Tuesday, 5 March 2013

No more revelations

The twelfth conversation between Fr. Tischner and Jacek Żakowski is fascinating from the theological point of view - we learn that the Catholic catechism rules out once and for all any further revelation of God to Man at any time before the End of the World, when Christ shall come in glory to judge the living and the dead.

There will be no more revelations to Man - no second Christ, no more Moseses receiving tablets from God on mountain tops. "Although the Revelation has been completed, it is not fully explained. The task of Christian faith over the years will be to penetrate, step by step, into its meaning," reads Żakowski from the catechism.

Fr. Tischner asks from where arise the difficulties in understanding this thesis. He says that our imagination, shaped by science and positivism, is based on empirical observation of repeatable phenomena. In physics or chemistry, the same cause has the same effect. But religion is not a positivist science. "In religion, everything is unique and individual," he says.

Żakowski touches on an area which at the time was not as bit an issue for the Catholic Church in Poland as it is today - the Marian element of the Church, which sees Fatima, Medjugorie and Sister Faustyna as evidence of further revelations of God to Man.

Fr. Tischner replies that the catechism says that all these extraordinary events should be seen in the context of things that help us understand the Revelation of Christ. "There is a general thesis that God speaks to every person according to their possibility (or potentiality). These events (Fatima, Lourdes, etc) do not bring us any new truth. They only interpret what has already been said... Their role is not to improve upon or to complement the ultimate Revelation of Christ... These are not the confidences of the Lord God. Because God has already confided - that He loves the world.

Indeed, continues Fr. Tischner, God gave his only son as His word, he has no other words to give us but His son. "If, as Islam accepts, Christ is a prophet, and not the Son of God, then He would only be one of the masters of religious life, like St Benedict or St Francis of Assisi. He would be incorporated into the historical stream of interpreting revelations.

Żakowski probes deeper. "The world changes and continually creates new challenges. Human dramas rise, and yet God remains silent. He did not send Moses to Auschwitz to lead the chosen people out of captivity. Maybe in another two, three thousand years, God will feel a new need to communicate with people, and will need another prophet. By saying "there will never be any more Revelations, you are taking that chance away from Him."

Fr. Tischner repeats that the chance now lies in understanding that, which as a revelation, has already been given to us. "What you've just said is a very nice example of the imagination that which works along the rules of our knowledge of science, an imagination that wants to reduce revelation to E=mc2. On the other hand, there is dramatic imagination, which says that uniqueness is a value."

He makes the point that the dramaturgy of faith rests upon one moment; it is Christ-centric. Fr. Tischner quotes Kierkegaard: " If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus. Read in that which He says, read in that which He does, read His footsteps." Fr. Tischner then compares the Tridentine catechism to the new one. "The old one was ecclesiocentric. It focused above all on the role of the Church. The new one is for everyone - not just for the clergy."

"The revealed truth about God is inexhaustible. Every historical era will have it is unique experiences and on the basis of those experiences will interpret what God has confided to Man. We will continue to read God's confidences differently - but always in a Christ-centric way. The thesis about the definite end to Revelation does not mean that more truth is not required by Man. It only means that no more is needed for his salvation. To be redeemed, all that he needs, is to know that God has loved him," says Fr. Tischner.

Żakowski says: "But to live, one has to know a bit more than that."

Fr. Tischner concurs: "To build, to create, to live - yes you have to know more and more. But that 'more' is not the most important. What is paramount is that that which has already been revealed, should be understood. You have to continually strive to understand it better - always 'fides quaerens intellectum".

This has been an interesting chapter. For my part, I don't think divine revelations are necessary for human understanding of God. Our understanding of God will improve over the millennia - through dialogue, experience, interpretation of our human drama - but will never fully get there. We are always less than halfway from Zero to One. The journey to absolute understanding of God is eternal.

This time two years ago:

This time last year:
Dogs begin to bark, hounds begin to howl

This time three years ago:
A light dusting of snow


Anonymous said...

Heavy stuff Michael. Any chance of some spring pictures?

adthelad said...

@Anonymous - Spring? Have you seen our weather forecasts?

@Michał - most pleased you are continuing the book.