“God’s becoming as foundation of an interactional ecclesiology” — Massimo Nardello, 2017

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SPEAKER 1: So good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to introduce
Father Massimo Nardello, currently senior fellow
at the Martin Marty Center for his lecture. Now I’ve had the
pleasure of knowing our speaker for
several years and I can say that he is unique. Which is to say, that I don’t
know of any Roman Catholic priest who maintains at
one and the same time a serious and ongoing pastoral
practice while also pursuing a serious and an
ongoing investigation into the possible contributions
that process philosophy can make to a contemporary
articulation of the meaning of Roman Catholic theology. In short, our speaker today
combines, to an unusual degree, a commitment to a life that
includes pastoral leadership and intellectual pursuit. A learned minister,
if ever there was one. And I’m deluded– I’m
delighted, not deluded. [AUDIENCE MEMBER LAUGHS] I am delighted to salute
his personification of such an ambitious vocation. Father Nardello pursues
in the broadest sense the agenda setting question
formulated most presciently by John Henry Newman
in the 19th century. How can Christian
churches maintain fidelity to an apostolic faith witnessed
in scripture and ecclesial tradition, yet still experience
real doctrinal development? Father Nardello
refines this question in his own potentially
agenda transforming way. And is this a practical issue
necessary to make Christianity comprehensible in all
cultures of the world? Or is it intrinsic
to Christian faith as determined and guided by
the spirit of Jesus Christ? In pursuing answers
to these questions, Father Nardello has
observed to the nth degree the council of our emeritus
colleague David Tracy. Use everything. Father Nardello seeks
answers to these questions within not only the
Catholic conversation, but that of Protestantism. And his journey has led him
to process theology which he describes as, and I quote,
“An intriguing perspective that may give new, amazing
insights on these issues, although deeply revisited
in some of his foundations.” That is a beautifully
ambiguous phrase. [AUDIENCE MEMBER CHUCKLES] I salute you for that. His time as a senior
fellow in the Marty Center is devoted to an
initial reinterpretation of process theology and
the way that process thinkers like Alfred North
Whitehead, John Cobb, and Joseph Bracken– and to ground within
that framework a positive understanding
of Christian doctrinal development. And it is a pleasure
to salute him. [INAUDIBLE] Welcome and thank you. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER 2: So first
of all, I’d like to thank the Martin Marty
Center for receiving me as the senior fellow. I give thanks especially
Professor Rosengarten for helping me, supporting me. And I’m with Professor David
Tracy in this research. And I’m very glad to be here. And thanks to everybody
for being here and listening to my lecture. So the purpose of
this lecture is to sketch pure
theological insights from the critical
theological investigation in the indefectibility
of the Church from the doctrine of the faith. In the Catholic
theological tradition in which I work as a theologian,
the notion of indefectibility refers to the close
relationship between the church and the Christological
revelation of God. This revelation has been
received by the Church from the apostolic community
through past Christian generations and has
its normative testimony in the scripture. The Church is
called to understand and to preserve this gift
and its doctrinal content. And it is indefectible
precisely because of the action of the Holy Spirit prevents
that this hermeneutical process might lead to serious
misunderstandings or errors. Now this vision seems to imply
some critical issues that emerge from a deeper analysis
of the conventional theological foundation of the
Church indefectibility. Basically, this foundation can
be summarized in three steps. First, the triumvarate
has [INAUDIBLE] the self to humankind through
the incarnate son. Since the revelation
that took place in the Christological
event is the personal, subcommunication of God. It is the most
perfect and complete. After this revelation,
it’s not possible any other revelation
that it does not merely confirm or its [INAUDIBLE]. Second, the ultimate trait of
the Christological revelation requires necessarily
that the Church may be assigned an
appropriate mean of this within human history. In fact, if this
should not happen, the subcommunication
of God could no longer be properly known and
accepted through faith. Why the revelation
could take place? This would imply the failure of
the divine plan of salvation. Since this is not possible, due
to the almighty salvific will of God, we should
assume that the Church, through the power of the Spirit,
cannot lose its authentic faith in Christ in order to remain the
main sign and instrument of his salvation. Finally, the relationship of
the Church with the triumvirate presupposes a
proper understanding not only of the
Christological event as such, but also of the doctrinal
content that it implies. Leaving aside the
possible overestimation or misunderstanding of the
value of theological truth which might have taken
place from the Middle Ages to our days. In the Christian tradition
starting from the New Testament, the
saving relationship of believers with
Christ and the Spirit has always been
expressive and conditioned by a proper profession of a
series of doctrinal statements. Anyway, just this theological
foundation of Church indefectibility is
questioned by the remark that the process for which
the Church has received and preserved the doctrinal
content of revelation has been characterized
also by some discrepancies, even in relation to key
elements of the faith. In other words, at a given time,
the whole Christian community considered legitimate
some theological visions which afterwards were
recognized as wrong. Although this has never
happened for truths with which contemporary
Catholic theology would consider formally
