organize the types, the figures, the selection of events, the metaphors, and that make the gospels the strange stories we find them to be. They are the ‘glass of vision’ through which we grasp the full career of God with us and so, despite their inadequacy, they are God’s gift to us, and we find analytically that they have the structure of our rational speech about God.¹⁸
For Farrer, if we throw out Reason, we must also through our imagery and metaphor, and for Farrer that means we ultimately must throw out language, which would render theology impossible. That said, Farrer notes that “real knowledge of God” is found in “a destabilization between imagery,” which we can also think of as a “contradiction” and/or “paradox,” which only further aligns Farrer with Hegel. When we Reason paradoxically (however that might occur) Reason is capable of meaningfully knowledge of God, but this very “paradox” limits Reason and thus keeps it from engaging in heresy and idolatry. In paradox, there is perhaps a “glimpse beyond” our finite context of the Infinite (which could unveil that we are always dealing with an “(In)finite, actually — the whole “horizon” of our being changes), which for Farrer we can rely on because it is not Reason itself which innately cannot access God, but rather Reason when situated in a finite context that “holds it back,” per se.
Indeed, Reason never “fully” thinks God in paradox (A/B), precisely because a paradox is not possible to “fully think” (all at once, at least), and even if we think one paradox there are still perhaps infinitely more we would need to think to think God “fully.” But none of that is a problem for Austin Farrer, and in fact such limits on Reason are good in making space for Grace and humility. However, what Farrer has done is carved a space and way in which Reason can fail to fully access God and yet not in itself be incapable of accessing God meaningfully at all — that is Farrer’s goal. It will have to be argued in The Absolute Choice, but I think Hegel attempts something similar with his focus on “contradiction,” as does Leibniz with his “situation,” which is to say there is a tradition of thinkers who defend Reason precisely in acts which limit it. It is through limiting finitude that it meaningfully participates in the Infinite, which is how “connection with the Infinite” is possible without idolatry. But all that will require a book to defend; however, we can at least say for now that the point of “paradox” is to make a “clearing” of thought for life (theology, as Matthew Stanley put it, is where we stand on our knees).
I will close this section with two final paragraphs from Dr. Wilson’s extraordinary essay:
‘Thus, we arrive at the final contrast between Barth’s insistence that secular parables are ‘extraordinary’ and Farrer’s insistence that metaphysical analysis aims at systematic completeness. Barth’s claim is that the lights of creation must not systematically dominate the self-attestation of Jesus Christ in Bible and Church. Farrer’s claim is that the God of cosmos, humanity, and church incarnate in Jesus Christ be thought through the full breadth and depth of His being and activity […] There are [on the other hand] clear limits to the range of personal and social activities Barth is willing to describe […] For Farrer, on the other hand, there is no realm that we must not think […]
‘The difference, then, is real and practical. But, once again without prejudice to these differences, we maintain that Barth and Farrer are complementary rather than opposed […] Barth’s purpose is to provide ‘a critical account’ of the words and deeds of the Christian community.¹⁹ Farrer’s purpose is to analyze the divine prevenience throughout the whole of cosmos, church, Bible and self. Barth’s central point about secular parables is that they are usually only authoritative for one group in one time and circumstance; they therefore ought not be made authoritative for the whole community, even at the risk of remaining agnostic over a great many topics […] Farrer’s point is that we are particular people in particular times and circumstances; our thinking must be fully extended, even at the risk of confusing the essential and non-essential.’²⁰
Would Farrer have us risk error in the name of treating God in light of the fullness of the cosmos? Is Barth wiser? Are Barth and Farrer complementary? Can they not be held together? Dr. William Wilson makes the full case in his essay, and I will leave readers to consider that work on their own time. For now, we will bring this paper to a close.
