This page intentionally left blank

The Creativity of God
World, Eucharist, Reason
We have, as a theological community, generally lost a language
in which to speak of the createdness of the world. As a
consequence, our discourses of reason cannot bridge the way
we knowGod and the way we knowthe world. Therefore,
argues Oliver Davies, a primary task of contemporary theology
is the regeneration of a Christian account of the world as
sacramental, leading to the formation of a Christian
conception of reason and a newChristocentric understanding
of the real. Both the Johannine tradition of creation through
the Word and a Eucharistic semiotics of Christ as the
embodied, sacrificial and creative speech of God serve the
project of a repairal of Christian cosmology. The world itself is
viewed as a creative text authored by God, of which we as
interpreters are an integral part. This is a wide-ranging and
convincing book that makes an important contribution to
modern theology.
o l i v e r d av i e s is Professor of Christian Doctrine at
King’s College London. He is also a visiting fellowat the
Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at Regent’s
Park College, University of Oxford. He is the author of A
Theology of Compassion (2001) and has co-edited, with Denys
Turner, Silence and the Word (2002).
Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine
Edited by
Professor Colin Gunton, King’s College London
Professor Daniel W. Hardy, University of Cambridge
Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine is an important series which aims
to engage critically with the traditional doctrines of Christianity, and
at the same time to locate and make sense of themwithin a secular
context. Without losing sight of the authority of scripture and the
traditions of the Church, the books in this series subject pertinent
dogmas and credal statements to careful scrutiny, analysing themin
light of the insights of both church and society, and thereby practise
theology in the fullest sense of the word.
Titles published in the series
1. Self and Salvation: Being Transformed
Dav i d F. F o r d
2. Realist Christian Theology in a Postmodern Age
S u e P a t t e r s o n
3. Trinity and Truth
B r u c e D. Ma r s h a l l
4. Theology, Music and Time
J e r e my S . B e g b i e
5. The Bible, Theology, and Faith: a Study of Abrahamand Jesus
R . W. L . Mo b e r l y
6. Bound to Sin: Abuse, Holocaust and the Christian Doctrine of Sin
A l i s t a i r Mc F a d y e n
7. Church, World and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic
Ecclesiology
Ni c h o l a s M. He a l y
8. Theology and the Dialogue of Religions
Mi c h a e l Ba r n e s S J
9. APolitical Theology of Nature
P e t e r S c o t t
10. Worship as Meaning: a Liturgical Theology for Late Modernity
Gr a h a m Hu g h e s
11. God, the Mind’s Desire: Reference, Reason and Christian
Thinking
P a u l D. J a n z
12. The Creativity of God: World, Eucharist, Reason
Ol i v e r Dav i e s
Forthcoming titles in the series
Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action and Authorship
K e v i n J . Va n h o o z e r
Theology and Education: the Virtue of Theology in a Secular World
Gav i n d ’ C o s t a
ATheology of Public Life
C h a r l e s T. Ma t h e we s
The Creativity of God
World, Eucharist, Reason
Ol i v e r Dav i e s
cambridge university press
Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo
Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cb2 2ru, UK
First published in print format
isbn-13 978-0-521-83117-8
isbn-13 978-0-521-53845-9
isbn-13 978-0-511-21071-6
© Oliver Davies 2004
2004
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521831178
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of
relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place
without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
isbn-10 0-511-21248-8
isbn-10 0-521-83117-2
isbn-10 0-521-53845-9
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
www.cambridge.org
hardback
paperback
paperback
eBook (EBL)
eBook (EBL)
hardback
For Joyce and Isaac
Was in Deiner Sprache das Seyn ist, m ¨ ochte ich lieber das Wort nennen.
What is termed ‘being’ in your language, I would prefer to call ‘word’.
Johann Georg Hamann, Letter to F. H. Jacobi
Contents
Acknowledgements page xi
Introduction: the cosmological imperative 1
Part I An archaeology of createdness
1 The architecture of createdness 15
Heaven in the heavens 16
Heaven on earth 21
Cosmic phenomenology 25
2 The metaphysics of createdness 29
Transcendentals and reason 30
Semiotics 42
Conclusion 48
3 Cosmological fragments 50
Fragmentation 51
Cosmological transformations 56
Conclusion 71
Part II Scriptural cosmology
4 Speech revealed 75
Mosaic dialogues 76
Trinitarian speech 84
Conclusion 92
5 Spirit and Letter 95
The model of the text 98
[ix]
x Contents
The divine text 104
Conclusion 114
6 Voice and sacrifice 117
Inhabiting the Text 119
Christology 122
Eucharist 128
Conclusion 132
Part III Eucharistic wisdom
7 The abundant real 137
Realismand Eucharistic semiotics 139
AChristian philosophy of the real 143
Intensities of the real 146
Conclusion 152
8 Wisdomof the flesh 154
The human body and the Primal Text 156
Voice, text and body 158
Eucharistic flesh 160
Conclusion 168
9 Eucharistic reasoning 170
Historical reason 171
Transfiguration and reason 178
Conclusion 190
Conclusion: cosmology and the theological imagination
Select bibliography 197
Index of biblical citations 203
General index 206
Acknowledgements
Many books which have been long in the gestation are indebted in
countless ways to more individuals thancaneasily be named. This book is
noexception. I have a particular andvery personal indebtedness tofriends
and scholars who have contributed hugely to the progress of this book
at the Universities of Virginia and of Cambridge. Amongst these I should
name Peter Ochs and David Ford; but there are many others whose input
has been of great value, as well as those whose contribution is unknown
either to themselves or to me. I must give special thanks also to the series
editors, Daniel HardyandColinGunton, for their invaluablesupport. I be-
lieve that this book picks up themes in the recent work of Colin Gunton,
whose untimely deathhas beensucha loss for the theological community.
I must thank also Father Gregory Kant and Deacon Chris Morash of the
Churchof the IncarnationinCharlottesville, Virginia, who welcomedmy-
self and my family into the vibrant sacramental life of the parish at a criti-
cal period in the formation of the Eucharistic theology that will be found
inthese pages. My thanks are due also to Paul Fiddes for our many ‘Berlin’
conversations, and I wish to thank Gavin Flood for his enduring support,
engagement and friendship. I amgrateful to the Arts and Humanities Re-
search Board for a grant which facilitated the writing of this book. The
book is dedicated to Joyce, my mother, and to Isaac, my ‘first-born’.
[xi]
Introduction
The cosmological imperative
tóv:c oi’ co:cu

t,tvt:c, sci ycpi, co:cu

t,tvt:c coot tv.
All things came into being through him, and without him
not one thing came into being.
John 1:3
The Christiandoctrine that Godis creator is as mucha claimabout the na-
ture of the world in which we live as it is about the world’s origins or the
shape and destiny of the self. And yet theologies addressing the theme of
the creation in the modern period tend to focus primarily upon the crea-
tureliness of the self, developed in terms of a theological anthropology,
on the one hand and upon the world as product of divine action on the
other. What is missing is a concern with the nature of the world as cre-
ated, and the relation of the world as created with God, by virtue of its na-
ture as world.
1
Inthe attempt toreconcile the traditional ways inwhichwe
speak about God with the ways in which science teaches us to talk about
the world, contemporary discussions of science and theology have moved
beyondthe argument fromdesign, seekingalsotoexplore points of agree-
ment between scientific and theological method and between a scientific
1. Stephen Toulmin drewattention to this deficit in his The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern
Science and the Theology of Nature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982). The
integration of science, cosmology and theology (together with ethics) has recently been
attempted by Nancey Murphy and George F. R. Ellis in their On the Moral Nature of the Universe
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996). See also Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian
Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988); Dan Hardy, ‘Christ and
Creation’, in idem, God’s Ways with the World (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1996), pp. 114–31 and
‘Creation and Eschatology’, in God’s Ways, pp. 151–70; Colin Gunton, Christ and Creation
(Carlisle: Paternoster Press and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) and The Triune Creator
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).
[1]
2 The Creativity of God
anda theological understandingof the world.
2
Insome cases there are cer-
tainly traces of an investigation of the world as created but these are in-
evitably closely tied to the data and insights of science. Whether viewed
from the perspective of scientists interested in a theology of creation, or
from the perspective of theologians who are concerned with the opera-
tionof divine causalitywithinthe world, moderntheology, whichis tosay,
post-medieval theology, shows anextensive deficit inits engagement with
the createdness of the world.
There are many different ways of accounting for this state of affairs,
which is the product of fundamental and complex changes in science
and culture during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But it may
be helpful to point to two distinct uses of the term ‘explanation’ and
to the rise of one at the expense of the other. The first use derives from
Baconian science and is normative in science today. To explain is to un-
derstand the causes of something. It therefore offers a way of predicting,
even of replicating, the phenomenon concerned. For Francis Bacon simi-
larly, to know the essence of something is to know how it is made.
3
Amos
Funkensteinhas referred to this as ‘ergetic’, or technological knowledge.
4
Science from this perspective offers explanatory models for understand-
ing why the world is as it is and is not other. But there is a second usage of
‘explanation’, which is akin to what Stephen Toulmin has described as a
system-theory account of explanation, which renders an individual event
intelligible by placing it within a broader scheme of things, based upon
‘the principle of regularity’.
5
Explanation in this sense serves to establish
the broader coherence of a set of beliefs by drawing more and more data
within its scope. This is a kind of thinking which we do all the time, as
2. On scientific arguments for the dynamic openness of the world, and thus its availability to
divine power, see for instance A. R. Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science (Oxford and New
York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 104–11 and 209–11 and Paths fromScience towards God
(Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2001). See also John Polkinghorne, Science and Providence
(London: SPCK, 1989), Reason and Reality (London: SPCK, 1991) and his more recent edited
volume The Work of Love. Creation as Kenosis (London: SPCK, 2001).
3. Francis Bacon, NovumOrganum, Book ii, Section 5 (Works, vol. i, pp. 230–1).
4. Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination: fromthe Middle Ages to the Seventeenth
Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 12 and 290–327.
5. Stephen Toulmin, Foresight and Understanding (NewYork: Harper and Row, 1963), p. 39.
Toulmin borrows this termfromCopernicus’ Commentariolus by which Copernicus intended
to make a clear distinction between scientific explanation as prediction and scientific
explanation as understanding. Toulmin points out that some efficient predictive systems, such
as mathematical models for the movements of tides or of planets, for instance, have scant
claimto be based on an understanding of the events they predict, whereas other successful
scientific theories, such as Darwinianism, cannot be said to have any significant predictive
value (in terms, that is, of the precise characteristics of newspecies that may evolve). See
Toulmin, Foresight, pp. 18–43.
Introduction 3
Quine has demonstrated, and it is indicative of the way in which a par-
ticular set of beliefs which we implicitly or explicitly hold to be true ex-
pands to fill the shape of our world.
6
We cannot be agnostic about every-
thingfor whichwe holdnofirmevidence or of whichwe have nogrounded
understanding. Indeed, ‘scientism’ or a materialistic world-view which
sits heavily on our society is itself a product of explanation in this second
sense. The binding nature of scientific verification within the laboratory
cannot be extended into more general questions about human reality or
about the meaning and nature of the world without a substantial increase
insubjectivism, whichitself seriously conflicts withthe scientific method.
Most scientistic accounts of the world are shot through with a variety of
materialistic and reductionist ideologies and subjectivities, only partially
concealed.
Perhaps a better way of describing explanationinthis second, systems-
theory sense is as the production, deepening and extension of ‘meaning’,
or what Werner Jeanrondhas termed‘macro-hermeneutics’.
7
It is through
the generation of meaning that we come to be at home in the world. It
might be judged important, then, that the Christian community should
have to hand an account or accounts of the meaning and intelligibility of
the world as created. But the contours of contemporary faith are such that
while we may believe ourselves tobe the creatures of God, andthe worldto
have its origins in the creativity of the divine will, we are making thereby
little more than a claim regarding the proprietorship of the world, which
is to say that the world belongs to God. Hence we are answerable to God
for the ways in which we deal with it, against a secular view of the auton-
omy of the human. It is therefore almost purely political in its applica-
tion. It is possible alsothat the contemporary importance of the claimthat
Godcreatedthe worldis a tacit acknowledgement onthe part of the Chris-
tian community of the centrality which explanation in our first sense, as
tracing the cause of a thing, has taken on in our culture. It might there-
fore represent anattempt tocontest secularismonits ownepistemological
ground: byarguingthat Godis the ultimatecause andthat those whoknow
andunderstandtheways of Godhavemost authoritywhenit comes topro-
nouncingonultimate causes.
8
But if this is the case, thenit is clear that the
emphasis amongtheologians onexplanationinthe first sense is at the cost
6. W. V. Quine, Pursuit of Truth (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990).
7. Werner Jeanrond, Theological Hermeneutics (NewYork: Crossroad, 1991), p. 4.
8. I would myself share Thomas Aquinas’ scepticismwhether human beings can ever grasp
the meaning of a truly divine and total act of creation (see Summa theologiae (ST) i, q. 45).
4 The Creativity of God
of explanation in the second sense, with the consequence that those who
holdto a theology of creation(amongst whomof course we shouldalso in-
clude Jews andMuslims) are significantly under-resourcedwithrespect to
grasping the meaning or intelligibility of the worldspecifically as created.
The first thesis of this bookis that successive attempts to accommodate
theologytomodes of scientific reasoning, for all their legitimacy, mayhave
distractedthe theological community froma generous andcreative explo-
ration of the meaning of the world; and thus, in turn, have led to an inade-
quate receptionof the theology of creation. Some might suggest that such
a project is not necessary initself. After all, the outstanding Christianthe-
ologians of modern times have managed perfectly well without it and a
concern with the parameters of human existence, as we find in such foun-
dational works as Schleiermacher’s Lectures onReligion, Kierkegaard’s Philo-
sophical Fragments, Bonhoeffer’s Act and Being or Rahner’s Spirit in the World
seem effectively to have taken the place of accounts of the nature of the
world. But there is nevertheless one critical difference between the cul-
tural and intellectual contexts of the period from the early nineteenth to
the mid twentieth century and our own day. Over the last two decades we
have seen an abundance of literature which has served to recontextualise
scientific andtechnological thinking. This is not necessarily to be equated
with what some might feel to be an uncompromising relativism, such as
we find in Paul Feyerabend or Richard Rorty, but it can also be found in
the careful detailing by philosophers of science of the ways in which sci-
ence is shaped by its economic and social contexts.
9
We are more aware of
the proper parameters of scientific reasoningthanwas the case inprevious
generations, andit is inthis sense that we cantake Michel de Certeau’s ob-
servation that ‘reason is placed in question by its own history’.
10
I am not
advocating here the undermining of reason as such, however, but rather
the recognitionthat there is a plurality of reasonings, just as we nowmore
generally accept, and experience in our everyday lives, the existence of
a plurality of knowledges. Those reasonings are in one way or another
tradition-based. They exist only withina frameworkof specific terminolo-
gies and histories, and those that practise them must in some degree be
formed within a community that reasons in the same way.
9. Stephen Toulmin, Cosmopolis: the Hidden Agenda of Modernity (NewYork: Free Press, 1990)
and Nancey Murphy, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1990).
10. Michel de Certeau, ‘The Black Sun of Language: Foucault’, in idem, Heterologies. Discourse on
the Other (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 171–84 (here p. 179).
Introduction 5
The second thesis of this book has the following form. Firstly, if reason
itself is fundamentallytheinterfacebetweenourselves andtheworld, then
the way that we reason, our understanding of rationality itself, will exten-
sively determine the ways in which we perceive and experience the world.
Secondly, if the createdness of the world as content is effaced for us, then
the powers and faculties that define the self as a centre of perception, feel-
ing and consciousness in the world are also implicitly allocated to the do-
mainof the non-creationist, whichis tosay, the secular. Sentience is a form
of passivity: the self’s ownconditionas ordered to its objects. Where those
objects are predominantly determined as quanta, as precisely measurable
space-time entities whose causal interactions are quantifiable as fields of
force, then the human faculties themselves are ordered to the processes of
quantification. It is this that underlies the privilegingof technological rea-
son and the dominance of what we might call a ‘closed’, or reductionist
rationalismwithin our culture.
Fromthe perspective of religion, andour communionwithGod, by far
the most important consequence of this state of affairs is the disjunction
between our sense of the divine and our ordinary perceptual experience.
The vocabulary we use about ordinary perception and our knowledge of
the world can be extraordinarily precise, but when we speak about know-
ing God, we refer to ‘mysticism’, ‘spirituality’ or ‘religious experience’, all
of whichare highly indeterminate, or indeedevasive, about whichhuman
faculties are in play. To some extent, of course, this is explicable as an ac-
knowledgement that God is not an object and cannot be known as objects
in the world are known. But it is indicative also of the deeper problematic
whichflows fromthe fact that the worldis not knownas created inour ordi-
nary perceptions. Our knowledge of God is thereby not set in any kind of
relation at all with our ordinary knowing, neither one of consummation
nor of contradiction, despite the fact that according to the Christian doc-
trine of the creation, the world which we ordinarily knowbelongs to God
and is of God’s making.
Here the contrast with a pre-modern world-view is helpful. Since the
createdness of the world was visible in its nature as world, in the me-
dieval synthesis, the human faculties which were ordered to that world
retained an openness from within to the knowledge of God the Creator.
What we would today term ‘religious experience’ was understood in the
pre-moderncosmos to be already impliedinandintrinsic to ordinary cog-
nition. It was figured either as the final stage in the ascent of the mind to
God, drawn by the intrinsic momentum of a divine creativity at work in
6 The Creativity of God
the world, or as the radical negation of ordinary knowledge, that is, as
‘unknowing’ which is darkness from excess of light, or indeed as a com-
bination of both.
11
The movement of negation denoted by the latter is not
simply ‘tagged on’ to ordinary experience, nor is it a free-floating ‘experi-
ence of negation’, but it is rather a conceptual advance of a radically correc-
tive nature which restores what we have inexactly termed ordinary know-
ing back to its foundation in an originary divine causality. ‘Not knowing’
becomes a necessary mode of knowing because the world on which all
knowing is predicated is itself mysterious, bearing the marks of divine
createdness within it. In other words, the lack of a coherent theological
cosmology today has the consequence that our intimacy with God is set
outside our intimacy with the world, and neither is fully integrated into
the concept of createdness as revealing the deepest nature of the world in
which – as creatures – we live.
It is the pre-modern cosmos, with its carnivalistic combinations of the
theological and proto-scientific, which offers one of the best examples of
an understanding of human reason as created and shaped in its depths
by the createdness of the world. The pre-modern however is definitively
a place to which we can never return. It was during the ‘unmaking of the
Christian cosmos’ (in W. G. Randles’ phrase
12
) fromthe sixteenth century
onwards that the Christian Church suffered some of the most damaging
andtraumatic intellectual defeats inits history. This cosmology was pred-
icated not only upon what proved over time to be a false understanding
of the nature of the universe but also upon a concept of reasoning which
identified scientia with authority or received traditions. It was a system of
thinking which, being deductionist, operated with axioms which could
not be questioned, and for whichthe foundations of knowledge rested ul-
timately upon a belief in the content and form of divine action that we
would today consider to lie outside the realmof faith. Looking back upon
that pre-modernworldcaneasily become a futile exercise ina certainkind
of cultural nostalgia. But it can also afford valuable insights into imagi-
native possibilities which have disappeared almost entirely fromour own
society. The first point to be noted is that – for all their indebtedness to
Neoplatonismand Aristotelianism– the pre-modern models of the world
were also an attempt to accommodate and listen to a number of scriptural
passages which assert the cosmic dimensions of Christ as God’s creative
11. See the section on Bonaventure’s Itinerariummentis in deumat pp. 36–42 below.
12. W. G. L. Randles, The Unmaking of the Medieval Christian Cosmos, 1500–1760 (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 1999).
Introduction 7
and universal Word. The Old Testament repeatedly stresses the role of
the divine presence who animates the world, whether as the Spirit or the
Wisdom of God.
13
In the New Testament, the Gospel of John begins with
the affirmation that it is the Word of God through whom‘all things came
into being’ (Jn1:1–3), andinthe letter to the Colossians we readthat Christ
is ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him
all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been
created through him and for him’ (1:15–16). Hebrews begins with a cre-
ationist hymn to Christ who ‘sustains all things by his powerful word’
(1:2–4), and in 1 Corinthians Jesus Christ is the one ‘through whomare all
things and through whomwe exist’ (8:6). In the Gospel of Matthew(11:19;
12:42) and again in 1 Corinthians in particular (1:18–31), deep associations
are established between the creationist Wisdom tradition and the person
of Christ.
14
As Colin Gunton pointed out, faith in Christ actually implies
belief inhimas the one throughwhomwe andthe worldwere made.
15
Our
failure to think through what these passages might mean for our under-
standing of the world is a failure also of our Christology and our soteriol-
ogy. It is a failure to grasp the meaning of the creation in its deepest coher-
ence, as being the thematic key not only to the way the world is, but also to
what and howwe are, and to what God has givenus of himself to hold and
to understand.
Although possibly somewhat esoteric in character, semiotics, which is
the science of signs, offers a succinct and formal account of the structure
of meaning, and thus can offer us valuable insights into the relation be-
tween self and world. Pre-modern semiotics, in its fullest and most so-
phisticateddevelopments, constitutedwhat we cancall todaya‘triadic’, or
‘pragmatic’, mode of reasoning. Stated simply, this was predicated upon
the view that the world was created, and that the world’s createdness in-
cluded not only the human self but also the space or relation between
self and world, which is the sphere of perception, feeling, imagining and
reasoning. Its triadic form flowed from the intrinsic relatedness of self
and world on the grounds of a common relation to the Creator God. It
was thus a kind of reasoning which is consistent with and posited by a
13. See Psalm33:6: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the
breath of his mouth.’ See also Prov. 3:19: ‘The Lord by wisdomfounded the earth; by
understanding he established the heavens.’
14. See also Eph. 1 for cosmological Christology.
15. Gunton, The Triune Creator, pp. 14–40.
8 The Creativity of God
theology of creation in its Jewish, Christian or Islamic form. Meaning,
or reality, or world are formed within the coincidence of three elements:
signs whichsignify, ‘things’ or realia whichare signified and the people or
interpreters for whomthe signs refer. This is a kind of semiotics, or logic,
which is particularly associated in the modern period with the work of
the Americanpragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce, but it was alreadycharac-
teristic in the complex theological formof the work of those early theolo-
gians, including Origen, Augustine, Thomas and Bonaventure, who were
operating within a creationist view of the world.
16
That type of reason-
ing, formulated within a thoroughgoing theology of creation, contrasts
withthekinds of reasoningwhichemergedfromthesixteenthcenturyon-
wards and which show a dyadic, or binary, structure. In dyadic reasoning
the human interpreter is not banished from the act of meaning but is in
the service of Reason and its entourage which already sets out certain pre-
conceived principles of knowing and thus of the world that is known. The
reification of ‘reason’ as a mathesis universalis obscures the fact that what
we really mean by reason (noun) are human beings who reason (verb): rea-
soning is actually an activity carried on by individual subjects at specific
times andplaces. FromaChristianperspectivethoseindividuals, andtheir
communities, are God’s free creatures alive inGod’s createdworld. Within
such a context, reasoning has to be rethought, therefore, since it is now
predicated upon a much more radical conception of the extent to which
humans participate in the formation of reality itself. Reality is not a dif-
ficult script to be read, or a complex equation (or at least not that alone),
requiringhighlyspecialisedskills andknowledge. It is not somethingthat
we either ‘get right or wrong’. It is more fundamentally a place of invita-
tion, a hosting by the divine creativity whichtakes ourselves to be integral
to the performance of the infinite fecundity and goodness of God whichis
at the root of the world and its meaning.
The present volume represents an attempt to integrate the cosmologi-
cal passages of Scripture into the contemporary theological mind. Its con-
cern therefore lies with an inquiry into the nature of the world, viewed
from a Christological perspective, and with thematics which spring from
this, including the nature of the ‘real’ and the human faculties of rea-
soning and perception which are ordered to it. It attempts an integrated
16. It is Peter Ochs who has so importantly drawn our attention to the alignment between a
pre-modern scriptural hermeneutic (in this case a rabbinic one) and contemporary
pragmatics. See his groundbreaking study Peirce, Pragmatismand the Logic of Scripture
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Introduction 9
account of the self in the world, based upon a reading of the cosmological
scriptural passages, andemploying elements of contemporary philosoph-
ical thought which seemmost suited to the development and articulation
of a biblical theology of createdness.
In the first two chapters of the book, under the titles ‘The architec-
ture of createdness’ and ‘The metaphysics of createdness’, I present a brief
outline of the pre-modern cosmos firstly in terms of natural science and
astronomy and secondly in terms of metaphysics, semiotics and histori-
cal reason. It is only through such an engagement with theological and
proto-scientific systems fromthe past that we are able to grasptoday what
it means to live in a theophanic cosmos, in which the createdness of the
world is powerfully accented. Everything in our own culture militates
against such an understanding. In no sense, of course, am I advocating
a return to a pre-modern world-view, in which proto-science and theol-
ogy combined in ways that are unthinkable for us today. But nevertheless
we can find instruction here as to the possibility of a theological account
of the world’s createdness. We can see also the immense effects of such a
theology on an understanding of the self and of our relation to the world.
The third chapter, ‘Cosmological fragments’, surveys the break-up of the
classical synthesis with the rise of modern natural science, as exemplified
in the work of Copernicus and Francis Bacon, and sets out some of the
early attempts to reinstitute an integral cosmology. The intention here is
toobserve some of the principal strategies for recreatinga sense of human-
ity’s integration into the whole at the outset of the modern period. In the
workof Winckelmann, this occurs throughanappreciationof art, while in
Jacobi we can see ‘cosmic’ transformations of the intellect. Winckelmann
anticipates the ‘aesthetic turn’, therefore, and a modern transcendental
epistemology of the ‘sublime’, while Jacobi points forwardtothe religious
subjectivity of Schleiermacher andeventually to the traditionof ‘religious
experience’. Hamann is also included at this stage since we can see in his
worka vigorous attempt toretrieve a theological cosmologythrougha dis-
tinctively Hebrew, language-centred and scriptural account of the world.
Hamann therefore plays a key role in mediating something of the classi-
cal figurations of cosmic createdness in terms which derive closely from
Scripture and yet which are free of their proto-scientific and essentialist
dimensions.
Inchapters 4, 5and6, I aimtoset out a contemporary account of cosmic
createdness through a close reading of scriptural passages which concern
the speaking of God. The focus here lies upon a scriptural account of the
10 The Creativity of God
nature of language itself, and of the way inwhichhumanlanguage is con-
tained within and acts as a reflex of divine speech. This is a distinctively
biblical view of language and it is one which contrasts with the classi-
cal conceptions of language which we otherwise inherit today. The pri-
mary locus of language, by this biblical account, is the divine speechitself,
which is both revelatory and creative in the most originary sense that word
canconvey. The world comes about by virtue of the divine speaking. What
we find here, therefore, is an intimate connection between speech and
presence, whichis to say, the presence of the Speaker, or God, the one who
is addressed, and the world that is spoken about. All three form a unity.
But presence, according to this model, is enfolded within language and is
not extraneous toit. That presence, givenwithlanguage, andtheoriginary
act of divine speaking, is also foundationally plural: eachelement coexists
with the others and cannot be thought outside the context of the others.
This plurality is central to the nature of the world, in which language is
social, and there is a circularity about the ways in which we speak about
the world and the way in which reality comes to meet us in our ordinary
experience. A plural, multivocal world is also one which is open to and at
times gripped by the divine speaking which, inthe Gospel of Jesus Christ,
is shown to be triadic. Culture is deeply determinative of the way we act
and shape the world. But it is a plurality which is itself grounded in the
nature of the divine speaking. The Gospel narrative of Jesus Christ shows
that God’s speech is in fact Trinitarian. We learn fromthis disclosure that
the multivocity of the originary divine speaking is itself kenotic and com-
passionate, since – in the revelation which is through the Son and in the
Spirit – God speaks with us and not with Godself alone. God must there-
fore come downtoour level, as it were, becominghimself part of the world
that is structured according to God’s own breathing and speaking.
The second element in this middle section of the book is the use of a
theory of the text in order to conceptualise the relation between the di-
vine speaking and the world. The world stands to the divine originary
breath/speakingas awrittentext does tothe voice of its author(s). This par-
allel has a double value. In the first place it offers a model of the coinher-
ence of Godandthe worldwhichreproduces many aspects of the medieval
systemof analogy without, however, employing the Aristotelian model of
causality which postulates a similarity between cause and effect. And sec-
ondly, while a theory of the cosmic text is not explicitly present in Scrip-
ture, it is deeply consonant with a scriptural account of the world. Texts,
like bodies, are voice-bearing, and when the author entrusts their voice
Introduction 11
to a text, it undergoes a kind of alienation as the content of the speech
passes from an intimate, oral medium to one that is objectified in the
visibility of the written word. The text itself thus becomes a modality of
embodiedness: a voice-bearing corpus of deferred, or replicated, presence.
The author now knows that from now on their voice can only be received
through an extensive act of interpretation. The authorial voice remains in
the text, to be heard and understood, but only indirectly and through the
interpretative imagination of others. The world is much like this in its re-
lationto God. It demands to be understoodandknownby a community of
human interpreters. Most fundamentally, the divine voice (and will) can
be and frequently is entirely misunderstood and abused by its human in-
terpreters. The divine voice, or breath, which is entrusted to the text of
the worldbecomes estrangedwithinthe mediumof the text. It is this that
leads to the second cycle of divine creativity, which is the repristination of
the text of the world. Inthis sectionof the book, I developa pneumatology
whichunderstands the Holy Spirit tobe the continuingpresence of the di-
vine breath/voice in the world – the world-text’s memory of its origin in
God – and the Son to be the redemptive and sacrificial sounding again of
the divine speaking within the text, as the retrieval of the world-text back
into the flux of originary Trinitarian speech.
The third section of the book is concerned with the model of reality
which emerges from the Eucharistic celebration, itself a making present
of the redemptive sacrifice of God. The words of institution, which form
part of the Passion narrative, represent the point at which Christ’s body
merged with the world and the divine voice was heard again, anticipat-
ing the resurrection and ascension. Intrinsic to our own liturgical par-
ticipation in that moment, which was the moment in which Jesus – as
the Word of God – entered the divine logic of Scripture, is the commu-
nication of the world as the body or self-communication of God, to and
withinthe worshippingcommunity. Inthe Real Presence of the Eucharist,
the universality of Christ as root of the physical universe is made sacra-
mentally present to the liturgical community. In ways that are unfath-
omable to us, we discover the world to be the embrace of God, and thus
find our own bodily existence to be refigured and ourselves to be set in a
newrelationwiththe world. Inthe penultimate chapter I explore the con-
tours of this newsense of embodiment in the light of a transformative en-
counter withChrist as the body of the world. Andinthe final chapter, I re-
flect upon the kind of reasoning which is generated by this newcondition
of being in the world, focusing in particular upon pragmatic reasoning
12 The Creativity of God
which recognises the extent to which we are ourselves implicated in the
real. I seek to develop an account of pragmatic reasoning from within an
exegesis of the transfiguration pericope, in the belief that it is this kind
of reasoning which implicitly bears the contours of a theology of creation
andthus, inits higher intensifications, carries withit a movement of sanc-
tification and glorification.
This volumeas awhole, then, sets out tooffer arepairal or healingof the
concept of reasoning through reinvestigating the cognitive relation be-
tweenhumanity and the world, whichis to say, the functioning of the hu-
man faculties within the world of God’s making. It is an attempt to make
sense of those scriptural passages which affirm the cosmic character of
Christ as source, root and ultimate meaning of the world. This is inevitably
a heuristic project; it is not one that can be demonstrated or coercively ar-
gued. Rather, the kind of ‘explanation’ at work here is one which appeals
to a sense of the order of things and to Christian experience of the world
in its deepest aspects, which is conceived in freedom. It is an imaginative
exercise as much as a discursive and analytical one. And the imagination
will inevitably have a crucial role where issues concerning the nature of
the world as such are in play. We cannot conceive of the world’s fullness
except in terms of horizons and leaps of understanding as we move from
the particular andknowntowhat might be, towhat lies at the limits of the
conceivable. It is this power of extensionwhichis the proper functionand
play of the imagination. Of all our faculties, it is the imagination which
most seems to grant a creative space, or possibility, to the self as we live
out our lives inthe world. It is inthis sense, therefore, that this book seeks
freely to engage the theological imagination of the reader, offering a new
alignment, or recontextualisation, of our ways of reasoning, andthus per-
haps liberating new possibilities of making sense of God’s world, and of
finding our rightful place within it.
I
An archaeology of createdness
1
The architecture of createdness
La gloria di colui che tutto move
per l’universo penetra e risplende
In una parte pi ` u e meno altrove.
The glory of himwho moves all things
Penetrates the universe and shines
In one part more and in another less.
Dante, Paradiso, canto i
The project of constructing a newtheology of the createdness of the world
can usefully begin with a reflection on world-views from the past which
achieved this same aim, though in ways deeply alien to us today. But the
cosmological sense-world is constructed of diverse impulses and ideas in
a complex unity of sense-inputs, presuppositions, ideas and imagination.
The reconstructionof animplicit cosmology inthe pre-modernperiodis a
particularlydemandingtask, therefore, whichentails the analysis of fields
as diverse as astronomy, the arts, metaphysics, semiotics and epistemol-
ogy, all of which can be said to interact in distinctive ways in the forma-
tion of what we might call ‘the sense of a world’. In the following chapter,
two different cosmological structures will emerge. The first is cosmology
by extension, which placed heaven in the heavens, at a point far removed
from the earth, but in a field of extension that was continuous with it.
This is perhaps most difficult for us to understand today though it was,
arguably, the most foundational aspect in the formation of medieval per-
ception with its ideologies of heaven as site of our highest values and ulti-
mate destiny. The second is cosmology by participation. This is the hierar-
chical universe whereby transcendental, eternal realities become manifest
within the empirical domain, by virtue of its ‘symbolic’ character, where
[15]
16 The Creativity of God
the notion of symbol carries a metaphysical charge which is again unfa-
miliar to us today. Presupposedhere is the belief that heavenis potentially
present everywhere, since– as thehighest stratumof existence– it is impli-
catedat all the lower levels whichcanunder certaincircumstances become
transparent to it. This capacity of the sense-world to undergo transforma-
tion has deep consequences also for the ways in which the pre-modern
worldunderstoodthe nature of the humanmindwhichengages withand
is permeated by that sense-reality. It is that theme which I shall take up in
chapter 2.
Heaven in the heavens
The ideaof heavenis pervasivelypresent inmedieval thought andculture.
1
Apre-moderncosmology inits formal aspect was the product of two com-
peting groups: Christiantheologians andnatural philosophers.
2
The con-
cernof the theologians lay withexpoundingthe meaningof the ‘twoheav-
ens’, the secondof which– the firmament – dividedthe waters whichwere
above the firmament fromthose whichwere below(Gen. 1:6–7). Their fur-
ther concern lay with the relation between an incorporeal God and a cor-
poreal universe and with the final dwelling place of the Blessed, that is
withheavenas the seat of God. Natural philosophers onthe other handap-
plied the principles of classical science, as mediated through Neoplatonic
and – from the late twelfth century onwards – Aristotelian texts, to an
understanding of the shape and functions of the universe. Two problem-
atics showedthe interactionof these schools. The first concernedheliocen-
trism, which combined questions of mechanics and physics with theolog-
ical concerns about the place of humanity in the universe, while a second,
which was the issue of the location of the Empyrean (or dwelling place of
the Blessed), combined general astronomy with questions to do with the
character of the life of the saints in heaven. This latter theme seems re-
mote tous todayandit has receivedrelativelylittle scholarlyattention, but
it represented a nodal point of cosmological thinking in the pre-modern
world.
1. See Jan Swango Emerson and Hugo Feiss, eds., Imagining Heaven in the Middle Ages: a Body of
Essays (NewYork and London: Garland Publishing, 2000) and Colleen McDannell and
Bernard Lang, eds., Heaven. AHistory (2nd edn, NewHaven: Yale University Press, 2001).
2. W. G. L. Randles, The Unmaking of the Medieval Christian Cosmos, 1500–1760 (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 1999), pp. 1–8. These two groups were later joined by the early astronomers who
were beginning to measure the movements of the heavenly bodies in newways.
The architecture of createdness 17
The need to combine Scripture with ‘science’ was already apparent
in the influential, fourth-century text known as the pseudo-Clementine
Recognitiones. Here the firmament is identified as being ‘solid ice, hard as
crystal’ whichtookupall thespacebetweentheearthandthefirst heaven.
3
This closely followed the account in Genesis (the ‘water below the firma-
ment’ of Genesis becomingiceor crystal) andestablishedatraditionwhich
was to be followed by a number of influential early medieval theologians,
including the Venerable Bede and Raban Maur.
4
A significant problem
with this model lay in combining the solidity of the firmament with the
movement of the planets, and it would later be modified by a return to
the separate, rotating crystalline spheres of the Ptolemaic universe. A sec-
ond model marking a synthesis between scriptural and classical accounts
was devised by Basil the Great (329–79) and set out in his Homilies on the
Hexaemeron. In contrast with the pseudo-Clementine firmament of con-
tinuous ice or crystal, Basil proposed that the continuous element was
‘humid air’ and that the firmament separated the lower part, of clouds,
from a higher, more refined realm of purified air.
5
Basil’s position proved
to be an important anticipation of an idea which later gained ground in
Europe with the influence of Aristotle’s On the Heavens, in which Aristotle
advancedthe concept of the ‘fifthelement’.
6
As the ‘primary body of all’, it
is quite unlike earth, air, fire or water; it is ‘eternal, suffers neither growth
nor diminution, but is ageless, unalterable andimpassive’.
7
Onlyone kind
of motion, or change, is native to it, which is that of a perfectly circular
movement; it has no linear motion. Albert the Great cited the possibility
that the fifth element extended from the moon as far as the outer circle
or Empyrean. Thomas Aquinas affirmed that the heavens were composed
of Aristotle’s ‘fifth element’ in his Commentary on the Sentences, although
he avoided stating any particular view in the Summa Theologiae.
8
From
the thirteenth century onwards, the Aristotelian ‘aether’ came progres-
sively to be seen as the rarified substance of which the planets themselves
were composed and which constituted the medium through which they
moved.
3. Die Pseudoklementinen, vol. ii: Rekognitionen in Rufins
¨
Ubersetzung, ed. Bernhard Rehm(Berlin:
Akademie-Verlag, 1965). The text survives in Rufinus’ Latin translation.
4. Randles, Medieval Christian Cosmos, pp. 2–3.
5. Ibid., pp. 3–5.
6. Pierre Duhem, Le syst ` eme du monde, vol. i (Paris: A. Hermann, 1913), pp. 198–205.
7. On the Heavens, i, 3, 270b (W. K. C. Guthrie, trans., Aristotle on the Heavens (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 23).
8. ST i, q. 68, a. 1.
18 The Creativity of God
Aristotle’s ‘fifth element’ was also to play a vital role in the developing
conception of the Empyrean as the eternal dwelling-place of the Blessed.
9
Basil the Great was the first specifically to link the first heaven of Genesis
traditionwiththedwellingof thesaints, andtheadvent of Aristotelianism
provided a new framework for reflection upon the nature of this heaven
and the character of the life of the saints. Aristotle’s aether functioned as a
‘place’ andprovideda space for ‘substantial entities’, thoughthis entailed
something of an enigma, since God could not be contained in any place.
The collision of the Aristotelian principle that everything has its natural
place in the cosmos, which dictates its natural movement, with the theo-
logical principle of the incorporeality of the Godhead (the contemplation
of whom is the bliss of the Blessed in heaven) led to diverse strategies of
reconciliation. Albert the Great, for instance, added an eleventh heaven,
above the Empyrean, for the Trinity and, from the period of Thomas
Bradwardine (c. 1290–1349), Godwas heldto occupy ‘aninfinite imaginary
space’ beyond the spheres. But if the Empyrean was a body and a place, in
the Aristotelian sense, then it was reasonable to ask what kind of life was
possible for the saints in their own resurrected bodies. This kind of ques-
tion is generally left to one side by modern Christian theologians, who
may feel that the mysterious character of the body of glory and of heaven
precludes too precise an inquiry. But the medievals, with their mix of the-
ology andphysics, askedvery specific anddetailedquestions about the op-
erationof thesenses intheEmpyrean, inthebelief that thefarthest reaches
of the universe still exhibited the same kind of spacial characteristics as
were evident on earth.
Albert the Great first surveyed the operation of the five senses in the
Empyrean, tackling the problemof howsight might be possible ina space
of unparalleledbrilliance, andhowpeople might be able to speak in‘indi-
visible and impassible’ air.
10
In the Empyrean, odours would be the prod-
uct not of corruption, as was the case according to Aristotelian principles,
but would be transmitted as a ‘sensible species’, and the saints would still
possess the power of taste, even if they were not called upon to use it.
Finally, the faculty of touch would be maintained but only through the
9. The Christians first met the termin Neoplatonist texts (Historisches W¨ orterbuch der
Philosophie, vol. ii, pp. 478–9).
10. Randles points in particular to Summa Theologiae Pars Secunda, tract. xi, qu. 52, mem. ii
(Opera Omnia, ed. A. Borgnet (Paris, 1895), vol. xxxii, p. 555). Medieval views on the operations
of the senses in the Empyrean are surveyed by Randles in Medieval Christian Cosmos,
pp. 12–31.
The architecture of createdness 19
spiritual senses and not by direct action upon the body. Writing in his
Commentaryonthe Sentences, Thomas Aquinas similarlysurveyedthe senses,
drawing uponAlbert’s work, and concluded regarding vision(inRandles’
summary) that ‘the brightness of a body in the state of glory does not ad-
versely affect the transparency of the pupil of the eye because the state
of glory does not abolish nature’.
11
The Spanish Franciscan Alphonso de
Tostado de Rivera Madrigal (1401–54/55) was perhaps the most physicalist
in his thinking about the conditions of life of the saints in the Empyrean.
In his account ‘paradise is a place in the widest sense of the word inside
the denseness of the orb of the Empyrean and it is neither vacuous, nor
full of air, but it is the heavenly body itself in the dense mass of which
are the souls of the Blessed’. The resurrected saints ‘will be inside the
Empyrean. . . withinthe mass of the substance of the heavenly orb, exactly
as a man would be inside a stone or inside a wall’.
12
Within a century the notion of the Empyrean began to wane, how-
ever. It was rejected by the Protestants as being a scholastic construct, and
the new astronomy had no place for it. When Copernicus published his
groundbreaking work De revolutionibus orbium caelestium in 1543, he took
no account of the biblical universe. The Empyrean remained an impor-
tant element in Catholic theology, however, until the mid seventeenth
century. The Flemish Jesuit Leonard Lessius (1554–1623) strongly main-
tained the impossibility of adequately conceiving of the Empyrean, with
its saintlyhierarchies, outside anAristotelianunderstandingof space and,
perhaps borrowing the phrase ‘some sort of celestial air’ (auram quamdam
caelestam) fromKepler, advocateda fluidandairy interior to the Empyrean
in which the senses of the saints could function freely.
13
The Portuguese
Jesuit Sebasti ˜ ao Barradas (1543–1615) onthe other hand argued that all the
senses of the saints would function normally within the solid Empyrean
‘by miracle’. Their bodies would be naked but radiant with different
colours – green, gold, white and blue. And the Blessed would have their
own houses, all transparent but some more luxurious than others, as be-
fitting rank. The Baroque character of Barradas’ vision is evident, and
Gabriel Henao describedit as ‘pious andflorid’ inhis Empyreologia. Henao,
who was otherwise so inclined to literalism and to traditional teaching
on the Empyrean, added that the allusion to dwellings should be taken
11. Randles, Medieval Christian Cosmos, p. 24. Akey text in Thomas is the Commentumin quattuor
libros sententiarum, iv, dist. 44, q. 2, 1 d.
12. Quoted in Randles, Medieval Christian Cosmos, pp. 28–9.
13. Ibid., pp. 138–9.
20 The Creativity of God
‘metaphorically’, implicitly acknowledging that some discussions of the
Empyrean which had previously been an attempt to explain, understand
and educate were now becoming emotive descriptions aimed at spiritual
improvement.
14
The universe as outlined by Aristotle in his treatise On the Heavens
resonated positively with the Christian world-view in several important
ways. In the first place, it was predicated on principles that had been
worked out with respect to the world of ordinary perceptions; to that ex-
tent it understood the cosmic in terms of the earth. This was to assert an
anthropocentric view of the universe which conformed with the cosmic
centrality of humanity accordingtothe Christianreligion. Aristotle’s con-
viction that the earth was an immobile object at the centre of the uni-
verse gave a primacy also to the earth, as the place in which the cosmic
events of salvation history took place. Much would be made in the six-
teenth and seventeenth centuries about the verses at Joshua 10:12–14 in
which God caused the ‘sun to stand still in the sky’, since this seemed in-
consistent withthenewheliocentrismwhichchallengedtheChristianand
Aristotelian claim that humanity and the earth were situated at the cen-
tre of the universe. The human image of the cosmos was sustained also
by the extension into the spheres of the Aristotelian concept of body and
space: the one being ordered to the other. Although Aristotle’s fifth ele-
ment, aether, was set apart from the other elements in terms of its prop-
erties, it was still recognisably an element in which substances could have
local existence. Aristotle dismissed the possibility that the heavenly bod-
ies might be suspended in a void on the grounds that motion through a
voidis not possible. Theextensionof thefifthelement totheEmpyreanen-
abled Christiantheologians to focus their concernonthe nature of the ex-
istence of the saints inheaven, a matter which, thoughit may seem‘otiose’
to us to today, as Randles points out, makes perfect sense where concep-
tions central to both theology and physics overlap.
15
Finally Aristotle also
offered a finite world, in which all matter was contained within the limits
14. Gabriel Henao published his Empyreologia seu philosophia christiana de empyreo caelo in 1652,
over a hundred years after the appearance of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbiumcaelestium
(1543). In two substantial volumes Henao, a Spanish Jesuit, summarised arguments from
previous centuries concerning, for instance, the density of the ‘air’ breathed by the saints in
the Empyrean that formed the outermost, or uppermost, ring of the universe (howthis
compared with the thin air of high mountains), whether they could actually walk outside the
Empyrean, on its convex surface, and whether God and Christ were located in the same
physical place as the saints (see Randles, Medieval Christian Cosmos, pp. 140–1).
15. Randles, Medieval Christian Cosmos, p. 31.
The architecture of createdness 21
of the universe. However vast the projected distances and masses, the
Aristotelian universe was one which did not know the embarrassment of
infinity.
Heaven on earth
The application of Aristotelian principles to the cosmos as a whole set up
a continuum of experience between earth and the farthest reaches of the
universe and legitimated an imaginative appropriation of space into the
concerns of human society and religion. In effect, it projected the human
body intothe farthest reaches of space. But at the same time, we findinthe
pre-modernperiod a convictionthat heavenis not only located at aniden-
tifiable point inthe physical universe, inthe farthest circle of the stars, but
that the heavenly is also visible on earth, within the contours of our ev-
eryday empirical perceptions.
16
Liturgy is one of the foremost examples of
this, andit is one withwhichwe are familiar today. The liturgical cycle en-
sures that the passage of ‘ordinary’ time is constantly overtaken by escha-
tological, or what we might even call ‘cosmic’ time. The Christian notion
of time as ananticipation, receptionandproleptical celebrationof the full-
ness of messianic presence is reinforced by liturgy as the centre to which
temporal progressionconstantlyrefers. But inthe pre-modernworld, mu-
sic, with its links to the arts and to mathematics, and architecture, were
also powerfully expressive of the celestial realities on earth.
Music
Three Platonic themes are of particular importance for the theologyof me-
dieval music. The first is found in a passage from the Timaeus in which
Plato argues that proportion or harmony is the very principle of the cos-
mos itself.
17
Even the spheres make a harmonious sound as they move
through the heavens.
18
The second is a passage from the Republic where
Platomaintains that thestudyof music-mathematics gives access tothein-
ner realities of the cosmos.
19
Andthe thirdis the belief that music canhave
16. See Emerson and Feiss, eds., Imagining Heaven, for a survey of the relevant sources.
17. Timaeus, 35–6.
18. Republic, x, 617a–b.
19. Republic, vii, 531a–d. See also Book vi of Augustine’s De musica, where he explicates music
as a direct route fromthe ‘material to the immaterial’ (ii.2; but see also i.1, and
xiii.38–xvii.58). Anewedition of Augustine’s De musica, Book vi, has recently appeared by
Martin Jacobsson (Aurelius Augustinus. De musica liber vi, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis,
Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 47, Stockholm: Almqvist &Wiksell International, 2002).
22 The Creativity of God
an ennobling and formative effect on the human soul.
20
All three of these
principles play through a text on music which can be dated to the early
sixth century and which was to exercise a great influence down the cen-
turies. Boethius’ De institutione musica, which formed part of his Quadriv-
ium or introduction to the arithmetical sciences, divides the study of mu-
sic into three aspects.
21
The first is the cosmic music which is produced by
the movement of the spheres. Although we cannot in fact hear this music,
Boethius insists that ‘it is nevertheless impossible that the extreme speed
of movement of such vast bodies should produce absolutely no sound at
all’.
22
Music is the principle of the harmony of the cosmos, so it is in the
intrinsic consonance of the elements and the seasons that we perceive this
particular kind of fundamental musical form. Boethius’ second type of
music is internal tohumankindandis againtheprincipleof order andhar-
mony which in this case governs the relation between soul and body. It is
onaccount of this that ‘music is sonaturally unitedwithus that we cannot
be free fromit even if we wished to be so’.
23
We are thus deeply affected by
the character of the music we hear, and can be formed in our moral nature
by the qualities of music.
24
The third kind is music produced by stringed,
percussive and wind instruments, and it is this to which Boethius dedi-
cates the rest of his discussion.
Although the books from Boethius’ treatise, in which he is likely to
have discussed ‘cosmic’ and ‘human’ harmonies drawing upon Ptolemy’s
Harmonica, do not survive, the ‘speculative’ dimensions of music as the
principle of order and harmony which underlies all things were not lost
from view in later discussions of ‘practical’ music.
25
The principal reason
for this was the understandingof music itself as a science of ratios andpro-
portions. Music represented the most immediate access to the systems of
numbers and calculations which constitute the underlying order of the
world. The study of music, therefore, with its close proximity to mathe-
matics, was an ideal prelude to the study of philosophy, as Aristotle had
20. Republic, iii, 401d–402a.
21. For a general discussion of Boethius’ work on music and the mix of Aristotelian and
Platonic sources in its composition, see Leo Schrade, ‘Music in the Philosophy of Boethius’,
The Musical Quarterly 33 (1947), 188–200.
22. Book i, Chapter 2.
23. Book i, Chapter 1.
24. David S. Chamberlain gives a fuller and richer exposition of the moral force of music in
Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy in his ‘Philosophy of Music in the Consolation of
Boethius’, Speculum45 (1970), 80–97.
25. Henry Chadwick, Boethius. The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1981), pp. 81–3.
The architecture of createdness 23
noted, and to the ultimate and highest meanings of the universe.
26
Even
withrespect tothe workof athirteenth-centuryscholastic theologiansuch
as RichardGrosseteste, the argument has beenmade that ‘music was abso-
lutely essential for understanding the basic concepts that formed a foun-
dationfor all the disciplines’.
27
The performance of music, then, as a social
art was the practical expressionof anunderstanding of the underlying or-
der of things which ‘tuned’ the human soul to the deeper realities, them-
selves numerical in form, as it inspired the listeners and raised their souls
to contemplation of the highest things.
A further insight into the meaning of music in the medieval world
comes from the writings of the Benedictine Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen
(1098–1179), who was herself one of the most creative of medieval com-
posers. Following an interdict placed upon the practice of singing in the
daily worship of her community, Hildegard wrote a letter to the prelates
of Mainz inwhichshe vigorously defendedthe role of music inthe forma-
tion of the human spirit. Music, she argued, embodies the innocence of
humanity before the Fall so that ‘in Adam’s voice, before he fell, there was
the sound of every harmony and the sweetness of the whole art of music’.
Indeed, had Adam remained ‘in the condition in which he was formed,
human frailty could never endure the power and the resonance of that
voice’.
28
Hildegard reminds the clerics that the devil had beengreatly per-
turbed when he ‘heard that men and women had begun to sing through
divine inspiration, andthat they wouldbe transformedthroughthis tore-
membering the sweetness of the songs inthe heavenly land’.
29
Music here
is identified with a pre-lapsarian state and is particularly associated with
heaven so that the performance of music is a direct participation on earth
in the heavenly reality.
It is in Hildegard too that we find an imaginative synthesis of the cos-
mological theology of John1:3 withthe classical conceptionof harmony as
the measure of the cosmic order. In her Liber divinorumoperum she equates
the sounding of the Word with the very life of creatures:
The Word sounded and brought all creatures into being. In this way
the Word and God are one. As the Word sounded, he called to himself
all of creation which had been predestined and established in eternity.
26. Cf. Metaphysics, xiii, 1078a31–1078b6.
27. Nancy vanDeusen, Theology and Music at the Early University (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995), p. 206.
28. Hildegard von Bingen, ‘Hildegardis ad praelatos Moguntinensis’, in L. van Acker, ed.,
Hildegardis Bingensis Epistolarium, Pars Prima i–xc (Turnholt: Brepols, 1991), pp. 61–6.
29. Ibid.
24 The Creativity of God
His resonance awakened everything to life . . . Nowwhen the Word of
God sounded, this Word appeared in every creature and this sound was
life in every creature.
30
This represents a bold advocacy of sound as the foundation of divine cre-
ativity, whereby the world is ordered in its own particularity and yet is
constructed fromwithin the divine nature. In contrast with emanationist
theologies of light, or of the idea, the life of creatures is identified in this
passage with the sound-word-voice that proceeds from a divine speaker
and which in a dialectical combination of immanence and transcendence
both remains distinct fromand identical with its source.
Architecture
One of the functions of music is to unite the two distinct trajectories of
the medieval world-image, that is, cosmology by extension and by partic-
ipation. The ‘music of the spheres’ belongs to the passage of the heavenly
bodies through the aether, while music performed on earth is a participa-
tioninthe heavenly cycle of praise. The element of light performs a similar
function. Light is the first principle of the created universe: it is the intel-
ligibility of things. But light is also seenas the effulgence of the uncreated
light – and Christ himself as the first ‘radiance’. It is the interplay of these
two distinct perspectives developed in terms of architecture that comes to
the fore in a treatise written by Abbot Suger following the reconstruction
of central parts of the Churchof St Denis in1144. The Libellus de consecratione
ecclesiae S. Dionysii contains two striking passages. The first is a celebration
of light associatedwiththe rebuildingof the choir inthe newGothic style:
Once the newrear part is joined to the part in front,
The church shines with its middle part brightened.
For bright is that which is brightly coupled with the bright,
And bright is the noble edifice which is pervaded by the newlight;
Which stands enlarged in our time . . .
31
The ‘new light’ (lux nova) is simultaneously the light of Christ and his
NewDispensationandis the greater dispersal of light achievedby the new
choir inGothic styletoreplacetheduller Carolingianapse.
32
Animportant
30. Liber divinorumoperum, iv, 105.
31. Quoted fromAbbot Suger on the Abbey Church of St-Denis and its Art Treasures, ed., trans. and
annotated by Erwin Panofsky (2nd edn by Gerda Panofsky-Soergel, Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1979), pp. 50–1.
32. Panofsky, Abbot Suger, p. 22.
The architecture of createdness 25
influence upon Abbot Suger was the Celestial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Denys,
whose works were preserved in the abbey, on the grounds of mistaken
historical assumptions regarding the saint and the abbey’s dedication.
Pseudo-Denys articulated a symbolic system predicated in no small part
on a cosmic hierarchy of light, which fell or cascaded from the heavens
to earth, animating and spiritualising all things. In the Celestial Hierarchy,
where he considers the orders of supernatural beings, he defines ‘hierar-
chy’ in the following terms:
Ahierarchy bears in itself the mark of God. Hierarchy causes its
members to be images of God in all respects, to be clear and spotless
mirrors reflecting the glowof primordial light and indeed of God
himself. It ensures that when its members have received this full and
divine splendour, they can then pass on this light generously and in
accordance with God’s will to beings further down the scale.
33
This light-metaphysics or metaphysics of hierarchy also supported a pro-
gramme of symbolic interpretation which constituted a return through
material things to the source of all in heaven. And it is this programme
which appears in Abbot Suger’s explication of the meaning of the gilded
bronze reliefs of the Passion and ‘Resurrection or Ascension’ of Christ
which adorned the doors of the central west portal:
Whoever thou art, if thou seekest to extol the glory of these doors,
Marvel not at the gold and the expense but at the craftsmanship of the
work.
Bright is the noble work; but being nobly bright, the work
Should brighten the minds so that they may travel, through the true
lights [of the eyes],
To the True Light where Christ is the true door.
In what manner it be inherent in this world the golden door defines:
The dull mind rises to truth through that which is material
And, in seeing light, is resurrected fromits former submersion.
34
Cosmic phenomenology
The pre-modern cosmos as outlined in the preceding sections represents
a construction of the world which is radically distinct from anything we
knowtoday. What for us is metaphor (‘heavenabove’) was for our ancestors
33. The Celestial Hierarchy, 165A(trans. ColmLuibheid, Pseudo-Dionysius. The Complete Works,
NewYork: Paulist Press, 1987), p. 154.
34. Panofsky, Abbot Suger, pp. 46–9.
26 The Creativity of God
a matter of deliberate and literal belief. Science and theology combined
in a way that is unthinkable for us today, since science itself drew for its
authority upon the sources of revealed Christianity. It is important at this
stagethereforethat weemployananalysis, whichI amcalling‘cosmic phe-
nomenology’, to lay bare the deep structures of pre-modern perception
and thus to make possible a thoroughgoing contrast with our own.
The analysis begins with an important distinction between two con-
cepts that are related but separate: the invisible as that which cannot ever
be seen (and which I shall call the invisible) and the invisible as that which
can be seen but which does not for the moment present itself to sight
(which I call the unseen). The unseen is nevertheless visible, therefore,
while the invisible is always unseen. The unseen is a crucial component in
ordinary perception, according to Merleau-Ponty, since much of what we
‘see’ contains a strong component of the unseen. In his classic study The
Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty arguedthat our fieldof visionis
always limitedby the three-dimensionality of the objects we see. Whenwe
perceive a cube, for instance, we see the sides which present to us and we
construct the sides which are hidden from us. But we construct them in
such a way that they appear to be integral to our perception of the cube:
it is not that we imagine the cube to be without the sides which are con-
cealed from us, rather we integrate them – as imagined or remembered –
into the overall image of the object as presented to us in the surfaces that
we cansee. Husserl first notedthis process andcalledit ‘apperception’, but
Merleau-Ponty developed it as a principal feature of the way in which we
perceive unified objects in a three-dimensional world.
The unseen features in a second way which is equally important in the
process of constructing the world. Objects which are outside the present
range of our perceptions can still be present to us as either remembered
or imagined forms. We do not cease to believe in the continuing existence
of objects which we no longer see. Memory and imagination combine in
the persistence of objects which, while inthemselves visible, are no longer
seen. According to the passage of time, more and more of our ‘world’ is
constituted of such reconstructed images; more and more is unseen. But
we gain images too of objects and places which we have never seen. Here
the dynamic is not memorybut is rather our abilitytoconstruct fromwhat
we have perceivedthe forms of things that we have not perceived. Fromthe
elements of the ‘seen’ world, we build newunseen ones by practices of the
imagination. The world of imaginative literature, or travel writing, is of
course a primary formof this kind of perceiving.
The architecture of createdness 27
But there is a third kind of ‘seeing’ which can be described as distinc-
tively ‘cosmic’. Such a seeing applies outside any immediate, empirical
frame of reference; and it is here that we note a significant difference be-
tween pre-modern perceptions and our own. The framing reality of the
empirical world, for the medieval, lay in the remote heavens above, by
virtue of extension, andinthe hierarchical structure of the worldorder, by
virtue of participation. The former belonged to the category of what I am
calling the unseen: it is not generally the object of our senses, onaccount of
thegreat distancedividingearthfromtheEmpyrean, but it might conceiv-
ably be so. Also, the heavenly realities become visible in the symbolic na-
ture of the worldthat does formanatural part of our everydayperceptions:
in light, sound, space and time. This is not the same as seeing such reali-
ties tout court, but it didallowa glimpse of what sucha seeingmight be like.
The interior of the church, filledwiththe sounds, colours andperfumes of
heaven, allowed the congregation to understand something of the visibil-
ity of the heavenly realms, located beyond the stars. This principle of the
unseen unlocks a further significant difference between the pre-modern
and the modern cosmos. In his later work Merleau-Ponty advanced the
view that the human subject is herself located within what he called the
‘elements’ of ‘flesh’ and ‘language’ (likening them in fact to the ‘earth,
air, fire and water’ of medieval cosmology). For Husserl, following the
Cartesian tradition, the subject somehow stood outside the domain of
the physical, observing it from a privileged space. But for Merleau-Ponty,
the awareness of the self is only exercised within the domain of the phys-
ical, as ‘flesh’, in which the subject knows herself to be visible to others
as they are visible to her. Thus human self-awareness is positioned within
a field of perception which itself encompasses the subject: she knows that
the veryhandbywhichshe feels the worldcanbe felt byothers. The organs
of her perception can necessarily themselves become the object of others’
perceptions. Merleau-Ponty’s model of what he called‘reversibility’ is that
we ourselves are part of the worldthat we perceive, andthe fact that we can
standover against others as a subject toanobject means that we toocanbe-
come anobject of others’ perceptions. Being knownas we ourselves know,
is part of the at homeness of the self in the world.
We can say therefore that the traditional cosmos was one in which
the unseen was nevertheless potentially visible and, as such, offered pur-
chase tothe humanimaginationas a place inwhichhumansubjects might
themselves – intheory if not inpractice – bothsee andbe seenby the invis-
ible powers who lay behind the realm of empirical perception. But for us
28 The Creativity of God
today, the realms that control the fabric of the perceivable world are con-
ceived not as entities, essences or presences, but rather as forces; and forces
cannot be visualised as contents. We can get no visible or indeed sense-
based purchase upon these, for forces are to be measured and are percep-
tible in their effects alone. In our terminology, they are invisible and not
unseen. Fromthe perspective of a phenomenology of perceptiontherefore,
the constructive aspect, or unseen, is in the modern world limited to the
first two types outlined here: the construction of three-dimensional ob-
jects withinspace andthe bringingtomindof objects not actuallypresent.
We do not conceive of the realms that circumscribe the empirical as be-
ing in any sense comparable to or an extension of the empirical forms of
the unseen, and the deep, explanatory causes of the universe resist imag-
inative reproduction. In other words, this third kind of perception, or
‘cosmic’ seeing, is impossible for us today. If the sense of cosmic ‘at home-
ness’ was aguidingprinciple of medieval cosmologyandmetaphysics, and
if it articulated a profound sense of the central role of humanity in the
very structure of God’s world, thenit is this that sets apart the pre-modern
fromthe modern sense of world. For the contemporary man and woman,
the conviction that we are at home in the cosmos has to be articulated in
the face of the apparent isolation of the human race, the seeming absence
of spiritual companions, the historical contingency of our origins and the
precariousness of our fate.
2
The metaphysics of createdness
Sola autemnatura rationalis creata habet immediatumordinemad
Deum. Quia ceterae creaturae non attingunt ad aliquid
universale . . . natura autemrationalis, inquantumcognoscit
universalemboni et entis rationem, habet immediatumordinemad
universale essendi principium.
The rational created nature alone is immediately ordered to God, for
the other creatures do not attain something universal . . . But the
rational creature, insofar as it knows the universal ratio of good and
being, is immediately ordered to the universal principle of being.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
In the previous chapter I reviewed the structure of a pre-modern sense of
embodiment. It is this primary cosmological perspective which provides
the context for an analysis of the pre-modern self, thinking, feeling and
perceivingina worldvery different fromour own. The argument that I am
advancing throughout this book is that the way we reason is intimately
bound in with our understanding of the world, and our pre-conceptual
sense of beinginthe world. Inthis chapter I address the philosophical con-
ceptualisation of the world which was achieved in the theory of the tran-
scendentals. The theory of the transcendentals affirmedthe primacy of be-
ing, the goodandthe true, as rootedinthe divine causality itself, together
with their equivalence or ‘convertibility’. It therefore turned on the belief
that the world is fundamentally united and is so on account of the com-
mon relation of all that exists with the Creator God. It is the divine act
of creation which unites the world as creatum. The transcendentals are the
conceptual expression of this unity and they reflect, in a thematised way,
the sense of the material world as a single extended field of Aristotelian
[29]
30 The Creativity of God
space. In the viewof Jan Aertsen, it was the theory of the transcendentals,
as an account of mind and world, which formed the distinctive ground of
medieval philosophy and unified it as anintellectual movement.
1
The dis-
cussionhere will focus onthe way inwhichthe theory of the transcenden-
tals forms a context and background for the development of anaccount of
mind which places God, and the knowledge of God, with all its complexi-
ties, at the centre of humanreasoning. I shall beginwithThomas Aquinas,
at whose hands the interplay between the transcendentals and reason re-
ceivedits most elaboratedevelopment. Bonaventurealsodeployedthethe-
ory of the transcendentals inhis classic mystical treatise, Itinerariummentis
in deum(‘The Journey of the Mind into God’), in order to establish an inti-
mate connectionbetweendivine knowing and our ordinary knowledge of
the world.
The secondsectionconcerns semiotics andthe hermeneutics of Origen
and Augustine. Semiotics is a form of reflexive reasoning which gives a
more general account of the nature of understanding than is the case in
formal logic, theory of knowledge or philosophy of perception. It typi-
cally has a concern with the nature of the sign – or language – and its rela-
tion with both the world and the self. The semiotics which emerges here
is pervasively triadic and pragmatic, which is to say that both authors op-
erate with a conviction that the human interpreter is intrinsic to the act
of signifying. For OrigenandAugustine, reality itself is constructedalong
hermeneutical lines andis groundedina formof Trinitarianexegesis. For
both the Greek and the Latin author, semiotics is an inquiry which be-
gins with Scripture and the meaning of Scripture, but since Scripture it-
self serves as the key to an understanding of the world, semiotics is also
inevitably concernedwithquestions to do withthe meaning of the world.
Transcendentals and reason
The roots of the theory of the transcendentals can already be found
in classical authors, especially Plato and Aristotle, but its history in
Christian theology conventionally begins with the treatise Summa de bono
(c. 1225–28) of Philip the Chancellor, continuing in the Franciscan au-
thors of the Summa theologica (c. 1245) (generally ascribed to Alexander of
Hales), and in the work of the Dominican Albert the Great (1206/7–1280).
2
1. Jan A. Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), pp. 1–2.
2. Ibid., pp. 1–24.
The metaphysics of createdness 31
Thomas makes extensive reference to the theory of the transcendentals
throughout his work but specifically discusses them in only three texts,
all written between 1250 and 1259. Taken together these offer a deeply
coherent theory of the transcendentals, though with some significant
variations.
3
Thomas Aquinas
In the first quaestio of the series On Truth (De veritate, 1.1), Thomas refers to
six transcendentals (ens, unum, bonum, verum, res andaliquid) whichare pri-
mary and cannot be resolved into something prior.
4
The problem which
inheres in the nature of transcendentals is how to formulate their unity
and difference with respect to each other, given the need to treat being,
and therefore its equivalents, not as a genus but as the common prop-
erty of all. If the transcendental terms are truly primary, then they must
be equivalent, but if they do not differ from each other in any respect,
thentheyaretautological. Thomas expands PhiliptheChancellor’s under-
standing of their ‘convertibility’, whereby they are equivalent where they
refer, that is, where theyare appliedtosupposita(‘objects’), but are tobe dis-
tinguished in terms of their ratio (‘concept’ or ‘definition’). The transcen-
dentals thus represent modal explications of being which add something
to being but only in terms of understanding. Thomas follows Alexander
of Hales in making a distinction between being in itself (in se) and being
in relation (in ordine ad aliud). To the former belongs the positive notion of
a ‘thing’ or res which is the content of every object which makes it differ-
ent fromanything else. The terms ens and res can be distinguished in their
ratio since the former refers to the fact that something exists while the lat-
ter refers to what it is. Thomas follows Philip the Chancellor in maintain-
ing that unum adds negatively to being in itself the quality of indivision,
as ens indivisum. Truth and goodness develop the theme of conceptual re-
lation. It is in the nature of a transcendental to apply throughout all cate-
gories, so the transcendentals of relation have to apply to all things. This
has the consequence that something must exist which is itself in relation
with all that is and which can therefore become the site of the manifes-
tation of the transcendentals from the perspective of their being ‘in re-
lation’. Thomas identifies this with the human mind, which, following
3. I amparticularly indebted to Aertsen’s penetrating study for much in the discussion which
follows.
4. But in De veritate, 21.1 he refers only to being, one, the good and the true. In his Disputationes
Metaphysicae (3.2.3–6) of 1597 Suarez included res within ens and aliquid within unum.
32 The Creativity of God
Aristotle, ‘is in a sense all things’.
5
The human self is thus at the centre of
Thomas’ development of truth and goodness as the transcendental prop-
erties of all that is. The dominant motif here is convenientia, or ‘confor-
mity’ between the two chief faculties of the human mind and the world.
Where entities conform to the human intellect, that relation grounds
truth, and where they conform to the will, that relation is the ground of
goodness.
6
According to the general structure of Thomas’ theory of the transcen-
dentals, being or ens is the first object of the intellect: it is being which is
most proximate to the human mind and is its first conception. All the cat-
egories and genera of things simply serve to give denomination or defini-
tion by contracting ens into specific entities with specific properties. The
transcendentals, in contrast, run through all the categories; they are tran-
scendental not onaccount of beingbeyondthe categories but because they
are included within all the categories.
7
As such, they are the most sub-
lime content of the world, and represent the closest intimacy between God
and the world. In the ‘Prologue to the Commentary on Pseudo-Denys’ On
the Divine Names’ Thomas specifically rejects the Platonic theory of partic-
ipation, whereby entities can be said to participate in ‘separate species of
things’, suchthat anyindividual horse participates ina separatelyexisting
horse-nature.
8
But at the same time he affirms the principle of participa-
tion in the case of the communissima, such as ‘good, one and being’. As the
most abstract and common properties of things, the transcendentals are
closer to the divine nature and are ‘called good or one or being by deriva-
tion from this first’.
9
The sense that the transcendentals are the visible
signs of the createdness of the worldbyvirtue of their particular proximity
tothedivinenature, whichis thecauseof all things, is further developedin
discussions of the individual transcendental properties. The beingof enti-
ties is the ‘most universal’ and most indeterminate of all; in Jan Aertsen’s
5. De anima, iii, 8, 431b21.
6. In the discussion at De veritate, 21.1 Thomas replaces the notion of ‘conformity’ as the
principle which governs truth and goodness with that of ‘perfectibility’. Every entity
constitutes a combination of the species and the act of being by which that entity subsists in
the species. The species perfects the human intellect while the act of being perfects the will.
7. See Ludwig Honnefelder, ‘Der zweite Anfang der Metaphysik. Voraussetzungen, Ans ¨ atze
und Folgen der Wiederbegr ¨ undung der Metaphysik im13./14. Jahrhundert’, in J. P.
Beckmann et al., eds., Philosophie imMittelalter. Entwicklungslinien und Paradigmen (Hamburg:
Meiner, 1987), pp. 165–86. See also A. Zimmermann, Ontologie oder Metaphysik? Die Diskussion
¨ uber den Gegenstand der Metaphysik im13. und 14. Jahrhundert (Leiden and Cologne: E. J. Brill,
1965).
8. In librumBeati Dionysii De divinis nominibus expositio, prol.
9. Ibid. Cf. Quodlibet, ii, 2.1.
The metaphysics of createdness 33
phrase, it is ‘the most proper name, because it is invirtue of its universality
the least improper’.
10
But it is also‘the perfectionof all perfections’, which
is the ground of all other properties.
11
In a discussion from On Truth, God
emerges as ‘truth itself’ since the ultimate ground of truth is the adequa-
tion between the thing and the divine intellect.
12
In the case of the good,
God alone is goodness in the truest sense, since goodness is a property of
the actual, and only God subsists in pure actuality.
13
The doctrine of the transcendentals stands at the heart of Thomas’ ac-
count of the createdness of the world, but at the same time there is an un-
mistakable sense that Thomas is reluctant to drawany too direct or overly
systematic relation between the transcendentals as they exist for the hu-
man mind in the world and their existence in God.
14
What we see here is a
tendency to emphasise the immediacy with which the createdness of the
world presents itself to us together with a dialectical tension regarding
our capacity to make sense of it in our own terms. This same tension is ap-
parent in Thomas’ more extensive analysis of ens, or ‘being’, as the ‘first’
of the transcendentals, and as ‘that which the intellect first conceives as
most known and in which all other concepts are resolved’.
15
Expressed in
terms of Thomas’ metaphysical realism, ens offers adirect andunmediated
apprehension of the way things are. The world simply presents itself to
the mindwithanimmediacy whichis incontrovertible andwhich, accord-
ing to this view, grounds the mind in the reality of the objective order. In
one very important sense, therefore, the immediate or proper object of the
human intellect is the actuality, or act of being, of an individual entity, as
we encounter it in the real world, which is at the same time God’s world.
But the human act of reflection which parallels the immediacy of our ap-
prehension of the being or actuality of objects in the world is a highly di-
alectical one. Thomas describes the study of metaphysics as the ‘highest of
all the sciences’ since it deals with ultimate issues of causality and of the
10. ST ia, q. 13, a. 11 and Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy, p. 366.
11. De potentia 7.2 ad 9.
12. De veritate, 1.7.
13. Summa contra Gentiles, i, 37.
14. In De veritate, 1.4, sed contra (5), Thomas follows Philip the Chancellor by linking ‘entity’,
‘truth’ and ‘goodness’ with the threefold causality of God, as efficient, formal and final cause
of the creation respectively. And, as Norman Kretzmann has argued, the conceptuality of the
transcendentals is applied on a number of occasions in Thomas’ discussion of the
appropriations of the Persons of the Trinity (see his ‘Trinity and Transcendentals’, in
R. Feenstra and C. Plantinga, eds., Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement (Indiana: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1989), pp. 79–109. The key text on the transcendentals as ‘divine names’ is
found at In i Sent., d. 8, q. 1, a. 3c). But these speculations are relatively fewand far between.
15. De veritate, 1.1.
34 The Creativity of God
greatest intelligibility and abstraction.
16
It is the natural desire to know
and to attain to the highest possible knowledge which impels us to for-
mal reflection upon existence as such, or ‘being qua being’, in the science
of metaphysics. But that reflection is subject to the same rules of reason-
ing as any other science, and here it is useful to refer to a passage in the
Commentary on Boethius’ The Trinity in which Thomas outlines the for-
mal structure of analytical thought. The point at issue is the distinction
between that mode of thinking called ratio, or ‘reasoning’, which is the
discursive facility of the mindwhichmoves fromone point to another ina
debate, and the mode designated as intellectus, meaning a direct ‘compre-
hension’ or ‘understanding’. The former stands tothe latter ‘as movement
to rest or acquisition to possession’.
17
The intellect ‘considers first unified
and simple truth, and in it grasps its knowledge of a whole multitude of
truths, as God, by comprehending his own essence, knows all things’.
18
The labours of reason, or ratio, onthe other handare discursive, partial and
compound.
The natural movement of reason is that of a reduction which falls into
twokinds. The first is reductionsecundumrem, that is, accordingtothe nat-
ural order, ‘as whendemonstrationis made throughcauses or extrinsic ef-
fects’. The final goal of this reduction is attained ‘when one has arrived at
the supreme and simplest causes, which are separated substances’, which
is to say, God. But the mind can also undertake a reduction which is se-
cundum rationem, or according to concept. In this case, the mind proceeds
by ‘intrinsic causes’ which is to say, it moves from particulars to univer-
sals, whichare simpler andmore abstract. The final knowledge whichthis
kind of reduction brings is that of the most abstract and simplest princi-
ple of all: ‘being’ and ‘the things which are attributes of being inasmuch
as it is being’.
19
This passage is important for the background it gives to
Thomas’ discussionof metaphysics inthe‘Prologuetohis Commentaryon
Aristotle’s Metaphysics’. There he stresses that the proper subject of meta-
physics is ens commune, or ‘common being’, and that God, as the cause of
being, is not as such the subject of the science. Metaphysics is the most
foundational of the sciences andthus regulative of all the others because it
alone deals with what is ‘most common’, ‘most intelligible’ and therefore
16. In Met. Proemium.
17. ST ia, q. 79, a. 8. The background to this distinction lies of course in Aristotle’s Posterior
Analytics, ii, 19, 99b–100b.
18. Expositio super librumBoethii De trinitate, q. 6, a. 1.
19. Ibid.
The metaphysics of createdness 35
‘certain’, andwithasubject – ens commune – whosecauseis theultimateori-
ginof things. But playing throughthese and other texts is the clear recog-
nition, which is axiomatic for Thomas, that the inquiry into being repre-
sented by metaphysics can only identify existence as the effect of a cause.
Neither the reduction secundum rem as an enquiry into extrinsic causes,
leading to God as Creator, nor the reduction secundum rationem as an en-
quiry into intrinsic causes, leading to universal being, can penetrate into
the nature of the cause itself, which is God. In the transcendentals, and
in being as such, God is present as Creator. But to be present as Creator,
is at the same time irreducibly a form of absence. Thomas’ position ap-
pears to be that in and through the world, the human faculties of know-
ing and loving are ordered to the divine Creator. They are not ordered in
their own worldly terms, however, but in ways that are dictated by the
nature of our world as created. The world is present to the human mind,
with an immediacy to which Thomas repeatedly draws us back, but it also
points beyonditself toacreator, withwhomweareunited‘as tosomething
unknown’.
20
In his discussion of the role of reason in Thomas’ work, Denys Turner
has captured this dialectic with particular force. Turner argues that ac-
cording to medieval conceptions of cognition, the human mind exists in
the tension between ‘reason’ as the discursive faculty of knowing and ‘in-
tellect’ as insight or understanding. Intellect proximates humanity to the
direct knowing of the angels, while reason reflects our embodied state.
As noted above, intellect is the state of ‘rest’, which represents the attain-
ment of understanding, while reason is restless and discursive: it is that
modality of the mind which strives to make connections and to under-
stand. While some more Augustinian systems of thinking hold out the
possibility that we can enjoy a direct cognition of intellect, Thomas con-
trasts reasonandintellect more directly ina dialectical interplay suchthat
reasoncanonly operate by the light of intellect but cannever knowthe in-
tellect as such. As we struggle to make sense of the world, as created, rea-
son is brought to an encounter with its own limits. What lies beyond that
limit becomes, in Turner’s phrase, a ‘demonstrated unknowability’.
21
It is
not the evocation of mystery as such nor the collapse of reason through
exhaustion which Thomas has in mind here but rather the culmination
20. Quoted by Denys Turner in his study of the role of reason in Thomas Aquinas
(forthcoming, Cambridge University Press).
21. Ibid.
36 The Creativity of God
of the rational process. We apprehend the world through reason, and the
world leads on to God, from whom comes the very light of intellect by
which we understand. But as we are led to try to understand God, rea-
son is confronted with a causality, or creativity, which it knows it cannot
understand. As Turner states it, ‘in that “unknowing” lies reason’s self-
transcendence as intellect. And the act by which it thus self-transcends is
proof of theexistenceof God.’
22
Inother words, thecreativityof Godwhich
is everywhere implied in the created world, to which the created world in
all ways points, is itself immediately present to the mind but in a way that
transcends our capacity to grasp it. The humanmind necessarily must en-
gage withthe divine creativity, as this is the world’s ultimate meaning, but
it cannot dosoas a createdpower; for ‘tocreate’ is, as Thomas reminds us, a
wholly divine act.
23
Human reasoning is therefore perpetually caught be-
tweenits necessary telos inGod, whois the source of the world, andits own
limitedcapacities as created. It is this dialectical tensionwhichlays the ba-
sis for faith, when scientia, which is the principle of authentic knowledge
of the empirical world, is overtaken by the divine self-disclosure as re-
velation. At that point the foundational axioms without which there can
be no authentic human knowing are to be identified with the data of re-
velation, and God himself becomes our teacher.
24
But even faith is no
release fromthe dialectical structure of thinkinginthe presence of God. In
his discussion of the relation between faith and understanding, Thomas
defines faithas animperfect understanding of those things whichsurpass
natural reason, but one nevertheless which allows us to affirm them with
certainty in the knowledge that ‘whatever the outward appearances may
be, they do not contradict the truth’.
25
Bonaventure
The same problematics of the relation between human thinking and God
concern Bonaventure in his ‘Journey of the Mind into God’ as concerned
Thomas Aquinas. Standing within a more robustly Augustinian tradi-
tion, Bonaventure has less of a sense of the autonomy of reason than does
Thomas, but he shares with Thomas the belief that God is the ground of
human thinking and perception and yet also stands radically beyond it so
22. Ibid.
23. ST ia, q. 45, a. 5.
24. John I. Jenkins, Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997).
25. ST iia iiae, q. 8, a. 2.
The metaphysics of createdness 37
that no ordinary processes of reasoning can grasp the divine reality. The
chief way in which Bonaventure explores this dialectic is through his con-
cept of the hierarchalisation of the intellect whereby the human mind it-
self mirrors inthe structures whichare internal toits operationthe cosmic
layering of the universe. The formof the Itinerariumfollows that of the vi-
sion of a six-winged seraph which came to St Francis on Mount La Verna,
on the occasion when he received the stigmata. Allocating each stage to
one of the seraph’s six wings, Bonaventure sets out the journey to God as
anascent throughthe sixpowers of the soul, eachof whichhas its correlate
inthe objective order. These faculties are the ‘senses, imagination, reason,
understanding, intelligence, and the summit of the mind or spark of con-
science’.
26
The cosmological dimensions of this personal evolution can be
felt throughout the work; they are present in the metaphor of the journey
andthe powerful images of ‘passing over’ (transire) whichplay throughout
the text, setting up a rhythm of space and movement. The journey itself,
by which ‘we ascend from the lowest to the highest, from the exterior to
the interior, from the temporal to the eternal’, is set out in metaphorical
terms, but against the background of a world-view which locates heaven
at a point above the stars and which envisages spiritual intelligences
as inhabiting the spheres and causing the movement of the heavenly
bodies.
27
For Bonaventure the mystical journey begins with sense perception
and the physicality of created things, and he describes ‘the universe itself ’
as ‘a ladder bywhichwe canascendintoGod’.
28
Createdthings manifest to
us ‘the power, wisdomandgoodness of God’ inthree distinct ways. Firstly
they show the ‘origin, process and end’ of the world and secondly allow
us to discern the existence of what is perfect, spiritual and eternal from
the perception of what is imperfect, material and changeable.
29
The third
way concerns the physical properties of objects in the world as these are
perceived by the senses. Bonaventure identifies seven aspects to physical
existence, or ‘properties of creatures’, which in his view manifest God’s
goodness, wisdomandpower.
30
The first is origin, whichsuggests creation
from nothingness, while the others relate to the three-dimensional char-
acteristics of objects. Whether expressed as ‘length, width and depth’, as
26. Itinerariummentis in deum, i, 6 (Cousins, p. 62).
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid., 2 (Cousins, p. 60).
29. Ibid., 12–13 (Cousins, p. 64).
30. Ibid., 14 (Cousins, p. 65).
38 The Creativity of God
‘number’, or the ‘efficiency of the operations’, the magnitude and multitude
of objects manifest ‘the immensity of the power, wisdomand goodness of
thetriuneGod’.
31
Thebeautyandfullness of things (wherethelatter denotes
theactivityof theformwhichshapes matter) alsocommunicatethesesame
divine properties, again combining the static physical dimensions of ob-
jects with their dynamic effects. The activity and finally order of objects are
similarly expressive of the divine nature, and the latter aligns the ‘book of
creation’, the ‘book of Scripture’ and the ‘body (corpus) of the Church’ as
analogical sites of divine order.
32
Bonaventure’s interest in the structure of ordinary perception is con-
tinued in Chapter ii in his discussion of ‘apprehension’, or how the three
classes of objects that constitute the sense-world (i.e. those that generate,
those that are generated and those that govern the whole as spirits) enter
the human self through the five senses. This process has three parts. The
first is apprehension, or cognitionitself, whereby – inaccordance withthe
Aristotelian model – the likeness of the object is produced in the medium
or particular sense, from where it progresses to the sense organ itself and
thus to the ‘apprehensive faculty’.
33
This act of perception then sets up
a feeling of pleasure based upon different kinds of harmony or propor-
tion between the object and its source, or between the object and its hu-
man recipient, leading in turn to an act of judgement. Judgement is the
process whereby we enquire into why the perception of the object is plea-
surable or desirable for us and ‘find that the reason lies in the proportion
of harmony’.
34
Judgement is at the same time an act of abstraction from
the particularities of time and place, and is thus ‘unchangeable, unlim-
ited, endless and completely spiritual’.
35
By apprehension, pleasure and
judgement, therefore, the whole of the external world, both material and
spiritual, enters into the human self. Bonaventure subsequently adds a
Christological-cosmological dimensionto his analysis of sense perception
as a manifestation of the divine creativity. One source of the pleasure or
wholesomeness whichcomes tous fromtheperceptionof anobject derives
from the harmony of the likeness produced in our minds with the exter-
nal form which is its source. The ultimate exemplar of this is the identity
of the Son with the Father within the Trinity. It follows therefore that ‘[i]f
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.
33. Ibid., ii, 4 (Cousins, p. 71).
34. Ibid., ii, 6 (Cousins, p. 72).
35. Ibid.
The metaphysics of createdness 39
all things that can be known generate a likeness of themselves, they man-
ifestly proclaim that in them as in mirrors we can see the eternal genera-
tion of the Word, the Image and Son, eternally emanating from God the
Father’.
36
And in judgement too there is a participation with the divine
since the reason of judgement, being unchangeable and unlimited, is also
eternal and is ‘either God or in God’. It is the case therefore that ‘[i]f ev-
erything which we judge with certainty we judge by such a reason, then
it is clear that [God] himself is the reason of all things and the infallible
rule andlight of truth, inwhichall things shine forthinfallibly, indelibly,
indubitably, irrefutably, indisputably, unchangeably, boundlessly, end-
lessly, indivisibly and intellectually’.
37
In Chapter iii Bonaventure proceeds to a ‘higher’ and ‘more internal’
stage of the journey as he considers the way in which the Augustinian
triad of memory, intelligence and will, which are constitutive of the hu-
man mind-self, or mens, are illumined by, or participate in, the transcen-
dental properties of being, truth and goodness. Bonaventure states that
‘[u]nless we knowwhat being per se is, we cannot fully knowthe definition
of any particular substance’.
38
Nor can we knowwhat being per se is unless
we also know‘its properties, which are: one, true and good’.
39
With an en-
viable unity of purpose, Bonaventure unequivocally attributes our knowl-
edge of ‘being per se’ to a direct divine communication, without which we
could not know the imperfect being of entities in the world. He affirms
alsothat whenit makes true judgements, ‘our intellect is joinedtoEternal
Truth itself since it can grasp no truth with certitude if it is not taught by
this Truth’.
40
And when our will exercises choice between varying goods,
it can only do so since ‘the notion of the highest good is necessarily im-
printedineveryonewhodeliberates’.
41
Takentogether, thesetranscenden-
tal operations of the human mind constitute the image of God in us and
their unified activity makes it – following Augustine in On the Trinity – ‘a
likeness so present to itself and having God so present that the soul actu-
ally grasps himand potentially “is capable of possessing himand of being
a partaker in him”’.
42
36. Ibid., 7 (Cousins, p. 73).
37. Ibid., 9 (Cousins, p. 73).
38. Ibid., iii, 3 (Cousins, p. 81).
39. ‘cumsuis conditionibus’ (ibid.).
40. Ibid. (Cousins, p. 83).
41. Ibid., 4 (Cousins, p. 83). The word for ‘imprinted’ here is impresa, which follows the Arab
tradition of direct divine communication which we find in Avicenna (cf. Metaphysics, i, 5).
42. Itinerarium, iii, 2 (Cousins, p. 81); the Augustine quote is fromDe trinitate, xiv, c. 8, n. 11.
40 The Creativity of God
The dialectic of Bonaventure’s system comes through in the increas-
ingly Christological shape of his cosmological thinking in the later chap-
ters. In Chapter iv Bonaventure links the purification of the human soul,
whichis essential for the visionof the divine power andpresence increated
things, with the theological virtues. Faith is defined as faith in ‘the uncre-
atedWordandsplendor of the Father’, hope is hope toreceive the ‘inspired
Word’ and love is of the ‘Word incarnate’;
43
only in this way, through the
theological virtues whichare groundedinthe Christiandispensation, can
the image of Godinus, whichis the participationof the faculties of the self
inthe divine nature, be perfected. Moreover eachof the theological virtues
is linked with different spiritual senses as exemplified in traditional and
intensely Christological readings of the Song of Songs. The Christologi-
cal and incarnational dimensions of the soul’s journey into God are made
evident in Bonaventure’s belief that the soul itself undergoes a process of
‘hierarchalisation’, through its increased internalisation and abstraction.
This appears not only in its reformation as divine image and in its purifi-
cation, illuminationandperfection, but also inthe discovery that the nine
orders of angels are reflected in the structure of its own being, in terms
of the ecclesial virtues associated with human nature, human endeavour
and divine grace.
44
The attainment of these virtues marks the soul’s entry
into the heavenly Jerusalem where it is able to discern in the nine orders
of angels the presence of ‘God, who dwells in themand performs all their
operations’.
45
InChapters vandvi Bonaventure explores the transcendentals of being
andgoodness as properties of God, againnot hesitatingtotie the transcen-
dental properties of the createdorder closelywiththe divine attributes. In-
deed, in his discussion of being as a name of God, Bonaventure again vig-
orously affirms his belief that we can only knowimperfect being through
perfect being and that therefore the divine being impresses itself upon us
at the foundation of our cognition of the world:
[i]f therefore non-being can be understood only through being and
being in potency only through being in act, and if being signifies the
pure act of being, then being is what first comes into the intellect and
this being is pure act. But this is not particular being, which is limited
because mixed with potency; nor is it analogous being because that has
43. Itinerarium, iv, 3 (Cousins, p. 89).
44. Ibid., 4 (Cousins, p. 90).
45. Ibid.
The metaphysics of createdness 41
only a minimumof actuality because it only has a minimumof being.
It remains that the being in question must be divine Being.
46
Being reveals to us God’s ‘essential unity’, and is linked with the Exodus
narrative from the Old Testament where God declares himself to be He
Who Is. The divine goodness, on the other hand, is made known to us in
the divine ‘emanations’, which is to say in the Trinitarian missions, and
is therefore particularly associated with the New Testament. By looking
upon what has been revealed to us concerning the divine nature in Scrip-
ture, we canattainthe fifthandsixthstages of our ascent intoGodandcan
contemplate the divine nature.
Chapter vii gives anaccount of thefinal stateof thesoul not interms of a
seventhstage however, tobe set alongside the previous stages, but interms
of a dissolution of the hierarchy of the stages. The predominant motif of
this chapter is the integrationof the soul intothe savingdeathof Christ, as
a way of transcending boththe worldandthe self. Christ himself becomes
the ‘way’ and the ‘door’, the ‘ladder’ and the ‘vehicle’, and entry into his
death is attended by a cessation of our ordinary intellectual powers, sig-
nalled by metaphors of ‘silence’ and ‘superluminous darkness’.
47
We can
read this complex final movement in different ways, but one of the con-
sequences of this shift towards an incarnational motif is that it integrates
the ascent into God with the recognition of God’s descent into our world.
Thus Bonaventure finally anchors his mystical metaphysics in the incar-
national agency of God, combining the abstraction, essentialisation and
internalisation of the Neoplatonist framework with the image and sense-
based metaphoricity of incarnational theology. In the person of Christ,
height and depth, inwardness and exteriority, immateriality and materi-
alityareall integratedandunited, andChrist himself effectivelybecomes –
inBonaventure’s account of cosmology – a living embodiment of the hier-
archical principle by which we are illumined and redeemed.
According to Bonaventure therefore, human reasoning needs to be
seen within a cosmological context which has at its core the relational-
ity between the microcosm and the macrocosm. The human mind mir-
rors within itself the Christological structure of the world, which is the
ultimate meaning of the world, and is itself innately ordered to that cos-
mic reality. Human thinking then is necessarily dynamic as the struc-
ture of the world itself leads the mind up and through the materiality
46. Ibid., v, 3 (Cousins, p. 96).
47. Ibid., vii, 1 (Cousins, p. 111).
42 The Creativity of God
of sense-impressions into the internal and essential reality of abstracts
and universals, and then to the supreme realities of the Trinity. This
‘hierarchalisation’ of the human mind is its realisation as God’s creature,
and it leads to the transfiguration of the mind, through a superlumi-
nous darkness anddivine unknowing, whichis the final destiny of human
cognition.
Semiotics
As noted in the Introduction, semiotics as the science of signs is a partic-
ularly succinct way of conveying the structure of meaning. Semiotics is
present everywhere in Aquinas and Bonaventure, but it is in the work of
their predecessors Origen and Augustine that we find the most complete
statements regarding what we might call a Christian scriptural semiotics.
Origen
Origen looked to Scripture itself for an account of what Scripture is and
how it is to be read. In passages such as 1 Corinthians 10:1–11 and Gala-
tians 4:21–31, he believed that he could identify a process of reading and
understanding that was internal to Scripture itself and hence normative
for those who accepted its divine origins. In the former passage Paul him-
self reads passages fromExodus andNumbers concerningthe wanderings
of Israel in the desert as ‘examples’, or tupoi, for us today (v. 6). Their idol-
atry, and subsequent punishment, was a signto us that we should not test
Christ in the same way: ‘These things happened to them to serve as an
example (tupik ¯ os), and they were written down to instruct us, on whom
the ends of the ages have come’ (v. 11). In the passage fromGalatians, Paul
understands Hagar and Sarah, Abraham’s concubine and wife, to repre-
sent the Old and New Covenants respectively. Hagar corresponds to the
present Jerusalem while Sarah is ‘the Jerusalem above’. On this occasion,
their symbolic meaning is described as an ‘allegory’ (all ¯ egoroumena). Ori-
gen’s interpretation of these two passages is closely linked to his under-
standingof semiotics as such. The language of ‘types’ and‘allegories’ form
part of Origen’s conceptualisationof the way inwhichthe readingof signs
constitutes a taskthat is at once interpretative andeschatological.
48
We are
48. See John David Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2002) for a persuasive argument that allegory in Origen
generally takes a figural formand thus maintains a continuity between Old Testament and
Newin terms of divine action.
The metaphysics of createdness 43
not to read the Old Testament purely in its own terms, as static imagery,
but are to read it, as Paul does, in the light of the messianic realisations of
the New Covenant. To fail to do this is to fall victim to a crude ‘idolatry’.
In the same way we are not to read either the New or Old Testament from
only a literal perspective but are to seek there the ‘hidden treasures’ that
represent a higher, and divine, order of meaning.
But this advance into a higher order of interpretation is intensified
again by Origen’s viewthat the Gospel itself exists on two levels: drawing
upon Revelation 14:6, Origen holds that it is simultaneously a ‘temporal’
andan‘eternal Gospel’. Althoughinthemselves one, the existence of these
twofaces of the Gospel reflects our owninabilitytocomprehendthe divine
self-communication in its purity. We are forced to rest upon the earthly or
fleshly Gospel, with its material signs, as a point of access to the eternal or
heavenly Gospel, whichis the truthas it exists before God and inthe pres-
ence of the saints.
49
The human mind, which rises from Old Testament
signs to the mediated meanings of the temporal Gospel and finally to the
truth of the eternal Gospel, is itself substantially changed in the process.
Having received a participation in the divine Logos through the creation,
the mind – in its ‘logos-like’ characteristics – becomes conformed to the
divine, creative Wisdom. As Origen likes to point out, Christians can only
read Scripture in the right way by virtue of their possession of the ‘mind
of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:16).
50
The Origenist view of Scripture is one which placed the interpretative
act, as a modality of both human and divine knowing, at the centre of
Christian identity. The deep structure of that act was one which in turn
was informedby a systemic cross-fertilisationbetweenIncarnation, Scrip-
ture, ChurchandWorld. The logic of the first formedthe coherence of each
of the following three, and all together formed an analogical unity which
set up a rich interplay between the different orders of existence. At times
that analogy takes on a distinctly corporal character, as Scripture, Church
and World are imaged as ‘body’, as if participating in the primal body of
the incarnate Christ. But more fundamentally they are organisedtogether
as domains or levels of interpretation, where semiotics entails a coordina-
tion, even conformity, between the human mind that interprets, the in-
terpreted sign given by divine grace, and the divine generative order itself
which finds its fullest expression in the language and image of Wisdom.
49. On First Principles, iv, 25.
50. Comm. Jn, Book x, Chapter 27; Comm. Mt., Book xiv, Chapter 11.
44 The Creativity of God
In Book i of his Commentary on John, Origen developed his argu-
ment that Sophia, or Wisdom, is prior to all the other names, or ‘titles’
of Christ. In an exegesis of ‘In the beginning (arch¯ e) was the Word (logos)’
(Jn 1:1), Origen laid down the principle that arch¯ e here signifies ‘Wisdom’
and that as site or place of the ‘logos’, it is clearly prior to and distinct
from it.
51
Wisdom designates the nature of Christ as the one who under-
stands the manifold and generative ‘speculations’ of the Godhead which
are identifiedwithprimal creation. ‘Logos’, onthe other hand, designates
Christ in so far as he makes known to us the ‘secret things of His Father’.
52
This distinction between generation and revelation is further strength-
ened by Origen’s attribution of ‘power’ specifically to Wisdom. He repeat-
edly points to 1 Corinthians 1:18–31, where Christ is linked with the di-
vine power and wisdom, and to the Wisdom of Solomon, which speaks
of Wisdom as the breath of the power of God.
53
Origen’s identification of
Wisdom with the energeia of God draws out the extent to which Christ as
Wisdom is not only the final term of our knowledge, as the highest mys-
tery, but is also the generative ground of the creation, and the dynamic
principle of our ownreturntothat groundthroughthe exegesis of the cre-
ated order in the light of its ultimate origin and end.
Origen’s use of the termepinoia shows the central role of Wisdominhis
understandingof bothScripture andworld, andthe analogical resonances
of these two spheres. The word epinoia is often translated as ‘title’ in order
to designate the various names of Christ that are supported by exegeti-
cal tradition. These include, for example, ‘Wisdom’, ‘Logos’, ‘Shepherd’,
‘Way’, ‘Truth’, ‘Light’, ‘Rod’, ‘Flower’, ‘Stone’, ‘High Priest’, ‘Servant’,
‘Sword’. Epinoia itself suggests an act of construction, or interpretation,
and it is consonant with the practice of exegesis. The variety of the names
of Christ does not reflect the diversity of his person, which is a unified
personhood, but is a consequence of our own inability to grasp him in
his most essential aspects: that is, as Wisdom who is the divine creativ-
ity. We fail to grasp him precisely as unified divine person within the
BlessedTrinity who has become incarnate among us. Therefore the Christ
figure, who is the ‘supreme mystery’ and ‘hidden treasure’ of Scripture
and who – as Wisdom – is the divine fecundity that is present in all cre-
ated things, comes to us finally as a sign to be understood. Himself the
51. Comm. Jn, Book i, Chapter 22. See the discussion of the epinoiai by Henri Crouzel, in his
study Origen (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1989), pp. 189–92.
52. On First Principles, Book i, Chapter 2, §2–3; Comm. Jn, Book i, Chapters 22 and 42.
53. On First Principles, Book i, Chapter 2, §4–12; Comm. Jn, Book i, Chapter 23.
The metaphysics of createdness 45
measure of all signs, Christ yields himself as a sign to us and as a task of
interpretation.
In Origen’s view, the world is structured according to semiotic pro-
cesses of understanding and interpretation which mark the intersection
of human and divine. The primal self-giving of God creates the ground
of a semiosis in which – as creatures – human beings can participate in
the divine creativity which consumes their humanity and initiates them
into a new form of divine awareness. The debt to a Platonic conception
of the world as modelled on an intelligible and unchanging reality is
self-evident. But there is nevertheless a great divide between the world
as envisaged by Origen and the cosmos of the Platonists. That distinc-
tion is bound up with the sense that Christ himself – as Wisdom – inter-
prets the Father in power and that this semiosis is coterminous with the
possibility of creation itself. Interpretation is not the mark of our fallen-
ness therefore, as a kind of doxa, or imperfect knowing, but is rather the
shape of our participation in the primal dynamic of divine self-giving. It
is by the divine creativity that we learn to see beyond the sign to what
it represents, and thus are able to progress back to the divine source, in
a movement which Origen denotes as a simultaneity of knowledge and
love.
Augustine
Many of these same themes run through the work of Augustine, though
they appear in a significantly different register. In general, the mature
Augustine places more emphasis upon our fallen condition and upon our
complete dependence on God for illumination in a world where truth is
veiled and interpretation inexact. Augustine has a less exuberant sense
than Origen of our participation in the divine exegesis of Christ, but is
motivated rather by a belief in the radical inadequacy of our own native
powers of comprehension and a pervasive awareness of God’s liberating
gift to us in Jesus Christ. The Johannine description of Jesus as ‘the light
of the world’ (Jn 1:9) is a central text for Augustine’s reflections on knowl-
edge, signs and the world. Augustine’s development of a Christian semi-
otics is rooted not only in his own background as rhetorician, but also in
his ownspiritual biography. Augustine firstlydevelopedtextual strategies
of allegorisationfor counteringtheliteralistic claims of theManichees and
then, following his reading of the Platonists, integrated a Platonic hierar-
chalism into a Christian scriptural faith. The effect was a far greater em-
phasis upon the literal sense of Scripture than we find in Origen with a
46 The Creativity of God
commitment to history and to the created world as the ultimate semiosis
of the divine creativity.
In his discussions of the nature of the sign, particularly in the early De
magistro and the late De trinitate, the ground of semiotics is found in the
person of Christ. In the former case, in what R. A. Markus has described
as a somewhat ‘sophistical’ discussion, Christ emerges as the one through
whomwe gainknowledge of the unityof the sign(language) andthe world
and thus enter into meaning.
54
Things in the world cannot of themselves
be known without signs, while the meaning of signs can only be given by
‘seeing’ their relation to things in the world; it is only through Christ, the
‘teacher within’, who is himself ‘the inner truth’, that we can gain entry
into the world as a meaningful unity of signum and res.
55
In the De trini-
tate, the discussion is set within the context of an analysis of the Trinitar-
ianvestiges whichcharacterise the operations of the humanmind. Here it
is ‘the word which shines within’, in contrast to ‘the word which sounds
without’, which suggests a Christological framework. The internal word
is disembodied – and belongs to no language – but finds fleshly expres-
sion in the particularity of the word that is uttered. The function of the
latter is to communicate the interior word, and so it is constituted as a
sign which points to the intelligible reality of the interior word which is
unspoken and unutterable in itself. This seems close to Augustine’s in-
carnational theology, and although De trinitate seems unclear on the re-
lation between the interior word and objects in the world, it is reason-
able to assume that a kind of exemplarism is in play here. The interior
word represents the divine illumination in the human mind which is a
participatory awareness of the things as they exist in the divine mind. It
is this, a participative knowledge of things as they exist in truth, within
the divine Logos, which grounds true human knowledge of the world,
and makes the signs that we utter truthful representations of the real
order.
56
InbothDe magistro andDe trinitate, Augustine views humanknowledge
under the aspect of subjectivity, that is, from the perspective of the one
54. R. A. Markus, Signs and Meanings (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996), p. 81.
55. De magistro, xi, 38.
56. Bavaud has a discussion of those passages in which Augustine applies the Stoic ‘word
within’ and ‘word without’ within an incarnational framework (G. Bavaud, ‘Un th` eme
augustinien: le myst ` ere de l’Incarnation ` a la lumi ` ere de la distinction entre le verbe int ´ erieur
et le verbe prof ´ er ´ e’, Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes 9 (1963), 95–101). He points out that
Augustine does not followTertullian and the Apologists in the application of this Stoic
formula to Gen. 1 and the act of creation.
The metaphysics of createdness 47
who knows. But inDe doctrina christiana and, more importantly, his several
commentaries on Genesis, the focus of his attention lies in the exterior as-
pect of the act, and in the nature of the world itself. In the former work,
Augustine already clarifies his position on the relation between Scripture
and history. One of the functions of his emphasis upon the literal sense of
Scripture is that this allows him to read the biblical signs as literal signs
which point to events in history, thus transposing the primary act of in-
terpretation away from the text to the world itself, in its historical mani-
festations. Such textual signs, or signa translata as Augustine called them,
can be received by the reader in an entirely literal mode while at the same
time they point to events in the real world which called for a radical and
Spirit-filled act of interpretation. The thrust of this semiosis was to show
that Christ himself was the true meaning of history, and that the demon-
stration of this was the true meaning of Scripture.
In an exegesis of Vulgate Psalm 103 which occurs in both the Enarra-
tiones and the Confessiones, Augustine understood the phrase ‘like a skin it
is stretched out’ (v. 2) to refer to ‘the heavens shall be folded together like
a book’ of Isaiah 34:4 and thus to be an allusion to the Scriptures which
are ‘your wonderful harmonious words which you have imposed on us
through mortal men’.
57
Scripture stands over the creation, and creation
itself is a scriptural semiotic, as appears fromthe many passages in which
Augustine speaks of the way in which created things point to their cre-
ator. In De civitate dei he speaks of the ‘eloquence of events’ which point
to divine action in the world.
58
In the Confessiones this is tempered with
the realisation that the transcendental properties of things are not as they
are in God: “So, it was you, Lord, who made them: you who are beautiful,
for they are beautiful; you who are good, for they are good; you who ex-
ist, for they exist too. Yet they are not beautiful, they are not good, they do
not exist, in the same way as you, their Creator.”
59
And in the Tractates on
the Gospel of John, Augustine draws out the fallen human condition more
forcefully:
‘The world was made through him, and the world knewhimnot.’ Did
the skies not knowtheir creator? Or did the angels not knowtheir
creator, or did the stars not knowtheir creator whomthe demons
acknowledge? All things everywhere bore witness. But who did not
57. Confess., xiii.15.16. See also Enarr. in Ps., 103.1.8.
58. Civ. Dei, 11.18.
59. Confess., xi.4.6.
48 The Creativity of God
know? Those who are called the world fromtheir love of the world. For
in the act of loving we dwell with our heart.
60
Our own subjective state is an essential precondition for our capacity to
understandthe true meaning of the worldas God’s creationwhichis tran-
scendentally opento him. As Augustine elaborates inDe doctrina christiana,
we caneither ‘enjoy’ ( frui) the worldinGodandthus graspit inits ground
in him, or ‘use’ it (uti ) according to our own limited and self-centred pur-
poses. The world, like signs in general, constitute for Augustine an op-
portunity to be transformed by the grace of God, which is given with the
sign. We can respond positively to the ways in which God speaks with us
throughsigns, inwhat Augustine calls admonitiones whichare ‘events, usu-
ally insignificant, throughwhichGod’s providential care for mantakes ef-
fect’.
61
This serves to remind us that it is through signs and creatures that
God summons us to the highest and most spiritual love.
Conclusion
In these brief summaries of the architecture, metaphysics and semiotics
of the medieval cosmos we have seen something of the extent to which
humanity itself took a central place in cosmological reflection. The twin
axes of creation and covenant determined the application of ‘science’ in
the service of a vision of reality as both gift and challenge to humankind.
The problem of meaning is central to these perspectives, though not in
the way it is for us, with our questioning as to what constitutes meaning,
under the weight of a pervasive scepticism. Rather what we find here is a
prior acceptance of the createdness of the world and a concern with the
right understanding of the world, as the domain of God’s creativity. The
medieval mind understood itself to be an integral, and indeed key, part
of the structure of the world, as created, and our creatureliness was exer-
cised within the context of the faculties of mind, body and spirit which
engaged with the world, through perception, understanding and feeling.
60. Tractate 2, 11, 2 (The Fathers of the Church, Washington DC: Catholic University of America
Press, no. 78, trans. John W. Rettig, 1988), p. 69.
61. Frederick van Fleteren, ‘Principles of Augustine’s Hermeneutic: an Overview’, in
Frederick van Fleteren and Joseph C. Schnaubelt, eds., Augustine. Biblical Exegete (NewYork:
Peter Lang, 2001), pp. 1–32 (here 6–7). See also Frederick van Fleteren, ‘Augustine’s Ascent of
the Soul in Book vii of the Confessions: a Reconsideration’, Augustinian Studies 5 (1974), 29–72
(especially 36–41). Nicholas Wolterstorff begins his stimulating work Divine Discourse
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) by pointing to the extraordinary and
long-neglected significance of Augustine’s ‘admonitions’ for an understanding of the type of
divine speech in Christianity.
The metaphysics of createdness 49
That engagement was itself extensively dialectical, since the perceived
world which presented itself with an uncontested immediacy to the hu-
man senses and mind also made present the unfathomable creativity of
God. It was this dialectical exchangebetweenself andworldwhichbecame
thedomaininwhichthecreativityof Godcoulditself bereceivedandmade
manifest from within the world, by human beings whose powers of will
and knowledge made themcreatures in God’s image.
3
Cosmological fragments
Sch ¨ one Welt, wo bist du? Kehre wieder,
Holdes Bl ¨ utenalter der Natur!
Ach, nur in demFeeland der Lieder
Lebt noch deine fabelhafte Spur.
Ausgestorben trauert das Gefilde,
Keine Gottheit zeigt sich meinemBlicke,
Ach, von jenemlebenswarmen Bilde
Blieb der Schatten nur zur ¨ uck.
Lovely world, where are you? Come back now,
Nature’s gorgeous prime!
Only in the faery land of songs
Does your fabled trace live on.
The fields are nowgrey; they grieve,
And no god meets my gaze.
Fromthat image, living and warm,
Only the shadowremains.
Friedrich Schiller, Die G¨ otter Griechenlands
We make no assumptions, in general, about the createdness of the world,
nor do we understand, in the main, our own faculties to be intrinsically
ordered to the divine Creator. The world-view of our own day is radically
different fromthat outlined in the preceding chapters. But the transition
from the one to the other was only gradual, taking place over centuries,
and is not easily traced. It would be wrong, for instance, to think that
the new rationalism of the seventeenth century was inherently atheistic
or even hostile to Christianity in its traditional forms. And yet it was in
this period that the seeds were sown of the enormous revolution which
[50]
Cosmological fragments 51
was to redefine Christianity and its intellectual contexts, and which con-
tinues to the present day. In this chapter I shall survey firstly some of the
critical moments in the decline of the traditional cosmos before turning
to a number of thinkers in whose work we can discern the beginnings of a
reclaiming of the cosmological dimension within a newand recognisably
modern environment.
Fragmentation
Copernicus and astronomy
The appearance in 1543 of De revolutionibus orbiumcaelestiumby Copernicus
marked a watershed in the conceptualisation of the physical universe, de-
spite the fact that in many ways Copernicus still belonged to the medieval
past. The heliocentrism he espoused was based upon the belief that the
centre of the universe was located at the exact central geometric point of
the numerous circular movements which, byhis calculation, describedthe
movements of the spheres. This was not in fact coincident with the po-
sition of the sun, which he believed only to be near to the centre of uni-
verse. In other words, his – false – belief in the perfectly circular move-
ments of the earthandthe planets dictatedhis heliocentrism(it was Kepler
who half a century later showed that these movements were not in fact
circular but elliptical).
1
Although there are many aspects to Copernicus’
system which challenge Aristotelianism, not least the real motion of the
earth and the subordination of physics to the data of astronomy, it would
be wrong to represent De revolutionibus as a radically new departure in the
history of astronomy in terms of its data. As Edward Grant has pointed
out, the question of the diurnal axial movement of the earth had already
beenopenlydiscussedinparticular byJohnBuridanandNicholas Oresme;
Copernicus refers to many of the same classical texts as do the scholas-
tics.
2
The revolutionary aspect of the work was an achievement of what
Koyr ´ e has called ‘pure intellectual intuition’.
3
Copernicus’ letter of ded-
ication to Pope Paul III, which replaced the original introduction to the
text, communicates what clearly is a radically newperspective. Inthat letter
1. See Alexander Koyr ´ e, The Astronomical Revolution, trans. R. E. W. Maddison (Paris: Hermann,
1973), pp. 59–66 and 265–79. The perfect circularity of the celestial orbs goes back to the
Timaeus 44d and 62d.
2. Edward Grant, Planets, Stars and Orbs. The Medieval Cosmos, 1200–1687 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1996), pp. 647–50.
3. Koyr ´ e, The Astronomical Revolution, p. 54.
52 The Creativity of God
Copernicus stated the rights of science and the obligation of the cosmolo-
gist to see the true representation of cosmic reality. These views contrast
strongly with the position adopted in the unsigned preface to the first
printed edition which was written by Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran pas-
tor and friend of Copernicus. Osiander believed in the traditional princi-
ple of salvare apparentias or ‘saving the phenomena’, which excused the as-
tronomer fromgivinganaccount of the underlyingcauses of the planetary
movements, confining his work to the prediction of such movements. His
preface articulated the position that since one theory could not be shown
to be more correct than another, it was not the hypotheses which were of
most significance in De revolutionibus but its computational accuracy.
Osiander’s intention was to deflect criticism from Aristotelian and ec-
clesiastical quarters, but Copernicus remainedadamantlyopposedtosuch
scientific relativism.
4
What we see in Copernicus’ work, in effect, is the
recognition that the explanatory force of arguments is greater where they
are more closely tied to observation and that simpler explanations are
more persuasive thancomplex ones. Copernicus’ cosmology, withits sim-
plicity and elegance, represented a more ‘systematic and ordered picture
of the Universe’ than had existed before.
5
Copernicus’ importance, then,
is that in his work a whole series of non-Aristotelian insights regarding
the world came together in the form of a new paradigm.
6
We have to see
his own conviction as to the rightness of his view of the world as being
itself part of the emergence of that paradigm, based – at least ideally –
upon data rather than preconceptions and being persuasive by virtue of
its simpler and more comprehensive explanatory power. The Copernican
system gained influence only slowly, however, and was consistently read
in terms of ‘saving the appearances’.
7
As Stephen Gaukroger notes, it was
onlywhenit was weddedtonewaccounts of the material nature of the uni-
verse as distinct fromits shape, that the Copernican theory began to act as
a revolutionary catalyst for the newthinking.
8
Bacon and natural science
The evolution in natural philosophy during the early modern period
was again a widespread phenomenon which took place gradually over a
4. Ibid., pp. 34–42.
5. Ibid., pp. 53–4.
6. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1957).
7. Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis of the Copernican World (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987).
8. Stephen Gaukroger, Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early Modern Philosophy
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 166–75.
Cosmological fragments 53
considerable period of time. But just as Copernicus can be taken as rep-
resentative of the great changes in astronomy in the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries, a survey of the work of Francis Bacon shows the kinds
of evolution in thought which laid the ground for a modern view of sci-
ence and a materialist cosmology. Bacon(1561–1626) was borninto a noble
family androse to become LordChancellor under James I. The fundamen-
tal insights associatedwithBaconianismconcernthe nature of knowledge
and specifically of scientific inquiry. Bacon argued powerfully against the
scholastic tendencies of his own day, proposing that reliable knowledge
was predicatednot uponthe wisdomof the ancients but was rather cumu-
lative. In other words, the history of thought represented progress rather
thanafall fromaprevious GoldenAge: ‘truthis rightlycalledthe daughter
of time, not the daughter of authority’.
9
Scientific knowledge was also so-
cial in that it grewfromthe pooling of the resources of researchers. Bacon
was against an excessive respect for authorities or indeed for individuals
of genius, preferring a collaborative model of scientists working together
ideally under the auspices of the state. Bacon is noted in particular for his
critique of the ‘Idols of thought’, respectivelythose of the ‘tribe’, the ‘cave’,
the ‘marketplace’ and the ‘theatre’, which he set out most extensively in
Book i of the NovumOrganum. These cover predispositions to cognitive er-
ror ranging from assumptions about the presence of order in the natural
world (‘tribe’), to personal idiosyncracies of thought (‘cave’), misconcep-
tions through language-use (‘marketplace’) and false philosophical train-
ing (‘theatre’). The corrective to such human failings in the main is ‘elim-
inative induction’, by which Bacon meant a kind of abstractive reasoning
which proceeds fromempirical observation to the discernment of univer-
sal laws and the intrinsic properties of things. The latter are conceived in
a purely material way, instark contrast to Aristotelianismwithits empha-
sis upon ‘natures’ and intelligible forms. In a significant passage fromthe
NovumOrganumhe offers a newand radical definition of the forms:
When I speak of Forms, I mean nothing more than those laws and
determinations of absolute actuality, which govern and constitute any
given nature, as heat, light, weight, in every kind of matter and subject
that is susceptible of them. Thus the Formof Heat or the Formof Light
is the same thing as the Lawof Heat and the Lawof Light.
10
9. NovumOrganum, Book i, Section 84 (The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, Robert
Leslie and Douglas Denning Heath (London, 1857–74), vol. i, p. 190; quoted in Gaukroger,
Francis Bacon, pp. 105–6).
10. NovumOrganum, Book ii, Section 17 (Works, vol. i, pp. 257–8) (quoted in Gaukroger, Francis
Bacon, p. 140).
54 The Creativity of God
Bacon is strongly corpuscularian in his advocacy of the material composi-
tion of things as the key to their properties and behaviour and proposes
that ‘everything relating to bodies and virtues in nature should be set
forth (as far as possible) numbered, weighed, measured, defined’.
11
Nat-
ural philosophy defined as the study of materiality is to be preferred to
metaphysics and even to mathematics or mechanics as a way of accessing
the reality that underlies appearances.
12
Bacon did not present his natural philosophy in opposition to Chris-
tian faith; he remained true to his Puritan background. In fact, he de-
ployed elements of faith as a theological substrate to his system. The
development of the powers of ‘eliminative induction’ is equatedwitha pu-
rification of the mind and a return to a pre-lapsarian state of unity with
the world. The account in Genesis 2:19–20 of how Adam named the crea-
tures represents for Bacon, andothers, anoriginal state of pure knowledge
of the world and the descent therefrom is the history of human corrup-
tion and error. More generally, Gaukroger has discerned in Bacon a moti-
vation to replace the traditional image of the moral philosopher as ‘sage’
and guardian of society’s values with that of the natural philosopher. The
latter is an example to society in general in that he (Bacon thinks in exclu-
sively male terms) manifests the distinctly moral qualities of ‘self-control’
and mastery of the passions. It is the natural philosopher also who is in
a position to change the human condition for the better; the theme of a
return to pre-lapsarian knowledge and unity with the world is attended
also by the theme of humanity’s God-given dominion over the world. The
new knowledge is a knowledge of the fundamental material constitution
of things in which reside also the principles of causality. To understand
something is therefore to knowhowit is made and is to be in a position to
make it oneself. In a play on alchemy Bacon tells us that if we come to an
understanding of the ‘Forms’ or properties which together go to make up
gold, then we shall ourselves be in a position to manufacture it.
13
Another
way of stating this is that Bacon understands knowledge to be a ‘maker’s
knowledge’, to use P ´ erez-Ramos’ phrase, and thus to be a form of human
11. Parasceve ad HistoriamNaturalemet Experimentalem(Works, vol. i, p. 400) (quoted in
Gaukroger, Francis Bacon, p. 142).
12. There is a hint, however, that Bacon continues the ancient tradition of privileging the role
of sight in the acquisition of knowledge – which is paradoxically also a Platonic one – since
he stresses the fact that atoms, the all-important constituent parts of matter are visible in
their effects of ‘stretching, contraction, dilation, distension’ (Gaukroger, Francis Bacon, p. 135).
Following the development of the microscope, later Baconians will extend this visibility to
the level of the atomitself (Catherine Wilson, The Visible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the
Invention of the Microscope, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
13. NovumOrganum, Book ii, Section 5 (Works, vol. i, pp. 230–1).
Cosmological fragments 55
imitation of the powers of the divine.
14
Something of this can be felt also
inBacon’s convictionthat it is potentially withinthe powers of the natural
philosopher to eradicate disease and to overcome the aging process.
15
Bacon, like Copernicus, exhibits features of the old age as well as
the new (he rejected Copernicus’ heliocentrism, for instance, but lacked
the experimentalism which was to come in later with the influence of
Desaguliers through the Royal Society)
16
, but we can discern elements in
his thought that are identifiably in harmony with and almost certainly
productive of modern conceptions of knowledge and of the world. If such
changes were afoot during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the
areas of astronomy and natural philosophy, then so too in metaphysics
and philosophy more generally. David Hume delivered a powerful attack
on the principles of natural theology and belief in the createdness of the
world, in his Dialogues on Natural Religion. One of his main arguments was
against the position of William Palgrave, who used the analogy of the in-
ference of a watchmaker from the existence of a watch for his argument
that God the Creator could be inferred from the existence of the world.
Hume made the telling point that the world is not at all like an object in
the world and that the order of the world might result from the nature
of matter rather than from the intentionality of a divine maker. It is in
Hume’s reflections on the nature of causality also that we find a signif-
icant contrast with pre-modern positions. For Thomas Aquinas and the
medievals (andthe Fathers before them), it was axiomatic that effects bore
some likeness to their causes so that the effect of every cause is similar to
itself.
17
Against this, Hume held in his Enquiry Concerning Human Under-
standing that like causes have like effects. Inanage inwhichcausality itself
was understood to be material and mechanical, being based on the play of
forces, the notion that the effect participates in some sense in its cause, me-
diated through a hierarchical structure of natures and essences, became
wholly redundant.
The detachment of metaphysics from its traditional base in theology
proceeded apace in this period. The Nominalists characteristically shifted
theemphasis awayfromobjectiveuniversals totheindividual existent, but
14. See Antonio P ´ erez-Ramos, Francis Bacon’s Idea of Science and the Maker’s Knowledge Tradition
(Oxford: Clarendon Press; NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1988).
15. See Historia Vitae et Mortis (Works, vol. ii). Bacon’s pragmatic belief that ‘true’ knowledge is
‘useful’ or ‘productive’ knowledge is also relevant here; see Gaukroger, Francis Bacon,
pp. 155–9.
16. Larry Stewart, The Rise of Public Science: Rhetoric, Technology and Natural Philosophy in
Newtonian Britain, 1660–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 213–54.
17. ST ia, q. 4, a. 3.
56 The Creativity of God
it may be in the fifth of the Disputationes Metaphysicae of Su ´ arez, in which
he argues that the principle of individuationexists inthe formandmatter
of an entity taken as a unity, that we find a telling moment in the break
with medieval tradition.
18
More generally, however, it is in the work of
Immanuel Kant that we find the most influential refutation of the tradi-
tional links between metaphysics and theology, which is to say the nature
of the world and belief in its creator. In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant sets
out a series of arguments against traditional forms of theistic belief, in-
cluding the cosmological (‘if anything exists, an absolutely necessary be-
ing must also exist’), the ontological (‘the highest being necessarily ex-
ists’) and what he calls the ‘physico-theological’ (‘argument fromdesign’)
proof.
19
Kant also delivers a powerful argument against traditional under-
standings of ‘being’ by arguing that being as such ‘is not a predicate’ and
adds nothing to our knowledge of anobject.
20
Very significantly, if it is the
theory of the transcendentals which is most expressive of the pre-modern
belief in the createdness of the world, as I have argued, then it is in Kant
that we find a specific refutation of this. Again in the First Critique, Kant
raises the issue of the principle of the transcendentals which ‘has proved
very meagre in consequences, and has indeed yielded only propositions
that are tautological, and therefore in recent times has retained its place
in metaphysics almost by courtesy only . . .’.
21
The error in the traditional
application of this theory, in Kant’s view, is to have mistaken unity, truth
and perfection as properties possessed by objects rather than as necessary
transcendental conditions inthe perceptionof any object. Inother words,
Kant rejects these as holding for the real world and he refashions them as
properties of knowing rather than as properties of the things known. He
can thus dismiss them on the grounds that they are tautological and add
nothing to our knowledge of the world.
Cosmological transformations
Over the course of several centuries the theophanic universe of the pre-
modern period turned into the one that is more familiar to us today: a
18. Jorge J. E. Gracia presents his case for this viewin his Su ´ arez on Individuation: Metaphysical
Disputation v, Individual Unity and its Principle (Milwaukee, Wis.: Marquette University Press,
1982).
19. I. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Part i, Second Division, Book ii, Chapter 3, Sections 3–7.
20. Ibid., esp. Chapter 3, Section 4.
21. Ibid., First Division, Book i, Chapter 1, Section 3 (translation in Norman Kemp Smith,
Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (London: Macmillan Press, 1933), p. 118).
Cosmological fragments 57
world conceived primarily in terms of physical quanta, as the interplay of
measurable forces. This is a world-viewdominatedbywhat Amos Funken-
stein has called ‘ergetic’ knowledge, which is to say knowledge of how
things are constructed and accordingly a technological knowledge of how
things may be reproduced.
22
However contextualised, this kind of func-
tionalist knowing, which Francis Bacon embraced as the primary model
and exemplum of knowledge, has taken on a pervasive influence in our
culture, far beyond the limits of natural science or mechanics in any spe-
cific sense. Technology makes an industrial society possible and is inte-
gral to its success. Technology guarantees a society’s wealth and defence;
medicine improves and lengthens life; productive, innovative industry
brings financial and social stability to a workforce. Such developments
have brought very considerable advantages, but the culture of scientism
and functionalism has led also to impoverishment in other areas of hu-
manlife. For all its errors, the traditional pre-moderncosmos was as much
an expression of the imagination of humankind as it was of our ratio-
nal capacities, operating within the limits of the day. The predominance
within our culture of a certain kind of thinking which is appropriate to
particular types of scientific activity has left little place for the role of the
imagination. But the imagination is an integral part of human cognition
and identity. It is unsurprising therefore that in those cultures most in-
fluenced by technology and the scientific method we see many forms of
resistance, some of which are responsible and complex expressions of the
imaginative capacities of the human race, while others seem immoderate
and undisciplined. Creationism, NewAgeism, and diverse kinds of social,
national andreligious mythology are all pervasively present inmodernso-
ciety. Muchof what we see onour televisionscreens is escapist fiction. But
the proper use of the imagination is intimately bound up with the prin-
ciple of the ‘cosmological’, as defined in this book, in that the imagina-
tionallows us to mapout ways inwhichwe cancomprehendthe worldas a
whole. There is something in that kind of inquiry which intrinsically tran-
scends the ordinary operations of reason and becomes more open-ended
and intuitive. But where the imagination takes purchase, the human self
who imagines begins to find him- or herself at home in the world. For the
imaginationis primarilyabout envisagingpossibilities of newexistenceor
newmeaning which are constructed fromand remain true to the realities
22. Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination: fromthe Middle Ages to the
Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 12 and 290–327.
58 The Creativity of God
that we already know. Our imaginations take us to new places and situa-
tions previously unconceived, but they do so by the disciplinedreordering
of the sensations, memories and perceptions of what is already familiar
to us. Exercising a mode of responsibility before the world as we already
conceive it, the imagination can be deeply creative and visionary, bearing
comparison with the work of art. Or it may proceed in a way that has no
real reference to what we already know, in which case it is vacuous and es-
capist, like the ephemera of day-dreams.
The imaginative reconstructions of cosmology with which we are con-
cerned in this chapter belong roughly to the same historical period in
whichthe newrationalismwas takingroot inEuropeansociety. The works
of the three individuals, Winckelmann, Jacobi and Hamann are there-
fore representative of alternatives to the trends which were to gain dom-
inance, and they offer us an important insight into some of the most ba-
sic strategies of response to the fundamental changes which were afoot.
In Winckelmann, for instance, we can see the appearance of art as a new
focus for the spiritual and metaphysical values of a culture (in which he
anticipates the Romantic cult of genius), whereas in Jacobi the issue is al-
ternative readings of the scope and nature of reason (in which he antici-
pates Schleiermacher). InHamann, inadditiontohis renownedcritique of
Immanuel Kant, we see the emergence of a language-centred and, indeed,
scriptural account of thenatureof theworld. Ineachcasemoreover wefind
a concern with unity of the self and the world, not as an observed fact but
as a project or goal to be attained. In fact, in many ways, we could say that
if the new advances in natural science led – in their broader cultural ex-
pressions – to an alienation of the imaginative and spiritual self within
the world, then these new ‘cosmological’ projects are all grounded in an
attempt to open up new, disciplined ways in which human beings could
experience themselves as being in fundamental unity with the world con-
ceived as a whole. It is here then, in these cultural and intellectual forma-
tions of the midto late eighteenthcentury, that we candiscernthe outline
of a return of the cosmological principle conceived in diverse ways as the
attainment of a newconceptual unity of self and world.
Winckelmann and art
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68), the author of Thoughts on the Im-
itation of the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks (1755) and History of the Art
of Antiquity (1764), was the inspired intellectual who inaugurated the en-
gagement withclassical Greekculture whichwas tomouldEuropean, and
Cosmological fragments 59
especiallyGerman, life andletters until at least the late nineteenthcentury
andthe workof FriedrichNietzsche.
23
The Hellenist movement was one of
spiritual andintellectual renewal whichbrought Christianity and‘pagan-
ism’ (itself a fusion of ancient and modern impulses) into sustained and
varieddialogue witheachother. ThroughWinckelmann, for the first time,
a new kind of cosmology entered modern Europe, which both had recog-
nisable links with the traditional cosmology of the Christian past and yet
strikingly differed fromit in certain important respects.
Born in lowly circumstances in Prussia, Winckelmann rose to become
one of the most influential literary andaesthetic thinkers of his day, before
meeting an untimely and violent death at the hands of a thief in Trieste.
From one perspective his work is dominated by immense learning, and
by an exquisite scholarly attention to detail in the many statues, build-
ings and paintings concerning which he wrote. But with an eighteenth-
century ´ elan, Winckelmann combined his powers of scholarship with an
inspired vision of the uplifting value of aestheticism and the moral and
social ideals which it sustained. Winckelmann’s main thesis, which is al-
ready articulated in his early Thoughts on the Imitation, was that ancient
Greek civilisation – favoured by climate and situation – had had a par-
ticularly privileged access to the beauty and strengths of nature. He be-
lieved that the Greeks had become aware of the ennobling aspects of nat-
ural beauty in a way that was true of no other people. They had learned
to celebrate and proclaim this knowledge through the power of the arts,
above all through sculpture, which was the most mimetic of the arts. The
skills of the artist served to heighten natural beauty by bringing together
in a single work the very best features of a number of natural forms. The
artists and the culture which supported and valued their work placed this
representational art at the centre of Greek society and values, as the high-
est expression of an aesthetic ideal, which was intimately bound up with
the cause of freedomin both the moral and political domain.
Winckelmannsummarisedhis viewof that Greekideal interms of ‘edle
Einfalt’ (‘noble simplicity’) and ‘stille Gr ¨ osse’ (‘tranquil grandeur’). In an
important passage from‘On Art among the Greeks’, published in his His-
tory of the Art of Antiquity, Winckelmann distinguished between the Bil-
dung or ‘formation’ of the work of art and its Ausdruck or ‘expression’. The
23. Henry Hatfield surveys this tradition in his Aesthetic Paganismin German Literature
(Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964). Stefan George can also be included
amongst these writers.
60 The Creativity of God
former was a kind of unity generated by the proportions of the art work:
theharmonyof its parts resolvedas aformal unitywhichwas thegroundof
its aesthetic appeal. The latter, onthe other hand, markedthe intersection
of the work of art with the human world so that ‘expression’ is an exten-
sion of aesthetic contemplation into the domain of ‘action and passion’.
24
In his celebrated analysis of the statue of Laoco ¨ on from Thoughts on the
Imitation, Winckelmann had already pointed to the serenity of Laoco ¨ on’s
great spirit, who ‘suffers, but suffers like Sophocles’ Philoctetes: his pain
enters our soul but we would wish to be able to endure pain as this man
does’.
25
In ‘On Art among the Greeks’ he states that ‘tranquillity [Stille]
is the condition which is most particular to beauty, as it is to the ocean,
and experience shows that the most beautiful individuals possess a tran-
quil and decorous nature’.
26
The quality of tranquillity, or ‘serenity’, as
we can also translate Stille, looks back to the apatheia of Stoic ethics and
shows that Winckelmann sees in art a programme of ethical formation as
well as the refinement of taste. He makes the point in the following line
from the same passage that ‘the idea of sublime beauty can only be gen-
erated by the tranquil contemplation of a soul which is detached from all
single forms’.
27
Effectively, then, the nobility of Greek art teaches us not
only howto produce equivalent works of our own, but also instructs us in
‘imitation’ in a broader sense, as an ethical commitment to the values of
purity, nobility and truth.
Winckelmann’s synthesis of Greek themes with contemporary con-
cerns inaugurateda newkindof aesthetic religioninEurope whichincer-
tainsignificant respects was distinctively pre-Christian. His identification
of beauty withthe divine lacks the accommodationwithChristianculture
and symbolics whichwe find inDante, and seems a direct challenge to the
Christianpiety of eighteenth-century Europe. It is for instance rootedina
kind of transcendental humanismwhich finds expression in the divinisa-
tion of the human body: ‘the highest beauty is in God, and the concept of
human beauty is perfected the more closely it is identified with the high-
est being. . .’.
28
The artist is himself in the image of God who created all
things.
29
The content of that religion can be grasped in Winckelmann’s
remarks about the transcendentalism of art: ‘The spirit of rational
24. J. J. Winckelmann, Werke (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1982), p. 197.
25. Ibid., p. 18.
26. Ibid., p. 211.
27. Ibid.
28. ‘Von der Kunst unter den Griechen’, Winckelmann, Werke, p. 195.
29. Ibid., p. 201.
Cosmological fragments 61
creatures has an innate tendency and desire to rise above the material
worldinto the sphere of the mind, andits true contentment is the produc-
tionof newandrefinedideas.’
30
It is thefunctionof theartists to‘overcome
the hardobject of matter and. . . toinspire it’. By their hands ‘objects of sa-
creddevotionwere producedwhich, inspiringawe, must have seemedlike
images of a higher nature. The first founders of religion, that is, the poets,
bestowed on these images noble ideas which lent wings to the imagina-
tion, raising their work above itself and above the world of the senses.’
31
The complex relation between Christianity and Winckelmann’s aes-
thetic religion, predicated upon idealised ways of reading Greek culture,
canbe seenfromhis applicationof the theory of the transcendentals, with
its origins inbothclassical andChristianculture. Althoughthere is no ex-
plicit discussion of the interrelation of the good, the true and the beauti-
ful as such, his work is everywhere imbued with their values: the beauty
of art simultaneously conveys the highest cognitive and instructional or
ethical value. Art and the artist serve as the paradigm of the fully realised
human being. The fact that Winckelmann privileges beauty above all else
effectively removes the transcendentals from their Christian context (as
the application of beauty primarily to art does from their Platonic one).
Nevertheless they retain something of their cosmological character, or ex-
pressivity as cosmological indices, which was of such importance during
the Middle Ages. In an essay written in 1805, towards the end of his own
life, Goethe draws out the distinctive quality of Winckelmann’s life and
work in terms which derive both from antiquity and German Neoclassi-
cism, reflecting upon the contemporary situation of humankind. Goethe
begins by statingthat Winckelmannwas anoutstandingindividual who –
untypically for his day – sought ‘to grasp the external world with enthu-
siasm, to establish a relationship with it, to unite with it to form a sin-
gle whole’.
32
Goethe laments the fragmentation of the human faculties,
and argues that greatness in his own world is generally only achievable
through ‘the purposeful application of individual faculties’ or ‘by com-
bining several of his capacities’. For the ancients, however, another way
was possible, when all of an individual’s ‘resources are uniformly united
within him’.
33
Almost uniquely therefore Winckelmann’s ability to feel
30. Ibid.
31. Ibid.
32. ‘Winkelmann und sein Jahrhundert’, in Goethe. Berliner Ausgabe, vol. xix (Berlin:
Aufbau-Verlag, 1973), pp. 469–520 (here p. 480).
33. Ibid., pp. 481–2.
62 The Creativity of God
the unity of his innermost life with the world in its inexhaustible fullness
marks him out as someone who lives according to an ancient pattern of
life. Goethe expresses his achievement in distinctly cosmological terms:
When the healthy nature of man functions as a totality, when he feels
himself in the world as in a vast, beautiful, worthy, and valued whole,
when a harmonious sense of well-being affords himpure and free
delight – then the universe, if it were capable of sensation, would exult
at having reached its goal, and marvel at the culmination of its own
development and being. For what is the use of all the expenditure of
suns and planets and moons, of stars and galaxies, of comets and
nebulae, of completed and developing worlds, if at the end a happy
man does not unconsciously rejoice in existence?
34
Goethe unequivocally identifies this way of living, or what he calls ‘an
indestructible health’, with ‘pagan’ religion which sets the human race
within a different kind of cosmology fromthat which was available in the
Christian Europe of his day. Goethe specifically celebrates the fact that
Winckelmann’s ‘baptism as a Protestant had not succeeded in Christian-
ising his thoroughly pagan nature’.
35
What Goethe in fact appears to be
implicitly recognising is that the deepest problems of his age, and the
fragmentation of the human faculties which is the distinguishing char-
acteristic of the modern, are the product of a cosmological malaise, and
that the healing of this disjunction between self and world and their ul-
timate unity requires the brilliant vision of a Winckelmann (or indeed of
Goethe himself, whichis the subtext of this paeonto Weimar classicism)
36
to make available the unity of a new kind of cosmological thinking and
feelingwhichis inspirednot bythe remnants of abiblical cosmology, nor –
for Goethe – by the Catholic neo-medievalism of the emergent Romantic
movement.
It is the attainment of such a cosmology, set more as a task to be ac-
complished than a state of affairs to be discerned or recognised, which in-
spiredmany inthe traditions whichfollowedWinckelmann. The purifica-
tionof sight tothe extent that the workof art becomes the mediumfor the
discovery of a new depth or immediacy of reality is extensively present in
34. Ibid., p. 482.
35. Ibid., p. 489.
36. It is useful to take this text alongside Schiller’s estimation of Goethe in Über naïve und
sentimentale Dichtung as an artist in whose poetic genius opposites are unified.
Cosmological fragments 63
Goethe’s account of his own Italian travels.
37
For Schiller, too, the artist is
the one who transcends the alienation between self and world, ideas and
the senses, by attaining a new freedom in the unity of the work of art. In
his aesthetic philosophy, art effectively becomes the free, creative basis for
a programme leading to the aesthetic, moral – and indeed political – re-
newal of society. Something of this same privileging of the work of art
as representing the unification of what is ordinarily fragmented in hu-
man perceptions, and as conveying ‘reality’ with an unparalleled imme-
diacy, is apparent in the Hellenic tradition of German letters fromHerder
to H ¨ olderlin and, more remotely, in Nietzsche, but it is present too in
the modern period in the Erlebnisphilosophie of a hermeneutic philosopher
such as Wilhelm Dilthey and in the aesthetics of Hans-Georg Gadamer.
In changed form, the final unity of the good, the true and the beautiful
retains a certain force in what we might call the aesthetico-religious tra-
dition, and becomes a place of resistance to the instrumentalisation of
nature and the world.
Jacobi and reason
Like Hamann, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819) gives us valuable in-
sights into philosophical possibilities which are at odds with the Kantian
rationalismandits aftermaththat soformedlater tradition. He toolooked
to a restoration, albeit in distinctively newterms, of the cosmological and
with it a deep sense of the unity of the world and of the self within the
world. Goethe’s appeal for a unity of the faculties of the self grounded in
the self’s own relation with the world finds one of its chief modes of re-
alisation in Jacobi’s work. Jacobi is known in the history of ideas as one
of the leading polemicists at a time when German thought and letters
were a ferment of new ideas and perspectives. He played a major part in
the ‘Spinoza controversy’, which led to an undermining of the influence
of rationalismthrough the discovery – communicated in Jacobi’s Concern-
ing the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn (1785) – that
Ephraim Lessing, one of the leading spirits of the rationalist movement,
was himself a Spinozist.
38
Spinoza was read by some as a pantheist who
offered support to a pietistic world-viewwhich stressed the immediacy of
37. Winckelmann’s programme and Goethe’s Italienische Reise are perceptively compared by
Jeremy Morrison in his Winckelmann and the Notion of Aesthetic Education (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1996), especially pp. 34–68 and 206–48.
38. Avery thorough account of this episode in German letters is given by Frederick Beiser in
his The Fate of Reason (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 44–91.
64 The Creativity of God
God’s presence in the world, and which was often linked with radical po-
litical movements of the day. For others, following Bayle’s highly negative
andfatefully influential assessment inhis Dictionnaire Historique et Critique,
Spinoza was a dangerous atheist. Jacobi himself, like Fichte, took Spinoza
tobeanapostleof reasonandjudgedthat his rationalismfoundits focus in
anenquiryintotheprincipleof sufficient reason, or theexplanatorycauses
of the way things are. Spinoza was thus a philosophical representative of
the new sciences of technology and mechanics. The deterministic kind of
rationalismwhichSpinozarepresentedwas onethereforewhichwouldin-
evitably lead to the extinguishing of faith in God and divine providence,
free will andbelief inthe immortalityof the soul, andtoanabject fatalism.
Jacobi’s account of Lessing’s confession that he was entirely in agreement
with Spinoza raised the spectre that the rationalist philosophy of Moses
Mendelssohnandothers was self-contradictory andwouldinevitably lead
to nihilismand the extinction of all human values.
The alternative to rationalism which Jacobi proposed was one which
was grounded in a different understanding of the principle of reason.
In the Preface to the treatise David Hume on Faith which Jacobi added
in 1815 for the version published in his collected works, Jacobi set out
the leading points in his critique of Kant’s philosophy. He stressed that
he saw in it an unnecessary and fatally contradictory disjunction be-
tween the role of understanding and reason. The failure to emphasise
the place of reason, as a transcendental perceptive faculty equal to that
of understanding, would lead inevitably to a form of absolute subjec-
tivism. ‘Representations’ alone constitute a kind of ‘negation of nothing-
ness, a something that passes for mere “not-nothing” and would pass for
plain “nothingness” if reason (which still retains the upper hand) did not
forciblyprevent that’.
39
Jacobi definedreasonas thefaculty, uniquelychar-
acteristic of humankind, which had as its objects the true, the actual, the
good and the beautiful.
40
These transcendental properties are possessed
by reason as its objects of knowledge with an absolute certainty of ‘faith’,
which Jacobi in turn describes as ‘a knowing not-knowing’.
41
They are
39. F. H. Jacobi, David Hume ¨ uber den Glauben, oder Idealismus und Realismus, ed. Hamilton Beck
(NewYork and London: Garland, 1983), p. 102 [facsimile reproduction of 1787 edition and the
Vorrede to the 1815 edition]. English translation in George di Giovanni, ed. and trans., The Main
Philosophical Writings and the Novel ‘ Allwill’ (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s
University Press, 1994), p. 580.
40. Jacobi, ed. Beck, David Hume ¨ uber den Glauben, p. 9 (ET The Main Philosophical Writings,
p. 540).
41. Ibid., p. 20 (ET p. 545).
Cosmological fragments 65
the secure foundation of the actuality of the world such that it resists ab-
sorption into the self, or into a transcendental self, in its irreducible al-
terity. They are communicatednot throughsensation(Empfindung), which
easily becomes internalised and subjectified, but through true percep-
tion(Wahrnehmung).
42
Reasondoes not standinoppositionto understand-
ing therefore but rather complements and contextualises it, for reason’s
knowledge of its objects, of the Kantian thing-in-itself, is not given in
or through the appearances but with them in a way that is ‘mystical’ and
‘incomprehensible both to the sense and to the understanding’.
43
Jacobi is important for recognising that a rationalism predicated
purely upon the principle of sufficient reason and causal explanation
(mechanism), or a rationalism which saw no possibility of knowledge be-
yond that given by the senses (materialism), undermines the possibility
of a world in which human beings might be free.
44
His response was one
which derived in part from a critique of Kantianism and in part from
his debt to pietistic currents of thought in eighteenth-century Germany,
which stressed the place of faith and the immediate experience of God.
These two trajectories came together in the theme of revelation, a termof
which Jacobi makes frequent use.
45
We know the world to be real not on
account of its demonstrability, which – in Jacobi’s view – can yield only
partial certainty, but because of the mysterious way in which it communi-
cates itself to us:
Just as the actuality that reveals itself to the outer sense needs no
guarantor, since it is itself the most powerful representative of its
truth, so too that actuality that reveals itself to that inward sense that
we call reason needs no guarantor; in like manner it is of itself the most
powerful testimony of its own truth.
46
Jacobi evokes the notionof a unityof the faculties whenhe speaks of the
‘sense-sensation’ (Sinnes-Empfindung) or the ‘spirit-feeling’ (Geistes-Gef ¨ uhl)
that attends the reception of that truth, the lack of which makes under-
standing of his argument impossible.
47
On one occasion he speaks of it as
a‘feelingof rapture’ as themindreceives what is beyondthesenses ‘andyet
42. Ibid., pp. 39 and 34 (ET pp. 553 and 551).
43. Ibid., p. 23 (ET p. 546).
44. For a similar perspective, see Fichte, especially the discussion of determinismand
freedomin The First Introduction to the Wissenschaftslehre.
45. See especially David Hume ¨ uber den Glauben, ed. Beck, pp. 9–63 (ET pp. 540–64).
46. Ibid., p. 107 (ET p. 583).
47. Ibid., pp. 59–63, 76 (ET pp. 563–4, and 570).
66 The Creativity of God
given as something truly objective, and not merely imaginary’.
48
Jacobi’s
interest for us in this section therefore is that he is one of the first to ac-
knowledge that the rise of comprehensive systems of explanatory thought
can close out aspects of the self and of the world which are integral to hu-
man existence. He employs the cosmological motif of the transcendentals
as a way of restoring the sense of a world that is something other than hu-
man construction. But he does so by emphasizing the importance of rea-
son, which is the faculty by which we perceive the transcendentals, which
inturnground‘freedom, virtue, wisdom, art’.
49
Reasoninthis sense is the
essence of the self and the sole guarantor of the fullness of human life. In
this movement towards anthropology, which will be a distinctive charac-
teristic of the following centuries, he anticipates the work of Schleierma-
cher. But Jacobi is of interest also in that he recognises that eighteenth-
century rationalism is a form of evasion of the real, and therefore ulti-
mately nihilistic. The alternative system of cognition which he proposes
is one whichdraws explicitly uponthe language of faithandof revelation,
and it is here that his thinking takes on an explicitly scriptural shape:
Just as the Creator’s Word, calling worlds forth out of nothingness, is
exalted above its echo eternally resonating in the endless appearance
we call the universe, so too the productive power originally inhabiting
man is exalted above the power in himof reproducing after
experience.
50
Hamann and language
Johann Georg Hamann (1730–88) was born at K ¨ onigsberg, which was also
the home of Immanuel Kant. He is a prophetic figure whose repeated crit-
icisms of Kantian philosophy anticipated late approaches which were sig-
nificantly at odds with Enlightenment values and assumptions (he was
personally acquainted with Kant and was arguably the first to read the
Critique of Pure Reason, having received a copy prior to its publication).
Hamannalsostands withinthe traditionof Germanaesthetic philosophy;
his Aesthetica in Nuce became a classic text of the Sturm und Drang period
and anticipates Romantic aesthetic philosophy in its insights. He follows
Winckelmann in his belief that art imitates nature but attacks the no-
tionthat imitationentails reproducingGreekoriginals: ‘As if our learning
48. Ibid., p. 60 (ET p. 563).
49. Ibid., p. 63 (ET p. 564).
50. Ibid., pp. 113–14 (ET p. 585).
Cosmological fragments 67
were purely an act of recollection, our attention is constantly drawn to
the monuments of the ancients, to give form to the spirit through mem-
ory. But why should we linger with the honey-comb fountains of the
Greeks andneglect the living well-springs of antiquity?’
51
Hamannshares
Winckelmann’s belief that art gives access to an unparalleled immediacy
of experience, but he does not structure this in terms of a revived classi-
cism which becomes the skeleton of a new ‘religion of art’. His engage-
ment with art has to be seen rather in terms of an entirely new concept
of world, and of our knowledge of the world, which Hamann develops
in his early works on the grounds of a radical encounter with Scripture.
This provides him with a powerful model for the nature of the world, as
originating in the speech of God, which both anticipates in its own way
the anti-Kantian turn to language-centred views of reality and stands in
a tradition of creation-centred semiotics which looks back to Origen and
Augustine.
Inthe early autobiographical piece Thoughts onmyLife’s Course, Hamann
recounts his experience of conversion while reading Scripture, by which
he was able to reimage the relationbetweenself and world. BetweenApril
1757 and the summer of 1758 Hamann resided in London, where he was a
representative of the House of Berens, a merchant firm in Riga. His busi-
ness affairs went badlyinEnglandandhe underwent a personal andmoral
collapse. He began to read the Bible repeatedly and intensively and, on
31 March 1758, had an experience of reading which led to a deep reori-
entation of his life. The passage in which God says to Cain that the earth
has opened its mouth to receive the blood of his brother Abel triggered in
Hamannthe sense that he was himself the murderer of Christ, his brother:
‘I felt my beating heart, I heard a voice in its depths sighing and lament-
ing, as the voice of blood, the voice of a murdered brother . . .’.
52
Between
MarchandMay of that year, prior to his departure fromLondon, Hamann
wrote a number of brief works in which he began to outline a critical re-
sponse to his experience of scriptural conversion; many of the themes in-
dicated here would be taken up again and developed more exhaustively
in later works. It is already evident in the early Biblical Reflections, however,
that Hamannwas linkingnaturewithcreationthroughdivinespeech, and
embedding knowledge within the life of the senses: two themes which
51. Aesthetica in Nuce (Josef Nadler, ed., Johann Georg Hamann. S ¨ amtliche Werke (Vienna: Herder,
1949–57), vol. ii, pp. 195–217, (here p. 209).
52. Londoner Schriften, ed. Oswald Beyer and Bernd Weissenborn (Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck,
1993), p. 343 (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. ii, p. 41).
68 The Creativity of God
take on a particular importance for his distinctively scriptural cosmolog-
ical thought on the one hand and for his contestation of Enlightenment
reason on the other.
53
Hamann’s ‘theology of the world’ is predicated on an analogical sys-
tem of thinking which aligns ‘history’, ‘nature’ and ‘scripture’ as distinct
but related forms of divine revelation. In his Socratic Memorabilia Hamann
argues that the pre-Christian history of the Greeks is integrated within
the cycle of historical revelation. We can legitimately turn to the figure
of Socrates therefore as someone who communicates much about the na-
ture and content of divine revelation through his life and death, as well
as through his teaching. History communicates the revelatory through
instruction, so that ‘[ j]ust as nature is given in order to open our eyes,
so too history to open our ears’.
54
In his remarks on nature, repeated
throughout his works, Hamann stresses that entities in the world origi-
nate inthe divine speechandare to be understoodas types of divine ‘sign’:
‘Every phenomenon of nature was a word – the sign, symbol and pledge
of a new, secret, inexpressible, and therefore all the more intense unity,
communication and coalescence of divine energies and ideas. Everything
which humankind first heard, saw with the eyes and touched with the
hand was a living word; for God was the word.’
55
In his correspondence
with Immanuel Kant concerning the joint project of a book on physics for
children which Kant had proposed, Hamann described nature as essen-
tially enigmatic and incomplete: ‘Nature is the equation of an unknown
grandeur; it is a Hebrewword which is written only in consonants, whose
pointing the mind must provide.’
56
The physicist’s knowledge of nature
is only that of its ‘alphabetical’ character; its full meaning, or textuality,
still remains beyondthe capacities of the humanmindtocomprehendun-
til aided by divine illumination. It is Scripture, however, that provides the
hermeneutical key tothe creation; history andnature are merely commen-
taries on the book of the Word of God, which is ‘the sole key which opens
to us the knowledge of both’.
57
53. Biblische Betrachtungen (Londoner Schriften, pp. 65–271).
54. Sokratische Denkw ¨ urdigkeikten, (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. ii, pp. 57–82; here p. 64).
55. Des Ritters von Rosencreuz letzte Willensmeinung ¨ uber den g ¨ ottlichen und menschlichen Ursprung der
Sprache (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. iii, pp. 25–33; here p. 32). The passage continues with an
affirmation of the origins of human language in the divine ‘Word’: ‘Mit diesemWorte im
Mund und Herzen war der Ursprung der Sprache so nat ¨ urlich, so nahe und leicht, wie ein
Kinderspiel.’
56. Brief an Immanuel Kant (end of December, 1759) ( Johann Georg Hamann. Briefe, ed. Arthur
Henkel, Frankfurt amMain: Insel Verlag, 1988), p. 31.
57. Brocken, § 3 (Londoner Schriften, p. 411).
Cosmological fragments 69
The alignment between history, nature and Scripture, all of which
are grounded in the self-dispossessing act of divine revelation, lends
Hamann’s work a distinctively cosmological aspect. Harald Schnur has
argued that Hamann’s theological categories are fundamentally convert-
ible into those of hermeneutics, and that Hamann therefore holds an im-
portant place in the history of interpretation prior to Schleiermacher.
58
Hamann’s position is certainly one of a radical hermeneutics which takes
human experience to be itself revelatory, or akin to the revelatory, and
the human act of understanding to be integral to the emergence of world
as meaning. This is to universalise the hermeneutical problem in a way
that anticipates the work of Gadamer in the second half of the twentieth
century. But Hamann’s primary source is Scripture itself, which – accord-
ing to a theology of creation – becomes the key to our understanding of
the world. Hamann is thus first and foremost a scriptural pragmatist, the
first modern Christian perhaps to discover in a distinctively Jewish read-
ing of Scripture the outline of a divinely creative, language-centred, non-
essentialist viewof the world. Although he may point forward to modern
hermeneutical philosophy, more fundamentally Hamann stands in close
proximity to the pre-modern model of the cosmological-Christological
sign, not nowin the context of a hierarchically ordered universe of cosmic
participation, but rather in terms which are given by Scripture itself. This
comes into view above all in the extent that he looks to the divine agency
as the model or ground of human interpretation of the world in its truth.
God, as Author of the world, is ‘the best interpreter of his own words’.
59
The Spirit interprets the Spirit: ‘Whoever senses the Spirit of Godinthem-
selves, will certainly sense the Spirit in Scripture.’
60
But it is Christ who
is most fundamentally ‘the interpreter’ of the Father, since ‘none but the
only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has given an exe-
gesis of his fullness and grace of truth’.
61
If it is the case that ‘the book
of the creation contains exempla of general concepts, which God wished
to reveal to creatures through creatures, while the books of the Covenant
contain exempla of secret articles, which God wished to reveal to human
beings through persons’, then it is Christ who seems to be the ‘Author’s
unity’ which‘is reflectedinthe dialectic of his works; – ineverythingthere
58. See the useful discussion in Harald Schnur, Schleiermachers Hermeneutik und Ihre Vorgeschichte
im18. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart and Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler, 1994), pp. 59–96.
59. Aesthetica in Nuce (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. ii, pp. 203–4).
60. Biblische Betrachtungen (Londoner Schriften, p. 189; Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. i, p. 128).
61. Golgotha and Scheblimini (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. iii, p. 315).
70 The Creativity of God
is a single note of immeasurable height and depth! A proof of the most
glorious majesty and most comprehensive dispossession!’
62
It is Christ
in whom God addresses us after he has ‘exhausted himself through na-
ture and Scripture, creatures and seers, grounds and figures, poets and
prophets’.
63
The emphasis that Hamann lays upon the materiality of the world or-
der as the place of God’s signifyingself-communicationwithus leads toan
unusually material understanding of human language as ‘an act of trans-
lation – froma language of angels into a human language, which is to say,
thoughts into words, – things into names, – images into signs, which can
be poetic or kyriological, historical or symbolic or hieroglyphic’.
64
Words
themselves have a double nature, part ‘aesthetic’ and part ‘logical’: ‘as vis-
ible and audible objects they belong with their elements to the senses
and to perception, but, according to the spirit of their application and
signification, they belong to reason and concepts’.
65
In his anti-Kantian
text Metacritique of the Purismof Reason, Hamann argues that reason itself is
boundupwithlanguage andthus withthe senses ina waythat determines
it as tradition-centredonthe one handandas dependent uponexperience
on the other. He passionately disputes the legitimacy of reason in abstrac-
tionfromthe senses andthe world, andhe embraces the sceptical philoso-
phy of David Hume as showing the fragility of autonomous reason. Faith
itself, Hamann claims, is not based upon the operations of detached rea-
sonbut rather upon‘the testimony of the ears, eyes, andof feeling’;
66
faith
is thus ‘not a work of reason and cannot yield to its attack’.
67
Few works of the period are as stylistically demanding for the reader
as those of Hamann. His dense and allusive texts, with multiple word
plays and esoteric word formations, seem themselves to replicate his be-
lief in the primacy of interpretation at the creative centre of the human
experience of the real. But, despite the difficulty of his own preferred
modeof expression, Hamannis animportant figurefor themodernworld.
62. Aesthetica in Nuce (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. ii, p. 204).
63. Ibid. (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. ii, p. 213).
64. This typology derives fromJohann Georg Wachter’s Naturae et Scripturae Concordia, in
which Wachter uses the term‘kyriological’ – fromGreek meaning ‘direct’or ‘literal’ – to
denote images of things (in contrast with images of what cannot otherwise be represented,
which are ‘symbolic’ or ‘hieroglyphic’). See Sven-Aage Jørgensen’s commentary to the
Aesthetica in Nuce, Johann Georg Hamann. Sokratische Denkw ¨ urdigkeiten. Aesthetica in Nuce
(Stuttgart: Philipp Reklamjun., 1968), p. 88.
65. Metakritik ¨ uber den Purismumder Vernunft (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. iii, pp. 281–9; here p. 288).
66. Biblische Betrachtungen (Londoner Schriften, p. 304; Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. i, p. 244).
67. Sokratische Denkw ¨ urdigkeiten (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. ii, p. 74).
Cosmological fragments 71
A contemporary, even acquaintance, of Immanuel Kant, he sharply con-
tested the rationalist’s abstraction of reason from the work of the senses
and from language itself. His scriptural cosmology, which was predi-
cated upon an analogical field of resonance between history, nature and
God’s Word, focused upon language and thus interpretation in the act of
knowing the world. If the Kantian system served to secularise reason by
loosening its connection with the metaphysical and the religious, then
Hamann’s contributionwas to embed reasonagaininthe divinely created
worldorder. Reasonthat fails tounderstandits ownlanguage-centredness
miscomprehends itself.
68
Andlanguage itself, part humanandpart divine
in its origins, part conceptual and part sensual in its structure, is the true
mediumof our knowing.
Conclusion
The fundamental evolution in understanding of both self and world that
took place between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is a process of
enormous and untraceable complexity. But it is possible to assert in gen-
eral that by the end of this period the human imagination and the intel-
lect were set on separate trajectories and that the self, no longer unified
in itself by the sense of a cosmos, of itself as creature intimately ordered to
and participant in a world of God’s making, was in some profound way
cut adrift or exiled fromthe world. Our increasing capacity to act directly
upon the world through technologies of change only enhances the condi-
tion of our alienation and the uncomfortable awareness that we ourselves
easily succumb to the very processes of manufacture and manipulation of
which we are the agents. This is not to argue against technology and sci-
ence, but is to recognise that the ways in which these can be appropriated
interms of social andcultural formationof humancommunities whoseev-
eryday lives are deeply affected by themcan – and indeed generally does –
lead to a fragmentation within the self. The force of the New Age in our
society, of Gaia and deep ecology, of extra-terrestrialism perhaps, as well
as interest inthe pre-technological cosmologies of paganEurope or Native
Americans, must be understood, at least in part, against the background
of just such a loss of cosmology and perceived need to restore it again in
whatever ways become culturally available.
68. Cf. Metakritik ¨ uber den Purismumder Vernunft (Nadler, ed., Werke, vol. iii, pp. 284–6).
72 The Creativity of God
Whatever our general situation, for Christian communities the loss of
cosmology signals a deep incoherence. Howcan we affirmthat God is cre-
ator of the world unless at the same time we have some sense of what it
means for the world to be God’s creation? Howcan we be creatures of God
unless the world itself exhibits and becomes expressive of the same power
of divine creativity? The failure to see that – for the Christian – self and
world must form a single unity, is in itself to risk building a Christian
theology upon the implicit denial of what is perhaps the central tenet of
the Christianfaith: that God’s creativityradicallyandcontinuouslyshapes
history, selfhood and world. What we find in the work of Winckelmann,
Jacobi, and Hamann, writing at the point where the fragmentation of the
faculties was developing apace, is the drafting of alternative possibilities:
new ways of retrieving and living the cosmological, not as a restatement
of the medieval past, but precisely withinthe changedcircumstance of the
post-medieval world. Our inheritance fromthis period is immense. From
them we have received the principles of ‘religious experience’ and of reli-
gious ‘intuitions’ as the inscription of the world order within the ‘spiri-
tual’ faculties of the self. We have received from them the idea that art is
or can be a form of transcendence. But there is also a further inheritance
here, seen most clearly in the work of Hamann but present too in Jacobi,
whichis that Scripture itself cangrounda revelatory understandingof the
world and of the real and that the restoration of a scriptural cosmology –
understood in the broadest and most flexible terms – can open newpossi-
bilities of imagining what it is to be alive inGod’s worldandtherefore what
it is to think and feel as God’s creature.
II
Scriptural cosmology
4
Speech revealed
.!
ù
1;≥AlŁ wy
.
á
.
v \W
v
r<W Wc