defined by a [INAUDIBLE].. As an example of
this discrepancy is a route taken by
[INAUDIBLE] theology in the patristic apathy. The eternity of the
generation of the Son from the Father
within the Trinity has been clearly stated
only from origin. Furthermore, until
Latin ages was commonly believed that the Father had
begotten the Son and the Spirit by a free act of will and just
for the economy of salvation. And therefore, God was
naturally [INAUDIBLE] himself. In this regard, Luis
Francisco Ladaria offered a long report about
the Trinitarian theology of the third century rights. In many of the texts
we have mentioned, the inner life of God and
the economy of salvation are not yet
distinguished enough. The inner life of
the Trinity does not appear separated from the
manifestation of salvation. For this reason, in most
of the considered authors, the generation of the
Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit depend
on the will of the Father. It is not yet clear
that the Trinity responds to God’s nature. So before the reaction
to the Arian crisis, the whole ecclesian
community basically agreed that the Father
had begotten the Son and the Spirit as
distinct hypothesis from itself, only to accomplish
creation and salvation. And that in essence of
this plan, the Father would remain the only
person of divine reality. This doctrine, commonly accepted
before the Nicene theology, was later considered
formally heretical. That is, radically discordant
from the doctrinal content of the Christological
revelation, and therefore incompatible
with the condition of salvation and with ecclesial being. Although this [INAUDIBLE]
Trinitarian vision has never been taught by the officials,
in that form of teaching that Catholic theology
will call infinitive, it has been believed by many
Christian generations for about two centuries and a half. This remark seems
to challenge making defectibility of the Church
before the first ecumenical council. Since, it has maintained a
theological assumption related to the center of the Christian
faith which afterwards was considered heretical. Other examples of this
uneven development of Christian doctrine within
the Catholic tradition might be found in the
teaching of Vatican II. We could mention the acceptance
of the partial ecclesial identity of known
churches and of the values that [INAUDIBLE] of
religious freedom in [INAUDIBLE] societies
which beforehand were denied. Obviously, the mention of
examples cannot and should not be interpreted as suggesting
a radical for the global discontinuity in
doctrinal development. On the contrary, every
possible evolution is in fact a pure, within
a fundamental continuity of the Church faith. Looking at the
history of doctrines, it is evident that it has
been precisely the better understanding of an element
that the [INAUDIBLE] and used by theological
reflection or pastoral needs, which has led
to the reinterpretation of another element and
possibly to its change. We can therefore talk about
this continuous doctrinal development only in relation
to some specific issues and always within a
broader continuity. In any case, the
question at stake seems to be still legitimate. In one sense, the Church is
indefectible from its faith. At some stage of
its [INAUDIBLE],, it has professed
certain doctrines and afterwards analyzed them
as wrong, sometimes even incompatible with salvation
and ecclesial communion. The usual answer to this
question, given also by many contemporary
theologies is that God’s self-revelation
in the Christological event is so exceeding
human understanding that the Church can grasp
this revelation only partially without being able
to explicate it completely. In my opinion however,
this solution explains only a continuous development
of the Church faith, that these are the doctrinal
progress in which new elements may be added but in which every
already acquired content cannot be challenged. On the contrary, where the
progressive understanding of a God-sent revelation
leads to change some doctrines
already professed. It is not enough to affirm the
gradual nature of this process to justify its discontinuity. It is also necessary to clarify
how, what was mistakenly believed in the past does not
compromise the defectibility of the Church from its faith. This evaluation relies on
my understanding of analogy, at least in theological realm. I deem that a proper and
a logical imagination should recognize that the
creator is transcendent its creatures, but
also that it has something in common with them. The similarity is
the condition which Christ theological
statements that why never exhausted or
conclusive may be considered readable and trustworthy. Conversely, if we concede
the analogical approach as reading just the possible,
ambiguous allusions about the divineness to sense it in any
case beyond a human statement, that the consequent
theology can no longer be any real claim of truthfulness. And the problem of
Church indefectibility doesn’t arise any longer. In fact, it is not possible
to make certain statements about God. The evidence that the
ecclesian understanding of the faith, sometimes
being an event is not challenging anymore. Of course, the second
understanding of analogy is more functional to
an apophatic theology, which has many advantages. It gives us a
possibility to relativize the symbols used to
talk about the divine, fostering a broader
theological pluralism and atypically
postmodern hermeneutics of religious speech. However, I suspect that
this imagination engenders a theology that is
prone to relativism and incapable to round those
fundamental beliefs that are needed for the Christian
religious experience. I’m referring for instance
to the unique character of the Christological
revelation, which in the [INAUDIBLE]
vision of God could be easily dimmed
in the background given by many other expressions
of the ultimate reality. Furthermore, theologists
which insist unilaterally on [INAUDIBLE] accessibility
and transcendence might risk in the long run to
switch from the interpretation of God’s mystery
through human symbols to the interpretation
of human existence through religious symbols. If God is too far,