There is no such thing as entirely “negative theology,” for saying I can know nothing of God is to say something of God. Determining that “Reason is useless” requires Reason to determine; saying, “God cannot be described by human language,” describes something about God; saying, “We cannot know things outside the person of Christ,” is to say something outside the person of Christ; to say, “All we know about God is thanks to Revelation,” is to say something not claimed in Revelation; to experience Revelation, we require our eyes, brain, ears, etc. to work and be reliable (we require Nature); to claim logic on earth is different from Logic in Heaven (or that it cannot be known either way) is to say something positive about Heaven; and so on.²¹ All this doesn’t mean all theology is equally “positive,” but it does mean a total division between apophatic and cataphatic theologies is not possible. We must make discernments, judgment, weight — our work is hard and great.
Reason is always an extension of axioms, but it is rarely if ever reducible to axioms. If x follows from y axiom, then y would be an extension of x, even if y could not be directly located (verbatim) in x. Just because x could not directly be found in y, it would not follow that y necessarily violated x in some way. Likewise, it is impossible for Revelation to entail all the thoughts that can be generated from Revelation. If y is Revelation and x is a conclusion based on y, the fact x is not directly in y (verbatim) doesn’t necessarily mean that x isn’t an expression of y or that it doesn’t maintain the integrity of y. In fact, it is not possible to discuss what Revelation means without using language and ideas not found in Revelation, for if we used the same language and ideas, we would just be copying the Revelation and so no closer to its meaning. We’d be walking in place.
Unless words are their meaning (which a quick glance at a dictionary will prove otherwise), then it is impossible to avoid “extending” Revelation into thoughts and words not found in Revelation. If this act is considered heresy, then understanding is heresy. Our focus then should not be on if x is an extension of y in general, but if x is a justified extension of y, which is another discussion entirely. This noted, it should be stressed that we are not trying to say that Reason isn’t often inadequate, or that it’s false that speaking about God doesn’t require Revelation, etc.; rather, we are saying that to make these claims, which may or may not be true, we must participate in the very Reason we might be speaking to “put in proper bounds.” Theologians who want to limit Reason must use Reason (at least in Revelating), as theologians who want to place Revelation as the “sole source of truth” must make claims not found in Revelation (theologians might do the things they claim cannot be done in order to claim these things cannot be done). This doesn’t mean theologians are entirely wrong, but rather that “fallen” humans are paradoxical, unable to be right without being wrong, necessarily participating in what they are against in order to be against it. And if Christianity is true, this is what we should expect of “fallen,” “upside-down” beings.
Yes, it is important that theology grasp how limited it is, and that it incorporates a healthy dosage of Nassim Taleb’s thinking on the limits of thought, the difference between thinking in “low order” and “high order” terms (see “Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose), and so on, but it mustn’t be assumed that “negative theology” entirely avoids saying anything “positive” about God and hence avoids risking heresy altogether. If we speak of God, as we must to know Him, we risk participating in heresy, as is perhaps an unavoidable cost of “The Fall.”
All theology speaks of God: it is “the science of things failing,” we being “things who fail.” “Negative theology” which fails to acknowledge its “positivity” can be at risk of heresy just as much as is “positive theology” that fails to acknowledge its “negativity” (both are vulnerable to pride). Likewise, Revelation-focused theology that believes it is free of Reason is prone to err as is Reason-focused theology that’s always on the verge of eclipsing Revelation. Christianity must always be Christocentric, certainly, but we must also recognize that theology is always an act of “Revelation/Nature,” “positivity/negativity” — never one without the other. “Fallen” and yet striving for God, we are necessarily paradoxical and split, but in a “fallen” world that itself is paradoxical, to be paradoxical is to be “open” to living Redeemed.
¹Does this suggest that knowing about God disproves God? Maybe, or it could suggest that “Nothing Totally Other” exists, that everything communes, say following a “communal ontology,” as defended by Trey at Telosbound? Perhaps GOD (all caps) was Totally Other, but “God With the Choice to Create” is Totally Other in a way which we can know is “Totally Other” (which is a different quality of relation)?