≈{ !ª

r§ h™hπ
`
r

9G–
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth
Psalm33
Scripture stands at the heart of the self-communication of God in his-
tory since biblical texts make present kinds of human speaking which
are interpenetrated by and formed within the creative rhythms of revela-
tory divine speech. Old and New Testament are canonical compilations
of hymns, historical narratives, dramatic interludes, stories, dialogues,
songs, texts of thanksgiving and celebration, prophecies and parables,
aetiologies and genealogies, proclamations and affirmations, ethical and
legal codes, which are inwardly shaped by divine speaking. This is the
distinctive characteristic of Scripture, that it is constituted as a form of
testimony, as a witness to God’s unfolding presence in history, in and
throughthe creative power of the divine Word. But Scripture is also some-
thing other than the testimony of others, for it opens up to us new ways
of speaking. Through our reading of Scripture, we come to inhabit ut-
terances that are already shaped by the divine communicative presence.
Our own voices enter the voices of others who have been reformed by
the power of divine speech, and we learn new modes of speaking and lis-
tening. Scriptural reading is the slow learning of these new practices of
speaking.
A further, defining particularity of scriptural reading is that we read
in Scripture of how Christ himself, who is the meaning of the text, is the
one through whom all things were made. This is to make a claim upon
the world itself, and thus upon the act of reading itself, practised at a
[75]
76 The Creativity of God
particular point in space and time. Therefore we can discover in reading
Scripturethat theWordprecedes us andis alreadypresent inthis particular
act of reading. Furthermore, as the divine text pervades our mind, senses
and feeling, we discover that the world we inhabit is already fashioned at
its depths in the very same creative Word of God which manifests in the
text. And so each and every act of reading, every attempt to make sense of
and to find meaning in the world of which we are a part, is discovered to
be a sharing in the creativity of the divine Word.
To read the scriptural text appropriately, which is to say, in its own
terms, as it invites us to read it, is to read it in a way that is therefore
different from any other text. No other text lays claim to the world, and
thus to the space between ourselves and itself. Where we begin to un-
derstand that this is the character of its textuality, and respond to that
invitation, then the possibility of a scriptural cosmology, as a way of mak-
ing sense of the world fromthe perspective of the creative spirit-breath of
God, begins to emerge.
Mosaic dialogues
What we may call the linguistic paradigm of the creation of the world
begins with an important passage which extends from Genesis 1:1 to 2:4
(generallyregardedas theworkof thepriestlysource). Whilethereis noap-
prehension in these verses of a creatio ex nihilo, for which we should look to
a later period when a more overtly metaphysical way of thinking engaged
with the creation narrative, we can discern here a sense of the presence of
God as manifest in and through a sequence of divine speech acts.
1
The act
of speakingitself manifests thedivinecreativityanddoes soinawaywhich
communicates the presence of God with his creation. That presence-with
is furthermore an intimate one, since the act of speaking implies the pres-
ence not only of the one who speaks but also of the one who is spoken
to: orality commands proximity. The eight acts of creation which occur
between Genesis 1:1 and 2:4 can reasonably be said to be an unfolding of
1. Djamel-Eddine Kouloughli, ‘La th´ ematique du langage dans la Bible’, in Sylvain Auroux,
ed., Histoires des id´ ees linguistiques, vol. i: La naissance des m´ etalangages en Orient et en Occident
(Li ` ege and Brussels: Pierre Mordaga, 1989), pp. 65–78 (here p. 66). On language in the Old
Testament, see also Wolfgang Schenk, ‘Altisraelitische Sprachauffassungen in der
Hebr ¨ aischen Bibel’, in Peter Schmitter, ed., Geschichte der Sprachtheorie, vol. ii: Sprachtheorien der
abendl ¨ andischen Antike (T ¨ ubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1991), pp. 3–25, and Werner Weinberg,
‘Language Consciousness in the Old Testament’, Zeitschrift f ¨ ur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
92 (1980), 185–204.
Speech revealed 77
a relationship which is already constituted in the initial act of speaking.
Normallyspeechis a kindof relationwhichgrows out of a spatio-temporal
proximity(the speaker has tobe heardbythose whoare spokentoor with);
in the case of divine speaking, however, it bestows not just proximity but
even the spatio-temporal parameters which enable proximity. Out of the
will of God to exercise intimacy in speech, the structured world is born,
and the human race as the creatures who receive the divine speech, and
who participate in it, are conceived.
The process of linguistic generation which is embodied in the opening
verses of theGenesis narrative, andwhichis continuedinlater texts, shows
successive stages or degrees of realisationof the generative intimacy which
is intrinsic to the originary speech act. The world itself is called into exis-
tence by the power of divine reference implicit in y

hî (‘let there be . . .’),
which is the jussive form of the verb h ˆ ay ˆ ah (‘to be’). Just as divine speak-
ing entails the creation of an intimate space in which speaker and listener
share a physical reality (rather than deriving from it), so too divine refer-
ence entails the creationof worldas that towhichit refers. The sequence of
jussives establishes a cosmology by instituting successively the existence
of light, the dome to separate ‘the waters from the waters’, the gathered
waters, the dry land, vegetation, lights in the dome ‘for signs and for sea-
sons’ and ‘to give light upon the earth’, ‘swarms of living creatures’ in
the waters and birds that ‘fly above the earth’, and finally ‘human kind’.
2
On each occasion the Priestly source matches the y

hî (‘let there be’) with
w
a
y

hî (‘and there was’), with liturgical effect. This device serves to inter-
weave the narrator’s own voice with the divine speech, affirming the cre-
ative potency of God’s words through an answering human response. The
narrative of the unfoldingcreationis itself the performance of its owncon-
tent, since the narrator’s voice is mouldedtothe divine speakingwithdeep
religious feeling.
Following the cosmological institution, God blesses firstly all the liv-
ingcreatures andthenhumankind, commandingthemtobe ‘fruitful’ and
to ‘multiply’.
3
The occurrence of blessing and of the imperative at this
point sets up a new kind of relation between God and the created order,
anticipating the parameters of the Covenant. Here the institutionary and
cosmological function of the divine jussives gives way to modes of divine
speech which establish a relation between living creatures and God within
2. Gen. 1:3–20.
3. Gen. 1:22 and 28.
78 The Creativity of God
that cosmology. In the case of non-human creatures, this is one of obedi-
ence anddivine control whichaffirms their reproductionandflourishing.
Inthe case of humans, however, this same blessingandcommandis linked
with God’s bestowal of ‘dominion’ over creatures, thus hinting that hu-
mankind, who are made in ‘the image and likeness’ of God, participate in
the divine sovereignty: perhaps even, in a sense, they share in the divine
creativity.
4
Followingthe blessingandthe imperative at verse 28, Godsays
to humanity: ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon
the face of the earth. . . ’ This marks the first use of shifters, or personal
pronouns, which– as indexical features of language– areentirelyemptyof
reference until filledout ina specific speechact. Their nature is tobe inter-
changeable, and their use here in the divine speech at verse 29 represents
an intensification of the communicative mutuality of humanity and God.
We may note in particular that their function as signalling subjectivity,
in this case subjectivity both divine and human, occurs within the perfect
verbal form ‘I give you’ (NRSV: ‘I have given you’).
5
This can itself be read
as offering an internal thematisation of the process of creation-donation
which takes place in these same words, heightening the reflexivity of
the text.
The second stage in the deepening creativity of divine speech comes in
the Exodus account of God’s self-naming. The episodes at Exodus 3:1–15
and 33:12–23, in which God declares himself to Moses, express a height-
ened mutuality between God and humanity, but they are also set within
the context of the granting of the commandments on Sinai and the free-
ingof thepeopleof Israel fromtheir captivityinEgypt. But thesethemes of
Covenant, LawandLiberationdonot constitute anentirely newdeparture
in the history of God’s relation with Israel. This is not the metamorphosis
of the Creator God into the God of Covenant but rather the unfolding of
theprimarydivineact of creation: salvationinhistoryandtheformationof
anethical community aroundthe commandments of Godare bothmodal-
ities of divine creativity. The creationist subtext is apparent in the reso-
nance of the name YHWH which contains an allusion to h ˆ ay ˆ ah, meaning
4. The idea of a human participation in divine powers is further strengthened by the account
at Gen. 2:18–20 of Adam’s naming of ‘every living creature’. Note also the human power of
giving blessing.
5. This verb is used first at Gen. 1:17. Norbert Samuelson takes it here in the sense of
‘appointing’ or putting something under the authority of another, which is to say, the
different varieties of vegetation under the authority of humankind (Norbert M. Samuelson,
The First Seven Days. APhilosophical Commentary on the Creation of Genesis (Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars
Press, 1992), p. 132–3).
Speech revealed 79
‘to be’, andis expandedat Exodus 3:14 as ehyeh aˇ ser ehyeh andas ehyeh. Sug-
gestedmeanings for ehyeh aˇ ser ehyeh include ‘I amthat I am’, ‘I shall be who
I shall be’ and ‘I am He who is’.
6
One possible reading of YHWH is as the
causative formof h ˆ ay ˆ ah, although this is not attested in classical Hebrew.
7
But whatever its original derivationmay be, YHWHas name of Godrichly
resonates with the opening verses of Genesis. Its occurrence in these pas-
sages fromExodus, where the concernis withthe liberationof Israel, sug-
gests a continuity between God’s act of creation, God’s compassionate,
liberating intervention in Israel’s history, and the performance of divine
speech which is the modality of divine presence with and for Israel.
8
Ac-
cordingly, God’s self-naming to Moses at this point represents a new and
fuller realisation of the mutuality of language that has been inaugurated
inthe Genesis narrative. It shapes Moses as one who‘speaks withGod’, and
it is important to note that God’s self-naming is also in a sense the nam-
ing of Moses, who discovers from God in this moment the names of his
ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who form his lineage. From now on
God speaks with Moses ‘face to face’ and knows him ‘by name’.
9
The ver-
bal phrase d ˆ ab ˆ ar

im, or ‘speaking with’, is infrequently attested inthe Old
Testament and is used almost exclusively to describe Moses’ encounter
with God at the granting of the commandments on Sinai (Exod. 19–20,
33–4).
10
It needs to be contrasted with d ˆ ab ˆ ar

el and d ˆ ab ˆ ar l

(‘speaking to’),
6. In his authoritative discussion of the philological issues which underlie this text, see
Roland de Vaux, ‘The Revelation of the Divine Name YHWH’, in John I. Durhamand J. R.
Porter, eds., Proclamation and Presence (London: SCMPress, 1970), pp. 48–75. His preferred
option is ‘I amHe who is.’ St ´ ephane Mos ` es reformulates the talmudic reading of Exod. 3:14
as signifying God’s liberating presence with his people in the phrase: ‘Dans la formule “Je serai
qui je serai” le pronomrelatif marque la distance qui ` a la fois s ´ epare et relie les deux p ˆ oles du
processus de R´ ev ´ elation l’un actif et l’autre passif, ou encore, l’un assumant une fonction
d’ ´ emetteur et l’autre de r ´ ecepteur’ (St ´ ephane Mos ` es, ‘ “Je serai qui je serai.” La r ´ ev ´ elation des
Noms dans le r ´ ecit biblique’, in Marco M. Olivetti, ed., Filosofia della Rivelazione (Padua: Casa
Editrice Dott. Antonio Milani, 1994), pp. 565–76; here p. 574).
7. It does occur in Aramaic, however. See de Vaux, ‘Revelation’, pp. 61–3.
8. See also notes 26 and 27 below.
9. Exod. 33:11–12.
10. For every usage of d ˆ ab ˆ ar

imin the Old Testament, see F. Brown, S. R. Driver and C. A.
Briggs, eds., AHebrewand English Lexicon of the Old Testament, s.v. 3, e. It is also used once to refer
to God speaking with Balaam(Num. 22:19), but the use of ‘speaking with’ is generally
reserved for Moses’ relation with God. The occurrence at Josh. 24:27 (NRSV: ‘all the words of
the Lord that he spoke to us’; LXX: pros h¯ emas) is in the context of remembrance of the
Covenant, as is Ezra’s reference to ‘speaking with’ in his National Confession (Neh. 9:13).
Gideon also uses ‘speaking with’ in his conversation with the angel, but his purpose is to
establish whether he is conversing with God or not: ‘If nowI have found favour with you,
then showme a sign that it is you who speak with (d ˆ ab ˆ ar

im) me’ (Judg. 6:17). The occurrence
in Hos. 12:4 comes in a passage that is notoriously unclear: ‘He strove with the angel and
prevailed, he wept and sought his favour; he met himat Bethel, and there he spoke with
him.’ The LXXcorrection of ‘with him’ to ‘with us’ shows the confusion over the subject of
80 The Creativity of God
whicharemoreusuallyusedof God’s address. Theencounter betweenGod
and Moses narrated in the Book of Exodus represents a new stage in the
realisation of a divine intimacy with the created order, therefore, and its
expression, the verbal phrase ‘speaking with’, is a linguistic inflection of
intensified mutuality and deepening creation.
But the Old Testament shows another form of participative speech,
which is the speech of prophets, and can be contrasted with that expe-
rienced by Moses. Moses himself is the supreme prophet, but still his
status is like no other. The distinction between Moses and the prophets
is itself the theme of a passage from Numbers (12:1–9), in which Aaron
and Miriam challenge the primacy of Moses: ‘“Has the Lord spoken only
throughMoses? Has he not spokenthroughus also?”’ (NRSV). The phrase
rendered as ‘speak through’ here is d ˆ ab ˆ ar b