there’s nothing we can talk about seriously
except our own existence. So instead reducing the
quality of the truth of theological speech to an
apophatic imagination analogy, I tried to sketch a
different solution to the mentioned problem of the
indefectibility of the Church. This solution impacts the
form of God’s self-revelation. A possible interpretation
of many Biblical texts and on the broader tradition
of the Christian faith, I found a way in which
the Trinity has chosen to communicate the self through
humanity, an interpretation we can justify in this context. My [INAUDIBLE] to
understand human history as the fall of God’s
self-giving and not just as the place in
which it is manifested. It is inherent timelessness. In other words,
according to this vision there’s no revelation
of the Trinity that is not
structurally historical. In this perspective, human
history apart from sin shouldn’t represent
anymore a danger for the comprehension
of faith even when this history should determine
a need in development of doctrine. However, to teach
seriously the assumption that history is the form
of God’s self-revelation requires consequently to
assume that God gives himself to us within the historical
becoming of this world, and therefore to assume that
in some way God may share his. In the same perspective, the
personalist, relational notion of divine subcommunication
are placed in the scripture and reverberated
by [INAUDIBLE] too. Suppose there’s a certain
interaction between God and humanity and this should
imply some kind of change on the underside. In fact, in a human
interpersonal relationship, one reveals oneself regularly. And change is the
way to interact according to the way he or
she is looked on by others. If we think that’s a revelation
analogy to human relationship, we might assume a
dynamic subcommunication of the Trinity, proceeding step
by step in a [INAUDIBLE] way in which humans can
understand and relate. In this perspective, [INAUDIBLE]
character of the Christological revelation should
not be complicated as a suspension of this duality,
but as its full implementation. Indeed, the Church can
understand more and more of the revelation
given Christ through a continuous
interaction with him in virtue of the
action of his spirit. And this interaction
sometimes may be uneven. So the [INAUDIBLE] principle
should consist simply in a gradual explanation of the
Christological truth already given itself to the Church. That can be the foundation
of a dynamic relationship for the Christian community
with the Lord, a relationship in which the doctrinal
content of the faith is gradually given
in a way that might look some misunderstanding. Obviously in a
Catholic theological perspective should be excluded
from this realm of ambiguities of the doctrines that have
been taught as definitive by many historian. Anyway, given even
in these doctrines, that ambiguity might have
been present after the moment in which the church was finally
able to express them properly. This process may be explained
with the same metaphor we mentioned about. As a human, material
relationship no matter how dynamic and
interactive it could be, are impossible misunderstandings
about the essential elements of personal identities. And logically the Church has
some fundamental beliefs about the doctrine of divine
revelation that cannot be wrong, because in this case, its
relationship with God would be undermined. At the same time, in
a human relationship, the essentials are [INAUDIBLE]
said cannot be achieved that gradually. Likewise, the Church
has explicated in the same progressive
and uneven way, many of these foundational doctrines,
like the full divinity of Jesus. Only after a very long
and irregular itinerary, the Christian community
has been able to criticize those doctrines through
a kind of teaching that Catholic theology
would call today definitive. So the assumption
of God’s becoming has not determined a
relativistic vision of the doctrinal content
of the faith in which there are no steady references. Not just alliance, Church
relationship with God through the characteristics of
any real human relationship, which is always marked both by
[INAUDIBLE] and by indignities. In this personalist
view of revelation in which human
history is its form, we may be able to harmonize
Church indefectibility from the doctrine of the
faith with the occasion of discontinuities that have
characterized its development. Ecclesial indefectibility
should not consist in the absence
of any [INAUDIBLE] in grasping of the
revealable truths. But in a proper
understanding of what the Father, who
continually reveals himself in his incarnate son and
acts through the Spirit, communicates to the
Church in a precise moment of its historical [INAUDIBLE]. In analogy with
human relationships, there may be some doctrinal
truths that talk temporarily beyond that communication. And that would be repeated
only later because currently, the Christian community is
not ready to receive them. So on these issues,
your church might develop some false beliefs. However, without [INAUDIBLE]
in case indefectibility because it’s still receiving
what God is actually giving to it in the present. We define this perspective
as interactional ecclesiology because it is based upon
a relational, dynamic, and interactive view
of divine revelation. As we said about, this vision
presupposes necessarily a certain becoming with God. In fact, keep the economy also
in the economy of salvation. God [INAUDIBLE] it’s
self-communication would be completely
given from the beginning and unable to evolve in any way. In this case, the
progressive ecclesial faith should consist simply in resting
this fullness more and more. On the contrary, in the
Trinitarian self-giving to its creature is progressive
and historically interactive. Then the Church understanding
of this communication could be legitimately read. This perspective has a
strong ecumenical impact. Hypothetically we may
think that the divisions of the Christian churches
feel strongly opposed to the divine plan,
have given birth to so many diverse
communities that God has chosen to interact