²This is a point that suggests the role of questions and “the good” for Plato and Socrates according to DC Schindler.
³Perhaps “thought” and “reason” shouldn’t be used so interchangeably? But how could we establish that without reason? At best, we could say “reason is logic-based” while thought is simply the mechanism by which the brain works — but how can we establish that the brain doesn’t operate logically without reason? Drawing the line between “thought” and “reason” requires reason.
⁴Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, III.4. Edited by G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010: 405.
⁵Between Church Dogmatics and Suma Theologica, I see the same kind of work: theology is almost always Revelating. Yes, there might be differences in emphases, say as one using Church Fathers more than the other, etc., but “the kind of thought” can be all the same, though the conclusions are of course different. Can Aquinas lead to the problems Barth warns about? Yes, but can Barth lead to problems of his own? Of course: find me a thinker who can’t be used by the thoughtless to end the world and I’ll show you New Jerusalem.
⁶As I understand it, Aquinas reasons up to where Revelation begins, then leaps into Revelation (in a Kierkegaardian sense), and once in Revelation, Revelates (with-in Revelation). There is no eclipsing of Revelation by Reason going on, and I’m not of the opinion that Aquinas thinks we can Reason ourselves into faith. Aquinas believes we need Grace to Be Saved, but Reason can be useful insomuch as it can “lead us up” to the door behind which Grace can be found and perhaps inspire us to knock. Yes, God has to open the door, but we can “show up,” and Reason can help.
I don’t believe it is correct to say Aquinas uses Reason when he should Revelate or Revelate when he should Reason. Outside Revelation, Aquinas uses Reason; in it, he uses Revelating. I don’t think Aquinas “stuffs” Christ into the model of the God of Aristotle (as sometimes accused), but rather Aquinas finds Aristotle useful for describing God in a way that can be apologetic, understood by outsiders, and potentially lead nobelievers to Christ (seeing as Aristotle was so influential to so many). Perhaps Aquinas wasted his time being apologetic because apologetics don’t work? Perhaps, but that is a different argument than saying that Aquinas sacrificed Revelation to Reason. Rightly or wrongly, his aim was to win souls to Christ, even if doomed to fail.
Personally, I think Aquinas could remove the “Analogy of Being” (which I’m not sure is ever directly mentioned) from his work and very little change (it’s a linguistic tool more than ontological), as he could remove his “Five Proofs” (a title he never gives them), and the impact be hardly noticeable.¹ Yes, Aquinas uses Aristotelian philosophy for the sake of understanding Christian Revelation, but I don’t think that Aquinas replaces Revelation with Reason. He Revelates inspired by Aristotle, as Barth Revelates inspired by Kierkegaard, Anselm, Calvin, and others. Yes, Aquinas is inspired by a pagan, but if I in my theology use “2 + 2 = 4” to make a point, is my theology invalid because I use an idea not found in the Bible and potentially birthed by an atheist? Perhaps there is plenty in the canon of Aquinas that is wrong, but it is not wrong because it was inspired by Aristotle, as the work of Barth isn’t right because it was inspired by Anselm. What’s wrong is wrong, as what’s right is right (see “Basic Math” by O.G. Rose).
¹For more, please see “The ‘Analogy of Being’ and the Living God” David Layman, as can be found here:
⁷The same could be said about images, seeing as language is often pictorial.
⁸Aquinas, Thomas. Suma Contra Gentiles: Book I: God. Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1955: 63.
⁹Aquinas, Thomas. Suma Contra Gentiles: Book I: God. Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1955: 63.
¹⁰Aquinas, Thomas. Suma Contra Gentiles: Book I: God. Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1955: 64.
¹¹Aquinas, Thomas. Suma Contra Gentiles: Book I: God. Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1955: 66.
¹²Barth, Karl. Epistle to the Romans. Oxford University Press, 1968: 29.
¹³Critically for Austin Farrer, it is the orientation of the will that brings them together and makes them arise together, suggesting that theology should be very interested in the quality of our will and decisions — but that is another topic for another time.