, which has given commenta-
tors some food for thought. It can equally well mean ‘to speak against’,
‘to speak in’ or ‘to speak through’, the last two of which accord with the
immediate contexts of this passage in which the indwelling of God in
the speech of prophets is at issue. There is, however, a further possible
meaning of the phrase as ‘to speak to’, although this is uncommon in the
Old Testament (where, as noted above, the prepositions l

and especially

el are preferred).
11
God replies that whereas he speaks to the prophets
‘in visions’ and ‘in dreams’, he speaks to Moses ‘face to face – clearly not
in riddles’ (v. 8). Here again, the phrase d ˆ ab ˆ ar b

is used both of God’s
speaking to Miriam and Aaron, and to Moses, but the addition of ‘face
to face’ (literally ‘mouth to mouth’) suggests that God’s encounter with
Moses is rather an intimate speaking with him than to him, in contrast
with God’s address to Miriam and Aaron.
12
If the medium of God’s com-
munication with the latter is that of non-verbal visions and dreams, then
God communicates withMoses inwords, speaking withhimdirectly, and
thus ‘clearly’, so that he bears a unique authority to interpret God’s will.
Martin Noth has suggested that the meaning here is that they speak ‘as
the verbs in 4b. According to James L. Mays, the subject must be God (Hosea (London: SCM
Press, 1969), p. 164), but see also Hans Walter Wolff, Hosea, trans. G. Stansell (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1974), pp. 212–13, and James M. Ward, Hosea: a Theological Commentary (New
York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 210.
11. George Buchanan Gray suggests that it expresses ‘a closer and more intimate conversation
than l

and

el (G. B. Gray, ACritical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers (International
Critical Commentary; Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1903), pp. 122–3). It seems to have this sense
at Zech. 1:13 and 14, and possibly at Hab. 2:1.
12. Cf. Exod. 33:11 (‘face to face’), Deut. 34:10 (‘face to face’). The form‘mouth to mouth’ is
found also at Jer. 32:4 and 34:3, where it refers to an uncomfortably intimate encounter of
Zedekiah king of Judah with the king of Babylon.
Speech revealed 81
men of equal rank speak with another’.
13
Such an intimacy of communi-
cation entails a privileged knowledge of God, as signalled by the final line
of God’s reply to Miriam and Aaron that Moses ‘beholds the form of the
Lord’.
14
Prophetic activity is in general marked by the attendance of the Spirit
of God(accordingtoMoses), or bysome other divine signsuchas the ‘hand
of God’ (Ezekiel) or the ‘occurrence’ of the Word of God to the prophet
(Jeremiah).
15
In the case of Jeremiah, like Moses, his own natural speech
fails him, and for Balaam, prophetic speech seems forcibly to replace his
own natural words.
16
The role of the prophet is to act as vehicle for di-
vine interventions in the formation of Israel as the holy people of God.
Deborah gives inspired military advice to Barak in his struggle with King
Jabin of Canaan, while Samuel is at hand to anoint both Saul and David.
17
But Samuel will also berate Saul for his disobedience to the divine com-
mand, as Elijah rebukes King Ahab for his idolatry.
18
Prophets such as
Isaiah, Amos and Joel give voice to criticism of clerical practices, where
these seem purely ritualistic and are unaccompanied by a genuine per-
sonal devotion.
19
As commissioned guardians of the Covenant, they call
attentionto the discrepancy betweenthe divine caritative imperatives and
the actual practices of social and political life in Israel. Samuel calls upon
Israel to serve the Lord faithfully, while Isaiah instructs Israel to ‘seek jus-
tice, rescue the oppressed, defendthe orphan, pleadfor the widow’.
20
This
tradition is summed up by the eighth-century prophet Micah, who de-
clares to Israel: ‘[W]hat does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to
love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’
21
The prophetic theme entails a call to righteousness and the exercise of
an active compassion. Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Hosea give witness to the in-
timacy, self-sacrifice and struggles of faith in their own lives and Ezekiel –
like Moses – intercedes for Israel before God.
22
As a participation in the
divine speech, prophecy shows that the divine presence which is given
13. Martin Noth, Numbers. ACommentary (The Old Testament Library; London: SCMPress,
1968), p. 96.
14. Cf. Exod. 33:18–23. See also the statement that God knows Moses ‘by name’ (Exod. 33:
12, 17).
15. Num. 11:16–30; 1 Sam. 10:6; Ezek. 33:22; Isa. 8:11; Jer. 1:4; Hag. 1:1.
16. Exod. 4:10; Num. 23:1–12.
17. Judg. 4:4–24; 1 Sam. 10:1, 16:12–13.
18. 1 Sam. 15:10–35; 1 Kings 18:17–19.
19. Isa. 1:10–14; Amos 5:23–4; Joel 2:13.
20. 1 Sam. 12:24–5; Isa. 1:16–17.
21. Mic. 6:8.
22. Ezek. 11:13.
82 The Creativity of God
with language, and which is an intrinsic part of the divine creativity, is
itself structured as compassion. Not only does God’s self-naming in Ex-
odus take place within the context of God’s compassionate and liberat-
ing action on behalf of his people, but the human life which is lived out
within the Covenant is one which is orientated to the suffering other, to
the ‘widow, orphanandstranger’. The righteous, whoshall be blessed, are
‘gracious andcompassionate’, just as the Godof Exodus has revealedhim-
self to be ‘gracious and compassionate’, while those who fail to showsuch
compassionto the weakandvulnerable insociety must face God’s anger.
23
Furthermore, the prophetic voice contains a certain knowledge about the
operationof divine justice where the call torighteousness andcompassion
is not heeded. The true prophet is knownby his or her ability to tell the fu-
ture.
24
Andit is the prophets who warnIsrael of the impending ‘day of the
Lord’, when all shall be called to account for their actions.
25
The link between divine creativity, compassion, speech and presence
is repeatedly brought out in early rabbinic sources, in both Targum and
Midrash. Inthe former it is expressedthroughthe use of the divine Memra,
which is the hypostasised ‘speech’ or ‘word’ of God which is present dur-
ing the creation narrative from Genesis.
26
In the latter, the connection is
madethroughtheidentificationof YHWHas theappropriatenameof God
to be usedwhere God’s compassionis to be highlighted.
27
But there is also
a clear theological rationale at work in what we might call this fourfold
23. For the ‘graciousness’ and ‘compassion’ of God, see in particular Exod. 3:1–17, 33:19 and
34:6.
24. Deut. 18:15–22.
25. E.g. Zeph. 1:7.
26. See Peter Ochs, ‘Three Post-Critical Encounters with the Burning Bush’, in Stephen E.
Fowl, ed., The Theological Interpretation of Scripture. Classic and Contemporary Readings (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1997), pp. 129–42.
27. Two marginal glosses on Exod. 3:14 fromthe TargumCodex Neophiti exemplify the
connection between divine speech, presence-with, creativity and compassion:
First Gloss: ‘The Memra of the Lord said to Moses: He who said to the world: “Be”, and it
came into being, and who again will say to it: “Be”, and it will be. And he said: Thus shall
you say to the children of Israel: “WHOI AM(

HYH) has sent me.” ’
Second Gloss: ‘I have existed before the world was created and have existed after the world
has been created. I amhe who has been at your aid in the Egyptian exile, and I amhe who
will again be at your aid in every generation. And he said: Thus shall you say to the children
of Israel: “I AM(

HYH) sent me to you.” ’
(TargumNeofiti 1: Exodus, translated, with Introduction and Apparatus by Martin McNamara,
MSC (The Aramaic Bible 2; Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1994), p. 19; translation slightly
adapted).
We find the identification of the name YHWHwith God’s quality of compassion in the
passage fromthe Rabbah on Exodus (3:14):
Rabbi Abba bar Mammel said: God said to Moses: I amcalled according to my acts. At times I
amcalled El Shaddai, Seba

ot, Elohimand Yahweh. When I judge creatures, I amcalled
Speech revealed 83
unity. The linguistic structure of the cosmological institutionary narra-
tive inGenesis entails a deepeningmutualitybetweenGodandthe created
order, leading to blessing and command. This linguistic-creative process
of the Old Testament culminates in the conversation, or ‘speaking with’,
that takes place on Mount Sinai between God and Moses, who is to be
God’s agent in his intervention for the sake of his people. Divine presence
here is not exercised from outside language, by some sovereign and in-
dependent agent, but is rather enfolded within language which acquires
revelatory functions. Such an active penetration by God into the heart of
human history implies a particular structure of revelation, grounded in
the mutuality which inheres in language as such. By creating the world
through speech, God himself becomes part of that world, as a figure, or
voice, withinit as well as a divine author who stands outside it. This inter-
penetration of the world by God comes into view as a shared subjectivity
at the point where God first speaks with humanity in a way which entails
the use of ‘shifters’. Thus human beings come into existence as creatures
towhomit is giventopossess the subjectivity presupposedby the personal
pronouns (‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’, etc.), but this is also the point at which God al-
lows Godself to inhabit the same realmof personal speaking.
28
In making
of us an ‘I’, God too must become an ‘I’, and then also a ‘me’ (as receiver
of action). As a God whose speaking is originary and creative of the world,
God too must enter the realm of human speaking, acting and knowing.
This kenotic, revelatory movement is necessarily a saving moment, for the
divine presence of itself redeems and liberates as it enters and shapes the
human condition in a deepening creativity.
29
God’s own statement that
he is ‘gracious’ and‘compassionate’ inthe Exodus narratives, especially at
Exodus 3:1–17, 33:19 and 34:6, where there is a link with the divine name,
Elohim; when I forgive sins, I amcalled El Shaddai; when I wage war against the wicked, I
amcalled Seba

ot, and when I showcompassion for my world, I amcalled Yahweh.
(S. M. Lehrman, Midrash Rabbah iii (London: The Soncino Press, 1961), p. 64).
28. In his Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), Nicholas
Wolterstorff offers a discerning account of ‘the claimthat God speaks’. But the sharp
distinction which Wolterstorff makes between ‘revelation’ and ‘speaking’ (Chapter two:
‘Speaking is not Revealing’) in terms of the human world tends to exclude the significance of
the Genesis narrative as establishing the institutory or originary nature of divine speaking as
ground of the world in which God also ‘speaks’.
29. Paul Ricoeur captures this well in his comment ‘we can affirmthat the theology of
Creation constitutes neither an appendix to the theology of Redemption nor a separate
theme. The always-already-there of Creation does not make sense independently of the
perpetual futurity of Redemption. Between the two is intercalated the eternal nowof the
“you, love me!”’ (‘Thinking Creation’, in Andr ´ e LaCocque and Paul Ricoeur, Thinking
Biblically. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies (Chicago and London: University of Chicago
Press, 1998), p. 67).
84 The Creativity of God
points tothedeeplogic of this divineself-communicationandsummarises
its content.
Trinitarian speech
The third stage in the unfolding of the linguistic institution of creation
comes with the Incarnation. At this point God, who already uses the ‘I’,
enters fully into the linguistic world by himself becoming an embodied
speech agent among other speech agents. The hypostatic union entails
the full realisation of God in the world as an ‘I’ and thus also as a ‘me’,
whereby God becomes himself fully the object of others’ actions. In the
person of Christ, God speaks with us, as we do with him. This pivotal rev-
elatory movement bears the marks of the Genesis–Exodus account of the
creation in that Jesus Christ is recognised as ‘the compassion of God’. The
personandactivity of Jesus of Nazarethis repeatedly linkedinthe Gospels
withthe Greekwords splanchna andsplanchnizomai whichtranslate the Old
Testament rah
.
mîm(compassion) and rah
.
am(to showcompassion) respec-
tively. Jesus is ‘the compassion of the mercy of our God’ (Lk. 1:78), and
he shows active compassion when he teaches, feeds the hungry, heals and
raises the dead.
30
As the Wordof Godutteredto humanity, Jesus is also the
realisation of the divine compassion.
Viewed against the background of the Mosaic dialogue in which God
speaks with Moses ‘mouth to mouth’, the structure of the hypostatic
union is that of the closing of the communicative distance between God
and Moses, however intimate, so that now, in Jesus Christ, God and hu-
manity speak with a single voice. So fashioned is the human nature of
Christ by the divine nature, so internalised within the divine speech dy-
namic, that nowGodinhabits the voice of the man, Jesus, andJesus inhab-
its the voice of God, in a radically new coexistence of person and speech.
The ‘envoicing’ of Jesus by God is manifested in the many passages from
the Gospel of John in which the authority of Jesus is at issue: ‘Do you not
believe that I aminthe Father andthe Father is inme? The words that I say
to youI do not speak onmy own; but the Father who dwells inme does his
works.’
31
30. Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mk 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Lk. 7:13. These terms are used only
of Jesus himself or of figures in three separate parables who represent divine forgiveness and
mercy (Matt. 18:23–35; Lk. 10:25–37; 15:11–32).
31. Jn 14:10.
Speech revealed 85
The unity of the human and divine voice conveys a communication by
God to humanity which is so perfect that the recipient of the revelation
of God – which is to say, the human nature of Jesus – is permeated by
and made one with the divine life.
32
Tradition expresses this in terms of
homoousios and the Chalcedonian unity of the two natures in the person
Jesus. The Incarnation is not just revelation by virtue of its content but
is itself the supreme form of revelation as such, where revelation is un-
derstood to be something revealed by one to another. It has moreover two
consequences. On the one hand, it leads to the unity of Jesus and God ex-
pressed in the single voice, while on the other it leads to the emergence
of a plurality of divine voices, as the Trinity unfolds in history. Through
the new oneness of God and humanity, the Threeness of God comes into
view. And the speaking with returns not as a mode of dialogue between
God and humanity (Moses) but as a mode of conversation between God
and God, which becomes the content of God’s speaking in Jesus. In other
words, what is revealed in the Incarnation of the Word is itself a mode of
speaking: a polyphonic, inner-Trinitariandiscourse of total transparency,
communication and surrender.
Just as the Old Testament is substantially structured around the di-
vine disclosures throughthe prophets concerningIsrael’s histories andfu-
tures, the New Testament narrative is built around a dialogue or conver-
sation between Father and Son, in which the Spirit too plays a vital role.
The speaking of Father and Son with each other occurs at critical points
intheGospel narrative, insofar as their unfoldingrelationis itself integral
to the Gospel drama and divine speech is itself central to that rela-
tion. Thus we can in a sense say that while divine speaking through
the prophets shaped the history of Israel as God’s people, in the
New Testament history itself is taken up into the redemptive drama of di-
vine speech, in and through Father, Son and Spirit.
Father and Son
Speech between the Father and Son in the Synoptic tradition is divided
into two groups of texts: the affirmations of baptism and transfigura-
tion on the one hand and the tortured speech of the Passion narrative, at
Gethsemane and on the Cross, on the other.
33
In the former the emphasis
32. See below, pp. 122–8, for a discussion of the redemptive and sacrificial characteristics
of this unity.
33. The exception to this is the development of divine speech in the Johannine tradition,
where the communication of the Father and the Son takes on a more fully conversational
86 The Creativity of God
is upon the Father who speaks with the Son (although Jesus’ life is one of
prayer to the Father), while in the latter it is the Son’s speaking with the
Father that comes to the fore. The baptismof Jesus plays a particularly im-
portant role in signalling the new dispensation. It marks the beginning
of Jesus’ ministry, andinall three Synoptic Gospels immediately precedes
the account of the temptations of Jesus whichare associated withhis mes-
sianic mission.
34
John recognises in Jesus his successor who is to baptise
not with water but in the Holy Spirit.
35
The first sign of that new dispen-
sationis the descent of the Spirit uponJesus, as he rose out of the waters af-
ter his baptismby John, followedby the soundingof a voice ‘fromheaven’.
The symmetry of Jesus’ upward movement and the downward movement
of the Spirit which we find in Mark and Matthewis replaced in the Lucan
account by a reference to Jesus’ act of prayer, following his baptism. Al-
though we are not told anything about the content of that prayer, we may
assume that it was addressedtothe Father andthat Jesus therefore was im-
plicitly ‘raising his voice to heaven’. In neither version, however, is there
anything of the sense of a radical intrusion such as we tend to find in the
commissioning narratives of the prophets. Rather, the emphasis is upona
pre-existingmutuality, of whichthe baptismof Jesus is anexpression. The
pericope differs fromcommissioning narratives also inthat the descent of
theSpirit andthesoundingof thedivinevoicearecloselylinkedwithinthe
narrative structure of all three accounts. Both are symmetrically aligned
with Jesus’ rising fromthe water, or with his prayer, and both come ‘from
heaven’. The visibility of the Spirit, intensified in Luke by the phrase ‘in
bodily form like a dove’, and the sounding of the divine voice, together
suggest a coinherence of the Third Person with the Father’s act of com-
munication with the Son.
In the Father’s words ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am
well pleased’ (Matthew: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am
well pleased’),
36
whichconclude the baptismnarrative, the OldTestament
form(see the Lazarus episode in which the speech of the Father is silent, and the pericope
narrated at Jn 12:27–36, in which Jesus says to the Father ‘Father, glorify your name’).
34. Matt. 3:13–7; Mk 1:9–11; Lk. 3:21–2.
35. In the account of the descent of the Spirit given in the Gospel of John (1:32–4), the motif of
the baptismhas disappeared, as has the sounding of the voice of God.
36. Lk. 3:22; Mk 1:11; Matt. 3:17. In Luke and Mark the syntax allows the alternative reading:
‘You are my beloved Son. . . ’, which may be preferable (I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke
(NIGTC; Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), p. 156 and John Nolland, Luke 1–9:20 (Word Biblical
Commentary 35A; Dallas, Texas: Word Books), 1989, p. 164). The text also supports the sense
‘You are my only Son. . . ’, a common construction in the Septuagint.
Speech revealed 87
theme of adoption into a filial relationship with God (cf. Ps. 2:7) is evoked
together with the ‘servant of God’ motif as developed in Isaiah 42:1–
9.
37
The latter conveys the intense and intimate affirmation in a mo-
ment of divine election, expressed in the bestowing of the Spirit upon
God’s servant.
38
In the Septuagint, the phrase eudok¯ esa en often has the
sense of ‘to take pleasure or delight in’, translating the Hebrew verb
r ˆ as
.
ˆ ah.
39
The Greek verb also has a volitional and social force, however,
and can mean ‘to consent to’ as well as conveying the sense of ‘elec-
tion’.
40
At this point, the Father’s spoken affirmation of his Son, en-
acting his relational and affective ‘delighting in’, sets out a histori-
cal and social reality between Father and Son based upon election and
consensus.
41
In the account of the transfiguration of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels,
the Father reiterates his affirmation of the Son, but in this case the con-
text is more explicitly one of continuity with Old Testament tradition.
42
In Exodus we are told that the glory of the Lord rested on Sinai for six
days, and that the voice spoke to Moses on the seventh day.
43
This typol-
ogy may underlie the opening of the transfiguration accounts in Mark
and Matthew, which state that it occurred after six days (although Luke
prefers eight days). Similarly, Moses’ three companions on Mount Sinai –
Aaron, Nadab and Abihu – are perhaps a type of Jesus’ three companions
on Mount Tabor: Peter, James and John. Matthew tells us that Jesus’ ‘face
shone like the sun’, recalling Moses’ shining face when he descended to
37. Ps. 2:7: ‘I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have
begotten you.”’
38. Isa. 42:1 differs fromthe baptismof Jesus however in that the word pais (‘servant’) is used
and not huios (‘son’), and we do not find eudok¯ esa for ‘delights in’ (as in the three Synoptic
accounts) but the weaker prosedexato (‘welcome’ or ‘accept’). The quotation of this same
passage fromIsaiah in Matt. 12:18 substitutes eudok¯ esa for prosedexato, by assimilation perhaps
to Matt. 3:17.
39. Gottlob Schrenk, Theological Dictionary of the NewTestament, vol. ii, p. 738.
40. Ibid., ii pp. 739–40.
41. The use of the aorist here may be ‘equivalent to a Hebrewstative perfect, expressing God’s
continuing delight in his Son’ (see MatthewBlack, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts
(3rd edn, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 128–9.). But see also Joel Marcus, who
sees here a prior election of Jesus by the Father which is ‘ratified at the baptism’ (Joel Marcus,
Mark 1–8 (The Anchor Bible; NewYork: Doubleday, 1999), p. 163). For a more general
discussion of the background to the baptismof Jesus, see A. Feuillet, ‘Le bapt ˆ eme de J ´ esus’,
Revue Biblique 71 (1964), 321–51.
42. Matt. 17:1–13; Mk 9:2–8; Lk. 9:28–36. The transfiguration itself does not find a place in the
Gospel of John, perhaps because of a potential clash with the Johannine development of the
theme of glorification.
43. Exod. 24:16.
88 The Creativity of God
the people from Sinai.
44
In the Lucan account Moses himself speaks with
Jesus about his forthcoming ‘departure’ (exodus) fromJerusalem, together
with Elijah, suggesting that Jesus fulfils both the Lawand the prophets.
45
The voice that sounds from the cloud again recalls Sinai. The Father’s fi-
nal affirmation of the Son in the words ‘This is my Son, the Beloved’, fol-
lowed in Matthew by ‘with him I am well pleased’ (Luke has only ‘This
is my Son, my Chosen’),
46
closely links this pericope with the baptism of
Jesus, matching the Mosaic backgroundwiththe messianic motifs of filial
adoption and the ‘servant of God’ theme.
The baptism–transfiguration nexus sets out the principle that the
Father speaks in affirmation of the Son, whose very existence as Son and
as beloved of the Father is made manifest by the Father’s acts of speaking
with Jesus. As we turn to the Passion narrative, however, it is the voice of
the Son that we hear, struggling with fear at what is to come. In the ac-
count of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane from all three of the
Synoptic Gospels, Jesus prays fervently, ina highly agitatedstate, andcalls
out (inMatthew’s version) ‘MyFather, if it is possible, let this cuppass from
me; yet not what I want but what youwant.’
47
Thethemeof Jesus’ isolation
is stressed as the disciples fail to be with him in his need, and the passage
is resonant with apocalyptic tones concerning the coming ‘hour’. Jesus’
isolation is intensified by the absence of an answer from God in contrast
with the earlier affirmations, and by the imagery of the ‘cup’, which is the
Old Testament ‘cup of staggering’ or ‘cup of wrath’ that God in his anger
gives his errant people to drink.
48
Here Jesus is taking upon himself more
than the threat of physical death, for it is to be a death which expresses
humanity’s alienation fromGod.
The sense of Jesus’ isolation becomes yet more intense in the crucifix-
ion passages which follow. In this case it is the silence of the Father which
represents the dramatic culmination of the Son’s sense of loss and aban-
donment. Jesus’ cry ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ is a
quotation from Psalm 22:1, which is shaped around the Father’s silence
44. Exod. 34:29–35.
45. On the senses of the word exodus as ‘departure’ and ‘death’, as well as its resonances with
the historical Exodus, see Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, pp. 384–5.
46. Luke’s preferred word eklelegmenos (chosen, elected) recalls the use of eklektos in the
Septuagint to describe Moses, David and the suffering servant. Cf. Ps. 106:23; 89:19–20; Isa.
42:1.
47. Matt. 26:39.
48. Ps. 60:3, Isa. 51:17, 22. See pot ¯ erion in the Theological Dictionary of the NewTestament. See also
R. Le D´ eaut, ‘Gouter le calice de la mort’, Biblica 43 (1962), 82–6 and H. A. Brongers, “Der
Zornsbecher”, Oudtestamentische Studi ¨ en 15 (1969), 177–92.
Speech revealed 89
and which brings that silence before us.
49
Within the semiotics of the
Old Testament, the silence of the Father is a deeply resonant motif.
50
The
Psalmist pleads with God not to ‘remain silent’ and far away, for if God is
silent, then he may die.
51
Death itself is imaged as silence.
52
And in Isaiah,
God’s silence is identifiedwithhis wrathtowards Israel: ‘Why do youkeep
silent andpunishus so severely?’
53
The silence of the Father inthe context
of the Cross suggests therefore that the Son’s experience of abandonment
is an extension of the ‘cup of wrath’ metaphor of Gethsemane.
But we find a further semiotics of divine silence in the distinction be-
tweenGod ‘falling silent’, as anexpressionof his anger and removal of his
favour within a specific situation, and the possibility that God will with-
drawhis speechaltogether, thus annulling his original creative act. Sucha
silence, as Job knows, would mean cosmic annihilation: ‘If he should take
back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would
perishtogether, andall mortals returnto dust.’
54
The threat that God’s si-
lence as passing wrath might become cosmic silence, and thus the whole-
sale destruction of all that is, is intrinsic to the eschatological terror of the
later prophets, who form such an important element in the apocalyptic
background to the story of Jesus.
55
In the context of Jesus’ speaking rela-
tionwithGod, we must say, then, that the Sonexperiences inhis abandon-
ment both the divine silence which signals personal death and the silence
which speaks the end of creation.
56
Spirit
Father and Son both play the role of speech agent in the New Testament
texts surveyed above. The same cannot be said of the Spirit, however, who
is not after all personified as a figure who speaks (in contrast with a father
49. Matt. 27:46; Mk 15:34. Luke has ‘‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk.
23:46), which is a quotation fromPs. 31:5.
50. For a discussion of the specific terminology of silence in the Old Testament (h
.
ˆ ar ˆ e ˇ s, h
.
ˆ aˇ s ˆ ah,
d ˆ amam), see my ‘Soundings: towards a Theological Poetics of Silence’, in Oliver Davies and
Denys Turner, eds., Silence and the Word (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002),
pp. 201–22 (here pp. 204–8).
51. Ps. 35:22; 28:1.
52. Ps. 115:17: ‘The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence.’ See also
Job 13:19: ‘For who is there that will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die.’
53. Isa. 64:12. In Ps. 83:1 it is seen as a divine refusal to destroy the enemies of Israel.
54. Job 34:14–15. Speech is linked with life and the Holy Spirit in Job at 27:3–4 and 33:3–4
(cf. Gen. 2:7).
55. See also Zeph. 1:7: ‘Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand.’
56. Matthewmay be drawing out this apocalyptic motif in his account of the earthquakes and
rending of the Temple veil (27:51). See the following chapter for a further discussion of this
theme.
90 The Creativity of God
and a son). This raises the significant theoretical issue that the speech re-
lationoutlinedabove is fundamentally a dialogical one, whereas the argu-
ment I have proposedconcerningthe newdispensationis that the unity of
human and divine voice in Jesus releases the threefold structure of divin-
ity which can therefore be designated as ‘triadic’ or ‘Trinitarian speech’.
But the Spirit is nevertheless fundamental tothe communicationbetween
Father and Son. The Spirit plays a central role in facilitating the Incarna-
tion by ‘overshadowing’ Mary, and thus establishes the foundational con-
text for the conversation between Father and Son (no speech act can take
place outside a particular spatio-temporal context which allows it to hap-
pen). Ina passage fromthe Gospel of John, the Spirit-Pneuma becomes the
breath of Jesus and as such is the mediumof his communication with the
Father (speech requires breath and air to carry sound).
57
Further, the con-
versation between Father and Son is open and public, and is itself reve-
lation. Here the Spirit is the principle of communicability, whereby the
words of Father and Son, and of the Father in the Son, are made avail-
able to the world (conversation is inherently open, or ‘voyaging’, within
the speech community at large, and is frequently shared out through so-
cial relations becomingpart of the broader cultural formations).
58
Indeed,
one of the chief functions of the Spirit is to intercept and break open the
conversationof Father andSonina movement whichRowanWilliams has
referred to as ‘deflected love’, universalising their relation of dialogical
intimacy.
59
It is primarily withthe thirdcategory, the Spirit as facilitator of human
participationinthe divine conversations, that we shall be concerned here.
At the heart of the Passion is the divine silence between Father and Son
which – in the context of the creativity of divine speech – has cosmic sig-
nificance. But the new pneumatic speech of Pentecost springs from this
silence and signals a renewed intervention of the creativity of God as re-
demption. The presence of the Spirit in the roomas a ‘sound like the rush
of a violent wind’ and ‘divided tongues, as of fire’ marks the possibility of
a newkind of human speech which is responsive to and integrated within
57. Jn 20:22.
58. Cf. Jn 16:13–15: ‘for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he
will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is
mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will
take what is mine and declare it to you.’
59. Dialogical relations contain an implicit tendency towards narcissismand mutual
gratification; see Rowan Williams, ‘The Deflections of Desire: Negative Theology in
Trinitarian Disclosure’, in Davies and Turner, eds., Silence and the Word, pp. 115–35.
Speech revealed 91
the triadic, life-giving speech of God.
60
Immediately following the de-
scent of the Spirit, Peter preaches to the crowd, reminding them of God’s
promise to pour out his Spirit ‘upon all flesh’.
61
Preaching itself is part of
this new kind of Christian speaking in which – through the Spirit – the
voice of the one whopreaches is itself informedandshapedby the one who
is preached about. The Letter to the Romans depicts a new kind of life in
the Spirit since the Church lives ‘in the Spirit’, who gives ‘life and peace’,
and not in the flesh.
62
The Spirit puts to death ‘the deeds of the body’,
and manifests also as a distinctive kind of Christian prayer ‘bearing wit-
ness’ when we cry ‘Abba! Father!’
63
According to Galatians 4:4–7, we have
become the children of God: ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our
hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So youare no longer a slave but a child, and
if a child then also an heir, through God.’ It is the Spirit that supports us
in our weakness, when we do not ‘knowhowto pray as we ought’, since it
intercedes for us ‘with sighs too deep for words’.
64
TheLetter totheEphesians depicts thetransformedspeechof theSpirit
in terms of praise, celebration and the social construction of the commu-
nity. The Holy Spirit is linked with the praise of God’s glory that follows
upon the new life of redemption; the unifying Spirit gives both Jew and
gentile access to the Father; the Spirit reveals the mystery of Christ to the
holy apostles and prophets; the Spirit grounds the love and peace which
is the unity of the Church.
65
Furthermore, the Spirit is grieved by dis-
sension and evil talk and Christians are urged to say only ‘what is useful
for building up’, ‘obscene, silly and vulgar talk’ must be replaced with
‘thanksgiving’, the ‘empty words’ of those who wish to deceive are to be
eschewed, and the saints of Ephesus are to ‘pray in the Spirit at all times
in every prayer and supplication’.
66
They are especially to pray for the au-
thor himself so that a message may be given to him ‘to make known with
boldness the mystery of the gospel’.
67
The theme of the newkindof pneu-
matic speech which extends throughout these verses reaches a climax in
60. Acts 2:1–3. For the image of the wind, cf. Ezek. 37:9–14 and Jn 3:8. For the image of fire, cf.
Exod. 3:2–12. Matthewand Luke both report the prophecy of John the Baptist that one will
come who baptises ‘in the Holy Spirit and in fire’ (Matt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16).
61. Joel 2:28. This parallels the way in which, according to Luke, Jesus preaches in the
synagogue soon after the Spirit descended upon himat his baptism(Lk. 4:16–30).
62. Rom. 8:9; 8:6.
63. Rom. 8:13; 8:15.
64. Rom. 8:26.
65. Eph. 1:12–4; 2:18; 3:5; 4:2–4.
66. Eph. 4:29–30; 5:4; 5:6; 6:18.
67. Eph. 6:19.
92 The Creativity of God
the motif of being ‘filledwiththe Spirit’ as the Christians of Ephesus ‘sing
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ amongst themselves, ‘singing
and making melody to the lord’ in their hearts, ‘giving thanks to God
the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ’.
68
Conclusion
The semiotic systemoutlinedinthese sections is one whichstands instark
contrast with what we might call the Greek tendency, which is also well
represented in the modern age, and which likes to abstract presence from
language. This is to make the speechagent prior andto consider language
as an expressive instrument for the communication of ideas that reside
within the mind of the speaker. In Augustine’s On the Trinity, for instance,
we findjust suchananalysis of language as that whichconnects the world
and the mind. There Augustine argued that the capacity of words accu-
rately to describe the world is itself grounded ultimately in the unity of
the Trinity. Words depict the world truly where they correctly order the
relationship between the ideas in the mind of the one who speaks and the
essences of those things which are spoken about, as unity in diversity.
69
This later became enshrined in the formula nomen-ratio-res of the scholas-
tics. This model in various forms has predominated in the Western tradi-
tion, with its characteristic emphasis upon the control of language by a
reasoning subject, and it is only in the modern period with the work, for
instance, of LudwigWittgenstein, MauriceMerleau-Pontyandthespeech-
act theorists, that alternative linguistic paradigms have come to the
fore.
70
The Old and New Testament texts which I have surveyed support a
different kind of semiotics, which is one of linguistic self-presencing,
whereby subjectivity and sound are fused as voice and divine voice goes
before, forming the ground that constitutes the givenness of the world.
This is toplace anenormous emphasis uponthe originary character of lan-
guage. To adapt a phrase fromMerleau-Ponty, language precedes us as an
‘element’ inwhichwe come toour ownlinguistic self-realisation. Interms
of this reading of our biblical texts, the prior nature of human speaking
68. Eph. 5:18–20.
69. De trinitate, ix, 12–15 and xiv, 19–20.
70. Wittgenstein begins his Philosophical Investigations with a critique of Augustine’s theory of
language as given in the Confessiones, i, 8.
Speech revealed 93
embedded in those texts is itself preceded by an originary divine speak-
ingwhichsets upconditions for the former that determine its true realisa-
tions. The most primary character of that speaking, whichis the creativity
of God, orders human speech, and with it all the semiotic manifestations
of human life in terms of culture, praxis and belief, as well as divine inter-
ventions, such as theophany (‘speaking with’ – leading to law-giving and
Covenant), prophecy and proclamation (‘God speaks in or through us’),
and Incarnation (‘speaking in or as’) or Spirit-filled speech (‘we speak in
God’).
The refusal of a subjectivity outside language does not, however, entail
the eradication of agency as such; rather it envisages it as shaped by the
plural structures of language itself. For God to speak, is for God to ‘come
into existence’ as a subjectivity within language who is set in relation –
by God’s own granting – with those who are spoken to, or with, or about,
and whose own ‘voice’ and subjectivity is interactively grounded in and
informed by the divine speaking. This is an ‘open’ speech in the most rad-
ical sense of the term: it is speech of ‘opening’. And the presence of God
as enfolded within that speech-relation is itself an opening out to pres-
ences of the others who are themselves, according to the Genesis–Exodus
paradigm, co-constitutedby the originary creative speechof God. Inother
words, the model of revelation in operation here is that of language itself.
The very phenomenon of language entails such an openness, as a condi-
tion which precedes any specific utterance or action towards others. But
where the one who speaks is God, whose utterance is the very institution
of bothlanguage andworld, we must alsoobserve a certainact of descent, a
kenotic self-emptying, whichallows the co-positingof creator andcreated
withinthe same fieldor domainof language. This is already impliedinthe
linguistic model of revelation, where language is understood to be intrin-
sically plural, and the repeated preference for the terminology of compas-
sionas a primary, or perhaps the primary, name of God– as Godof Exodus
andinthe Personof Christ – is the dramatic andcosmic unfoldingof what
is already richly present in the institutive narrative of the opening verses
of Genesis.
It is precisely this enfoldingof subjectivity withinlanguage as a modal-
ityof self-presence whichunderlies the coincidence of speechandcompas-
sion which we find repeatedly in scriptural texts. God’s speech is God’s
compassion, since speech is always a ‘speaking with’ and for ‘speaking
with’ to be perfect as divine ‘speaking with’ must be, then the one who re-
ceives thedivinespeechmust themselves beperfectedas aninterlocutor: as
94 The Creativity of God
a conversationpartner ina sense equal withGod. It is this structure which
is apparent in the process of linguistic creation which I have traced in
Genesis and which culminates in the granting of the commandments and
the establishing– throughGod’s speakingwithMoses – of the Israelites as
a people covenantedwithGodandfundamentallyshapedbyhis ‘gracious-
ness’ and ‘compassion’. In our texts this ‘speaking with’ attains its fullest
realisation in the triadic speech which is opened up to us in the Person of
Christ, and in the dynamic process of ‘envoicing’ which I have preferred
here to the conventional Christological terminology of the two ‘natures’.
As one who speaks with the Father in the Spirit and in whom the Father
speaks also with us, in the Spirit, and who speaks with us and with the
Father, in the same Spirit, and in whom we speak both with the Father
and with each other, again in the Spirit, the single, wholly distinctive and
personal voice of Jesus Christ – as the speaking compassionof God– is the
dynamic and redemptive intersection of the divine and human order.
5
Spirit and Letter
Primumprincipiumfecit mundumistumsensibilemad declarandum
se ipsum, videlicet ad hoc quod per illumtanquamper speculumet
vestigiumreduceretur homo in Deumartificemamandumet
laudandum. Et secundumhoc duplex est liber, unus scilicet scriptus
intus, qui est aeterna Dei ars et sapientia; et alius scriptus foris,
mundus scilicet sensibilis.
The first Principle created this perceptible world as a means of
self-revelation so that, like a mirror of God or a divine footprint, it
might lead human kind to love and praise the Creator. And so there are
two books, one written within, which is God’s eternal Art and Wisdom,
while the other is written without, and that is the perceptible world.
St Bonaventure, Breviloquium
The presence of God within the creation, as the one whose speaking is the
origin of the creation, sets the parameters for a distinctively Christian un-
derstandingof language, worldandsign. This is a model whichproposes a
double operationof divine language. Inthe first place divine speechis that
whichinstitutes the world. The world, of whichwe are a part, must there-
fore be constituted as a domain of signs whereby things created point to
the divine creativity as the source of their existence. This is not the scholas-
tic principle of the likeness between cause and effect, with its origins in
Aristotelian science, which formed the theoretical basis of medieval anal-
ogy, but is governed – as I shall argue – by a relation which is analogous
to that which obtains between voice and text. That which was spoken by
God speaks the Creator, as a text bodies forth its author’s voice. In lin-
guistic terms therefore the things that constitute the world can be said
to refer, in both a primary and a secondary sense. The secondary referents
[95]
96 The Creativity of God
are those other things that belong with them and that together form the
world. The primary referent, to which the world as a whole can be said to
refer, is the creativity of God, which is the site of the world’s own origina-
tion. But our scriptural texts also communicate a second operation of lan-
guage which intersects with reference. This is the mode of address, which
is implicit in all language but which becomes explicit in the commands
and blessings of Genesis 1.
1
It is the ‘speaking with’ of Moses’ encounter
with God on Mount Sinai which is the fullest expression of this structure
inthe OldTestament. The Incarnationitself canbe seentocontinue andto
intensify this theme with the complete closure of the hermeneutical dis-
tance betweenthe divine andhumanvoice sothat bothvoices become one:
Jesus Christ speaks both as a human being and as God. In him there is a
complex simultaneity of speech since in him God speaks with God, God
speaks with humanity, and humanity with God. So intense is the mode
of divine address here that God speaks with his creation, and with hu-
manity, from the centre of the created order: from within the domain of
signs. It is this that forms the first principle of Christian semiotics: in the
light of creation through Christ, the sign which refers can become, must
become, also address. Christian semiotics has to take account of the inti-
mate connection between the world as product of divine speech, signify-
ing its source, and the divine speech itself as it breaks through the created
order and speaks with us directly. This is a unity finally predicated on the
role of Christ in the creation, a theme which enjoys ample scriptural war-
rant, and whichmust stand at the heart of the Christianunderstanding of
the sign.
2
If the first principle of Christian semiotics is the joint axis of reference
and address, then the second is that the voice which speaks is itself a plu-
rality, or triad of voices, in a simultaneity of speech identity and speech
distinction. This emphasis upon the Word as conversation critiques tra-
ditional applications of the verbal metaphor of Incarnation which charac-
teristically stress the expressive qualities of language, from the perspec-
tive of a pragmatic linguistics which highlights its dynamic, interactive
1. All linguistic signs combine a referential with an addressive function, whereas natural
signs (which is to say, objects in the world) are rarely said to address us in any way. Within
Judaeo-Christian tradition, however, natural signs can also be addressive since they are
understood to be constituted by the divine speech (cf. the Hebrewhomonymdabar-dabar,
meaning both ‘thing’ and ‘word’). For a fuller discussion of reference and address, see my
article ‘The Sign Redeemed: towards a Christian Fundamental Semiotics’, Modern Theology
19.2 (April 2003), 219–241 (especially 227–30).
2. E.g. Jn 1:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:6.
Spirit and Letter 97
and social nature. What is revealed to us then in Father, Son and Spirit, is
the outline of a triadic, Trinitarian conversation, but it is revealed in such
a way that we can ourselves participate in it. It is opened out or disclosed
to us, not only as a divine speaking-to but also a divine speaking-with. In
other words, the Son’s speakingwiththe other TrinitarianPersons is com-
municated as an address to us but in such a way that the content of the
address is that same speaking-with.
And at this point a third principle of Christian semiotics appears, a
theme which was alluded to briefly in the preceding chapter. It is appar-
ent that divine speech in the New Testament is structured around frag-
ments of a conversation between Father and Son. The Spirit stands apart
from these in so far as the Spirit is not itself figured as a speech agent
and does not itself address; rather we have seen that the Spirit is the un-
derlying ground of the communicability which inheres in conversation
and which makes it possible. The linguistic model has at its centre a dis-
junction, therefore, between the Christian affirmation of the full equal-
ity of the three Persons and the fact that Father and Son appear to have
a certain priority as speech-agents. Dialogism is not Trinitarianism. This
serves to remind us, however, that God is realised within the creation in
the modality of God-for-us rather thanGod-in-Godself. The imperfection
of that image, expressedina certaininequalityof the Persons, results from
the nature of the created order. If we are to reflect upon the Trinity in
its uncreated immanence, then the linguistic model must be thought to
an extreme such that the domain of world itself becomes personified as
the Third Person: speech, conversation, address and reference are all sub-
sumed into a single triadic act of divine communication which contains
all that is. From that – divine – perspective the ‘outer’ domain is itself a
moment within the ‘inner’ domain and, as such, is nothing other than
the Trinity itself. The consequences of this disjunction between triadic
equality of the Persons and the dialogism inherent in a Father–Son rela-
tion, are both necessary and profound. The model itself reminds us that
it is a model and is a representation of something which is beyond our
capacity to understand. But if we do not attempt to hold this reality be-
fore our minds, then – as Karl Rahner warned – the economic Trinity be-
comes a type of myth, detachedfromits groundinthe uncreatedlife of the
Godhead.
3
If we forget the dialectic of divine transcendence and imma-
nence whichplays eventhroughGod’s self-representations, thenGodwill
3. Karl Rahner, The Trinity (Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates, 1970), pp. 31–3.
98 The Creativity of God
be for us no more than a character in God’s own text. And indeed, it is the
Holy Spirit, with its characteristic subversion of boundaries, between the
human and divine realm, between human and divine speech, which testi-
fies to the ultimate and eschatological unity of world and Creator.
The model of the text
Pre-modern conceptions of creation tended to turn either on Platonic
forms of participatory exemplarism or upon the Aristotelian principle
that the likeness of the cause is visible in the effect. The principle of ef-
ficient reason, which is one of the critical elements in the emergence of
the modern world-view, postulates no such symmetry: causality for us is
a generally random collision of forces rather than the interaction of sub-
stances within a divinely ordained natural world. It does not make sense
for us today to ask in what way the effects of gravity themselves reflect
the nature of gravity, since gravity does not of itself have a nature. The at-
tempt to construct a modern understanding of how the created order re-
lates to its creator in fact requires an act of radical translation. Above all,
a new mechanism of relation between the created world and the Creator
needs to be established which does not fall victim to pre-modern systems
of thought, suchas the likeness of cause andeffect or a causalitypredicated
on participation.
4
Such a move also needs to be made in the clear awareness that we are
not describing the generation of the physical universe. That is better left
to scientists. What we are doing is unfolding from Scripture, in dialogue
with certain kinds of modern thinking, an account of what it is to live in
a world which is fundamentally ordered to God as Creator and in which
therefore the divine creativityis manifest. The emphasis here is uponseek-
ing to draw out the rich coherence of the Christian revelation in terms of
theological dimensions whichhave sufferedserious neglect inthe modern
periodonaccount either of a Christianreluctance to engage withthe issue
at all or of a desire among theologians to reconcile the data of Christian
revelation with the findings and perspectives of natural science. But as we
4. It is not enough to act as if we live in a participated or allegorical world, for that is only to
substitute a modern relativismfor what was in its own time a thoroughly realistic manner of
belief. Although the object or data of belief may be the same, the manner of its believing will
not be. The harnessing of a modern linguistic relativismfor the purposes of a return to the
medieval world-viewwill produce a hybrid model which is neither authentically medieval
nor authentically modern.
Spirit and Letter 99
sawin the Introduction, such a reconciliation, while offering valuable in-
sights, can only be partial and tentative, and will tend to fall short of pro-
viding the kind of conceptual life-world which is presupposed in Scrip-
ture and which was so richly developed in their own terms by the major
pre-modern systematic theologians.
5
The identification of a religious account of the origin of the world
with a scientific one, which was particularly characteristic of Augustine’s
use of Genesis for instance, cannot be part of such a theological develop-
ment of the creation in the contemporary world. But this need not be a
matter of undue concern. The core of scriptural belief about the world is
that God speaks with us through it. It is not extraneous or additional to
him; rather God is implicated inthe world order at the most fundamental
level. As we look upon the world, and use its fruits, we find that we are al-
ready set in relation with God, who is inchoately present in the ground of
our relatingwiththe worldandwiththose withwhomwe share the world.
Questions to do with God’s ownership of the world – implied in much of
the current literature concerningGodandphysical cosmology – or indeed
to do withthe compatibility of Christianbelief withthe rationalismof sci-
entific discourse are not, for all their intrinsic interest and value, particu-
larly germane to the deeper theological issue of howwe are to understand
the nature of the God–world relation on the basis of the eschatological
decision to live our lives out in the encounter with Christ and within the
co-ordinates of a scriptural faith.
The model of God–worldrelationpresentedhere draws therefore upon
the resources of scriptural Christian faith rather than those of science and
does not do so in a way which looks to a reconciliation between the two.
But it is not inanysense a contestingof science interms either of outcomes
or method. What it does contest, however, is the general attitude of ‘scien-
tism’ or materialismwhich is frequently the concomitant of scientific ad-
vances as these are received by the population at large. While the scientist
may be charged with a sense of wonder at the complexity of the universe
and of the world under the microscope, and may also be all too aware of
the fragility of scientific knowledge in the face of that complexity, as new
data and ideas constantly emerge, the popular culture of the day may be
permeated by a deeply complacent view of the power of human scientific
5. Amongst those who work on the relation between science and religion, it is perhaps John
Polkinghorne who most addresses the question of howthe world might manifest God
through its very nature as world, and whose work thus most approximates to what I am
seeking to do here through extended scriptural exegesis. See Introduction, note 2.
100 The Creativity of God
intellect and a credulity regarding what has been achieved.
6
This reduc-
tionism can easily lead to attitudes of materialism and instrumentalism
which have nothing to do with the true spirit of scientific inquiry and its
accomplishments. One of the effects of this scientismfor the religious be-
liever is a deep-seated secularisation of the understanding of the self in its
relation to the world, and particularly with respect to the faculties of the
self whichgovernits knowledge of the world: principally the intellect and
the senses. And, as we sawinchapter 3, this leads to a disjunctionbetween
the way in which we know the empirical (created) world and the way we
knowGod (the Creator), so that our familiarity with God becomes the do-
main of a specific ‘religious experience’ or is designated by spiritualised
faculties of abstract intellection.
It is as an attempt to heal this divergence between cosmos and cre-
ator as it plays out in the faith and life of the Christian community that
I am proposing a new model of God–world relation which derives from
a fresh reading of scriptural texts. The belief that the world is of God’s
making is intrinsic to faithinChrist, andthe full realisationof the latter –
if Galations, Hebrews and the Fourth Gospel are to be followed – entails
also the acceptance that Christ is the one through whom that creation
was accomplished. As he dwells in us and we in him; so too the world is
his and he is the world. Indeed, there is a deep incoherence in accepting
Jesus Christ through faith but rejecting the scriptural role of Christ in the
creation. That role is the deepest expression of the divine modality of ad-
dress whichis alreadystronglysignalledinthe OldTestament andwhich–
by the argument presentedhere – is integral to the linguistic model of cre-
ation that is foundational to the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
What is a text?
The paradigm developed in these pages seeks to articulate the long-
neglected creationist aspect of Christology by drawing upon scriptural
readings andcontemporary theory of the text alike. There are infact many
different ways of understandingtextuality, or thenatureof thetext, which
are current today but the definition of a text proposed by J. J. E. Gracia
offers a valuable starting-point for reflection as it takes account of the in-
tentionality of the one who creates the text and the recipients for whom
it is composed: ‘A text is a group of entities, used as signs, which are
6. For a discussion of the problems of scientismwith respect to our understanding of
ourselves and the world, see Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry (London: Routledge, 2001).
Spirit and Letter 101
selected, arrangedandintendedbyanauthor inacertaincontext toconvey
some specific meaning to an audience.’
7
Texts are not simply any semiotic
system, therefore, or ‘anything that needs to be interpreted’, as is some-
times argued in types of deconstructive philosophy.
8
All texts, according
to Gracia’s definition, reflect the activity of anorderingmindandcommu-
nicative intent. But theymaybe of verymanykinds, rangingfrompatterns
of stones left on a beach to works of literary art or instruction manuals for
washing machines. They are composed of ‘entities constituting texts’ (or
ECTs, as Gracia calls them), which are material. And in the case of writ-
ten texts, the constituent signs are words, characters or script which are
material lines or shapes upon the blank page or whatever medium sup-
ports their visibility. There is, therefore, something fundamentally dual
about the nature of the text for, in so far as it is constituted by its mean-
ings, the text itself is immaterial. This combination of material signs and
immaterial meanings is what allows us to speak of ‘texts’ both as material
objects (‘this is a long text’) and as immaterial concepts (‘this text is not
coherent’).
9
The dual nature of the text is fundamental to its composition, but the
material basis of the sign, and thus of the text itself as a combination of
signs, is often not immediately apparent.
10
We conceive of texts in the
main in terms of their abstract significations rather than their material
properties. In the case of a written text, the visible element that is man-
ifest to us in the shapes of a script (such as the print on this page, which is
uniformand monochrome) is suppressed inthe interests of animmediate
apprehensionof the meaning of the text. But occasionally texts may be re-
producedinawaythat employs their visibilityinorder toconveymeaning.
The use of italics is one convention which allows the communication of
emphasis, for instance. The use of red characters in medieval liturgical
books to pick out the important feast days gives us the phrase ‘red letter
day’. Poems may be printed in a way that subverts the principles of
7. Jorge J. E. Gracia, ATheory of Textuality. The Logic and Epistemology (NewYork, Albany: SUNY
Press, 1995), p. 4.
8. See for instance Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore and London: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1974), especially pp. 6–26. While extending the notion of text to
include any contextual ‘arrangement’ of signs, such as we find in natural phenomena, or in
social structures, may be a reasonable strategy on certain grounds, it is one which effectively
eradicates ‘text’ as a category of human communication, in which the subject’s act of
interpretation is matched by the desire on the part of an author to convey meanings to a
recipient or audience.
9. Gracia, Textuality, pp. 6–7.
10. See Hamann’s remarks on this above, p. 70.
102 The Creativity of God
efficient use of paper in order to underline the ‘high value’ of poetic dis-
course. But most generally we fail to see the visible signs whichconstitute
writing unless they are in some way deficient and require repair, or when,
perhaps, we are seeking to identify someone from the characteristics of
their handwriting.
Writing and voice
The deconstructionist tendency to prioritise texts as a cultural artefact
over and above the manifestations of voice and communicative presence
reflects a failure to observe that the texts are realisedfor us at a subtle level
as voice in the act of reading. As our eye passes over a text (in a language
andscript that we understand), we see signs that relate toother signs, both
within the given text and extraneous to it, from which we construct its
possible meanings through an act of interpretation. But as we recognise
words, the materiality of the sign is transformed from the visible to the oral.
Thepresentationof thewrittentext is itself visible(wecannot readthetext
until we have first seen it), but in its cognitive reception within the mind
of the reader it is constituted as sounds. In other words, the act of reading
unlocks the sounds fromthe visible signs; or alternativelyunderstands the
visible signs to represents the sounds that constitute words.
11
Perhaps one
reasonwhy we may not be soaware of this shift resides inthe fact that both
written and spoken words are material entities (the former predicated on
the visual andthe latter onthe audible) inwhichthe material element is so
transfigured by meaning as to be virtually no longer recognisable as ma-
teriality.
12
The transference fromone material mediumwhose materiality
is saturated and overtaken by communicative conceptuality to another
11. There are exceptions to this general rule of reading, of course, where signs are complex
visible elements for which the reader lacks the appropriate scheme of pronunciation (even
though the tendency here is for the reader to substitute some kind of sound analogue; as in
the case of the Russian poet Pushkin who ‘read English as though it were Latin’).
12. It is important to remember that sounds, as uttered by the human voice, are themselves
signs to such an extent that the pure sound properties of utterance may well escape our
hearing as much as the visibility of script escapes our seeing. In other terms, whether they are
organised as visible or audible signs, the signifying properties of words are so powerful as to
virtually extinguish the purely sensory media within which they are encoded. The very term
‘voice’ implies the uttering of sounds that are so saturated with meaning as to be only
recognisable as words. If someone sitting unseen in the corner of the roomgrunts or makes
some other inarticulate noise, we are unlikely to say that we have heard their ‘voice’. But we
do hear the ‘voices’ of those who speak in languages we do not understand. This is because
we recognise that they are speaking words: the sounds seemto signify, even if we do not have
access to their meanings. The exception to this principle occurs when the sound properties of
the voice itself are of interest, as in the case of professional singing. In this instance the
aesthetic qualities of the voice take on a value in themselves, in parallel with the art of
calligraphy in the case of the written word. And yet, even here, it is not pure sounds that we
hear but still voice, which is to say, sounds so governed by meanings and so embedded within
Spirit and Letter 103
such medium is easily made. The consequence of this transference from
the point of view of the reader is that the written textual signs are in-
tegrated into his or her own ‘vocal’ life. The multiple voices of the text
which are refracted through and in the visual medium combine with the
remembered, imagined and real voices of the reader’s own communica-
tive world. Texts ‘speak to’ the reader, however diffusively and indetermi-
nately this may be at times. Only very specific practices of reading elimi-
nate our subjectivity (generally academic ones) or so reduce it as to make it
barely a factor inreading. Otherwise texts are referred back to our ownso-
cial andcommunicative worldthroughthe act of reading.
13
They linkwith
and feed into the world of our actuality, inwhichhumanpresences speak,
and voices drawour attention.
Voice and writing
Fromthe perspective of the reader, meaningmoves easily betweenwritten
and oral signs, but from the point of view of the one who speaks, the dif-
ference between voice and text – the visual and auditory medium – can
be much greater. Conversation, speaking together, is the primal site of
language. Of course, conversations, like any other mode of discourse, can
be entirely formal and ritualistic, but where each speaker recognises the
other as centre of their respective world, there is an attentiveness to the
speech of the other which can prove generative and creative from the per-
spective of what each discovers that they wish to say. In other words, true
conversation is deeply interactive, and therefore unpredictable. Precisely
because conversation is interactive, and social, it is also ethical. We can
choose not to hear what the other has to say. We cancontradict or abuse, or
simply refuse to converse. In extreme cases we can shout the other down,
using our own voice as a weapon against their speaking. But we can also
listen sympathetically, drawing the other person into self-expression. We
can encourage or console them, inform them or bring them to new un-
derstandings. We can rejoice with them. Or we can simply speak with the
other as an equal, and receive their gift to us of speaking as an equal. If
culture is the domain of shared meanings, as Clifford Geertz for instance
defines it, then conversation is a place in which the shared symbolic struc-
tures which formour cultural community can be creatively shaped.
an embodied and personal expressivity as to be virtually indistinguishable fromthe presence
of the one who speaks.
13. Hans-Georg Gadamer calls this element in reading ‘prejudice’ or ‘pre-judgement’. See his
Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward, 1975), pp. 235–74.
104 The Creativity of God
Whenwe write a text then, we pass fromthis dynamic andcreative mo-
ment of embodied, dialogical speech. Our expressivity nowmoves froman
oral, interactive and context-specific discourse to one which is supported
by a different kind of materiality. Visibility allows the detachment of what we
have to say from the immediate spatio-temporal context of orality and the original
utterance. It embodies and incarnates our utterance by giving it enduring
formin a way that the sound of the voice alone cannot do. And so by anal-
ogywithour ownbody, the text becomes akindof deferredbody: anexten-
sionof ourselves whichcarries our voice intothe worldtobe reconstructed
at every stage by the minds of others. From now on our voice, which has
moulded and informed the text, will be alienated fromourselves and sub-
ject to a more radical process of interpretationandconstrual.
14
Others will
not ‘hear’ inthe way we have ‘spoken’. They will substitute for the unique
and personal sound of our own voice, the voices of others. They will bring
to our text a range of interpretative ‘pre-judgements’, as Gadamer calls
them, which are not part of our own world. They will ‘misread’ our text;
they will read it in ways that are new.
The divine text
The creation of the world has something about it which is like the gen-
eration of a text. The scriptural record presupposes the priority of the
voice, and of divine speaking, which calls all things into existence. It
is the voice of God, or the triadic speaking of the divine Trinity, com-
municated through the multiple speech-agency of Jesus Christ, which
generates and redeems. Moreover, the scriptural text itself, of both Old
and New Testaments, exhibits signs of the human voice answering to
the divine voice, as hymnic, celebratory and testamentary passages dis-
solve the historical text into an orality of confession and praise.
15
The
triadic speech of the Trinity itself remains an ideal, however, of which
we glimpse only an outline in the representations of Trinitarian life as
they unfold in the missions of Father, Son and Spirit. But we can con-
clude that the Persons in some sense speak with one another in perfect
equality of loving communion and self-communicating love, and that it
is this rhythm which underlies the great speech narratives of Genesis,
14. Cf. ‘Hermeneutics begins where dialogue ends’ (Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory (Fort
Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976), p. 32).
15. For the theme of testimony, see Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament:
Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997).
Spirit and Letter 105
Exodus andthe NewTestament. According to Genesis 1, the creationis se-
quenced as stages in a process of generation and objectification through
the unfolding structure of divine speaking; and according to the dispen-
sation of the New Testament, that divine speaking is itself a triadic dis-
course. The process of objectification from multiple speech powerfully
evokes the notion of text as the distillation of a divine and subjective
economy of speech, which is the fluid process of oral communication
between Trinitarian Persons, into another, objective economy which is
that of the written sign, gathered up and opened out for the interpreta-
tion of others. And as we have seen, a text is of itself the displacement
and in part alienation of the oral communication by its transposition
into another, visual medium, which – as a form of embodiment – both
communicates and conceals the vocality and vital content of the original
discourse.
According to this paradigm, therefore, the world in all its diversity
and variety, in its material and abstract dimensionality, is most essen-
tially a divine text: a ‘text’ which is the deposit of the divine speaking
and which bodies forth the essence of the communication between the
divine Persons in a cosmic objectification willed by the Persons that is
itself the foundation of the world. It is not the case, of course, that the
move from the inner-Trinitarian speaking of the divine Persons to ob-
jectification through reference, blessing and command exactly parallels
the transposition from an oral to a written medium in human commu-
nication, since the speaking of God within God is ‘silent’ and uncreated,
while the speaking of God to and with us is both generative of world and
intrinsically part of it. The transposition of words from speech to writ-
ten text on the part of the human creature is not exactly like the emer-
gence of the world-generating speech of God from the divine and uncre-
atedsilence. Andyet there are useful parallels. God‘precedes’ his creation,
even if the manner of that ‘preceding’ is not strictly chronological (since
time is created with the world) but rather the consequence of the divine
transcendence: whereby God remains ‘above’, ‘beyond’, or finally uncon-
sumed by his creation. There must also be some sense in which the cre-
ative speakingof Godmarks the cominginto viewof some dynamic which
is already present in or characteristic of the inner-Trinitarian life prior to
the act of speaking. If language is the primary model of revelation, then
speaking must bear some kind of likeness to the God who shows himself,
and who does so, in Origen’s terms, as the interpreting Word. In the same
way, the fullness of the world generated by the divine breath must reflect
106 The Creativity of God
something of the abundance of the inner divine life which we glimpse in
its scriptural representations.
And it is here that the textual parallel gains strength, for it is exactly
this sense of presence withinanalienatingmediumwhichis characteristic
of the textual dynamic. Authors ‘speak’ inandthroughtheir texts, though
always in ways that require interpretative construction on the part of the
one who receives the text. The voice is both heard and not heard, received
andnot received; andit is not only the authorial voice that comes intoplay.
We hear alsothe voices of others whoare innoway associatedwiththe pro-
duction of the text but who have left an impression upon ourselves which
has become formative of who we are, andthus of the way inwhichwe read
texts. As we construct the authorial presence, mediatedthroughthe deixis
and indexicality embedded in the text, we do so in a way that reflects the
presuppositions and impacted experiences of other people, other conver-
sations, which shape our histories. Not everyone will relate to the char-
acter of Anna Karenina in the same way: do I admire strong women, or
am I nervous of them (am I myself a strong woman, have I suffered at the
hands of strong women)? Do I perceive the character to be forthright and
bold, or rather to be the victim of her own unassimilated and ultimately
self-destructive motivations? Although it is perhaps literary texts which
most clearly illustrate this point, some degree of construction, and there-
fore of subjectivity, is intrinsic to the reading of any text, where the autho-
rial voice is diffused through the accumulation of signs which require a
deliberate act of interpretation.
The following taxonomy will serve as well as any other. There are texts
which are literary, descriptive (history, biographies or travelogues), enig-
matic (puzzle texts), discursive (which present an argument, or are educa-
tional in some way), which present a record (where comments or conver-
sations are recorded by another), which are instructional (telling us how
to operate the newwashing machine), confessional (autobiographies) and
epistolary.
16
The model of worldas text resonates ina particularly positive
way with the first and the last of these categories. In the terminology of
Paul Ricoeur, the artistic text functions as a‘secondworld’, or newhorizon
of imaginativeexperience, wherebyits world-generatingproperties arere-
flected in the capacity of the literary text to draw us in to what we expe-
rience as another existence, overlapping with our ordinary, extra-textual
16. Religious texts do not belong in this taxonomy since any of these can become religious
texts by virtue of their status within the contexts of specific groups of readers.
Spirit and Letter 107
life in the world. But although our access to such texts mimics our appre-
hension of the world in many ways, and is the secret of their power, the
role of the author is not symmetrical with that of God as divine Author.
Where the author’s own voice is inserted in a literary text, for instance, as
occurs in some picaresque novels or certain kinds of postmodern writing,
then the reader understands that voice to function as a narrative element
within the fabric of the fiction itself. In other words, we apprehend this as
a fictional device, a further strategy of the text, and not as direct authorial
comment fromoutside the parameters of the work. Where such authorial
comment is to hand, we may well be suspicious of it. Authors are not nec-
essarily the best commentators on their own texts. The nature of human
creativity in fact grants a thoroughgoing autonomy to the text itself. In
the case of the Judaeo-Christian creation, however, God’s authorship re-
mains the governing structural principle throughout the evolution of the
creation-text’s history. When God speaks, it is with the total authority of
the Creator who stands both at the heart of the creation, through divine
immanence, and at a point that is transcendentally beyond it, as the one
who brought it about. God’s speaking is profoundly transformative of the
nature of the worldandgenerative of the realisationof its intrinsic dynam-
ics. But it is also rooted, as noted above, in an inaudible divine and uncre-
ated speaking: a ‘speaking’ which is simultaneously ‘silence’ and which
entirely escapes the horizons of the world.
It is the category of the epistolary text which reflects most closely the
relation between voice and text in the present model of divine creation.
Letters may be written by those who are absent to those with whom they
wishtoremaininclose relationship. Suchletters constitute the attempt to
bridge spatial distance and to restate an intimacy of relation through the
medium of a text. Letters may often be the carrying on of a conversation
by other means, and the texts that pass between friends, or lovers, may af-
ter a period of time be reordered within a living relationship of proximity
and speech. In other words, unlike most kinds of writing, in the episto-
lary text the falling of a vocal presence into the visual presence/absence of
the text can be marked by a sense of longing for the beloved and grief at
his or her absence which necessitates recourse to the sign. Written signs,
unlike softly spoken words, risk falling into the hands of those for whom
they were not intended: private speech, in written texts, can be denuded
and become the object of voyeurism, derision or entertainment. If the lit-
erary text is the most vigorous and productive example of the fertility of
the sign, then the epistolary text is the greatest witness to the primacy of
108 The Creativity of God
intimate, subjective address as it struggles against its will with the public
and objective commonality of the sign.
Sign and address
Followingthe above constructive metaphor, the ‘text’ whichis at the same
time the alienation and communication of the triadic speech of God, re-
mains within God, as ‘Author’, and exists outside God, as a domain of di-
vine self-communication sub contrario. It precisely reflects the extension of
God beyond himself, the divine self-donation, which is at the same time
a mode of divine revelation and concealment. Just as someone who writes
a letter to a loved one is genuinely present in the words that communi-
cate a depth of relation, while being also spatially and temporally absent,
God communicates himself in the creation while also being absent from
it. This structure of indwelling forms the theological rationale of Old and
NewTestament alike, for at every twist and turnof history the ‘text’ of the
world is attended by the authorial voice, breaking through the surface of
the text, andreintegrating the objectifieddivine self-communicationinto
the dynamic orality of God. Each divine utterance is an extension of the
divine presence within history and a deepening of the creativity of God
which gives life to the world.
The intensity of God’s concern with his world, as author of the text,
is evident in the Exodus narrative, where God gives Moses knowledge of
his name as the one who shall lead Israel out of Egypt. It is evident also
in the granting of the Law by which the existence of the people of God is
structured according to the divine creativity, as compassion and holiness
of life. It is the meaningof the speechof the prophets, throughwhomGod
acts by utterance to protect and restore the purity of his people. We can
see it too where God intervenes on behalf of Israel by protecting its ma-
terial existence against the weapons of its enemies. The Old Testament is
pervaded with the sense of God’s ‘jealousy’ regarding his text-world and
his abidingcommitment tothe creation. The divine interventions here are
in a real sense ‘authorship’, for God possesses sovereign power within the
worldandcanshape it fromwithin, but nevertheless it is the authorshipof
anauthor who has himself become a figure inhis owntext. The ‘authorial
voice’ is not Godinhimself, but rather Godas he has freely chosentomake
himself knowntous withinthe worldof his ownmaking, as a speaker who
is implicatedinthe originary act of speech. The text of the world‘bears’ or
‘houses’ God’s voice therefore by extension, in analogy with textual repli-
cations, or reflexes, of the human body, which propagate speech beyond
Spirit and Letter 109
the immediate spatio-temporal contexts of the original speaker. God in
himself remains unseen, known only by faith as a reality that makes the
figural speaking truly revelatory as a speech that points beyond the world
and not to (human) processes within it.
Spirit
It is the particular role of the Spirit to thematise precisely this divine au-
thorial commitment to or attendance on the creation. It is in this context
that we must see the rich ambiguity of the word r ˆ uah
.
, which has a range
of meanings including ‘spirit’, ‘breath’, ‘wind’ and ‘life’. The occurrence
of r ˆ uah
.
lohîm in the cosmic institutive narrative of Genesis 1:1–2 already
signals the expressive power of this ambiguity. As ‘the wind of God’, or ‘a
mighty wind’, it parallels a topos in ancient Eastern creation myths, ac-
cording to which the wind dries land from the sea.
17
As the Spirit of God,
it points to the extensionof divine creative power whichshapes the world.
Although its original meaning is likely to have been the movement of air,
r ˆ uah
.
derives froman earlier root rwh
.
, which also underlies the verbal form
r ˆ awah
.
meaning ‘to be wide’ or ‘spacious’. It thus has a secondary histori-
cal association with spatiality. From this perspective, therefore, r ˆ uah
.
sug-
gests the formationof the verystructure of the cosmos as ‘atmosphere’ and
‘space’, that is, as extensionwhichis ‘breathedout’ bydivine words, which
appears also to be the reading found at Psalm 33:6, where we read ‘By the
word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath
of his mouth.’
18
The theme of r ˆ uah
.
as wind, in service of the divine will, can be found
also in later texts. It was a ‘strong east wind’ that divided the waters for
the escapingIsraelites, andit was ‘a very strongwest wind’ that ‘lifted’ the
locusts of the eighthplague and‘drove theminto the RedSea’.
19
The wind
represents God’s judgement, eradicating Israel’s enemies with a ‘fierce
blast’ or scattering Israel ‘like chaff ’.
20
As Hosea says of Israel: ‘Although
he [Ephraim] may flourishamong rushes, the east windshall come, a blast
from the Lord, rising from the wilderness.’
21
The wind can also be as-
sociated with theophany, as in Isaiah’s proclamation that ‘the Lord will
17. H.-J. Fabry, Theologisches W¨ orterbuch zumAlten Testament, vol. vii (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer
Verlag, 1993), cols. 386–425.
18. See D. Lys, ‘R ˆ uach. Le souffle dans l’Ancien Testament’, Etudes d’Histoire et de Philosophie
Religieuses 56 (Paris, 1962), 19.
19. Exod. 14:21; 10:19.
20. Isa. 27:8; Jer. 13:24.
21. Hos. 13:15.
110 The Creativity of God
come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind’, or indeed be the site of
God’s speaking, as in the mysterious d