which each one of them in a different way. We could suppose
that even now, each of these communities’
history and wavering from the true faith. So that is indefectible. Since it’s properly accepting
the specific Christological revelation that God is
actually giving to it through the Spirit. The problematic issues of the
doctrine of a specific church might be attributable
effect that in revelation that he suffered to it in the
present, but temporarily absent some elements because
this church is not yet ready to receive them. This is just what has happened
to the undivided church before the Council of Nicaea
about the full divinity of Jesus. So on these issues,
this ecclesial community I’m presuming correct views. The act with the compromise
is fundamental indefectibility from the true faith. It is evident how this
vision could greatly facilitate the
ecumenical itinerary of the Christian
churches to our unity. Each of them in fact, would
have a clear or theological motivation to follow
very patiently. The differences of
the other churches promise some
unquestionable doctrines. I’m assuming that
they are embracing at the best of their ability,
the Christological revelation that is given to them by
the Spirit in the present. We should notice however,
that the hypothesis stated raises many serious
theological problems. If we accept that the triune
God communicates itself in a dynamic way, we must
also assume in becoming and its imminent dimension. Otherwise, if at this
level God were mutable, it should not reveal itself
for what it really is. And this would contradict the
Biblical and personalist view of revelation attested
also in a verbum too. Moreover, this inner
becoming of God seems to be suggested
also by the analogy of human relationships
who mention God. People can interact dynamically
because they themselves are in becoming. And indeed, each
interpersonal relationship contributes to reshape in
some way their identity. Natural, classic metaphysics,
the development of God is unacceptable. According to the well-known
argument that it necessarily involves an increase or
a decrease in perfection. In both cases, this would lead
to a situation of imperfection, previous or
following the change. That is not attributable
to God by principle. If we stick with this
traditional perspective, [INAUDIBLE] cannot
be legitimated except in a fictional sense. As in [INAUDIBLE]
fiction, useful just for the Biblical narrative
or to the popular theological explanations. In spite of this, there are
some contemporary theologians who maintain that it’s
possible to envision the becoming of the Christian
god, provided that we do not think this becoming from
our worldly perspective but in different terms. We turn now our attention
to one of these theologians, Karl Barth We focus on this
well-known scholar because of his aim to reflect
on God’s self-revelation as it is in itself through the
analogy of feeling and avoiding any kind of philosophical
interpretation. This approach will
be central for us since it would show that
it’s possible to imagine us becoming, not just from
a questionable metaphysical revision of Christian theology. That’s just moving
from the scripture. As we all know, the
foundation of Barth’s theology is strongly anti-metaphysical. As part of this, he
introduces implicitly in his vision the notion
of divine becoming as an assumption of
the Biblical testimony that God is alive in directing
and capable even [INAUDIBLE],, and to suffer death in
the person of his son. However, it is in the context
of Trinitarian theology that Barth talks explicitly
about God’s becoming. In his well-known
Church Dogmatics, writing about the
divine eternity, Barth writes, “A
correct understanding of the positive side to
the concept of eternity free from all false
conclusions is gained only when we are clear
that we are speaking about the eternity
of the triune God. For this all is to freedom. For this all is pure duration. Free from all the fleeting mess
and the separations of what we call time, the
nunc aeternitatis, which cannot come into
being or pass away, which is inconditional
by no extensions, which is not disturbed and
interrupted but established and confirmed in its
unity by its Trinity. By the inner movement of
the begetting of the Father, that he begotten of the Son,
and the procession of the Spirit from both.” “Yet, in it there is
order and succession. The unity is a movement. There is a before and an after. God is once and again
and a third time, without dissolving the once
for allness without destroying the persons or the special
relations to one another without anything perpetually
in this relationship or the possibility
of its reversal. If in destroying being
in the sense of God, there is nothing of
what we call time. This does not justify those
who say that time is simply excluded in God. Or that his has since is
simply an addition of time.” “On the contrary, the fact
that God has and is himself time and the extent
to which this is so isn’t necessarily made
clear to us in its essence, in his essence, as a triune God. This is his time, the
absolutely real time. The form of the divine being
in this triunity, the beginning and ending which do not need
the limitation of him who begins and ends. It is a position
which does not mean any exclusion, a movement
which does not signify the passing away of anything. The succession which is himself
is also beginning and end.” [INAUDIBLE] intrinsic
of the Trinity involves its temporal
dimension and its becoming. Anyway, as noted by Eberhard
Jungel according to Barth this is not an
improvement or redirection because now God is not
a reality of this world. Jungel writes in
1964, “The becoming in which God’s being is, can
understandably for better. In the understanding
which comes through faith signify an increase, not
a decrease of God’s being. Increase or decrease are
evaluated categories, as evaluated categories
are better kept far away from the concept of being. If you’re not compelled
anew to think of God as the [NON-ENGLISH] and this,
the supreme God of youth.” “Now the God whose