¹⁴Can we draw a distinction between “thinking” and “Reason” here and say that we only need “thinking” for belief? That move could be made, but if “thinking” isn’t so “fallen” that it is capable of “meaningfully reaching toward God,” I don’t know why “Reason” should be so “fallen.” And would not thinking require logical consideration or at least “ascent” to accept belief? How is that any different from the procedures and processes of Reason? Generally, I am not a fan of distinctions between say “logic,” “reason,” “rationality,” and “thinking” — often the distinctions require a subtle incorporation of “nonrationality” as if it is part of rationality itself versus dialectically distinct.
¹⁵Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics (II.I). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, Ltd., 1936–1975): 224–264.
¹⁶Farrer, Austin. Finite and Infinite: A Philosophical Essay (Second Edition). London: Dacre Press, 1958: 37–62
¹⁷These two paragraphs are from “A Proof of the Faith” by William Wilson (240 of Independent Publication).
¹⁸This paragraph is “A Proof of the Faith” by William Wilson (241 of Independent Publication).
¹⁹Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics (IV.3). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, Ltd., 1936–1975: 879.
²⁰This paragraph is “A Proof of the Faith” by William Wilson (242–243 of Independent Publication).
²¹Affirming that “positive theology is unavoidable” is good for artists, and, if James K.A. Smith is correct, Christianity today desperately needs artists.
1. If we think about a rock, we raise it “into” our level of thought; if we think of God, we lower Him to the level of what we can know of Him, and this applies even when we are thinking about how “I can know nothing of God” (for our “nothing” is still “our nothing”).
2. If being Christian is solely a negative job, of being a “nothing” through which the Gospel can reveal itself, we still must do the positive job of figuring out how to be that “nothing”. If it is determined that we must make our reason a “nothing” through which Revelation can shine, again, we must use Reason to figure out how to make our Reason such a “nothing.” There is no such thing as an utterly negative theology, and any attempt at such an enterprise sows the seeds of its own destruction.
3. Some readers of this paper may dislike my use of capitalized words, but I would defend my style by remaindering the reader that all talk about God is ultimately failed talk.
4. When it came to assembling the Bible, keeping out Gnostic texts, and the like, the Early Church Fathers used Reason with Revelation to determine which books should make up the Bible without distorting the person of Christ.
5. An advantage of “negative theology” is its constant reminder that humans are finite and hence need to be epistemologically humble, while an advantage of “positive theology” is to see the world as effused with God’s Presence and “pointing to” God. Ideally, the best of both can be held up without the negatives, but that takes work and discipline to achieve.
6. Perhaps it could be said that Orthodoxy changes through realization while Heterodoxy changes through remodeling.
7. It’s easy to say “we can’t know (insert)” when we’re safe in academia, not stuck in situations where not knowing can dramatically impact a person’s life.
8. The Bible entails a “constantly unfolding Revelation,” which means we must constantly reinterpret the Bible, but also do so in a way that maintains internal consistency, which requires a deep understanding and even appreciation of Orthodoxy, and yet the fact the Bible entails an “unfolding revelation” makes orthodoxy seem less necessary to know.
9. We arguably cannot discuss “The Trinity” without Reason, for it is not directly stated by “The Word.” “The Trinity” is a result of Revelating.
10. The need for Revelating is perhaps suggested by the debate between Peter and Paul.
11. God cannot be fully known, but thanks to Christ, God can be known truly. Thanks to Christ, we can say things about God that are “pointing in the right direction,” even though inadequate.
12. We must ask if something is Orthodoxy if it is consistent with Orthodoxy. To say x is Orthodoxy means pretty much that every Christians must believe x; to say x is consistent with Orthodoxy is to say it could be something every Christian needs to believe, but it’s not clear. Thus, what is Orthodoxy isn’t optional, while what is consistent with Orthodoxy could be optional (though possibly true).