mˆ amˆ ah, which can be translated
as ‘breeze’ or ‘breath of wind’, in which Eliphaz and Elijah encountered
God.
22
Spirit is also closely associated with the principle of life, particularly
with the divine life which inhabits human beings as God’s creatures.
23
In
contrast withterms suchas h
.
ayîm(‘life’), ne ¯ pe ˇ s (‘soul’), l ˆ eb (‘heart’), it is only
said to indwell the self and does not represent the human person as such.
It also returns to God after death.
24
In the valley of dry bones passage nar-
rated at Ezekiel 37:1–14, r ˆ uah
.
is linked with the ‘word’ of God, which God
instructs the prophet to utter to the dry bones, withbreathto animate the
bodies ‘fromthe four winds’, and with spirit as divinely ordained life.
The r ˆ uah
.
as Spirit of God also marks the points of divine intervention
in the world. In the Book of Judges, the ‘spirit of the Lord’ descended
upon Samson, giving him exceptional strength, as it came also upon
Gideon, Jephthah and Othniel.
25
In 1 Samuel this tradition of the descent
of the Spirit upon individuals continues, albeit in a royal context, with
the anointing of Saul and David.
26
Ezra tells that God instructed his peo-
ple through his ‘good spirit’ and he proclaims to God: ‘Many years you
were patient with them, and warned them by your spirit through your
prophets; yet they would not listen.’
27
It is the prophets, chiefly, who be-
come divine agents through the advent of the divine spirit-breath, calling
the powerful to account for their abuse of power and failure to care for
the weakest andmost marginalisedinsociety andwarning Israel of divine
judgement to come.
This complexity of meaning that we find in the term r ˆ uah
.
shows its
central function as signalling the implication of the divine, expressed as
wind-breath-spirit, within the world. Space, or extension, the movement
of wind, the animating power of breathandlife, are all cross-referencedin
an interplay of meanings which generate a sense of the connectedness of
God with the world. If r ˆ uah
.
in its anthropological applications expresses
the intrinsic relation that exists between God and his human creatures,
in what Aubrey Johnson referred to as ‘theo-anthropology’, then in its
22. Isa. 66:15; Job 4:16; 1 Kings 19:11–12.
23. Gen. 6:17 and 7:15 make clear that r ˆ uah
.
can refer also to the life of animals.
24. Eccl. (Koh) 12:7.
25. Judg. 13:25; 14:6; 6:34; 11:29; 3:10.
26. 1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13.
27. Neh. 9:20, 30.
Spirit and Letter 111
cosmological applications it is suggestive of the pervasive presence of God
within the physical fabric of the world as creative energy, power, breath
and wind.
28
From the perspective of the model of the world as text, these
significations express the extent to which the world-text is sustained by
the dynamic of the authorial voice. The words or body of the text are
shaped by the Author’s breath, which remains in a sense internal to them
within the otherness of their inscription. The Spirit, then, is the world’s
remembrance of its origins within the divine originary speech. But it is
also the dynamic resonance of those origins: the co-ordination of the di-
vine voice as it breaks through the surface of the text, in a manifestation
of the divine logic which is the deep history of the world. Again in terms
which derive from our governing model, the Spirit is the original creativ-
ity of God at work, whose generative words shape the world in an inter-
connectedness of text and voice.
29
Word
It is fitting therefore that the Spirit, who is the Spirit of the creativity of
God, should play a vital role with respect to the Incarnation of the Word
which, for Christians, marks thepoint at whichwhat wearecallingthe‘au-
thorial voice’ is fully realised within the creation, in the formof a speech-
agent. The advent of the Messiah, who will inaugurate a new age of uni-
versal peace and righteousness, is signalled by the inspired speech of the
prophets. But the Messiah himself will be marked by the Spirit, for, ac-
cording to Isaiah, ‘the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him’ and he shall
possess ‘the spirit of wisdomandunderstanding, the spirit of counsel and
might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord’.
30
According to
Deutero-Isaiah, the messianic figure, conceivedof as the sufferingservant,
28. Aubrey R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel (2nd edn,
Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1964), pp. 23–37.
29. This is to affirmSchleiermacher’s hermeneutics in so far as the spirit of the author
permeates the text, which needs to be resolved against the background of authorial
intention. But the fact that the author in this case is God means that the Spirit-Presence of
the divine author fulfils the text and overwhelms the recipient in a way that is more
reminiscent of postmodern conceptions of the text as a field of irreducible indeterminacy.
This combination of Schleiermacher’s model with a theological account of the creation of the
world produces a formof pragmatic hermeneutics to the extent that God’s meaning can truly
be known by the interpreter of the text, who is filled by it, but the meaning remains
unconsumed by any particular act of interpretation. God’s meaning within the text both
saturates the mind of the interpreter and escapes any totalising or hegemonic appopriation
of it. This is a hermeneutics both of indeterminacy and of authorial intention, therefore, in
which the indeterminacy is the result of an excess of presence.
30. Isa. 11:2.
112 The Creativity of God
will also put into question in an ultimate way the abuse of power which is
the corruptionof divinely grantedfreedom. The servant, uponwhomGod
‘puts his spirit’, ‘will not growfaint or be crushed until he has established
justice inthe earth’.
31
The same linkbetweenthe Spirit andmessiahshipis
sustainedinthe Lucanbirthnarrative, where at the AnnunciationGabriel
tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her.
32
The Spirit is present
when Elizabeth, bearing John, greeted Mary who was with child.
33
The
role of the Spirit at the baptism of Jesus, and in his own ministry as
one who baptises not with water but with the Spirit, shows the conti-
nuity between the Spirit of the Old Testament and that of the New with
regard to the ultimate, eschatological fulfilment of the divine presence
on earth.
34
Jesus teaches and heals, encourages the good and opposes evil. His
words are ‘a light to the world’ and Christians see in his life and death the
structure of an irreversible and consummate intervention of God which
has foundational cosmic and historical significance. The Incarnation is
the supreme manifestation of what Walter Brueggemann calls the divine
‘power for life’.
35
For all its continuity withthe life of the Spirit, therefore,
the intervention of God in the Incarnation is a modality of God’s presence
inthe worldwhichdiffers insignificant respects fromthat of the Spirit. In
terms of the textual metaphor for the worldas divine creation, the Spirit is
the text’s ownmemoryof its origins inthe divine voice. It is the knowledge
encoded in the text that that voice remains in attendance on the creation
insucha way that the breathcanbe withdrawnandthe text be dissolvedin
cosmic destruction. Alternatively, the text can be ‘repristinated’: transfig-
uredbythe realisationor soundingof the voice inattendance – takenback,
while remaining text, into the divine breath. The former knowledge is ex-
pressed inprophetic voices that warnof divine destructionand the ‘day of
the Lord’, while the latter is heard in the messianic prophecies which en-
visage history in terms of a dramatic fulfilment. Both of these forms of ut-
teranceshowaninternal relationwiththefunctionof thesignas reference;
theyare groundedinthe awareness of Godas Creator. The incarnate Word,
ontheother hand, provides anarrativeof origination, muchliketheSpirit,
but it is also and paramountly a modality of address.
31. Isa. 42:1–4.
32. Lk. 1:35.
33. Lk. 1:41–2.
34. Matt. 3:11–12.
35. Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 528–51.
Spirit and Letter 113
The question of the nature of God’s definitive intervention in Jesus
Christ is closely bound up with the scriptural account of human nature,
and the role of the Spirit in its formation. In Genesis 2 we read that when
God had formed man from the dust of the ground, he ‘breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life’. This already signals that there is an intimacy
of relation between humankind and the divine breath. Speech is intrin-
sic to the status of humanity as being ‘in the image’ of God. Adam, too,
possesses the power of naming, as he does that of blessing and cursing,
in a way that suggests that he shares something of the originary power of
God’s speaking, however partially and remotely.
36
But contained within
the human capacity to speak, as given by our affinity with the divine na-
ture, there is also the human capacity to understand (or ‘to listen’, as it is
most frequently expressed in biblical language). The scriptural self is one
who is summoned into a reciprocal relation with the God who speaks, in
terms of our attentiveness, our openness to what is said, or ability to com-
prehend, tofollowandtoobey. The interpretationof God’s wordis therefore
at the centre of the humancondition, as we struggle tomake sense of what
has beengiventous tounderstandby the divine initiative. Our hermeneu-
tical tasks are part of our spiritual character as reflective linguistic beings.
The interpretation of the divine will, as expressed in the world, in dreams
and in Scripture, is a human activity which is especially associated with
the Holy Spirit. Interpretation of this kind entails an element of divine il-
lumination, or intervention, therefore, which draws the individual inter-
preter more fully into the realmof divine power. The prophets who testify
to the failure of Israel to follow the divine will are inspired by the Spirit,
and their lives are touched by the power of God. Additionally, Joseph in-
terprets Pharaoh’s dream and has ‘the spirit of God’, just as Daniel, who
interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, is ‘endowed with a spirit of the holy
gods’.
37
Jesus’ ownacts of interpretationare likewise spirit-filled. As a boy
he disputes with the teachers in the Temple so that ‘[a]ll who heard him
were amazed at his understanding’ (a phrase which recalls the messianic
passage at Isa. 11:12, referring to ‘the spirit of wisdom and understand-
ing’).
38
And subsequently the Gospel of Luke records that when Jesus re-
turned to Nazareth, he read a messianic passage from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit
of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to bring good news to
36. Gen. 2:18–20. Note also the power of human speech, as blessing or cursing, as in the Letter
of James 3:1–12.
37. Gen. 41:38; Dan. 4:8 (also 5:11 and 14).
38. Lk. 2:47.
114 The Creativity of God
the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery
of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of
the Lord’s favour.’
39
Jesus’ interpretation of the Scripture to those present
with him, that it had been fulfilled in their hearing that day, seems reflex-
ive to the extent that he is not only the one who is empoweredby the Spirit
to bring the good news and to release captives, but it is by the same Spirit
that he is able toreadthe Scripture totheminthis way. Jesus’ owninterpretation
of Isaiah on that day is itself an aspect of his life in and through Scripture
and of his particular ability to discern its meaning.
But Jesus’ reading of Scripture differs fromany possible reading of our
own in a way that is determinative of Christian salvific history. Jesus read
Scripture as the one of whomScripture speaks. His reading of it, which is
to say, his entry into its foundational meanings, was at the same time the
point at which the Creator’s voice re-entered, or reanimated the text of
the world. The unfathomable act of generosity which was the creation of
the worldrepresentedalso the fundamental alienationof the divine voice,
as a divine orality of pure presence was exchanged for a textuality at the
heart of which was the act of – human – interpretation. The divine mean-
ings presupposed a human interpreter, subject to all the vagaries of read-
ing and reconstruction. The world was poised at its centre on the contin-
gencies of the human mind. Human beings made in the image of God
might correctly understand the divine purpose, under the guiding influ-
ence of the HolySpirit, or theymight misunderstandandreject suchapur-
pose, preferring their own partial and distorted constructions. In either
case, the originary divine voice was nowunder alienation.
Texts are like bodies, and bodies like texts. For both are voice-bearing.
The body frames the voice, while the text carries the voice, like a seman-
tic echo, away from the living immediacy of the body’s reality. In order
for the text of the world to be united once again with the divine voice,
somethingother was neededthanthesoundingof God’s speechwithinthe
creation. The divine had itself to become body, and that body had itself to
become world.
Conclusion
The model of author and text represents a postcritical attempt to recreate
the structures of a pre-modern paradigm of the universe as participating
39. Lk. 4:16–30. The reading is taken fromthe LXXversion of Isa. 61:1–2 to which has been
added a phrase (‘to let the oppressed go free’) fromIsa. 58:6.
Spirit and Letter 115
in the life of God. In the patristic and medieval periods, sophisticated
forms of metaphysics predicated uponspecific notions of a causal relation
between the divine being and contingent, created being provided a struc-
ture for atheological logic andsemantics. Speechabout Godwas meaning-
ful since the world from which language derives bore a certain likeness –
byvirtue of its state as caused – tothe divine nature itself. Runningthrough
these paradigms was the idea that a cause replicates itself in some degree
in its effect, and thus the caused bears a likeness to its cause. This sat un-
easily with Thomas’ insight that divine causality was not like any other
kind of causality (since it was ‘creatio ex nihilo’), but nevertheless the no-
tionthat causes andthe causedare linkedbylikeness was sofundamental to
the pre-modernunderstanding of the world that it necessarily had a great
influence upon the way that theologians conceived the relation between
the world as created and the nature of God as Creator.
The cosmological idea advancedinthis book, whichis that the relation
between God and the world is akin to the relation that obtains between
an author and his or her text (or more specifically the authorial voice and
the text), seeks to replace the traditional metaphysical view with a non-
metaphysical dynamic of voice and sign. This is to replace likeness with
implication (the divine voice is implicated in or given with the world) and
causalitywithembodiedextension. Thereis asenseinwhichthis language
of voice and embodiment seems closer to the scriptural world than are ex-
trinsic notions of causality and existence, and thus more theologically co-
herent. But there is a further advantage in the voice-text model which is
to do with the emphasis it places upon interpretation as a human activity.
Peter Ochs has drawn our attention to the extent to which modern prag-
matismresonates positively withancient rabbinic forms of exegesis. Prag-
matism seems in a way to be the practice of an implicit theology of cre-
ation. If we holdthat the interpreter is anintrinsic part of the textuality of
theworld(whichwemust doif weholdtoa‘world-text’), thentheact of in-
terpretation, indeedof experiencing, understandingandperceiving, must
itself be viewedas beingintegral tothe textualityof the world. It is not that
we are observers, standing outside the world and looking within. What
we might call ‘right’ or ‘deep’ interpretation on our part will be interpre-
tation which grasps the nature of the world’s textuality, therefore, and
which– under the guidance of the Spirit – receives it as divine relationand
covenantal gift which is transparent to the divine author who gives. This
sequence is already adumbrated in the movement between Genesis and
Exodus, between the creation of the world and the giving of the Law. Law
116 The Creativity of God
is interpretation governing principles of action which is ordered to the
worldas divine breathor word. Judaic Lawissues fromthe belief that right
understanding is tied in with practices of living which are grounded in
the order of creation, and whichcannot be exercised outside that relation.
Judaic Lawalso places great emphasis upon the bodies of those who inter-
pret the world‘textually’, inimpliedrecognitionof the analogy that flows
between the world as divine ‘body’ and the body of the one who inter-
prets or receives that body rightly or in depth, as the self-communication
of God.
40
What we can term the ‘embodied interpretation’ of Jewish Law,
which is to say interpretation that takes place in and through the body, its
vestments and practices, is an important signal of what in the Christian
dispensation is understood to be the uniquely radicalised interpretative
practices of Jesus as the embodiment of divine life.
40. I shall return to this theme in chapter 8 below, pp. 156–69.
6
Voice and sacrifice
Scriptura est sicut panis, qui nisi frangatur et distribuatur, non satiat.
Scripture is like bread which until it is broken up and given out does
not satisfy our hunger.
Nicholas of Cusa, Sermones
The extendedexegesis of the preceding two chapters posits that the world
precipitates from the living and plural speech of God as a text crystallises
from the dynamic speech-processes of human culture. But the ‘text’ that
deposits through the divine creative act is more properly to be thought
of as a ‘Primal Text’, that is to say, it cannot itself be known as text, for
it eludes all our constructions, but is that by which textuality is possi-
ble. This Primal Text is the very bedrock of spatio-temporal existence and
from this our world emerges. It is a kind of primal matter, though not
in the sense that the scholastics used this term, for even a Primal Text
must combine the material and the notional in a way that primal mat-
ter did not. It is not a foundational passivity, which is what the scholas-
tics understood by primal matter, but something far more dynamic, for
it already stands in the most intimate relation with divinity, from whose
speech it has precipitated, as the human voice, personal and immediate,
is encoded and made strange in the visible and material signs of the text.
This Primal Text participates in and communicates the divine speaking,
but it does sothroughsomethingother. Like atext, it contains the author’s
voice in encoded form, but does so in a way that requires interpretation:
only through a sequence of interpretative acts by others can that voice be
released and ‘heard’.
[117]
118 The Creativity of God
The Primal Text that I amproposingrepresents the point at whichGod
willedthe divine speaking to turnoutwards, throughoriginary reference,
thus callingthe material worldas that whichis other thanGodinto being.
The status of the Primal Text as that which offers itself to understanding
suggests that semiosis is intrinsic to the Trinitarian life itself. The Word
must in some sense give itself utterly to be interpreted or exegeted by the
Father with the Spirit, and by the Spirit with the Father, and must itself
exegete the Father withthe Spirit, andthe Spirit withthe Father, ina con-
tinuous and infinite perichoresis of knowing and understanding through
love and self-giving. It is from that inexhaustible fount of meaning that
the world-text itself must flow. The Primal Text must itself be a kind of
overflow from the infinitely fecund semiosis that is the inner life of the
Trinity. And even if it is unknowable in itself, since it is too intimately
bound in to the inner life of God, the Primal Text, as first reflex of the
Trinitarian life, must underlie every aspect of the created order. For the
worlditself is knownto us inandthroughinterpretation. It yields itself to
us as a multitude of textualities, eachininteractionwiththe other. Text, as
a combination of material signs and notional meanings, is the very struc-
ture of existence and is the readability of the world. We see textuality in
the recent understandings of the way that brain and consciousness inter-
act, or in the genome which maps the genetic inheritance of the human
race. Some fields of meaning are dominantly of the senses and to do with
the physical construction of the world as a unity of objects. Other seman-
tic fields are more notional, or cultural, in kind and mediate the universe
of interpretations and social meanings embedded in language and social
actions. Others again are literary or more properly textual in form. These
include the products of art, highculture and education. If textuality itself
canbedefinedas theorderingof material entities insuchawayas toengen-
der more complex meanings, as the combination of the material and the
ideational, then some manifestations of this primal textuality showa pri-
macyof thematerial andothers of theideational or notional. Perceptionit-
self is the recognitionof a concept withinthe material order, as we discern
distinct objects about us. High-level social or cultural meanings, on the
other hand, seemtohave nobase inthe material order despite the inherent
materiality of the sign, since in them the signifying function of the sign
has attained an almost absolute power. This deep textuality is manifest,
then, in the participation of all the semantic fields which constitute our
experience in the same unity of the material and ideational, and in their
consequent capacity to interact with each other in the formation of an
Voice and sacrifice 119
infinitely complex structure which we call world. It is only the capacity of
thematerial andtheideational tointeract, together withtheastonishingly
diversedimensions of existencewhichtheyembody, that forms world, and
it is this principial intertextuality, never to be discerned directly in itself,
which creates the possibility of the analogical, world-generating interre-
lation of all things.
Textualities can be material, cultural, social, artistic, ideational, liter-
ary or any combination of these, but among those textualities which are
textual artefacts and which we most commonly denote as conventional
texts, we must give a special place to Scripture. Scripture, inthe definition
givenabove, is the aggregationof texts whichbody forththe humanvoice,
shapedandtransformedbythedivinespeakinginhistory, whichit records
and to which it testifies. Without the biblical text, we could not know of
God’s action in history, or the formation of the world. But the proximity
of Scripture to createdness of the world is greater than this. We find in the
Bible, in fragmented but analogical form, the pure reality of the divine
speaking within history, captured by human voices whose own celebra-
toryexpressivitywas constitutedinavital responsetotheoriginaryspeech
of God. Thus we hear a kind of echo of the creative speaking of God, the
divine voice, which is the ultimate historical referent of the text. We can
think of Scripture, then, as a textual andtherefore accessible performance
of the unknowable Primal Text. It stands as aniconof the divine creativity
and offers those communities who enter into it through repeated acts of
deep reading the possibility of access into the vital structure of the world
as divine text. As a reflex of the divine creativity, Scripture offers a celebra-
tory conformity to the life-giving compassionof Godthat is the groundof
the world.
Inhabiting the Text
I argued in the previous chapter that human interpretation of the world
is itself part of the world. In other words, if the world at its root is Primal
Text, then our capacity to interpret the world must itself be part of our
own participation in the Primal Text. It is one of the chief fallacies of hu-
man consciousness that the mind observes the world without itself being
part of the world. But there is a significant distinctionto be made between
the human mind and the world it cognises since – from a scriptural per-
spective – the world is itself composed of signs. Asign, whether conceived
of as a word or an object in a divinely instituted world, only truly comes
120 The Creativity of God
into view to an observer, or interpreter, who stands outside it. Signalling
is anexterior act inwhichthe sign’s ownrestinginitself is givenout, andis
exhausted, by its signifying function. If we ourselves are part of a textual
world, and are in essence signs, then we cannot ever apprehend our own
nature, as signs, but can be realised only in the ecclesial gaze of others.
This appears to be the predicament of human nature. We are consti-
tuted as those for whom the world signifies; our inner nature is that of
an interpreter. And thus, if we are part of the divinely ordered world of
signs, we are destined always to remain alienated with respect to our own
self-knowledge. Our true, signifying nature, can only ever be known by
others, and never by ourselves. But in fact this view rests upon a misun-
derstanding of human existence. The fact that we cannot see ourselves as
signdoes not meanthat we do not carry out the inner functions of the sign
inour daily living. Accordingto a scriptural viewof the world, the signify-
ing properties of the worldare groundedultimately inthe inner life of the
Trinity. Trinitarian speech, made accessible to us in and through the per-
son of Christ, is a kenotic discourse and the exteriorisation of that speech,
which I traced in chapters 4 and 5, entails the compassionate engagement
of God with his creation. In so far as we embrace our own compassionate
nature, therefore, exercised before the other, we actually realise our own
signingnature. Compassionis anact of self-renunciationwhich, paradox-
ically, leads to an enhanced or enriched state of existence. We gain life
through self-risk undertaken for the sake of the other, on account of the
dialectical character of our own being in the world.
1
But in so far as we re-
alise our own compassionate nature, which is a condition of our existence
inthe world, we actually enter into our ownnature as divinely constituted
sign, and thus give realisation to our own participation in the Primal Text
which is the root of the world.
The final question in this section, then, concerns the relation between
our own participation in the Primal Text and self-realisation as com-
passionate sign and the reading of Scripture. I have already argued that
Scripture, as the congregation of texts written by those whose own voices
have beenshaped incelebrationby the divine speaking, authentically me-
diates tous thestructureanddynamic of God’s originary, revelatoryspeak-
ing. As a textualisationof that compassionate, creative dynamic, Scripture
awakens us to the possibilities of our participation in the Primal Text and
1. I attempted to give a phenomenological account of this structure and dynamic in my
earlier Theology of Compassion (London: SCMPress, 2001; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003),
especially pp. 24–46.
Voice and sacrifice 121
gives us access to it, as the deep structure of the createdness of the world.
But the questionremains as towhyit shouldspeaktous, those whohear or
read the words of Scripture, in the way that it does. The answer tradition-
ally has been that we attend to the Bible in and through the power of the
Spirit, whichsignals the supernatural quality of authentic scriptural read-
ing. But this needs to be given a somewhat fuller theological content if it
is to be useful as providing an insight into a Christian biblical hermeneu-
tic. The Spirit, in the analytic given in chapters 4 and 5, is not address
as such but the dynamic which makes address as communication possi-
ble. From the perspective of a theology of creation, it is the world-text’s
memory of its origination in the divine speaking: as r ˆ uah meaning ‘wind’,
‘breath’ and ‘spirit’, it is the divine imprint within the world and is its
capacity to be integrated again – as text, as materiality – into the divine
breath.
The Spirit in us, then, is the mark of our own elemental belonging to
the created order and is to be found as a propensity, a tendency, or even an
inchoate memory of our origins, deepwithinus. It is the Spirit that allows
us, if we allow the Spirit, to enter the biblical world. It allows us to ‘hear’
the divine voice that speaks within the biblical word and to become inte-
gratedintothe perichoretic speaking, andkenotic way of life, whichcircu-
lates withinthe Gospels and their Hebrewfoundation. As Trinitarian, the
Spirit is a participation in the economic life of God. Its movement within
us, inthedomainof biblical readingandinterpretation, is at thesametime
the discovery that the power of God has preceded us: the Word of which
we read is already present to us, as Word and Spirit of the Word, in the
act of reading.
2
But further, the role of the Spirit is the guarantee that the
authentic appropriation of Scripture can never be purely individualistic
but is always in essence an ecclesial act. We put on ‘the mind of Christ’
when we read Scripture in and through the Spirit; we become one with
his body the Church in a conforming of the self with the divine logic of
Scripture whichshapes inus a newcelebratory andcompassionate formof
life.
2. I hope to address the theme of scriptural reading more fully in a future work. What I am
advocating here is neither fundamentalist (since interpretation is at its centre) nor relativist
(since agency lies with the text). It is perhaps most easily understood by analogy with the
pragmatist school of philosophy. In his study Pierce, Pragmatismand the Logic of Scripture
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Peter Ochs has set out a contemporary
rabbinic scriptural hermeneutic. There are likely to be some subtle distinctions to be made in
the formation of a Christian analogue to Ochs’ programme, but the Christian scriptural
hermeneutic I have begun to outline in this volume is greatly indebted to Ochs’ insights and
work, as it is to those others, whether Jews, Christians or Muslims, who reflectively practise it.
122 The Creativity of God
Christology
The Bible speaks to us of Christ who is himself the ground of the world
and, as divine–humanpresence withus, as a divine–humanspeech-agent,
is the realisation in the created order of the originary Trinitarian speech
of creation. The question now arises as to the alignment between the
way in which we read Scripture, and the way in which Jesus himself read
Scripture. If reading Scripture authentically in the Spirit is for us to be-
come increasinglyconformedtothe structure of the divine creativityman-
ifest through an ecclesial speech, presence-with and compassion, then
what of Jesus himself? What insights can we gain from the Gospels about
how Jesus may have read Scripture and how this may have found expres-
sion in his life and values?
The relation between the world of the New Testament and that of the
Old as reflected in the practice of intertextuality has come in recent years
toestablishitself as a primary area of thematic concernfor NewTestament
scholars.
3
The NewTestament abounds indirect andindirect references to
the Old, inbothHebrewandGreek versions, andthe practice of reading is
itself at the heart of the Gospel message. This is the case not only in terms
of the use made of Scripture by the Gospel writers and the early Church
in order to present Jesus as the fulfilment of the Hebrew prophetic and
legal traditions but also in Jesus’ own application of Scripture within his
ministry. The reconstruction of the place of scriptural quotation in Jesus’
own teaching shows that he had an extensive knowledge of the books of
the Hebrew Bible.
4
He is generally supportive of Old Testament perspec-
tives but is also capable of bringing striking new interpretations to bear.
Following the Beatitudes, Jesus expands the moral precepts of ‘ancient
times’ in terms of a radical ethic of interior righteousness, purity of in-
tention, and the thoroughgoing practice of non-violence.
5
Jesus applies
3. See Steve Moyise, ‘Intertextuality and the Study of the Old Testament in the New
Testament’, in idem, The Old Testament in the NewTestament. Essays in Honour of J. L. North
(Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2000), pp. 14–41, for a useful overviewof the theoretical
parameters of intertextuality, as dialogical, or two-way, or postmodern, which is to say
indeterminate, and its history in biblical scholarship. Joel Marcus’ discussion of
intertextuality in Mark (The Way of the Lord. Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel
of Mark, Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992) is an exemplary study of the way
in which a Synoptic author engages in a coherent and extended act of reading, in the sense of
interpreting, Old Testament sources within the narrative framework of his Gospel.
4. Henry M. Shires states that the sources of Jesus’ citations include thirty of the thirty-nine
books of the Old Testament (Finding the Old Testament in the New(Philadelphia: Westminster
Press, 1974), p. 88).
5. Matt. 5:21–48.
Voice and sacrifice 123
texts directly to his own situation, as when he quotes the account of how
David and his men ate the bread of the Presence (1 Sam. 21:1–6) in order to
underline his own authority, in the Gospel narrative, as ‘lord of the sab-
bath’.
6
Repeatedly the Gospels present occasions on which Jesus makes
implicit or explicit claims regarding his own status as the one who comes
tofulfil the OldTestament promise.
7
At Luke 4:16–30, Jesus is shownread-
ing a text based on Isaiah 61:1 in the synagogue at Nazareth and inter-
preting it in terms that are to be significant for his own ministry.
8
What-
ever historical-critical arguments arebrought tobear, whichmaypersuade
us of the historicity or otherwise of any individual pericope, the engaged
reader of theNewTestament cannot but feel that Jesus himself was steeped
in the language and precepts of the Old Testament and that his own life
was patterned upon it, in a fusion of prophetic ‘Exodus’ traditions which
stemmedfromGalilee androyal, priestly traditions whichwere associated
with Jerusalemand the Temple milieu.
‘I amHe’
One of the ways in which Jesus most explicitly inhabits the scriptural text
is the ‘I am’ sayings. In the Deuteronomic phrase ‘I am he’, or ani h ˆ u,
God expresses his own unique sovereignty. God’s claim against the ‘for-
eign gods’ is one that is grounded in his manifest power of control over
Israel’s history, and specifically his support and deliverance of his peo-
ple, as it is in his status as creator of the world. This kind of language
of divine subjectivity reaches its climax in a passage from Deuteronomy
32:39 where the intensive form ani ani h ˆ u is used as God declares: ‘See
now that I, even I, am he; there is no god besides me. I kill and I make
alive; I wound and I heal; and no one can deliver from my hand.’
9
This
declarative form which articulates God’s subjectivity as supreme ruler of
the worldreoccurs inthe NewTestament inthe Gospels of JohnandMark.
The most interestingpassage inMarkis the point at whichJesus identifies
himself to the disciples when walking on the sea. At one level the words
6. Matt. 12:1–8.
7. For an analytical summary of the use of the Old Testament motifs of exodus, conquest,
temple and kingship, see WilliamM. Swartley, Israel’s Scripture Traditions and the Synoptic
Gospels (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).
8. Lk. 4:16–21; cf. Lk. 24:27 and 44. Swartley, Israel’s Scripture Traditions, pp. 74–7. See also C. K.
Barrett, ‘Luke/Acts’, in D. A. Carson and H. G. M. Williamson, eds., It Is Written. Scripture Citing
Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 231–44 (here 235–6).
9. For a detailed and nuanced discussion of the deuteronomic ani h ˆ u, see Catrin H. Williams,
I amHe. The Interpretation of Ani H ˆ u in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (T ¨ ubingen: Mohr
Siebeck, 2000), pp. 42–50.
124 The Creativity of God
‘Take heart, it is I’ serve to alleviate the disciples’ shock at what they are
seeing, but at another they are a declaration of the divine subjectivity in
Jesus who – with echoes of Genesis 1 – stands above the waters and con-
trols the wind.
10
It is primarily in the Gospel of John, however, that the
Old Testament resonances of the Greek ‘I am’ (eg ¯ o eimi) are most exten-
sively present. Early in his ministry Jesus uses the phrase to identify him-
self as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman: ‘I amhe, the one who speaks
to you.’
11
In later passages eg ¯ o eimi is used in order to assert the identity
of Jesus against his detractors, again in an overtly messianic sense: ‘Very
truly, I tell you, before Abrahamwas, I am.’
12
Following Jesus’ washing of
his disciples’ feet, Jesus alludes tohis ownforthcomingdeathandstates: ‘I
tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may be-
lieve that I amhe.’ Inthe verse that follows this line, the messianic content
of the phrase is again made explicit: ‘Very truly, I tell you whoever receives
one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who
sent me.’
13
It is impossible to know whether and to what extent the ‘I am’ us-
age, found equally though differently in Mark and John, is grounded in
the early kerygma of the Church or reflects something of Jesus’ own self-
understanding. But it is the case that the Gospel narrative records Jesus’
inhabiting of the Old Testament text in this particular way. What we can
discern here is the outline of what we might call ‘a Christology of textual
awareness’ as a criterionof the subjectivityof Christ whichis not, however,
‘consciousness Christology’ or ‘degree Christology’ but rather an attempt
to articulate in a variant form what Karl Rahner has termed ‘ontological
Christology’.
14
This represents an attempt to maintain a continuity be-
tween Jesus’ experience of God with our own experience of God without,
however, reducing the former to the latter. It seeks to locate Jesus Christ
within human history without, however, compromising the freedom of
God with respect to that history. A Christology of this kind attempts to
give expression to the dialectical nature of the revelation itself, by affirm-
ing that the divinisation of Jesus Christ is at the same time recognisably
our own divinisation and the entry into the world of the divine presence
in a newand unparalleled way.
10. Mk 6:45–52.
11. Jn 4:26.
12. Jn 8:58; cf. 8:24 and 28.
13. Jn 13:19–20.
14. Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith; an Introduction to the Idea of Christianity (London:
Darton Longman and Todd, 1978), pp. 302–3.
Voice and sacrifice 125
I argued in the previous chapter that human nature is intrinsi-
cally hermeneutical, and that the human nature of Christ, therefore, is
hermeneutical in the inclusive sense in which I have used the term. The
distinction between Jesus’ interpretation of Scripture and of the world,
and our own interpretation of Scripture and the world, is that he exegetes
these as the one who is their ultimate meaning. Jesus therefore under-
stands himself to be the centre of both Scripture and world in a dialectic
of identity and difference which is grounded in the Word’s own contem-
plative exegesis of the Father. Andif the Word‘exegetes’ or ‘interprets’ the
Father as the Father’s image (cf. Jn1:18, inwhichthe wordex¯ eg ¯ esato occurs),
as scriptural cosmologists such as Origen and Hamann have maintained,
then we can further say that humanity is formed ‘in the image of the im-
age’, to adopt another patristic insight. Our capacity to interpret, indeed
our intrinsic nature as interpreters ina worldthat gives itself for interpre-
tation, is the divine image inus andis the markof our ownintegrationinto
the world-text as part of that text, and not as extraneous to it.
A second point of continuity and distinction with respect to the incar-
nate Son and ourselves rests in the principle of compassion which, by the
argument given above, is an intrinsic part of the way in which we exegete
the world as God’s creation. In so far as we enter the Primal Text, which is
to say, the Trinitariangroundof creation, we are ourselves conformedto it
inalife of celebratoryholiness andcommitment tothe other. This involves
a transformationof body andspirit, alongthe principle of the perichoretic
kenosis and compassion which is the structure of the creation itself. The
act of interpreting the world as God’s creation, under the guidance of the
Spirit, leads to a sanctification of life. In the case of Jesus himself, that
transformation is a total one and entails the complete emptying of him-
self into and for the world.
Further, each single act of human compassion signals the compas-
sion of God and communicates a deepening of the divine creativity in the
world. In the case of Jesus, however, that human compassion is identical
with the divine compassion, the creativity of which extends to the regen-
eration of the world. Since Jesus himself, as the Word, is the centre and
meaning of Scripture and the world, his own act of reading Scripture and
world, which is the evolving understanding and – with it – acceptance of
his divine mission, brings about the re-creation of the world. In terms of
the present textual metaphor, this marks the point at which a single cre-
ated individual becomes the total presence of the principial and originary
voice of God, speaking now from within the text of the world. This is a
126 The Creativity of God
divine movement which necessarily entails the redemptive healing of the
world-text. The textual alienation of the divine voice leads inevitably to
misinterpretation and misappropriation of the created order. The mani-
festation or realisation of the voice of the Creator, speaking from within
the creation, brings with it the healing and repairal of what has been lost
or damaged or misunderstood through a divine act of compassion which
is the assimilation of the otherness of the text, the otherness of creation
itself, back into the divine order.
‘This is my body’
The institutionof the Lord’s Supper is recordedinall the Synoptic Gospels
as well as inSt Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
15
It takes place imme-
diately prior to his betrayal andarrest, andmarks a point inJesus’ mission
whichbothlooks backto his struggle inGethsemane andlooks forwardto
thePassion. It thus communicates tous somethingof Jesus’ self-awareness
as he undergoes and accepts the unfolding logic of his scriptural life. The
occasion of this pericope is the Passover meal, when the Jewish people re-
calledtheir liberationfromthe Egyptianexile byGod’s power andthe con-
secration of the firstborn in remembrance and thanksgiving for it. Jesus
attended that meal in Jerusalem with his disciples and, according to the
New Testament record, blessed the bread and the wine in the traditional
Jewish way, adding words which expressed his understanding of his own
imminent fate as being one of sacrifice for others, covenant with God and
the advent of God’s kingdom.
16
The words of institution represent in the
first place Jesus’ ownself-possessionas one who inhabits Scripture, the re-
alisation of which is an utter emptying of the self for the sake of the other,
for the sake indeed of the whole of the creation, expressed in terms of the
comingof thekingdomandthereignof heavenonearth. For Jesus toknow
who he was, was for himto knowthat he was utterly given out, sacrificed,
for the sake of the world. Jesus inhabits Scripture thenas the one of whom
Scripture speaks, as the fulfilment of time and sign of the kingdom.
But in the second place there is in the words of institution a perfect co-
incidence of creativity of speech, presence-with and compassion. We can
note for instance a linguistic trace which sets up a subtle resonance with
the baptism–transfiguration nexus which was explored in chapter 4. The
15. Matt. 26:26–30, Mk 14:22–5, Lk. 22:14–23, 1 Cor. 11:23–6.
16. For the argument that the Last Supper was a Passover meal and that the words of
institution contain signals that they represent the ipsissima vox of Jesus, see JoachimJeremias,
The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (London: SCMPress, 1966), pp. 15–88 and 201–3.
Voice and sacrifice 127
Lucan structure of the declarative ‘[t]his is [my body; my blood] which is
given for you’ with a command ‘Do this in memory of me’ is already given
in the transfiguration pericope where we have: ‘This is . . . [my Son] . . .
Listento him.’ The parallel ‘This is my Son. . .’ ‘This is my body . . .’ canbe
read as a chiasmus since a son is in a sense an extension of the body of the
father.
17
There is no reference to the Holy Spirit at this point in the text,
but the epiclesis of the Spirit whichoccurredinmany early liturgies could
be said to pick up the descent of the Holy Spirit recorded in the account of
the baptism.
18
This is a divine speaking whichis therefore at once declara-
tive and institutionary. When Jesus blessed the bread and wine, and when
he declared them to be his body and blood, he spoke not with a human
voice but with the voice of the Father: he instituted the very thing which
he declared to be the case. This was not originary speaking in the sense of
the fiat, for it did not bring something from nothing. But it marked his
point of entry into the biblical metaphor. The ‘cup of wrath’ of Psalm60:3
andIsaiah51:17, 22, whichJesus fearedandwithwhichhe struggledinthe
Gethsemane pericope, is nowinternalisedandassumedintohis owniden-
tity as bloodpouredout for others. Ina parallel way, Jesus himself nowbe-
comes the ‘breadfromheaven’ and‘the breadof life’, inJohannine phrase-
ology, recallingthe act bywhichYahwehfedhis people inthe wilderness.
19
In the words of Eucharistic institution, therefore, symbols both of God’s
justice and his nourishing, life-giving love constitute Jesus’ point of entry
into Scripture in an act of personal appropriation of its meaning and telos
as the one of whomScripture speaks.
The institutionof the Lord’s Supper is a critical moment inthe nexus of
Passion, resurrection and ascension. Its position immediately before the
Passion narrative signals Jesus’ own acceptance of what is to come, as an
expansion of the line ‘yet, not my will but yours be done’ (Lk. 22:42), and
it offers an insight into his state of textual awareness at this significant
point in his mission. His speaking at this point is both glorified and sacri-
ficial, for the voice withwhichhe speaks is simultaneously his ownhuman
voice and the voice of his Father. Voice is actually a radically corporeal no-
tion, and the fusion of two voices, the one human and the other divine,
in the person of Jesus has profound implications for the condition of his
17. This is more evidently the case according to pre-modern understandings of procreation,
which tended to viewthe child as the product of the man’s seed.
18. The epiclesis can also be found in the second, third and fourth Eucharistic Prayer of the
modern Roman Rite.
19. Jn 6:22–59.
128 The Creativity of God
embodiment. This now becomes dual in a real sense: as the bearer of the
divine speaking, the body of Jesus is also the body of God. This is a highly
contradictory notion, since the body of God is infinite while the human
body of Jesus is finite. It is this unendurable paradox which is resolved,
or perhaps better to say realised, in the sacrificial pouring out of the body
and blood of Jesus into the material elements of the world which is first
signalled in the institution of the Lord’s Supper and is accomplished in
the Passion, resurrection and ascension. Jesus’ body resurrected and as-
cended is the unity of the world as text with the authorial voice of God.
His sacrifice in and through this ‘dual’ embodiment is the regeneration
and repristination of the world. In the vocal terms that are being devel-
oped here, it is the point at which the words of the text are filled again
with the authorial voice, and the text, while remaining text, becomes the
divine body.
20
Eucharist
The celebrationof the ChristianEucharist is a primary way inwhichthose
who followChrist come to inhabit Scripture, and it is one which is accom-
plished through a ritual participation in the way in which Jesus himself
inhabited Scripture. Located at the centre of Christian life, the Eucharist
is the most radical way of reading Scripture. The participation in Jesus’
ownentry into the Wordof Godas the Wordof Godshows a twofoldstruc-
ture. In the first place there is the characteristic of a pluralistic dialogism,
a Trinitarian rhythmof speech which centres on the presence of the Word
with and for the people. Secondly, there is the more metaphysical struc-
ture of what has been known in Catholic tradition as the Real Presence,
which articulates an appropriation through faith and in the Spirit of the
transformation of the bread and wine into Jesus’ own body and blood ef-
fected by the original words of institution. These are recapitulated, per-
formedor actively rememberedby the community whogather inhis name
to celebrate and give thanks for his creative love.
Multivocal speech
At the centre of the Eucharistic celebration, inthe modernCatholic model,
is the priest who speaks from within the heart of the community, with
20. In ‘Silences of the Cross’ (unpublished paper given to the Society for the Study of
Theology, April 2003), I sought to describe the particular role played by silence in the context
of the divine sacrifice.
Voice and sacrifice 129
the voice of Jesus, for the sake of the community. Eucharistic speech it-
self is multiple and celebratory, grounded in praise and thanksgiving.
Dialogical rhythms (responses, absolution, kyrie), recontextualised with
triadic, Trinitarian disruptions (doxologies, petitions), play throughout
the Eucharistic service and are apparent already in the priest’s greeting
in the name of Father, Son and Spirit, following the Entrance Song, to
which the people give the reply Amen. The Liturgy of the Word sets this
speech rhythm firstly in the context of the divine speaking-with, but it
also evokes the person of Christ intertextually, against the Old Testament
background. AnOldTestament readingis placedside by side witha Psalm
and a passage from the New Testament, setting up a structured series of
internal resonances. The responses at the endof the readings reinforce the
dialogismhere, as do the repeated responses within the Psalm.
According to the rubric of the Order of the Mass, ‘[t]hrough the read-
ings, God speaks to his people of redemption and salvation, and nour-
ishes their spirit with his word; Christ is present among the faithful in
his word’.
21
Effectively the ground of Eucharistic speaking as thanksgiv-
ing and celebration now comes into view: Christ is present in his word
and speaks through Scripture with the people of God who are assembled
around him. The role of the homily is to help to integrate that divine
speaking into the lives of the faithful, so that they may increasingly be
formed in the breath or Spirit of God and so live lives that are opened out
with thanksgiving into the compassionate creativity of God. The affirma-
tionof thethreePersons intheCreedwhichfollows thereadings is thepeo-
ple’s response to that revelation, and it too must be allocated to the work
of the Spirit ina particular way. The Spirit is also invoked inthe Memorial
Prayer of the second and third of the Eucharistic Prayers as it is in the In-
tercessions for the Churchof the fourthEucharistic Prayer. Ineachcase the
emphasis is uponthelovingunityof theChurch, formedaroundtherecep-
tion of the Eucharist, which finds expression also in the exchange of the
signof peace prior to the act of communicationduring the rite of commu-
nion. Further, the Prayer of the Faithful, which concludes the Liturgy of
the Word, points tothe fact that the dialogismof Eucharistic speechis fun-
damentally triadic and perichoretic in form. In the intercessions for the
world, the voices of those who are oppressed, who suffer or are sick, who
struggle or are needful in some way break into the Eucharistic speaking:
through the compassionate concern of those celebrating the Eucharist,
21. The Sunday Missal (London: Collins, 1975), p. 25.
130 The Creativity of God
their voices enter into the flow of celebratory-compassionate speech, en-
riching it and extending the speech inclusively into the world.
If inthe Liturgyof the Wordthe Churchhears Scripture, readout as text
and reflected upon in the homily, then in the Liturgy of the Communion
the priest performs with and on behalf of the people Jesus’ own speak-
ing. As the words of institutionare repeated at the consecrationof the ele-
ments, thepriest is indwelt bythevoiceof Jesus whospeaks fromthemidst
of the text, transforming and sanctifying. In the most intimate sense, this
is a ritualistic form of reading in which the Church corporately partakes.
But here the distantiation of the text is left behind, the voice of Jesus is
no longer alienated under the aspect of a visible sign: through the priest’s
ownvoice, the voice of Jesus becomes present under the aspect of speechandnot
as written text. This movement recapitulates and makes present Jesus’ own
inhabiting of the scriptural text when he declared the bread and wine to
be his own body and blood that was to be given for all.
Real presence
The formal expression of union with Christ in the Eucharist in Catholic
tradition is the belief that in the act of consecration, the bread and wine
truly become the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. If the rite of conse-
cration represents our own entry into the way that Jesus entered into the
biblical text, then we can say in Pauline language that it marks the point
at whichwe put onthe ‘mindof Christ’, or inpatristic language, the point
at whichwe participate inChrist’s ownnature as Wisdom. One of the fun-
damental expressions, if not the most fundamental, of that newcondition
of mind is an entirely new way of seeing the world: not as a sphere of ref-
erence but rather as divine address.
The transformation from sign to address which takes place in the Eu-
charistic act of consecration is an intensification, or culmination, of a ten-
dency which is foundational to sacramental theology. The term sacra-
ment, as we find it in Augustine, for instance, expresses the belief that
the things of creationhave some kindof signifyingrelationto the Creator;
only gradually did the term come to be restricted to the seven sacraments
we knowtoday. With that development in the twelfth century, however, a
new intensity of signification was achieved whereby the ‘pointing to’ oc-
curredonlywithinaspecific riteandovertlyChristological context (incon-
trast with the implicit and diffuse Christology of the earlier usage). Un-
der Aristotelian influence, the sacraments were now efficient signs, which
caused or brought about that which they signified. The grace of God was
Voice and sacrifice 131
not only suggested by the application of the material elements within the
rite but was actually made manifest in the world, and specifically in the
lives of those who participated in the sacrament. The technical term for
this kind of sacramental sign was signum et res: the material sign and the
divine reality it signifies in combination.
The theology of the Eucharistic presence constituteda further andulti-
mate degree of intensification, for it was nowasserted– inthe classical ex-
pression that we find in Thomas Aquinas – not only that the signs signify
invisible grace in a way that makes it effective but also that they now sig-
nify it so comprehensively that it becomes ‘substantially’ present. Inother
words, the materiality of the Eucharistic signs becomes so transfiguredby
significationthat the object of their signifying, that is, the bodyandblood,
take on presence. But the manner of that presence is not that of ordinary
objects in the world. It is not a form of replacement, whereby some item
A takes the place of item B, which is no longer there. Nor is it a transfor-
mation such that B changes into A, and again ceases to be there: the sight,
touch, smell and taste of the elements are evident to all. The change is of a
more subtle kind and cannot be conceived outside the frame of reference
established by the sacramental tradition. Eucharistic presence marks the
intensification of signification to an extreme of plenitude. Integral to this
dynamic is the preservation of the sign, which must remain intact if the
act of signifying is to be accomplished. But the manner of its persistence is
peculiar. For to the eyes of faith, the elements become the body and blood
of Christ. But the body and blood is not present in any normal sense, oth-
erwise we would not see the remaining elements. In other words, the el-
ements are both present and absent, just as the body and blood are both
present and absent: the one cannot be conceived without the other. This
kindof presence then, whichis the extreme of signification, is not anordi-
nary presence but a presence which is simultaneously an absence. Neither
the bread and wine nor the body and blood are present on the altar in any
ordinary sense, but both are present and absent in a reciprocal sense, thus
instituting a newand quite unique modality of presence.
The fact that the Eucharistic presence grows fromthe process of sacra-
mental signifyingis fundamental for our understandingthat the presence
of the bodyandbloodis not imposeduponthe elements fromwithout, but
receivedfromwithin. The transformationof the elements marks the unity
of two sets of intersecting trajectories. The first is that of a theology of
creation which affirms that the world is created through Christ, together
withthe creative speakingof Christ at the institutionof the Lord’s Supper,
132 The Creativity of God
whereby Christ continues the movement of divine revelation by perform-
ing within the company that is to be his church his own unity with the
created order, with the world. This is the semiotics not of referring signs
but of address, as sublimation of the sign. But at the same time what we
see inthe Eucharistic celebrationis the intersectionof Christ’s owninhab-
iting of Scripture, andembrace of its kenotic meaning, as the Wordof God
indwellingthe Wordof God, withthe Church’s depthreadingof the Scrip-
tural text. In the Eucharist, we read as Jesus read, but only by virtue of his
creative power, by his owninfinite act of reading whichwas the fulfilment
and end of Scripture’s meaning.
Union with Christ in the Eucharist is therefore a union that is accom-
plished across the gap of the ages through the retrieval of a written text
into its oral medium: a liturgical moment which is itself founded on the
Passion and resurrection of Christ, whereby the material text of the world
became againthe divine breath. The Eucharistic moment is not a moment
of presence but one whichso fills presence as to be no longer graspable un-
der that aspect: it is the pleroma of time itself. Paul Ricoeur has argued
that the temporality of Genesis is one in which the ‘always-already-there
of Creationdoes not makesenseindependentlyof theperpetual futurityof
Redemption’ and that ‘between the two is intercalated the eternal nowof
the “you, love me!”’.
22
The Eucharist proleptically grasps the end and the
beginning of things in a complete transparency of the world to its creator.
The effects of our ownparticipationinthis transformedrealityare alsonot
easily grasped but come into view only gradually in the slow mediation
of the everyday. They concern the substrate of our senses, our fleshliness,
andthe contours of our thinking, inthe slowdiffusionof wisdomthrough
senses and mind. Integral to the reception of the world as a NewCreation,
is the discovery that perception itself is redeemed.
Conclusion
In the previous chapter I identified three primary stages in the dynamic
movement of revelation of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, each of which
was simultaneously a moment of deepening creation. The first is the cos-
mic institutionarynarrative of Genesis 1, withthe consequent entryof God
into language as himself a speaking subject; the second is the encounter
22. Andr ´ e LaCocque and Paul Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 67.
Voice and sacrifice 133
between God and Moses in which God revealed his name and established
a relation of conversation – or ‘speaking with’ – Moses ‘face to face’. This
was concomitant with the granting of the Decalogue and establishing of
theCovenant. Thethirdsuchstageis theIncarnationwiththefusingof the
divine and human voice in Jesus, revealing the triadic nature of the divine
speaking. This unity of voice, divine and human, undermined the onto-
logical stability of the voice-bearingbody of Jesus, leadingto his sacrificial
self-identification with the material world which is itself the text, or ex-
tended body, of God. Only through his death, resurrection and ascension
did the voice of God enter once again into the text of the world, effecting
redemption.
At each point the deepening movement of revelation through divine
speech grounded a new kind of humanity. In the first case, it was the es-
tablishing of human subjectivity, summoned into existence through the
divine subjectivity (Gen. 1:29: ‘I give you’). Inthe secondcase, it was the es-
tablishing of the self as an ethical subject, with the reception of the divine
commandments andthe obligations whichflowfroma ‘speakingwith’ re-
lation with God through Moses. This manifested in some cases as a self-
risking prophecy and in others as speaking for the marginalised and vul-
nerable in society: for the ‘stranger, widowand orphan’. In the case of the
self-emptyingof the Soninthe Incarnation, humannature was calledinto
existence in its perfection, as wholly transparent to God. That new ex-
istence was subsequently shaped as the Spirit-filled speech of Pentecost,
leading to praise, prophecy, celebration and thanksgiving.
With the creativity of the universalisation of the Son, who was ‘given’
and ‘poured out’ for all, inhis post-Resurrectionbody, there was a further
openingout inthe creationof the Eucharistic community. This is the com-
munity of those who are moved by God’s address in and through the per-
sonof Christ, andwhoare empoweredwitha newway of seeingthe world:
as divine body. The recognition of the world as divine text-body is itself
constitutive of a newkind of human embodiedness, one which is celebra-
tory, Eucharistic and compassionate, and which discovers itself to be joy-
fully at one with the world-text’s ceaseless play.
III
Eucharistic Wisdom
7
The abundant real
\Wr

¨ r=

∆ h

™hπ hT
Í

a

n h™± hπ yq

Öp
`
!y»lõ rœ
<
¢uW !y
`
ïW
∆ ◦
qr
..
Ñu qΩ» k¨ hlØdfl
.h™
ù
hπ v¡
`
r
-
; a

n v¡r
-
± \W
`
rW rj
-
<
.¨ h

™hπ \W
`
r;
.hä

ù
d
-
h

tt⁄ lØ
`
q v5

W rj
-

.¨ h

™hπ
`
v5; an

v5

`

`
r
-
W rj
-
<

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the
mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord
was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord
was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the
Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire the voice of a gentle breeze.
1 Kings 19:11–12
Inthe first sectionI surveyedsome pre-modernperspectives onthe cosmo-
logical which seemed – albeit at the cost of a liaison with archaic science –
to give powerful theological expression to the principle that creation is
through the Word. In the second section I proposed a scriptural cosmol-
ogy, predicated upon an oscillation between sign and address. According
to this view, the worldandits objects are of God’s making, andhave a dual
signifying function. They can be said both to refer and to address. Their ref-
erential function can be further classified into two types. We have world-
constituting reference, which is to say, the way in which linguistic signs
refer to entities which are at the same time natural signs that point to yet
further entities in a complex weave which grounds our experience of and
participation in the world. Things refer to other things, words to other
words, and language combines with things in the formation of world. We
can term this type of world-constituting reference the secondary referen-
tial function of the sign. But we can discern also a primary or fundamen-
tal mode of referencing, as things refer back to their maker, as an effect to
[137]
138 The Creativity of God
its cause. It is this primary referencing which is the foundation of natural
theology. The secondfunctionof the signas addressivity canalsobe divided
into two types. There is a weak addressivity in which all utterance partic-
ipates. The use of language implicitly or explicitly presupposes one who
listens to or otherwise receives the communication. But a strong addressi-
vity occurs where one speaker directly addresses another.
1
At this point
the dialogism which is implicit in language as such is explicitly realised
within the context of a relation between speech-agents. In the framework
of the present argument, this entails asemiotic, predicatedonamovement
between reference and a strong mode of address, which is the ground of a
newcosmological principle.
That semiotic needs to be distinguished from natural theology on the
one hand just as it does from a direct, unmediated experience of God on
the other. To be a sign which refers is a form of self-emptying as the ex-
istent is evacuated into the presence of another entity. This can be de-
scribedas aformof veilingas one entityis overshadowedbyanother whose
own visibility is commensurate with the vanishing of the signifying en-
try. In pointing beyond itself to the divine Creator, which is the referen-
tial function of a natural theology of the sign, the world does in a sense
recede from us and become instructional: the world is veiled as it points
back to and casts light on a divine causality. Natural theology tends to or-
ganise the world as a diaspora, then, constituted by its memory of a prior
and truer homeland. The functional modality of the sign as address, how-
ever, structures the world in an entirely different way. Here we can say
that addressivity overwhelms the referential function. It does not eradi-
cate it – the world-constituting reference of the sign retains its force – but
the sign receives a new intensification of meaning through the sense of a
divine presence which communicates with us from within the world. Thus
we can say that a reading of the cosmological passages of the New Testa-
ment proclaims the possibility that the referential functionof the signcan
be overwhelmed by a divine addressivity, which operates within it at a new
level of communicative intensity.
Such a semiotics of divine address leads to a cosmological structure of
fullness and of voice. God speaks with us fromwithin his creation. As the
spatio-temporal realm in which the voice of God is heard, we can say that
1. All speech is in a sense address; for example, if I say to you, ‘John has fallen asleep’, then
I amspeaking to you about John. But if I say, ‘I love you’ or ‘Please don’t do that’, then my
address to you is a formof transaction with you and is an attempt to directly influence our
relationship.
The abundant real 139
the world becomes in a sense the voice-bearing body of God. It is this dynamic
which first comes into view in Jesus’ words of institution of the Lord’s
Supper, as the humananddivine voice merge, or speaktogether, andtheir
unity – manifest at the level of body – precipitates the universalisation of
the body of Christ, whichis at once the body of anindividual speech-agent
and the body of the world.
In this third section of the book I shall investigate the nature of the re-
ality of the world at work within that semiotic of Eucharistic disclosure.
I shall contrast a Christian realism with secular accounts of the nature of
reality and begin to reflect upon the kinds of claims the real makes upon
us and the varying possibilities that inhere in the different ways in which
we canlearnto receive the worldinits abundance. Withinsucha Christian
cosmological framework, the role of the body of Christ, and of the world
reconfigured within the body of Christ, will be a primary element in the
embodied Christian experience, understanding and practice of the real.
Realismand Eucharistic semiotics
The reality of the sign is itself a contestation of the real. We cannot think
away signs, any more than we can shed the relativism which is deeply in-
grained in a contemporary world-viewwhich understands differences be-
tweenlanguages andperspectives tobe innate tothe order of things andto
embody as much a claim to the real as any sense of ‘immediacy’ which in-
heres, in Humean terms, to belief as distinct fromfictions of the imagina-
tion. Since the discovery of the centrality of the sign to human cognition,
the realisation of the reality of the sign will determine how we conceptu-
alise the world. If we take it as something which is governed by a reality
which is ‘external’ to it, then our philosophy will take on the colour of a
correspondence theory whereby the sign articulates and is in the service
of the world, as an extra-semantic sphere. If we understand it also to gov-
ernthe worldof objects, thenwe shall findwe have muchincommonwith
the critical realist school, for whom the constructions of language make
known an ‘external’ world, but only heuristically and partially. Accord-
ing to this perspective the cultural traditions we inhabit are as important
an element within our cognitions as the objects or reality which are ex-
ternal to them. Further, we may take the view that signs are essentially
all that we have; they are free-standing and independent elements which
are themselves constitutive of what we knowas the real. We need not look
beyond them for anything corresponding to reality, but should learn to
140 The Creativity of God
discern within them the shape and formation of our world. According to
this – deconstructionist – reading, the reality of the sign is its reference
not to any extra-semiotic realm but merely to other signs, whose reality-
reference inturnis realised only withinlanguage as the ultimate notional
aggregation of possible meanings which attain the density of a world.
Meaning is generated by self-evacuating signs which simultaneously con-
stitute the world, or the real, while emptying it of anything which might
cohere with traditional notions of presence.
A Christian semiotics based on a Eucharistic metaphysics is somewhat
at variance with all three of these – lightly sketched – paradigms. First
and foremost it insists that all questions to do with the sign, whether that
of the Eucharistic elements or not, must be located within a broader se-
mantic field which is that of the world-text. It is important that we do not
replicate the move of secular semiotics at this stage, which is to proceed
fromthe sign as a given, without taking cognizance of the fact that – from
a Christian perspective – the givenness of the sign resides in the giving of
God: as creator of the world, its origins and destiny. In chapter 5 we saw
that the analogy of literary or epistolary texts helps us to envisage this
world-text as being itself informed or animated by the authorial breath
(Spirit) or voice (Word) of God, which– together withthe Father – are mis-
sions of the inner life of the Trinity. This means to say that the nature of the sign
as referring is held ultimately in the act of Trinitarian address: signs only refer be-
cause theyare part of aworldwhichis itself constitutedas the issue or outflowof anact
of communicationbetweenGodandGod. Godas Trinity is therefore implicated
in the very ground of the world. As one who speaks, who enables speech,
and is himself spoken of, God moves at a central point in human history
and in the created order as such. The Eucharist is the making present in
the everyday of that redemptive inhabiting of the text of the world by the
divine voice, as Author of that world; and is the assimilation of reference
back into its originary ground as address. In the Eucharistic presence as
received by the worshipping community, reference does not cease but is
overwhelmed by the divine presence which is its ground, as sign is over-
taken by voice.
The Eucharist does not in itself constitute a unique instantiation of
Christiansemiotics, but is rather a particularly intensive representationof
the principles of Christiancosmological semiotics as such. It cantherefore
be used to illustrate the relation between sign and origin, which is to say,
the createdness of the world, withparticular clarity. Sucha Eucharistic ac-
count of realismstresses the place of divine initiative on the one hand and
The abundant real 141
the incompleteness, or ‘journeying’, of the worldonthe other. It alsogives
a fundamental role to the human community, which is shaped by the di-
vine speakingandwhichinturncanshape andsanctify the worldthrough
action, culture and expression, conceived in the fecundity of a new kind
of perception and responsivity to the creativity of the divine revelation.
Such an account will seek an ultimate unity between all three of the el-
ements of semiosis: the world itself, as sign of God’s authorship, God as
both origin and referent of the sign, and humanity as the one who inter-
prets the sign and draws out its meaning, the ground of which is Christ’s
ownreading of the world. This unity becomes the site of the emergence of
a newvisionof the real, as the hospitable andhabitable space, bothhuman
and divine, in which the world will be released into its ultimate destiny as
NewCreation.
The sign fulfilled
In the natural state, signs are ‘under-way’ or transitional entities whose
claim to reality is balanced by their condition of self-evacuation, or self-
emptying, in the act of pointing beyond themselves to something other.
For a sign to exist is for it to be poised on the brink of vanishing for the
sake of the reality which it designates: whether conceived as objects in an
extra-semantic world or the infinite deferral of other signs. In the natural
state, similarly, human beings who live in a world of signifying signs, and
for whomsigns ‘mean’, occupy a shifting space as interpreters whose own
existence is conditioned by the fugitive character of the signs which ex-
ist for them. We cannot see beyond the contingent surfaces of the world’s
flux, the cosmic semiosis, a richly effervescent but also irreducibly mo-
bile and potently anarchic assemblage of meanings that self-evacuate for
other meanings in a spiralling turbulence of deferred resolutions. And
we can ourselves seem in that display to be what Hegel described as ‘an
appearance’ or ‘surface-show’ of ‘being that is directly and itself a non-
being’.
2
Or, as Fichte stated, we become a ‘dream of a dream’: a nomadic,
de-spirited point of self-awareness adrift in a chain of disconnected nar-
ratives.
3
Indeed, what holds us and gives us balance are those points
of address, the voices of others who speak with us and for us, who are
2. Ph ¨ anomenologie des Geistes, in G. W. F. Hegel, Werke, vol. iii (Frankfurt amMain: Suhrkamp,
1970), p. 116; Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1977), p. 87.
3. J. G. Fichte, The Vocation of Man, ed. and trans. Peter Preuss (Johann Fichte. The Vocation of Man
(Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1987), p. 65).
142 The Creativity of God
epiphanies of reality, and in whomthe sign with all its magical multitude
of meanings achieves the stability of presence.
4
AChristianfundamental semiosis offers aradical alternativetothecon-
ventional semiotic systems outlinedabove. The questionof whether signs
point primarily to objects, through ostensive reference, or whether they
point primarily or purely to other signs, is not essential to the deeper
insight that their mode of reference, or constitution as sign, is itself
grounded in the divine address as God speaks with God. As we have re-
peatedly noted, Christian thinking on the createdness of the world, and
hence on the nature of the sign which is foundational to the structure of
theworld, must start fromthescriptural passages whichidentifytheWord
as the originary cosmological principle: the one through whomall things
were made. The claim of a Eucharistic semiotics is that Jesus’ own com-
plete entry into Scripture, which was marked by his utter self-giving for
the sake of others – as broken bread and wine poured out – in an anticipa-
tion of the coming of the kingdom, was also the point at which the Word
throughwhomall things were made became againthe speakinggroundof
all that is. The Eucharistic claim is further that the human communities
who gather in his name at particular times and places can – by the power
of Jesus’ words – enter into his very act of reading through the liturgy of
their common life and can thereby receive a new way of seeing the world.
That renewed perception belongs to the NewCreation and is grounded in
the sense or awareness that the world itself is in some profound and in-
communicable sense the breath of God and the body of Christ, through
and in whomGod speaks creatively with us. It is here that the Spirit plays
a particular role, since the Spirit is at the same time the breath that forms
speaking and the breath that animates bodily life. Just as, in Ezekiel, it is
the advent of the Spirit of God that raises the dry bones and sinews into
living bodies, so too it is the coming of the Spirit in a new way through
the Word’s unity with the world that makes of the world a divine body,
shaped in and through the Son. The descent of the Spirit at Pentecost and
in the Eucharistic epiclesis draws the themes of new speech, renewed cre-
ation and cosmic, resurrected life richly together.
Understoodas anexemplumof the real, then, Eucharistic metaphysics
offers a model of reality which takes the world to be in a sense the body of
God. This is not a device to explain the relation between the world and its
Author, as is commonly the case, but reflects an understanding of body as
4. See Fichte, The Vocation of Man, Part iii.
The abundant real 143
relation: space configured as love. Traditional Christian discourse on the
body has tended to be influenced by notions of the materiality of the body
as a mode of individuation, or self-realisation within the world.
5
Here, in
contrast, I am arguing for a view of the bodiliness of the world which un-
derstands it interms more of a divine erotics thandefinitional logic: as di-
vine embrace. The deepreality of the world, therefore, is not tobe foundin
the sign, whose necessaryemptiness is aformof pregnant expectation, nor
is it to be found in the ostensive reference of the realists. Rather, the deep
reality of the world, in which the sign is fulfilled, is the presence of God
speaking with us, in our specific temporal and spatial locations, through
the textuality of the world: as an overwhelming which is the fulfilling of
the created sign by the self-communication of the triune God with us as
voice which is simultaneously body, as body which is at the same time
world.
A Christian philosophy of the real
There have been numerous attempts during the history of philosophy to
capture what can be designated as ‘the given’, which then becomes the
ground of the ‘ultimately real’. Indeed, the traditions of Western philos-
ophy can be viewed as successive projects based upon a prioritisation of
some element within experience, or our knowledge of the world, which
is deemed to be more foundational than others and which takes on the
role of a governing principle within a conceptual system which, in what
Strawson calls the ‘prescriptive’ or ‘metaphysical’ tradition, attempts to
give a unified account of what it is to be in the world.
6
In this chapter,
my concern lies with the question of how a distinctively Christian phi-
losophy of the real is to be formed (while in the final chapter I shall re-
flect upon distinctively Christian ways of reasoning which are predicated
upon it). The principal problematic is that the real, which becomes man-
ifest in the address, or voice, which overwhelms the signifiers, emerges
at a point which is prior to the constructions of our language, reasoning
andfeeling. It is anevent whichconstitutes the core of our experience and
hence eludes thematisation as experience. A Christian philosophy of the
real cannot begin as philosophy, therefore, for this would be to evade re-
ality through networks of thought; it would be the fabrication of what
5. Paul S. Fiddes, ‘Incarnation and the Embodiment of Christ’ (unpublished paper).
6. P. F. Strawson, Individuals (London: Methuen, 1959), pp. 9–11.
144 The Creativity of God
can be packaged and offered as the real, and which quickly becomes as re-
mote fromthe real as any other cultural scripting. AChristianphilosophy
whichbeganina process of reasoning wouldbe insome sense a contradic-
tion in terms since – as philosophy – it would be an act of evasion, and the
adjective Christian would simply describe the colour of its inauthenticity.
Christian philosophy must begin in another, more primordial place, with
another state of mind, neither rational nor non-rational, neither reflective
nor naı¨ve. It must begin in a mood, or intuition or condition of the self
which mediates the sense of an encounter with the other that is beyond or
beneath language, and yet which is still a condition of experience: recog-
nisable, even familiar.
Christian philosophy must begin with the exercise of a certain passiv-
ity, whichis a long hesitation, a waiting inpatience, before the intractable
otherness which is at the core of experience.
7
It is this that registers the
presence of the real, prior to its deflection into avenues of evasion. Pas-
sivity is the mark of the authenticity of our perception before the irre-
ducible actuality of reality. But where is this passivity to be found, for it
cannot be self-induced? Where is it to be learned? The attempt to make
ourselves passive would be a striving of the will and thus a form of activ-
ity. The more we struggledtoachieve it, the more it wouldelude us. It can-
not be self-induced because passivity as such is always the gift of another.
But the learningof a deeppassivity is also a difficult concept: for who shall
teach us? Who could mediate to us such a primal posture of the self be-
fore reality? Andyet ina certainsense passivity of this kindcanbe learned,
but only if the learning is a form of discovery of what is already there and
available to us.
8
In other words, we can learn to see what is already a pos-
sibility. So the questions which mark the beginning of a Christian philos-
ophy of the real are these: where shall we learn this deepest passivity and
be awakened to its possibilities? Howshall we make its discovery?
7. I amusing the term‘passivity’ here in an entirely neutral sense, to denote a condition
which is ordered to a pure divine activity or dynamic presence that is pre-conceptual. This
condition might also be described as ‘submission’ or ‘resignation’ but in both of these cases
the object, or that to which they are ordered, can be taken to be something akin to
‘command’ or perhaps ‘power’, both of which already function at the conceptual level. The
medieval theologian Meister Eckhart made extensive use of the terminology of wirken (divine
acting) and leiden (human suffering or passivity) to designate the foundational relation
between humanity and God as one conditioned at its heart by the divine reality. It is this that
my use of the term‘passivity’, which means something like ‘stillness’ or ‘responsivity’, seeks
to emulate.
8. This condition of passivity is not drawn out fromwithin us, therefore, but is a state that is
given fromoutside ourselves, by the Teacher, to borrowa phrase fromKierkegaard’s
Philosophical Fragments.
The abundant real 145
For the Christian there is a place where passivity is exercised before all
others, with a primordiality which is a listening or attentiveness to the
ground of existence itself. This is the passivity exercised before Christ, as
redeemer andsaviour. For Catholic Christians that passivity finds its focus
in the Eucharistic celebration, where it comes into view as a responsivity
of thanksgiving. Here there is a newpossibility of the apprehensionof the
real, for the Eucharistic mind is a mind trained in attentiveness, an un-
paralleled state of being given over to the other beyond all limits. In the
moment of ‘transubstantiation’, when the signifying elements are over-
taken by the spoken Word, and by an alterity which transfigures their ma-
terial form, breaking sign into presence: in that moment the mind learns
a new form of dynamic stillness. This is not a stillness of the heart or in-
tellect alone, but of the whole self, summoned into dialogue with God
through the Word of the Trinity: called out of our own meanings not
through interpretation but by the embrace of the speaking other whose
voice, as the Spirit’s voice, inhabits our own speaking as celebration and
intercession.
IntheEucharist, thedynamic that wemight call Eucharistic perception
becomes the ideal ground of all human perceiving. And it does so because
it forms us in the possibility of a new way of receiving the real, through
sight, hearing, touch, smell andtaste. We discover inworshipa primordial
attentiveness before the one who is the ultimate other-in-relation, which
becomes a training in the apprehension of the real, perceived not as a do-
main to be conquered through a controlling interpretation but as a fe-
cundity and an abundance that excessively fills our minds and our senses,
making possible the infinite variety of human ways of knowing, sensing
and feeling. It is this, the fecundity of the divine creativity made visible
in the person of Christ, but intrinsic no less to the web of the world, that
forms the ground of the pragmatic theory, or theology, of the world’s cre-
atedness which this book articulates.
A Christian philosophy of the real reflects an immediacy which is
prior even to the notion of experience but which does not represent,
nevertheless, a kind of aporetics; it is not itself known as the alien and
strange which becomes resident among us through the operations of the
sacrament (although that is indeed one of its possible constructions). The
real, as I have defined it, is the state which is not knowledge itself but is
the pre-conceptual ground of knowing, in which self and other are not
separable and in which sentience and perception, subject and object, still
form a unity. The unfolding from that first moment of the constructions
146 The Creativity of God
andoperations of subject andobject, sense andknowledge, is aninevitable
process, though one which can be delayed by an attitude of attentiveness
which is akin to prayer: the posture of a self which is given over utterly
to the apprehension of what eludes our categories, which is prior to our
thought andyet whichlays claimtous totally as the primordial place from
which subject and object first emerge within the unfolding horizon of a
world.
The pre-conceptual, then, cannot itself be received by us as the object
of knowledge; it is known rather in the claims it makes upon us. For a
self, tutoredinthe experience of Eucharistic presence, the claimof the real
manifests as the formation of a certain kind of embodiment. This type of
embodiment is as foundational, and as pre-conceptual, as the real itself.
We can only ever know it, therefore, in the transformations which it ef-
fects in our lives. Amongst these we must point in particular to the in-
creased sense of compassion, and of celebration, which develops in the
Eucharistic self who is set in relation with the transformed elements as
the body and blood of Christ. The ecclesial body which is formed in this
encounter is one which is foundationally committed to the other, and is
foundationally worshipful or celebratory (I shall discuss these themes in
the following chapter). But what we can know about the real in itself,
from our experience in the Eucharist, is that it is itself a form of relation:
the real is itself a kind of bodiliness. The Eucharist teaches us furthermore
that this bodiliness or relation, which is the point of meeting between
self and other prior to their differentiation, is also a form of hospitality: a
pleroma of generous fecundity, in which the subject, as it emerges, knows
itself to have been welcomed and received. What we encounter in the
thematised body of Christ given in the Eucharist, then, is the shape of
the real itself, as divine hospitality, divine embrace, in which we are re-
ceivedevenas we receive. Andthe Eucharistic attentiveness teaches us that
it is Christ himself who holds us, at the core of our experience: calling,
communicating, and receiving us from within the world as the ground of
existence.
Intensities of the real
In line with the above argument that the semiotic which comes into view
inthe Catholic understandingof the Eucharist is a semiotic of the worldit-
self andnot just of one part of the world, it is important tosee alsothe ways
inwhichthe real, as the self-communicationor embrace of God, manifests
The abundant real 147
in other areas of our living. In this section we look at some of the other
ways in which we can come into an embodied awareness of our relation
to the real, itself manifest as the pure relatedness of the divine body. It is
naturally the case that every individual’s experience of this will be their
own, and there are no prescriptive norms that can be set down. But there
is perhaps a certain structure which such ‘passages’ or ‘events’ in life will
have incommon. We may see inthemthe structure of belonging andover-
whelming which parallels the inner form of the Eucharistic celebration,
as an intensive mode of Christian cosmic semiotics. These occasions will
be grounded in the sense of the self being given over into the otherness
of the real in such a way that the self remains a principle of identity, even
if the parameters of that identity can undergo dramatic transformations.
But above all, it is in terms of a common temporal structure that we can
identify such moments which are an epiphany of the real.
Eucharistic presence is characterised as temporal fullness, or pleroma
of time. That fullness is to be understoodagainst the backgroundof a the-
ology of creationwhich, inbiblical tradition, is the ‘already-always-there’.
As we attempt tocomprehendcreation, we encounter the impossible para-
dox of attempting to conceive what cannot be known – at least not by us –
as the ‘not-yet’.
9
In Pierre Gibert’s terms, ‘the beginning is the place that
cannot begrasped, aplacethat is radicallyimpossibletoperceiveor experi-
ence as such a beginning’.
10
That ‘beginning’ is likewise determined as an
‘end’, however, in the close intermeshing of redemptive and soteriologi-
cal themes withIsrael’s reflectionuponits origins andthe origins of God’s
world. The temporal structure of the Eucharistic presence, then, is one in
which the end and the beginning sustain each other; each is in the pos-
session of the other. The divine beginning, which encloses the end within
itself, cannot be thought of as a sequence of events, which is to say, within
our ordinary experience of time, but manifests rather as a fullness of pres-
ence, as a way of being in the present moment.
This Eucharistic temporality, which is the unity of beginning and end,
destabilises the ordinary sense of time of those who participate in it. In
Ecclesiastes the Teacher states that although God has placed within us a
sense of longduration( ˆ olam), we cannot understand‘God’s deeds fromthe
9. Andr ´ e LaCocque and Paul Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 31–67, especially
54–67.
10. Pierre Gibert, Bible, mythes et r ´ ecits de commencement (Paris: Seuil, 1986), p. 8 (quoted in
LaCocque and Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically, p. 50).
148 The Creativity of God
beginning until the end’.
11
In other words, the eternity or a-temporality
of God’s actions within history disrupts the ordinary sense of time which
is native to us, so that we are frustrated in our attempts to make sense of
the world as the place in which God reveals himself to us. For Christians,
it is the sacrifice on the Cross, together with the Eucharist which makes
that one sacrifice present to us again, which is the place where God’s
logic of eternity breaks in upon us in the most ostensive way. In that mo-
ment the body of Christ is both particular, which is to say temporally lo-
cated, and is universal, or eternal. Past and future combine in the unity
of Eucharistic presence, which shatters the temporality of the world and
draws the worshipping community to the threshold of a different kind
of time.
There are experiences in life which seem to stand in a limit-relation to
the natural attitude of our ordinary living. They are moments when ques-
tions of ultimate meaning seem to come into play, and the ordinary tem-
poral structure of our lives is radically calledintoquestion, as if intensities
of the real bring with them a new kind of – Eucharistic – temporality. In
the case of the Eucharist itself, that atemporality is not experiencedas dis-
orientation or alienation, since the real manifests here as relatedness and
hospitality. We are drawnintoEucharistic presence as intoa state of having
been received which is prior to any act of cognition on our part. The human
response tothe Eucharistic atemporality, whichsorestructures our world,
is necessarilyone of radical trust, as we are calledtogive ourselves over into
the flow and dynamic of elemental reality. Trust and the real are ordered
one to the other: the emergence of the real is fostered by trust and an in-
crease in trust follows from our coming-into-relation with the real. Such
‘passages of the real’ as we encounter in our ordinary living are therefore
moments of possibility, whenwe canexperience the world inits depths as
a being-in-relation, as a form of bodiliness, which calls forth in us a cre-
ative, ‘cosmic’ trust.
But a total trust of this kind cannot be divorced fromhope or joy. Hope
is a transcendental condition of the self. It may have a specific cause, com-
ing about on account of particular events in which we reason to the pos-
sibility of a positive outcome. But as a transcendental virtue, hope is an
expression of our sense of being buoyed up, and sustained, by the deep
structure of the world. Hope follows upontrust, andis likewise a modality
11. Eccl. 3:11 (NRSV: ‘he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot
find out what God has done fromthe beginning to the end’).
The abundant real 149
of being given over to the world, and being received by it. Joy, like hope,
can be occasioned by many things, but joy is itself more than delighting
in something: it is a deep-seated sense of well-being which is co-extensive
with our being in the world. Through the sense of joy, which comes to us
spontaneously as a received state of mind rather than one which we our-
selves control or manufacture, we again find that we are given over into a
structure of transformation which both transcends our individuality and
yet is predicated upon it.
12
Trust, hope and joy are thus transcendental states of mind which are
grounded in the ultimate goodness of the world as it contains and trans-
forms us. They follow from our own participation in the divine creativ-
ity, in which we enter into the divine compassion as the deep structure
of the world. That is a moment which escapes our cognition in itself but
which can nevertheless become known to us in a transcendental and un-
conditioned way. The trust, joy and hope that come upon us are a sign
that we are living in the world as true creatures of the creative and com-
passionate God.
Sense-life
Inthe intense drama that is eachandevery humanlife, there are moments,
then, when we are summoned into a more intimate, and trusting, rela-
tion with the world around us. Perhaps it is not surprising that one of
the chief ways in which we experience the claim of the real is in the inti-
macy of sexual love. In sexual stimulation, with a life-partner to whom
we have made a total and open-ended commitment as in the marriage
vows, we find that we are given over to the other in a deep reciprocity
of sensation. In this case, the externality of the other is overcome at ev-
ery stage by the increasing intimacy and inwardness of the sexual sen-
sation. The tactility of love-making leads to an intensity of awareness of
sensation as a mutuality between self and other, in an exchange of in-
wardness and externality. In love-making, the senses become the place in
whichwe knowourselves as givenover entirely intothe sense-impressions
of the other, just as the other enters as new intensive life into our own
internal and sensate world. In the exchange of love, the senses are no
longer the border that separates self from world, the inward from the ex-
ternal, but become the possibility of a unique translocation, as we become
12. Forms of ‘enthusiasm’ or Schw ¨ armerei are parallel states of mind but ones which tend to
efface the cognising self rather than affirmthe point of relation between self and world.
150 The Creativity of God
the sense impressions of the other and they become the life of our own
sense-world.
The creativity of the participation of the self in the real through sex-
ual love is mediated in terms both of transformation of life on the part of
the couple and of the procreation of children who are the embodiment of
their love and mutual commitment. The temporal destabilisation which
takes place in the former case comes to the fore in the marriage vows, in
whicheachpartner commits themselves to the other for the whole of their
lifetime. When we are young, it is impossible to have any real sense of
what such a commitment over a period of forty, fifty or sixty years might
mean. Binding vows entail the embrace of a significant degree of tempo-
ral alienation, therefore, as young people make a grave, personal commit-
ment withina durationof time they cannot possibly understand. The ‘cre-
ation’ of a person entails more than their physical procreation, of course;
the personality of the child is moulded and formed by the shared values
andworld-views of the couple who parent them: that is, by that same rela-
tion which is also the life and fruition of their love-making. But that ‘cre-
ation’ of children also entails a degree of temporal alienation, as the par-
ents know that they are only a small part in a chain that will extend far
beyond their own lifetimes. The birth of a child is one of the key points in
a person’s life when they are brought to an understanding of the limit of
their own temporal world.
Praying the end
Theendof life, likethebeginningof life, sets us beforetheclaimof thereal.
Deathencircles our lives, andis the constant limit that shadows our health
andour strength. We knowinyouththat it is the logical andnecessary end
of our existence but this knowledge takes ona newandexistential force as
we increase in years and experience the loss of close relatives. In their dy-
ing we can observe the way in which death is an overcoming of our bodily
life but nevertheless one inwhichthe individual personhas their owncru-
cial part to play.
13
As we approach death, we can reject it, as the irremedi-
able rupturing of our temporality, as something entirely senseless within
the patterns of our ordinary living. Or alternatively we can give assent to
the greater dynamic of living, findinginthe endingof our bodilyexistence
traces of the divine compassion, moving forward in trust, hope and joy.
Then we shall find that it is potentially a uniquely creative time: we can
13. Joel Shuman, The Body of Compassion (Boulder, Colo.: WestviewPress, 1999), pp. 1–6.
The abundant real 151
perhaps never play a greater part in the mystery of life, and never possess
a greater possibility to shape it, than in its ending.
Art
The twofold character of the real as laying claim to the self, with an invi-
tation to a creative participation on the one hand and as a destabilisation
of our ordinary temporality on the other, comes into view also in the case
of art and the aesthetic response. Hans-Georg Gadamer has argued that
the interpretation of the work of art is a particularly intensive example of
the way in which we make sense of the world in general.
14
In other words,
rather than standing as an isolated experience, cut off from our ordinary
perceptions, the appreciationof the work of art actually stands inclose re-
lation to the way in which we experience the world as such. If the world is
constitutedthroughits meanings, thenit is certainly the case that a major
art work possesses a semantic richness of extraordinary density. On each
occasion when we read a fine novel or stand before an intriguing paint-
ing ina gallery, we openourselves upto anobject whichis the compressed
andcomplexexpressionof a whole range of cultural forces. Indeed, one of
the defining qualities of an outstanding work of art is its capacity to lay
full claim to our attention, and to demand from us a serious, sustained
andopen-endedact of interpretation. Inline withthe other life events dis-
cussedabove, the encounter withthe workof art canbe anencounter with
the worlditself at a heightenedlevel of intensity, andina way whichdraws
us into itself. In its appreciation, the work of art lays claim to us as
someone who is integral to itself. As we struggle to come to terms with
its rich complexity, we are ourselves, as interpreters, made part of its
meaning.
It is easy to forget that the work of art results from the skills of a par-
ticular individual who, in the case of the classic works of art at least, is
likely to have been born at a time and place very remote from our own.
Art is nevertheless a distinctive form of address. We can be powerfully ad-
dressedbyits compellingcomplexityandastonishinggrace. Therearetwo
ways therefore in which the work of art destabilises our temporality. The
first is the extent to which it introduces into our own world the voices,
insights and imaginations of others who have lived before us. We are ex-
posed in a most intimate and affective way to very different social hori-
zons and times, though in ways that are recognisable. Indeed, a work of
14. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward, 1979), pp. 99–150.
152 The Creativity of God
art can convey in a very powerful way the sense of the presence of those –
long dead – who are depicted in it. But the sense of the artist’s own pres-
ence is likewise communicated in the work of art. In the reception of
their creativity, we can subtly share with the artist something essential of
their own vitality. We can be moved by people we have not known; we can
share with them the strangeness of reality. In the appreciation of a work
of art, we find that our own time is submerged in the temporality of
others. Our lives are relativised; and we are brought before our own tem-
poral limit.
Conclusion
Froma Christianperspective, the real at its foundationis expressive of the
graciousness of God. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, that graciousness
comes into view as the fulfilment of the sign. In the celebration of God’s
transformingact, at the heart of the world, the structure of the worldas cre-
ated is opened up to us and becomes in itself body and food. We encounter
it in the Eucharist as body because the real is in its deepest sense God’s
relatedness with us, and God’s self-communication. We receive it as food
because the understanding of the real is at the same time a communica-
tioninwhichwe ourselves participate as active interpreters of the fulfilled
sign who are drawn into the life of God, which is given with it. We are not
merely observers from without, therefore, but are an intrinsic part of its
self-communication.
Certainlimit-experiences inour lives exhibit astructure whichapprox-
imates themto the Eucharist as a vehicle for the manifestation of the real.
Although they do not share the explicit thematisation of reality as the
body and blood of Christ, they represent an intensity of engagement with
the worldwhichbrings withit apowerful invitationtoacreative participa-
tion. They also call into question the temporality of our natural attitude,
not as radically as is the case with the real presence, but in them the limit
of our temporal nature becomes manifest in an unmistakable way. Such
moments, which I have called ‘intensities of the real’, offer an invitation
to engage withthe heart of life andto reject or receive life inthe specificity
of its address to us.
The Eucharist teaches us that all reality is to be received as the divine
body. This cannot be taught in any propositional sense, but only as the in-
culcation of a newpassivity of mind and body which is itself the discovery
of a prior dynamic of relatedness, too fundamental and pre-conceptual to
The abundant real 153
be known in any other way than through the slow learning of a new form
of – Eucharistic – embodiment in the world.
The Christian account of the real, then, is ultimately one which under-
stands it to be not so much resistance or limit as excess, a wave, a momen-
tum of embrace, which comes to meet us at the root of our perceptions.
It is in the Eucharist that we can learn to discern and receive the real: as a
divine being-in-relation: as the body of Christ, given for us.
8
Wisdomof the flesh
Osculetur me osculo oris sui
Quia meliora sunt ubera tua uino
May he kiss me with the kiss of his mouth
For your breasts are more delightful than wine
CanticumCanticorum
Theprimaryargument I havepresentedinthis bookis that thedeepreality
which is at the root of the world is as much a divine reality as it is a tem-
poral one and that it can be conceived of as a kind of Primal Text, which
is to say a creative, ‘externalised’ self-communication of God (by analogy
with the way that a human author produces a text). The Primal Text of
the creation cannot be known in itself but comes into view in its func-
tion as a cosmic principle of intertextuality. This means primarily that all
the many textualities whichinformour existence are groundedinthe one
Primal Text, or primary text of creation, and receive their form from it.
But it means not only that textuality itself is a product of the Primal Text,
but also intertextuality, or the interaction between the different textuali-
ties, which is the structure that enables the emergence of world. This the-
ory of a first, cosmic text plays the same role as that of analogy inmedieval
theology, which gave an account of how the successive orders of creation
were linked through a common cause, in God. It does not presuppose a
pre-modernnotionof causality, however, as that whichentails the replica-
tionof thecauseintheeffect, but looks rather totheorganic andexpressive
relationship of the author to his or her own text.
1
1. This is to adopt elements fromRomantic hermeneutics, which laid a greater stress upon
the author–text relation than was the tendency amongst later hermeneutical thinkers (see
[154]
Wisdomof the flesh 155
I have further argued that it is in the Eucharist that we learn a respon-
sivity to the divine text. Unknowable in itself, it is mediated to us in and
throughthe real presence of the body of Christ. We cansay, therefore, that
the root of the world as divine body is also made present to us in and with
the Eucharistic body of Christ.
2
The structure of that moment is three-
fold. In the first place, the originary voice of God, whose speaking is the
creation, sets up the expectation of a divine body. Voices are produced by
bodies; bodies are ‘voice-bearing’.
3
For God to have a voice is therefore,
by implication, for God to have a body. This sets up a highly dialectical
process, since it is unthinkable that the voice of the one whose speaking
is the origin of the world should itself be borne by a body, for any ma-
terial thing can only be the product and not the source of that creative
speaking. The body of Jesus, as the manwho bears the divine voice, is con-
ceived within this impossible, dialectical space. The Christian belief that
creation is through the Second Person, the Word who – in the formula of
the Prologue to the Gospel of John – ‘became flesh’, is also expressive of
this same dialectic.
4
The secondpart of this threefoldstructure is foundin
the alienationof the divine voice withinthe text of the world, as the divine
for instance Schleiermacher’s General Introduction in his Hermeneutics and Criticism, trans.
A. Bowie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 3–29). In his Divine Discourse
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) Nicholas Wolterstorff advances a broadly
Schleiermacherian account of the nature of texts, including scriptural ones, against the
anti-authorial tendencies of Paul Ricoeur and Jacques Derrida’s hermeneutics. In contrast,
the scriptural hermeneutics that I amproposing here can be seen to represent an
intensification of Schleiermacher’s authorial model but, since the author concerned is the
superabundant divine presence, I argue that the human act of interpretation necessarily
takes on some of the characteristics of deconstruction. As an encounter with the divine
overwhelming, interpretation becomes partial, mobile and dynamic to the extent that each
interpretative act, though possibly full and complete in itself, is rapidly overtaken by the
abundance of the divine self-communication. Interpretation thus becomes a constant process
of reappraisal and repairal undertaken before the intensity and richness of the divine
presence. According to this model, interpretation – though at one level individual – is also
grounded in the community and subject to its verification. The character of the divine reality
as embodied, implies the divine revelation to the ‘body’ of Israel, or the ‘body’ of the Church,
of which the individual can only ever be a mediation.
2. I amwriting this within the Catholic tradition. But it seems to me to be the case that the
universalised body of Christ is manifest within other modalities, not least in the reading and
reception of Scripture itself. See also note 11 below.
3. See the useful discussion of voice in Jos ´ e Gil, Metamorphoses of the Body (Minneapolis and
London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), pp. 186–94.
4. There is also an implication here that embodiment – however construed – is a principle
which obtains within the Trinity and which prefigures the creation of the world-text and the
Incarnation of the Son. It can be argued that the notion of the Son as Word already implies a
certain textuality, and thus corporality, and it is this which underlies the tradition, which
extends fromOrigen to Hamann, St Bonaventure and von Balthasar, that the Son ‘is the very
language of the Father’ (Peter Casarella, ‘The Expression and Formof the Word: Trinitarian
Hermeneutics and the Sacramentality of Language in Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology’,
Renascence 48.2 (winter 1996), 111–35, here 111). See also Ewart Cousins, ‘Bonaventure’s
156 The Creativity of God
speaking is externalised and made subject to radical interpretation. This
calls for aprocess of repair or healingwhichis at the same time the repristi-
nation of the world. In order for the divine voice to enter correctively into
the very fabric of the world-text, it was necessary for the dialectic of the
divine body to be worked out within Christ’s own body. The realisation
of the divine speaking within Jesus led to a moment of sacrificial redemp-
tion as his human body – under the weight of the divine voice speaking
in him – was broken and poured out, becoming one with the elements,
renewing and reanimating the body of the world. This repristination, or
redemption, of the worldcanbe summedupinthe principle that the bodyof
Christ is that whichmediates betweenthe voice of God the Creator and the world-text
that is the issue of God’s creative speaking. The redemptive sacrifice is therefore
also the moment when the world is restored back into the unity of God’s
speaking and when the world becomes in a new sense the body of God.
The third stage is the Eucharistic recapitulation or making present of the
cosmic sacrificial act. In this chapter I shall focus upon the transformed
embodiment which is the appropriate human response to the redemptive
self-communicationof Godmediatedthroughthe Eucharist. I shall argue
that this newbody-sense, formed within the celebratory and compassion-
ate community of the Church, who are summoned into unity by the voice
of God, is the emergence of radical ecclesiality.
The human body and the Primal Text
The human body is at its core and in its perfection the point of our unity
withthe Primal Text. It is therefore the point of our greatest vulnerability
inthe worldandgreatest receptivity before the creativity of Godat workin
the world. But we do not in general know our bodies in this way. We only
know our body in its self-replications that play through the fields of our
sense-perceptions. We knowit, for instance, as that which defines us as an
entityintheworld. Bodies areboundaries, markingaterritoryof whichwe
are sole sovereign. Suchbodies have rights, andrequire personal space and
autonomy. But body is also the domain of relationality; it is in Merleau-
Ponty’s sense our participation in the element of the ‘flesh’ which tran-
scends any one entity or gatheringof entities. It is the ‘sea’ of touchingand
being touched in which we move and have our being without ever seeing
Mysticismof Language’, in Stephen Katz, ed., Mysticismand Language (NewYork: Oxford
University Press, 1992), pp. 236–57.
Wisdomof the flesh 157
the possibility of a horizon. Body too is a kind of memory in which is in-
scribedall our negotiations withthe world. As Spinoza suggested, we only
come into our own body-sense through other bodies which serve as stim-
uli to the senses.
5
Eachpoint of stimulus, or sequence of stimuli, mediates
to us what is other than us, and yet does so in a way that seems internal to
our own bodies and minds. The compacting memory of those touchings
or points of contact is the formation of our world as a place in which we
share a series of coherent relations with other bodies, known to us in the
repeated patterns of the sense stimuli. But the body is also the formation
of our own ways of acting in this world, our habitual and generally cor-
porate practices and responses which become ingrained in us and which
are themselves a kind of memory of who we are, and of who we have been.
As habitus, the body is a set of practices which define our existence in the
world, as social and relational beings.
Body is further the primary expression of our gendered and sexual na-
ture. It is the domain of intimate response ordered to the body of another
in which we gain access to the most intense experiences of mutual in-
dwelling through the senses. In sexual love we discover our own body in
newways through the body of the other, and lovers come to inhabit a new
space, neither mine nor yours, but crafted through a sharing in the sense-
life of the other. Here again body is reproduced but nowas a shared body:
a world that is sustained by a shared habitus of love-making.
We encounter our own bodies too in the ways that they are mediated
to us through culture. Here the paradigms may be so deep as to be al-
most invisible. The fundamental ways in which we construe our bodies
may be governedby the most powerful paradigms that operate inthe con-
structionof our world.
6
Inmodernsociety, wearedominated, for instance,
by sophisticatedinstrumental, functionalist paradigms of the body which
stress chains of causality andwhichreflect the broader technological men-
talities of the age. The body either ‘works’ or ‘breaks down’ and where
its functions are impaired, these may be taken over by machines. Another
5. Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, vol. ii, p14–31 (Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, trans. Edwin Curley
(Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1996), pp. 44–52). On the link between imagination and
body in Spinoza, see Moira Gatens and Genevieve Lloyd, Collective Imaginings. Spinoza Past and
Present (London and NewYork: Routledge, 1999), pp. 12–18.
6. Dale Martin, for instance, has shown howthe church community which Paul was
addressing in his First Letter to the Corinthians was one in which two fundamentally distinct
paradigms of the body came into conflict. The one was permeable and hierarchical and
ordered to an external cosmology, while the other was concerned with pollution and with
policing boundaries (Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body, NewHaven and London: Yale
University Press, 1995).
158 The Creativity of God
paradigmwhichis powerfully influential inour society is that of the body
as a fieldof performance. We like towatchathletes whoperformat the lim-
its of human capacity, but we also like to practice popular leisure sports
ourselves. ‘Fitness’ is the public expression of a person who is in con-
trol of their body and world in an athleticism of cultural and social per-
formance. Further, the body is continually replicated as the focus of sex-
ual desire. Direct and indirect pornography and the skills of advertising
companies combine to ensure that alluring images of the human body
are never far from our view. This is to make the body the object of wish-
fulfilment and desire; it is to generate the human body in its representa-
tions as itself an aspect of consumerist values and as detachable from the
paradigms of social and relational living. In David Le Breton’s words, the
‘modernbody . . . implies the cuttingoff of the subject fromothers (a social
structure of an individualistic kind), from the cosmos (the primary mat-
ter of which the body is composed does not exist elsewhere), fromoneself
(we have a body rather than are a body)’. The Western body is ‘the place of
division, the objective frame of the sovereignty of the self ’.
7
The body self-replicates through technology, cultural iconography,
sense-memories and the physical reproduction of children, but at its core
and in its perfection, it remains hidden from our experience.
8
It is an
empty field which takes on the symbolic values of the social imaginary
and, as Le Breton argues, the successive cultural images of the body can
be seen as an attempt to reduce its ‘mystery’.
9
To this extent it is like the
Primal Text itself, which is the intensive, pre-conceptual reality that hu-
man thought brackets and evades.
Voice, text and body
Texts and bodies have this in common: both are constituted, or even ani-
mated, by a circularity of breath which draws the sign away from the ma-
teriality of the world into a universe of conceptuality and meaning. It is
the unity of texts, which is intrinsic to their formation as a corpus, which
forms the ground of this higher and more intensive degree of signifying.
The individual signs in a text take on a heightened impetus and mean-
ing within the specific borders which frame the text as text: the words
7. David Le Breton, Anthropologie du corps et modernit ´ e (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France,
1990), p. 8.
8. See Le Breton’s comments on this (ibid., chapter 1: ‘L’insaisissable du corps’).
9. Ibid., p. 22.
Wisdomof the flesh 159
of a poem resonate with each other and refer forwards and backwards
within the poem’s overarching unity. The different scenes of a novel co-
alesce through memory and anticipation within the text’s unfolding nar-
rative. In the case of Scripture, it is the unity of the canon which supports
figural andtypological meanings, allowing readings whichpoint forward
to fulfilment and back to anticipation. It is the unity of the text, then,
whichcangenerate complexcycles of free-flowingmeanings, as the text as
a whole is received by different interpreters, or different acts of interpre-
tation, and as the text is itself set in alignment with other texts and other
readings. The ‘life’ of the text resides precisely in this density of meaning,
which is the circulation of semiological possibilities within its own bor-
ders. Consequently, it is the boundaries of the text which are the text’s own
unique individuationandwhichcreate the possibility of its ownextended
semiotic life.
10
The boundaried body, for its part, is the individuation which is intrin-
sic to the human person. Human flesh is matter which is so permeated
with voice and personal presence as to be virtually no longer recognis-
able as matter. When we look upon material bodies, we see the person
themselves: matter saturated with meaning, personality and intent. It is
only whenwe look uponthe dead body of a family member or close friend
that we see their body for the first time in the starkness of its pure materi-
ality. Every part of the living body is referred to its ‘centre’ in the person-
hoodof thevital self, whichfinds its visibleanalogueinthefaceandits oral
analogue in the voice. The body is animated and held together as a whole
on the grounds of the life that circulates within the borders which are its
individuating definition.
But the differences between bodies and texts are also profound. We are
addressed by texts, but only indirectly so. The original address of the au-
thor’s voice inthe text canseemremote andinconsequential tous, or it can
appear to be no longer discernible. But in the case of human bodies, the
materiality of the sign is entirely taken up in a form of intensive semiosis
which is at the same time personal. We feel the person in the body. We
10. Paul S. Fiddes has developed an enormously rich theological reflection upon ‘the notion
of the canon as bordered space’ (‘Canon as Space and Place’, in John Barton and Michael
Wolter, eds., Die Einheit der Schrift und die Vielfalt des Kanons. The Unity of Scripture and the Plurality
of the Canon (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift f ¨ ur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 118; Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter, 2003), pp. 127–49). Fiddes sees canon as grounded in a dialectic between
‘space’ (as openness, hospitality) and ‘place’ (as particularity and limit) which presents the
community of readers with a structure of obligation, encounter and transformation of life.
This paradox looks back to the Wisdomtradition of the Old Testament and, for the Christian
reader, is finally rooted in the dialectical, eschatological personhood of Jesus Christ.
160 The Creativity of God
see the selfhood in the light of the eyes and we hear the distinctive and
personal presence in the speaking of the voice. Matter – according to the
present governing metaphor of the divine text of the world – is itself the
substance of signification; it lends itself to be taken up in innumerable
different forms of signification, the interaction of which constitutes our
world. The human body is that domain of matter in which the power of
signification, which is a potentiality within all matter, becomes personal
and so densely articulated that it stands as a place of luminosity in the
world: a reflex and icon of matter’s own power to communicate meaning
as world. The living body in this sense is a type of prophetic microcosm: a
sign that the world too can become just such a place of address, in which
the materiality of the world is filled and transformed by God’s Trinitarian
self-communication.
Eucharistic flesh
I have maintained throughout this work that the body of Christ of which
we speak, which is to say, the body that is broken and poured out for us,
is now a universalised body which is, on the one hand, the regeneration
of the world as God’s body and, on the other, the foundation of the life of
discipleshipwhichis the embodiedChristianresponse tothat transforma-
tionof world. I do not holdthat the Catholic Eucharist, uponwhichI have
extensively drawn, is a unique realisation of that body, but rather that it
gives access toit inauniquelysacramental way. Theemphasis I haveplaced
upon it in this work is a consequence of its sacramental character; I do not
argue that only those who participate in a Catholic Eucharist can knowor
receive the universalised body of Christ.
11
But the sacramental character of the Eucharist does foster a particular
kind of reflexive engagement with the nature of that body, which is both
mysterious in itself and mysterious in its relation to us. After all, we do
not receive the body in the way that we might expect: as bread, or body,
that is eaten and wine, or blood, that is drunk. Catholic tradition insists
that this is a literal eating, though not of bread and wine, nor of body and
blood. It is a literal eating that is itself a metaphor of something whichhas
already happened and which exceeds the dynamic symbolic of eating and
drinking. Bodies are not eatenanddrunk: theyare embracedandheld. But
11. See, for instance, Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia. On the Significance of the Doctrine of
the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1999), which
specifically links the universalisation of Christ with the ascension.
Wisdomof the flesh 161
the holding and embrace of the one whose body is the world is well sig-
nified by an act of eating and drinking, for this is being nourished by the
real. Becomingpart of andenteringintothe body of Christ as world, being
entered and incorporated by the unique and universal body that is given
for all, is captured and accomplished in the act of eating and drinking the
Eucharistic body and blood of Christ.
12
At the moment of institution of
the Lord’s Supper, whenJesus became Voice-bearing, his body hadalready
become pure sign, poured out into the elements, distributed through the
material order: shattered, consumed, perfected, universalised. Our recep-
tion of that body, under the Eucharistic species, is therefore an embodied
semiotics of radical reception. It is a living within the text of the world
by a self who savours both Christ’s body, given for all, and the semiosis
of the world, transformed, en-Spirited, by the sacrificial fragmentation
and pouring out of the body of Christ as the mediating structure between
Trinity and world.
The compassionate body
The Eucharist is the place in which our own bodies are conformed to the
worldwhichhas beenregeneratedthroughthenewfullness of theSpirit as
theuniversalisedbodyof Christ. Thetransformationof thehumanbodyin
that context is its entry into the corporate and sacramental embodiedness
of the Church. Once again it is the Holy Spirit that animates the people of
God and makes of them a single body, mirroring the body of Christ and
the ‘world made body’ that is the result of Christ’s sacrifice for us and the
new giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. It is in a Pauline sense through the
different charisms of the Spirit, exercised by individuals on behalf of
the Church as a whole, that the individual Christian is integrated into the
life of Church as the body of Christ.
But a further mode of participation is through compassion, as St Paul
develops this theme in the Letter to the Philippians. The term splanchna
(verbal form splanchnizomai) picks up the Hebrew noun ra
˙
h