being is in becoming can die as a human being. He can indicate the manner
in which God’s being exists and can so far be understood as
the anthological place of God’s being. In order to guard against, for
example, staying [INAUDIBLE] here once stated. The anthological place
of God’s being too is the place of his choice. In that, God however
is understood as the one who chooses. His being is already thought
of as a being in becoming. The hermeneutical
circle is grounded in an anthological
circle which will be designated by the
localization God’s being is in becoming. The anthological authorization
of God’s being and becoming is an attempt to think
how theologically how far God is the living God. Without the courage to formulate
the willingness of God, theology would finally become a
misleading of God’s livingness. End of dissertation. Jungel’s interpretation of
Barth’s thought is very clear. God’s being is in becoming
because God is the living. Since it’s essentially
a relational insight as Trinitarian, God freely
chooses to ascend to itself. Its becoming is supposed by
its intrinsic relatedness. Writes Jungel
again, “God’s being is essentially relational. God’s being is
pure relationship. Pure relationship
does mean relationship as a becoming of itself
but not from the self. But then from what
does it become? God’s self-relatedness is
based on both yes to himself. And this yes of
God to himself, God sets himself in
relation to himself. He knows this so it
will be he who he is. In this sense, God’s
being is in becoming.” End of the [INAUDIBLE]. Which by the way,
we might [INAUDIBLE] and the courage to
be, in my opinion. At this point of
our itinerary, we should ask whether and to
what extent Barth transposes his original view of God’s
becoming a theological level. If God becomes as it is
living, this characteristic should be maintained
also in its relationship with the Scriptures
and so with the Church. Unfortunately in
Barthian ecclesiology, we do not find any
reference of this kind. Barth grants his ecclesiological
vision on the assumption that God’s presence
in history does not need any creator or mediation,
even that of the Church. Christ is risen and
therefore is permanently present and operating within
the Word through his Spirit. In this way, history
is not an obstacle to the relationship of
the Christian community with the risen Christ
by virtue of his grace. Just sin is an impediment. Despite this, the
Church task is not to mediate Jesus’
presence in the Word, but just to give
witness to his presence. They, the Christians, have none
to assist or add to the being and word of their living savior
who is the Lord of the Word, let alone to replace
it by their own works. The community is
not a congregational his incarnation is
that resurrection. The acts of God and
their revelation. It does not to do these things. It has to witness to them. It is his consolation
that he can do this. It’s marching orders
have to do it. At the same time
however, Barth maintains that the Church is the people of
God who journeys through time. The community of those who
belong to Christ and confide their faith in him,
for this community leads its life
according to the Spirit. Christ lives in the Word
and in human history. Barth again. For this community lives by the
Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ himself lives somewhere in
the Word and in history. In the existence of the
community and the Word, we have immediately
before our eyes. The fact that even after
the event of the cross revealed in that of
Easter, God still a little and had time for space and
space for human existence, and history, and problems. It is evident that in
the Barthian vision, there is a tension
between the belief that Christ is independently
and unconditionally present in history
through the Spirit. And the need to make
Christ a witness to manufacture that presence. This need, however,
doesn’t make Barth recognize any kind of
authority of the Church over divine revelation. The Christian
community is in fact primarily an event that this
something which is constantly recreated by the action
of the Holy Spirit through the preaching
of the Word of God and the sacramental actions. Only as such, it is also
a historical constitution that lives in the Word and
it can accomplish some tests. Its testimony is
always defective, as it is inevitably
marked by sin. So the Church must
constantly be reformed. Once again, further,
none of us can fail to see that
today as always it is the task of the Church to
submit and subordinate itself on its human side. The side of his life,
bordered by teaching through the standard which it
derives from Christ, from God. His task is to exercise
self-criticism to purify self from an element which has
[INAUDIBLE] and its essence. And which having such
an essence and origin, it took none to tolerate. It must look back to
its origin and essence except its [INAUDIBLE] by the
very separate self to be proven and before by that standard. This perpetuity makes the
Church a valuable keeper of God’s self-revelation. It is just a mean to receive
the Biblical witness. But the same Church can also
misunderstand this witness or do not understand
it properly. Talking about the
authority of the Church can define the Biblical
canon, Barth writes. Holy scripture is the
word of God to the Church and for the Church. We are therefore
ready to know what the Scripture is in the
Church and with the Church. We do not regard ourselves
as restrained in this matter. Our restraint only by
our own direct knowledge for the root of truth. Therefore we know that they
have to listen to the Church in matter of the canon. As we have also to
listen to it at all points in matters of
the exposition of Holy Scripture and faith and order. But even though it is
in and with the Church that we ask that
Holy Scripture, which is the canon given
in the Church, and forcing itself upon
it by some inspiration. We cannot take our answer
from the Church but from Holy Scripture itself. We will not be obedient to the
Church back to the Word of God, and therefore in the
true sense to the Church. Those answers is in itself a
