Return God to Theology
Review of the book by Alexei Gaginsky's book “The philosophy of the indiscriminate beginnings” (Moscow: Institute of Physics, RAS, 2018).
Heidegger, Tillich, Marion
Why is there something and not nothing? Does everything that is, the foundation, the origin? Questions of this kind are those that are called philosophical. At the same time they can be called religious: as expressed in the twentieth century. opinion, religiosity and its intellectual expression – theology – begins where extreme concern with one’s own being begins. These questions contain precisely that dose of philosophy and theology, which allows these areas of thought not to turn into the "game of beads" of some initiates, but to remain relevant for everyone as a being self-aware and because of this his own being. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that the book by Alexei Gaginsky, The Philosophy of the Indiscriminate Beginnings, although it is a special study of the history of thinking about the ultimate basis of being, will be of interest to the general reader, thinking about eternal questions.
Yes, the book of A. Gaginsky is a special philosophical study, but through it theological concern shines through. Of course, it is necessary to at least briefly say about the essence of the problem under study. The author identifies in the European philosophical tradition, starting from its ancient origins, three variants of a conceivable, limiting, baseless beginning: being, the One, God. The corresponding areas of thinking can be called ontology, genology (from the Greek. Ἕν – one) and theology. Ancestors of philosophy, the Greeks, developed the first two options. God, as the ultimate principle, “penetrated” into philosophical thinking from the Bible, with the interpenetration of the ancient and Jewish, and as Christianization proceeded, the ancient and Christian worlds. The penetration of the philosophy of the air of antiquity led to the specificity of Christianity: God became in it (not counting the anticipation of this by the Jew Philo of Alexandria) a “subject” of philosophizing.
It is appropriate here to recall the long-debated question: how is theology different from philosophy? Is it only to those, in fact, a formal sign that God is the “subject” of theology? This is the most important question that requires returning to it, but for now let us designate the main problem of the book, which was previously pointed out by Heidegger: in time with the philosophy of Christian thought, with time, the place of God as the ultimate principle actually again became existence. This means the following. If in the Bible God was thought “before” of being, as its Creator and guarantor, then, starting from a certain time, God in Christian thought became “Highest Existing,” even if it was primary and created everything else, but still a form of being and thus "Was involved" in life. Heidegger calls this state of thinking about God a Kantian neologism “ontotheology”. It marks this process, in particular, the emergence of evidence of the existence of God — after all, they mean exactly that God “has being,” depends on him, and does not condition him as his Creator and giver. Hence, as you can see, there is already one step to the possibility of atheism: if God also “exists” or “exists”, then He is only a kind of being, and about Him, like any “existing”, it is legitimate to raise the question of possible non-existence.
The question is not at all absurd: after all, the existence of God does not appear to us with the same degree of objective certainty as the being of the things around us and of man himself. The author quotes the words of V. V. Bibikhin: "The truth of atheism: There is no God anywhere." These words are capable of hitting someone who believes in the very heart, but, being intellectually honest to the end, we must admit that unlike the world of the biblical psalmist, in the modern world, saying “there is no God” is no longer a madman.
The origins of atheism and its very potential are, of course, a hot topic in theology and religious philosophy of an era in which atheism is possible. Speaking of theology, we can recall the rather popular today direction of radical orthodoxy, which, especially in the person of J. Milbank, connects the emergence of this opportunity with some wrong theological solutions, already later than theses of Aquinas, known as the arguments of God's existence.
For Milbank, God became “one of the things” not at all through the fault of the latter, not in Thomism, but, on the contrary, as a result of the departure from the Thomistic principle of analogous or “equivalent” use of the concept of being applied to God, in its time replaced by Duns Scotus by “univocal ", That is, not by analogy, but in the same direct sense as applied to creation. Milbank and his like-minded people consider the radical nominalism of William Ockham, who contributed to the disappearance of the human consciousness of the universals and entities that were previously mediators for him, the “guides” of God as another theological sin of the late post-tomist scholastics. Thus, if the first tendency wrongly “draws” God into the world, the second “expels” God from the world. But both tendencies are two sides in violation of the right balance in theological thinking between the transcendence of God to the world and His presence in the world; they distort the idea of God and thus give rise to accusations of inconsistency of the idea itself with reason.
As for A. Gaginsky, he, analyzing the phenomenon of ontotheology, seems to see the premise of atheism not in particular concrete errors of specific theologians, but as more fundamental, linking it with the development of philosophical thinking in principle. Thus, this is not some particular tendency, but almost inevitable in the context of thinking of this kind. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the difference of the proposed cure recipes in comparison with radical orthodoxy. Its representatives (and their sympathizers) dream of a reverse course from postmodern and modern to the pre-modern and pre-secularism, in theological and worldview senses, somewhere to Aquinas, at least, to Okkamov's nominalism.
It is noteworthy that an aspect of this is a certain “reverse enchantment” of the now “disenchanted” (according to M. Weber) world in human consciousness, up to the return of universals and spirits into it as mediators of the divine presence (such aspirations are expressed by C. Taylor) . In the book of A. Gaginsky, there is no call in the face of the secular age to retreat to some past positions. The same “incandescence” of the world for him, unlike Milbank and Taylor, is more likely not a loss, but an acquisition. “It is impossible to return God to theology”, to go back to the God’s thinking from the “Highest Being” to the “Giver of Being”, abandoning modernity, would be tantamount to giving up ourselves. It is even possible that it is no longer possible to “properly speak” about God, and all that remains is to “do about God” (the author’s expression, as one might think, meaning active faith).