mîm, which is
most appropriately translated as ‘compassion’. It is cognate with re
˙
hem,
meaning‘womb’, anddenotes adeeplyvisceral feelingof careandconcern.
The words ra
˙
h

mîm, and ra
˙
ham (‘to show compassion’) are consistently
used of God’s presence with Israel, and are so intimately linked with the
12. There is a tradition which can be found in Augustine (Confessions, 7.10.16, PL 32:742) and
Bernard of Clairvaux (‘Sermons on the Song of Songs’ 71.5) which sees in the act of
communion the incorporation of the faithful into the body of Christ. I amgrateful to Bernard
McGinn for this point.
162 The Creativity of God
divine name of Yahweh that the rabbinic tradition records: ‘At times I am
called El Shaddai, Seba

ot, Elohimand Yahweh. When I judge creatures, I
amcalledElohim; whenI forgive sins, I amcalledEl Shaddai; whenI wage
war against the wicked, I amcalled Seba

ot, and when I showcompassion
for my world, I amcalled Yahweh.’
13
In 2 Corinthians and the letter to Philemon, Paul develops this vocab-
ulary in terms of ecclesiological unity. In the former text it appears with
the word ‘heart’ (kardia), for instance, and forms part of his appeal to the
church at Corinth, to whom he says that he has opened his heart (‘Our
heart (kardia) is wide open to you’), and whose response he seeks: ‘There
is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.’
14
The word ‘affec-
tions’ translates splanchna here, which can be interpreted as marking our
affectivity in relation with others. Paul has declared that his ‘heart’ (kardia)
has been opened to the Corinthians, and his complaint is that his ‘affec-
tions’ (splanchna) are not being reciprocated by them. If the ‘heart’ de-
notes the centre of affectivity at this point, then it may be that splanchna
denotes something more akin to unitive love as the basic Christian dis-
position. It is kardia enriched by the mutual and self-dispossessing love
which is most deeply characteristic of the Pauline Church.
15
In the Letter
to Philemon Paul again uses splanchna in the sense of the emotional cen-
tre of ‘the saints’, which is refreshed through the love of Philemon, their
brother.
16
Paul uses the same phrase when he appeals to Philemon on be-
half of Onesimus: ‘Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the
Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.’
17
The splanchna which is again to be re-
freshed by the mutual love of the Church seems to be a distinctively eccle-
sial centre of feeling. When Paul refers to his ‘child’ Onesimus as ‘my own
heart’ (splanchna), whomhe is nowsendingbackintothe care of Philemon,
to whom he previously belonged as slave, the intense feelings of relation
conveyed by splanchna have become hypostasised inthe personof the indi-
vidual concerned.
18
13. Rabbah on Exodus 3:14 (S. M. Lehrman, Midrash Rabbah iii (London: The Soncino Press,
1961), p. 64); see also chapter 4, note 27 above (pp. 82–3).
14. 2 Cor. 6:12.
15. The word splanchna underlies the NRSV translation of ‘heart’ at 2 Cor. 7:15, where it refers
to Titus’ visit to the church at Corinth. Paul writes: ‘And his heart (splanchna) goes out all the
more to you, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, and howyou welcomed himwith
fear and trembling.’ This again points to the warmth of Christian mutual love, highlighted
at the point of its inception through mission.
16. Philem. 7.
17. Philem. 20.
18. Philem. 12.
Wisdomof the flesh 163
Compassion is a virtue that is located within the body sense in a way
that is as reminiscent of the passions as it is of the virtues.
19
This is ac-
knowledged inthe terms ra
˙
h

mîmand splanchna, as it is inthe Latinequiv-
alent misericordia (‘sorrowof heart’), and the modern com-passion. Compas-
sionis something we feel inour ownbody, onaccount of the bodily condi-
tionof another. Wearemovedmost urgentlytocompassionbytheextreme
physical needs of others, and the compassionate response is not merely
of the mind but is an orientation of our bodily life, with physical com-
mitments andengagements. It entails the enactments andpractices of care:
feeding, healing, comforting. Compassion, then, is anappropriate expres-
sion at the level of human existence of our unity with Christ’s body. And
in the Letter to the Philippians Paul supplements the ecclesiological char-
acter of this terminology with more explicitly Christological and incar-
national dimensions. Following the salutation, the letter continues with
Paul’s prayer for the Church at Philippi, in which he expresses his strong
affection and bond of unity with them and states: ‘For God is my wit-
ness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.’
20
The
Greek phrase literally means ‘in the bowels/compassion of Christ’, and it
suggests that the splanchna which Paul feels for his ‘saints in Christ Jesus
who are in Philippi’, which is powerfully expressive of the mutuality of
Christian love, can in fact be defined as a compassionate love not felt by
Christ but rather given by him.
21
It is ‘of Christ Jesus’ in the sense that it is
the condition which marks the change from ordinary human relations to
the ecclesial mutuality which takes place in Christ.
22
The inner animation of the embodiment that we call Christian living
is therefore this visceral element of being wholly given over into the other
througha compassionate care or concernfor the well-beingof the other in
the concrete circumstances of daily living. Following the Pauline model,
we can say that it is that movement of caring which establishes our rela-
tions as truly Christian relations and as our incorporation into the frag-
mentation and issue of the universalised body of Christ. But that love is
characterisedalsoas beinguniversal, turnedaway fromitself, always com-
municated for and intercepted by a third. Christian love is therefore not
the love only for other Christians but is realised most fully as Trinitarian
19. Spinoza identifies the corporal basis of compassion in the Ethics, vol. iii, p27 (Benedict de
Spinoza, Ethics, trans. Edwin Curley, p. 84).
20. Phil. 1:8.
21. Phil. 1:1.
22. Other important texts which express the role of compassion as splanchna in the Christian
life are Phil. 2:1–2, 1 Pet. 3:8, Col. 3:12, 1 Jn 3:17 and Eph. 4:32.
164 The Creativity of God
love where the other is external to the community of the beloved. This is
a generative and creative love, which calls forth and identifies the other as
an equal inheritor of this love and hence as one who is called also to give
of this love, beyond the beloved, into the community of those who are not
yet called. The circulation of this compassionate love is the unfolding of
the body of Christ as the element, or environment, in which we live out
our lives. It is the animating spirit of the integrationof our bodies into the
world as Christ’s body, and is the fulfilment of our embodied life through
the realisation of Christ’s body within us.
The dancing body
Dance is not something we are inclined much to do in our church services
inthe Westernworld, unlike some other cultures. But there is nevertheless
somethingof great importance inthe theme of dance whichcaptures what
we might otherwise not easily notice. Dance is the movement of excess. It
is what we do in extremes of joy and celebration. As such, it is uniquely
suited to be the embodied expression of our Eucharistic sense of being re-
ceived by and of receiving the divine bodiliness. If Eucharistic semiotics
is one of cosmic pleroma and overwhelming, then part of the appropriate
human response is the rhythmof dancing: a giving over of the self into an
embodied and joyful act of corporate worship.
But there is a further reason why we need to talk about the body of cel-
ebrationanddance followinga discussionof the compassionate body. The
compassion of God, in which we participate and to which we are called, is
fundamentally also anexcess of life. Compassionis the divine creativity. It
is the outflowing of the inner Trinitarian life in the formation of world.
Human compassion is a sacrament or sign of the joyful, life-giving cre-
ativity of God. In human compassion we see the divine compassion. We
cannot discuss compassion, therefore, without at the same time talking
of celebration and joy. The ‘raising up’ of Jesus which was his crucifixion,
according to the Gospel of John, was at the same time his being ‘raised
into glory’. The one implies the other. Although we cannot see that iden-
tity for much of the time in our lives, it nevertheless remains the case that
the compassionate body is a dancingbody: one overflowingwithanexcess
of life.
Although dancing at the Eucharist may not be something that many
Westerners do, it remains a deeply symbolic motif which must find its
place here. In 2 Samuel we read of King David who brings the Ark back
to Jerusalem, and we are told that he ‘danced before the Lord with all his
Wisdomof the flesh 165
might’ andthat he was ‘leapinganddancingbefore the Lord’.
23
Michal re-
buked him for showing his nakedness ‘like any vulgar fellow’, but David
defends himself in terms which suggest that dancing is a form of humil-
ity which disrupts the privileges of social rank and brings equality before
the Lord.
The eschatological body
The ceaselessly generative processes of self-replication, which are the life
of the human body, are intimately connected with the imagination. It is
the imagination which allows us to move from what we already know to
what might be; andhumanidentityis itself incurablynomadic andprojec-
tural. We habitually imagine ourselves into newforms of embodied iden-
tity and lived contexts of self-realisation. We make judgements on the ba-
sis of ‘what if . . . ?’, and hold the futures of others, and our own futures,
constantly inmindas we deal withpresent realities. The imaginationis in
particular the faculty whichbetrays our ownincompleteness and restless-
ness as the developing personality and life’s possibilities interact, in new
permutations of self-realisation.
24
The imaginationis itself generatedfromwithinthe life of the senses as
we apply remembered sense impressions within new contexts and as we
extend or subvert what we already know of the world around us. There
is therefore a particular difficulty with the operation of the imagination
in the religious sphere, since God is not an object in the world. As we
saw in chapter 1, the pre-modern constructions of the heavenly were ef-
fectively extensions of the earthly realm, conceived within the framework
of an Aristotelian account of space and time, and the significant marker
to set that supernal reality off from the empirical world was that of dis-
tance itself (the heavens were simply a very longway away). We inherit that
tradition which is encoded in our sacred and spiritual texts, in our reli-
gious architecture and eveninthe liturgy, as a formof metaphor by which
we speak of and conceive the heavenly. It is in particular the metaphors
of light and height that surround our speaking of the transcendental.
But these are at the same time tropes which are so conventional as to
be what Paul Ricoeur calls ‘dead metaphors’ which lack ‘invention’ and
23. 2 Sam. 6:12 and 16.
24. There is an abundant literature on the imagination; see Garrett Green, Imagining God:
Theology and the Religious Imagination (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), Richard Kearney, The
Wake of the Imagination (London: Routledge, 1998) and Ray L. Hart, Unfinished Man and the
Imagination (republished by Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).
166 The Creativity of God
‘a newextension of meaning’.
25
They do not ‘tell us something newabout
reality’, but function rather as ciphers which simply signal reference to
transcendence.
26
It is impossible toconstruct arenewedscriptural cosmol-
ogy, as I have sought to do in these pages, without addressing the ques-
tion of the kind of eschatological imaginary which might derive fromthis
cosmology and which might open up newpossibilities for an imaginative
reconceptualisation of a redeemed heaven and earth.
Both light and height and their respective semantic fields reflect a sen-
sorium which privileges sight and space. It is within the coordinates of
sight and space that we have our ordinary empirical experience of the
world. The visible exists as a field around us, showing a world through
which we move. One of the principal difficulties with this kind of empha-
sis in our imagery of heaven and the heavenly is that it is so closely tied to
our experience of the empirical world. But we know that heaven cannot
be an extension of this world; it cannot be another universe juxtaposed
with (or ‘above’) the one we ordinarily know. Heaven has to be something
other whichcannot be constructedas another ‘somewhere’, for that is only
to make it a replication of the world of space and time that we ordinar-
ily know. We may well feel also that heaven has to be itself folded within
the earth, that is, a dimension not in opposition to the world, but at the
world’s root. Can there be another way of imagining heaven which does
not extrapolate its spatiality fromlight and the visual, which are so foun-
dational for our experience of the empirical world?
One way inwhichwe might beginto do this is throughreflecting again
on the role of the divine voice in the creation. Following a series of scrip-
tural texts, I have argued in previous chapters that the world itself, from
a biblical perspective, issues from the divine speaking and is the product
of divine breath as when a human author writes down their own words
in a text. The Word and Spirit of God animate the world, and the Incar-
nation of the speaking Word is the repristination, or redemption, of the
world-text bythe divine voice, manifest nowas the unityof originaryVoice
and cosmic text in the sacrificial personhood of Jesus Christ. If we are to
follow this theme through, then we may well feel that the great empha-
sis upon heaven in terms of visibility, space and light in Christian tra-
dition is as much reflective of non-biblical modes of thinking as it is of
biblical ones. The proposition that it is the human voice which stands in
25. Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976),
p. 52.
26. Ibid., p. 53.
Wisdomof the flesh 167
closest proximity to the originary divine speaking, and thus to the heav-
enly, wouldseemtobe instarkcontrast withmost of the traditional modes
of imaging the spatiality of heaven. And yet this is the subtle logic of the
scriptural cosmology which is proposed here. Human speaking, as I have
argued, represents matter that is so saturated with meaning, personhood
and address that it is no longer perceptible to us as sound but only as voice.
And voice is always personal, so that we can say that in human speaking
matter is transformed into personal presence. I would like to argue that it
is here, in the domain of the human voice, that we must look for an alter-
native account of spatiality and of the heavenly.
Merleau-Ponty has drawn our attention to the way in which music can
release a sense of spaciousness which contrasts with the confinement of
the auditorium.
27
In the traditions of the Church we find many differ-
ent kinds of musical space, but it is singing and the human voice which
above all give artistic representation in the liturgical life of the Church
to its experience of the heavenly. Music is itself the purity of the world.
Denys Turner has argued that if poetry foregrounds the materiality of the
linguistic sign, then music is the highest stage of purified semiosis: ‘at
one and the same time absolutely material and all meaning, matter en-
tirely alive with meaning’.
28
Music has a grammar, yet, unlike language,
may evoke but cannot refer. Music is language reduced and purified to its
most formal characteristics. Thus, in our present terminology, music is
the finest text which we can know. It is textuality itself made present in
sound that has become ‘all meaning’. Perhaps that is why Turner can say
with McCabe that ‘music is the body trying to become language’ or, as he
prefers it, ‘music is all bodybut preciselyas language’. Thetext that is body
andthe text that is music, as soundpurifiedinto meaning, standina close
analogical relation to each other, which again may be why the power of
music over us is so physical and why it comes to us with such immediacy.
Andperhaps there is somethingof the angelic body inmusical form: refine-
ment, grace andanimmediacyof knowing. This wouldsuggest anabsence
of location: another kind of spatiality.
Indeed, where the voices are pure, it is easy to describe the choral
singing of the Church as ‘angelic’. We may have in mind not only the har-
mony of musical form, but also the words which are sung; for as Thomas
Aquinas tells us, angels may not have voices but they do have a kind of
27. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1962), p. 222.
28. ‘Faith and Reason’ (unpublished paper).
168 The Creativity of God
interior speech with which they proclaim the praise of God and teach
others, bringing light and understanding.
29
By virtue of the words of
proclamation that are sung in the choral traditions of the Church, we can
say that the semiotic purity of the world released by musical form is illu-
mined as being both cosmic and grounded in the self-dispossessing unity
of the Trinity. In this ‘angelic’ music, meaning which transforms mat-
ter, matter as meaning, ‘Eucharistically’ (thus also Turner) manifests the
ground of the world as a circularity of life, love and meaning.
Perhaps, then, it is here that we can catch the sense of a new spatiality,
one whichderives not fromflat surfaces and plainlines, but fromthe rela-
tionalityinherent inthe singingvoice, intensifiedthroughharmonies, an-
tiphons andcounterpoint. Theremaybeakindof architectureof thevoice,
which carries to us where human beings sing ‘angelically’ in both form
and spirit, inpraise and proclamation. That architecture, then, would not
be something posited as being over and against the world, still less ‘be-
yond’ it. Rather, it would be a spatiality of relation which arises from
withinthe body of the worldandwhichcomes to the fore, as a newdimen-
sionality, through ‘angelic’ singing. Nor would it be a relationality which
is constrained by the spatiality of the world. Rather, it would itself consti-
tute anewenvironment, another spatialityof the Spirit, whichgrows from
the life which exists between those who love: as a heavenly space, a Christ-
shaped space of love.
Conclusion
In this chapter I have attempted to develop further the cosmic structural
dynamic which is given with the idea of author and text, and of their rela-
tion. I have suggested that this relation can take the place held by anal-
ogy in traditional metaphysics, whereby the relation between God and
world was understood in terms of a causality which granted some degree
of likeness between the cause and the caused. In the case of the author–
text relation, we must speak not of likeness but rather of communicative
implication: theauthor is implicatedinhis or her text, whichseeks tocom-
municate – albeit in terms heavily accented by interpretation– the autho-
rial presence. Texts understood in this way are formed in the will to com-
municate with another, and the world, taken as a text, becomes a form of
divine communication which bodies forth the divine expressivity.
29. ST i, q. 107, a. 2 corpus and a. 3 corpus.
Wisdomof the flesh 169
Asecond significant idea has been that texts are like bodies. In the first
place, they are voice-bearing and extend the reach of the speaker’s voice
beyond the intimate circle of those who can hear that voice. But they do
so of course at the price of transposing the signs froman aural mediumto
a written and visual one. That movement into the materiality of the writ-
ten sign signals a further parallel between body and text, for both bodies
and texts are material entities in which signification attains such an in-
tensity that the material basis of the signbecomes effectively invisible. We
struggle to perceive the materiality of words, and are deeply shocked by
the sight of the pure materiality of a dead human body.
This analogical relationbetweenbodies andtexts canbe extendedinto
the cosmic realm through the metaphor of the Primal Text as the ground
of the worldwhichhas beendevelopedhere. There is accordinglyanimpli-
cationthat the worlditself, conceivedas text, somehowreplicates or repro-
duces that divine body. As text, the world bears its Author’s voice, which
speaks for others, whose speaking indeed is the creating of others. The fi-
nal move, as we have seen, is that the voice-bearing body of Jesus Christ
is both that of the Creator and the creation, and becomes in the sacrifice
of the Cross truly one with the fabric of the world. The impossible realisa-
tion of that dialectic is manifest in the fragmentation and pouring out of
his body wholly given for us, and its universalisation, through the resur-
rection and the ascension, as made one with the world.
But a further point in this chapter has been that that universalisation
of the body of Christ sets upfurther reflexes andtransformations through
the Eucharistic celebrationwhichaffect the formationof our ownembod-
ied life in its personal and social manifestations. This is now inwardly
shaped by the self-giving of Christ, so that in our ecclesial embodiedness
we are compassionate and celebratory. In and through our bodies we en-
ter the radical unity of the Church and relate to the world with care and
concern, giving thanks to God in God’s creative and regenerating Spirit.
Inthe final sectionof this chapter I argue for a neweschatological imag-
ination based not upon the metaphors of sight and space, but upon a
Trinitarian spatiality which can come into viewin the choral traditions of
the Church. This intuits heavenas a potentiality withinthe earthly andnot
above or beyond it. It appears to offer us a home in which the world itself
is wholly conformed to the structure of God’s speaking voice, ‘heard’ at
the creation, inscribed as world and as biblical text, and uttered again for
us, redemptively, throughthe Spirit inthe deathandresurrectionof Jesus
Christ.
9
Eucharistic reasoning
L’acte de penser ne d ´ ecoule pas d’une simple possibilit ´ e naturelle. Il
est, au contraire, la seule creation veritable. La creation, c’est la gen` ese
de l’acte de penser dans la pens ´ ee elle-mˆ eme . . . Penser, c’est toujours
interpreter, c’est- ` a-dire expliquer, d ´ eveloper, d ´ echiffrer, traduire une
signe. Traduire, d ´ echiffrer, d ´ evelopper sont la forme de la cr ´ eation
pure.
The act of thinking does not proceed froma simple natural possibility;
on the contrary, it is the only true creation. Creation is the genesis of
the act of thinking within thought itself. To think is always to
interpret – to explicate, to develop, to decipher, to translate a sign.
Translating, deciphering, developing are the formof pure creation.
Gilles Deleuze, Proust et Signes
Inthe first sectionof this bookwe sawthat reasonitself inthe pre-modern
world was understood to be an integral part of the world as created. The
detaching of reason from its matrix in a creation-centred cosmology it-
self played a crucial role in the evolution of the modern, and has become
a condition of modern living. Theology has struggled to realise its poten-
tial fromwithinthe parameters laiddownbysecular reason. It is onlywith
the rise of Barthianism and its aftermath that alternatives arose, which
wrested theology away from secular reason by denying its purchase in
thinking ordered to the divine freedom. In this final chapter I argue for a
perspective uponreasonwhichis neither modernist nor Barthianinkind,
but whichis predicateduponthe distinctively Christiansemiotics whichI
have attemptedtooutline inthe precedingchapters, asemiotics whichun-
derstands the divine presence tobe a cosmic embodiment whichmanifests
as overwhelming and calling. This is the root of the world and is the mark
[170]
Eucharistic reasoning 171
of its createdness. This pragmatist semiotic therefore gives expressionto a
deeply dialectical relationof difference andoneness. We are bothone with
the world, as part of the createdorder, andare other thanthe world, to the
extent that we possess knowledge and awareness of the world. Conscious-
ness divides us fromthat with which we are most intimately one.
This conditionof separateness andunity means, therefore, that there is
a fissure, ambiguity or intersectionat the very centre of thought whichcan
be called the division between subjectivity and objectivity, self and other,
cognition and world. This primal place of initiative and response, of re-
ceivingandgiving, is the finitude of thought itself. Without that pulsation
thought cannot be, but with it, thought cannot be anything other than
that which is drawn of necessity time and again to inquire into its own
limitations and possibilities. The predicament of thought is its own im-
plication in what is other to it, in what we term the real: an implication
which repeatedly presents itself to thought but also eludes it. How do we
know what is real and what is thought, or the role of thought in the con-
structionof the real? Howdowe thinkthe distinctionbetweenwhat is real
and what appears to be real? Howdo we think what it is to think? Howdo
we feel, or know, the real?
The bifurcation at the centre of thought is no mere academic conun-
drum. The ground of human self-awareness and self-possession is deter-
mined in its own self-definition, and thus self-realisation, by the way that
we seek to answer these questions. Do we control our experiences, or are
they incontrol of us? Are we victims of the worldor regents of it? Does that
which is other than us in our experience abuse us, threaten us, or enrich
us? Howfirmis our graspof it? Do we understandandorder the otherness
which is endemic to thought? Or are we perpetual victims of the surplus
which exceeds our capacity to reason and command so that we are always
on the point of being swamped by it, as if by a sea in storm? In its history
philosophyhas never movedfar fromthe fundamental questions spawned
by the unity of mind and world. Indeed, in some deep-seated sense phi-
losophy is the asking of these kinds of questions, since the inquiry into
knowing and knowing of the real is an attempt to clarify the ground of
all knowing.
Historical reason
In the preceding chapters I have given an account of the Eucharist as the
place in which the pre-conceptual unity of subject and object comes into
172 The Creativity of God
viewas thedivinebody, thePrimal Text, whichis thegroundof theworld. I
analysedthe response tothat disclosure not interms of objective knowing,
but rather as a transformative embodiment: a new, compassionate andcel-
ebratory way of being in the world. But questions have to be raised about
what kind of reasoning is supported by that changed way of being in the
world, and how it relates to some of the major types of reasoning which
form part of our historical inheritance. The Eucharistic mind must learn
the practice of resting with the difficulty; it must fight its own instincts
anddeepest practices of slipping away into schemes of knowing whichco-
coon the fissure so that all becomes recognisable and familiar and suscep-
tible to control. Fromits earliest days we cansee that philosophy itself can
inrespects become just suchanexercise ingaining release fromthe excess
of otherness which is the condition of all thought; and which is the impo-
tence of thought before the unimaginability of the world.
The rationalist spirit
The first evasiveness of thought before the primal otherness of perception
is a rationalist one. In his discussion of the ground of demonstration and
the nature of human knowing, Aristotle points to the role of prior knowl-
edge in the establishing of any new knowledge about the world. Only
by building upon what we already know, with certainty, can we securely
progress inour attempt tounderstandthe causes of things, inwhichalone
human science is founded. If an infinite regress is to be avoided, then, we
must at some point grasp the truth of the principles which – whether as
propositions or terms – form the ground of our reasoning, and we must
do so without demonstration or deduction. We must simply comprehend
them with immediacy. But in the discussion of nous, which is just such a
facultyof immediateknowing, wecanseewhat is aprimarytensionwithin
rationalism. Aristotle’s uncertainty as to what exactly nous might be and
where it comes fromandhis difficultyinexplainingthe processes of its op-
erations are matchedby his affirmations of the certainty of the knowledge
that it delivers.
1
Indeed, the capacity of nous togenerate certainknowledge
is what distinguishes it from scientific knowledge, practical wisdom and
philosophic wisdom, all of which deal with matters which could be oth-
erwise.
2
Only the archai or ‘principles’ are unchangeable and only nous as
1. On the ambiguity of the origins of nous, see De anima, iii, 5 and De generatione animalium,
iii, 5.
2. Nicomachean Ethics, vi, 6.
Eucharistic reasoning 173
‘intuition’ or ‘comprehension’ is the certain grasp of them. It is this kind
of certainty which grounds our knowledge of the world, both in terms
of a comprehension of prior principles and of the ends that guide our
actions.
3
But if Aristotle is convinced of the general validity of the propositional
anddefinitional reasoningthat constitutes our ordinary knowledge of the
world and which must therefore be based upon comprehension of the
archai, then at the same time he is unable to give a satisfactory account of
the way inwhichwe graspthe archai.
4
Inother words, Aristotle’s viewthat
there is a general match between mind and world is driven by the convic-
tion that it cannot be otherwise, since that would leave the door open to
infinite regress and radical scepticism. Once a feeling of the way things
ought to be, predicated perhaps on a general conviction that we do by and
large possess authentic knowledge of the world, is allowed to shape our
reasonings about perception, then reason itself can rapidly take on a cer-
tain subjective and even mythological colour. The long tradition of com-
mentary on Aristotle which proposed the divine origins of the intellect
(looking back to texts such as De anima, iii, 5 and De generatione animalium,
iii, 5), was simply the exploitation of an impulse that was already present
in Aristotle’s philosophy.
5
The spirit of rationalism exhibits different characteristics at various
points in the philosophical tradition, but its common feature is the sup-
position that rational methods of ordering and controlling the ground
of experience are given with experience and have an immediate purchase
in reality itself. For Locke it is the ‘ideas’ which present with an immedi-
acy to the mind from within the world and form the elements of know-
ing, while for Descartes it is the mind itself, in its own self-possession,
whichconstitutes the unassailably real. Inthe twentiethcentury, Frege ar-
gued in the Preface to the Begriffsschrift that his motivation in developing a
logical-numerical system of sequential ordering was to overcome the ‘in-
adequacy of language’ and thus to set up a way of conceiving of relations
and of the world which was ‘independent of the particularity of things’.
Only by this means could the chain of reasonings be tested in ‘the most
reliable way’. Frege intends that his Begriffsschrift will fulfil the ‘task of
3. Nicomachean Ethics, vi, 11.
4. Posterior Analytics, i, 3.
5. See for instance the statement fromthe Protreptikos b, 110 (quoted in Werner Marx,
Introduction to Aristotle’s Theory of Being as Being (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977), p. 10): ‘for
our intellect is god’.
174 The Creativity of God
philosophy’ whichis ‘tobreakthe power of words over the humanmind’.
6
What Frege’s systemrepresents is the determination that a particular sys-
temof thought whichoffers itself for comprehensive tests of validity shall
become the master language for assessing empirical thinking. It becomes
the newcode whichestablishes the ‘conceptual content’ of things. But the
fact that a particular logical system enjoys a verificationary transparency
and power does not mean that it necessarily accurately reflects the nature
of the real. The act of translationfromempirical, language-basedforms of
thinking to logical structures which are ‘independent of particulars’ may
create illusory relations between itself and the real which are as signifi-
cant as are ‘the illusions that through the use of language often almost
unavoidably arise concerning the relations of concepts’.
7
Freeing thought
‘from the taint of ordinary linguistic means of expression’ may in fact be
a way of avoiding or eluding the real on account of the failure of the real
to match our longing for a fully transparent conceptual scheme.
8
Frege’s
project embodies somethingwhichis integral totherationalist enterprise,
which can be summed up as its foundational presupposition that reality
ought to be and therefore really is susceptible to those systems of reasoning
which give the human observer the fullest and most trustworthy sense of
beingincontrol. For all its appeal tocalmandorder, rationalismcansome-
times be a heroic mode of thinking.
The romantic sublime
The philosophy of the sublime substantially begins in the Western tradi-
tion with the work Peri Hypsous (On the Sublime) traditionally – though in-
accurately – attributedto‘Dionysius or Longinus’, or alternatively ‘Diony-
sius Longinus’, in the earliest extant manuscript, and dating from some
point in the early centuries of the Common Era.
9
With the translation by
Boileauin1674, this workexercisedaprofoundinfluenceonaesthetics and
early romantic philosophy across Europe until the mid nineteenth cen-
tury. The context of the discussion of hupsos, or ‘height’, is the matter of
literary style, but the author’s focus lies primarily on the effects of style.
Indeed, there is much in his work that is against techn¯ e as the acquisition
6. Gottlob Frege, Conceptual Notation and Related Articles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972),
pp. 104–6.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. These forms of attribution can be found in the tenth-century codex Parisinus 2036 which is
the archetype of all existing manuscripts. See D. A. Russell, ed., ‘ Longinus’ On the Sublime
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. xxii–xxx.
Eucharistic reasoning 175
of specific skills and in favour of the incalculable fertility of ‘transcendent
genius’, which like ‘the wonderful’ ‘always prevails over what is persua-
sive and pleasant, shattering the heart’s composure’.
10
Unlike the careful
modulations of technical craft, the effects of genius are of the moment and
‘scatter thesubjects likeabolt of lightning’.
11
The‘greatness of genius . . . is
a gift rather than a thing acquired’.
12
In contrast with rationalism, where
the emphasis is upon control, Longinus’ text constantly draws out the ex-
tent to which the human observer or recipient is overwhelmed in the gen-
eration of sublime feelings and ‘noble passions’, since that which is ‘won-
derful and of great genius . . . exercises domination and irresistibly draws
every hearer’.
13
Drawing upon Plato and Stoic sources, Longinus links the
nobility of our response to the ‘irresistible love of whatever is great and
stands tous as the more divine tothe less’. We are drawnnot tothe detailed
and small scale, but rather to the ‘extraordinary’. And not even ‘the whole
of the universe’ is adequate to the possibilities of our mental scope.
14
What we find here, therefore, is a privileging of certain kinds of per-
ceptions, which are ‘divine’ and ‘noble’ precisely because they possess a
disruptive grandeur that escapes our measure. The privilegingof what ap-
pears ‘immoderate’ and ‘immeasurable’ (my terms) is at the same time an
aestheticisation of it as the ‘sublime’: a notion with deep obligations to
the realm of formal art but which also resonates powerfully with respect
to a general epistemology. There is an alignment here, then, between the
real, as that whichtranscends boundaries, andthe extremes of anaesthetic
response – as transport and ennobling delight. The real does not address
us in the position where we are, or particularise us as its interpreter, but
rather overwhelms our faculties and, in a sense, reduces our response to
that of pure aesthetical transport.
The most articulate andsophisticatedadvocate of Romantic epistemol-
ogy is Friedrich Schiller, in whose work Über das Erhabene (On the Sublime),
publishedin1801, it takes onits classic outline. Schiller sets out his under-
standing of nature against the background of determinismas the domain
of forces whichconstrainthe humanspirit. Humanity caneither meet the
‘violence’ of nature with violence, ‘realistically’, as in technology and the
10. Quotations fromBenedict Einarson, trans., Longinus on the Sublime, Chicago: Kenaga Press,
1945 (slightly emended), 1.
11. On the Sublime, 1.
12. Ibid., 9.
13. Ibid., 1.
14. Ibid., 35.
176 The Creativity of God
physical sciences, or it can remove itself from the reach of nature ‘idealis-
tically’ through an act of resignation, parallel to a religious submission to
the will of God. What interests Schiller at this point is the capacity of the
self to discover within itself a source of transcendental freedom which is
its liberationfromthe dictates of nature and the senses. The emergence of
that inner freedom, however, is concomitant withour perceptionof nature
not as a field of constraint but in a quite different way: as the ‘sublime’.
The sublime represents an intensification of the beautiful and it ‘affords
us an egress fromthe sensuous world in which the beautiful would gladly
holdus forever captive’.
15
Inthe perceptionof the ‘sensuous infinite . . . we
are able to think what the senses can no longer apprehend and the under-
standing can no longer comprehend’.
16
By looking upon the infinite and
lawless chaos of nature, which formerly appalled us, in free contempla-
tion, wecan‘discover inthefloodof appearances somethingabidinginour
ownbeing. . . thenthe savage bulkof nature about us begins tospeakquite
another language to our heart; and the relative grandeur outside us is the
mirror in which we perceive the absolute grandeur within ourselves’.
17
At
this point Schiller adopts an emphatically anti-rationalist position in his
argument that such a chaotic ‘press of appearances’ constitutes a ‘strik-
ing image for pure reason, which finds in just this incoherence of nature
thedepictionof her ownindependenceof natural conditions’.
18
Weshould
not focus on the explanation of nature, therefore, but take ‘this incompre-
hensibility itself as a principle of judgement’.
19
The highest expression of
the sublime in nature, for Schiller, actually occurs in sublime art, which is
a free representationof it, or better a representationinfreedom. As a vehi-
cleof thesublime, theart of genius canoperatewithinhumancultureas an
instrument of education to make available to humanity more broadly its
possibilities as a liberated and liberating way of looking upon the world.
Many of the same themes occur in Schiller which were already present
in Longinus, though in the German they are intertwined with highly so-
phisticated philosophical material arising, in the main, from his reaction
to the work of Kant. The controlling power of rationality, for Schiller, is
in effect our captivity to the senses and to the field of determinism; but
15. Friedrich Schiller, Über das Erhabene, in S ¨ amtliche Werke, vol. v (Munich: Winkler Verlag,
1975), p. 222 (quotations, with slight emendations, fromJulius A. Elias, Schiller. Naïve and
Sentimental Poetry and On the Sublime (NewYork: Frederick Ungar Publ., 1966), here p. 201).
16. Über das Erhabene, in Schiller, S ¨ amtliche Werke, vol. v, p. 219 (Elias, Schiller, p. 199).
17. Ibid., p. 223 (Elias, Schiller, p. 203).
18. Ibid., p. 225 (Elias, Schiller, p. 206).
19. Ibid., p. 226 (Elias, Schiller, p. 207).
Eucharistic reasoning 177
where we learn to look upon the immensity of nature and natural forces
withanaesthetic gaze, weareliberatedfromthemanddiscover ‘thepuredae-
monwithin’.
20
This is, however, a freedomwhichis outside the domainof
the world and the senses; that indeed is its defining structure as free-
dom. The world is not a sign at this point but rather a sign that vanishes
under the weight of the immensity of that which it signifies. In Über naïve
und sentimentale Dichtung (On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry), Schiller gives us
an account of the structure of his – Romantic – semiotics. It occurs in his
discussion of the genius, whose utterances, like ‘a single felicitous stroke
of the brush’, are in stark contrast to the ‘understanding of the schools’
which ‘crucifies the words and concepts [of language] upon the cross of
grammar and logic’. If to the schools ‘the sign remains forever hetero-
geneous and alien to the thing signified, to him [the genius] language
springs as by some inner necessity out of thought, and is so at one with
it that even beneath the corporeal frame the spirit appears as if laid bare.
It is precisely this mode of expression in whichthe signdisappears completely
in the thing signified, and in which language, while giving expression to a
thought, yet leaves it exposed where otherwise it cannot be represented
without simultaneously concealing it.’
21
For all the dramatic differences of values and perspectives, there is
something alike in Schiller’s ‘transcendence’ of the sign and Frege’s con-
viction that the inadequacy and illusions of ordinary language have to be
replaced by a Begriffsschrift. The trajectory of both is to bypass the sign and
to establish some direct relation between the self, or mind, and reality:
the one through a sublime, aesthetic, quasi-divine vision and the other
through the ‘trustworthiness’ of a transparent, verifiable and, in a sense,
‘supernatural’ language of reasoning. Bothcanbe characterisedas ways of
eluding the real, for they leave behind the function of the sign as integral
to the communication of the real, while – paradoxically – also recognis-
ing the extent to which the sign is ordinarily part of our empirical experi-
ence. Both are therefore corrective systems which seek to replace the sig-
nifying function of ordinary language use with some other instrument.
In the case of Frege, that instrument is a new speech of logical symbols,
predicateduponnumerical reasoning, whichis transparent inits internal
validity though less transparent in the validity of its relation to the world.
20. Ibid., p. 229 (Elias, Schiller, p. 210).
21. Über naïve und sentimentale Dichtung, in S ¨ amtliche Werke, vol. v, pp. 444–5 (Elias, Schiller,
p. 98); my italics.
178 The Creativity of God
In the case of Schiller it is a newly constructed sign, which is the product
of genius andthe creative imagination, andwhichhas soenteredin, or has
become so expressive of, nature as to be nowindistinguishable fromit. In-
deed, what unites both systems of thinking, despite their apparent polar-
ity, is the fusion of the first element in C. S. Peirce’s triad (the self/mind)
with the third (the object signified) at the cost of the second (the sign it-
self ). In both cases the sign is refigured in such a way as no longer to be
authentically a point of mediation between the mind and its objects, and
thus no longer to be an invitation to an act of interpretation, itself consti-
tutive of the condensation of the real, on the part of the human observer.
Transfiguration and reason
The account I gave in chapter 7 of a Eucharistic, or Christian, semiotics,
was one which had at its centre a full and equal reciprocity between all
three of the Peircean elements. The advent of the ‘real presence’, or the
‘full presence of the real’, was not at the cost of the sign but was rather the
comprehensive realisationof the sign’s ownsignifyingfunction, whichre-
mains integral to the epiphany of presence. That presence was an escha-
tological one in that it contains within itself a past, both historical and
originary, a future made present in the moment and a presence which is
itself wholly emptied out into both remembrance and expectation. The
three elements of the triad in the transformation of the Eucharistic mo-
ment become the elements of a new temporality constructed as future-
presence, presence-past and presence which so extends beyond the hori-
zons of the empirical as to be no longer capable of being grasped in any
sense through the operations of mind or reason but only received with a
responsive and embodied passivity, expressed as worship, praise, thanks-
giving and celebration.
In chapter 8, I argued that the Incarnation entails an intensification of
the meaning of the world in a new and heightened unity of sign, referent
andinterpreter. This unity finds expressioninthe body of Christ whichon
the one handis so saturatedwithmeaningas divine presence that it is bro-
kenupandpouredout intothe world, for the sake of the world, andonthe
other transforms and transfigures the community of the Church as those
who encounter the body in the world and, in an intensively sacramental
way, in the Eucharistic celebration. The point we come to nowis the ques-
tion as to what kind of reasoning it is that a Christian realism, predicated
on a Eucharistic semiotics, supports and sustains.
Eucharistic reasoning 179
Two issues need to be clarified before proceeding to address this ques-
tion, however. The first turns onthe nature of ‘reason’ itself, for it is one of
those words which defies close definition, while the second concerns the
question of sources: what sources shall we consider for an examination of
Christian reasoning? Fromone perspective, ‘reason’ is linked with ‘mean-
ing’, ‘understanding’ and ‘logic’, though not necessarily in ways that are
consistent and precise. The connotation here is that the proper use of rea-
son gives access to valid knowledge; reason is the cognitive interface be-
tween self and world. The right use of ‘reason’ is the guarantee that the
contours of our thinking are bothinternally consistent and correspond to
the way the world appears to be. The failure to take note of the way the
world is, is a failure in our reasoning and reflects a descent into an ideo-
logical, deluded or simply mistaken frame of mind. Reason in this sense
has a proximity to science and to scientific method.
From another perspective, however, ‘reason’ is intimately linked with
‘actions’ and ‘goals’, and with the polemics that follow from these.
Reason – the rational analysis of a situation – justifies a course of action
within a specific situation, and is the sign that self, action and world form
a coherent unity. We can call the former use of reason ‘theoretical’ and the
latter ‘practical’, andbothwill have to be borne inmindas we consider the
shape of Christian reasoning in a world of God’s making.
With respect to sources, I have – throughout this book – wished to ar-
gue that the fundamental paradigm of reality which is made manifest in
the Eucharist actually belongs more generally to Christian tradition. It is
certainly the case, for instance, that the Wisdom tradition also offers rich
possibilities for an account of the real and the kind of reasoning that is
predicated upon it.
22
But I wish at this point to focus upon the pericope
of the transfiguration, as offering a viewof reality whichis not specifically
tied to a Catholic understanding of the Eucharistic transformation of the
elements, but which points forward nevertheless to the Passion and res-
urrection of Christ. The interpretation I shall offer here is one of ‘thick’
theological description in that I set this event in the lives of Jesus, Peter,
James and John in the context of the theme of creation through the Word
as we find it in John 1:3, Colossians 1:15–16, 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews
22. See the discussion by Paul S. Fiddes, for instance, in his ‘The Quest for a Place which Is
“Not a Place”: the Hiddenness of God and the Presence of God’, in Oliver Davies and Denys
Turner, eds., Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002), pp. 35–60.
180 The Creativity of God
1:2–4, none of which can possibly have been in the mind of the Synoptic
writers upon whose accounts we rely.
Theoretical reasoning
The Sinai motif of transfiguring glory is present in the opening phrase
‘after six days’ which was the length of time that the cloud of glory rested
on the mountain, prior to Moses hearing the voice of God.
23
Moses was
accompanied by Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, while it is Peter, James and
John who accompany Jesus as he climbs the mountain to pray. In Exodus
the stress lies upon the singularity of Moses from the outset, who alone
‘draws near’ God. Jesus is also set apart from his disciples, for he is trans-
figured before them, but at the same time Moses and Elijah are with him
in glory. Their intimate speaking with him recalls Moses’ own speaking
with God.
24
There is the suggestion here that it is now Jesus who stands
in the same relation to Moses (and Elijah) as once did YHWH, the God of
creation. But we can note that Moses and Elijah share in the divine glory
in a way that was not the case with Moses’ companions. It is as if human
nature itself has been elevated by the transfer of glory from the Father to
the Son, and the foremost prophets of the old dispensation participate in
that newreality.
The motif of the light of glory, which points forward to the death and
resurrectionof Christ, sets Jesus apart fromthe disciples andpresents him
in terms of the divine Logos through whomall things were made. We can
readthe transfiguration, then, as a moment inwhich, for the disciples, the
deep reality of the world, as formed in Christ, comes into view. It is the
point at which, however inchoately, Christ is identified with the truth of
the world as the self-communication of God. And the disciples are per-
plexed by what they see. The evangelists use different images for com-
municating their confusion. They are dazzled by the radiant light that
encompasses Jesus, as well as Moses and Elijah. The three disciples are
‘overshadowed’ by a cloud and are terrified at its darkness. Peter, who
speaks for the disciples, becomes confused and states: ‘Master, it is good
for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses
23. Matt. 17:1–13; Mk 9:2–8; Lk. 9:28–36. Luke has eight days.
24. The verb used here for ‘to speak with’ in all three synoptics is ouììcì´c. This is the word
that is used in the Septuagint at Exod. 34:35 to translate the Mosaic d ˆ ab ˆ ar b

. It is also used
outside this context (e.g. Isa. 7:6; Jer. 18:20; Lk. 4:36, 22:4; Acts 25:12, generally in the sense of
‘confer’), although its use at Prov. 6:22 is also suggestive of the theophany on Sinai.
Eucharistic reasoning 181
andone for Elijah’; Luke adds ‘not knowingwhat he said’.
25
Tothe themes
of intense light and darkness, and confusion of intellect in the presence
of the divine, we must also add that of ‘silence’, which the disciples main-
tainedwhentheydescendedfromthe mountain. If the transfigurationcan
be read as an epiphany of the real, and the discovery on the part of the dis-
ciples that the world is at root already realised and fulfilled as the body of
Christ, then it marks also the point at which the disciples themselves be-
gin to be taken up and transformed in their embodied existence by the
embrace of God communicated in and through Christ’s body.
26
What, then, does this reading tell us about a Christian account of the-
oretical reason, or the way in which we most fundamentally make sense
of the world? In the first place, it puts not knowing, rather than knowing,
at the centre of human cognition. There is an essential sense in which not
knowing is itself foundational to human understanding. Socrates’ view,
repeated throughout the early dialogues of Plato, is that he is indeed the
wisest among mensince he alone knows howlittle he knows. Questioning
is only a possibility where our minds are opento receivingnewknowledge
and understanding. Understanding is dynamic not static and needs con-
stantly to be self-questioning. Platonic dialectic, which is the struggle for
a foundational knowledge which will ground right action, is predicated
upon a prior recognition of our own failure to grasp in depth the nature
of the world. In the modern period, Hans-Georg Gadamer is among those
who have most fully articulated this position. In Truth and Method he ar-
guedthat the act of understanding rests upona fundamental conditionof
cognitive openness. Inparticular, he has pointedtothe role of ‘experience’
in shaping understanding, stressing its paramountly ‘negative’ character.
It is integral to the nature of what we ‘experience’ that we can be arrested
and challenged by it. ‘Experience’ can confirm our convictions, but it can
alsounsettle andrefute them. Tobe radically opento‘experience’ is alsoto
knowthat our most cherishedbeliefs canbe put thereby at risk. But to shy
away from‘experience’ is toriskthat our thinkingwill lose its purchase on
the world. The experience of the disciples, then, is that the real imposes it-
self upontheminthe transfigurationof Christ withsuchanintensity that
they are forced into a condition of unknowing; nothing of their assump-
tions about the world is left intact by their encounter with reality.
25. Lk. 9:33.
26. The disciples have not yet received the Spirit, however, so they are in an intimate sense
excluded fromthe divine reality which is communicated to themat this point.
182 The Creativity of God
The most rigorous form of human knowing, based upon practices of
self-questioning and exposure to ‘experience’, are the experimental sci-
ences. But although these prioritise the value of ‘not knowing’ and open-
ness to correction, they do not inthe mainshare another important aspect
of Christian theoretical reasoning, which is its pragmatism. Scientific un-
derstanding is in general a kind of comprehension in which human sub-
jectivity is reduced to the point of virtual eradication. With the exception
of certain rare cases, the scientific observer stands outside the domain of
what is known. In the transfiguration narrative, however, Peter and the
other apostles are not simply expungedby the divine presence nor are they
merely external observers of it. Although Peter speaks confusedly, ineptly
proposing the building of booths for what are ethereal, glorified figures,
he prefaces his remarks with the comment ‘Master, it is good for us to
be here.’ However strange this might seem in the flow of the narrative, it
is a powerfully pragmatic statement to the extent that it affirms human
participation in the disclosure that is taking place. Human beings, repre-
sentedby the disciples, belong to the revealing of the divine reality: we are
not extraneous to it but are rather integral, as interpreters, to the divine
manifestation.
27
Thedisclosureof thereal, then, whichis implicit inthetransfiguration,
stands in a close relation to the theme not only of a heuristic of not know-
ing but also to an account of discipleship. In all three Synoptic versions,
it is preceded by Peter’s confession of Jesus’ Messiahship and the teach-
ing that following Christ entails a life of radical self-denial. If we read the
transfiguration as a Christian paradigm of the real, which resonates with
the ‘Socratic ignorance’ at the heart of modern scientific method, then we
need to add to scientific reasoning the sense of reverence and awe that at-
tends the disclosure of the truth of the world. Scientific knowledge alone
may not adequately reflect this model, which entails also a God-centred,
27. Indeed, in the light of this, it is possible to regard Peter’s subsequent comment about the
building of booths as being less incoherent than might first appear. If Peter identifies in the
transfigured body of Jesus, and in the prophets who share his glory, the presence of the
divine kabod, then his remark may spring fromthe deep Jewish instinct to provide a place of
dwelling for God’s glory. It was this that motivated the construction of the tent of meeting,
the Ark of the Covenant and subsequently the Temple. Perhaps then the ‘building of the
booths’ is another way of affirming the role of human interpretation at this point. To ‘build a
booth’ is to adopt an interpretative stance which has immediate practical consequences of
work and labour. But this particular interpretative stance is itself off-centre, so
overwhelming is the communication of a divine presence. In this case the kabod already has a
dwelling place, which is the body of Jesus and which, following the events at Jerusalem, will
finally become the world.
Eucharistic reasoning 183
human relationship with the real, and it must be complemented with a
more complete sense of the humanobserver, or scientist, as one whoworks
fundamentally withina context of values. There is a case for a deep-seated
respect for thenatureof therealitythat is disclosed, wonder at its complex-
ity, and humility before it. Further, it is important that those who work
inscientific researchremainaware andself-questioningabout the techno-
logical developments which may followfromadvances in knowledge.
A third corrective element in the paradigm of theoretical reasoning
which the transfiguration as a model of reality supports concerns the
apophatic or negative moment in Christian theology. The intense light,
darkness, confusion of intellect and silence which befall the disciples
on the mountain top (Mt Tabor according to tradition) are the common
themes of the classical Christian apophatic tradition, which does in fact
look back to the Transfigurationas one of its chief texts. The tendency has
been for commentators to read this passage as offering a paradigm of the
mystical visionof God, whichis to say, a radically alternative perceptionof
God to that of the world. The transfiguration need not, however, be seen
as marking anascent away fromthe worldinto a knowledge of divine self-
communication through the Incarnation. It can be seen rather as an an-
ticipatory insight into the realisation of the divine unity with the world
which will come with the resurrection and ascension of Christ. To this ex-
tent, therefore, the apophatic motifs can be read as signalling a new kind
of perceptionof the world, as God’s body, andtherefore a newformof em-
bodied existence in the world on the part of the disciples. This reading of
the transfiguration is to correct the tendency for mystical theology to be
detached from the world; and it restores the remembrance that Christ is
not beyond the world, in some place of transcendence, but is to be found
within the world, as its divine life and meaning.
Practical reasoning
The experience of Peter, James and John at the transfiguration of Christ
tells us also that the foundational humanresponse to reality is one of wor-
shipandreverenceandaprayerful attentiveness tothewayinwhichreality
as a divine self-communication entirely transcends our capacity to make
sense of it, enclosing it within purely human categories. Christian reason
does not close off the deep enigma of the disclosure of reality but suffers
it and realises it within itself, in its fullest form as adoration and love. In
other words, Christian fundamental reasoning allows itself to be shaped
in its depths by the divine self-communication of the world, however
184 The Creativity of God
difficult this may be. To say that Christian thought keeps vigil before the
immensity of reality is not to say that this is its constant theme but rather
that Christians needtoturntime andagaintothis passivitybefore the real,
which is akin to the contemplative prayer of apophatic tradition. Chris-
tians must not lose the sense of world as modality of divine presence, and
must repeatedly groundtheir thinkingina prior posture of adorationand
prayer.
But pure apophatic prayer is not a state inwhichmany of us canremain
for any length of time, and it is important to note also the ways in which
ordinary discursive thinking canbe structured around the basic Christian
experience of reality as the body, self-communication, or overwhelming
embrace of God. The pragmatism of Christian practical reasoning means
that it should not be divorced from the embodied existence of the person
who thinks. There can be a tendency for those who reflect on reason to set
rationalityapart fromits locus inhumanliving. Logic canbepresentedas a
discrete systemwhichstands outside culture andbiography; certainkinds
of questioningabout meaningandtruthcanappear simplytobelocatedin
a domain of pure thought, outside any context and free from subjectivity
of any kind.
But in so far as reason engages with the world, it inheres in ways of
thinking which are incurably human, social and embodied. As we are re-
quired to make rational judgements about the world in which we live, per-
sonal and therefore historical subjectivity will inevitably come into play.
Judgements are based on values, which are the impacted consequences
of the kinds of judgements which we have made in the past; especially
of course those judgements which have an ethical, or political, orienta-
tion. We develop habits of mind, or moral practices, which become our
virtues or vices, just as we develop in our bodily life habitual postures or
behaviour. Judgements are habit-formingand, over the course of time, are
consolidatedas values whichare already present at every newact of judge-
ment. These are the habituated positionings which manifest as a given
within any new set of circumstances and which guide our judgement in
the situation to hand. Values are thus, in a very intimate sense, locked in
with our character, as the unity of values, which forms the bedrock of our
mental and physical practices in the world, and thus of our moral disposi-
tion. Character inturnis anaspect of our sociality; our character is formed
by the kind of education, in the broadest sense, which we receive and the
kindof communities of whichweareapart. Thewaywereasonis therefore
determinedby our relations not only withthe other people withwhomwe
Eucharistic reasoning 185
have formed a close connection in life but also with God through the per-
son of Christ. The human – and divine – relationships that shape us also
informthe values by which we arrive at judgements about the world.
Christian values can only be grounded in the community of the
Church. As we have seen in preceding chapters, ecclesial life is substan-
tially formedonthe twinaxes of celebrationandcompassion. As we think
in ways that engage with the world, and make judgements about it, we
must do so not only with thanksgiving at our sharing in the real, but also
withattentionto the sufferingother, inwhomwe discernChrist – himself
the face of the real – in a particularly intensive way. But the ecclesial na-
ture of our value formationbrings withit a further principle of reasoning.
The Church is an antiphonal, or dialogical community. It is pluralistic at
its core, and Christian reasoning must therefore be one which is shaped
throughout by dialogue with other voices, both within and outside the
Church. If the Christianrevelationitself is triadic, thenthe reasoning that
is predicated upon it cannot be monological but must itself embody the
‘conversational’ structure that is given with the Person of Christ. This is
not toadvocate a dialogical pluralismwhichundermines the power of rea-
son to compel action, but is a guarantee that when action is decided upon
it will be informed as far as possible by the many voices of those who are
implicated and involved in the particular issues under discussion.
Ethical choices: a case study
The flowof reasoninits Christianformis dialogical andopento the other,
as it is pragmatic and embodied. Most fundamentally, it is grounded in
an attentiveness before the real, which means that Christian reason must
always be open to refiguring and renewal, as the real comes into view in
our social and cultural contexts in new ways. For Christians, it is Christ
himself, given for us and made one with the world, who most embodies
this sense of the real. If Christ is the compassion of God, therefore, then
Christian reasoning itself must be at its core compassionate. We must al-
ways take the effects upon others carefully into account when we delib-
erate upon our actions. We must be guided by principles of concern and
compassion in the judgements we make about the world and about the
practices of living which we shall support and those we wish to reject. In
this section I wish to offer an outline of practical Christian reasoning, in
which the principles of practical reasoning become manifest, in the con-
text of a specific though by no means extraordinary situation. The char-
acter of this situation is one of ethical decision-making which – perhaps
186 The Creativity of God
more than any other field of practical decision-making – makes clear the
particular contours of practical reasoning.
Many of us today will at some time or other face a particular conun-
drumas someone close to us approaches death. Advancements in medical
care meanthat medicine is more and more capable of supporting the bod-
ily functions of individuals to a point beyond the end of their natural life.
Aparticularly difficult decision must be made where the patient faces fur-
ther invasive medical intervention which is uncertain in its outcome but
he or she is no longer able to express, or perhaps even adequately formu-
late, a view on the desirability or otherwise of the treatment. On such oc-
casions we can see a conflict between different kinds of goal-orientated,
value-driven reasonings. In the first place, there is medical reasoning in
which the medical staff attending the patient will have been trained. This
is a way of thinking which is tuned to the preservation of life. The ratio-
nale of that reasoning is therefore one of intervention in order to preserve
life as longas possible. Consequent uponthat reasoningis a further way of
thinking which is based on the legal obligation of medical staff to provide
the fullest treatment possible. Where treatment is withheldunreasonably,
the medical staff become vulnerable to a legal challenge with possible se-
rious consequences. The medical rationale of providing all possible treat-
ment inorder topreserve life is therefore supportedbya natural reasoning
of self-defence whereby the medical staff may wish to reduce their poten-
tial vulnerability in law to the accusation of having failed to care for the
patient adequately. It is of course the case that in many instances doctors
will be aware that the medical rationale needs to be moderated where the
patient is elderly and unlikely to benefit fromwhat may be invasive treat-
ment. But this must be considered a humane recognition of the limits of
medical reasoningwithinparticular liminal circumstances, rather thanan
alternative formof reasoning.
The motivations of the members of the family may also be mixed. On
the one handthey may feel sadness andshockat the sufferingof their close
relative, while on the other they may feel concern at the possible financial
and personal cost to themselves of having to care for a chronically ill rel-
ative. They may feel that there is no hope for the life of the relative con-
cerned and may wish to see as rapid a conclusion as possible to what may
be an intensely draining and traumatic time. Alternatively, they may des-
peratelyclingtothe hope of a full recoveryfor the persontheylove. It is the
family, of course, who are most likely to be in a position to knowwhat the
wishes of theindividual concernedwere, or wouldbelikelytobe, although
Eucharistic reasoning 187
this might in turn become a vehicle for an act of deception where there is
no supporting evidence.
Friends of the patient constitute a further interest group. They do not
carry the same responsibility for the patient as do the family, and are
less likely to bear any costs involved or profit from an inheritance. A true
friend’s concern will, however, be very deep, and a friend or friends are in
a good position dispassionately to safeguard the interests of the patient
themselves. A further participant may be a hospital chaplain or counsel-
lor. The concern here will be for both the patient and the relatives, but a
minister of religion will bring into this situation certain general assump-
tions based upon a set of spiritual values. These may vary according to the
tradition represented but they will tend to focus upon the sanctity of life
and upon submission of the individual to the will of God.
In a situation of this kind, therefore, where the patient is not able to
make a decisionfor themselves, diverse points of view, some relational and
some professional, may come into conflict with each other. The reason for
this fragmentation lies in the collapse of what we may call a more general
political consensus regarding the way such decisions are arrived at. The
dominant public ideology in our society is that of a Rawlsian libertarian-
ismwhereby it is the individuals themselves who hold the power to deter-
mine their ownfate, withinthe constraints of the law. It is precisely where
this functionof theindividual is either absent or compromisedthat ethical
reasoning, particularly in the area of bio-ethics, becomes acutely difficult.
We cannot leave it to a foetus, or a potential future clone, or indeed to an
elderly andincapacitatedpatient togive definitive expressiontotheir own
wishes. In the absence of the conditions which make possible an applica-
tionof the principles of liberal democracy, the participants will confront a
vacuum, inwhichconventional public reasoncanfind no real purchase. It
is at this point that a Christian or other religious approach may have most
to offer.
A Christian form of practical reasoning will seek to reflect the princi-
ples noted above in a way that is adapted to the situation at hand. Tomasz
Okon has drawn a parallel between the situation of the medical staff who
attend a dying patient in the normal course of their duties and the peri-
cope from the Synoptic tradition which records how Simon of Cyrene, a
‘passer-by’, was compelled to carry the cross of Christ.
28
This reflects a
truly Christian perception that the suffering of the patient is from the
28. Conversation with Tomasz Okon (May 2002).
188 The Creativity of God
point of view of the Christian professional also, or more deeply, the suf-
fering of Christ. It also entails the recognition that the professional par-
ticipants cannot avoid some degree of empathy with the suffering of the
patient and of the family. This analogy serves also to locate the suffering
patient at the centre of the situation, and pushes to the sidelines any ad-
ditional concerns. This is consonant with the Christian commitment to
place the marginalised – through disability or disadvantage – at the cen-
treof society. It is areminder that Christianpractical reasoningis at its core
compassionate, expressing an engagement with and sensitivity to each
and every individual who is involved in the situation.
The collective and pluralistic character of Christian reasoning can be
expressed in open discussion of what the patient’s own wishes would be.
Christian values to do with the sanctity of life but also with the natural-
ness of death need to be informed by the knowledge and judgement of
the medical professionals. The opinions of the patient’s friends should
also be sought so that as far as possible a consensus can emerge among
all the participants for whom the interests of the patient are paramount.
The compassionate character of Christian reasoning can be expressed in a
paramount concern for the patient, at the centre of the situation, as well
as a concern for the demands of physical caring for the patient on the part
of individual relatives. The needs of all should be addressed as far as pos-
sible and practical measures of support taken. But there is a place here too
for celebration. Joel Shuman has drawn our attention to the way in which
the manner of dying of older relatives can in fact provide invaluable in-
struction for those who are left behind in terms of their own dying. We
learn our basic life skills from those close to us, and, where those close to
us are Christians, we learn the practices of Christian living – and dying.
Traditionally, the Church has placed the death of martyrs at the centre of
remembrance, but for most of us it is in the death of close relatives that
we can learn the skills of dying and of living in the face of the certainty of
death. As Shuman states, it is important therefore that the dying are not
entirely removed fromviewand cut off fromtheir family and friends.
29
In
each and every dying there has to be a place also for celebration, as a sign
also for the living. And it would be a natural part of Christian reasoning
inthe context outlinedabove to lookfor ways of exploring the celebratory
aspect of living and dying, as sign of the divine creativity which makes us
who we are.
29. Joel James Shuman, The Body of Compassion (Boulder, Colo.: WestviewPress, 1999), pp. 1–6.
Eucharistic reasoning 189
Most moral decision-making involves a precarious combination of
universal principles of action and the particularities of a specific situa-
tion. Ethical reasoning is necessarily contingent and involves feeling our
way through a situation in all its irreducible particularity, guided by
our Christian principles and values but not released by them from the
risks and unpredictable consequences that inhere withinany action. If we
choose to act, and any proper action entails such a moment of decision,
then we do so without any certain knowledge of the consequences which
may flowfromour actions. Humanactionis, as Maurice Blondel observed,
like the leapof a grasshopper whichcannot see where it will land.
30
Ineth-
ical actions, this unpredictability becomes particularly difficult, since to
act for the good is necessarily to risk the good; it is to embrace the possi-
bility that – however pure our intentions may be – evil may flow (and at a
time we do not know) from the actions we take in the belief that we act in
accordance with the good.
The unpredictability of the consequences of our action, then, must it-
self be part of the burden that we assume when we act for the sake of the
other. Only when God’s reign is fully realised, and the good is all, can we
know what the consequences will be of what we do. In the Not-Yet of our
current state, we do not have that knowledge and we possess only uncer-
tain judgement. We should not look upon this negatively, however, as an
incurable inability to work out what is right in any given situation. In-
deed, according to the pragmatic-creationist paradigm developed in this
book, we should not think of reason as the faculty by which we calculate
the right thing to do against a range of ‘wrong’ options. This would be
dyadic reasoning, whereby a situationinlife witha complex ethical struc-
ture becomes a ‘test’ for us to see whether we can discern ‘the right an-
swer’. Christian pragmatic reasoning proposes a different kind of ethical
horizon. This is the case principally because it presupposes that we are
ourselves part of the world that we understand. This sets the act of mak-
ing a judgement and acting upon it within a different context. The cen-
tral focus of the ethical now no longer lies in the particular character of
the judgements we make in a given situation (whether they are ‘right’ or
‘wrong’) – however important these may be to the actual act of ethical
decision itself, as expressive of a particular, compassionate-centred, cele-
bratory and Christocentric life-form. When we adopt what we believe to
be an ethical position through an act of will, we affirm our place in the
30. Maurice Blondel, L’action (1893) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1950), p. 141.
190 The Creativity of God
world in terms which derive from our most ideal understandings of the
nature of the world. The very act of genuinely seeking to give expression to the
good through positive action in the world is itself ethical, independently of the subse-
quent consequences of what we do. Moreover, an intrinsic part of the goodness
of that act of positioning resides in the very unpredictability of its conse-
quences. If where we seek to do good, with all due consideration and in
all conscience, we actually find that we have acted in a way that brings evil
consequences, then our most considered reasoning will have been shown
to be empty and futile. In fact, we will prove to have been an agent of evil
preciselywhere we strove tobe anagent for good. It is difficult toimagine a
more complete humiliation for an individual than the reversal of the rela-
tion between our most dearly held values and our actions in the world. In
Romans 7:19, St Paul acknowledges the fragility of his will to do the good,
but if I will to do the good and find that the consequences are evil, then I
am called into question in the most fundamental way, that is, in terms of
my capacity to act reasonably as an agent in the world. The very act of eth-
ical positioning, therefore, itself bears the marks of the incarnational mo-
ment. If we reason in order to safeguard the coherence between the prin-
ciples and values we hold dear and our actions in the world, then in our
free ethical decision-making we embrace the possibility that our best rea-
soning will turn out to have the form and structure of unreason. Despite
our intentions, we findthat our actions mimic those of a deeply irrational,
damaged or irresponsible person, who does not coordinate what they be-
lieve withhowtheyact inthe worldandwiththe waythe worldis. Byfreely
choosing the good, therefore, we find that we put ourselves at risk for the
sake of the good. This deficit whichlies at the heart of the ethical act is there-
fore a participation in the incarnational moment and thus shares in the
nature of a sacrament; just as – in the transfiguration – the limited partic-
ularity of Jesus’ humanbody became the mediumfor the manifestationof
the infinite light of divine glory.
Conclusion
Questions concerning the operation of reason, both theoretical and prac-
tical, are necessarily complex ones and are not easily discussed in sum-
mary form. The remarks here can serve only as hints of the ways in which
a broader and more fundamental discussion of the Christian contexts of
reasoning might be developed. But the view outlined above does clearly
find its axis in a condition or state of human freedom. It is not only that
Eucharistic reasoning 191
we stand as free agents before our ethical choices, but such choices actu-
ally bringthe necessary freedomof our choosingintoplay ina particularly
imperative manner. The choosing of the compassionate good, by the ar-
gument given here, entails an embrace of the freedom that resides in our
knowing the impossibility of being sure that what we do will have con-
sequences that are consistent with the intentions of our acting. We may
choose to do good, for the sake of the other, only to find that what we do
injures or harms the interests of others in ways that we would not have
wished. Not totake that risk, however, wouldbe arenunciationof our free-
domand a failure to pursue the good, as a riskful enterprise of living that
is ordered to the well-being of the other.
This delicate freedom can be assumed under the theme of divine cre-
ativity whichhas beenmore generally the topic of this volume. The model
of the worldas text proposedhere implies aninterpreter of the text, which
is the human community. That interpretation is not extraneous to the
world-text, however, but embedded within it. From a Christian perspec-
tive, it is an interpretation which must be informed by the world-text’s
own memory of its origin in the divine breath; it must thus at some level
be a free, intelligent act which is the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is not
coercive; the Spirit indwells the mind and the heart.
From this we can conclude that our brief reflection upon ethical rea-
soning, formulated in the light of a reading of the pericope of the trans-
figuration, points us back again to the pragmatic heart of the cosmic the-
ology outlined in this volume. Human beings are created as interpreters
of the creation, inthe fullest sense possible. Structured by and withinlan-
guage, we are by our very nature disposed to move from and towards un-
derstandings of theworldthroughactions, withtheir implicit knowledge,
or through reflection. We constantly re-engage with the world by mul-
tiple acts of ‘reading’ the world and our place in the world, in a chang-
ing flux of localities, temporalities, languages, memories and relations.
What these processes of ‘reading’ lead us to understand, therefore, is that
the world is the domain of a continuing divine creativity which finds ex-
pression also within ourselves, in our understandings of and interactions
withthe world. The shapingof the world, as Thomas Aquinas once argued
in his concept of a cosmic ‘circulation’, entails our own contribution and
reshapingby the Spirit: as a pulsationinthe world, inourselves, andinthe
movement between the two.
Conclusion
Cosmology and the theological imagination
Asreracht in doman uile leis, uair ro bui aicnedh na ndula uile isin
choluinn arroet Issu. . . Ar cach adbar ocus cach duil ocus cach aicned
atcither isin domun conrairceda uile isin coluinn i n-esserract Cr ´ ıst.i. i
colainn cach duine.
All the world rose with him, for the nature of all elements dwelt in the
body which Jesus assumed. . . Every kind of matter, every element and
every nature to be seen in the world were all combined in the body in
which Christ rose fromthe dead, that is, in the body of every human
being.
The EvernewTongue
The primary argument in the early chapters of this book was that the clas-
sical world-view combined thought, faith and the imagination in ways
that allowed human beings, as the creatures of God, to be at home in a
world that was created and thus, by its very nature, ordered to the divine
Creator. It was the collapse of this synthesis which led to the particular
conditions of the modern intellectual world, with its characteristic em-
phasis uponthe instrumentality of reason, rather thanwhat we might call
its cosmic commitments. The purpose of the book as a whole has been
to give content to the createdness of the world by developing cosmic im-
agery that is already present in scriptural traditions. This has not been in
any sense a contestation of scientific reason but rather an attempt to re-
contextualise reasoning within the parameters of a scriptural account of
the world: the image of world as divine body which is the embrace or ad-
dress of God. I have argued that that scriptural cosmology contests the
ideology of scientism, which derives only remotely from science as such,
[192]
Conclusion 193
and whichtends to offer a shallowand materialistic image of the world by
which to live.
Of all the texts explored in this book, the one which stands out as com-
municating seminal insights into the radical transformations of human
self-understanding and the place of the human in the world is the essay
onWinkelmannbyJohannWolfgangvonGoethe. WilhemvonHumboldt,
whowas the father of the modernGermanuniversity systemwhichplayed
such a vital role in the cultural and intellectual life of Europe during
the nineteenth century, noted in a letter to Goethe that it contained
‘passages . . . which are among the greatest ever uttered’.
1
In that piece
Goethe was writing about a man (though perhaps more about himself )
whose aesthetic vision inaugurated a new understanding of Greek civil-
isation and a new religion of artistic sensibility. Winkelmann’s aesthetic
religion resided in the implicit claim that the moral ideals of classicism
(as serenity), and the cosmic ideals of medieval Christianity (as the Good,
the True and the Beautiful), become accessible to us in a new synthesis
through a correctly schooled appreciation of the work of art. Goethe’s ap-
proval for this positionis very specific. InWinkelmannhimself, withinthe
contours of his life of aesthetic practice, the different faculties of his na-
ture were united and, for Goethe, a new mutuality of inner and outer, of
the human and the cosmic, was brought into being. The two perspectives
seem in this text to be related. It is only because Winkelmann learned a
newmode of ‘seeing’ and thus recognised in the work of art the epiphany
of reality in all its intrinsic nobility and exaltation that Winkelmann’s
own faculties, his sense of the inner and outer world, were united. We can
take this to be the overcoming or repairal of the divide between subjec-
tivity and objectivity which was consequent upon the Kantian turn. For
Winkelmann, inGoethe’s readingof him, the alienationof the self – under
banishment through the instrumentalisation of the natural order – was
healed throughthe newunity of inner and outer achieved inthe apprecia-
tionof the work of art. The unity of the faculties (whichKant had divided)
becomes possible only withthe discovery inthe outer worldof a profound
receptivity to the human self, brought about in the religious intensity of
the aesthetic gaze. Goethe’s point, then, is that the problematic of the di-
vided and alienated self can only be addressed by a new imaginary of the
1. Letter of 12 April 1806 (quoted in Henry Hatfield, Aesthetic Paganismin German Literature
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 203).
194 The Creativity of God
world in all its materiality, of which – albeit under alienation – we remain
an integral part.
Viewed from this perspective, Romanticism and its aftermath repre-
sented the first attempt by a society to reshape our understanding of the
world through constructing a newvision of the world, in ways that would
restore a place to the human self in the world and thus heal the rift, or
what Goethe called the ‘fragmentation of our faculties’, between our rea-
soning, our senses and their cosmic object. As a society, we still remain
strongly influenced by that moment in our cultural history. Two modali-
ties of the religious which are distinctive to the modern are the product of
that Romantic age. The first is the rise of art as that which takes the place
of religion, by becomingthe site inwhichwe encounter the worldina new
strangeness and fullness. Art refreshes and heals us, inviting us into new
depths of perception, involving our senses, judgements and feeling. The
second is religious experience. This represents an intensity of experienc-
ing which stands outside the norm of our empirical perceptions, and in
which we find the elements of ultimate disclosure. Both phenomena are
deeplyembeddedincontemporarysociety, andoffer access intothe imme-
diacy of the world as an enchanted place. But both do so in ways that by-
pass the pre-modernprinciple that our ordinary cognitions andreasoning
about the worldalready containinnuce the possibility of knowledge of the
divine Creator by virtue of the world’s own state as created. Art reveals to
us the powers of a human, andnot a divine, creator, while religious experi-
ence stands outside our ordinary experience of the worldas anexceptional
and ineffable state of mind.
It has not beenmy intentionto suggest that the movement fromknow-
ing the world to knowing God, or knowing about God, of earlier tradi-
tion was in any sense a straightforward one. Rather it was characterised
by complex systems of dialectical negation. But nevertheless some kind
of relation, as between created and Creator, necessarily obtained between
the ordinary knowledge of the world and the extraordinary knowledge of
its maker, and this cosmic unity became the object, however transcenden-
tally nuanced, which united the faculties of the human creature. God was
not just the absolute Other, but was also implied at every point in our per-
ception of the world since this was of God’s making and stood as world in
intimate relation with him. All our faculties, of perception, thinking and
feeling, found their centre, and unity, in this relation.
The restoration of a theological account of world is a precarious task
which must resist the temptation of falling back into a variation of
Conclusion 195
pre-modern cosmology on the one hand, while understanding the nature
of its success on the other. That success flowed in no small part from the
integration of the imagination into the ground of religious life. Under
the discipline of Christian concepts, rites and practices which ordered the
world as a theophanic space, the imagination opened up the domain of
ordinary experience to the possibility of encounter with the divine which
was neither wholly other than the ordinary world nor reducible to it. The
imagination bridged the temporal and the eternal, earthly and celestial,
andsecuredasenseof anultimatehumanbelongingintheworld, whether
optimistically configured as heaven and blessing or pessimistically as hell
and damnation. Medieval reason functioned within the sheath of the reli-
gious imagination.
This volume is an attempt to rediscipline our own contemporary reli-
gious imagination as a way of recontextualising our practices of reason.
The route I have chosen is the construction of a scriptural cosmology,
based on an extended interpretation of significant texts fromGenesis and
Exodus, looping through the Catholic experience of the Eucharist as the
place in which the unity of Christ’s body with the world is made present
andmade known. The notionof body as the site of metaphor, as anunder-
lying, ungraspable reality, generating a plethora of cultural formations,
has been central to this view. So too has the understanding that the voice
of God, divine speaking, is fundamental to the meaning of Scripture and
specificallytothe scriptural account of creationandredemption. What has
linked the two has been the argument that texts are much like bodies, in
that they carry the voice of the one whose speaking is their genesis. The
world, then, is like a divine text, made up of signifying matter, and we are
the creatures who are hosted at its core, as interpreters animated by the
Spirit, and as agents whose own body life has been taken up and shaped
by the divine creativity.
The construction of a new imaginary of the world, as divine body –
which bears the divine voice, addressing us – is an attempt to bring rela-
tionality tothe fore inour thinkingandexperience of the world. That new
relation with God, as divine body, reorganises our own body life, setting
us within an ecclesial and compassionate embodiment. Without that step
of the imagination, the world will remain a field of measurable forces, of
quanta (or only that), and our own bodies will remain sophisticated ma-
chinery, and not the living bearer of a unique and divinely created voice.
Voice, body, imagination and the text are the elements in this attempt
at the development of a newtheological account of the nature of the world
196 The Creativity of God
as world. What unites themis Spirit-breath, whichis the animating going
forth from God which is at the same time an entering into God and the
divine life. Spirit hovers betweenworldandTrinity. Spirit warms us as the
living breathof God, andrests as the dynamic remembrance of the Trinity
in space and history.
Select bibliography
Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of St-Denis and its Art Treasures, ed., trans. and annotated by
Erwin Panofsky (2nd edn by Gerda Panofsky-Soergel, Princeton: Princeton Univer-
sity Press, 1979).
Aertsen, Jan A., Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996).
Aristotle, On the Heavens, trans. W. K. C. Guthrie (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1960).
Posterior Analytics, trans. with commentary by Jonathan Barnes (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1994).
Augustine, St, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1998).
On Music, ed. Martin Jacobsson, Aurelius Augustinus. De musica liber vi, Acta Universitatis
Stockholmiensis, Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 47 (Stockholm: Almqvist &Wiksell
International, 2002).
Bacon, Francis, Novum Organum, ed. Lisa Jardine and Michael Silverthorne (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Bayer, Oswald, Gott als Autor. Zu einer poietologischer Theologie (T ¨ ubingen: Mohr Siebeck,
1999).
Begbie, Jeremy, Voicing Creation’s Praise. Towards a Theology of the Arts (Edinburgh: T. & T.
Clark, 1991).
Theology, Music and Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Beiser, Frederick, The Fate of Reason (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987).
Blondel, Maurice, L’action (1893) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1950).
Blumenberg, Hans, The Genesis of the Copernican World (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press,
1987).
Brueggemann, Walter, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy
(Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997).
Carson, D. A. and H. G. M. Williamson, eds., It Is Written. Scripture Citing Scripture
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Casarella, Peter, ‘The Expression and Form of the Word: Trinitarian Hermeneutics and
the Sacramentality of Language in Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology’, Renascence
48.2 (winter 1996), 111–35.
Chadwick, Henry, Boethius. The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1981).
[197]
198 Select bibliography
Chamberlain, David S., ‘Philosophy of Music in the Consolation of Boethius’, Speculum
45 (1970), 80–97.
Chauvet, Louis-Marie, Symbol and Sacrament (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press,
1995).
Coakley, Sarah, ed., Religion and the Body (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (Oxford: Blackwell 2001).
Cousins, Ewart, ed. and trans., Bonaventure, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New
York: Paulist Press, 1978).
‘Bonaventure’s Mysticism of Language’, in Stephen Katz, ed., Mysticism and Language
(NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 236–57.
Crouzel, Henri, Origen (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1989).
Davies, Oliver, A Theology of Compassion (London: SCM Press, 2001 and Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2003).
‘Soundings: towards a Theological Poetics of Silence’, in Oliver Davies and Denys
Turner, eds, Silence and the Word (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002),
pp. 201–22.
‘The Sign Redeemed: towards a Christian Fundamental Semiotics’, Modern Theology
19.2 (April 2003), 219–41.
Davies, Oliver andDenys Turner, eds., Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Dawson, John David, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (Berkeley: Uni-
versity of California Press, 2002).
de Certeau, Michel, ‘The Black Sun of Language: Foucault’, in idem, Heterologies. Discourse
on the Other (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 171–84.
de Vaux, Roland, ‘The Revelation of the Divine Name YHWH’, in John I. Durham and
J. R. Porter, eds., Proclamation and Presence (London: SCMPress, 1970), pp. 48–75.
Dickson, Gwen Griffith, Johann Georg Hamann’s Relational Metacriticism (Berlin: W. de
Gruyter, 1995).
Duhem, Pierre, Le syst ` eme du monde, vol. i (Paris: A. Hermann, 1913).
Emerson, Jan Swango and Hugo Feiss, eds., Imagining Heaven in the Middle Ages: a Body of
Essays (NewYork and London: Garland Publishing, 2000).
Farrow, Douglas, Ascension and Ecclesia. On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for
Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1999).
Fiddes, Paul S., Participating in God. A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity (London: Darton,
Longman and Todd, 2000).
‘The Canon as Space and Place’, in John Barton and Michael Wolter, eds., Die Einheit
der Schrift und die Vielfalt des Kanons. The Unity of Scripture and the Plurality of the Canon
(Beihefte zur Zeitschrift f ¨ ur neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 118; Berlin: Walter de
Gruyter, 2003), pp. 127–49.
Ford, David, Self and Salvation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
Frege, Gottlob, Conceptual Notation and Related Articles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).
Funkenstein, Amos, Theology and the Scientific Imagination: from the Middle Ages to the Seven-
teenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).
Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward, 1979).
Gatens, Moira and Genevieve Lloyd, Collective Imaginings. Spinoza Past and Present (London
and NewYork: Routledge, 1999).
Gaukroger, Stephen, Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early Modern Philosophy
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
Select bibliography 199
Gil, Jos ´ e, Metamorphoses of the Body (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota
Press, 1998).
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, ‘Winkelmann und sein Jahrhundert’, in Goethe, Berliner
Ausgabe, vol. xix (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1973), pp. 469–520.
Gracia, Jorge J. E., A Theory of Textuality. The Logic and Epistemology (New York, Albany:
SUNY Press, 1995).
Grant, Edward, Planets, Stars and Orbs. The Medieval Cosmos, 1200–1687 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Gray, G. B., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers (International Critical Com-
mentary; Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1903).
Green, Garrett, Imagining God: Theology and the Religious Imagination (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1989).
Grosz, Elizabeth, Volatile Bodies: towards a Corporeal Feminism (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana
University Press, 1994).
Gunton, Colin, Christ and Creation (Carlisle: Paternoster Press and Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1992).
The Triune Creator (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).
Gunton, Colin, ed., The Doctrine of Creation (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1997).
Hamann, Johann Georg, Johann Georg Hamann. S ¨ amtliche Werke, vols. i—vi, ed. Josef Nadler
(Vienna: Herder, 1949–57).
Briefe, ed. Arthur Henkel (Frankfurt amMain: Insel Verlag, 1988).
Londoner Schriften, ed. OswaldBeyer andBerndWeissenborn(Munich: VerlagC. H. Beck,
1993).
Hardy, Dan, ‘Christ and Creation’, in idem, God’s Ways with the World (Edinburgh: T. & T.
Clark, 1996), pp. 114–31.
‘Creation and Eschatology’, in God’s Ways, pp. 151–70.
Hatfield, Henry, Aesthetic Paganism in German Literature (Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard Uni-
versity Press, 1964).
Hildegard of Bingen, Hildegardis Bingensis Epistolarium, Pars Prima i--xc, ed. L. van Acker,
(Turnholt: Brepols, 1991).
Honnefelder, Ludwig, ‘Der zweite Anfang der Metaphysik. Voraussetzungen, Ans ¨ atze
und Folgen der Wiederbegr ¨ undung der Metaphysik im 13./14. Jahrhundert’, in
J. P. Beckmann et al., eds., Philosophie im Mittelalter. Entwicklungslinien und Paradigmen
(Hamburg: Meiner, 1987), pp. 165–86.
Ihde, Dan, Listening and Voice: a Phenomenology of Sound (Athens: Ohio University Press,
1976).
Irwin, T. H., Aristotle’s First Principles (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich, David Hume ¨ uber den Glauben, oder Idealismus und Realismus, ed.
Hamilton Beck (New York and London: Garland, 1983) [facsimile reproduction of
1787 edition and the Vorrede to the 1815 edition].
The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel ‘ Allwill’, ed. and trans. George di Giovanni
(Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994).
Jeanrond, Werner, Theological Hermeneutics (NewYork: Crossroad, 1991).
Jenkins, JohnI., Knowledge and FaithinThomas Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997).
Jenson, Robert W., Systematic Theology, vol. i: The Triune God (New York and Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1997); vol. ii: The Works of God (New York and Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1999).
200 Select bibliography
Jeremias, Joachim, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (London: SCMPress, 1966).
Johnson, Aubrey R., The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel (2nd edn,
Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1964).
Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. NormanKemp Smith(London: Macmillan
Press, 1933).
Kearney, Richard, The Wake of the Imagination (London: Routledge, 1998).
Koyr ´ e, Alexander, The Astronomical Revolution, trans. R. E. W. Maddison (Paris: Hermann,
1973).
Kretzmann, N., ‘Trinity and Transcendentals’, in R. Feenstra and C. Plantinga, eds.,
Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989),
pp. 79–109.
Kuhn, Thomas S., The CopernicanRevolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1957).
LaCocque, Andr ´ e and Paul Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
Le Breton, David, Anthropologie ducorps et modernit ´ e (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France,
1990).
Lehrman, S. M., Midrash Rabbah iii (London: The Soncino Press, 1961).
Longinus, On the Sublime, ed. D. A. Russell, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964).
Loughlin, Gerard, Telling God’s Story. Bible, Church and Narrative Theology (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Marcus, Joel, The Wayof the Lord. Christological Exegesis of the OldTestament inthe Gospel of Mark
(Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992).
Mark 1–8, The Anchor Bible, NewYork: Doubleday, 1999.
Markus, R. A., Signs and Meanings (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996).
Martin, Dale B., The CorinthianBody (NewHavenandLondon: Yale University Press, 1995).
Marx, Werner, Introduction to Aristotle’s Theory of Being as Being (The Hague: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1977).
McDannell, Colleen and Bernard Lang, eds., Heaven. AHistory (2nd edn, NewHaven: Yale
University Press, 2001).
McDonald, Scott, ‘Theory of Knowledge’, in Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump,
eds., Cambridge Companionto Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993),
pp. 160–95.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1962).
Midgley, Mary, Science and Poetry (London: Routledge, 2001).
Milbank, John, The WordMade Strange. Theology, Language, Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).
Being Reconciled. Ontology and Pardon (London and NewYork: Routledge, 2003).
Moore, Andrew, Realism and Christian Faith. God, Grammar and Meaning (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Morrison, Jeremy, Winckelmann and the Notion of Aesthetic Education (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1996).
Mos ` es, St ´ ephane, ‘ “Je serai qui je serai.” La r ´ ev ´ elationdes Noms dans le r ´ ecit biblique’, in
Marco M. Olivetti, ed., Filosofia della Rivelazione (Padua: Casa Editrice Dott. Antonio
Milani, 1994), pp. 565–76.
Moyise, Steve, The Old Testament in the New Testament. Essays in Honour of J. L. North
(Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2000).
Select bibliography 201
Murphy, Nancey, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1990).
Murphy, Nancey and Ellis, George F. R., On the Moral Nature of the Universe (Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1996).
Noth, Martin, Numbers. A Commentary (The Old Testament Library; London: SCM Press,
1968).
Ochs, Peter, ‘Three Post-Critical Encounters withthe BurningBush’, inStephenE. Fowl,
ed., The Theological Interpretation of Scripture. Classic and Contemporary Readings (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1997), pp. 129–42.
Peirce, Pragmatism and the Logic of Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1998).
Origen, OnFirst Principles, trans. G. W. Butterworth, Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1973.
Contra Celsum, trans. Henry Chadwick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)
Commentary on the Gospel of John, trans. Ronald E. Heine (Washington: Catholic Univer-
sity of America Press, 1989).
Peacocke, A. R., Creation and the World of Science (Oxford and New York: Oxford University
Press, 1979).
Paths fromScience towards God (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2001).
P ´ erez-Ramos, Antonio, Francis Bacon’s Idea of Science and the Maker’s Knowledge Tradition
(Oxford: Clarendon Press; NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Pickstock, Catherine, After Writing: on the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1998).
Polkinghorne, John, Science and Providence (London: SPCK, 1989).
Reason and Reality (London: SPCK, 1991).
Polkinghorne, John, ed., The Work of Love. Creation as Kenosis (London: SPCK, 2001).
Pseudo-Clementine, Die Pseudoklementinen, vol. ii: Rekognitionen in Rufins
¨
Ubersetzung, ed.
Bernhard Rehm(Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1965).
Pseudo-Denys, The Complete Works, trans. ColmLuibheid (NewYork: Paulist Press, 1987).
Quine, W. V., Pursuit of Truth (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Rahner, Karl, The Trinity (Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates, 1970).
Randles, W. G. L., The Unmaking of the Medieval Christian Cosmos, 1500–1760 (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 1999).
Ricoeur, Paul, Interpretation Theory (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976).
‘Philosophy and Religious Language’, in idem, Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative and
the Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), pp. 35–47.
Samuelson, Norbert M., The First Seven Days. A Philosophical Commentary on the Creation of
Genesis (Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1992).
Schiller, Friedrich, Onthe Sublime, inS ¨ amtliche Werke, vol. v(Munich: Winkler Verlag, 1975).
Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Hermeneutics and Criticism and Other Writings, trans. A. Bowie
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Schnur, Harald, Schleiermachers Hermeneutik und Ihre Vorgeschichte im 18. Jahrhundert
(Stuttgart and Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler, 1994).
Schrade, Leo, ‘Music in the Philosophy of Boethius’, The Musical Quarterly 33 (1947),
188–200.
Shuman, Joel James, The Body of Compassion (Boulder, Colo.: WestviewPress, 1999).
Spinoza, Benedict de, Ethics, trans. Edwin Curley (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,
1996).
202 Select bibliography
Stewart, Larry, The Rise of Public Science: Rhetoric, Technology and Natural Philosophy in
Newtonian Britain, 1660–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Swartley, William M., Israel’s Scripture Traditions and the Synoptic Gospels (Peabody, Mass.:
Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).
Tanner, Kathryn, God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1988).
Thomas Aquinas, St, Expositio super librum Boethii De trinitate, in Opera omnia, vol. xxviii
(Viv ` es, 1871–2).
In librum Beati Dionysii De divinis nominibus expositio, in Opera omnia, vol. xxix (Viv ` es,
1871–2).
Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, in Opera omnia, vols. xiv—xv (Viv ` es, 1871–2).
Summa theologiae, ed. P. Caramello (Rome: Marietti, 1948).
Toulmin, Stephen, Foresight and Understanding (NewYork: Harper and Row, 1963),
The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1982).
Cosmopolis; the Hidden Agenda of Modernity (NewYork: Free Press, 1990)
van Deusen, Nancy, Theology and Music at the Early University (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995).
van Fleteren, Frederick, ‘Augustine’s Ascent of the Soul in Book vii of the Confessions: a
Reconsideration’, Augustinian Studies 5 (1974), 29–72.
‘Principles of Augustine’s Hermeneutic: an Overview’, in Frederick van Fleteren and
Joseph C. Schnaubelt, eds., Augustine. Biblical Exegete (New York: Peter Lang, 2001),
pp. 1–32.
von Bingen, Hildegard, Epistolarium, ed. L. Van Acker (Turnhoult: Brepols, 1991).
Liber divinorumoperum, ed. A. Derolez and P. Dronke (Turnhoult: Brepols, 1996).
Ward, Graham, Cities of God (London: Routledge, 2000).
Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1995).
Williams, Rowan, ‘The Deflections of Desire: Negative Theology in Trinitarian Disclo-
sure’, in Davies and Turner, eds., Silence and the Word (2002), pp. 115–35.
Wilson, Catherine, The Visible World: EarlyModernPhilosophyandthe Inventionof the Microscope
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
Winckelmann, Johann Joachim, Werke (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1982).
Wolterstorff, Nicholas, Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Zimmermann, A., Ontologie oder Metaphysik? Die Diskussion ¨ uber den Gegenstand der Meta-
physik im13. und 14. Jahrhundert (Leiden and Cologne: E. J. Brill, 1965).
Index of biblical citations
Genesis
1:1–2:4, 76, 109
1:3–20, 77
1:17, 78
1:22, 77
2:19–20, 54, 78, 113
6:17, 110
7:15, 110
41:38, 113
Exodus
3:1–17, 79, 82, 83, 162
3:2–12, 91
4:10, 81
10:19, 109
14:21, 109
24:16, 87
33:19, 81, 82, 83
34:6, 82, 83
34:29–35, 88
34:35, 180
Numbers
11:16–30, 81
22:19, 79
23:1–12, 81
Deuteronomy
18:15–22, 82
32:39, 123–4
34:10, 80
Joshua
10:12–14, 20
24:27, 79
Judges
3:10, 110
4:4–24, 81
6:17, 79
6:34, 110
11:29, 110
13:25, 110
14:6, 110
1 Samuel
10:1, 81
10:6, 81, 110
12: 24–5, 81
15:10–35, 81
16:12–13, 81, 110
21:1–6, 123
2 Samuel
6:12, 165
1 Kings
18:17–19, 81
19:11–12, 110
Nehemiah
9:13, 79
9:20, 110
Job
4:16, 110
13:19, 89
34:14–15, 89
Psalms
2:7, 87
28:1, 89
31:5, 89
33:6, 7, 109
35:22, 89
60:3, 88, 127
[203]
204 Index of biblical citations
83:1, 89
89:19–20, 88
103:2, 47
106:23, 88
115:17, 89
Proverbs
3:19, 7
6:22, 180
Ecclesiastes
12:7, 110
Isaiah
1:10–14, 81
1:16–17, 81
7:6, 180
8:1, 81
11:2, 111
11:12, 113
27:8, 109
34:4, 47
42:1, 87, 88, 112
51:17, 88, 127
58:6, 114
61:1–2, 114, 123
64:12, 89
66.55, 110
Jeremiah
1:4, 81
13:24, 109
18:20, 180
32:4, 80
34:3, 80
Ezekiel
11:13, 81
33:22, 81
37:9–14, 91, 110
Daniel
4:8, 113
Hosea
12:4, 79
13:15, 109
Joel
2:13, 81
2:28, 91
Amos
5:23–4, 81
Micah
6:8, 81
Habakkuk
2:1, 80
Zephaniah
1:7, 82, 89
Haggai
1:1, 81
Zechariah
1:13, 80
Matthew
3:11, 91
3:13–17, 86
5:21–48, 122
9:36, 84
11:19, 7
12:1–8, 123
12:42, 7
14:14, 84
15:32, 84
17:1–13, 87, 180
18:23–35, 84
20:34, 84
26:26–30, 126
26:39, 88
27:46, 89
Mark
1:9–11, 86
1:41, 84
3:11–12, 112
6:34, 84
6:45–52, 124
8:2, 84
9:2–8, 87, 180
9:22, 84
14:22–5, 126
15:34, 89
Luke
1:35, 112
1:41–2, 112
2:47, 113
3:16, 91
3:21–2, 86
4:16–30, 91, 114, 123
4:36, 180
7:13, 84
9:28–36, 87, 180
Index of biblical citations 205
9:33, 181
10:25–37, 84
15:11–32, 84
22:4, 180
22:14–23, 126
22:42, 127
John
1:1–3, 7, 23, 44, 96, 179
1:9,2:75
3:8, 91
4:26, 124
6:22–59, 127
8:58, 124
12:27–36, 86
13:19–20, 124
14:10, 84
1:32–4, 86
16:13–15, 90
20:22, 90
Acts
2:1–3, 91
25:12, 180
Colossians
1:6, 96
1:15–16, 7, 179
Romans
7:19, 190
8:6, 91
8:9, 91
8:13, 91
8:15, 91
8:26, 91
1 Corinthians
1:18–31, 7, 44
8:6, 7, 179
10:1–11, 42
11:23–6, 126
2 Corinthians
5:17, 96
6:12, 162
7:15, 162
Galatians
4:4–7, 91
4:21–31, 42
Ephesians
1, 7
1:12–14, 91
2:18, 91
3:5, 91
4:2–4, 91
4:29–30, 91
5:4, 91
5:6, 91
5:18–20, 92
6:18, 91
6:19, 91
Philippians
1:1
1:8, 163
Philemon
7, 162
12, 162
20, 162
Hebrews
1:2–4, 7, 179
James
3:1–12, 113
Revelation
14:6, 43
General index
address 96, 121, 130, 137, 138
and art 151
sign and 108–14
and texts 159
admonitiones 48
Aertsen, Jan 30, 32
Albert the Great 17, 18, 30
Alexander of Hales 30, 31
Alphonso de Tostado de Rivera Madrigal 19
analogy 10, 43, 71, 95, 115, 154, 168
angels 35, 40, 70, 167
apophatic theology 6, 183, 184
architecture 24–5
Aristotelianism 6, 10, 18, 51
Aristotle 17, 18, 20, 22, 30, 32, 38, 95
art 58–63, 177, 194
and interpretation 151
and reality 151–2
Ascension 160
astronomy 51–2
Augustine 8, 30, 35, 36, 39, 67, 92, 99
Bacon, Francis 2, 9, 52–5, 57
Barradas, Sebasti ˜ ao 19
Barth, Karl 170
Basil the Great, St 17, 18
Bayle, Pierre 64
Beiser, Frederick 63
blessing 77, 78, 105
Blondel, Maurice 189
body 43, 60
eschatological 165–8
as gendered 157
as habitus 157
as performance 158
as relation 142
and world-text 156–8
see also embodiment; texts, as body
Boethius 22–3
Bonaventure, St 8, 30, 42
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich 4
Bradwardine, Thomas 18
Brueggemann, Walter 112
Buridan, John 51
canon 159
Casarella, Peter 155
causality 55, 98, 115, 168
and participation 98
see also God, divine causality
celebration 156, 164, 172, 178, 185
character 184
Christ 41, 120
baptismof 85, 88
body of 11, 128, 155, 156, 160, 178, 181, 190,
195
Cosmic Christ see Word; creation, through
the Word; cosmology, Christological
as light 24
and meaning 46, 47, 69, 75–9
Resurrection of 179
as truth of the world 180
Christology 11, 100, 122–8
Chalcedon 85
ontological 124
see also Incarnation
Church 6, 38, 43, 120, 129, 156, 161, 178, 185
classicism 61, 67
compassion 80–2, 83, 84, 93, 120, 125, 156,
172, 185, 195
Christ as compassion of God 185
and Church 161–4
as divine creativity 164
and passions 163
as sacrament 164
consciousness 119, 126, 171
[206]
General index 207
conversation 103, 107, 185
Trinitarian 97–8
Word as 96
conversion 67
Copernicus 2, 9, 11–52, 53
cosmology 6, 15–28, 72
Christological 38, 40, 41, 69, 96
by extension 15–21
loss of 71
by participation 21–5
createdness
of the world 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 15, 32, 33, 34–6,
48, 50
see also metaphysics
creation
in Exodus 78–80
in Genesis 76–8
through the Word 6–7, 23, 96, 180
creatureliness see self
Cross, the 164
see also sacrifice; redemption
culture 157
dance 164–5
Dante Alighieri 60
Dawson, John David 42
death 150
de Certeau, Michel 4
Derrida, Jacques 101, 155
Desaguliers 55
Descartes, Ren´ e 27, 173
dialogue 90, 97, 129, 138
Church as dialogical community 185
between Father and Son 84–92
Mosaic 76–8
Dilthey, Wilhelm 63
embodiment 11, 29, 146, 172, 174, 184
Empyrean 17–21
Enlightenment 66, 68
ethics 185–91
Eucharist 128–32, 139–43, 168, 178, 195
and body 160–1
Real Presence 11, 128, 130–2, 148
and temporality 147
words of institution 11, 126–8, 161
experience 181
explanation 2–4, 176
Ezekiel 142
Feyerabend, Paul 4
Fichte, J. G. 141
Fiddes, Paul S. 159
Francis, St 37
freedom 190
Frege, Gottlob 173–4, 177
Funkenstein, Amos 2, 57
Gadamer, Hans-Georg 63, 69, 104, 151, 181
Gaia 71
Gaukroger, Stephen 52, 54
Geertz, Clifford 103
genome 118
George, Stefan 59
Gibert, Pierre 147
glory 87, 127, 180, 182, 190
God 1, 10
as Author 69, 95–116
divine causality 2, 3, 6, 29, 36, 95, 115, 119
divine creativity 36, 45, 49, 72, 75, 76, 82,
93, 95, 164
divine name 79, 82, 83
embrace of 184
image of 40, 49, 97, 125
world as belonging to 3, 5, 99
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 61–2, 63, 193
Gracia, J. J. E. 100
Grant, Edward 51
Grosseteste, Richard 23
Gunton, Colin 7
habitus 157
Hamann, Johann Georg 9, 58, 66–71, 125
heaven 15–28
and imagination 165–7, 168
see also Empyrean
Hegel, G. W. F. 141
Henao, Gabriel 19, 20
Herder, J. G. 63
hermeneutics 69
Romantic 154
Hildegard of Bingen 23–4
H ¨ olderlin, Friedrich 63
Holy Spirit 7, 10–11, 47, 69, 81, 86, 89–92, 97,
98, 121, 161, 181, 191, 195
and animals 110
epiclesis 127, 142
and life 110
at Pentecost 90, 142, 161
and world 109–11
hope 148
Humboldt, Wilhelmvon 193
Hume, David 55, 70
Husserl, Edmund 26
imagination 26, 71, 72, 165, 192–6
and body 165–8
importance of 57–8
Incarnation 84–9, 96, 112
indexicality 106
208 General index
interpretation 113, 120, 125
and art 151
through the body 116
by Jesus of scripture 114
see also pragmatism
intertextuality 122
see also reading, Jesus reads
Islam 4, 8, 121
Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich 9, 58, 63–6
Jeanrond, Werner 3
Job 89
Johnson, Aubrey 110–11, 114
joy 149, 164
Judaism 4, 8, 9, 69, 82, 121, 126
Jewish Law 116
Judgements 184
Kant, Immanuel 56, 63–6, 68, 71, 176, 193
kenosis 120, 125
and signs 138, 141
Kepler, Johannes 19, 51
Kierkegaard, Søren 4, 144
knowledge
in Thomas Aquinas 35, 36
Koyr ´ e, Alexander 51
language 10
biblical viewof 10, 75–94
divine origins of 68
and Hamann 66–71
and world 95–116
Laoco ¨ on 60
Le Breton, David 158
Lessing, Ephraim 63
Lessius, Leonard 19
light 24–5
liturgy 21, 167
Locke, John 173
Logos see Word
Longinus 174, 176
Marcus, Joel 122
Markus, R. A. 45–6
materiality 159, 160
mathematics 22
McCabe, Herbert 167, 168
McGinn, Bernard 161
meaning 4, 140, 179
and materiality 159
Meister Eckhart 144
memra 82
Mendelssohn, Moses 64
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 26–7, 92, 156, 167
metaphor 25
metaphysics 71, 115, 128
metaphysics of createdness 29–49
in Bonaventure 36–42
in Thomas Aquinas 34–5
Morrison, Jeremy 63
Moses 78–80, 96, 180
Mos ` es, St ´ ephane 79
music 21–4, 167–8
natural science 52–5, 57, 58
natural theology 138
Neoplatonism 6–7
Nietzsche, Friedrich 59, 63
Noth, Martin 80
Ochs, Peter 8, 82, 115, 121
Okon, Tomasz 187
Oresme, Nicholas 51
Origen 8, 30, 67, 125
Osiander, Andreas 52
Palgrave, William 55
passivity 144
Peirce, C. S. 8, 178
perception
Eucharistic 145
P ´ erez-Ramos, Antonio 54
phenomenology, cosmic 25–8
Philip the Chancellor 30, 31
physics 51, 68
see also Aristotelianism
Plato 21, 30, 181
Platonism 45–6, 175
Polkinghorne, John 99
pragmatism 7, 11, 69, 96, 115, 171, 178, 182,
184, 189
see also Peirce, C. S.
preaching 91
pre-conceptual, the 29, 158, 160
presence 79, 82, 93, 107, 108, 122, 126, 178
authorial 106, 111
Primal Text see world-text
Prophecy
and body 160
prophets
speech of 80–2, 112
pseudo-Clement 17
pseudo-Denys 25
Ptolemy 17
Quine, W.V. 3
Raban Maur 17
Rahner, Karl 4, 97
Randles, W. G. 6, 19, 20
General index 209
rationalism 66, 172, 174
in Aristotle 172–3
in Frege 173–4
rationality see reason
reading 102, 118, 119, 120, 122, 125
Jesus reads 122–8, 142
realism
Christian 139, 178, 182
metaphysical 33
types of 143–6
see also reality
reality 8, 11–12, 66, 137–53, 154, 171, 181
as bodiliness 146
intensities of 146–52
and nourishment 161
reason 2, 4, 5, 8, 11–191, 195
Christian 143
ethical 185–91
Eucharistic 170–91
in Hamann 70, 71
in Jacobi 63–6
practical 185–91
theoretical 180–3
in Thomas Aquinas 34–6
see also science and theology
redemption 83, 85, 94, 126, 156, 195
see also salvation
reference 77, 95, 96, 105, 118, 137
religious experience 5, 9, 72, 194
revelation 65, 66, 68, 69, 79, 120, 124, 185
and language 75–94
Ricoeur, Paul 83, 106, 132, 155, 165
Romanticism see Romantics
Romantics 58, 66, 154, 174–8, 194
Rorty, Richard 4
sacrament 130, 161
sacrifice 85, 117–33, 148, 156, 161
salvation 78
see also redemption
Samuelson, Norbert 78
Schiller, Friedrich 62, 63, 175, 178
Schleiermacher, Friedrich 4, 9, 66, 69, 111
Schnur, Harald 69
science and theology 1–4, 17–28, 98, 99–100
Scripture 67
and world 30, 42, 62, 66, 67, 71, 95–116,
195
self 1, 48, 57, 58, 62, 171
fragmentation of 61, 72
as interpreter 113, 120, 125, 191
and world 7, 71, 179
semiotics 30, 31–6, 92, 118
in Augustine 45–8
Christian 96–8, 137–9, 170, 178
in Origen 42–5
Rationalist 177
Romantic 177
see also meaning
sexual love 149–50, 157
Shuman, Joel 188
sight 54
and space 166–8
signs 7, 8, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 68, 95–116,
119, 130, 158, 178
and address 96, 108–14
fertility of 107
materiality of 159
and reference 137
and Trinity 140
visibility and orality 102–4
silence 88, 89, 105, 107, 128
Simon of Cyrene 187
singing 167, 168
Socrates 68, 181
Song of Songs 40
Spinoza, Benedict de 63, 157, 163
Stoics 46, 60, 175, 178
Strawson, P. F. 143
Su ´ arez, Francisco 56
subjectivity 106, 171
of Christ 124
sublime, the 174–8
Suger, Abbot 24
symbol 16
technology 57, 71, 157, 158
texts
and author 168
as body 10–11, 104, 108, 114, 169
materiality of 101, 118
taxonomy of 106
and voice 158, 160
textuality 10–11, 95, 98–114
Thomas Aquinas, St 3, 8, 17, 19, 30, 42, 55,
115, 131, 167, 191
transcendentals in 30, 31–6
Toulmin, Stephen 1–4
transcendental states of mind 146–50
transcendentals, the 29–42, 61, 193
convenientia 32
and Jacobi 64, 66
and Kant 56
transfiguration 12, 85, 87, 126, 178–83
Trinity 10, 18, 30, 38, 44, 46, 118, 163, 168, 196
and address 140
Trinitarian speech 84–92, 97–8, 104, 108,
120, 128
trust 148
Turner, Denys 35, 167
210 General index
values 184
Venerable Bede 17
voice 10, 75, 95, 102, 117–33, 155,
167
voice-bearing see voice
Williams, Catrin H. 123
Williams, Rowan 90
Winckelmann, J. J. 9, 58–63, 66,
193
Wisdom 7, 43, 44, 130, 154–69, 179
Wittgenstein, Ludwig 92
Wolterstorff, Nicholas 48, 83, 155
Word 44, 46, 142, 155
as conversation 96
and corporality 155
‘word within’ and ‘word without’ 46
in the world 110–11, 114
see also creation, through the Word
world 117–19
as God’s body 142, 155, 183
see also createdness, of the world
world-text 98–114, 117–19, 140, 154, 172, 191
and analogy 154
and intertextuality 154
see also textuality