divine in the form infallible and definitive answer. But the human hearing
of this answer whether that of the
Church of our own today is a human hearing,
and therefore not outside possibility of error
are incapable to be included. So Barth shifts dialectically
between the need to acknowledge the role of
the Church in God’s plan because this is a
test of the Scripture. And the witness exclude
completely and creator of prominence which
should undermine the self-sufficiency
and the transcendence of the divine action. But for the Church,
unlike the Scripture, is always fallible and in
some way, unfaithful to God. Actually, Barth does not
specify to what extent error and sin may be
present in the Church. After all, in his
vision, it would be dangerous to ensure
something to what is human even in [INAUDIBLE]. What really matters
is that in any case, the divine action
will mysteriously keep the presence and the
effectiveness of Christological salvation in human history. Undoubtedly, Barth’s theological
vision has [INAUDIBLE].. It is a perpetual reminder
to the Christian churches and today theologists to
remain submissive to God’s Word attested in the Scripture and
avoid deprecations which might manipulate and distort it. My opinion, however,
in this great vision there are some
underlying issues which are relevant in this context
for the resulting ecclesiology. First, I claim that the
Barthian distinction between ecclesial witness
and mediation is [INAUDIBLE].. In fact, the ability of
the Christian community to witness God’s
revelation is made possible by the action of the Spirit. In the New Testament
however, the Spirit does not act by
passing or suspending the human characteristics
of the person it chooses. While the Spirit in
power stay humanity, making the litanies of the
Christological salvation. Those who are free to accept
to be instruments of the Spirit do not pack in pure
passive condition. As their humanity,
we’re announced to call to the
performance of their task. Instead, the Spirit acts through
their gender, their thoughts, their languages,
their cultures, and their own personal
understandings of Christological
events, however limited and incomplete they may be. For this reason, the
Christian churches have four canonical
gospels which represent normative but
different interpretations of the same person of Jesus. Likewise, I cannot see how
could be grounded in the New Testament, the claim that the
risen Christ makes himself present in history as an event
that it does not need to be mediated and interpreted
because he should be able to communicate and explain
himself through his spirit. Actually the Spirit,
since it is not incarnate, acts only through
human persons that by means of their humanity. What [INAUDIBLE] is
human frailty and sin? And not the human
as such, especially in its ecclesial profile. So if the testimony of
the Christian community takes place through the humanity
of the people who can cause it, and not in spite of
it, in my opinion this testimony can be
properly defined as mediation. Obviously understood
analogically and as an instrument of the
true Christological one. Another remark about the
ecclesiology of Barth is that if the triune
God maintains the Church and communes with
itself, this must have evidence on the
empirical level given the fundamental righteousness
of the gospel professed and preached by the
Christian community. For this reason, the
Church in a sinful and a continuously
reformation must appear as basically indefectible
from the true faiths. In short, Barth’s
Trinitarian theology is valuable for our
inquiry to acknowledge that it is possible to
talk about God’s becoming, even within a theological
perspective that claims to be strictly faithful
to the Scripture and far from
metaphysical frameworks. Despite this, his
ecclesiology is useless for
[INAUDIBLE] generally. In my opinion, the series
of mythological limits of Barth’s theological
visions, due to his radical understanding
of God’s transcendence have prevented him to embody
his original vision of God’s becoming in his ecclesiology. God’s self-revelation
that there’s accord in the incarnate Son. And more specifically,
his doctrinal content have attested in an immutable,
complete, and certain way in the Scripture. The Church’s task is just
to witness its contents, but the truthfulness of
this witness cannot be taken for granted. In this vision, the
possible discontinuity in doctrinal development
is not an issue because the effectiveness
of the Church’s mission depend only on God
who doesn’t fail. One may wonder how
structurally fallible testimony like the one of the
Church in Barth’s view might make Christ surely
present within history. On the other hand, it
must be acknowledged that within the Barthian
vision to affirm any kind of doctrinal
indefectibility of the Christian
community would mean to rank with this community
of sort of autonomy from the divine wish, which
would be unacceptable. In conclusion, to build an
interactional ecclesiology, we need a theological vision
able to admit and properly formalize the becoming of God. But also to make it effective
in the interpretation of its interactive
relationship with the Church. Obviously, a
theology of this kind should assume a certain
continuity between the divine and the creator of realms. Why save body the
transcendence of the first? Because otherwise,
it will be a form of interaction between
God and his creatures to be conceivable. Only a perspective
of this kind to allow us to understand
divine revelation in a relational framework. That these, as an
ongoing interaction between the triune
God revered in Christ and the historical
persistence of the Church. The theology I’m
trying to develop, starting from the process
theology of Joseph Bracken, is just in this line. But since this would
be another lecture, I developed a stop here and to
thank you for your attention. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER 1: Floor is
open for questions. Comments? AUDIENCE: Thank you
Father Nardello for this. Really rich and
interesting talk. I was struck by the
quote– it’s not a quote, but the line you
put up as you were reading your conclusion for