However, a person still has the need and talk, especially, about what worries. Apparently, sensing this, A. Gaginsky (presumably, in the order of a call not to return, but to actualize the existing theological potential of overcoming “ontotheology”) sees a possible way of talking about God in appeal to a tradition that began to think on this topic long before secular society and the formation of a markedly secular culture and was driven by "only one thirst for knowledge of God." This Eastern Christian tradition of distinguishing between divine essence and energy, as is well known, crystallized in palamism, but originating, perhaps, from Irenaeus of Lyons.
It must be said that the ground for the interested discussion is already showing here, there is a difference in the approaches of the author of these lines with A. Gaginsky. Here, as in the case of any return to past decisions, one can see the problem: it is rather difficult to expect acceptable answers to difficult questions from ideas that arose to clearly articulating these questions. In the same way, the problem of what to do with atheism could have been properly posed not earlier than the collision with the reality of atheism as a formed flow of thought.
Needless to say, the author is familiar with the spectrum of attempts at theological solutions to the problem of “ontotheology,” proposed after being formulated by Heidegger. The book contains the names of P. Tillich and J.-L. Marion in different periods of the twentieth century. and in different mental atmospheres – the late modern and postmodern respectively, – directly, face to face with this problem. In particular, Tillich already suggested ending the ontological theology in theology, deriving the last from the usual dead end of the dispute about the "existence" of God, for God does not "exist", but is the basis of all existence and being, being the very prerequisite of all existence beyond which there is no longer no prerequisites. In order to reveal the question of this baseless Basis as possible and even necessary for a person, Tillich addresses the analysis of the human situation of being rooted in being, finiteness and fragility, causing human “ultimate care” as a thirst for overcoming alienation from God as the ultimate Foundation of being.
The fact that Irenaeus proclaimed as a postulate (“nothing can be found above God”) is related to human questions by Tillich: the God sought is such a God, and some higher being can not be the answer to it. The latter may still be a symbol of God, another final way to say about God, but the God sought is above this God, "God is above the God of theism." With such a formulation of the question of God, a true atheist is not the one who denies the existence of a being called God, but one who is fundamentally incapable of God’s thirst, “ultimate care.” Are there such people – another question.
However, Tillichu to this day cannot forgive this attribution of God from the answers to questions, in fact legitimizing doubt as "not the antipode of faith, but its element." It seems natural in the modern situation of pluralism and rootedness of a critical installation, but it continues to be a challenge for traditional Christian theology or “orthodoxy”, accustomed to the fact that God is given, so to speak, from where He is supposed to be – from above, i.e. beginning already in thinking, and does not arise from below, from the analysis of the human situation.
Many in the theological community in general refuse to such a decision in the right to be called theological. Here again comes the question of the difference between philosophy and theology. The situation with the reception of Tillich illustrates how this distinction is conceived in the most usual way: if philosophy, even the thought of God, is based on a question, then theology proceeds (or believes it comes) from the givenness of God and the answer that already exists from Him. The second and later of the theologians mentioned by A. Gaginsky, who deal with the problem of ontotheology, is J.-L. Marion offers his post-metaphysical solution, not so inseparable as Tillich’s, related to placing God in the question: there is no God anywhere, because God is an absolute Donor, as if dissolved in creation-gift, and all that is required is to feel the creation as a gift, without asking, including the Tillichian race, the questions of “marginal Foundation”, “last depth”, etc. What, it must be supposed, ensures the relatively greater acceptability of its approach among people who share the fundamental value of orthodoxy.
Thinking in its intersubjective aspect is a kind of “volleyball” or “ping-pong”, and all kinds of “balls” will immediately be thrown to the other side. So Marion's approach raises the question: is the whole available reality perceived so unambiguously and without problems as a good gift from a good Donor in order to ignore the character of our being as care? Further, the general orthodox approach “God as an answer” (with or without ontotheology) leads to a curious consequence: in view of the fact that this approach does not cancel the evangelical “No one has ever seen God,” the text narrative, whether in the original form of the oral Tradition or in the form of codified Scripture.
The apology of the text as a direct revelation is alive and continues to evolve; it is enough to cite one completely fresh in time statement of a theologian about theology. It is based not only on God's self-message, but on self-interpreted self-communication. From here, among other things, it is concluded that theology, unlike philosophy, is not a problem for itself, in other words, in its fundamentals it is fundamentally non-reflexive.
What does this mean, however? Is the narrative itself not “assigned” by a sort of a free baseless beginning? And is not ontotheology itself an expression of this: after all, the biblical image of God as a supreme Being with anthropomorphic features is also a part of the Christian narrative, perhaps the main one? But, after all, this anthropomorphism has been the target of criticism from the point of view of the principles of the mind more than once. But how else, without such a “sacrifice of reason”, would express the biblical faith in the living God, not indifferent to His creation? ..
These and other questions are exacerbated by reading the book of A. Gaginsky, in which philosophical and theological interest is so organically and intensely intertwined.
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