This page intentionally left blank

The Creativity of God
World, Eucharist, Reason

We have, as a theological community, generally lost a language in which to speak of the createdness of the world. As a consequence, our discourses of reason cannot bridge the way we know God and the way we know the world. Therefore, argues Oliver Davies, a primary task of contemporary theology is the regeneration of a Christian account of the world as sacramental, leading to the formation of a Christian conception of reason and a new Christocentric understanding of the real. Both the Johannine tradition of creation through the Word and a Eucharistic semiotics of Christ as the embodied, sacrificial and creative speech of God serve the project of a repairal of Christian cosmology. The world itself is viewed as a creative text authored by God, of which we as interpreters are an integral part. This is a wide-ranging and convincing book that makes an important contribution to modern theology. o l i v e r d a v i e s is Professor of Christian Doctrine at King’s College London. He is also a visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. He is the author of A Theology of Compassion (2001) and has co-edited, with Denys Turner, Silence and the Word (2002).

W. and at the same time to locate and make sense of them within a secular context. analysing them in light of the insights of both church and society. The Bible. L . and thereby practise theology in the fullest sense of the word. University of Cambridge Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine is an important series which aims to engage critically with the traditional doctrines of Christianity. Music and Time Jeremy S. Without losing sight of the authority of scripture and the traditions of the Church. Titles published in the series 1. Bound to Sin: Abuse. Realist Christian Theology in a Postmodern Age Sue Patterson 3. Theology. and Faith: a Study of Abraham and Jesus R . Theology. Self and Salvation: Being Transformed D av i d F. F o r d 2. Begbie 5. Marshall 4.Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine Edited by Professor Colin Gunton. Trinity and Truth Bruce D. Holocaust and the Christian Doctrine of Sin Alistair McFadyen . Hardy. King’s College London Professor Daniel W. M o b e r ly 6. the books in this series subject pertinent dogmas and credal statements to careful scrutiny.

World and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology N i c h o l a s M . The Creativity of God: World. Va n h o o z e r Theology and Education: the Virtue of Theology in a Secular World G av i n d ’ C o s ta A Theology of Public Life C h a r l e s T. Worship as Meaning: a Liturgical Theology for Late Modernity Graham Hughes 11.7. Reason O l i v e r D av i e s Forthcoming titles in the series Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action and Authorship K e v i n J . Theology and the Dialogue of Religions Michael Barnes SJ 9. Church. Eucharist. H e a ly 8. M at h e w e s . A Political Theology of Nature Peter Scott 10. Reason and Christian Thinking Paul D. God. the Mind’s Desire: Reference. Janz 12.

Eucharist.The Creativity of God World. Reason O l i v e r D av i e s .

Cape Town. no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. Melbourne. Madrid.cambridge.org Information on this title: www. and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is.cambridge. Cambridge cb2 2ru. Singapore. New York. New York www.cambridge university press Cambridge. First published in print format 2004 isbn-13 isbn-10 isbn-13 isbn-10 isbn-13 isbn-10 978-0-511-21071-6 eBook (EBL) 0-511-21248-8 eBook (EBL) 978-0-521-83117-8 hardback 0-521-83117-2 hardback 978-0-521-53845-9 paperback 0-521-53845-9 paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication. or will remain.org/9780521831178 © Oliver Davies 2004 This publication is in copyright. . UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press. São Paulo Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of relevant collective licensing agreements. accurate or appropriate.

For Joyce and Isaac .

Johann Georg Hamann. H. ¨ What is termed ‘being’ in your language. Letter to F. I would prefer to call ‘word’.Was in Deiner Sprache das Seyn ist. mochte ich lieber das Wort nennen. Jacobi .

Contents Acknowledgements page xi Introduction: the cosmological imperative 1 Part I An archaeology of createdness 1 The architecture of createdness 15 Heaven in the heavens 16 Heaven on earth 21 Cosmic phenomenology 25 2 The metaphysics of createdness 29 Transcendentals and reason 30 Semiotics 42 Conclusion 48 3 Cosmological fragments 50 Fragmentation 51 Cosmological transformations Conclusion 71 Part II Scriptural cosmology 4 Speech revealed 75 Mosaic dialogues 76 Trinitarian speech 84 Conclusion 92 5 Spirit and Letter 95 The model of the text 98 56 [ix] .

x Contents The divine text 104 Conclusion 114 6 Voice and sacrifice 117 Inhabiting the Text 119 Christology 122 Eucharist 128 Conclusion 132 Part III Eucharistic wisdom 7 The abundant real 137 Realism and Eucharistic semiotics 139 A Christian philosophy of the real 143 Intensities of the real 146 Conclusion 152 8 Wisdom of the flesh 154 The human body and the Primal Text 156 Voice. text and body 158 Eucharistic flesh 160 Conclusion 168 9 Eucharistic reasoning 170 Historical reason 171 Transfiguration and reason Conclusion 190 178 Conclusion: cosmology and the theological imagination Select bibliography 197 Index of biblical citations 203 General index 206 .

Amongst these I should name Peter Ochs and David Ford. I have a particular and very personal indebtedness to friends and scholars who have contributed hugely to the progress of this book at the Universities of Virginia and of Cambridge.Acknowledgements Many books which have been long in the gestation are indebted in countless ways to more individuals than can easily be named. Virginia. my mother. I believe that this book picks up themes in the recent work of Colin Gunton. My thanks are due also to Paul Fiddes for our many ‘Berlin’ conversations. whose untimely death has been such a loss for the theological community. I must give special thanks also to the series editors. This book is no exception. Daniel Hardy and Colin Gunton. engagement and friendship. [xi] . I must thank also Father Gregory Kant and Deacon Chris Morash of the Church of the Incarnation in Charlottesville. as well as those whose contribution is unknown either to themselves or to me. who welcomed myself and my family into the vibrant sacramental life of the parish at a critical period in the formation of the Eucharistic theology that will be found in these pages. and I wish to thank Gavin Flood for his enduring support. and to Isaac. I am grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Board for a grant which facilitated the writing of this book. for their invaluable support. The book is dedicated to Joyce. my ‘first-born’. but there are many others whose input has been of great value.

.

R.1 In the attempt to reconcile the traditional ways in which we speak about God with the ways in which science teaches us to talk about the world. John 1:3 The Christian doctrine that God is creator is as much a claim about the nature of the world in which we live as it is about the world’s origins or the shape and destiny of the self. 1996). All things came into being through him. [1] . seeking also to explore points of agreement between scientific and theological method and between a scientific 1. kaª cwrªv aÉtou –g”neto oÉd• ™n. Stephen Toulmin drew attention to this deficit in his The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1996). and the relation of the world as created with God. 151–70. God’s Ways with the World (Edinburgh: T. The integration of science. pp. God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Oxford: Blackwell. What is missing is a concern with the nature of the world as created. contemporary discussions of science and theology have moved beyond the argument from design. developed in terms of a theological anthropology. 1998). 114–31 and ‘Creation and Eschatology’. Christ and Creation (Carlisle: Paternoster Press and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. in idem. Colin Gunton. Ellis in their On the Moral Nature of the Universe (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ‘Christ and Creation’. & T. pp. Clark. 1988). See also Kathryn Tanner. And yet theologies addressing the theme of the creation in the modern period tend to focus primarily upon the creatureliness of the self. 1992) and The Triune Creator (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Dan Hardy. in God’s Ways.Introduction The cosmological imperative ù ù p†nta di’ aÉtou –g”neto. cosmology and theology (together with ethics) has recently been attempted by Nancey Murphy and George F. on the one hand and upon the world as product of divine action on the other. by virtue of its nature as world. and without him not one thing came into being. 1982).

pp. vol. But there is a second usage of ‘explanation’. 39. Francis Bacon.2 In some cases there are certainly traces of an investigation of the world as created but these are inevitably closely tied to the data and insights of science. This is a kind of thinking which we do all the time. 1986). Amos Funkenstein. and thus its availability to divine power. see for instance A.5 Explanation in this sense serves to establish the broader coherence of a set of beliefs by drawing more and more data within its scope. To explain is to understand the causes of something. Foresight and Understanding (New York: Harper and Row. Whether viewed from the perspective of scientists interested in a theology of creation. post-medieval theology. 12 and 290–327. 5. have scant claim to be based on an understanding of the events they predict. such as Darwinianism. or technological knowledge. It therefore offers a way of predicting. 3. or from the perspective of theologians who are concerned with the operation of divine causality within the world. R. 2001). Creation as Kenosis (London: SPCK. 4. cannot be said to have any significant predictive value (in terms. Reason and Reality (London: SPCK. Book ii. But it may be helpful to point to two distinct uses of the term ‘explanation’ and to the rise of one at the expense of the other. For Francis Bacon similarly. Toulmin points out that some efficient predictive systems. based upon ‘the principle of regularity’. which is to say. Toulmin borrows this term from Copernicus’ Commentariolus by which Copernicus intended to make a clear distinction between scientific explanation as prediction and scientific explanation as understanding. . whereas other successful scientific theories. On scientific arguments for the dynamic openness of the world. 18–43. Stephen Toulmin. pp. Peacocke.4 Science from this perspective offers explanatory models for understanding why the world is as it is and is not other. 1963). which is the product of fundamental and complex changes in science and culture during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first use derives from Baconian science and is normative in science today. Creation and the World of Science (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 2001). i. to know the essence of something is to know how it is made. 104–11 and 209–11 and Paths from Science towards God (Oxford: Oneworld Publications. Section 5 (Works. Foresight. of the precise characteristics of new species that may evolve). Science and Providence (London: SPCK. which is akin to what Stephen Toulmin has described as a system-theory account of explanation. pp. for instance. Novum Organum. There are many different ways of accounting for this state of affairs. 1991) and his more recent edited volume The Work of Love. 230–1). shows an extensive deficit in its engagement with the createdness of the world. even of replicating. the phenomenon concerned. See Toulmin. 1989).2 The Creativity of God and a theological understanding of the world.3 Amos Funkenstein has referred to this as ‘ergetic’. modern theology. such as mathematical models for the movements of tides or of planets. 1979). pp. that is. Theology and the Scientific Imagination: from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press. which renders an individual event intelligible by placing it within a broader scheme of things. See also John Polkinghorne. as 2.

8 But if this is the case. has taken on in our culture. and the world to have its origins in the creativity of the divine will. systemstheory sense is as the production. W. 7. Quine. Werner Jeanrond. 4. Theological Hermeneutics (New York: Crossroad. we are making thereby little more than a claim regarding the proprietorship of the world. Perhaps a better way of describing explanation in this second. as tracing the cause of a thing. against a secular view of the autonomy of the human. Hence we are answerable to God for the ways in which we deal with it. deepening and extension of ‘meaning’. which is to say that the world belongs to God. But the contours of contemporary faith are such that while we may believe ourselves to be the creatures of God. 45). 8. It is possible also that the contemporary importance of the claim that God created the world is a tacit acknowledgement on the part of the Christian community of the centrality which explanation in our first sense.7 It is through the generation of meaning that we come to be at home in the world. . The binding nature of scientific verification within the laboratory cannot be extended into more general questions about human reality or about the meaning and nature of the world without a substantial increase in subjectivism. 1991). ‘scientism’ or a materialistic world-view which sits heavily on our society is itself a product of explanation in this second sense. I would myself share Thomas Aquinas’ scepticism whether human beings can ever grasp the meaning of a truly divine and total act of creation (see Summa theologiae (ST) i. q. or what Werner Jeanrond has termed ‘macro-hermeneutics’. Mass. then it is clear that the emphasis among theologians on explanation in the first sense is at the cost 6. V. then. only partially concealed.Introduction 3 Quine has demonstrated. Indeed. that the Christian community should have to hand an account or accounts of the meaning and intelligibility of the world as created. It might therefore represent an attempt to contest secularism on its own epistemological ground: by arguing that God is the ultimate cause and that those who know and understand the ways of God have most authority when it comes to pronouncing on ultimate causes. and it is indicative of the way in which a particular set of beliefs which we implicitly or explicitly hold to be true expands to fill the shape of our world. It is therefore almost purely political in its application. Pursuit of Truth (Cambridge. 1990). It might be judged important. Most scientistic accounts of the world are shot through with a variety of materialistic and reductionist ideologies and subjectivities.: Harvard University Press.6 We cannot be agnostic about everything for which we hold no firm evidence or of which we have no grounded understanding. p. which itself seriously conflicts with the scientific method.

and those that practise them must in some degree be formed within a community that reasons in the same way. 1986). The first thesis of this book is that successive attempts to accommodate theology to modes of scientific reasoning. and it is in this sense that we can take Michel de Certeau’s observation that ‘reason is placed in question by its own history’. may have distracted the theological community from a generous and creative exploration of the meaning of the world.10 I am not advocating here the undermining of reason as such. just as we now more generally accept. for all their legitimacy. as we find in such foundational works as Schleiermacher’s Lectures on Religion. Over the last two decades we have seen an abundance of literature which has served to recontextualise scientific and technological thinking. have led to an inadequate reception of the theology of creation. After all. . Some might suggest that such a project is not necessary in itself. the existence of a plurality of knowledges. 1990). and thus.4 The Creativity of God of explanation in the second sense. But there is nevertheless one critical difference between the cultural and intellectual contexts of the period from the early nineteenth to the mid twentieth century and our own day. the outstanding Christian theologians of modern times have managed perfectly well without it and a concern with the parameters of human existence. in idem. but rather the recognition that there is a plurality of reasonings. 1990) and Nancey Murphy. Bonhoeffer’s Act and Being or Rahner’s Spirit in the World seem effectively to have taken the place of accounts of the nature of the world. however. Cosmopolis: the Hidden Agenda of Modernity (New York: Free Press. pp. 9. but it can also be found in the careful detailing by philosophers of science of the ways in which science is shaped by its economic and social contexts. Those reasonings are in one way or another tradition-based. Heterologies. in turn. Michel de Certeau. such as we find in Paul Feyerabend or Richard Rorty. and experience in our everyday lives. 10. 171–84 (here p. Discourse on the Other (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Stephen Toulmin. This is not necessarily to be equated with what some might feel to be an uncompromising relativism. 179). Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. with the consequence that those who hold to a theology of creation (amongst whom of course we should also include Jews and Muslims) are significantly under-resourced with respect to grasping the meaning or intelligibility of the world specifically as created. They exist only within a framework of specific terminologies and histories.9 We are more aware of the proper parameters of scientific reasoning than was the case in previous generations. Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. ‘The Black Sun of Language: Foucault’.

then the way that we reason. we refer to ‘mysticism’. ‘spirituality’ or ‘religious experience’. in the medieval synthesis. Sentience is a form of passivity: the self’s own condition as ordered to its objects. about which human faculties are in play. To some extent. What we would today term ‘religious experience’ was understood in the pre-modern cosmos to be already implied in and intrinsic to ordinary cognition. the world which we ordinarily know belongs to God and is of God’s making. It is this that underlies the privileging of technological reason and the dominance of what we might call a ‘closed’. the human faculties which were ordered to that world retained an openness from within to the knowledge of God the Creator. neither one of consummation nor of contradiction. The vocabulary we use about ordinary perception and our knowledge of the world can be extraordinarily precise. Our knowledge of God is thereby not set in any kind of relation at all with our ordinary knowing. Where those objects are predominantly determined as quanta. will extensively determine the ways in which we perceive and experience the world. then the powers and faculties that define the self as a centre of perception. Secondly. which is to say. if the createdness of the world as content is effaced for us. Since the createdness of the world was visible in its nature as world.Introduction 5 The second thesis of this book has the following form. the secular. and our communion with God. or reductionist rationalism within our culture. by far the most important consequence of this state of affairs is the disjunction between our sense of the divine and our ordinary perceptual experience. but when we speak about knowing God. or indeed evasive. Here the contrast with a pre-modern world-view is helpful. drawn by the intrinsic momentum of a divine creativity at work in . feeling and consciousness in the world are also implicitly allocated to the domain of the non-creationist. as precisely measurable space-time entities whose causal interactions are quantifiable as fields of force. then the human faculties themselves are ordered to the processes of quantification. despite the fact that according to the Christian doctrine of the creation. if reason itself is fundamentally the interface between ourselves and the world. It was figured either as the final stage in the ascent of the mind to God. this is explicable as an acknowledgement that God is not an object and cannot be known as objects in the world are known. But it is indicative also of the deeper problematic which flows from the fact that the world is not known as created in our ordinary perceptions. our understanding of rationality itself. all of which are highly indeterminate. Firstly. From the perspective of religion. of course.

See the section on Bonaventure’s Itinerarium mentis in deum at pp. G. In other words. Randles. and neither is fully integrated into the concept of createdness as revealing the deepest nature of the world in which – as creatures – we live. nor is it a free-floating ‘experience of negation’. or as the radical negation of ordinary knowledge. which offers one of the best examples of an understanding of human reason as created and shaped in its depths by the createdness of the world.11 The movement of negation denoted by the latter is not simply ‘tagged on’ to ordinary experience. It is the pre-modern cosmos. It was a system of thinking which. 1999). with its carnivalistic combinations of the theological and proto-scientific. the lack of a coherent theological cosmology today has the consequence that our intimacy with God is set outside our intimacy with the world. that is. ‘Not knowing’ becomes a necessary mode of knowing because the world on which all knowing is predicated is itself mysterious. . or indeed as a combination of both. The Unmaking of the Medieval Christian Cosmos. L. 12. operated with axioms which could not be questioned. and for which the foundations of knowledge rested ultimately upon a belief in the content and form of divine action that we would today consider to lie outside the realm of faith. Randles’ phrase12 ) from the sixteenth century onwards that the Christian Church suffered some of the most damaging and traumatic intellectual defeats in its history. but it is rather a conceptual advance of a radically corrective nature which restores what we have inexactly termed ordinary knowing back to its foundation in an originary divine causality. The pre-modern however is definitively a place to which we can never return. bearing the marks of divine createdness within it. This cosmology was predicated not only upon what proved over time to be a false understanding of the nature of the universe but also upon a concept of reasoning which identified scientia with authority or received traditions. 1500–1760 (Aldershot: Ashgate.6 The Creativity of God the world. G. 36–42 below. But it can also afford valuable insights into imaginative possibilities which have disappeared almost entirely from our own society. Looking back upon that pre-modern world can easily become a futile exercise in a certain kind of cultural nostalgia. being deductionist. It was during the ‘unmaking of the Christian cosmos’ (in W. The first point to be noted is that – for all their indebtedness to Neoplatonism and Aristotelianism – the pre-modern models of the world were also an attempt to accommodate and listen to a number of scriptural passages which assert the cosmic dimensions of Christ as God’s creative 11. as ‘unknowing’ which is darkness from excess of light. W.

but also to what and how we are. things visible and invisible.’ 14. It was thus a kind of reasoning which is consistent with and posited by a 13. See Psalm 33:6: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made. and that the world’s createdness included not only the human self but also the space or relation between self and world. constituted what we can call today a ‘triadic’. 14–40. 15. as being the thematic key not only to the way the world is. the firstborn of all creation. and in 1 Corinthians Jesus Christ is the one ‘through whom are all things and through whom we exist’ (8:6).Introduction 7 and universal Word.15 Our failure to think through what these passages might mean for our understanding of the world is a failure also of our Christology and our soteriology. by understanding he established the heavens. which is the science of signs. The Triune Creator. 12:42) and again in 1 Corinthians in particular (1:18–31). . imagining and reasoning. in its fullest and most sophisticated developments. Pre-modern semiotics. semiotics. offers a succinct and formal account of the structure of meaning. Although possibly somewhat esoteric in character. and thus can offer us valuable insights into the relation between self and world. deep associations are established between the creationist Wisdom tradition and the person of Christ. Gunton.’ See also Prov. pp. It is a failure to grasp the meaning of the creation in its deepest coherence. 3:19: ‘The Lord by wisdom founded the earth. whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him’ (1:15–16). The Old Testament repeatedly stresses the role of the divine presence who animates the world. In the Gospel of Matthew (11:19. this was predicated upon the view that the world was created.13 In the New Testament. Stated simply. or ‘pragmatic’.14 As Colin Gunton pointed out. for in him all things in heaven and earth were created. 1 for cosmological Christology. and to what God has given us of himself to hold and to understand. and in the letter to the Colossians we read that Christ is ‘the image of the invisible God. mode of reasoning. whether as the Spirit or the Wisdom of God. feeling. the Gospel of John begins with the affirmation that it is the Word of God through whom ‘all things came into being’ (Jn 1:1–3). Hebrews begins with a creationist hymn to Christ who ‘sustains all things by his powerful word’ (1:2–4). which is the sphere of perception. and all their host by the breath of his mouth. faith in Christ actually implies belief in him as the one through whom we and the world were made. Its triadic form flowed from the intrinsic relatedness of self and world on the grounds of a common relation to the Creator God. See also Eph.

Meaning. who were operating within a creationist view of the world. or reality. See his groundbreaking study Peirce. ‘things’ or realia which are signified and the people or interpreters for whom the signs refer. requiring highly specialised skills and knowledge. or world are formed within the coincidence of three elements: signs which signify.8 The Creativity of God theology of creation in its Jewish. Its concern therefore lies with an inquiry into the nature of the world. It attempts an integrated 16. formulated within a thoroughgoing theology of creation. In dyadic reasoning the human interpreter is not banished from the act of meaning but is in the service of Reason and its entourage which already sets out certain preconceived principles of knowing and thus of the world that is known. It is more fundamentally a place of invitation. including Origen. a hosting by the divine creativity which takes ourselves to be integral to the performance of the infinite fecundity and goodness of God which is at the root of the world and its meaning. Within such a context. .16 That type of reasoning. viewed from a Christological perspective. and with thematics which spring from this. and their communities. It is not something that we either ‘get right or wrong’. which is particularly associated in the modern period with the work of the American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce. therefore. From a Christian perspective those individuals. since it is now predicated upon a much more radical conception of the extent to which humans participate in the formation of reality itself. but it was already characteristic in the complex theological form of the work of those early theologians. or logic. Thomas and Bonaventure. reasoning has to be rethought. structure. or binary. It is Peter Ochs who has so importantly drawn our attention to the alignment between a pre-modern scriptural hermeneutic (in this case a rabbinic one) and contemporary pragmatics. Reality is not a difficult script to be read. The reification of ‘reason’ as a mathesis universalis obscures the fact that what we really mean by reason (noun) are human beings who reason (verb): reasoning is actually an activity carried on by individual subjects at specific times and places. Pragmatism and the Logic of Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The present volume represents an attempt to integrate the cosmological passages of Scripture into the contemporary theological mind. contrasts with the kinds of reasoning which emerged from the sixteenth century onwards and which show a dyadic. Augustine. or a complex equation (or at least not that alone). 1998). are God’s free creatures alive in God’s created world. This is a kind of semiotics. Christian or Islamic form. including the nature of the ‘real’ and the human faculties of reasoning and perception which are ordered to it.

of course. The third chapter. I present a brief outline of the pre-modern cosmos firstly in terms of natural science and astronomy and secondly in terms of metaphysics. In the first two chapters of the book. Winckelmann anticipates the ‘aesthetic turn’. But nevertheless we can find instruction here as to the possibility of a theological account of the world’s createdness. while Jacobi points forward to the religious subjectivity of Schleiermacher and eventually to the tradition of ‘religious experience’. as exemplified in the work of Copernicus and Francis Bacon. am I advocating a return to a pre-modern world-view. We can see also the immense effects of such a theology on an understanding of the self and of our relation to the world. The intention here is to observe some of the principal strategies for recreating a sense of humanity’s integration into the whole at the outset of the modern period. It is only through such an engagement with theological and proto-scientific systems from the past that we are able to grasp today what it means to live in a theophanic cosmos. I aim to set out a contemporary account of cosmic createdness through a close reading of scriptural passages which concern the speaking of God. therefore. surveys the break-up of the classical synthesis with the rise of modern natural science. In no sense. ‘Cosmological fragments’. semiotics and historical reason. and a modern transcendental epistemology of the ‘sublime’. this occurs through an appreciation of art. 5 and 6. The focus here lies upon a scriptural account of the . while in Jacobi we can see ‘cosmic’ transformations of the intellect. In the work of Winckelmann. in which the createdness of the world is powerfully accented.Introduction 9 account of the self in the world. language-centred and scriptural account of the world. In chapters 4. Hamann therefore plays a key role in mediating something of the classical figurations of cosmic createdness in terms which derive closely from Scripture and yet which are free of their proto-scientific and essentialist dimensions. and employing elements of contemporary philosophical thought which seem most suited to the development and articulation of a biblical theology of createdness. based upon a reading of the cosmological scriptural passages. and sets out some of the early attempts to reinstitute an integral cosmology. Hamann is also included at this stage since we can see in his work a vigorous attempt to retrieve a theological cosmology through a distinctively Hebrew. under the titles ‘The architecture of createdness’ and ‘The metaphysics of createdness’. in which proto-science and theology combined in ways that are unthinkable for us today. Everything in our own culture militates against such an understanding.

is shown to be triadic. according to this model. which is both revelatory and creative in the most originary sense that word can convey. But it is a plurality which is itself grounded in the nature of the divine speaking. in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel narrative of Jesus Christ shows that God’s speech is in fact Trinitarian. is the divine speech itself. In the first place it offers a model of the coinherence of God and the world which reproduces many aspects of the medieval system of analogy without. and the world that is spoken about. and when the author entrusts their voice . are voice-bearing. therefore. by this biblical account. and of the way in which human language is contained within and acts as a reflex of divine speech. The world stands to the divine originary breath/speaking as a written text does to the voice of its author(s). is also foundationally plural: each element coexists with the others and cannot be thought outside the context of the others.10 The Creativity of God nature of language itself. like bodies. That presence. God must therefore come down to our level. A plural. or God. is an intimate connection between speech and presence. This is a distinctively biblical view of language and it is one which contrasts with the classical conceptions of language which we otherwise inherit today. and there is a circularity about the ways in which we speak about the world and the way in which reality comes to meet us in our ordinary experience. Texts. as it were. The world comes about by virtue of the divine speaking. We learn from this disclosure that the multivocity of the originary divine speaking is itself kenotic and compassionate. since – in the revelation which is through the Son and in the Spirit – God speaks with us and not with Godself alone. it is deeply consonant with a scriptural account of the world. This plurality is central to the nature of the world. given with language. employing the Aristotelian model of causality which postulates a similarity between cause and effect. multivocal world is also one which is open to and at times gripped by the divine speaking which. All three form a unity. the presence of the Speaker. the one who is addressed. This parallel has a double value. however. What we find here. which is to say. in which language is social. is enfolded within language and is not extraneous to it. The primary locus of language. And secondly. while a theory of the cosmic text is not explicitly present in Scripture. The second element in this middle section of the book is the use of a theory of the text in order to conceptualise the relation between the divine speaking and the world. becoming himself part of the world that is structured according to God’s own breathing and speaking. and the originary act of divine speaking. Culture is deeply determinative of the way we act and shape the world. But presence.

oral medium to one that is objectified in the visibility of the written word. or replicated. to and within the worshipping community. focusing in particular upon pragmatic reasoning . Most fundamentally. The authorial voice remains in the text. It is this that leads to the second cycle of divine creativity. which is the repristination of the text of the world. It demands to be understood and known by a community of human interpreters. which is entrusted to the text of the world becomes estranged within the medium of the text. The words of institution. which was the moment in which Jesus – as the Word of God – entered the divine logic of Scripture. In this section of the book. presence. to be heard and understood. I develop a pneumatology which understands the Holy Spirit to be the continuing presence of the divine breath/voice in the world – the world-text’s memory of its origin in God – and the Son to be the redemptive and sacrificial sounding again of the divine speaking within the text. it undergoes a kind of alienation as the content of the speech passes from an intimate. the divine voice (and will) can be and frequently is entirely misunderstood and abused by its human interpreters. as the retrieval of the world-text back into the flux of originary Trinitarian speech.Introduction 11 to a text. The author now knows that from now on their voice can only be received through an extensive act of interpretation. And in the final chapter. itself a making present of the redemptive sacrifice of God. I reflect upon the kind of reasoning which is generated by this new condition of being in the world. In the penultimate chapter I explore the contours of this new sense of embodiment in the light of a transformative encounter with Christ as the body of the world. The world is much like this in its relation to God. The divine voice. represent the point at which Christ’s body merged with the world and the divine voice was heard again. but only indirectly and through the interpretative imagination of others. which form part of the Passion narrative. or breath. the universality of Christ as root of the physical universe is made sacramentally present to the liturgical community. anticipating the resurrection and ascension. is the communication of the world as the body or self-communication of God. The text itself thus becomes a modality of embodiedness: a voice-bearing corpus of deferred. Intrinsic to our own liturgical participation in that moment. and thus find our own bodily existence to be refigured and ourselves to be set in a new relation with the world. In the Real Presence of the Eucharist. we discover the world to be the embrace of God. The third section of the book is concerned with the model of reality which emerges from the Eucharistic celebration. In ways that are unfathomable to us.

in its higher intensifications. Of all our faculties. which is conceived in freedom. that this book seeks freely to engage the theological imagination of the reader. and thus perhaps liberating new possibilities of making sense of God’s world. Rather. offering a new alignment.12 The Creativity of God which recognises the extent to which we are ourselves implicated in the real. This is inevitably a heuristic project. it is not one that can be demonstrated or coercively argued. And the imagination will inevitably have a crucial role where issues concerning the nature of the world as such are in play. root and ultimate meaning of the world. It is in this sense. I seek to develop an account of pragmatic reasoning from within an exegesis of the transfiguration pericope. sets out to offer a repairal or healing of the concept of reasoning through reinvestigating the cognitive relation between humanity and the world. therefore. the kind of ‘explanation’ at work here is one which appeals to a sense of the order of things and to Christian experience of the world in its deepest aspects. We cannot conceive of the world’s fullness except in terms of horizons and leaps of understanding as we move from the particular and known to what might be. in the belief that it is this kind of reasoning which implicitly bears the contours of a theology of creation and thus. It is this power of extension which is the proper function and play of the imagination. then. of our ways of reasoning. and of finding our rightful place within it. carries with it a movement of sanctification and glorification. It is an attempt to make sense of those scriptural passages which affirm the cosmic character of Christ as source. to what lies at the limits of the conceivable. . This volume as a whole. the functioning of the human faculties within the world of God’s making. It is an imaginative exercise as much as a discursive and analytical one. it is the imagination which most seems to grant a creative space. or possibility. to the self as we live out our lives in the world. which is to say. or recontextualisation.

I An archaeology of createdness .

.

the arts. Paradiso. canto i The project of constructing a new theology of the createdness of the world can usefully begin with a reflection on world-views from the past which achieved this same aim. by virtue of its ‘symbolic’ character. eternal realities become manifest within the empirical domain. therefore. ideas and imagination. which placed heaven in the heavens. ` The glory of him who moves all things Penetrates the universe and shines In one part more and in another less. though in ways deeply alien to us today. metaphysics. but in a field of extension that was continuous with it. The reconstruction of an implicit cosmology in the pre-modern period is a particularly demanding task. This is perhaps most difficult for us to understand today though it was. The second is cosmology by participation. all of which can be said to interact in distinctive ways in the formation of what we might call ‘the sense of a world’. Dante. arguably. semiotics and epistemology. But the cosmological sense-world is constructed of diverse impulses and ideas in a complex unity of sense-inputs. two different cosmological structures will emerge. which entails the analysis of fields as diverse as astronomy. The first is cosmology by extension. at a point far removed from the earth. where [15] . the most foundational aspect in the formation of medieval perception with its ideologies of heaven as site of our highest values and ultimate destiny.1 The architecture of createdness La gloria di colui che tutto move per l’universo penetra e risplende In una parte piu e meno altrove. presuppositions. This is the hierarchical universe whereby transcendental. In the following chapter.

The Unmaking of the Medieval Christian Cosmos. while a second. New Haven: Yale University Press. Presupposed here is the belief that heaven is potentially present everywhere. This latter theme seems remote to us today and it has received relatively little scholarly attention. These two groups were later joined by the early astronomers who were beginning to measure the movements of the heavenly bodies in new ways. G. which was the issue of the location of the Empyrean (or dwelling place of the Blessed).2 The concern of the theologians lay with expounding the meaning of the ‘two heavens’. Randles... to an understanding of the shape and functions of the universe. eds. Heaven. Their further concern lay with the relation between an incorporeal God and a corporeal universe and with the final dwelling place of the Blessed. the second of which – the firmament – divided the waters which were above the firmament from those which were below (Gen. 1–8. Two problematics showed the interaction of these schools. 2. 1:6–7). See Jan Swango Emerson and Hugo Feiss. combined general astronomy with questions to do with the character of the life of the saints in heaven. since – as the highest stratum of existence – it is implicated at all the lower levels which can under certain circumstances become transparent to it. W. eds. that is with heaven as the seat of God. as mediated through Neoplatonic and – from the late twelfth century onwards – Aristotelian texts. 1. A History (2nd edn. Imagining Heaven in the Middle Ages: a Body of Essays (New York and London: Garland Publishing. L. 2000) and Colleen McDannell and Bernard Lang. The first concerned heliocentrism. Natural philosophers on the other hand applied the principles of classical science. which combined questions of mechanics and physics with theological concerns about the place of humanity in the universe. 1999). 2001). It is that theme which I shall take up in chapter 2.1 A pre-modern cosmology in its formal aspect was the product of two competing groups: Christian theologians and natural philosophers. Heaven in the heavens The idea of heaven is pervasively present in medieval thought and culture. but it represented a nodal point of cosmological thinking in the pre-modern world. .16 The Creativity of God the notion of symbol carries a metaphysical charge which is again unfamiliar to us today. pp. This capacity of the sense-world to undergo transformation has deep consequences also for the ways in which the pre-modern world understood the nature of the human mind which engages with and is permeated by that sense-reality. 1500–1760 (Aldershot: Ashgate.

the Aristotelian ‘aether’ came progressively to be seen as the rarified substance of which the planets themselves were composed and which constituted the medium through which they moved. Thomas Aquinas affirmed that the heavens were composed of Aristotle’s ‘fifth element’ in his Commentary on the Sentences. 198–205. of clouds. ed.: Harvard University Press. Here the firmament is identified as being ‘solid ice. is native to it. air. A second model marking a synthesis between scriptural and classical accounts was devised by Basil the Great (329–79) and set out in his Homilies on the Hexaemeron. or change. 23). hard as crystal’ which took up all the space between the earth and the first heaven. which is that of a perfectly circular movement.5 Basil’s position proved to be an important anticipation of an idea which later gained ground in Europe with the influence of Aristotle’s On the Heavens. it is ‘eternal. ii: Rekognitionen in Rufins Ubersetzung.. p. q. 8.4 A significant problem with this model lay in combining the solidity of the firmament with the movement of the planets. vol. i. i (Paris: A. rotating crystalline spheres of the Ptolemaic universe. pp. Medieval Christian Cosmos. 68. a. Le syst `eme du monde. pp.6 As the ‘primary body of all’. ¨ 3. 2–3. although he avoided stating any particular view in the Summa Theologiae. 1. Hermann. in which Aristotle advanced the concept of the ‘fifth element’. Basil proposed that the continuous element was ‘humid air’ and that the firmament separated the lower part. fire or water. 6. but is ageless. Guthrie. Die Pseudoklementinen. Ibid. it is quite unlike earth. 5. Pierre Duhem.. C.The architecture of createdness 17 The need to combine Scripture with ‘science’ was already apparent in the influential. from a higher. vol. In contrast with the pseudo-Clementine firmament of continuous ice or crystal. On the Heavens.7 Only one kind of motion. fourth-century text known as the pseudo-Clementine Recognitiones. 3–5. Mass.3 This closely followed the account in Genesis (the ‘water below the firmament’ of Genesis becoming ice or crystal) and established a tradition which was to be followed by a number of influential early medieval theologians. Aristotle on the Heavens (Cambridge. K. 4. 1960). Bernhard Rehm (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. including the Venerable Bede and Raban Maur. trans. suffers neither growth nor diminution. more refined realm of purified air. pp. 7. 1965). and it would later be modified by a return to the separate. 1913). Albert the Great cited the possibility that the fifth element extended from the moon as far as the outer circle or Empyrean. 270b (W. unalterable and impassive’. The text survives in Rufinus’ Latin translation. ST i. Randles. . 3.8 From the thirteenth century onwards. it has no linear motion.

with the theological principle of the incorporeality of the Godhead (the contemplation of whom is the bliss of the Blessed in heaven) led to diverse strategies of reconciliation. But the medievals. 12–31. added an eleventh heaven. even if they were not called upon to use it. vol. for the Trinity and. 1290–1349). but would be transmitted as a ‘sensible species’. in the Aristotelian sense. and the saints would still possess the power of taste. asked very specific and detailed questions about the operation of the senses in the Empyrean. ii (Opera Omnia. qu. 52. 10. Borgnet (Paris. The Christians first met the term in Neoplatonist texts (Historisches W ¨orterbuch der Philosophie. This kind of question is generally left to one side by modern Christian theologians. The collision of the Aristotelian principle that everything has its natural place in the cosmos. 478–9). Aristotle’s aether functioned as a ‘place’ and provided a space for ‘substantial entities’. Albert the Great. Albert the Great first surveyed the operation of the five senses in the Empyrean. pp. which dictates its natural movement. 555). who may feel that the mysterious character of the body of glory and of heaven precludes too precise an inquiry. Medieval views on the operations of the senses in the Empyrean are surveyed by Randles in Medieval Christian Cosmos. But if the Empyrean was a body and a place. ii. for instance. 1895). as was the case according to Aristotelian principles. pp. Finally.10 In the Empyrean. God was held to occupy ‘an infinite imaginary space’ beyond the spheres. p. odours would be the product not of corruption. and how people might be able to speak in ‘indivisible and impassible’ air. ed. with their mix of theology and physics. mem. since God could not be contained in any place. though this entailed something of an enigma. and the advent of Aristotelianism provided a new framework for reflection upon the nature of this heaven and the character of the life of the saints. above the Empyrean. Randles points in particular to Summa Theologiae Pars Secunda. xxxii. from the period of Thomas Bradwardine (c.9 Basil the Great was the first specifically to link the first heaven of Genesis tradition with the dwelling of the saints. in the belief that the farthest reaches of the universe still exhibited the same kind of spacial characteristics as were evident on earth.18 The Creativity of God Aristotle’s ‘fifth element’ was also to play a vital role in the developing conception of the Empyrean as the eternal dwelling-place of the Blessed. A. vol. xi. then it was reasonable to ask what kind of life was possible for the saints in their own resurrected bodies. the faculty of touch would be maintained but only through the 9. tackling the problem of how sight might be possible in a space of unparalleled brilliance. tract. .

Ibid. with its saintly hierarchies. Medieval Christian Cosmos. The resurrected saints ‘will be inside the Empyrean . In his account ‘paradise is a place in the widest sense of the word inside the denseness of the orb of the Empyrean and it is neither vacuous.13 The Portuguese Jesuit Sebasti ˜ao Barradas (1543–1615) on the other hand argued that all the senses of the saints would function normally within the solid Empyrean ‘by miracle’. he took no account of the biblical universe.The architecture of createdness 19 spiritual senses and not by direct action upon the body. pp.12 Within a century the notion of the Empyrean began to wane. Medieval Christian Cosmos. added that the allusion to dwellings should be taken 11. but it is the heavenly body itself in the dense mass of which are the souls of the Blessed’. and concluded regarding vision (in Randles’ summary) that ‘the brightness of a body in the state of glory does not adversely affect the transparency of the pupil of the eye because the state of glory does not abolish nature’. who was otherwise so inclined to literalism and to traditional teaching on the Empyrean. . however. 12. white and blue. and Gabriel Henao described it as ‘pious and florid’ in his Empyreologia. . however. until the mid seventeenth century. iv. And the Blessed would have their own houses. all transparent but some more luxurious than others. Randles. 24. It was rejected by the Protestants as being a scholastic construct. Writing in his Commentary on the Sentences. q. perhaps borrowing the phrase ‘some sort of celestial air’ (auram quamdam caelestam) from Kepler. exactly as a man would be inside a stone or inside a wall’. The Flemish Jesuit Leonard Lessius (1554–1623) strongly maintained the impossibility of adequately conceiving of the Empyrean. 2.11 The Spanish Franciscan Alphonso de Tostado de Rivera Madrigal (1401–54/55) was perhaps the most physicalist in his thinking about the conditions of life of the saints in the Empyrean. 1 d. outside an Aristotelian understanding of space and. Their bodies would be naked but radiant with different colours – green. within the mass of the substance of the heavenly orb. gold. Henao. . 44. p. When Copernicus published his groundbreaking work De revolutionibus orbium caelestium in 1543. 28–9. as befitting rank. 13. Quoted in Randles. The Empyrean remained an important element in Catholic theology. The Baroque character of Barradas’ vision is evident. nor full of air. 138–9. dist. drawing upon Albert’s work.. pp. advocated a fluid and airy interior to the Empyrean in which the senses of the saints could function freely. Thomas Aquinas similarly surveyed the senses. A key text in Thomas is the Commentum in quattuor libros sententiarum. and the new astronomy had no place for it.

20 The Creativity of God ‘metaphorically’. Aristotle dismissed the possibility that the heavenly bodies might be suspended in a void on the grounds that motion through a void is not possible. Randles. understand and educate were now becoming emotive descriptions aimed at spiritual improvement. it was still recognisably an element in which substances could have local existence. and whether God and Christ were located in the same physical place as the saints (see Randles. as Randles points out. Aristotle’s conviction that the earth was an immobile object at the centre of the universe gave a primacy also to the earth. on its convex surface. it was predicated on principles that had been worked out with respect to the world of ordinary perceptions. ring of the universe (how this compared with the thin air of high mountains). 31. over a hundred years after the appearance of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (1543). In the first place. a matter which. as the place in which the cosmic events of salvation history took place.14 The universe as outlined by Aristotle in his treatise On the Heavens resonated positively with the Christian world-view in several important ways. In two substantial volumes Henao. makes perfect sense where conceptions central to both theology and physics overlap. aether. Although Aristotle’s fifth element. though it may seem ‘otiose’ to us to today. in which all matter was contained within the limits 14. p. The human image of the cosmos was sustained also by the extension into the spheres of the Aristotelian concept of body and space: the one being ordered to the other. the density of the ‘air’ breathed by the saints in the Empyrean that formed the outermost. whether they could actually walk outside the Empyrean. Medieval Christian Cosmos. Medieval Christian Cosmos. for instance. 15. This was to assert an anthropocentric view of the universe which conformed with the cosmic centrality of humanity according to the Christian religion. . since this seemed inconsistent with the new heliocentrism which challenged the Christian and Aristotelian claim that humanity and the earth were situated at the centre of the universe. implicitly acknowledging that some discussions of the Empyrean which had previously been an attempt to explain. summarised arguments from previous centuries concerning. 140–1). The extension of the fifth element to the Empyrean enabled Christian theologians to focus their concern on the nature of the existence of the saints in heaven. pp. was set apart from the other elements in terms of its properties. a Spanish Jesuit. Much would be made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries about the verses at Joshua 10:12–14 in which God caused the ‘sun to stand still in the sky’. Gabriel Henao published his Empyreologia seu philosophia christiana de empyreo caelo in 1652.15 Finally Aristotle also offered a finite world. or uppermost. to that extent it understood the cosmic in terms of the earth.

. Republic. x. and architecture. 2002).1.17 Even the spheres make a harmonious sound as they move through the heavens. . Timaeus. Heaven on earth The application of Aristotelian principles to the cosmos as a whole set up a continuum of experience between earth and the farthest reaches of the universe and legitimated an imaginative appropriation of space into the concerns of human society and religion.The architecture of createdness 21 of the universe. we find in the pre-modern period a conviction that heaven is not only located at an identifiable point in the physical universe. The Christian notion of time as an anticipation. in the farthest circle of the stars. A new edition of Augustine’s De musica. Republic. has recently appeared by Martin Jacobsson (Aurelius Augustinus. De musica liber vi. and xiii. In effect. 617a–b. but see also i. within the contours of our everyday empirical perceptions. 35–6. However vast the projected distances and masses. But in the pre-modern world. 18. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 47.38–xvii.2. and it is one with which we are familiar today. See Emerson and Feiss. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. The first is found in a passage from the Timaeus in which Plato argues that proportion or harmony is the very principle of the cosmos itself.16 Liturgy is one of the foremost examples of this.18 The second is a passage from the Republic where Plato maintains that the study of music-mathematics gives access to the inner realities of the cosmos. But at the same time.19 And the third is the belief that music can have 16. eds. reception and proleptical celebration of the fullness of messianic presence is reinforced by liturgy as the centre to which temporal progression constantly refers. it projected the human body into the farthest reaches of space. or what we might even call ‘cosmic’ time. the Aristotelian universe was one which did not know the embarrassment of infinity. but that the heavenly is also visible on earth. for a survey of the relevant sources. with its links to the arts and to mathematics. 531a–d. vii. Book vi.58). 19. 17. were also powerfully expressive of the celestial realities on earth. See also Book vi of Augustine’s De musica. Music Three Platonic themes are of particular importance for the theology of medieval music. where he explicates music as a direct route from the ‘material to the immaterial’ (ii. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. music. Imagining Heaven. The liturgical cycle ensures that the passage of ‘ordinary’ time is constantly overtaken by eschatological.

Chapter 1. Book i. and can be formed in our moral nature by the qualities of music. 80–97. Boethius insists that ‘it is nevertheless impossible that the extreme speed of movement of such vast bodies should produce absolutely no sound at all’. see Leo Schrade.25 The principal reason for this was the understanding of music itself as a science of ratios and proportions. in which he is likely to have discussed ‘cosmic’ and ‘human’ harmonies drawing upon Ptolemy’s Harmonica. The Consolations of Music. 22. 24. Although we cannot in fact hear this music.22 Music is the principle of the harmony of the cosmos. percussive and wind instruments. which formed part of his Quadrivium or introduction to the arithmetical sciences. ‘Music in the Philosophy of Boethius’. pp. Boethius’ second type of music is internal to humankind and is again the principle of order and harmony which in this case governs the relation between soul and body. Chamberlain gives a fuller and richer exposition of the moral force of music in Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy in his ‘Philosophy of Music in the Consolation of Boethius’.24 The third kind is music produced by stringed. . iii. Boethius’ De institutione musica.20 All three of these principles play through a text on music which can be dated to the early sixth century and which was to exercise a great influence down the centuries. therefore. 25. Chapter 2. do not survive.22 The Creativity of God an ennobling and formative effect on the human soul. 188–200. It is on account of this that ‘music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we wished to be so’. The study of music. Republic. with its close proximity to mathematics. Henry Chadwick. and it is this to which Boethius dedicates the rest of his discussion. Speculum 45 (1970). was an ideal prelude to the study of philosophy. Theology and Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1981). the ‘speculative’ dimensions of music as the principle of order and harmony which underlies all things were not lost from view in later discussions of ‘practical’ music. so it is in the intrinsic consonance of the elements and the seasons that we perceive this particular kind of fundamental musical form. Although the books from Boethius’ treatise. 21.21 The first is the cosmic music which is produced by the movement of the spheres. The Musical Quarterly 33 (1947). 81–3. For a general discussion of Boethius’ work on music and the mix of Aristotelian and Platonic sources in its composition. Logic. Book i. Boethius. 401d–402a. 23. Music represented the most immediate access to the systems of numbers and calculations which constitute the underlying order of the world.23 We are thus deeply affected by the character of the music we hear. David S. divides the study of music into three aspects. as Aristotle had 20.

in L. and to the ultimate and highest meanings of the universe. Hildegard wrote a letter to the prelates of Mainz in which she vigorously defended the role of music in the formation of the human spirit. Theology and Music at the Early University (Leiden: E. . as it inspired the listeners and raised their souls to contemplation of the highest things. As the Word sounded. J. Music. Brill.27 The performance of music. pp. Ibid. 26. who was herself one of the most creative of medieval composers. ed. ‘Hildegardis ad praelatos Moguntinensis’. then. Indeed. themselves numerical in form. 28. Hildegard von Bingen. he called to himself all of creation which had been predestined and established in eternity. xiii.26 Even with respect to the work of a thirteenth-century scholastic theologian such as Richard Grosseteste. 29. Pars Prima i–xc (Turnholt: Brepols. there was the sound of every harmony and the sweetness of the whole art of music’. 1995). Hildegardis Bingensis Epistolarium. Metaphysics. as a social art was the practical expression of an understanding of the underlying order of things which ‘tuned’ the human soul to the deeper realities. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). 27. Following an interdict placed upon the practice of singing in the daily worship of her community. 1078a31–1078b6. and that they would be transformed through this to remembering the sweetness of the songs in the heavenly land’. embodies the innocence of humanity before the Fall so that ‘in Adam’s voice. It is in Hildegard too that we find an imaginative synthesis of the cosmological theology of John 1:3 with the classical conception of harmony as the measure of the cosmic order. p. 61–6. van Acker. In this way the Word and God are one. had Adam remained ‘in the condition in which he was formed. she argued.. In her Liber divinorum operum she equates the sounding of the Word with the very life of creatures: The Word sounded and brought all creatures into being. A further insight into the meaning of music in the medieval world comes from the writings of the Benedictine Abbess. 206. Cf. before he fell. the argument has been made that ‘music was absolutely essential for understanding the basic concepts that formed a foundation for all the disciplines’.28 Hildegard reminds the clerics that the devil had been greatly perturbed when he ‘heard that men and women had begun to sing through divine inspiration. human frailty could never endure the power and the resonance of that voice’. 1991).29 Music here is identified with a pre-lapsarian state and is particularly associated with heaven so that the performance of music is a direct participation on earth in the heavenly reality.The architecture of createdness 23 noted. Nancy van Deusen.

ed. The first is a celebration of light associated with the rebuilding of the choir in the new Gothic style: Once the new rear part is joined to the part in front. In contrast with emanationist theologies of light. and annotated by Erwin Panofsky (2nd edn by Gerda Panofsky-Soergel. Abbot Suger. whereby the world is ordered in its own particularity and yet is constructed from within the divine nature. For bright is that which is brightly coupled with the bright. pp. 31 The ‘new light’ (lux nova) is simultaneously the light of Christ and his New Dispensation and is the greater dispersal of light achieved by the new choir in Gothic style to replace the duller Carolingian apse. Liber divinorum operum. cosmology by extension and by participation. Architecture One of the functions of music is to unite the two distinct trajectories of the medieval world-image. this Word appeared in every creature and this sound was life in every creature.32 An important 30. Which stands enlarged in our time . Light is the first principle of the created universe: it is the intelligibility of things. while music performed on earth is a participation in the heavenly cycle of praise. The church shines with its middle part brightened. . trans.24 The Creativity of God His resonance awakened everything to life . The Libellus de consecratione ecclesiae S. The element of light performs a similar function. iv. . 31. . Now when the Word of God sounded. .30 This represents a bold advocacy of sound as the foundation of divine creativity. Panofsky. 50–1. And bright is the noble edifice which is pervaded by the new light. . Princeton: Princeton University Press. the life of creatures is identified in this passage with the sound-word-voice that proceeds from a divine speaker and which in a dialectical combination of immanence and transcendence both remains distinct from and identical with its source. But light is also seen as the effulgence of the uncreated light – and Christ himself as the first ‘radiance’. 105. 1979). p. It is the interplay of these two distinct perspectives developed in terms of architecture that comes to the fore in a treatise written by Abbot Suger following the reconstruction of central parts of the Church of St Denis in 1144. 22. Quoted from Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of St-Denis and its Art Treasures.. Dionysii contains two striking passages. The ‘music of the spheres’ belongs to the passage of the heavenly bodies through the aether. or of the idea. 32. that is.

165A (trans. p. the work Should brighten the minds so that they may travel. which fell or cascaded from the heavens to earth. In what manner it be inherent in this world the golden door defines: The dull mind rises to truth through that which is material And. Abbot Suger. 34. To the True Light where Christ is the true door. in seeing light. Panofsky. The Celestial Hierarchy. whose works were preserved in the abbey. New York: Paulist Press. What for us is metaphor (‘heaven above’) was for our ancestors 33. Pseudo-Denys articulated a symbolic system predicated in no small part on a cosmic hierarchy of light. to be clear and spotless mirrors reflecting the glow of primordial light and indeed of God himself. 154. animating and spiritualising all things. 1987). he defines ‘hierarchy’ in the following terms: A hierarchy bears in itself the mark of God. on the grounds of mistaken historical assumptions regarding the saint and the abbey’s dedication. where he considers the orders of supernatural beings.34 Cosmic phenomenology The pre-modern cosmos as outlined in the preceding sections represents a construction of the world which is radically distinct from anything we know today. 46–9. Marvel not at the gold and the expense but at the craftsmanship of the work.33 This light-metaphysics or metaphysics of hierarchy also supported a programme of symbolic interpretation which constituted a return through material things to the source of all in heaven. And it is this programme which appears in Abbot Suger’s explication of the meaning of the gilded bronze reliefs of the Passion and ‘Resurrection or Ascension’ of Christ which adorned the doors of the central west portal: Whoever thou art. Bright is the noble work. Colm Luibheid. . is resurrected from its former submersion. Hierarchy causes its members to be images of God in all respects. they can then pass on this light generously and in accordance with God’s will to beings further down the scale. The Complete Works. pp. but being nobly bright.The architecture of createdness 25 influence upon Abbot Suger was the Celestial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Denys. if thou seekest to extol the glory of these doors. In the Celestial Hierarchy. Pseudo-Dionysius. through the true lights [of the eyes]. It ensures that when its members have received this full and divine splendour.

while the invisible is always unseen. Memory and imagination combine in the persistence of objects which. or travel writing. since much of what we ‘see’ contains a strong component of the unseen. We do not cease to believe in the continuing existence of objects which we no longer see. therefore. Science and theology combined in a way that is unthinkable for us today. Merleau-Ponty argued that our field of vision is always limited by the three-dimensionality of the objects we see. The unseen is nevertheless visible. Here the dynamic is not memory but is rather our ability to construct from what we have perceived the forms of things that we have not perceived. we build new unseen ones by practices of the imagination. rather we integrate them – as imagined or remembered – into the overall image of the object as presented to us in the surfaces that we can see. But we construct them in such a way that they appear to be integral to our perception of the cube: it is not that we imagine the cube to be without the sides which are concealed from us. Objects which are outside the present range of our perceptions can still be present to us as either remembered or imagined forms. . From the elements of the ‘seen’ world. more and more of our ‘world’ is constituted of such reconstructed images. But we gain images too of objects and places which we have never seen.26 The Creativity of God a matter of deliberate and literal belief. When we perceive a cube. The unseen features in a second way which is equally important in the process of constructing the world. since science itself drew for its authority upon the sources of revealed Christianity. The world of imaginative literature. Husserl first noted this process and called it ‘apperception’. The unseen is a crucial component in ordinary perception. It is important at this stage therefore that we employ an analysis. is of course a primary form of this kind of perceiving. to lay bare the deep structures of pre-modern perception and thus to make possible a thoroughgoing contrast with our own. but Merleau-Ponty developed it as a principal feature of the way in which we perceive unified objects in a three-dimensional world. are no longer seen. The analysis begins with an important distinction between two concepts that are related but separate: the invisible as that which cannot ever be seen (and which I shall call the invisible) and the invisible as that which can be seen but which does not for the moment present itself to sight (which I call the unseen). According to the passage of time. which I am calling ‘cosmic phenomenology’. In his classic study The Phenomenology of Perception. according to Merleau-Ponty. while in themselves visible. more and more is unseen. for instance. we see the sides which present to us and we construct the sides which are hidden from us.

the subject somehow stood outside the domain of the physical. lay in the remote heavens above. allowed the congregation to understand something of the visibility of the heavenly realms. offered purchase to the human imagination as a place in which human subjects might themselves – in theory if not in practice – both see and be seen by the invisible powers who lay behind the realm of empirical perception. Such a seeing applies outside any immediate. is part of the at homeness of the self in the world. But for us . colours and perfumes of heaven. observing it from a privileged space. empirical frame of reference. air. and in the hierarchical structure of the world order. Being known as we ourselves know. located beyond the stars. The interior of the church. For Husserl. We can say therefore that the traditional cosmos was one in which the unseen was nevertheless potentially visible and. as ‘flesh’. filled with the sounds. Thus human self-awareness is positioned within a field of perception which itself encompasses the subject: she knows that the very hand by which she feels the world can be felt by others. Also. Merleau-Ponty’s model of what he called ‘reversibility’ is that we ourselves are part of the world that we perceive. following the Cartesian tradition. on account of the great distance dividing earth from the Empyrean. for the medieval. In his later work Merleau-Ponty advanced the view that the human subject is herself located within what he called the ‘elements’ of ‘flesh’ and ‘language’ (likening them in fact to the ‘earth. sound. but it did allow a glimpse of what such a seeing might be like. The framing reality of the empirical world.The architecture of createdness 27 But there is a third kind of ‘seeing’ which can be described as distinctively ‘cosmic’. the awareness of the self is only exercised within the domain of the physical. in which the subject knows herself to be visible to others as they are visible to her. the heavenly realities become visible in the symbolic nature of the world that does form a natural part of our everyday perceptions: in light. and the fact that we can stand over against others as a subject to an object means that we too can become an object of others’ perceptions. But for Merleau-Ponty. by virtue of participation. The organs of her perception can necessarily themselves become the object of others’ perceptions. This principle of the unseen unlocks a further significant difference between the pre-modern and the modern cosmos. This is not the same as seeing such realities tout court. as such. by virtue of extension. but it might conceivably be so. space and time. The former belonged to the category of what I am calling the unseen: it is not generally the object of our senses. and it is here that we note a significant difference between pre-modern perceptions and our own. fire and water’ of medieval cosmology).

For the contemporary man and woman. but rather as forces. is in the modern world limited to the first two types outlined here: the construction of three-dimensional objects within space and the bringing to mind of objects not actually present. explanatory causes of the universe resist imaginative reproduction. and if it articulated a profound sense of the central role of humanity in the very structure of God’s world.28 The Creativity of God today. essences or presences. In our terminology. or unseen. this third kind of perception. We can get no visible or indeed sensebased purchase upon these. the seeming absence of spiritual companions. From the perspective of a phenomenology of perception therefore. and forces cannot be visualised as contents. If the sense of cosmic ‘at homeness’ was a guiding principle of medieval cosmology and metaphysics. In other words. the historical contingency of our origins and the precariousness of our fate. and the deep. the realms that control the fabric of the perceivable world are conceived not as entities. then it is this that sets apart the pre-modern from the modern sense of world. the constructive aspect. or ‘cosmic’ seeing. is impossible for us today. . for forces are to be measured and are perceptible in their effects alone. the conviction that we are at home in the cosmos has to be articulated in the face of the apparent isolation of the human race. they are invisible and not unseen. We do not conceive of the realms that circumscribe the empirical as being in any sense comparable to or an extension of the empirical forms of the unseen.