Barth within the Barthian system. The line suggested that the
doctrine of indefectibility would grant to the
Church autonomy with respect to divine grace. I think it would also, if
I understood your argument, risk making the Church the
term of obedience as opposed to the divine work. So what’s interesting
is that you’re trying to get around
that by disputing the immutability of God. And by affirming the mutability
or the becoming of God. But it’s unclear
to me exactly how that move could answer
the kind of charge that a Barthian
would make, that it’s intrinsic to the doctrine
of indefectibility that term of obedience is the
church of human institution, the fallen institution, as
opposed to the divine work. What would you say
in response to that? SPEAKER 2: We say that
we have different visions about the role of the Church– AUDIENCE: Yeah. SPEAKER 2: So the
thing with Barth is that the Church is just a
witness of the Christological revelation which is
attested in the Scripture. My point of view, the
Church has a bigger goal. So it’s the tools,
the instruments, the sign of the instruments of
God’s revelation in the Word. And so the Scripture in some
way is inside the Church. Of course, the Church
is under the Scripture. It’s judged by the Scripture. At the same time,
it’s the Church that has recognized
the Scriptures and defined the canon. Recognizes in some
texts the historic faith received by the first
Christian generation. So we could say it’s the
Christian community read by the scripture and broader
tradition of the faith that has the task to make
present in history God’s self-revelation in Christ. For this reason, I am concerned
about the indefectibility of the Church. Barth, in my
opinion, would not be concerned because would
say this is not a problem. God is faithful. God will take care
of maintaining his revelation acted in
history through the Church is a structurally fallible and
similar, and to be reformed. I share obviously this idea,
the Church is fallible as sinner and has many troubles and it
is always an imperfect mean and sign of God’s salvation. But at the same time, I have
to say, let’s say kernel. I mean there’s a fidelity
of the Church and God’s self-revelation that
can be prevented in my Catholic
vision, of course. Please. AUDIENCE: First
of all, thank you for a very rich presentation. This is a little tangential,
but I’m wondering, it seems like the way
this has been presented– and even as you’re
responding now to maintaining the commitment
to God’s faithfulness that a concept like
divine abandonment would have no place
within this theology. And particularly, as you expand
to include God’s relation to multiple churches,
that even here there’s not a place
for divine abandonment. And I’m curious as to
whether that theme truly is cut out of this
theology entirely and whether that
creates problems as you have things
like the Reich Church– the creation of churches that
both have Christian origins and Christian adherence and yet
also are churches of the state. But we could even
go other places. [INAUDIBLE] talks
about abandonment as a theme within
his own theology that you’re [INAUDIBLE]. So I guess, divine abandonment. Is that even possible in
interactional ecclesiology and the indefectibility of the
Church, or is it incoherent? SPEAKER 2: Divine– AUDIENCE: Abandonment. SPEAKER 2: You mean the
fact that the Church is abandoned by God? Or the Church abandons God,
loses his indefectibility? AUDIENCE: The Church
being abandoned by God. Yeah. SPEAKER 2: In the sense. OK, I’ve got this. Once again, the
problem is the role that the Church has in
the salvation that he– he already had this
in the New Testament. And also the Scriptures of
Israel, because in some way, Israel is the pre-formation
of the Church. But the problem isn’t
the New Testament. So if we think
that the Church is a witness, just a witness
of the salvation which has God as unit author. So the church in some way
can be not abandoned by God because again, God
won’t do that anymore. But the sin of the
Church and its members might bring this
community far from God. And this is the danger
which is always at stake. And the simplest point
of view, which I think is a classical
Protestant point of view. Let’s talk about Barth from
a Barthian point of view. A Catholic point of
view is more complicated because you have to put
together the evidence of the sin of the
Church acknowledged by the second Vatican council,
a fair amount of weight. And the fact that
anyway, the Church can’t abandon God completely. How could it be possible? Because of the action of God. But at the same time,
it’s implied freedom of human beings. And an institution is
not a sum of beings, but is a subject, canon subject. So I think that the way
I’m trying to sketch here may face a problem because
we can’t take advantage the fundamental good
faith of the Church. So in any church, there
are certain number of people who in any case
would be faithful to God. These people may have
wrong ideas about God. Because in the
interaction with God, they don’t receive a full,
complete self-revelation. And this never happens
at the end of the line. But a revelation which one
came few ideas, because God like a father or mother
takes his son by hand and they step by step. Just say, OK, for
today’s enough. Now what in this way? Later, I’ll reveal you that
what is thought about me about this point was not true. So the Church in this
way may have wrong ideas about God, not
about the foundation of the Christian doctrine. But few complementary
ideas, with them, losing its indefectibility. So we can’t lose its
fundamental relationship with God is my point of view. But I acknowledge that this
is a Catholic problem and so a Catholic perspective. Because if Barth were here,
he’d be listening to us. Let’s say, but now
it’s another vision. If he were alive– [AUDIENCE MEMBER LAUGHS] He would say we are talking
about a problem that doesn’t exist. We are trying to do the job
of God, would say to me. God has a task to maintain
his revelation in history. It’s not our task. So a Catholic vision
is not too complicated. I don’t know if I