. In this chapter I address the philosophical conceptualisation of the world which was achieved in the theory of the transcendentals. It therefore turned on the belief that the world is fundamentally united and is so on account of the common relation of all that exists with the Creator God. The rational created nature alone is immediately ordered to God. feeling and perceiving in a world very different from our own. The theory of the transcendentals affirmed the primacy of being. inquantum cognoscit universalem boni et entis rationem. the sense of the material world as a single extended field of Aristotelian [29] . for the other creatures do not attain something universal . The transcendentals are the conceptual expression of this unity and they reflect. . habet immediatum ordinem ad universale essendi principium. But the rational creature. natura autem rationalis. is immediately ordered to the universal principle of being. Summa Theologiae In the previous chapter I reviewed the structure of a pre-modern sense of embodiment. together with their equivalence or ‘convertibility’. in a thematised way. It is this primary cosmological perspective which provides the context for an analysis of the pre-modern self. and our pre-conceptual sense of being in the world. Thomas Aquinas. The argument that I am advancing throughout this book is that the way we reason is intimately bound in with our understanding of the world. as rooted in the divine causality itself. It is the divine act of creation which unites the world as creatum. . insofar as it knows the universal ratio of good and being. the good and the true. Quia ceterae creaturae non attingunt ad aliquid universale .2 The metaphysics of createdness Sola autem natura rationalis creata habet immediatum ordinem ad Deum. thinking. .

1225–28) of Philip the Chancellor. at the centre of human reasoning. as an account of mind and world. The second section concerns semiotics and the hermeneutics of Origen and Augustine.. continuing in the Franciscan authors of the Summa theologica (c. Aertsen. theory of knowledge or philosophy of perception. Itinerarium mentis in deum (‘The Journey of the Mind into God’). 1245) (generally ascribed to Alexander of Hales). at whose hands the interplay between the transcendentals and reason received its most elaborate development. The semiotics which emerges here is pervasively triadic and pragmatic. In the view of Jan Aertsen. pp. Brill. pp.1 The discussion here will focus on the way in which the theory of the transcendentals forms a context and background for the development of an account of mind which places God. 1–24. Semiotics is a form of reflexive reasoning which gives a more general account of the nature of understanding than is the case in formal logic. . and the knowledge of God. in order to establish an intimate connection between divine knowing and our ordinary knowledge of the world. but its history in Christian theology conventionally begins with the treatise Summa de bono (c. J.30 The Creativity of God space. but since Scripture itself serves as the key to an understanding of the world. and in the work of the Dominican Albert the Great (1206/7–1280). especially Plato and Aristotle. which is to say that both authors operate with a conviction that the human interpreter is intrinsic to the act of signifying. reality itself is constructed along hermeneutical lines and is grounded in a form of Trinitarian exegesis.2 1. 2. For both the Greek and the Latin author. semiotics is an inquiry which begins with Scripture and the meaning of Scripture. with all its complexities. Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals (Leiden: E. it was the theory of the transcendentals. I shall begin with Thomas Aquinas. 1–2. semiotics is also inevitably concerned with questions to do with the meaning of the world. For Origen and Augustine. 1996). It typically has a concern with the nature of the sign – or language – and its relation with both the world and the self. Ibid. Jan A. Bonaventure also deployed the theory of the transcendentals in his classic mystical treatise. which formed the distinctive ground of medieval philosophy and unified it as an intellectual movement. Transcendentals and reason The roots of the theory of the transcendentals can already be found in classical authors.

and therefore its equivalents. unum. To the former belongs the positive notion of a ‘thing’ or res which is the content of every object which makes it different from anything else.The metaphysics of createdness 31 Thomas makes extensive reference to the theory of the transcendentals throughout his work but specifically discusses them in only three texts. 21.1 he refers only to being. bonum.3–6) of 1597 Suarez included res within ens and aliquid within unum. one. that is. This has the consequence that something must exist which is itself in relation with all that is and which can therefore become the site of the manifestation of the transcendentals from the perspective of their being ‘in relation’. where they are applied to supposita (‘objects’). Thomas follows Alexander of Hales in making a distinction between being in itself (in se) and being in relation (in ordine ad aliud). I am particularly indebted to Aertsen’s penetrating study for much in the discussion which follows. But in De veritate. given the need to treat being. If the transcendental terms are truly primary. as ens indivisum. the good and the true. Truth and goodness develop the theme of conceptual relation.4 The problem which inheres in the nature of transcendentals is how to formulate their unity and difference with respect to each other. The transcendentals thus represent modal explications of being which add something to being but only in terms of understanding.2. but are to be distinguished in terms of their ratio (‘concept’ or ‘definition’). It is in the nature of a transcendental to apply throughout all categories. so the transcendentals of relation have to apply to all things. but if they do not differ from each other in any respect. following 3. then they must be equivalent. Thomas refers to six transcendentals (ens. Thomas identifies this with the human mind. The terms ens and res can be distinguished in their ratio since the former refers to the fact that something exists while the latter refers to what it is. then they are tautological. 1. though with some significant variations. Taken together these offer a deeply coherent theory of the transcendentals. Thomas expands Philip the Chancellor’s understanding of their ‘convertibility’. which. whereby they are equivalent where they refer. not as a genus but as the common property of all.3 Thomas Aquinas In the first quaestio of the series On Truth (De veritate. res and aliquid) which are primary and cannot be resolved into something prior. 4. verum. Thomas follows Philip the Chancellor in maintaining that unum adds negatively to being in itself the quality of indivision.1). all written between 1250 and 1259. In his Disputationes Metaphysicae (3. .

such as ‘good..9 The sense that the transcendentals are the visible signs of the createdness of the world by virtue of their particular proximity to the divine nature. The dominant motif here is convenientia. ‘is in a sense all things’. they are the most sublime content of the world. und 14. Entwicklungslinien und Paradigmen (Hamburg: Meiner. run through all the categories. 8. whereby entities can be said to participate in ‘separate species of things’.7 As such. The being of entities is the ‘most universal’ and most indeterminate of all. or ‘conformity’ between the two chief faculties of the human mind and the world. See also A.32 The Creativity of God Aristotle. 7. the transcendentals are closer to the divine nature and are ‘called good or one or being by derivation from this first’. Ibid. which is the cause of all things. and represent the closest intimacy between God and the world. In the discussion at De veritate. . As the most abstract and common properties of things. ¨ 1965). Philosophie im Mittelalter.. Brill.1 Thomas replaces the notion of ‘conformity’ as the principle which governs truth and goodness with that of ‘perfectibility’. one and being’. 165–86. J.8 But at the same time he affirms the principle of participation in the case of the communissima./14. Cf. ii. 1987). 21. Ontologie oder Metaphysik? Die Diskussion uber den Gegenstand der Metaphysik im 13. In librum Beati Dionysii De divinis nominibus expositio. eds. 9. Ans ¨atze ¨ und Folgen der Wiederbegrundung der Metaphysik im 13. they are transcendental not on account of being beyond the categories but because they are included within all the categories. In the ‘Prologue to the Commentary on Pseudo-Denys’ On the Divine Names’ Thomas specifically rejects the Platonic theory of participation. De anima. prol. Beckmann et al. Quodlibet. The species perfects the human intellect while the act of being perfects the will. and where they conform to the will. See Ludwig Honnefelder.1. Jahrhundert’. in J. Voraussetzungen. iii. being or ens is the first object of the intellect: it is being which is most proximate to the human mind and is its first conception. in contrast.6 According to the general structure of Thomas’ theory of the transcendentals. that relation grounds truth. 8. 6. The transcendentals. 2. Zimmermann. All the categories and genera of things simply serve to give denomination or definition by contracting ens into specific entities with specific properties. such that any individual horse participates in a separately existing horse-nature. is further developed in discussions of the individual transcendental properties. ‘Der zweite Anfang der Metaphysik. pp. P. 431b21.5 The human self is thus at the centre of Thomas’ development of truth and goodness as the transcendental properties of all that is. Every entity constitutes a combination of the species and the act of being by which that entity subsists in the species. in Jan Aertsen’s 5. that relation is the ground of goodness. Where entities conform to the human intellect. Jahrhundert (Leiden and Cologne: E.

The world simply presents itself to the mind with an immediacy which is incontrovertible and which. 366. 12.14 What we see here is a tendency to emphasise the immediacy with which the createdness of the world presents itself to us together with a dialectical tension regarding our capacity to make sense of it in our own terms. 1. Feenstra and C.1. p.15 Expressed in terms of Thomas’ metaphysical realism. Thomas describes the study of metaphysics as the ‘highest of all the sciences’ since it deals with ultimate issues of causality and of the 10. q. but at the same time there is an unmistakable sense that Thomas is reluctant to draw any too direct or overly systematic relation between the transcendentals as they exist for the human mind in the world and their existence in God. Thomas follows Philip the Chancellor by linking ‘entity’. d. God emerges as ‘truth itself’ since the ultimate ground of truth is the adequation between the thing and the divine intellect.4. De veritate. and only God subsists in pure actuality. The key text on the transcendentals as ‘divine names’ is found at In i Sent. De veritate.The metaphysics of createdness 33 phrase. according to this view. of an individual entity. the immediate or proper object of the human intellect is the actuality.7. as efficient. And. In De veritate. This same tension is apparent in Thomas’ more extensive analysis of ens.12 In the case of the good. as we encounter it in the real world.13 The doctrine of the transcendentals stands at the heart of Thomas’ account of the createdness of the world. which is at the same time God’s world. 14. i.. therefore. Plantinga. it is ‘the most proper name. in R.2 ad 9. formal and final cause of the creation respectively. De potentia 7. Medieval Philosophy. 8. Incarnation and Atonement (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 37. But the human act of reflection which parallels the immediacy of our apprehension of the being or actuality of objects in the world is a highly dialectical one. the conceptuality of the transcendentals is applied on a number of occasions in Thomas’ discussion of the appropriations of the Persons of the Trinity (see his ‘Trinity and Transcendentals’. 3c). pp. 13. Summa contra Gentiles. 1. ens offers a direct and unmediated apprehension of the way things are. 1. ST ia. Trinity. In one very important sense. because it is in virtue of its universality the least improper’. which is the ground of all other properties. or ‘being’. God alone is goodness in the truest sense. 13. 11. sed contra (5). or act of being. eds. a. since goodness is a property of the actual. grounds the mind in the reality of the objective order. as Norman Kretzmann has argued. 79–109. 1989). ‘truth’ and ‘goodness’ with the threefold causality of God. as the ‘first’ of the transcendentals. and as ‘that which the intellect first conceives as most known and in which all other concepts are resolved’. ..11 In a discussion from On Truth. 11 and Aertsen.10 But it is also ‘the perfection of all perfections’. 15. q. 1. But these speculations are relatively few and far between. a.

or ratio. ‘most intelligible’ and therefore 16. 8. 19. God. or ‘common being’. The first is reduction secundum rem. There he stresses that the proper subject of metaphysics is ens commune. by comprehending his own essence. In Met. as the cause of being. The point at issue is the distinction between that mode of thinking called ratio. which are separated substances’. The natural movement of reason is that of a reduction which falls into two kinds. 19. The final goal of this reduction is attained ‘when one has arrived at the supreme and simplest causes. in the science of metaphysics. according to the natural order. and in it grasps its knowledge of a whole multitude of truths. . a. on the other hand are discursive. Metaphysics is the most foundational of the sciences and thus regulative of all the others because it alone deals with what is ‘most common’.19 This passage is important for the background it gives to Thomas’ discussion of metaphysics in the ‘Prologue to his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics’. In this case. or ‘reasoning’.16 It is the natural desire to know and to attain to the highest possible knowledge which impels us to formal reflection upon existence as such. knows all things’. 18. which is to say. which are simpler and more abstract. Proemium. But the mind can also undertake a reduction which is secundum rationem. The final knowledge which this kind of reduction brings is that of the most abstract and simplest principle of all: ‘being’ and ‘the things which are attributes of being inasmuch as it is being’. 6. ii. meaning a direct ‘comprehension’ or ‘understanding’. it moves from particulars to universals. ST ia. a. 79. or ‘being qua being’. as God. partial and compound. 1. The background to this distinction lies of course in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics. q. But that reflection is subject to the same rules of reasoning as any other science. that is. the mind proceeds by ‘intrinsic causes’ which is to say.18 The labours of reason. The former stands to the latter ‘as movement to rest or acquisition to possession’. and the mode designated as intellectus. and here it is useful to refer to a passage in the Commentary on Boethius’ The Trinity in which Thomas outlines the formal structure of analytical thought.17 The intellect ‘considers first unified and simple truth. which is the discursive facility of the mind which moves from one point to another in a debate. Ibid. Expositio super librum Boethii De trinitate. is not as such the subject of the science. ‘as when demonstration is made through causes or extrinsic effects’. q.34 The Creativity of God greatest intelligibility and abstraction. 17. or according to concept. and that God. 99b–100b.

which is axiomatic for Thomas. Neither the reduction secundum rem as an enquiry into extrinsic causes. In the transcendentals. while reason is restless and discursive: it is that modality of the mind which strives to make connections and to understand. intellect is the state of ‘rest’. The world is present to the human mind. is at the same time irreducibly a form of absence. and in being as such. but it also points beyond itself to a creator. a ‘demonstrated unknowability’. can penetrate into the nature of the cause itself. the human faculties of knowing and loving are ordered to the divine Creator. leading to God as Creator.21 It is not the evocation of mystery as such nor the collapse of reason through exhaustion which Thomas has in mind here but rather the culmination 20. while reason reflects our embodied state. as created. Intellect proximates humanity to the direct knowing of the angels.20 In his discussion of the role of reason in Thomas’ work. Turner argues that according to medieval conceptions of cognition. As we struggle to make sense of the world. in Turner’s phrase. reason is brought to an encounter with its own limits. however. God is present as Creator. As noted above. and with a subject – ens commune – whose cause is the ultimate origin of things. But playing through these and other texts is the clear recognition. with an immediacy to which Thomas repeatedly draws us back.The metaphysics of createdness 35 ‘certain’. nor the reduction secundum rationem as an enquiry into intrinsic causes. Denys Turner has captured this dialectic with particular force. But to be present as Creator. Quoted by Denys Turner in his study of the role of reason in Thomas Aquinas (forthcoming. Cambridge University Press). the human mind exists in the tension between ‘reason’ as the discursive faculty of knowing and ‘intellect’ as insight or understanding. Thomas’ position appears to be that in and through the world. . which is God. While some more Augustinian systems of thinking hold out the possibility that we can enjoy a direct cognition of intellect. which represents the attainment of understanding. but in ways that are dictated by the nature of our world as created. Thomas contrasts reason and intellect more directly in a dialectical interplay such that reason can only operate by the light of intellect but can never know the intellect as such. that the inquiry into being represented by metaphysics can only identify existence as the effect of a cause. with whom we are united ‘as to something unknown’. leading to universal being. They are not ordered in their own worldly terms. What lies beyond that limit becomes. Ibid. 21.

q.36 The Creativity of God of the rational process. but one nevertheless which allows us to affirm them with certainty in the knowledge that ‘whatever the outward appearances may be. Thomas defines faith as an imperfect understanding of those things which surpass natural reason. ST iia iiae. ‘in that “unknowing” lies reason’s selftranscendence as intellect. or creativity. a wholly divine act. but it cannot do so as a created power. The human mind necessarily must engage with the divine creativity. And the act by which it thus self-transcends is proof of the existence of God.23 Human reasoning is therefore perpetually caught between its necessary telos in God. which it knows it cannot understand. . But as we are led to try to understand God. when scientia. 8. Ibid. for ‘to create’ is. a. We apprehend the world through reason. as Thomas reminds us. as this is the world’s ultimate meaning. which is the principle of authentic knowledge of the empirical world. Bonaventure has less of a sense of the autonomy of reason than does Thomas. a. At that point the foundational axioms without which there can be no authentic human knowing are to be identified with the data of revelation. Standing within a more robustly Augustinian tradition. 25. 1997). they do not contradict the truth’. Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. John I. It is this dialectical tension which lays the basis for faith.’22 In other words. Jenkins. ST ia. and the world leads on to God. 23. In his discussion of the relation between faith and understanding.25 Bonaventure The same problematics of the relation between human thinking and God concern Bonaventure in his ‘Journey of the Mind into God’ as concerned Thomas Aquinas. 2. and God himself becomes our teacher. reason is confronted with a causality. 5. q. to which the created world in all ways points. is itself immediately present to the mind but in a way that transcends our capacity to grasp it. 24. who is the source of the world. is overtaken by the divine self-disclosure as revelation. 45. from whom comes the very light of intellect by which we understand. but he shares with Thomas the belief that God is the ground of human thinking and perception and yet also stands radically beyond it so 22. and its own limited capacities as created. As Turner states it. the creativity of God which is everywhere implied in the created world.24 But even faith is no release from the dialectical structure of thinking in the presence of God.

Firstly they show the ‘origin. process and end’ of the world and secondly allow us to discern the existence of what is perfect.28 Created things manifest to us ‘the power. 65).26 The cosmological dimensions of this personal evolution can be felt throughout the work. p. 62). Ibid. 2 (Cousins. Ibid. is set out in metaphorical terms. and he describes ‘the universe itself ’ as ‘a ladder by which we can ascend into God’.27 For Bonaventure the mystical journey begins with sense perception and the physicality of created things. 12–13 (Cousins.The metaphysics of createdness 37 that no ordinary processes of reasoning can grasp the divine reality. reason. imagination. intelligence.. understanding. 27. Itinerarium mentis in deum. on the occasion when he received the stigmata. wisdom and goodness of God’ in three distinct ways. each of which has its correlate in the objective order. material and changeable.. which in his view manifest God’s goodness. but against the background of a world-view which locates heaven at a point above the stars and which envisages spiritual intelligences as inhabiting the spheres and causing the movement of the heavenly bodies. The form of the Itinerarium follows that of the vision of a six-winged seraph which came to St Francis on Mount La Verna. from the exterior to the interior. 30. width and depth’. setting up a rhythm of space and movement. Bonaventure identifies seven aspects to physical existence. p. or ‘properties of creatures’. 29. Whether expressed as ‘length. they are present in the metaphor of the journey and the powerful images of ‘passing over’ (transire) which play throughout the text. Ibid. spiritual and eternal from the perception of what is imperfect. 60). p. i. while the others relate to the three-dimensional characteristics of objects. which suggests creation from nothingness. p. by which ‘we ascend from the lowest to the highest. The journey itself. The chief way in which Bonaventure explores this dialectic is through his concept of the hierarchalisation of the intellect whereby the human mind itself mirrors in the structures which are internal to its operation the cosmic layering of the universe. Bonaventure sets out the journey to God as an ascent through the six powers of the soul. 64)..30 The first is origin. 28. These faculties are the ‘senses. and the summit of the mind or spark of conscience’. wisdom and power. Allocating each stage to one of the seraph’s six wings. .29 The third way concerns the physical properties of objects in the world as these are perceived by the senses. 14 (Cousins. from the temporal to the eternal’. 6 (Cousins. as 26. Ibid.

the whole of the external world.e. again combining the static physical dimensions of objects with their dynamic effects.38 The Creativity of God ‘number’. Ibid. the magnitude and multitude of objects manifest ‘the immensity of the power. 71).35 By apprehension. the ‘book of Scripture’ and the ‘body (corpus) of the Church’ as analogical sites of divine order. pleasure and judgement. This process has three parts. therefore. and the latter aligns the ‘book of creation’. or between the object and its human recipient. unlimited. those that generate. 33. .33 This act of perception then sets up a feeling of pleasure based upon different kinds of harmony or proportion between the object and its source. The ultimate exemplar of this is the identity of the Son with the Father within the Trinity. enters into the human self. 4 (Cousins. ii. One source of the pleasure or wholesomeness which comes to us from the perception of an object derives from the harmony of the likeness produced in our minds with the external form which is its source. Ibid... It follows therefore that ‘[i]f 31. 72). or the ‘efficiency of the operations’.31 The beauty and fullness of things (where the latter denotes the activity of the form which shapes matter) also communicate these same divine properties. p. Ibid. and is thus ‘unchangeable. 32.34 Judgement is at the same time an act of abstraction from the particularities of time and place. Judgement is the process whereby we enquire into why the perception of the object is pleasurable or desirable for us and ‘find that the reason lies in the proportion of harmony’. The first is apprehension. both material and spiritual. from where it progresses to the sense organ itself and thus to the ‘apprehensive faculty’. Bonaventure subsequently adds a Christological-cosmological dimension to his analysis of sense perception as a manifestation of the divine creativity. whereby – in accordance with the Aristotelian model – the likeness of the object is produced in the medium or particular sense. wisdom and goodness of the triune God’.32 Bonaventure’s interest in the structure of ordinary perception is continued in Chapter ii in his discussion of ‘apprehension’. or how the three classes of objects that constitute the sense-world (i. those that are generated and those that govern the whole as spirits) enter the human self through the five senses. leading in turn to an act of judgement. 6 (Cousins. Ibid. Ibid. endless and completely spiritual’. p. ii. The activity and finally order of objects are similarly expressive of the divine nature. or cognition itself. 34. 35.

the Image and Son. The word for ‘imprinted’ here is impresa. iii. Ibid. 2 (Cousins.37 In Chapter iii Bonaventure proceeds to a ‘higher’ and ‘more internal’ stage of the journey as he considers the way in which the Augustinian triad of memory. 9 (Cousins. or mens. Bonaventure states that ‘[u]nless we know what being per se is. 83). 81). endlessly. the Augustine quote is from De trinitate. It is the case therefore that ‘[i]f everything which we judge with certainty we judge by such a reason. then it is clear that [God] himself is the reason of all things and the infallible rule and light of truth. iii. 7 (Cousins. they manifestly proclaim that in them as in mirrors we can see the eternal generation of the Word. p. 37. these transcendental operations of the human mind constitute the image of God in us and their unified activity makes it – following Augustine in On the Trinity – ‘a likeness so present to itself and having God so present that the soul actually grasps him and potentially “is capable of possessing him and of being a partaker in him” ’. p. . indelibly.). p. indubitably. Metaphysics. which are: one. 42. 39. 73). p. n. irrefutably. Ibid. 41. 4 (Cousins. 5). without which we could not know the imperfect being of entities in the world. which are constitutive of the human mind-self. being unchangeable and unlimited. Ibid. c. (Cousins. 11. boundlessly. 73). intelligence and will. 40. Ibid.42 36.41 Taken together. i.. Itinerarium.39 With an enviable unity of purpose. 3 (Cousins. p. indivisibly and intellectually’. we cannot fully know the definition of any particular substance’. truth and goodness. 8.36 And in judgement too there is a participation with the divine since the reason of judgement. Ibid. ‘our intellect is joined to Eternal Truth itself since it can grasp no truth with certitude if it is not taught by this Truth’. true and good’. eternally emanating from God the Father’. unchangeably. or participate in. it can only do so since ‘the notion of the highest good is necessarily imprinted in everyone who deliberates’. 83). is also eternal and is ‘either God or in God’. Bonaventure unequivocally attributes our knowledge of ‘being per se’ to a direct divine communication.The metaphysics of createdness 39 all things that can be known generate a likeness of themselves. 81). 38. in which all things shine forth infallibly. He affirms also that when it makes true judgements. indisputably.38 Nor can we know what being per se is unless we also know ‘its properties. xiv. are illumined by.... the transcendental properties of being. ‘cum suis conditionibus’ (ibid.40 And when our will exercises choice between varying goods. p. which follows the Arab tradition of direct divine communication which we find in Avicenna (cf.

who dwells in them and performs all their operations’. 4 (Cousins. illumination and perfection. in terms of the ecclesial virtues associated with human nature. Ibid. in his discussion of being as a name of God. which is limited because mixed with potency. This appears not only in its reformation as divine image and in its purification. but also in the discovery that the nine orders of angels are reflected in the structure of its own being.45 In Chapters v and vi Bonaventure explores the transcendentals of being and goodness as properties of God. p. can the image of God in us. again not hesitating to tie the transcendental properties of the created order closely with the divine attributes. hope is hope to receive the ‘inspired Word’ and love is of the ‘Word incarnate’.44 The attainment of these virtues marks the soul’s entry into the heavenly Jerusalem where it is able to discern in the nine orders of angels the presence of ‘God. Faith is defined as faith in ‘the uncreated Word and splendor of the Father’. iv. be perfected. In Chapter iv Bonaventure links the purification of the human soul. 90). .40 The Creativity of God The dialectic of Bonaventure’s system comes through in the increasingly Christological shape of his cosmological thinking in the later chapters. Ibid. p. Indeed. then being is what first comes into the intellect and this being is pure act. 44. nor is it analogous being because that has 43. Moreover each of the theological virtues is linked with different spiritual senses as exemplified in traditional and intensely Christological readings of the Song of Songs. with the theological virtues. through the theological virtues which are grounded in the Christian dispensation. Itinerarium. 89). which is essential for the vision of the divine power and presence in created things. Bonaventure again vigorously affirms his belief that we can only know imperfect being through perfect being and that therefore the divine being impresses itself upon us at the foundation of our cognition of the world: [i]f therefore non-being can be understood only through being and being in potency only through being in act. which is the participation of the faculties of the self in the divine nature.. 3 (Cousins. The Christological and incarnational dimensions of the soul’s journey into God are made evident in Bonaventure’s belief that the soul itself undergoes a process of ‘hierarchalisation’.43 only in this way. and if being signifies the pure act of being. human endeavour and divine grace. 45. But this is not particular being. through its increased internalisation and abstraction.

Ibid. 1 (Cousins.. It remains that the being in question must be divine Being.47 We can read this complex final movement in different ways. inwardness and exteriority. and is itself innately ordered to that cosmic reality. which is the ultimate meaning of the world. p. we can attain the fifth and sixth stages of our ascent into God and can contemplate the divine nature. 111). According to Bonaventure therefore. and is linked with the Exodus narrative from the Old Testament where God declares himself to be He Who Is. to be set alongside the previous stages. immateriality and materiality are all integrated and united. By looking upon what has been revealed to us concerning the divine nature in Scripture. Chapter vii gives an account of the final state of the soul not in terms of a seventh stage however. Ibid. The divine goodness. 47. on the other hand. Thus Bonaventure finally anchors his mystical metaphysics in the incarnational agency of God. height and depth. is made known to us in the divine ‘emanations’. which is to say in the Trinitarian missions. human reasoning needs to be seen within a cosmological context which has at its core the relationality between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Christ himself becomes the ‘way’ and the ‘door’. essentialisation and internalisation of the Neoplatonist framework with the image and sensebased metaphoricity of incarnational theology. 3 (Cousins. but in terms of a dissolution of the hierarchy of the stages. . vii. signalled by metaphors of ‘silence’ and ‘superluminous darkness’. The predominant motif of this chapter is the integration of the soul into the saving death of Christ.46 Being reveals to us God’s ‘essential unity’. but one of the consequences of this shift towards an incarnational motif is that it integrates the ascent into God with the recognition of God’s descent into our world. as a way of transcending both the world and the self. The human mind mirrors within itself the Christological structure of the world. and entry into his death is attended by a cessation of our ordinary intellectual powers. v. In the person of Christ. Human thinking then is necessarily dynamic as the structure of the world itself leads the mind up and through the materiality 46.. combining the abstraction. and is therefore particularly associated with the New Testament. 96).The metaphysics of createdness 41 only a minimum of actuality because it only has a minimum of being. and Christ himself effectively becomes – in Bonaventure’s account of cosmology – a living embodiment of the hierarchical principle by which we are illumined and redeemed. p. the ‘ladder’ and the ‘vehicle’.

Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press. and subsequent punishment. was a sign to us that we should not test Christ in the same way: ‘These things happened to them to serve as an example (tupik ¯os). Abraham’s concubine and wife. on whom the ends of the ages have come’ (v. Semiotics As noted in the Introduction. for us today (v. 11). or tupoi. Hagar corresponds to the present Jerusalem while Sarah is ‘the Jerusalem above’. and then to the supreme realities of the Trinity. Semiotics is present everywhere in Aquinas and Bonaventure. In passages such as 1 Corinthians 10:1–11 and Galatians 4:21–31. In the passage from Galatians. This ‘hierarchalisation’ of the human mind is its realisation as God’s creature. and it leads to the transfiguration of the mind. Origen’s interpretation of these two passages is closely linked to his understanding of semiotics as such. The language of ‘types’ and ‘allegories’ form part of Origen’s conceptualisation of the way in which the reading of signs constitutes a task that is at once interpretative and eschatological. but it is in the work of their predecessors Origen and Augustine that we find the most complete statements regarding what we might call a Christian scriptural semiotics. to represent the Old and New Covenants respectively. and they were written down to instruct us. semiotics as the science of signs is a particularly succinct way of conveying the structure of meaning. which is the final destiny of human cognition.48 We are 48. 2002) for a persuasive argument that allegory in Origen generally takes a figural form and thus maintains a continuity between Old Testament and New in terms of divine action. In the former passage Paul himself reads passages from Exodus and Numbers concerning the wanderings of Israel in the desert as ‘examples’. Paul understands Hagar and Sarah. See John David Dawson. . Their idolatry. Origen Origen looked to Scripture itself for an account of what Scripture is and how it is to be read. he believed that he could identify a process of reading and understanding that was internal to Scripture itself and hence normative for those who accepted its divine origins. On this occasion. through a superluminous darkness and divine unknowing. their symbolic meaning is described as an ‘allegory’ (all ¯egoroumena). 6).42 The Creativity of God of sense-impressions into the internal and essential reality of abstracts and universals.

50 The Origenist view of Scripture is one which placed the interpretative act. the existence of these two faces of the Gospel reflects our own inability to comprehend the divine self-communication in its purity. creative Wisdom. but are to read it. and the divine generative order itself which finds its fullest expression in the language and image of Wisdom. Chapter 11. as a point of access to the eternal or heavenly Gospel. as Scripture. between the human mind that interprets. 49. But this advance into a higher order of interpretation is intensified again by Origen’s view that the Gospel itself exists on two levels: drawing upon Revelation 14:6. Scripture. and divine. We are forced to rest upon the earthly or fleshly Gospel. which is the truth as it exists before God and in the presence of the saints. To fail to do this is to fall victim to a crude ‘idolatry’. which rises from Old Testament signs to the mediated meanings of the temporal Gospel and finally to the truth of the eternal Gospel.49 The human mind. Christians can only read Scripture in the right way by virtue of their possession of the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 25. Book x. The deep structure of that act was one which in turn was informed by a systemic cross-fertilisation between Incarnation. Although in themselves one. the mind – in its ‘logos-like’ characteristics – becomes conformed to the divine. Church and World are imaged as ‘body’. Comm. 2:16). In the same way we are not to read either the New or Old Testament from only a literal perspective but are to seek there the ‘hidden treasures’ that represent a higher. in the light of the messianic realisations of the New Covenant. As Origen likes to point out. Mt. even conformity. At times that analogy takes on a distinctly corporal character. order of meaning. Chapter 27. iv. as static imagery. and all together formed an analogical unity which set up a rich interplay between the different orders of existence. 50. . at the centre of Christian identity. is itself substantially changed in the process. The logic of the first formed the coherence of each of the following three. Having received a participation in the divine Logos through the creation. But more fundamentally they are organised together as domains or levels of interpretation. Origen holds that it is simultaneously a ‘temporal’ and an ‘eternal Gospel’. Comm. On First Principles. where semiotics entails a coordination. Book xiv. as if participating in the primal body of the incarnate Christ. as a modality of both human and divine knowing. the interpreted sign given by divine grace. Church and World. Jn. with its material signs.The metaphysics of createdness 43 not to read the Old Testament purely in its own terms.. as Paul does.

‘Way’. but is a consequence of our own inability to grasp him in his most essential aspects: that is. designates Christ in so far as he makes known to us the ‘secret things of His Father’. Jn. ‘Stone’.51 Wisdom designates the nature of Christ as the one who understands the manifold and generative ‘speculations’ of the Godhead which are identified with primal creation. or Wisdom. Book i. We fail to grasp him precisely as unified divine person within the Blessed Trinity who has become incarnate among us. on the other hand. or interpretation. for example.52 This distinction between generation and revelation is further strengthened by Origen’s attribution of ‘power’ specifically to Wisdom. Clark. In an exegesis of ‘In the beginning (arch ¯e) was the Word (logos)’ (Jn 1:1). Comm. Chapter 2. Comm. Origen’s use of the term epinoia shows the central role of Wisdom in his understanding of both Scripture and world. Origen laid down the principle that arch ¯e here signifies ‘Wisdom’ and that as site or place of the ‘logos’.44 The Creativity of God In Book i of his Commentary on John. Book i. and to the Wisdom of Solomon. as the highest mystery. which is a unified personhood. Chapter 2. who is the ‘supreme mystery’ and ‘hidden treasure’ of Scripture and who – as Wisdom – is the divine fecundity that is present in all created things. ‘Logos’. ‘Flower’. & T. These include. ‘Sword’. ‘Servant’. Therefore the Christ figure. ‘Wisdom’. 52. or ‘titles’ of Christ. pp. The variety of the names of Christ does not reflect the diversity of his person. Jn. where Christ is linked with the divine power and wisdom. Comm. Chapter 22. in his study Origen (Edinburgh: T. Chapter 23. On First Principles. Book i. and the analogical resonances of these two spheres. ‘Shepherd’. Himself the 51. but is also the generative ground of the creation. and it is consonant with the practice of exegesis. comes to us finally as a sign to be understood. ‘Rod’. Book i.53 Origen’s identification of Wisdom with the energeia of God draws out the extent to which Christ as Wisdom is not only the final term of our knowledge. See the discussion of the epinoiai by Henri Crouzel. ‘Light’. Chapters 22 and 42. 1989). which speaks of Wisdom as the breath of the power of God. ‘High Priest’. . 189–92. § 4–12. as Wisdom who is the divine creativity. and the dynamic principle of our own return to that ground through the exegesis of the created order in the light of its ultimate origin and end. Epinoia itself suggests an act of construction. He repeatedly points to 1 Corinthians 1:18–31. is prior to all the other names. The word epinoia is often translated as ‘title’ in order to designate the various names of Christ that are supported by exegetical tradition. On First Principles. § 2–3. Book i. it is clearly prior to and distinct from it. 53. ‘Logos’. ‘Truth’. Jn. Origen developed his argument that Sophia.

It is by the divine creativity that we learn to see beyond the sign to what it represents. The effect was a far greater emphasis upon the literal sense of Scripture than we find in Origen with a . or imperfect knowing. the world is structured according to semiotic processes of understanding and interpretation which mark the intersection of human and divine. The Johannine description of Jesus as ‘the light of the world’ (Jn 1:9) is a central text for Augustine’s reflections on knowledge. Augustine firstly developed textual strategies of allegorisation for countering the literalistic claims of the Manichees and then. Augustine’s development of a Christian semiotics is rooted not only in his own background as rhetorician. Augustine has a less exuberant sense than Origen of our participation in the divine exegesis of Christ. in a movement which Origen denotes as a simultaneity of knowledge and love. signs and the world. though they appear in a significantly different register. the mature Augustine places more emphasis upon our fallen condition and upon our complete dependence on God for illumination in a world where truth is veiled and interpretation inexact. and thus are able to progress back to the divine source. as a kind of doxa. But there is nevertheless a great divide between the world as envisaged by Origen and the cosmos of the Platonists. but also in his own spiritual biography. Augustine Many of these same themes run through the work of Augustine.The metaphysics of createdness 45 measure of all signs. The debt to a Platonic conception of the world as modelled on an intelligible and unchanging reality is self-evident. integrated a Platonic hierarchalism into a Christian scriptural faith. The primal self-giving of God creates the ground of a semiosis in which – as creatures – human beings can participate in the divine creativity which consumes their humanity and initiates them into a new form of divine awareness. following his reading of the Platonists. In Origen’s view. In general. but is rather the shape of our participation in the primal dynamic of divine self-giving. Interpretation is not the mark of our fallenness therefore. Christ yields himself as a sign to us and as a task of interpretation. but is motivated rather by a belief in the radical inadequacy of our own native powers of comprehension and a pervasive awareness of God’s liberating gift to us in Jesus Christ. That distinction is bound up with the sense that Christ himself – as Wisdom – interprets the Father in power and that this semiosis is coterminous with the possibility of creation itself.

It is this. Markus has described as a somewhat ‘sophistical’ discussion. Augustine views human knowledge under the aspect of subjectivity. the ground of semiotics is found in the person of Christ.46 The Creativity of God commitment to history and to the created world as the ultimate semiosis of the divine creativity. p. Here it is ‘the word which shines within’.56 In both De magistro and De trinitate. Bavaud. from the perspective of the one 54. the discussion is set within the context of an analysis of the Trinitarian vestiges which characterise the operations of the human mind. which grounds true human knowledge of the world. a participative knowledge of things as they exist in truth. it is reasonable to assume that a kind of exemplarism is in play here. 81. 95–101). Signs and Meanings (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. particularly in the early De magistro and the late De trinitate. This seems close to Augustine’s incarnational theology. Christ emerges as the one through whom we gain knowledge of the unity of the sign (language) and the world and thus enter into meaning. xi. in what R. The internal word is disembodied – and belongs to no language – but finds fleshly expression in the particularity of the word that is uttered. 1 and the act of creation. and although De trinitate seems unclear on the relation between the interior word and objects in the world. 38. He points out that Augustine does not follow Tertullian and the Apologists in the application of this Stoic formula to Gen. that is. which suggests a Christological framework. In his discussions of the nature of the sign. Bavaud has a discussion of those passages in which Augustine applies the Stoic ‘word within’ and ‘word without’ within an incarnational framework (G. The interior word represents the divine illumination in the human mind which is a participatory awareness of the things as they exist in the divine mind. who is himself ‘the inner truth’. in contrast to ‘the word which sounds without’. and so it is constituted as a sign which points to the intelligible reality of the interior word which is unspoken and unutterable in itself. that we can gain entry into the world as a meaningful unity of signum and res. The function of the latter is to communicate the interior word. Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes 9 (1963). 56. Markus. within the divine Logos. A.54 Things in the world cannot of themselves be known without signs. 55. and makes the signs that we utter truthful representations of the real order. the ‘teacher within’. De magistro. it is only through Christ. R.55 In the De trinitate. 1996). A. while the meaning of signs can only be given by ‘seeing’ their relation to things in the world. ‘Un th `eme augustinien: le myst `ere de l’Incarnation `a la lumi `ere de la distinction entre le verbe int ´erieur et le verbe prof ´er ´e’. . In the former case.

thus transposing the primary act of interpretation away from the text to the world itself. Yet they are not beautiful. In De civitate dei he speaks of the ‘eloquence of events’ which point to divine action in the world. it was you. can be received by the reader in an entirely literal mode while at the same time they point to events in the real world which called for a radical and Spirit-filled act of interpretation.4. as appears from the many passages in which Augustine speaks of the way in which created things point to their creator. Such textual signs. 11. their Creator.16. in Ps.’ Did the skies not know their creator? Or did the angels not know their creator. Augustine understood the phrase ‘like a skin it is stretched out’ (v. 103. or did the stars not know their creator whom the demons acknowledge? All things everywhere bore witness. for they exist too. the focus of his attention lies in the exterior aspect of the act. they are not good.”59 And in the Tractates on the Gospel of John. or signa translata as Augustine called them. 58. Lord.15. See also Enarr. and in the nature of the world itself. 59.8. Augustine already clarifies his position on the relation between Scripture and history. In an exegesis of Vulgate Psalm 103 which occurs in both the Enarrationes and the Confessiones. But who did not 57. who made them: you who are beautiful.58 In the Confessiones this is tempered with the realisation that the transcendental properties of things are not as they are in God: “So. and the world knew him not. xiii. Augustine draws out the fallen human condition more forcefully: ‘The world was made through him. they do not exist. his several commentaries on Genesis. and that the demonstration of this was the true meaning of Scripture.. But in De doctrina christiana and. for they are good. Civ.18.6. you who exist.. Dei.57 Scripture stands over the creation. for they are beautiful. xi. . in the same way as you. Confess. In the former work. in its historical manifestations.The metaphysics of createdness 47 who knows. The thrust of this semiosis was to show that Christ himself was the true meaning of history. you who are good. One of the functions of his emphasis upon the literal sense of Scripture is that this allows him to read the biblical signs as literal signs which point to events in history. 2) to refer to ‘the heavens shall be folded together like a book’ of Isaiah 34:4 and thus to be an allusion to the Scriptures which are ‘your wonderful harmonious words which you have imposed on us through mortal men’.. and creation itself is a scriptural semiotic. more importantly. Confess.1.

and indeed key. 61. The world. in Frederick van Fleteren and Joseph C. Schnaubelt. 2 (The Fathers of the Church. Frederick van Fleteren. Augustinian Studies 5 (1974). ‘Augustine’s Ascent of the Soul in Book vii of the Confessions: a Reconsideration’. no. The twin axes of creation and covenant determined the application of ‘science’ in the service of a vision of reality as both gift and challenge to humankind. understanding and feeling. and our creatureliness was exercised within the context of the faculties of mind. We can respond positively to the ways in which God speaks with us through signs. we can either ‘enjoy’ ( frui) the world in God and thus grasp it in its ground in him. part of the structure of the world. metaphysics and semiotics of the medieval cosmos we have seen something of the extent to which humanity itself took a central place in cosmological reflection. Rettig. through perception. under the weight of a pervasive scepticism. 29–72 (especially 36–41). through which God’s providential care for man takes effect’. 1988). like signs in general. which is given with the sign. Rather what we find here is a prior acceptance of the createdness of the world and a concern with the right understanding of the world. though not in the way it is for us. with our questioning as to what constitutes meaning. 1995) by pointing to the extraordinary and long-neglected significance of Augustine’s ‘admonitions’ for an understanding of the type of divine speech in Christianity. . As Augustine elaborates in De doctrina christiana. 11. 1–32 (here 6–7). eds. 60. ‘Principles of Augustine’s Hermeneutic: an Overview’. Conclusion In these brief summaries of the architecture. p. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press. Augustine. in what Augustine calls admonitiones which are ‘events. The problem of meaning is central to these perspectives. The medieval mind understood itself to be an integral. or ‘use’ it (uti ) according to our own limited and self-centred purposes. 69. trans. body and spirit which engaged with the world.60 Our own subjective state is an essential precondition for our capacity to understand the true meaning of the world as God’s creation which is transcendentally open to him. Biblical Exegete (New York: Peter Lang. usually insignificant.48 The Creativity of God know? Those who are called the world from their love of the world. pp. See also Frederick van Fleteren. Tractate 2. For in the act of loving we dwell with our heart.61 This serves to remind us that it is through signs and creatures that God summons us to the highest and most spiritual love. constitute for Augustine an opportunity to be transformed by the grace of God. Nicholas Wolterstorff begins his stimulating work Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.. 78. as created. John W. 2001). as the domain of God’s creativity.

The metaphysics of createdness

49

That engagement was itself extensively dialectical, since the perceived world which presented itself with an uncontested immediacy to the human senses and mind also made present the unfathomable creativity of God. It was this dialectical exchange between self and world which became the domain in which the creativity of God could itself be received and made manifest from within the world, by human beings whose powers of will and knowledge made them creatures in God’s image.

3

Cosmological fragments

Schone Welt, wo bist du? Kehre wieder, ¨ Holdes Blutenalter der Natur! ¨ Ach, nur in dem Feeland der Lieder Lebt noch deine fabelhafte Spur. Ausgestorben trauert das Gefilde, Keine Gottheit zeigt sich meinem Blicke, Ach, von jenem lebenswarmen Bilde Blieb der Schatten nur zuruck. ¨ Lovely world, where are you? Come back now, Nature’s gorgeous prime! Only in the faery land of songs Does your fabled trace live on. The fields are now grey; they grieve, And no god meets my gaze. From that image, living and warm, Only the shadow remains. Friedrich Schiller, Die G ¨otter Griechenlands

We make no assumptions, in general, about the createdness of the world, nor do we understand, in the main, our own faculties to be intrinsically ordered to the divine Creator. The world-view of our own day is radically different from that outlined in the preceding chapters. But the transition from the one to the other was only gradual, taking place over centuries, and is not easily traced. It would be wrong, for instance, to think that the new rationalism of the seventeenth century was inherently atheistic or even hostile to Christianity in its traditional forms. And yet it was in this period that the seeds were sown of the enormous revolution which

[50]

Cosmological fragments

51

was to redefine Christianity and its intellectual contexts, and which continues to the present day. In this chapter I shall survey firstly some of the critical moments in the decline of the traditional cosmos before turning to a number of thinkers in whose work we can discern the beginnings of a reclaiming of the cosmological dimension within a new and recognisably modern environment.

Fragmentation

Copernicus and astronomy The appearance in 1543 of De revolutionibus orbium caelestium by Copernicus marked a watershed in the conceptualisation of the physical universe, despite the fact that in many ways Copernicus still belonged to the medieval past. The heliocentrism he espoused was based upon the belief that the centre of the universe was located at the exact central geometric point of the numerous circular movements which, by his calculation, described the movements of the spheres. This was not in fact coincident with the position of the sun, which he believed only to be near to the centre of universe. In other words, his – false – belief in the perfectly circular movements of the earth and the planets dictated his heliocentrism (it was Kepler who half a century later showed that these movements were not in fact circular but elliptical).1 Although there are many aspects to Copernicus’ system which challenge Aristotelianism, not least the real motion of the earth and the subordination of physics to the data of astronomy, it would be wrong to represent De revolutionibus as a radically new departure in the history of astronomy in terms of its data. As Edward Grant has pointed out, the question of the diurnal axial movement of the earth had already been openly discussed in particular by John Buridan and Nicholas Oresme; Copernicus refers to many of the same classical texts as do the scholastics.2 The revolutionary aspect of the work was an achievement of what Koyr ´e has called ‘pure intellectual intuition’.3 Copernicus’ letter of dedication to Pope Paul III, which replaced the original introduction to the text, communicates what clearly is a radically new perspective. In that letter
1. See Alexander Koyr ´e, The Astronomical Revolution, trans. R. E. W. Maddison (Paris: Hermann, 1973), pp. 59–66 and 265–79. The perfect circularity of the celestial orbs goes back to the Timaeus 44d and 62d. 2. Edward Grant, Planets, Stars and Orbs. The Medieval Cosmos, 1200–1687 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 647–50. 3. Koyr ´e, The Astronomical Revolution, p. 54.

52

The Creativity of God

Copernicus stated the rights of science and the obligation of the cosmologist to see the true representation of cosmic reality. These views contrast strongly with the position adopted in the unsigned preface to the first printed edition which was written by Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran pastor and friend of Copernicus. Osiander believed in the traditional principle of salvare apparentias or ‘saving the phenomena’, which excused the astronomer from giving an account of the underlying causes of the planetary movements, confining his work to the prediction of such movements. His preface articulated the position that since one theory could not be shown to be more correct than another, it was not the hypotheses which were of most significance in De revolutionibus but its computational accuracy. Osiander’s intention was to deflect criticism from Aristotelian and ecclesiastical quarters, but Copernicus remained adamantly opposed to such scientific relativism.4 What we see in Copernicus’ work, in effect, is the recognition that the explanatory force of arguments is greater where they are more closely tied to observation and that simpler explanations are more persuasive than complex ones. Copernicus’ cosmology, with its simplicity and elegance, represented a more ‘systematic and ordered picture of the Universe’ than had existed before.5 Copernicus’ importance, then, is that in his work a whole series of non-Aristotelian insights regarding the world came together in the form of a new paradigm.6 We have to see his own conviction as to the rightness of his view of the world as being itself part of the emergence of that paradigm, based – at least ideally – upon data rather than preconceptions and being persuasive by virtue of its simpler and more comprehensive explanatory power. The Copernican system gained influence only slowly, however, and was consistently read in terms of ‘saving the appearances’.7 As Stephen Gaukroger notes, it was only when it was wedded to new accounts of the material nature of the universe as distinct from its shape, that the Copernican theory began to act as a revolutionary catalyst for the new thinking.8 Bacon and natural science The evolution in natural philosophy during the early modern period was again a widespread phenomenon which took place gradually over a
4. Ibid., pp. 34–42. 5. Ibid., pp. 53–4. 6. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957). 7. Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis of the Copernican World (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987). 8. Stephen Gaukroger, Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 166–75.

Thus the Form of Heat or the Form of Light is the same thing as the Law of Heat and the Law of Light. p. misconceptions through language-use (‘marketplace’) and false philosophical training (‘theatre’). proposing that reliable knowledge was predicated not upon the wisdom of the ancients but was rather cumulative. pp. as heat. not the daughter of authority’. weight. Bacon argued powerfully against the scholastic tendencies of his own day. James Spedding. which he set out most extensively in Book i of the Novum Organum. quoted in Gaukroger.9 Scientific knowledge was also social in that it grew from the pooling of the resources of researchers. The corrective to such human failings in the main is ‘eliminative induction’. p. Bacon is noted in particular for his critique of the ‘Idols of thought’.10 9. in every kind of matter and subject that is susceptible of them. . vol. preferring a collaborative model of scientists working together ideally under the auspices of the state. Francis Bacon. Robert Leslie and Douglas Denning Heath (London. light. the ‘marketplace’ and the ‘theatre’. 257–8) (quoted in Gaukroger. In other words. Section 17 (Works. i. Francis Bacon. The fundamental insights associated with Baconianism concern the nature of knowledge and specifically of scientific inquiry. The latter are conceived in a purely material way. Novum Organum. which govern and constitute any given nature. 10. to personal idiosyncracies of thought (‘cave’). Book ii. Book i. the ‘cave’. by which Bacon meant a kind of abstractive reasoning which proceeds from empirical observation to the discernment of universal laws and the intrinsic properties of things. Bacon was against an excessive respect for authorities or indeed for individuals of genius. ed. Section 84 (The Works of Francis Bacon. 190. the history of thought represented progress rather than a fall from a previous Golden Age: ‘truth is rightly called the daughter of time. In a significant passage from the Novum Organum he offers a new and radical definition of the forms: When I speak of Forms.Cosmological fragments 53 considerable period of time. These cover predispositions to cognitive error ranging from assumptions about the presence of order in the natural world (‘tribe’). I mean nothing more than those laws and determinations of absolute actuality. 140). a survey of the work of Francis Bacon shows the kinds of evolution in thought which laid the ground for a modern view of science and a materialist cosmology. pp. in stark contrast to Aristotelianism with its emphasis upon ‘natures’ and intelligible forms. vol. i. Bacon (1561–1626) was born into a noble family and rose to become Lord Chancellor under James I. Novum Organum. 1857–74). But just as Copernicus can be taken as representative of the great changes in astronomy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. respectively those of the ‘tribe’. 105–6).

that Bacon continues the ancient tradition of privileging the role of sight in the acquisition of knowledge – which is paradoxically also a Platonic one – since he stresses the fact that atoms. p. In a play on alchemy Bacon tells us that if we come to an understanding of the ‘Forms’ or properties which together go to make up gold. Parasceve ad Historiam Naturalem et Experimentalem (Works. distension’ (Gaukroger. vol. the theme of a return to pre-lapsarian knowledge and unity with the world is attended also by the theme of humanity’s God-given dominion over the world.54 The Creativity of God Bacon is strongly corpuscularian in his advocacy of the material composition of things as the key to their properties and behaviour and proposes that ‘everything relating to bodies and virtues in nature should be set forth (as far as possible) numbered. 135). In fact. 400) (quoted in Gaukroger. and others. and thus to be a form of human 11. p. to use P ´erez-Ramos’ phrase. measured. p. Book ii. Novum Organum.11 Natural philosophy defined as the study of materiality is to be preferred to metaphysics and even to mathematics or mechanics as a way of accessing the reality that underlies appearances. The development of the powers of ‘eliminative induction’ is equated with a purification of the mind and a return to a pre-lapsarian state of unity with the world. Francis Bacon. an original state of pure knowledge of the world and the descent therefrom is the history of human corruption and error. Francis Bacon. weighed. the all-important constituent parts of matter are visible in their effects of ‘stretching. he deployed elements of faith as a theological substrate to his system. i. pp.13 Another way of stating this is that Bacon understands knowledge to be a ‘maker’s knowledge’. Princeton: Princeton University Press. There is a hint. . however. vol. i. Gaukroger has discerned in Bacon a motivation to replace the traditional image of the moral philosopher as ‘sage’ and guardian of society’s values with that of the natural philosopher. 142). 1995). The new knowledge is a knowledge of the fundamental material constitution of things in which reside also the principles of causality. dilation. The account in Genesis 2:19–20 of how Adam named the creatures represents for Bacon. defined’. 13. It is the natural philosopher also who is in a position to change the human condition for the better. then we shall ourselves be in a position to manufacture it. Section 5 (Works. later Baconians will extend this visibility to the level of the atom itself (Catherine Wilson. he remained true to his Puritan background. Following the development of the microscope. The latter is an example to society in general in that he (Bacon thinks in exclusively male terms) manifests the distinctly moral qualities of ‘self-control’ and mastery of the passions. The Visible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope.12 Bacon did not present his natural philosophy in opposition to Christian faith. 12. 230–1). To understand something is therefore to know how it is made and is to be in a position to make it oneself. contraction. More generally.

but we can discern elements in his thought that are identifiably in harmony with and almost certainly productive of modern conceptions of knowledge and of the world. In an age in which causality itself was understood to be material and mechanical. 3. see Gaukroger. q. 1988). 155–9. ST ia. If such changes were afoot during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the areas of astronomy and natural philosophy. a. One of his main arguments was against the position of William Palgrave. 15.14 Something of this can be felt also in Bacon’s conviction that it is potentially within the powers of the natural philosopher to eradicate disease and to overcome the aging process. for instance. Hume made the telling point that the world is not at all like an object in the world and that the order of the world might result from the nature of matter rather than from the intentionality of a divine maker.15 Bacon.17 Against this. became wholly redundant. being based on the play of forces. 1992). 16. Bacon’s pragmatic belief that ‘true’ knowledge is ‘useful’ or ‘productive’ knowledge is also relevant here. Francis Bacon’s Idea of Science and the Maker’s Knowledge Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press. then so too in metaphysics and philosophy more generally. vol. it was axiomatic that effects bore some likeness to their causes so that the effect of every cause is similar to itself. . pp. For Thomas Aquinas and the medievals (and the Fathers before them). See Antonio P ´erez-Ramos. David Hume delivered a powerful attack on the principles of natural theology and belief in the createdness of the world. Francis Bacon. mediated through a hierarchical structure of natures and essences. exhibits features of the old age as well as the new (he rejected Copernicus’ heliocentrism. It is in Hume’s reflections on the nature of causality also that we find a significant contrast with pre-modern positions. New York: Oxford University Press. 1660–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The Rise of Public Science: Rhetoric. The detachment of metaphysics from its traditional base in theology proceeded apace in this period. 213–54. in his Dialogues on Natural Religion. See Historia Vitae et Mortis (Works.Cosmological fragments 55 imitation of the powers of the divine. the notion that the effect participates in some sense in its cause. but 14. ii). pp. Larry Stewart. but lacked the experimentalism which was to come in later with the influence of Desaguliers through the Royal Society)16 . Technology and Natural Philosophy in Newtonian Britain. who used the analogy of the inference of a watchmaker from the existence of a watch for his argument that God the Creator could be inferred from the existence of the world. 17. 4. Hume held in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding that like causes have like effects. like Copernicus. The Nominalists characteristically shifted the emphasis away from objective universals to the individual existent.

. 118). Individual Unity and its Principle (Milwaukee. Chapter 3.20 Very significantly. Section 4. Again in the First Critique. the ontological (‘the highest being necessarily exists’) and what he calls the ‘physico-theological’ (‘argument from design’) proof. 1982).. is to have mistaken unity. Ibid. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (London: Macmillan Press.. truth and perfection as properties possessed by objects rather than as necessary transcendental conditions in the perception of any object. then it is in Kant that we find a specific refutation of this. Book i. Cosmological transformations Over the course of several centuries the theophanic universe of the premodern period turned into the one that is more familiar to us today: a 18. as I have argued. . Wis. in which he argues that the principle of individuation exists in the form and matter of an entity taken as a unity. Jorge J. 21. I. however. Ibid. Sections 3–7. 19. In other words. Chapter 3. Part i. Book ii. Chapter 1. Critique of Pure Reason. Gracia presents his case for this view in his Su ´arez on Individuation: Metaphysical Disputation v. and therefore in recent times has retained its place in metaphysics almost by courtesy only . p. Kant. Second Division. He can thus dismiss them on the grounds that they are tautological and add nothing to our knowledge of the world. and has indeed yielded only propositions that are tautological. First Division. it is in the work of Immanuel Kant that we find the most influential refutation of the traditional links between metaphysics and theology. 1933).18 More generally.’. if it is the theory of the transcendentals which is most expressive of the pre-modern belief in the createdness of the world. Section 3 (translation in Norman Kemp Smith. including the cosmological (‘if anything exists.21 The error in the traditional application of this theory.: Marquette University Press. 20.19 Kant also delivers a powerful argument against traditional understandings of ‘being’ by arguing that being as such ‘is not a predicate’ and adds nothing to our knowledge of an object. that we find a telling moment in the break with medieval tradition. which is to say the nature of the world and belief in its creator. E. in Kant’s view.56 The Creativity of God it may be in the fifth of the Disputationes Metaphysicae of Su ´arez. esp. In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant sets out a series of arguments against traditional forms of theistic belief. Kant rejects these as holding for the real world and he refashions them as properties of knowing rather than as properties of the things known. . an absolutely necessary being must also exist’). Kant raises the issue of the principle of the transcendentals which ‘has proved very meagre in consequences.

medicine improves and lengthens life. Technology makes an industrial society possible and is integral to its success. while others seem immoderate and undisciplined. but the culture of scientism and functionalism has led also to impoverishment in other areas of human life. Much of what we see on our television screens is escapist fiction. There is something in that kind of inquiry which intrinsically transcends the ordinary operations of reason and becomes more open-ended and intuitive.22 However contextualised. and diverse kinds of social.or herself at home in the world. But the imagination is an integral part of human cognition and identity. The predominance within our culture of a certain kind of thinking which is appropriate to particular types of scientific activity has left little place for the role of the imagination. this kind of functionalist knowing. Such developments have brought very considerable advantages. in that the imagination allows us to map out ways in which we can comprehend the world as a whole. pp. New Ageism. productive. the human self who imagines begins to find him. as defined in this book. innovative industry brings financial and social stability to a workforce. Theology and the Scientific Imagination: from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press. which Francis Bacon embraced as the primary model and exemplum of knowledge. But the proper use of the imagination is intimately bound up with the principle of the ‘cosmological’. For the imagination is primarily about envisaging possibilities of new existence or new meaning which are constructed from and remain true to the realities 22. Creationism. It is unsurprising therefore that in those cultures most influenced by technology and the scientific method we see many forms of resistance. the traditional pre-modern cosmos was as much an expression of the imagination of humankind as it was of our rational capacities. some of which are responsible and complex expressions of the imaginative capacities of the human race. Technology guarantees a society’s wealth and defence. 1986). national and religious mythology are all pervasively present in modern society. But where the imagination takes purchase. . Amos Funkenstein. far beyond the limits of natural science or mechanics in any specific sense. as the interplay of measurable forces.Cosmological fragments 57 world conceived primarily in terms of physical quanta. which is to say knowledge of how things are constructed and accordingly a technological knowledge of how things may be reproduced. 12 and 290–327. For all its errors. This is a world-view dominated by what Amos Funkenstein has called ‘ergetic’ knowledge. has taken on a pervasive influence in our culture. operating within the limits of the day.

in addition to his renowned critique of Immanuel Kant. memories and perceptions of what is already familiar to us. in these cultural and intellectual formations of the mid to late eighteenth century. we can see the appearance of art as a new focus for the spiritual and metaphysical values of a culture (in which he anticipates the Romantic cult of genius). we see the emergence of a language-centred and. In Hamann. Exercising a mode of responsibility before the world as we already conceive it. scriptural account of the nature of the world. In fact. but they do so by the disciplined reordering of the sensations. Winckelmann. Our imaginations take us to new places and situations previously unconceived. that we can discern the outline of a return of the cosmological principle conceived in diverse ways as the attainment of a new conceptual unity of self and world. Or it may proceed in a way that has no real reference to what we already know. like the ephemera of day-dreams. for instance. the author of Thoughts on the Imitation of the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks (1755) and History of the Art of Antiquity (1764). disciplined ways in which human beings could experience themselves as being in fundamental unity with the world conceived as a whole. in which case it is vacuous and escapist. bearing comparison with the work of art. In each case moreover we find a concern with unity of the self and the world. Jacobi and Hamann are therefore representative of alternatives to the trends which were to gain dominance. indeed. and .58 The Creativity of God that we already know. not as an observed fact but as a project or goal to be attained. we could say that if the new advances in natural science led – in their broader cultural expressions – to an alienation of the imaginative and spiritual self within the world. the imagination can be deeply creative and visionary. was the inspired intellectual who inaugurated the engagement with classical Greek culture which was to mould European. and they offer us an important insight into some of the most basic strategies of response to the fundamental changes which were afoot. In Winckelmann. then these new ‘cosmological’ projects are all grounded in an attempt to open up new. The imaginative reconstructions of cosmology with which we are concerned in this chapter belong roughly to the same historical period in which the new rationalism was taking root in European society. It is here then. in many ways. whereas in Jacobi the issue is alternative readings of the scope and nature of reason (in which he anticipates Schleiermacher). Winckelmann and art Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68). The works of the three individuals.

: Harvard University Press. Mass. He believed that the Greeks had become aware of the ennobling aspects of natural beauty in a way that was true of no other people. They had learned to celebrate and proclaim this knowledge through the power of the arts. Born in lowly circumstances in Prussia.Cosmological fragments 59 especially German. which was intimately bound up with the cause of freedom in both the moral and political domain. Through Winckelmann. The 23. But with an eighteenthcentury ´elan. The skills of the artist served to heighten natural beauty by bringing together in a single work the very best features of a number of natural forms. Stefan George can also be included amongst these writers. Winckelmann’s main thesis.23 The Hellenist movement was one of spiritual and intellectual renewal which brought Christianity and ‘paganism’ (itself a fusion of ancient and modern impulses) into sustained and varied dialogue with each other. From one perspective his work is dominated by immense learning. Winckelmann rose to become one of the most influential literary and aesthetic thinkers of his day. In an ¨ important passage from ‘On Art among the Greeks’. published in his History of the Art of Antiquity. Winckelmann combined his powers of scholarship with an inspired vision of the uplifting value of aestheticism and the moral and social ideals which it sustained. The artists and the culture which supported and valued their work placed this representational art at the centre of Greek society and values. life and letters until at least the late nineteenth century and the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. and by an exquisite scholarly attention to detail in the many statues. before meeting an untimely and violent death at the hands of a thief in Trieste. which was the most mimetic of the arts. buildings and paintings concerning which he wrote. Winckelmann summarised his view of that Greek ideal in terms of ‘edle Einfalt’ (‘noble simplicity’) and ‘stille Grosse’ (‘tranquil grandeur’). as the highest expression of an aesthetic ideal. Winckelmann distinguished between the Bildung or ‘formation’ of the work of art and its Ausdruck or ‘expression’. which both had recognisable links with the traditional cosmology of the Christian past and yet strikingly differed from it in certain important respects. . 1964). for the first time. Henry Hatfield surveys this tradition in his Aesthetic Paganism in German Literature (Cambridge. a new kind of cosmology entered modern Europe. was that ancient Greek civilisation – favoured by climate and situation – had had a particularly privileged access to the beauty and strengths of nature. above all through sculpture. which is already articulated in his early Thoughts on the Imitation.

Winckelmann had already pointed to the serenity of Laocoon’s ¨ great spirit. looks back to the apatheia of Stoic ethics and shows that Winckelmann sees in art a programme of ethical formation as well as the refinement of taste.. p. 195. the nobility of Greek art teaches us not only how to produce equivalent works of our own.27 Effectively. but also instructs us in ‘imitation’ in a broader sense. on the other hand. 26. and seems a direct challenge to the Christian piety of eighteenth-century Europe. The latter. p. Werke (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. 25. 27. . 201. 197. Ibid. nobility and truth. Ibid. ‘Von der Kunst unter den Griechen’. Winckelmann. but suffers like Sophocles’ Philoctetes: his pain enters our soul but we would wish to be able to endure pain as this man does’. p. 18.’. 29. 211. p. Winckelmann’s synthesis of Greek themes with contemporary concerns inaugurated a new kind of aesthetic religion in Europe which in certain significant respects was distinctively pre-Christian. Winckelmann. and the concept of human beauty is perfected the more closely it is identified with the highest being . . Ibid. He makes the point in the following line from the same passage that ‘the idea of sublime beauty can only be generated by the tranquil contemplation of a soul which is detached from all single forms’.28 The artist is himself in the image of God who created all things. and experience shows that the most beautiful individuals possess a tranquil and decorous nature’.. His identification of beauty with the divine lacks the accommodation with Christian culture and symbolics which we find in Dante.29 The content of that religion can be grasped in Winckelmann’s remarks about the transcendentalism of art: ‘The spirit of rational 24. as we can also translate Stille. marked the intersection of the work of art with the human world so that ‘expression’ is an extension of aesthetic contemplation into the domain of ‘action and passion’.25 In ‘On Art among the Greeks’ he states that ‘tranquillity [Stille] is the condition which is most particular to beauty.24 In his celebrated analysis of the statue of Laocoon from Thoughts on the ¨ Imitation.. 28. or ‘serenity’. Ibid. then. who ‘suffers. 1982).60 The Creativity of God former was a kind of unity generated by the proportions of the art work: the harmony of its parts resolved as a formal unity which was the ground of its aesthetic appeal. Werke. J. J. It is for instance rooted in a kind of transcendental humanism which finds expression in the divinisation of the human body: ‘the highest beauty is in God.26 The quality of tranquillity. . as an ethical commitment to the values of purity. p. as it is to the ocean.

’31 The complex relation between Christianity and Winckelmann’s aesthetic religion. By their hands ‘objects of sacred devotion were produced which. 31. can be seen from his application of the theory of the transcendentals. Nevertheless they retain something of their cosmological character. Berliner Ausgabe. raising their work above itself and above the world of the senses. Goethe begins by stating that Winckelmann was an outstanding individual who – untypically for his day – sought ‘to grasp the external world with enthusiasm. and its true contentment is the production of new and refined ideas. 481–2. pp. which was of such importance during the Middle Ages. 469–520 (here p.33 Almost uniquely therefore Winckelmann’s ability to feel 30. or expressivity as cosmological indices. Although there is no explicit discussion of the interrelation of the good. Ibid. For the ancients. Art and the artist serve as the paradigm of the fully realised human being. The fact that Winckelmann privileges beauty above all else effectively removes the transcendentals from their Christian context (as the application of beauty primarily to art does from their Platonic one). xix (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. 480). ‘Winkelmann und sein Jahrhundert’. must have seemed like images of a higher nature. towards the end of his own life.. bestowed on these images noble ideas which lent wings to the imagination. another way was possible.32 Goethe laments the fragmentation of the human faculties. inspiring awe. 1973). vol. The first founders of religion. to establish a relationship with it. In an essay written in 1805. 32. . to inspire it’. . Ibid. the poets. Ibid. to unite with it to form a single whole’. his work is everywhere imbued with their values: the beauty of art simultaneously conveys the highest cognitive and instructional or ethical value. however. pp. predicated upon idealised ways of reading Greek culture.’30 It is the function of the artists to ‘overcome the hard object of matter and . with its origins in both classical and Christian culture. 33.Cosmological fragments 61 creatures has an innate tendency and desire to rise above the material world into the sphere of the mind. and argues that greatness in his own world is generally only achievable through ‘the purposeful application of individual faculties’ or ‘by combining several of his capacities’. in Goethe. . when all of an individual’s ‘resources are uniformly united within him’. reflecting upon the contemporary situation of humankind. that is. the true and the beautiful as such. Goethe draws out the distinctive quality of Winckelmann’s life and work in terms which derive both from antiquity and German Neoclassicism.

of comets and nebulae.62 The Creativity of God the unity of his innermost life with the world in its inexhaustible fullness marks him out as someone who lives according to an ancient pattern of life. p. would exult at having reached its goal. set more as a task to be accomplished than a state of affairs to be discerned or recognised. Ibid. Goethe expresses his achievement in distinctly cosmological terms: When the healthy nature of man functions as a totality. and marvel at the culmination of its own development and being. For what is the use of all the expenditure of suns and planets and moons. 489. and valued whole. of completed and developing worlds. which is the subtext of this paeon to Weimar classicism)36 to make available the unity of a new kind of cosmological thinking and feeling which is inspired not by the remnants of a biblical cosmology.. nor – for Goethe – by the Catholic neo-medievalism of the emergent Romantic movement. which inspired many in the traditions which followed Winckelmann.35 What Goethe in fact appears to be implicitly recognising is that the deepest problems of his age. 35. if at the end a happy man does not unconsciously rejoice in existence?34 Goethe unequivocally identifies this way of living. 36. when he feels himself in the world as in a vast. with ‘pagan’ religion which sets the human race within a different kind of cosmology from that which was available in the Christian Europe of his day. beautiful. or what he calls ‘an indestructible health’. and that the healing of this disjunction between self and world and their ultimate unity requires the brilliant vision of a Winckelmann (or indeed of Goethe himself. and the fragmentation of the human faculties which is the distinguishing characteristic of the modern. if it were capable of sensation. The purification of sight to the extent that the work of art becomes the medium for the discovery of a new depth or immediacy of reality is extensively present in 34. of stars and galaxies. p. It is the attainment of such a cosmology. It is useful to take this text alongside Schiller’s estimation of Goethe in Über naïve und sentimentale Dichtung as an artist in whose poetic genius opposites are unified. worthy. Ibid.. 482. Goethe specifically celebrates the fact that Winckelmann’s ‘baptism as a Protestant had not succeeded in Christianising his thoroughly pagan nature’. when a harmonious sense of well-being affords him pure and free delight – then the universe. are the product of a cosmological malaise. .

Jacobi and reason Like Hamann. moral – and indeed political – renewal of society. 38. which led to an undermining of the influence of rationalism through the discovery – communicated in Jacobi’s Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn (1785) – that Ephraim Lessing.37 For Schiller. 1996). one of the leading spirits of the rationalist movement. and becomes a place of resistance to the instrumentalisation of nature and the world. Mass. the final unity of the good. art effectively becomes the free. pp. Something of this same privileging of the work of art as representing the unification of what is ordinarily fragmented in human perceptions.: Harvard University Press. He too looked to a restoration. . 44–91. in Nietzsche. and as conveying ‘reality’ with an unparalleled immediacy. the true and the beautiful retains a certain force in what we might call the aesthetico-religious tradition. 1987). albeit in distinctively new terms. 34–68 and 206–48. especially pp. Winckelmann’s programme and Goethe’s Italienische Reise are perceptively compared by Jeremy Morrison in his Winckelmann and the Notion of Aesthetic Education (Oxford: Clarendon Press. In his aesthetic philosophy. was himself a Spinozist.38 Spinoza was read by some as a pantheist who offered support to a pietistic world-view which stressed the immediacy of 37. is apparent in the Hellenic tradition of German letters from Herder to Holderlin and. Jacobi is known in the history of ideas as one of the leading polemicists at a time when German thought and letters were a ferment of new ideas and perspectives. but it is present too in ¨ the modern period in the Erlebnisphilosophie of a hermeneutic philosopher such as Wilhelm Dilthey and in the aesthetics of Hans-Georg Gadamer.Cosmological fragments 63 Goethe’s account of his own Italian travels. by attaining a new freedom in the unity of the work of art. Goethe’s appeal for a unity of the faculties of the self grounded in the self’s own relation with the world finds one of its chief modes of realisation in Jacobi’s work. He played a major part in the ‘Spinoza controversy’. more remotely. the artist is the one who transcends the alienation between self and world. of the cosmological and with it a deep sense of the unity of the world and of the self within the world. creative basis for a programme leading to the aesthetic. too. ideas and the senses. A very thorough account of this episode in German letters is given by Frederick Beiser in his The Fate of Reason (Cambridge. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819) gives us valuable insights into philosophical possibilities which are at odds with the Kantian rationalism and its aftermath that so formed later tradition. In changed form.

. 9 (ET The Main Philosophical Writings. would lead inevitably to a form of absolute subjectivism. Spinoza was a dangerous atheist. and which was often linked with radical political movements of the day. Jacobi. like Fichte. Jacobi set out the leading points in his critique of Kant’s philosophy. Jacobi. the actual. 41.41 They are 39. Ibid. uniquely characteristic of humankind. For others. and trans. ¨ p. 1994). Spinoza was thus a philosophical representative of the new sciences of technology and mechanics. The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel ‘Allwill’ (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press. ed. p. the good and the beautiful. p. English translation in George di Giovanni. Jacobi himself. Beck. David Hume uber den Glauben. and to an abject fatalism. p. 540). which Jacobi in turn describes as ‘a knowing not-knowing’. or the explanatory causes of the way things are. F. following Bayle’s highly negative and fatefully influential assessment in his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique. ‘Representations’ alone constitute a kind of ‘negation of nothingness. 545). 580. H. In the Preface to the treatise David Hume on Faith which Jacobi added in 1815 for the version published in his collected works. He stressed that he saw in it an unnecessary and fatally contradictory disjunction between the role of understanding and reason. The deterministic kind of rationalism which Spinoza represented was one therefore which would inevitably lead to the extinguishing of faith in God and divine providence. free will and belief in the immortality of the soul. oder Idealismus und Realismus. a something that passes for mere “not-nothing” and would pass for plain “nothingness” if reason (which still retains the upper hand) did not forcibly prevent that’. Hamilton Beck ¨ (New York and London: Garland. as a transcendental perceptive faculty equal to that of understanding.40 These transcendental properties are possessed by reason as its objects of knowledge with an absolute certainty of ‘faith’. took Spinoza to be an apostle of reason and judged that his rationalism found its focus in an enquiry into the principle of sufficient reason. Jacobi’s account of Lessing’s confession that he was entirely in agreement with Spinoza raised the spectre that the rationalist philosophy of Moses Mendelssohn and others was self-contradictory and would inevitably lead to nihilism and the extinction of all human values. 40. 20 (ET p.64 The Creativity of God God’s presence in the world. The failure to emphasise the place of reason. The alternative to rationalism which Jacobi proposed was one which was grounded in a different understanding of the principle of reason. which had as its objects the true. p. . 1983). ed.. ed.39 Jacobi defined reason as the faculty. David Hume uber den Glauben. 102 [facsimile reproduction of 1787 edition and the Vorrede to the 1815 edition].

is not given in or through the appearances but with them in a way that is ‘mystical’ and ‘incomprehensible both to the sense and to the understanding’. in like manner it is of itself the most powerful testimony of its own truth.46 Jacobi evokes the notion of a unity of the faculties when he speaks of the ‘sense-sensation’ (Sinnes-Empfindung) or the ‘spirit-feeling’ (Geistes-Gefuhl) ¨ that attends the reception of that truth. They are communicated not through sensation (Empfindung).47 On one occasion he speaks of it as a ‘feeling of rapture’ as the mind receives what is beyond the senses ‘and yet 42. For a similar perspective. pp. 107 (ET p. which easily becomes internalised and subjectified. undermines the possibility of a world in which human beings might be free. 9–63 (ET pp.Cosmological fragments 65 the secure foundation of the actuality of the world such that it resists absorption into the self. See especially David Hume uber den Glauben. or a rationalism which saw no possibility of knowledge beyond that given by the senses (materialism). in its irreducible alterity. pp. which stressed the place of faith and the immediate experience of God. 553 and 551). ed. so too that actuality that reveals itself to that inward sense that we call reason needs no guarantor. p. 23 (ET p. 546). . especially the discussion of determinism and freedom in The First Introduction to the Wissenschaftslehre. and 570).42 Reason does not stand in opposition to understanding therefore but rather complements and contextualises it. Ibid. but through true perception (Wahrnehmung). 43. 563–4. 45.. the lack of which makes understanding of his argument impossible.. which – in Jacobi’s view – can yield only partial certainty. 76 (ET pp. Ibid.45 We know the world to be real not on account of its demonstrability. 47. 583). 39 and 34 (ET pp. but because of the mysterious way in which it communicates itself to us: Just as the actuality that reveals itself to the outer sense needs no guarantor. 44. 540–64).. of the Kantian thing-in-itself. see Fichte. ¨ 46. Beck. pp. p. since it is itself the most powerful representative of its truth.. a term of which Jacobi makes frequent use.44 His response was one which derived in part from a critique of Kantianism and in part from his debt to pietistic currents of thought in eighteenth-century Germany. for reason’s knowledge of its objects. Ibid. 59–63.43 Jacobi is important for recognising that a rationalism predicated purely upon the principle of sufficient reason and causal explanation (mechanism). or into a transcendental self. These two trajectories came together in the theme of revelation. Ibid.

so too the productive power originally inhabiting man is exalted above the power in him of reproducing after experience. Ibid. He follows Winckelmann in his belief that art imitates nature but attacks the notion that imitation entails reproducing Greek originals: ‘As if our learning 48. and therefore ultimately nihilistic. . Ibid. p.49 Reason in this sense is the essence of the self and the sole guarantor of the fullness of human life... He is a prophetic figure whose repeated criticisms of Kantian philosophy anticipated late approaches which were significantly at odds with Enlightenment values and assumptions (he was personally acquainted with Kant and was arguably the first to read the Critique of Pure Reason. Ibid. which will be a distinctive characteristic of the following centuries. he anticipates the work of Schleiermacher. calling worlds forth out of nothingness. 60 (ET p. 49. 113–14 (ET p. 564). which is the faculty by which we perceive the transcendentals. art’. wisdom. Hamann also stands within the tradition of German aesthetic philosophy. In this movement towards anthropology. 50.48 Jacobi’s interest for us in this section therefore is that he is one of the first to acknowledge that the rise of comprehensive systems of explanatory thought can close out aspects of the self and of the world which are integral to human existence.. is exalted above its echo eternally resonating in the endless appearance we call the universe. having received a copy prior to its publication). 563). and not merely imaginary’. his Aesthetica in Nuce became a classic text of the Sturm und Drang period and anticipates Romantic aesthetic philosophy in its insights. He employs the cosmological motif of the transcendentals as a way of restoring the sense of a world that is something other than human construction. which was also ¨ the home of Immanuel Kant. The alternative system of cognition which he proposes is one which draws explicitly upon the language of faith and of revelation. 585). and it is here that his thinking takes on an explicitly scriptural shape: Just as the Creator’s Word.50 Hamann and language Johann Georg Hamann (1730–88) was born at Konigsberg. But Jacobi is of interest also in that he recognises that eighteenthcentury rationalism is a form of evasion of the real. which in turn ground ‘freedom.66 The Creativity of God given as something truly objective. pp. p. 63 (ET p. But he does so by emphasizing the importance of reason. virtue.

His business affairs went badly in England and he underwent a personal and moral collapse. which Hamann develops in his early works on the grounds of a radical encounter with Scripture. by which he was able to reimage the relation between self and world. and embedding knowledge within the life of the senses: two themes which 51.Cosmological fragments 67 were purely an act of recollection. In the early autobiographical piece Thoughts on my Life’s Course. H. 1993). 343 (Nadler. S ¨amtliche Werke (Vienna: Herder. Johann Georg Hamann. His engagement with art has to be seen rather in terms of an entirely new concept of world. which both anticipates in its own way the anti-Kantian turn to language-centred views of reality and stands in a tradition of creation-centred semiotics which looks back to Origen and Augustine. as originating in the speech of God. But why should we linger with the honey-comb fountains of the Greeks and neglect the living well-springs of antiquity?’51 Hamann shares Winckelmann’s belief that art gives access to an unparalleled immediacy of experience. Werke. Oswald Beyer and Bernd Weissenborn (Munich: Verlag C. however. the voice of a murdered brother . He began to read the Bible repeatedly and intensively and. Hamann recounts his experience of conversion while reading Scripture. where he was a representative of the House of Berens. Aesthetica in Nuce (Josef Nadler. 1949–57). . 209). a merchant firm in Riga. 195–217. on 31 March 1758. p. p.. I heard a voice in its depths sighing and lamenting. that Hamann was linking nature with creation through divine speech. Between April 1757 and the summer of 1758 Hamann resided in London. had an experience of reading which led to a deep reorientation of his life. ii. This provides him with a powerful model for the nature of the world. The passage in which God says to Cain that the earth has opened its mouth to receive the blood of his brother Abel triggered in Hamann the sense that he was himself the murderer of Christ. many of the themes indicated here would be taken up again and developed more exhaustively in later works. and of our knowledge of the world.. .52 Between March and May of that year. 52. ed.’. his brother: ‘I felt my beating heart. It is already evident in the early Biblical Reflections. pp. vol. Beck. our attention is constantly drawn to the monuments of the ancients. vol. ed. to give form to the spirit through memory. 41). . but he does not structure this in terms of a revived classicism which becomes the skeleton of a new ‘religion of art’. prior to his departure from London. (here p. ii. as the voice of blood. ed. Londoner Schriften. Hamann wrote a number of brief works in which he began to outline a critical response to his experience of scriptural conversion.

1988). Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag. still remains beyond the capacities of the human mind to comprehend until aided by divine illumination. Hamann described nature as essentially enigmatic and incomplete: ‘Nature is the equation of an unknown grandeur. In his Socratic Memorabilia Hamann argues that the pre-Christian history of the Greeks is integrated within the cycle of historical revelation. Biblische Betrachtungen (Londoner Schriften. which is ‘the sole key which opens to us the knowledge of both’. ¨ 55. it is a Hebrew word which is written only in consonants.57 53. Werke. Brocken. pp. for God was the word. so nahe und leicht. so too history to open our ears’. pp. 31. Brief an Immanuel Kant (end of December. ‘nature’ and ‘scripture’ as distinct but related forms of divine revelation. vol. 25–33. Sokratische Denkwurdigkeikten. communication and coalescence of divine energies and ideas. however. pp. Briefe. 64). Arthur Henkel. p.68 The Creativity of God take on a particular importance for his distinctively scriptural cosmological thought on the one hand and for his contestation of Enlightenment reason on the other. ed. or textuality. p. ed. and therefore all the more intense unity. 54. 1759) ( Johann Georg Hamann.. It is Scripture. We can legitimately turn to the figure of Socrates therefore as someone who communicates much about the nature and content of divine revelation through his life and death. . 411). wie ein Kinderspiel. here p. history and nature are merely commentaries on the book of the Word of God. vol.54 In his remarks on nature. here p. iii. Des Ritters von Rosencreuz letzte Willensmeinung uber den g ¨ottlichen und menschlichen Ursprung der ¨ Sprache (Nadler. Everything which humankind first heard. inexpressible. Werke. 57. The passage continues with an affirmation of the origins of human language in the divine ‘Word’: ‘Mit diesem Worte im ¨ Mund und Herzen war der Ursprung der Sprache so naturlich. ii. whose pointing the mind must provide. Hamann stresses that entities in the world originate in the divine speech and are to be understood as types of divine ‘sign’: ‘Every phenomenon of nature was a word – the sign. § 3 (Londoner Schriften. symbol and pledge of a new. (Nadler.’56 The physicist’s knowledge of nature is only that of its ‘alphabetical’ character. so that ‘[ j]ust as nature is given in order to open our eyes. its full meaning. that provides the hermeneutical key to the creation.’55 In his correspondence with Immanuel Kant concerning the joint project of a book on physics for children which Kant had proposed.53 Hamann’s ‘theology of the world’ is predicated on an analogical system of thinking which aligns ‘history’. History communicates the revelatory through instruction. secret. saw with the eyes and touched with the hand was a living word. 32). ed. repeated throughout his works. 57–82.’ 56. as well as through his teaching. 65–271)..

pp. ii. ed. 61. as Author of the world.. who is in the bosom of the Father. will certainly sense the Spirit in Scripture. Hamann is thus first and foremost a scriptural pragmatist. . pp. ed. Aesthetica in Nuce (Nadler. which – according to a theology of creation – becomes the key to our understanding of the world. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart and Weimar: Verlag J. is ‘the best interpreter of his own words’. which God wished to reveal to human beings through persons’. all of which are grounded in the self-dispossessing act of divine revelation. since ‘none but the only-begotten Son.. iii. or akin to the revelatory. 59–96. Metzler. Werke. ed. has given an exegesis of his fullness and grace of truth’. This comes into view above all in the extent that he looks to the divine agency as the model or ground of human interpretation of the world in its truth. but rather in terms which are given by Scripture itself.’60 But it is Christ who is most fundamentally ‘the interpreter’ of the Father. p. which God wished to reveal to creatures through creatures.61 If it is the case that ‘the book of the creation contains exempla of general concepts. 128). Although he may point forward to modern hermeneutical philosophy. nonessentialist view of the world. i. nature and Scripture.59 The Spirit interprets the Spirit: ‘Whoever senses the Spirit of God in themselves. vol. Werke.58 Hamann’s position is certainly one of a radical hermeneutics which takes human experience to be itself revelatory. the first modern Christian perhaps to discover in a distinctively Jewish reading of Scripture the outline of a divinely creative. Golgotha and Scheblimini (Nadler. 59. – in everything there 58. This is to universalise the hermeneutical problem in a way that anticipates the work of Gadamer in the second half of the twentieth century.Cosmological fragments 69 The alignment between history. not now in the context of a hierarchically ordered universe of cosmic participation. 203–4). Schleiermachers Hermeneutik und Ihre Vorgeschichte im 18. Werke. 60. 315). B. 1994). But Hamann’s primary source is Scripture itself. Harald Schnur has argued that Hamann’s theological categories are fundamentally convertible into those of hermeneutics. and the human act of understanding to be integral to the emergence of world as meaning. vol. while the books of the Covenant contain exempla of secret articles. Nadler. lends Hamann’s work a distinctively cosmological aspect. 189. p. language-centred. vol. then it is Christ who seems to be the ‘Author’s unity’ which ‘is reflected in the dialectic of his works.. p. God. and that Hamann therefore holds an important place in the history of interpretation prior to Schleiermacher. See the useful discussion in Harald Schnur. Biblische Betrachtungen (Londoner Schriften. more fundamentally Hamann stands in close proximity to the pre-modern model of the cosmological-Christological sign.

ii. (Nadler. eyes. thoughts into words. p. p. which can be poetic or kyriological. ¨ 66. historical or symbolic or hieroglyphic’.63 The emphasis that Hamann lays upon the materiality of the world order as the place of God’s signifying self-communication with us leads to an unusually material understanding of human language as ‘an act of translation – from a language of angels into a human language. – images into signs. which are ‘symbolic’ or ‘hieroglyphic’). Hamann is an important figure for the modern world.. part ‘aesthetic’ and part ‘logical’: ‘as visible and audible objects they belong with their elements to the senses and to perception. in which Wachter uses the term ‘kyriological’ – from Greek meaning ‘direct’or ‘literal’ – to denote images of things (in contrast with images of what cannot otherwise be represented. Faith itself. 67. Werke.64 Words themselves have a double nature.. Metakritik uber den Purismum der Vernunft (Nadler. with multiple word plays and esoteric word formations. 304. Aesthetica in Nuce ¨ (Stuttgart: Philipp Reklam jun. but. 204). 244). – things into names. vol.. p. Nadler. 281–9. This typology derives from Johann Georg Wachter’s Naturae et Scripturae Concordia.. ii. vol. His dense and allusive texts. grounds and figures. ed. 65. i. vol. here p. which is to say.66 faith is thus ‘not a work of reason and cannot yield to its attack’. 74). vol.. Johann Georg Hamann. Hamann claims. Hamann argues that reason itself is bound up with language and thus with the senses in a way that determines it as tradition-centred on the one hand and as dependent upon experience on the other. 288). 213). pp. according to the spirit of their application and signification. they belong to reason and concepts’. Sokratische Denkwurdigkeiten. 88. 1968). ¨ . p. Werke. ed. and of feeling’. ed. See Sven-Aage Jørgensen’s commentary to the Aesthetica in Nuce. poets and prophets’. p. seem themselves to replicate his belief in the primacy of interpretation at the creative centre of the human experience of the real. ed. Sokratische Denkwurdigkeiten (Nadler. Werke. He passionately disputes the legitimacy of reason in abstraction from the senses and the world. despite the difficulty of his own preferred mode of expression. But. vol. is not based upon the operations of detached reason but rather upon ‘the testimony of the ears. 62. 64.70 The Creativity of God is a single note of immeasurable height and depth! A proof of the most glorious majesty and most comprehensive dispossession!’62 It is Christ in whom God addresses us after he has ‘exhausted himself through nature and Scripture.. Ibid. 63. and he embraces the sceptical philosophy of David Hume as showing the fragility of autonomous reason. ed. creatures and seers.67 Few works of the period are as stylistically demanding for the reader as those of Hamann. iii. ii. Werke.65 In his anti-Kantian text Metacritique of the Purism of Reason. p. Werke. Aesthetica in Nuce (Nadler. Biblische Betrachtungen (Londoner Schriften.