answered your question. Yes? AUDIENCE: I had a
question about the talk that you didn’t give to you just
heard at the very end there. And it’s just the
basic question that I struggled a lot with in my own
interest in process theology. How does one deal with the facts
that many classic statements in process theology seem to
be quite proud of the fact that they’re subsuming God
under general metaphysical categories. Whitehead says, “God
is an actual occasion and so is the most trivial
puff of existence and part empty space.” Which is troublesome perhaps. How do you approach that issue? SPEAKER 2: Well that’s
a huge question anyway. [AUDIENCE MEMBER CHUCKLES] So basically, let
me put it this way. First I assume
with Joseph Bracken that metaphysic
can be used today for theology just as a model. For model I mean,
[INAUDIBLE] wrote, and it’s to say theologian
science is [INAUDIBLE].. So a model of something which
must be taken seriously but not literally. It’s not the
description of reality, it’s not the description
of God, but just something which could represent
in some way analogically, metaphorically, another reality. And which is helpful to
us because in this way you can understand it better
and understand new elements. Of course, metaphysics
should not be metaphorical. The language of
metaphysics should be conceptual, not symbolic. It should be logical. I mean, metaphysics
should be very current, should be a system. But as a whole, it may be
taken as a huge metaphor of reality and our theology. So if we read Whitehead in
this way and the other process theologians, we can say, we are
not saying who God actually is. We’re not describing God. We are painting a
model, like a picture, which can be more or less
true to God’s self-revelation. Second point, I’m
following Joseph Bracken which has changed many
Whiteheadian issues, elements. But I, myself, I’m revisiting
the metaphysical reference deeply, very deeply. To give an example, an
example to understand what I mean by using a
metaphysic as a model. In my vision, my writing in
those days thanks to Martin Marty Center, the name– one of the most central,
important elements of this system is a Eucharist. [INAUDIBLE] would be
glad to hear that, although he works in
a completely different perspective. So the fact that metaphysic
might rely on the Eucharist is something with a process
philosopher theologian would never admit. And this shows us thus, how I
use this metaphysic as a model to describe, interpret
a theology which is Catholic, which is mine. And so I use. But what we found out, using
this theology as a metaphor, I’ll find out many new elements. Or better, I can see
in a different light a lot of new elements of
the Catholic theology. The interaction of
Jesus, for instance, which Bracken doesn’t
accept in the way he did. But it’s a metaphor. So I don’t know. I thought I would anyway. Anyway, I’m trying to sketch
a process ecclesiology that of course, I had
to set around this theme a few ideas to develop a whole
process Christian theology, but using metaphysic as a model. This by the way, should
prevent the critics that metaphysic
is an alternative to an apophatic vision of God. In some way, my
system of apophyism is present but through the
analogy, the analogical use of metaphysics. So I say, this is not
God that’s beyond. You can describe
God and Christ God. This is a model which seems
to describe, interpret, and in some way
make clear what we have of what we can understand
of God’s self-revelation. AUDIENCE: I want to thank
you for your talk and confess I was persuaded by
you in a way that I think leads me to want to ask
a question about your thesis. Which is to say, that I think
you persuaded me or made clear to me something, which
is that the Word functions for Barth in
Protestantism the way the Church functions for Rahner
or Thomas in Catholicism. And I guess my question
is something like this. Isn’t there a kind of affinity
in those formulations which requires the fundamental
intellectual category dig deep? So indefectibility of the
Word or indefectibility of the Church. And in both cases,
there are answers for how to deal with that. And that in fact, the
process intervention disputes that fundamental claim. So that what you’re really
in the end advocating for is to go to an earlier
theologian, what Schleiermacher called the insensible
third, which is becoming. And it actually isn’t
compatible with either tradition at that level. And I wonder if you
think that’s wrong, because I suspect you do. And if so, what am I
missing in that analogy? SPEAKER 2: So I think
you’re right in claiming that the problem
with indefectibility can be fixed starting
from a metaphysical being, classic metaphysical being. Because this metaphysic
thinks with itself the idea of a historical truth,
revelation as historical truth in some way. So process theology, which
states that being is becoming– Bracken reinterprets [INAUDIBLE]
and says that we can find– but I don’t know if
this is true anyway– can find [INAUDIBLE] of the key. Something like
the starting point to state that being
is in becoming. And then develops this
in process perspective. So starting from
the idea that being is not static but is process. Both the traditions,
Catholic and Protestant may find a way to talk about
Church indefectibility. Because the Catholic
theology would find a foundation over stable
relationship of the Church with God, which doesn’t
imply necessarily that the Church
doesn’t make any error. Why? Protestant foundation
theologists may find in this process thought
the idea that the Church is not already given, is
not perfect, is in becoming, because God himself,
itself, is in becoming. So I think that process
theology has used it as a metaphor of the
description of God It’s going to be interesting,
even from an ecumenical point of view. I’m just trying to sketch
this theology, so we will see. SPEAKER 1: Well if there
aren’t any more questions, we do have a reception laid out. The life of the mind
requires sustenance. But before we adjourn
to those pleasures, let’s thank Father
Massimo Nardello. [APPLAUSE]


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