Cosmological fragments 71 A contemporary. But it is possible to assert in general that by the end of this period the human imagination and the intellect were set on separate trajectories and that the self. His scriptural cosmology. part human and part divine in its origins.68 And language itself. pp. The force of the New Age in our society. ed. Our increasing capacity to act directly upon the world through technologies of change only enhances the condition of our alienation and the uncomfortable awareness that we ourselves easily succumb to the very processes of manufacture and manipulation of which we are the agents. If the Kantian system served to secularise reason by loosening its connection with the metaphysical and the religious. as well as interest in the pre-technological cosmologies of pagan Europe or Native Americans. he sharply contested the rationalist’s abstraction of reason from the work of the senses and from language itself. was in some profound way cut adrift or exiled from the world. 68. of Immanuel Kant. focused upon language and thus interpretation in the act of knowing the world. of itself as creature intimately ordered to and participant in a world of God’s making. which was predicated upon an analogical field of resonance between history. even acquaintance. of extra-terrestrialism perhaps. no longer unified in itself by the sense of a cosmos. Reason that fails to understand its own language-centredness miscomprehends itself. iii. ¨ . then Hamann’s contribution was to embed reason again in the divinely created world order. Cf. but is to recognise that the ways in which these can be appropriated in terms of social and cultural formation of human communities whose everyday lives are deeply affected by them can – and indeed generally does – lead to a fragmentation within the self. 284–6). nature and God’s Word. vol. Conclusion The fundamental evolution in understanding of both self and world that took place between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is a process of enormous and untraceable complexity. of Gaia and deep ecology. against the background of just such a loss of cosmology and perceived need to restore it again in whatever ways become culturally available. at least in part. is the true medium of our knowing. Werke.. This is not to argue against technology and science. must be understood. Metakritik uber den Purismum der Vernunft (Nadler. part conceptual and part sensual in its structure.

and Hamann. selfhood and world. is in itself to risk building a Christian theology upon the implicit denial of what is perhaps the central tenet of the Christian faith: that God’s creativity radically and continuously shapes history. which is that Scripture itself can ground a revelatory understanding of the world and of the real and that the restoration of a scriptural cosmology – understood in the broadest and most flexible terms – can open new possibilities of imagining what it is to be alive in God’s world and therefore what it is to think and feel as God’s creature. Our inheritance from this period is immense. . Jacobi. But there is also a further inheritance here.72 The Creativity of God Whatever our general situation. seen most clearly in the work of Hamann but present too in Jacobi. We have received from them the idea that art is or can be a form of transcendence. writing at the point where the fragmentation of the faculties was developing apace. is the drafting of alternative possibilities: new ways of retrieving and living the cosmological. What we find in the work of Winckelmann. but precisely within the changed circumstance of the post-medieval world. not as a restatement of the medieval past. How can we affirm that God is creator of the world unless at the same time we have some sense of what it means for the world to be God’s creation? How can we be creatures of God unless the world itself exhibits and becomes expressive of the same power of divine creativity? The failure to see that – for the Christian – self and world must form a single unity. From them we have received the principles of ‘religious experience’ and of religious ‘intuitions’ as the inscription of the world order within the ‘spiritual’ faculties of the self. for Christian communities the loss of cosmology signals a deep incoherence.

II Scriptural cosmology .

.

who is the meaning of the text.! 1. and we learn new modes of speaking and listening. ethical and legal codes. and thus upon the act of reading itself. But Scripture is also something other than the testimony of others. Our own voices enter the voices of others who have been reformed by the power of divine speech. A further. proclamations and affirmations. Through our reading of Scripture. songs. practised at a [75] . stories. historical narratives. prophecies and parables. Old and New Testament are canonical compilations of hymns. and all their host by the breath of his mouth Psalm 33 ∧ . in and through the creative power of the divine Word. dramatic interludes. as a witness to God’s unfolding presence in history. we come to inhabit utterances that are already shaped by the divine communicative presence. is the one through whom all things were made. dialogues. which are inwardly shaped by divine speaking.v \Wr<W Wc ≈{ !ªr§ h™hπ r 9G– ` ≈ ù v ≈ By the word of the Lord the heavens were made. defining particularity of scriptural reading is that we read in Scripture of how Christ himself. aetiologies and genealogies. Scriptural reading is the slow learning of these new practices of speaking. This is the distinctive characteristic of Scripture.4 Speech revealed . Scripture stands at the heart of the self-communication of God in history since biblical texts make present kinds of human speaking which are interpenetrated by and formed within the creative rhythms of revelatory divine speech. for it opens up to us new ways of speaking.≥AlŁ wyá. that it is constituted as a form of testimony. texts of thanksgiving and celebration. This is to make a claim upon the world itself.

‘Altisraelitische Sprachauffassungen in der Hebr ¨aischen Bibel’. 3–25. Geschichte der Sprachtheorie.. see also Wolfgang Schenk. To read the scriptural text appropriately. since the act of speaking implies the presence not only of the one who speaks but also of the one who is spoken to: orality commands proximity. No other text lays claim to the world. On language in the Old Testament. Where we begin to understand that this is the character of its textuality. in Sylvain Auroux. vol. is to read it in a way that is therefore different from any other text. then the possibility of a scriptural cosmology. senses and feeling. . ‘La th ´ematique du langage dans la Bible’. ‘Language Consciousness in the Old Testament’. and respond to that invitation. 1991). which is to say. That presence-with is furthermore an intimate one. pp. 185–204. And so each and every act of reading. Therefore we can discover in reading Scripture that the Word precedes us and is already present in this particular act of reading. every attempt to make sense of and to find meaning in the world of which we are a part. Djamel-Eddine Kouloughli. ii: Sprachtheorien der ¨ abendl ¨andischen Antike (Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.. 1989).76 The Creativity of God particular point in space and time. Histoires des id ´ees linguistiques. While there is no apprehension in these verses of a creatio ex nihilo. ed. and thus to the space between ourselves and itself. 65–78 (here p. Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft ¨ 92 (1980). as the divine text pervades our mind. is discovered to be a sharing in the creativity of the divine Word. and Werner Weinberg. as it invites us to read it. pp. in Peter Schmitter. we discover that the world we inhabit is already fashioned at its depths in the very same creative Word of God which manifests in the text. ed. vol. The eight acts of creation which occur between Genesis 1:1 and 2:4 can reasonably be said to be an unfolding of 1. Mosaic dialogues What we may call the linguistic paradigm of the creation of the world begins with an important passage which extends from Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 (generally regarded as the work of the priestly source). begins to emerge.1 The act of speaking itself manifests the divine creativity and does so in a way which communicates the presence of God with his creation. we can discern here a sense of the presence of God as manifest in and through a sequence of divine speech acts. for which we should look to a later period when a more overtly metaphysical way of thinking engaged with the creation narrative. 66). i: La naissance des m ´etalangages en Orient et en Occident (Li `ege and Brussels: Pierre Mordaga. in its own terms. as a way of making sense of the world from the perspective of the creative spirit-breath of God. Furthermore.

Gen. The world itself is called into existence by the power of divine reference implicit in y hî (‘let there be . 3. . and finally ‘human kind’. it bestows not just proximity but even the spatio-temporal parameters which enable proximity. Normally speech is a kind of relation which grows out of a spatio-temporal proximity (the speaker has to be heard by those who are spoken to or with).Speech revealed 77 a relationship which is already constituted in the initial act of speaking.’). 1:22 and 28. anticipating the parameters of the Covenant.3 The occurrence of blessing and of the imperative at this point sets up a new kind of relation between God and the created order. shows successive stages or degrees of realisation of the generative intimacy which is intrinsic to the originary speech act. which is the jussive form of the verb h ˆay ˆah (‘to be’). The process of linguistic generation which is embodied in the opening verses of the Genesis narrative. Just as divine speaking entails the creation of an intimate space in which speaker and listener share a physical reality (rather than deriving from it). This device serves to interweave the narrator’s own voice with the divine speech. the dome to separate ‘the waters from the waters’. and which is continued in later texts. with liturgical effect. God blesses firstly all the living creatures and then humankind. affirming the creative potency of God’s words through an answering human response. Here the institutionary and cosmological function of the divine jussives gives way to modes of divine speech which establish a relation between living creatures and God within 2. lights in the dome ‘for signs and for seasons’ and ‘to give light upon the earth’. in the case of divine speaking. Gen. since the narrator’s voice is moulded to the divine speaking with deep religious feeling. commanding them to be ‘fruitful’ and to ‘multiply’. and who participate in it. The narrative of the unfolding creation is itself the performance of its own content.2 On each occasion the Priestly source matches the y hî (‘let there be’) with wa y hî (‘and there was’). however. 1:3–20. ‘swarms of living creatures’ in the waters and birds that ‘fly above the earth’. the gathered waters. . The sequence of jussives establishes a cosmology by instituting successively the existence of light. the structured world is born. vegetation. are conceived. Out of the will of God to exercise intimacy in speech. so too divine reference entails the creation of world as that to which it refers. . and the human race as the creatures who receive the divine speech. the dry land. Following the cosmological institution.

5. Norbert Samuelson takes it here in the sense of ‘appointing’ or putting something under the authority of another. .5 This can itself be read as offering an internal thematisation of the process of creation-donation which takes place in these same words. they share in the divine creativity. which is to say. Note also the human power of giving blessing. the different varieties of vegetation under the authority of humankind (Norbert M.4 Following the blessing and the imperative at verse 28. however. which – as indexical features of language – are entirely empty of reference until filled out in a specific speech act. The creationist subtext is apparent in the resonance of the name YHWH which contains an allusion to h ˆay ˆah. this same blessing and command is linked with God’s bestowal of ‘dominion’ over creatures. I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of the earth . in this case subjectivity both divine and human. or personal pronouns. heightening the reflexivity of the text. . who are made in ‘the image and likeness’ of God. The episodes at Exodus 3:1–15 and 33:12–23. but they are also set within the context of the granting of the commandments on Sinai and the freeing of the people of Israel from their captivity in Egypt. The idea of a human participation in divine powers is further strengthened by the account at Gen.: Scholars Press. this is one of obedience and divine control which affirms their reproduction and flourishing. thus hinting that humankind. 2:18–20 of Adam’s naming of ‘every living creature’. Law and Liberation do not constitute an entirely new departure in the history of God’s relation with Israel. p. The First Seven Days. In the case of humans. The second stage in the deepening creativity of divine speech comes in the Exodus account of God’s self-naming. God says to humanity: ‘See. occurs within the perfect verbal form ‘I give you’ (NRSV: ‘I have given you’). In the case of non-human creatures. Samuelson. .78 The Creativity of God that cosmology. 132–3). A Philosophical Commentary on the Creation of Genesis (Atlanta. This is not the metamorphosis of the Creator God into the God of Covenant but rather the unfolding of the primary divine act of creation: salvation in history and the formation of an ethical community around the commandments of God are both modalities of divine creativity. We may note in particular that their function as signalling subjectivity. express a heightened mutuality between God and humanity. This verb is used first at Gen. Their nature is to be interchangeable. 1992). in which God declares himself to Moses. ’ This marks the first use of shifters. But these themes of Covenant. in a sense. participate in the divine sovereignty: perhaps even. 1:17. and their use here in the divine speech at verse 29 represents an intensification of the communicative mutuality of humanity and God. Ga. meaning 4.

here p. 12:4 comes in a passage that is notoriously unclear: ‘He strove with the angel and prevailed.. 33–4). who form his lineage.” La r ´ev ´elation des Noms dans le r ´ecit biblique’. 9:13). Proclamation and Presence (London: SCM Press. 1970). R. God’s compassionate. Porter. he met him at Bethel. YHWH as name of God richly resonates with the opening verses of Genesis. Its occurrence in these passages from Exodus. ‘The Revelation of the Divine Name YHWH’. 565–76. Briggs.v. however. It does occur in Aramaic. but his purpose is to establish whether he is conversing with God or not: ‘If now I have found favour with you. Exod.’ The LXX correction of ‘with him’ to ‘with us’ shows the confusion over the subject of . 3.8 Accordingly. e. 6. 8. 22:19). God’s self-naming to Moses at this point represents a new and fuller realisation of the mutuality of language that has been inaugurated in the Genesis narrative. Gideon also uses ‘speaking with’ in his conversation with the angel. Durham and J. Suggested meanings for ehyeh a ˇser ehyeh include ‘I am that I am’. l’un assumant une fonction d’ ´emetteur et l’autre de r ´ecepteur’ (St ´ephane Mos `es. s. Olivetti. ou encore. ‘I shall be who I shall be’ and ‘I am He who is’. 10. pp. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. or ‘speaking with’. Driver and C. 24:27 (NRSV: ‘all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us’. 19–20. The occurrence at Josh. 7. Brown. The occurrence in Hos. It shapes Moses as one who ‘speaks with God’.. but the use of ‘speaking with’ is generally reserved for Moses’ relation with God. 574). see Roland de Vaux. For every usage of d ˆab ˆar im in the Old Testament. and it is important to note that God’s self-naming is also in a sense the naming of Moses. where the concern is with the liberation of Israel. ed. 1994). 33:11–12.10 It needs to be contrasted with d ˆab ˆar el and d ˆab ˆar l (‘speaking to’). as is Ezra’s reference to ‘speaking with’ in his National Confession (Neh. S. See de Vaux.9 The verbal phrase d ˆab ˆar im. who discovers from God in this moment the names of his ancestors. in Marco M. His preferred option is ‘I am He who is. is infrequently attested in the Old Testament and is used almost exclusively to describe Moses’ encounter with God at the granting of the commandments on Sinai (Exod. pp. 9. eds. LXX: pros h ¯emas) is in the context of remembrance of the Covenant. and is expanded at Exodus 3:14 as ehyeh a ˇser ehyeh and as ehyeh. From now on God speaks with Moses ‘face to face’ and knows him ‘by name’. ‘ “Je serai qui je serai. and there he spoke with him.Speech revealed 79 ‘to be’. 3:14 as signifying God’s liberating presence with his people in the phrase: ‘Dans la formule “Je serai ˆ qui je serai” le pronom relatif marque la distance qui `a la fois s ´epare et relie les deux poles du processus de R ´ev ´elation l’un actif et l’autre passif.’ St ´ephane Mos `es reformulates the talmudic reading of Exod. in John I. R.6 One possible reading of YHWH is as the causative form of h ˆay ˆah. 6:17). Abraham. It is also used once to refer to God speaking with Balaam (Num. liberating intervention in Israel’s history. he wept and sought his favour. A. see F. 61–3. although this is not attested in classical Hebrew. then show me a sign that it is you who speak with (d ˆab ˆar im) me’ (Judg. Filosofia della Rivelazione (Padua: Casa Editrice Dott.. Isaac and Jacob.7 But whatever its original derivation may be. pp. In his authoritative discussion of the philological issues which underlie this text. and the performance of divine speech which is the modality of divine presence with and for Israel. Antonio Milani. 48–75. ‘Revelation’. eds. suggests a continuity between God’s act of creation. See also notes 26 and 27 below.

12. Deut. Hosea: a Theological Commentary (New York: Harper and Row. Here again. trans. But the Old Testament shows another form of participative speech. Stansell (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. The encounter between God and Moses narrated in the Book of Exodus represents a new stage in the realisation of a divine intimacy with the created order. however. Ward. and can be contrasted with that experienced by Moses. Mays. Cf. 122–3). 1966). but see also Hans Walter Wolff. the phrase d ˆab ˆar b is used both of God’s speaking to Miriam and Aaron. which is the speech of prophets. therefore. 1:13 and 14. 32:4 and 34:3. the subject must be God (Hosea (London: SCM Press. 11. Exod. the prepositions l and especially el are preferred). 1969). 210. a further possible meaning of the phrase as ‘to speak to’. The phrase rendered as ‘speak through’ here is d ˆab ˆar b . where it refers to an uncomfortably intimate encounter of Zedekiah king of Judah with the king of Babylon. p. 164). 1974). so that he bears a unique authority to interpret God’s will. Edinburgh: T. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers (International Critical Commentary. According to James L. G. the last two of which accord with the immediate contexts of this passage in which the indwelling of God in the speech of prophets is at issue. pp.12 If the medium of God’s communication with the latter is that of non-verbal visions and dreams. 33:11 (‘face to face’). Moses himself is the supreme prophet. which has given commentators some food for thought. 212–13.80 The Creativity of God which are more usually used of God’s address. is a linguistic inflection of intensified mutuality and deepening creation. and James M. p. in which Aaron and Miriam challenge the primacy of Moses: ‘“Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”’ (NRSV). 34:10 (‘face to face’). . Hosea. 1903). ‘to speak in’ or ‘to speak through’. as noted above. and thus ‘clearly’. The form ‘mouth to mouth’ is found also at Jer. The distinction between Moses and the prophets is itself the theme of a passage from Numbers (12:1–9). Martin Noth has suggested that the meaning here is that they speak ‘as the verbs in 4b. although this is uncommon in the Old Testament (where. and possibly at Hab. B. It can equally well mean ‘to speak against’. Gray. pp. in contrast with God’s address to Miriam and Aaron. but the addition of ‘face to face’ (literally ‘mouth to mouth’) suggests that God’s encounter with Moses is rather an intimate speaking with him than to him. speaking with him directly. and to Moses. It seems to have this sense at Zech. There is. 2:1. then God communicates with Moses in words. George Buchanan Gray suggests that it expresses ‘a closer and more intimate conversation than l and el (G. & T. the verbal phrase ‘speaking with’. and its expression.11 God replies that whereas he speaks to the prophets ‘in visions’ and ‘in dreams’. Clark. but still his status is like no other. he speaks to Moses ‘face to face – clearly not in riddles’ (v. 8).

16. 1 Sam. 22. prophetic speech seems forcibly to replace his own natural words. 1:1. 10:1.16 The role of the prophet is to act as vehicle for divine interventions in the formation of Israel as the holy people of God.15 In the case of Jeremiah. 8:11. 6:8. Hag. Amos and Joel give voice to criticism of clerical practices. who declares to Israel: ‘[W]hat does the Lord require of you but to do justice. 33:22. 1 Kings 18:17–19. rescue the oppressed. Numbers. 1 Sam. his own natural speech fails him. 12:24–5.14 Prophetic activity is in general marked by the attendance of the Spirit of God (according to Moses). Jer. Num. Judg. 1968). 14. as Elijah rebukes King Ahab for his idolatry. where these seem purely ritualistic and are unaccompanied by a genuine personal devotion. while Samuel is at hand to anoint both Saul and David.17 But Samuel will also berate Saul for his disobedience to the divine command. 4:10. Ezek. 23:1–12. Exod. . to love kindness. Isa. Isa. 11:13. 19. Jeremiah and Hosea give witness to the intimacy. Martin Noth. 1 Sam. 18. plead for the widow’. they call attention to the discrepancy between the divine caritative imperatives and the actual practices of social and political life in Israel. and for Balaam. p. 33:18–23. Mic.19 As commissioned guardians of the Covenant. Exod. Samuel calls upon Israel to serve the Lord faithfully. 96. 1:4. defend the orphan. Isa. London: SCM Press.Speech revealed 81 men of equal rank speak with another’. 4:4–24. 33: 12.13 Such an intimacy of communication entails a privileged knowledge of God. Ezek. Joel 2:13.18 Prophets such as Isaiah.20 This tradition is summed up by the eighth-century prophet Micah. 16:12–13. 17. as signalled by the final line of God’s reply to Miriam and Aaron that Moses ‘beholds the form of the Lord’. 11:16–30. See also the statement that God knows Moses ‘by name’ (Exod. self-sacrifice and struggles of faith in their own lives and Ezekiel – like Moses – intercedes for Israel before God. Amos 5:23–4. like Moses. 15. and to walk humbly with your God?’21 The prophetic theme entails a call to righteousness and the exercise of an active compassion. while Isaiah instructs Israel to ‘seek justice. 1 Sam. A Commentary (The Old Testament Library. 1:10–14. prophecy shows that the divine presence which is given 13. 20. Ezekiel. 15:10–35. 17). or by some other divine sign such as the ‘hand of God’ (Ezekiel) or the ‘occurrence’ of the Word of God to the prophet (Jeremiah). Num. 1:16–17. Cf. 10:6. Deborah gives inspired military advice to Barak in his struggle with King Jabin of Canaan.22 As a participation in the divine speech. 21.

Seba ot. translated. when all shall be called to account for their actions. Elohim and Yahweh. is itself structured as compassion.27 But there is also a clear theological rationale at work in what we might call this fourfold 23.24 And it is the prophets who warn Israel of the impending ‘day of the Lord’. Clark. 129–42. 33:19 and 34:6. & T. Edinburgh: T. MSC (The Aramaic Bible 2. and I am he who will again be at your aid in every generation. p. And he said: Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: “I AM ( HYH) sent me to you. The righteous. 1997). creativity and compassion: First Gloss: ‘The Memra of the Lord said to Moses: He who said to the world: “Be”.g. while those who fail to show such compassion to the weak and vulnerable in society must face God’s anger. and which is an intrinsic part of the divine creativity.” ’ (Targum Neofiti 1: Exodus. Deut. ed. 19. to the ‘widow. We find the identification of the name YHWH with God’s quality of compassion in the passage from the Rabbah on Exodus (3:14): Rabbi Abba bar Mammel said: God said to Moses: I am called according to my acts. E. who shall be blessed. 1994). 18:15–22. compassion. speech and presence is repeatedly brought out in early rabbinic sources. 27. The true prophet is known by his or her ability to tell the future. 3:14 from the Targum Codex Neophiti exemplify the connection between divine speech. When I judge creatures. are ‘gracious and compassionate’. Two marginal glosses on Exod.” ’ Second Gloss: ‘I have existed before the world was created and have existed after the world has been created. in both Targum and Midrash. orphan and stranger’. Fowl. and it will be.82 The Creativity of God with language. In the former it is expressed through the use of the divine Memra.. presence-with. the connection is made through the identification of YHWH as the appropriate name of God to be used where God’s compassion is to be highlighted. Zeph.25 The link between divine creativity. Classic and Contemporary Readings (Oxford: Blackwell. And he said: Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: “WHO I AM ( HYH) has sent me. I am called . ‘Three Post-Critical Encounters with the Burning Bush’. I am he who has been at your aid in the Egyptian exile. 3:1–17. but the human life which is lived out within the Covenant is one which is orientated to the suffering other. pp. 24. which is the hypostasised ‘speech’ or ‘word’ of God which is present during the creation narrative from Genesis. 25. See Peter Ochs. For the ‘graciousness’ and ‘compassion’ of God. At times I am called El Shaddai. in Stephen E.23 Furthermore. 26. The Theological Interpretation of Scripture. the prophetic voice contains a certain knowledge about the operation of divine justice where the call to righteousness and compassion is not heeded. translation slightly adapted). 1:7. just as the God of Exodus has revealed himself to be ‘gracious and compassionate’. Not only does God’s self-naming in Exodus take place within the context of God’s compassionate and liberating action on behalf of his people. and who again will say to it: “Be”.26 In the latter. and it came into being. with Introduction and Apparatus by Martin McNamara. see in particular Exod.

This linguistic-creative process of the Old Testament culminates in the conversation.Speech revealed 83 unity. especially at Exodus 3:1–17. but is rather enfolded within language which acquires revelatory functions. I am called El Shaddai. . etc. Nicholas Wolterstorff offers a discerning account of ‘the claim that God speaks’. or voice. within it as well as a divine author who stands outside it. I am called Seba ot. ‘you’. By creating the world through speech. God too must become an ‘I’. and when I show compassion for my world. (S. p. I am called Yahweh.29 God’s own statement that he is ‘gracious’ and ‘compassionate’ in the Exodus narratives. 67). God himself becomes part of that world. acting and knowing.). Paul Ricoeur captures this well in his comment ‘we can affirm that the theology of Creation constitutes neither an appendix to the theology of Redemption nor a separate theme. but this is also the point at which God allows Godself to inhabit the same realm of personal speaking. But the sharp distinction which Wolterstorff makes between ‘revelation’ and ‘speaking’ (Chapter two: ‘Speaking is not Revealing’) in terms of the human world tends to exclude the significance of the Genesis narrative as establishing the institutory or originary nature of divine speaking as ground of the world in which God also ‘speaks’. Thinking Biblically. when I forgive sins. 1998). who is to be God’s agent in his intervention for the sake of his people. Between the two is intercalated the eternal now of the “you. where there is a link with the divine name. or ‘speaking with’. 1995). This kenotic. revelatory movement is necessarily a saving moment. Lehrman. leading to blessing and command.28 In making of us an ‘I’. that takes place on Mount Sinai between God and Moses. for the divine presence of itself redeems and liberates as it enters and shapes the human condition in a deepening creativity. The linguistic structure of the cosmological institutionary narrative in Genesis entails a deepening mutuality between God and the created order. grounded in the mutuality which inheres in language as such. 33:19 and 34:6. as a figure. and then also a ‘me’ (as receiver of action). This interpenetration of the world by God comes into view as a shared subjectivity at the point where God first speaks with humanity in a way which entails the use of ‘shifters’. God too must enter the realm of human speaking. when I wage war against the wicked. ‘we’. In his Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. in Andr ´e LaCocque and Paul Ricoeur. love me!”’ (‘Thinking Creation’. Such an active penetration by God into the heart of human history implies a particular structure of revelation. 1961). 28. The always-already-there of Creation does not make sense independently of the perpetual futurity of Redemption. Divine presence here is not exercised from outside language. Midrash Rabbah iii (London: The Soncino Press. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Elohim. 64). M. p. by some sovereign and independent agent. Thus human beings come into existence as creatures to whom it is given to possess the subjectivity presupposed by the personal pronouns (‘I’. 29. As a God whose speaking is originary and creative of the world.

So fashioned is the human nature of Christ by the divine nature. The person and activity of Jesus of Nazareth is repeatedly linked in the Gospels with the Greek words splanchna and splanchnizomai which translate the Old Testament rah mîm (compassion) and raham (to show compassion) respec. 15:32. .30 As the Word of God uttered to humanity.’31 30. 15:11–32). the structure of the hypostatic union is that of the closing of the communicative distance between God and Moses. 8:2. The hypostatic union entails the full realisation of God in the world as an ‘I’ and thus also as a ‘me’. so internalised within the divine speech dynamic. 1:78). 14:14. as we do with him. 7:13. however intimate. so that now. heals and raises the dead. God and humanity speak with a single voice. This pivotal revelatory movement bears the marks of the Genesis–Exodus account of the creation in that Jesus Christ is recognised as ‘the compassion of God’. 31. Jesus. 20:34. and he shows active compassion when he teaches. 9:22. tively. Viewed against the background of the Mosaic dialogue in which God speaks with Moses ‘mouth to mouth’. Mk 1:41. whereby God becomes himself fully the object of others’ actions. that now God inhabits the voice of the man. Lk. 10:25–37. Jn 14:10. enters fully into the linguistic world by himself becoming an embodied speech agent among other speech agents. Trinitarian speech The third stage in the unfolding of the linguistic institution of creation comes with the Incarnation. and Jesus inhabits the voice of God. 9:36. Jesus is ‘the compassion of the mercy of our God’ (Lk. feeds the hungry. but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Jesus is also the realisation of the divine compassion.84 The Creativity of God points to the deep logic of this divine self-communication and summarises its content. These terms are used only of Jesus himself or of figures in three separate parables who represent divine forgiveness and mercy (Matt. 18:23–35. who already uses the ‘I’. Lk. in Jesus Christ. At this point God. In the person of Christ. Matt. 6:34. in a radically new coexistence of person and speech. . The ‘envoicing’ of Jesus by God is manifested in the many passages from the Gospel of John in which the authority of Jesus is at issue: ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own. God speaks with us.

And the speaking with returns not as a mode of dialogue between God and humanity (Moses) but as a mode of conversation between God and God. Through the new oneness of God and humanity. Son and Spirit. the Threeness of God comes into view. in and through Father. In other words. Just as the Old Testament is substantially structured around the divine disclosures through the prophets concerning Israel’s histories and futures. Thus we can in a sense say that while divine speaking through the prophets shaped the history of Israel as God’s people. The exception to this is the development of divine speech in the Johannine tradition. 122–8. in the New Testament history itself is taken up into the redemptive drama of divine speech. 33. the New Testament narrative is built around a dialogue or conversation between Father and Son. the human nature of Jesus – is permeated by and made one with the divine life. On the one hand. as the Trinity unfolds in history. while on the other it leads to the emergence of a plurality of divine voices. inner-Trinitarian discourse of total transparency. The speaking of Father and Son with each other occurs at critical points in the Gospel narrative. in which the Spirit too plays a vital role. where revelation is understood to be something revealed by one to another. See below.Speech revealed 85 The unity of the human and divine voice conveys a communication by God to humanity which is so perfect that the recipient of the revelation of God – which is to say. communication and surrender. at Gethsemane and on the Cross. what is revealed in the Incarnation of the Word is itself a mode of speaking: a polyphonic. which becomes the content of God’s speaking in Jesus. for a discussion of the redemptive and sacrificial characteristics of this unity. pp. It has moreover two consequences. on the other.33 In the former the emphasis 32. where the communication of the Father and the Son takes on a more fully conversational . Father and Son Speech between the Father and Son in the Synoptic tradition is divided into two groups of texts: the affirmations of baptism and transfiguration on the one hand and the tortured speech of the Passion narrative. The Incarnation is not just revelation by virtue of its content but is itself the supreme form of revelation as such.32 Tradition expresses this in terms of homoousios and the Chalcedonian unity of the two natures in the person Jesus. in so far as their unfolding relation is itself integral to the Gospel drama and divine speech is itself central to that relation. it leads to the unity of Jesus and God expressed in the single voice.

164). Matt. the Beloved. as he rose out of the waters after his baptism by John. we may assume that it was addressed to the Father and that Jesus therefore was implicitly ‘raising his voice to heaven’. 35. . The Gospel of Luke (NIGTC. is there anything of the sense of a radical intrusion such as we tend to find in the commissioning narratives of the prophets. The text also supports the sense ‘You are my only Son . It marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the Father’s words ‘You are my Son. glorify your name’). and in all three Synoptic Gospels immediately precedes the account of the temptations of Jesus which are associated with his messianic mission. p. Both are symmetrically aligned with Jesus’ rising from the water. Exeter: Paternoster Press. 36. and both come ‘from heaven’. or with his prayer. The baptism of Jesus plays a particularly important role in signalling the new dispensation. intensified in Luke by the phrase ‘in bodily form like a dove’. In the account of the descent of the Spirit given in the Gospel of John (1:32–4). the Beloved. The symmetry of Jesus’ upward movement and the downward movement of the Spirit which we find in Mark and Matthew is replaced in the Lucan account by a reference to Jesus’ act of prayer.86 The Creativity of God is upon the Father who speaks with the Son (although Jesus’ life is one of prayer to the Father). Lk. Lk. p. following his baptism. . . with whom I am well pleased’). Rather. and the sounding of the divine voice.35 The first sign of that new dispensation is the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus. Mk 1:11. 3:22. Although we are not told anything about the content of that prayer. and the pericope narrated at Jn 12:27–36. ’.34 John recognises in Jesus his successor who is to baptise not with water but in the Holy Spirit. while in the latter it is the Son’s speaking with the Father that comes to the fore. Mk 1:9–11. with you I am well pleased’ (Matthew: ‘This is my Son. the motif of the baptism has disappeared. which may be preferable (I. in which Jesus says to the Father ‘Father. 3:21–2. ’. Luke 1–9:20 (Word Biblical Commentary 35A.36 which conclude the baptism narrative. of which the baptism of Jesus is an expression. Dallas. 3:17. 34. a common construction in the Septuagint. In neither version. the emphasis is upon a pre-existing mutuality. however. . The pericope differs from commissioning narratives also in that the descent of the Spirit and the sounding of the divine voice are closely linked within the narrative structure of all three accounts. Howard Marshall. The visibility of the Spirit. 1989. Texas: Word Books). In Luke and Mark the syntax allows the alternative reading: ‘You are my beloved Son . the Old Testament form (see the Lazarus episode in which the speech of the Father is silent. together suggest a coinherence of the Third Person with the Father’s act of communication with the Son. as has the sounding of the voice of God. 3:13–7. Matt. . followed by the sounding of a voice ‘from heaven’. 1978). 156 and John Nolland.

Ps. An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (3rd edn. Lk. ‘Le bapt ˆeme de J ´esus’. Isa. 128–9. Mk 9:2–8. Feuillet. Ps. 738. But see also Joel Marcus. and we do not find eudok ¯esa for ‘delights in’ (as in the three Synoptic accounts) but the weaker prosedexato (‘welcome’ or ‘accept’). Nadab and Abihu – are perhaps a type of Jesus’ three companions on Mount Tabor: Peter. The use of the aorist here may be ‘equivalent to a Hebrew stative perfect. Mark 1–8 (The Anchor Bible. which state that it occurred after six days (although Luke prefers eight days). today I have begotten you. 163). expressed in the bestowing of the Spirit upon God’s servant.38 In the Septuagint. 739–40.40 At this point. expressing God’s continuing delight in his Son’ (see Matthew Black. 40. 24:16. 12:18 substitutes eudok ¯esa for prosedexato. p. 42. 2:7: ‘I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me. enacting his relational and affective ‘delighting in’.43 This typology may underlie the opening of the transfiguration accounts in Mark and Matthew. Matt. who sees here a prior election of Jesus by the Father which is ‘ratified at the baptism’ (Joel Marcus. the phrase eudok ¯esa en often has the sense of ‘to take pleasure or delight in’.39 The Greek verb also has a volitional and social force. recalling Moses’ shining face when he descended to 37.”’ 38. Moses’ three companions on Mount Sinai – Aaron. by assimilation perhaps to Matt. 39. Oxford: Oxford University Press. For a more general discussion of the background to the baptism of Jesus.42 In Exodus we are told that the glory of the Lord rested on Sinai for six days.Speech revealed 87 theme of adoption into a filial relationship with God (cf. 2:7) is evoked together with the ‘servant of God’ motif as developed in Isaiah 42:1– 9. 43. Revue Biblique 71 (1964). Ibid. James and John. p. perhaps because of a potential clash with the Johannine development of the theme of glorification.). Gottlob Schrenk. Matthew tells us that Jesus’ ‘face shone like the sun’. 321–51. however. sets out a historical and social reality between Father and Son based upon election and consensus. ii pp. the Father reiterates his affirmation of the Son. Exod. Similarly.37 The latter conveys the intense and intimate affirmation in a moment of divine election. . 1967). The transfiguration itself does not find a place in the Gospel of John. pp. 17:1–13. . The quotation of this same passage from Isaiah in Matt. the Father’s spoken affirmation of his Son. 42:1 differs from the baptism of Jesus however in that the word pais (‘servant’) is used and not huios (‘son’).41 In the account of the transfiguration of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. translating the Hebrew verb r ˆas ˆah. vol. New York: Doubleday. 3:17. 41. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. and can mean ‘to consent to’ as well as conveying the sense of ‘election’. 9:28–36. 1999).. see A. ii. and that the voice spoke to Moses on the seventh day. “You are my son. but in this case the context is more explicitly one of continuity with Old Testament tradition.

David and the suffering servant. elected) recalls the use of eklektos in the Septuagint to describe Moses. yet not what I want but what you want. which is the Old Testament ‘cup of staggering’ or ‘cup of wrath’ that God in his anger gives his errant people to drink. as well as its resonances with the historical Exodus. however. See also R. it is the voice of the Son that we hear. Matt. 384–5. . ‘Gouter le calice de la mort’. Biblica 43 (1962). and calls out (in Matthew’s version) ‘My Father. 46.88 The Creativity of God the people from Sinai. if it is possible. 26:39. 42:1. for it is to be a death which expresses humanity’s alienation from God. 51:17. Isa. which is shaped around the Father’s silence 44. Jesus prays fervently. A. pp. The Father’s final affirmation of the Son in the words ‘This is my Son. In the account of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane from all three of the Synoptic Gospels. 177–92. 48. Isa. struggling with fear at what is to come. 34:29–35. The sense of Jesus’ isolation becomes yet more intense in the crucifixion passages which follow. Cf. Brongers. together with Elijah.’47 The theme of Jesus’ isolation is stressed as the disciples fail to be with him in his need.46 closely links this pericope with the baptism of Jesus. Luke’s preferred word eklelegmenos (chosen. Oudtestamentische Studi ¨en 15 (1969). why have you forsaken me?’ is a quotation from Psalm 22:1. see Marshall. The Gospel of Luke. in a highly agitated state. matching the Mosaic background with the messianic motifs of filial adoption and the ‘servant of God’ theme.48 Here Jesus is taking upon himself more than the threat of physical death.44 In the Lucan account Moses himself speaks with Jesus about his forthcoming ‘departure’ (exodus) from Jerusalem. Exod. The baptism–transfiguration nexus sets out the principle that the Father speaks in affirmation of the Son. 45. Ps. 89:19–20. Jesus’ cry ‘My God. 60:3. Ps.45 The voice that sounds from the cloud again recalls Sinai. my God. 106:23. 47. As we turn to the Passion narrative. 22. the Beloved’. In this case it is the silence of the Father which represents the dramatic culmination of the Son’s sense of loss and abandonment. suggesting that Jesus fulfils both the Law and the prophets. followed in Matthew by ‘with him I am well pleased’ (Luke has only ‘This is my Son. Jesus’ isolation is intensified by the absence of an answer from God in contrast with the earlier affirmations. On the senses of the word exodus as ‘departure’ and ‘death’. 82–6 and H. and the passage is resonant with apocalyptic tones concerning the coming ‘hour’. let this cup pass from me. whose very existence as Son and as beloved of the Father is made manifest by the Father’s acts of speaking with Jesus. Le D ´eaut. “Der Zornsbecher”. and by the imagery of the ‘cup’. my Chosen’). See pot ¯erion in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

in Oliver Davies and Denys Turner. 50. see my ‘Soundings: towards a Theological Poetics of Silence’. Luke has ‘‘Father. 54. and all mortals return to dust. and thus the wholesale destruction of all that is.’ 53. who form such an important element in the apocalyptic background to the story of Jesus. In Ps.55 In the context of Jesus’ speaking relation with God. as an expression of his anger and removal of his favour within a specific situation. Gen. 35:22. thus annulling his original creative act. pp. 115:17: ‘The dead do not praise the Lord.’ 56.’ See also Job 13:19: ‘For who is there that will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die. Job 34:14–15.50 The Psalmist pleads with God not to ‘remain silent’ and far away. 64:12. d ˆamam). . then.49 Within the semiotics of the Old Testament. and the possibility that God will withdraw his speech altogether.Speech revealed 89 and which brings that silence before us. Ps. 2002). 31:5. then he may die.52 And in Isaiah. we must say. 1:7: ‘Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand. Matthew may be drawing out this apocalyptic motif in his account of the earthquakes and rending of the Temple veil (27:51).’54 The threat that God’s silence as passing wrath might become cosmic silence. . 201–22 (here pp. 27:46. See also Zeph. . Ps. But we find a further semiotics of divine silence in the distinction between God ‘falling silent’. 83:1 it is seen as a divine refusal to destroy the enemies of Israel. nor do any that go down into silence. The same cannot be said of the Spirit. which is a quotation from Ps. the silence of the Father is a deeply resonant motif.56 Spirit Father and Son both play the role of speech agent in the New Testament texts surveyed above. and gather to himself his breath. 52. all flesh would perish together. would mean cosmic annihilation: ‘If he should take back his spirit to himself. 2:7). 28:1. however. 55. eds. Speech is linked with life and the Holy Spirit in Job at 27:3–4 and 33:3–4 (cf. h ˆa ˇs ˆah. Silence and the Word (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.51 Death itself is imaged as silence. is intrinsic to the eschatological terror of the later prophets.. God’s silence is identified with his wrath towards Israel: ‘Why do you keep silent and punish us so severely?’53 The silence of the Father in the context of the Cross suggests therefore that the Son’s experience of abandonment is an extension of the ‘cup of wrath’ metaphor of Gethsemane. as Job knows. Such a silence. Isa. who is not after all personified as a figure who speaks (in contrast with a father 49. For a discussion of the specific terminology of silence in the Old Testament (h ˆar ˆe ˇs. Matt. 23:46). 204–8). Mk 15:34. See the following chapter for a further discussion of this theme. into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk. that the Son experiences in his abandonment both the divine silence which signals personal death and the silence which speaks the end of creation. 51. for if God is silent.

Jn 16:13–15: ‘for he will not speak on his own. in Davies and Turner.90 The Creativity of God and a son). 115–35. pp. This raises the significant theoretical issue that the speech relation outlined above is fundamentally a dialogical one. universalising their relation of dialogical intimacy. ‘The Deflections of Desire: Negative Theology in Trinitarian Disclosure’. Dialogical relations contain an implicit tendency towards narcissism and mutual gratification.’ 59. The presence of the Spirit in the room as a ‘sound like the rush of a violent wind’ and ‘divided tongues. All that the Father has is mine..59 It is primarily with the third category. as of fire’ marks the possibility of a new kind of human speech which is responsive to and integrated within 57. the Spirit as facilitator of human participation in the divine conversations. 58. whereas the argument I have proposed concerning the new dispensation is that the unity of human and divine voice in Jesus releases the threefold structure of divinity which can therefore be designated as ‘triadic’ or ‘Trinitarian speech’. eds. whereby the words of Father and Son. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. or ‘voyaging’. He will glorify me. see Rowan Williams. . But the new pneumatic speech of Pentecost springs from this silence and signals a renewed intervention of the creativity of God as redemption.58 Indeed. one of the chief functions of the Spirit is to intercept and break open the conversation of Father and Son in a movement which Rowan Williams has referred to as ‘deflected love’. At the heart of the Passion is the divine silence between Father and Son which – in the context of the creativity of divine speech – has cosmic significance. But the Spirit is nevertheless fundamental to the communication between Father and Son. The Spirit plays a central role in facilitating the Incarnation by ‘overshadowing’ Mary. are made available to the world (conversation is inherently open. Silence and the Word.57 Further. Jn 20:22. and he will declare to you the things that are to come. the Spirit-Pneuma becomes the breath of Jesus and as such is the medium of his communication with the Father (speech requires breath and air to carry sound). because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. the conversation between Father and Son is open and public. and is itself revelation. and thus establishes the foundational context for the conversation between Father and Son (no speech act can take place outside a particular spatio-temporal context which allows it to happen). but will speak whatever he hears. and of the Father in the Son. and is frequently shared out through social relations becoming part of the broader cultural formations). within the speech community at large. In a passage from the Gospel of John. Cf. that we shall be concerned here. Here the Spirit is the principle of communicability.

we have become the children of God: ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. 62. 1:12–4. reminding them of God’s promise to pour out his Spirit ‘upon all flesh’. Rom. 66. according to Luke. 8:26. 8:13. The Letter to the Romans depicts a new kind of life in the Spirit since the Church lives ‘in the Spirit’.Speech revealed 91 the triadic.65 Furthermore. 4:2–4. This parallels the way in which. 4:16–30). Rom. 64. Joel 2:28. Acts 2:1–3. silly and vulgar talk’ must be replaced with ‘thanksgiving’. 5:4. since it intercedes for us ‘with sighs too deep for words’. and if a child then also an heir. 61. Ezek.66 They are especially to pray for the author himself so that a message may be given to him ‘to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel’. 63. For the image of the wind. the Spirit reveals the mystery of Christ to the holy apostles and prophets. 67. Eph. cf. 8:9. “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child.67 The theme of the new kind of pneumatic speech which extends throughout these verses reaches a climax in 60. Peter preaches to the crowd. 6:19. the ‘empty words’ of those who wish to deceive are to be eschewed.’ It is the Spirit that supports us in our weakness. Lk. 3:11. and the saints of Ephesus are to ‘pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication’.64 The Letter to the Ephesians depicts the transformed speech of the Spirit in terms of praise. 4:29–30. 3:16). who gives ‘life and peace’. Eph. life-giving speech of God. The Holy Spirit is linked with the praise of God’s glory that follows upon the new life of redemption. celebration and the social construction of the community. Matthew and Luke both report the prophecy of John the Baptist that one will come who baptises ‘in the Holy Spirit and in fire’ (Matt. 2:18. 3:5. 3:2–12. 8:15. Eph.61 Preaching itself is part of this new kind of Christian speaking in which – through the Spirit – the voice of the one who preaches is itself informed and shaped by the one who is preached about. 37:9–14 and Jn 3:8. the Spirit grounds the love and peace which is the unity of the Church. Jesus preaches in the synagogue soon after the Spirit descended upon him at his baptism (Lk. 6:18. For the image of fire. 8:6. through God. . Exod. 65. and manifests also as a distinctive kind of Christian prayer ‘bearing witness’ when we cry ‘Abba! Father!’63 According to Galatians 4:4–7. 5:6.62 The Spirit puts to death ‘the deeds of the body’.60 Immediately following the descent of the Spirit. the unifying Spirit gives both Jew and gentile access to the Father. crying. ‘obscene. when we do not ‘know how to pray as we ought’. and not in the flesh. the Spirit is grieved by dissension and evil talk and Christians are urged to say only ‘what is useful for building up’. cf. Rom.

and which likes to abstract presence from language. De trinitate. In terms of this reading of our biblical texts. that alternative linguistic paradigms have come to the fore. ‘giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. forming the ground that constitutes the givenness of the world. Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the speechact theorists. 8.68 Conclusion The semiotic system outlined in these sections is one which stands in stark contrast with what we might call the Greek tendency. This model in various forms has predominated in the Western tradition.70 The Old and New Testament texts which I have surveyed support a different kind of semiotics. of Ludwig Wittgenstein. This is to place an enormous emphasis upon the originary character of language. 5:18–20. Eph. as unity in diversity. There Augustine argued that the capacity of words accurately to describe the world is itself grounded ultimately in the unity of the Trinity. for instance. Wittgenstein begins his Philosophical Investigations with a critique of Augustine’s theory of language as given in the Confessiones. To adapt a phrase from Merleau-Ponty. whereby subjectivity and sound are fused as voice and divine voice goes before. i. . which is one of linguistic self-presencing. This is to make the speech agent prior and to consider language as an expressive instrument for the communication of ideas that reside within the mind of the speaker. ix. which is also well represented in the modern age. for instance. 12–15 and xiv. and it is only in the modern period with the work.69 This later became enshrined in the formula nomen-ratio-res of the scholastics. 69. 70.92 The Creativity of God the motif of being ‘filled with the Spirit’ as the Christians of Ephesus ‘sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ amongst themselves. the prior nature of human speaking 68. we find just such an analysis of language as that which connects the world and the mind. with its characteristic emphasis upon the control of language by a reasoning subject. 19–20. In Augustine’s On the Trinity. ‘singing and making melody to the lord’ in their hearts. Words depict the world truly where they correctly order the relationship between the ideas in the mind of the one who speaks and the essences of those things which are spoken about. language precedes us as an ‘element’ in which we come to our own linguistic self-realisation.

For God to speak. or about. and with it all the semiotic manifestations of human life in terms of culture. It is precisely this enfolding of subjectivity within language as a modality of self-presence which underlies the coincidence of speech and compassion which we find repeatedly in scriptural texts. rather it envisages it as shaped by the plural structures of language itself. then the one who receives the divine speech must themselves be perfected as an interlocutor: as .Speech revealed 93 embedded in those texts is itself preceded by an originary divine speaking which sets up conditions for the former that determine its true realisations. which is the creativity of God. In other words. whose utterance is the very institution of both language and world. entail the eradication of agency as such. And the presence of God as enfolded within that speech-relation is itself an opening out to presences of the others who are themselves. or with. This is an ‘open’ speech in the most radical sense of the term: it is speech of ‘opening’. orders human speech. as well as divine interventions. and the repeated preference for the terminology of compassion as a primary. since speech is always a ‘speaking with’ and for ‘speaking with’ to be perfect as divine ‘speaking with’ must be. we must also observe a certain act of descent. or perhaps the primary. is for God to ‘come into existence’ as a subjectivity within language who is set in relation – by God’s own granting – with those who are spoken to. But where the one who speaks is God. as a condition which precedes any specific utterance or action towards others. name of God – as God of Exodus and in the Person of Christ – is the dramatic and cosmic unfolding of what is already richly present in the institutive narrative of the opening verses of Genesis. God’s speech is God’s compassion. praxis and belief. The most primary character of that speaking. and Incarnation (‘speaking in or as’) or Spirit-filled speech (‘we speak in God’). co-constituted by the originary creative speech of God. prophecy and proclamation (‘God speaks in or through us’). which allows the co-positing of creator and created within the same field or domain of language. however. and whose own ‘voice’ and subjectivity is interactively grounded in and informed by the divine speaking. This is already implied in the linguistic model of revelation. according to the Genesis–Exodus paradigm. where language is understood to be intrinsically plural. such as theophany (‘speaking with’ – leading to law-giving and Covenant). a kenotic self-emptying. the model of revelation in operation here is that of language itself. The refusal of a subjectivity outside language does not. The very phenomenon of language entails such an openness.

94 The Creativity of God a conversation partner in a sense equal with God. . wholly distinctive and personal voice of Jesus Christ – as the speaking compassion of God – is the dynamic and redemptive intersection of the divine and human order. again in the Spirit. and in the dynamic process of ‘envoicing’ which I have preferred here to the conventional Christological terminology of the two ‘natures’. the single. In our texts this ‘speaking with’ attains its fullest realisation in the triadic speech which is opened up to us in the Person of Christ. in the same Spirit. and in whom we speak both with the Father and with each other. in the Spirit. It is this structure which is apparent in the process of linguistic creation which I have traced in Genesis and which culminates in the granting of the commandments and the establishing – through God’s speaking with Moses – of the Israelites as a people covenanted with God and fundamentally shaped by his ‘graciousness’ and ‘compassion’. As one who speaks with the Father in the Spirit and in whom the Father speaks also with us. and who speaks with us and with the Father.

That which was spoken by God speaks the Creator. Breviloquium The presence of God within the creation. videlicet ad hoc quod per illum tanquam per speculum et vestigium reduceretur homo in Deum artificem amandum et laudandum. as a text bodies forth its author’s voice. which formed the theoretical basis of medieval analogy. while the other is written without. This is not the scholastic principle of the likeness between cause and effect. The first Principle created this perceptible world as a means of self-revelation so that. must therefore be constituted as a domain of signs whereby things created point to the divine creativity as the source of their existence. St Bonaventure. it might lead human kind to love and praise the Creator. unus scilicet scriptus intus. qui est aeterna Dei ars et sapientia. And so there are two books. The secondary referents [95] . with its origins in Aristotelian science. Et secundum hoc duplex est liber. which is God’s eternal Art and Wisdom. In linguistic terms therefore the things that constitute the world can be said to refer. world and sign.5 Spirit and Letter Primum principium fecit mundum istum sensibilem ad declarandum se ipsum. In the first place divine speech is that which institutes the world. and that is the perceptible world. one written within. in both a primary and a secondary sense. et alius scriptus foris. like a mirror of God or a divine footprint. of which we are a part. The world. mundus scilicet sensibilis. as the one whose speaking is the origin of the creation. but is governed – as I shall argue – by a relation which is analogous to that which obtains between voice and text. This is a model which proposes a double operation of divine language. sets the parameters for a distinctively Christian understanding of language.

and humanity with God. Christian semiotics has to take account of the intimate connection between the world as product of divine speech. also address. meaning both ‘thing’ and ‘word’). and which must stand at the heart of the Christian understanding of the sign. It is this that forms the first principle of Christian semiotics: in the light of creation through Christ. must become. All linguistic signs combine a referential with an addressive function.2 If the first principle of Christian semiotics is the joint axis of reference and address. which is the site of the world’s own origination. Jn 1:3. 219–241 (especially 227–30). Within Judaeo-Christian tradition. This emphasis upon the Word as conversation critiques traditional applications of the verbal metaphor of Incarnation which characteristically stress the expressive qualities of language. or triad of voices. But our scriptural texts also communicate a second operation of language which intersects with reference. a theme which enjoys ample scriptural warrant. objects in the world) are rarely said to address us in any way. from the centre of the created order: from within the domain of signs. signifying its source. E. For a fuller discussion of reference and address. 2 Cor. interactive 1. This is the mode of address. Modern Theology 19. and the divine speech itself as it breaks through the created order and speaks with us directly. This is a unity finally predicated on the role of Christ in the creation. Col. The Incarnation itself can be seen to continue and to intensify this theme with the complete closure of the hermeneutical distance between the divine and human voice so that both voices become one: Jesus Christ speaks both as a human being and as God. 2. the Hebrew homonym dabar-dabar. 1:6.g. So intense is the mode of divine address here that God speaks with his creation. to which the world as a whole can be said to refer. in a simultaneity of speech identity and speech distinction. In him there is a complex simultaneity of speech since in him God speaks with God. whereas natural signs (which is to say.2 (April 2003). which is implicit in all language but which becomes explicit in the commands and blessings of Genesis 1.1 It is the ‘speaking with’ of Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai which is the fullest expression of this structure in the Old Testament. see my article ‘The Sign Redeemed: towards a Christian Fundamental Semiotics’. The primary referent. then the second is that the voice which speaks is itself a plurality. God speaks with humanity.96 The Creativity of God are those other things that belong with them and that together form the world. from the perspective of a pragmatic linguistics which highlights its dynamic. and with humanity. is the creativity of God. . 5:17. the sign which refers can become. however. natural signs can also be addressive since they are understood to be constituted by the divine speech (cf.

Spirit and Letter 97 and social nature. 1970). Dialogism is not Trinitarianism. conversation. therefore. then the linguistic model must be thought to an extreme such that the domain of world itself becomes personified as the Third Person: speech. address and reference are all subsumed into a single triadic act of divine communication which contains all that is.3 If we forget the dialectic of divine transcendence and immanence which plays even through God’s self-representations. It is apparent that divine speech in the New Testament is structured around fragments of a conversation between Father and Son. is the outline of a triadic. between the Christian affirmation of the full equality of the three Persons and the fact that Father and Son appear to have a certain priority as speech-agents. From that – divine – perspective the ‘outer’ domain is itself a moment within the ‘inner’ domain and. In other words. Trinitarian conversation. The linguistic model has at its centre a disjunction. This serves to remind us. but it is revealed in such a way that we can ourselves participate in it. is nothing other than the Trinity itself. then – as Karl Rahner warned – the economic Trinity becomes a type of myth. It is opened out or disclosed to us. . The consequences of this disjunction between triadic equality of the Persons and the dialogism inherent in a Father–Son relation. results from the nature of the created order. that God is realised within the creation in the modality of God-for-us rather than God-in-Godself. however. detached from its ground in the uncreated life of the Godhead. are both necessary and profound. If we are to reflect upon the Trinity in its uncreated immanence. The Spirit stands apart from these in so far as the Spirit is not itself figured as a speech agent and does not itself address. the Son’s speaking with the other Trinitarian Persons is communicated as an address to us but in such a way that the content of the address is that same speaking-with. And at this point a third principle of Christian semiotics appears. 31–3. as such. then God will 3. rather we have seen that the Spirit is the underlying ground of the communicability which inheres in conversation and which makes it possible. What is revealed to us then in Father. expressed in a certain inequality of the Persons. But if we do not attempt to hold this reality before our minds. not only as a divine speaking-to but also a divine speaking-with. pp. The Trinity (Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates. The imperfection of that image. Karl Rahner. a theme which was alluded to briefly in the preceding chapter. The model itself reminds us that it is a model and is a representation of something which is beyond our capacity to understand. Son and Spirit.

between the human and divine realm. What we are doing is unfolding from Scripture. The principle of efficient reason. And indeed. with its characteristic subversion of boundaries.4 Such a move also needs to be made in the clear awareness that we are not describing the generation of the physical universe. The attempt to construct a modern understanding of how the created order relates to its creator in fact requires an act of radical translation. postulates no such symmetry: causality for us is a generally random collision of forces rather than the interaction of substances within a divinely ordained natural world. Although the object or data of belief may be the same. The harnessing of a modern linguistic relativism for the purposes of a return to the medieval world-view will produce a hybrid model which is neither authentically medieval nor authentically modern. for that is only to substitute a modern relativism for what was in its own time a thoroughly realistic manner of belief. . which testifies to the ultimate and eschatological unity of world and Creator. which is one of the critical elements in the emergence of the modern world-view.98 The Creativity of God be for us no more than a character in God’s own text. That is better left to scientists. since gravity does not of itself have a nature. It is not enough to act as if we live in a participated or allegorical world. such as the likeness of cause and effect or a causality predicated on participation. in dialogue with certain kinds of modern thinking. the manner of its believing will not be. a new mechanism of relation between the created world and the Creator needs to be established which does not fall victim to pre-modern systems of thought. an account of what it is to live in a world which is fundamentally ordered to God as Creator and in which therefore the divine creativity is manifest. The model of the text Pre-modern conceptions of creation tended to turn either on Platonic forms of participatory exemplarism or upon the Aristotelian principle that the likeness of the cause is visible in the effect. Above all. But as we 4. between human and divine speech. it is the Holy Spirit. It does not make sense for us today to ask in what way the effects of gravity themselves reflect the nature of gravity. The emphasis here is upon seeking to draw out the rich coherence of the Christian revelation in terms of theological dimensions which have suffered serious neglect in the modern period on account either of a Christian reluctance to engage with the issue at all or of a desire among theologians to reconcile the data of Christian revelation with the findings and perspectives of natural science.

Spirit and Letter 99 saw in the Introduction. we find that we are already set in relation with God. See Introduction. and whose work thus most approximates to what I am seeking to do here through extended scriptural exegesis. . can only be partial and tentative. The core of scriptural belief about the world is that God speaks with us through it. it is perhaps John Polkinghorne who most addresses the question of how the world might manifest God through its very nature as world. as new data and ideas constantly emerge. for all their intrinsic interest and value. and use its fruits. Amongst those who work on the relation between science and religion. particularly germane to the deeper theological issue of how we are to understand the nature of the God–world relation on the basis of the eschatological decision to live our lives out in the encounter with Christ and within the co-ordinates of a scriptural faith. Questions to do with God’s ownership of the world – implied in much of the current literature concerning God and physical cosmology – or indeed to do with the compatibility of Christian belief with the rationalism of scientific discourse are not. such a reconciliation. while offering valuable insights. and may also be all too aware of the fragility of scientific knowledge in the face of that complexity. which was particularly characteristic of Augustine’s use of Genesis for instance. It is not extraneous or additional to him. cannot be part of such a theological development of the creation in the contemporary world. who is inchoately present in the ground of our relating with the world and with those with whom we share the world. is the general attitude of ‘scientism’ or materialism which is frequently the concomitant of scientific advances as these are received by the population at large. As we look upon the world. however. But it is not in any sense a contesting of science in terms either of outcomes or method. But this need not be a matter of undue concern. While the scientist may be charged with a sense of wonder at the complexity of the universe and of the world under the microscope. note 2. rather God is implicated in the world order at the most fundamental level. The model of God–world relation presented here draws therefore upon the resources of scriptural Christian faith rather than those of science and does not do so in a way which looks to a reconciliation between the two. and will tend to fall short of providing the kind of conceptual life-world which is presupposed in Scripture and which was so richly developed in their own terms by the major pre-modern systematic theologians. the popular culture of the day may be permeated by a deeply complacent view of the power of human scientific 5. What it does contest.5 The identification of a religious account of the origin of the world with a scientific one.

That role is the deepest expression of the divine modality of address which is already strongly signalled in the Old Testament and which – by the argument presented here – is integral to the linguistic model of creation that is foundational to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. used as signs.6 This reductionism can easily lead to attitudes of materialism and instrumentalism which have nothing to do with the true spirit of scientific inquiry and its accomplishments. Science and Poetry (London: Routledge.100 The Creativity of God intellect and a credulity regarding what has been achieved. so that our familiarity with God becomes the domain of a specific ‘religious experience’ or is designated by spiritualised faculties of abstract intellection. there is a deep incoherence in accepting Jesus Christ through faith but rejecting the scriptural role of Christ in the creation. so too the world is his and he is the world. E. Indeed. this leads to a disjunction between the way in which we know the empirical (created) world and the way we know God (the Creator). . Gracia offers a valuable starting-point for reflection as it takes account of the intentionality of the one who creates the text and the recipients for whom it is composed: ‘A text is a group of entities. or the nature of the text. and the full realisation of the latter – if Galations. For a discussion of the problems of scientism with respect to our understanding of ourselves and the world. J. What is a text? The paradigm developed in these pages seeks to articulate the longneglected creationist aspect of Christology by drawing upon scriptural readings and contemporary theory of the text alike. 2001). There are in fact many different ways of understanding textuality. As he dwells in us and we in him. It is as an attempt to heal this divergence between cosmos and creator as it plays out in the faith and life of the Christian community that I am proposing a new model of God–world relation which derives from a fresh reading of scriptural texts. Hebrews and the Fourth Gospel are to be followed – entails also the acceptance that Christ is the one through whom that creation was accomplished. as we saw in chapter 3. which are 6. see Mary Midgley. which are current today but the definition of a text proposed by J. and particularly with respect to the faculties of the self which govern its knowledge of the world: principally the intellect and the senses. And. One of the effects of this scientism for the religious believer is a deep-seated secularisation of the understanding of the self in its relation to the world. The belief that the world is of God’s making is intrinsic to faith in Christ.

9. something fundamentally dual about the nature of the text for. 10. p. Jorge J. Of Grammatology (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press. the visible element that is manifest to us in the shapes of a script (such as the print on this page. it is one which effectively eradicates ‘text’ as a category of human communication. which is uniform and monochrome) is suppressed in the interests of an immediate apprehension of the meaning of the text. They are composed of ‘entities constituting texts’ (or ECTs. as Gracia calls them).Spirit and Letter 101 selected. in so far as it is constituted by its meanings. ranging from patterns of stones left on a beach to works of literary art or instruction manuals for washing machines. The Logic and Epistemology (New York. the constituent signs are words. in which the subject’s act of interpretation is matched by the desire on the part of an author to convey meanings to a recipient or audience. therefore. There is. 1974). the text itself is immaterial. The use of red characters in medieval liturgical books to pick out the important feast days gives us the phrase ‘red letter day’. reflect the activity of an ordering mind and communicative intent. 6–7. 4. And in the case of written texts. Gracia. 6–26. p.10 We conceive of texts in the main in terms of their abstract significations rather than their material properties. While extending the notion of text to include any contextual ‘arrangement’ of signs. but the material basis of the sign. See Hamann’s remarks on this above. arranged and intended by an author in a certain context to convey some specific meaning to an audience. such as we find in natural phenomena. for instance. as is sometimes argued in types of deconstructive philosophy. But they may be of very many kinds. 1995). characters or script which are material lines or shapes upon the blank page or whatever medium supports their visibility. 8. A Theory of Textuality. Textuality. therefore. Gracia. 70. which are material. may be a reasonable strategy on certain grounds. In the case of a written text. E. especially pp. or in social structures.9 The dual nature of the text is fundamental to its composition. . and thus of the text itself as a combination of signs. pp. The use of italics is one convention which allows the communication of emphasis.8 All texts. or ‘anything that needs to be interpreted’. according to Gracia’s definition. This combination of material signs and immaterial meanings is what allows us to speak of ‘texts’ both as material objects (‘this is a long text’) and as immaterial concepts (‘this text is not coherent’). Poems may be printed in a way that subverts the principles of 7. is often not immediately apparent.’7 Texts are not simply any semiotic system. See for instance Jacques Derrida. But occasionally texts may be reproduced in a way that employs their visibility in order to convey meaning. Albany: SUNY Press.

as in the case of professional singing. or alternatively understands the visible signs to represents the sounds that constitute words. whether they are organised as visible or audible signs. The very term ‘voice’ implies the uttering of sounds that are so saturated with meaning as to be only recognisable as words. we see signs that relate to other signs. As our eye passes over a text (in a language and script that we understand). or when. we are seeking to identify someone from the characteristics of their handwriting. The exception to this principle occurs when the sound properties of the voice itself are of interest.102 The Creativity of God efficient use of paper in order to underline the ‘high value’ of poetic discourse.12 The transference from one material medium whose materiality is saturated and overtaken by communicative conceptuality to another 11. In other terms. The presentation of the written text is itself visible (we cannot read the text until we have first seen it). of course. we are unlikely to say that we have heard their ‘voice’. In this instance the aesthetic qualities of the voice take on a value in themselves. perhaps. the act of reading unlocks the sounds from the visible signs. it is not pure sounds that we hear but still voice. sounds so governed by meanings and so embedded within . even here. the signifying properties of words are so powerful as to virtually extinguish the purely sensory media within which they are encoded. both within the given text and extraneous to it. If someone sitting unseen in the corner of the room grunts or makes some other inarticulate noise.11 Perhaps one reason why we may not be so aware of this shift resides in the fact that both written and spoken words are material entities (the former predicated on the visual and the latter on the audible) in which the material element is so transfigured by meaning as to be virtually no longer recognisable as materiality. the materiality of the sign is transformed from the visible to the oral. which is to say. where signs are complex visible elements for which the reader lacks the appropriate scheme of pronunciation (even though the tendency here is for the reader to substitute some kind of sound analogue. as uttered by the human voice. are themselves signs to such an extent that the pure sound properties of utterance may well escape our hearing as much as the visibility of script escapes our seeing. even if we do not have access to their meanings. There are exceptions to this general rule of reading. Writing and voice The deconstructionist tendency to prioritise texts as a cultural artefact over and above the manifestations of voice and communicative presence reflects a failure to observe that the texts are realised for us at a subtle level as voice in the act of reading. This is because we recognise that they are speaking words: the sounds seem to signify. as in the case of the Russian poet Pushkin who ‘read English as though it were Latin’). from which we construct its possible meanings through an act of interpretation. In other words. But as we recognise words. 12. But we do hear the ‘voices’ of those who speak in languages we do not understand. It is important to remember that sounds. but in its cognitive reception within the mind of the reader it is constituted as sounds. And yet. But most generally we fail to see the visible signs which constitute writing unless they are in some way deficient and require repair. in parallel with the art of calligraphy in the case of the written word.

In extreme cases we can shout the other down. true conversation is deeply interactive. and receive their gift to us of speaking as an equal. Only very specific practices of reading eliminate our subjectivity (generally academic ones) or so reduce it as to make it barely a factor in reading. an embodied and personal expressivity as to be virtually indistinguishable from the presence of the one who speaks. We can contradict or abuse. Conversation. Texts ‘speak to’ the reader. in which human presences speak. The multiple voices of the text which are refracted through and in the visual medium combine with the remembered. or simply refuse to converse. See his Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward. as Clifford Geertz for instance defines it. it is also ethical. Precisely because conversation is interactive. Voice and writing From the perspective of the reader. like any other mode of discourse. there is an attentiveness to the speech of the other which can prove generative and creative from the perspective of what each discovers that they wish to say. but where each speaker recognises the other as centre of their respective world. using our own voice as a weapon against their speaking. pp. Or we can simply speak with the other as an equal. imagined and real voices of the reader’s own communicative world. speaking together. inform them or bring them to new understandings. is the primal site of language. We can rejoice with them. but from the point of view of the one who speaks. and social. Otherwise texts are referred back to our own social and communicative world through the act of reading. however diffusively and indeterminately this may be at times. the difference between voice and text – the visual and auditory medium – can be much greater. The consequence of this transference from the point of view of the reader is that the written textual signs are integrated into his or her own ‘vocal’ life. If culture is the domain of shared meanings. Of course. drawing the other person into self-expression. conversations. . can be entirely formal and ritualistic. In other words.Spirit and Letter 103 such medium is easily made. and therefore unpredictable. But we can also listen sympathetically. We can encourage or console them. We can choose not to hear what the other has to say.13 They link with and feed into the world of our actuality. 1975). and voices draw our attention. 13. Hans-Georg Gadamer calls this element in reading ‘prejudice’ or ‘pre-judgement’. meaning moves easily between written and oral signs. then conversation is a place in which the shared symbolic structures which form our cultural community can be creatively shaped. 235–74.

which calls all things into existence.104 The Creativity of God When we write a text then. as hymnic. will be alienated from ourselves and subject to a more radical process of interpretation and construal. Our expressivity now moves from an oral. 1997). But we can conclude that the Persons in some sense speak with one another in perfect equality of loving communion and self-communicating love. 32). For the theme of testimony. It is the voice of God. celebratory and testamentary passages dissolve the historical text into an orality of confession and praise. They will ‘misread’ our text. And so by analogy with our own body.14 Others will not ‘hear’ in the way we have ‘spoken’. and that it is this rhythm which underlies the great speech narratives of Genesis. Visibility allows the detachment of what we have to say from the immediate spatio-temporal context of orality and the original utterance. They will bring to our text a range of interpretative ‘pre-judgements’. communicated through the multiple speech-agency of Jesus Christ. they will read it in ways that are new. we pass from this dynamic and creative moment of embodied. They will substitute for the unique and personal sound of our own voice. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony. and of divine speaking. Dispute. ‘Hermeneutics begins where dialogue ends’ (Paul Ricoeur. interactive and context-specific discourse to one which is supported by a different kind of materiality. p. 15. exhibits signs of the human voice answering to the divine voice. see Walter Brueggemann. Interpretation Theory (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press. which generates and redeems. of both Old and New Testaments. which are not part of our own world. The scriptural record presupposes the priority of the voice. the text becomes a kind of deferred body: an extension of ourselves which carries our voice into the world to be reconstructed at every stage by the minds of others. .15 The triadic speech of the Trinity itself remains an ideal. however. Moreover. Advocacy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. Son and Spirit. of which we glimpse only an outline in the representations of Trinitarian life as they unfold in the missions of Father. the voices of others. 1976). dialogical speech. the scriptural text itself. Cf. or the triadic speaking of the divine Trinity. The divine text The creation of the world has something about it which is like the generation of a text. as Gadamer calls them. which has moulded and informed the text. It embodies and incarnates our utterance by giving it enduring form in a way that the sound of the voice alone cannot do. From now on our voice. 14.

or finally unconsumed by his creation. visual medium. since the speaking of God within God is ‘silent’ and uncreated. and according to the dispensation of the New Testament. and who does so. the fullness of the world generated by the divine breath must reflect . ‘beyond’. objective economy which is that of the written sign. a text is of itself the displacement and in part alienation of the oral communication by its transposition into another. And yet there are useful parallels. which is the fluid process of oral communication between Trinitarian Persons. that the move from the inner-Trinitarian speaking of the divine Persons to objectification through reference. in its material and abstract dimensionality. that divine speaking is itself a triadic discourse. therefore. The transposition of words from speech to written text on the part of the human creature is not exactly like the emergence of the world-generating speech of God from the divine and uncreated silence. According to this paradigm. God ‘precedes’ his creation. then speaking must bear some kind of likeness to the God who shows himself. In the same way. as the interpreting Word. If language is the primary model of revelation. into another. which – as a form of embodiment – both communicates and conceals the vocality and vital content of the original discourse. It is not the case.Spirit and Letter 105 Exodus and the New Testament. The process of objectification from multiple speech powerfully evokes the notion of text as the distillation of a divine and subjective economy of speech. the world in all its diversity and variety. There must also be some sense in which the creative speaking of God marks the coming into view of some dynamic which is already present in or characteristic of the inner-Trinitarian life prior to the act of speaking. According to Genesis 1. gathered up and opened out for the interpretation of others. while the speaking of God to and with us is both generative of world and intrinsically part of it. in Origen’s terms. even if the manner of that ‘preceding’ is not strictly chronological (since time is created with the world) but rather the consequence of the divine transcendence: whereby God remains ‘above’. of course. blessing and command exactly parallels the transposition from an oral to a written medium in human communication. the creation is sequenced as stages in a process of generation and objectification through the unfolding structure of divine speaking. is most essentially a divine text: a ‘text’ which is the deposit of the divine speaking and which bodies forth the essence of the communication between the divine Persons in a cosmic objectification willed by the Persons that is itself the foundation of the world. And as we have seen.

or am I nervous of them (am I myself a strong woman. for it is exactly this sense of presence within an alienating medium which is characteristic of the textual dynamic. As we construct the authorial presence. or are educational in some way). and thus of the way in which we read texts. some degree of construction. or rather to be the victim of her own unassimilated and ultimately self-destructive motivations? Although it is perhaps literary texts which most clearly illustrate this point. where the authorial voice is diffused through the accumulation of signs which require a deliberate act of interpretation. other conversations.16 The model of world as text resonates in a particularly positive way with the first and the last of these categories. confessional (autobiographies) and epistolary. descriptive (history. whereby its world-generating properties are reflected in the capacity of the literary text to draw us in to what we experience as another existence. or new horizon of imaginative experience. mediated through the deixis and indexicality embedded in the text. and it is not only the authorial voice that comes into play. is intrinsic to the reading of any text. and therefore of subjectivity. which shape our histories. which are instructional (telling us how to operate the new washing machine). .106 The Creativity of God something of the abundance of the inner divine life which we glimpse in its scriptural representations. extra-textual 16. the artistic text functions as a ‘second world’. We hear also the voices of others who are in no way associated with the production of the text but who have left an impression upon ourselves which has become formative of who we are. The voice is both heard and not heard. we do so in a way that reflects the presuppositions and impacted experiences of other people. Not everyone will relate to the character of Anna Karenina in the same way: do I admire strong women. have I suffered at the hands of strong women)? Do I perceive the character to be forthright and bold. enigmatic (puzzle texts). biographies or travelogues). And it is here that the textual parallel gains strength. In the terminology of Paul Ricoeur. Religious texts do not belong in this taxonomy since any of these can become religious texts by virtue of their status within the contexts of specific groups of readers. received and not received. though always in ways that require interpretative construction on the part of the one who receives the text. The following taxonomy will serve as well as any other. Authors ‘speak’ in and through their texts. discursive (which present an argument. which present a record (where comments or conversations are recorded by another). There are texts which are literary. overlapping with our ordinary.

God’s speaking is profoundly transformative of the nature of the world and generative of the realisation of its intrinsic dynamics. and not as direct authorial comment from outside the parameters of the work. Authors are not necessarily the best commentators on their own texts. however. The nature of human creativity in fact grants a thoroughgoing autonomy to the text itself. in an inaudible divine and uncreated speaking: a ‘speaking’ which is simultaneously ‘silence’ and which entirely escapes the horizons of the world. the role of the author is not symmetrical with that of God as divine Author. Where such authorial comment is to hand. may after a period of time be reordered within a living relationship of proximity and speech. In other words. Such letters constitute the attempt to bridge spatial distance and to restate an intimacy of relation through the medium of a text. then the epistolary text is the greatest witness to the primacy of . or lovers.Spirit and Letter 107 life in the world. God’s authorship remains the governing structural principle throughout the evolution of the creation-text’s history. unlike softly spoken words. as noted above. for instance. But although our access to such texts mimics our apprehension of the world in many ways. When God speaks. If the literary text is the most vigorous and productive example of the fertility of the sign. risk falling into the hands of those for whom they were not intended: private speech. through divine immanence. But it is also rooted. and the texts that pass between friends. we may well be suspicious of it. In the case of the Judaeo-Christian creation. can be denuded and become the object of voyeurism. unlike most kinds of writing. Written signs. derision or entertainment. as the one who brought it about. In other words. as occurs in some picaresque novels or certain kinds of postmodern writing. and is the secret of their power. Where the author’s own voice is inserted in a literary text. Letters may be written by those who are absent to those with whom they wish to remain in close relationship. then the reader understands that voice to function as a narrative element within the fabric of the fiction itself. It is the category of the epistolary text which reflects most closely the relation between voice and text in the present model of divine creation. in the epistolary text the falling of a vocal presence into the visual presence/absence of the text can be marked by a sense of longing for the beloved and grief at his or her absence which necessitates recourse to the sign. it is with the total authority of the Creator who stands both at the heart of the creation. and at a point that is transcendentally beyond it. we apprehend this as a fictional device. Letters may often be the carrying on of a conversation by other means. a further strategy of the text. in written texts.

of the human body. where God gives Moses knowledge of his name as the one who shall lead Israel out of Egypt. It is evident also in the granting of the Law by which the existence of the people of God is structured according to the divine creativity. for at every twist and turn of history the ‘text’ of the world is attended by the authorial voice. The text of the world ‘bears’ or ‘houses’ God’s voice therefore by extension. This structure of indwelling forms the theological rationale of Old and New Testament alike. as compassion and holiness of life. Just as someone who writes a letter to a loved one is genuinely present in the words that communicate a depth of relation. remains within God. but rather God as he has freely chosen to make himself known to us within the world of his own making. The intensity of God’s concern with his world. We can see it too where God intervenes on behalf of Israel by protecting its material existence against the weapons of its enemies. or reflexes. the ‘text’ which is at the same time the alienation and communication of the triadic speech of God. The Old Testament is pervaded with the sense of God’s ‘jealousy’ regarding his text-world and his abiding commitment to the creation. but nevertheless it is the authorship of an author who has himself become a figure in his own text. which is at the same time a mode of divine revelation and concealment. through whom God acts by utterance to protect and restore the purity of his people. is evident in the Exodus narrative. The ‘authorial voice’ is not God in himself. It precisely reflects the extension of God beyond himself. and reintegrating the objectified divine self-communication into the dynamic orality of God. subjective address as it struggles against its will with the public and objective commonality of the sign. the divine self-donation. Each divine utterance is an extension of the divine presence within history and a deepening of the creativity of God which gives life to the world. as a domain of divine self-communication sub contrario. which propagate speech beyond . It is the meaning of the speech of the prophets. Sign and address Following the above constructive metaphor. The divine interventions here are in a real sense ‘authorship’. and exists outside God. while being also spatially and temporally absent. as author of the text. in analogy with textual replications. as a speaker who is implicated in the originary act of speech.108 The Creativity of God intimate. God communicates himself in the creation while also being absent from it. as ‘Author’. breaking through the surface of the text. for God possesses sovereign power within the world and can shape it from within.

‘Ruach. according to which the wind dries land from the sea. Lys. From this perspective. Jer. See D. of meanings including ‘spirit’. vii (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag. that is.20 As Hosea says of Israel: ‘Although he [Ephraim] may flourish among rushes. 13:24. God in himself remains unseen. Although its original meaning is likely to have been the movement of air. gests the formation of the very structure of the cosmos as ‘atmosphere’ and ‘space’. Theologisches W ¨orterbuch zum Alten Testament. . The occurrence of ruah lohîm in the cosmic institutive narrative of Genesis 1:1–2 already ˆ . cal association with spatiality. As ‘the wind of God’. Etudes d’Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses 56 (Paris. 386–425. 1993). Fabry. ‘wind’ and ‘life’. ‘breath’. Spirit It is the particular role of the Spirit to thematise precisely this divine authorial commitment to or attendance on the creation. known only by faith as a reality that makes the figural speaking truly revelatory as a speech that points beyond the world and not to (human) processes within it. a blast from the Lord.-J. also in later texts. 27:8. as extension which is ‘breathed out’ by divine words. It is in this context that we must see the rich ambiguity of the word ruah. it points to the extension of divine creative power which shapes the world. can be found ˆ . therefore. H. which also underlies the verbal form ˆ . Exod. as in Isaiah’s proclamation that ‘the Lord will 17. which has a range ˆ . the east wind shall come. in service of the divine will. 13:15.’21 The wind can also be associated with theophany.’18 The theme of ruah as wind. and it was ‘a very strong west wind’ that ‘lifted’ the locusts of the eighth plague and ‘drove them into the Red Sea’. signals the expressive power of this ambiguity.17 As the Spirit of God. 21. 14:21. it parallels a topos in ancient Eastern creation myths. 19. rising from the wilderness.Spirit and Letter 109 the immediate spatio-temporal contexts of the original speaker. . where we read ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made.19 The wind represents God’s judgement. and all their host by the breath of his mouth. 10:19. ruah derives from an earlier root rwh. It was a ‘strong east wind’ that divided the waters for the escaping Israelites. 20. 1962). cols. vol. It thus has a secondary histori. 19. Hos. Isa. which appears also to be the reading found at Psalm 33:6. or ‘a mighty wind’. Le souffle dans l’Ancien Testament’. ruah sugˆ . ˆ 18. r ˆawah meaning ‘to be wide’ or ‘spacious’. eradicating Israel’s enemies with a ‘fierce blast’ or scattering Israel ‘like chaff ’.

in the world. or extension. instructs the prophet to utter to the dry bones. 14:6. (Koh) 12:7. said to indwell the self and does not represent the human person as such. . Neh. Job 4:16. 26. chiefly.22 Spirit is also closely associated with the principle of life.25 In 1 Samuel this tradition of the descent of the Spirit upon individuals continues. ne ¯pe ˇs (‘soul’). In the Book of Judges. 6:34. within the world. It also returns to God after death. 30. the intrinsic relation that exists between God and his human creatures. Eccl. and his chariots like the whirlwind’. ruah is linked with the ‘word’ of God. and with spirit as divinely ordained life.26 Ezra tells that God instructed his people through his ‘good spirit’ and he proclaims to God: ‘Many years you were patient with them. 25. 6:17 and 7:15 make clear that ruah can refer also to the life of animals. then in its 22. The ruah as Spirit of God also marks the points of divine intervention ˆ . Space. expressed as wind-breath-spirit. ˆ . l ˆeb (‘heart’). it is only .110 The Creativity of God come in fire. 66:15. This complexity of meaning that we find in the term ruah shows its ˆ . central function as signalling the implication of the divine. 16:13. in what Aubrey Johnson referred to as ‘theo-anthropology’. with the anointing of Saul and David. the ‘spirit of the Lord’ descended upon Samson. 27. as it came also upon Gideon. or indeed be the site of God’s speaking. with breath to animate the bodies ‘from the four winds’. albeit in a royal context. who become divine agents through the advent of the divine spirit-breath. the movement of wind.23 In contrast with terms such as hayîm (‘life’). 9:20. in which Eliphaz and Elijah encountered God. Judg. which God ˆ . yet they would not listen. 24. Jephthah and Othniel. are all cross-referenced in an interplay of meanings which generate a sense of the connectedness of God with the world. the animating power of breath and life. 1 Kings 19:11–12. 10:6. calling the powerful to account for their abuse of power and failure to care for the weakest and most marginalised in society and warning Israel of divine judgement to come. 11:29.’27 It is the prophets. particularly with the divine life which inhabits human beings as God’s creatures. 1 Sam. giving him exceptional strength. If ruah in its anthropological applications expresses ˆ .24 In the valley of dry bones passage narrated at Ezekiel 37:1–14. 13:25. Isa. Gen. as in the mysterious d m ˆam ˆah. which can be translated as ‘breeze’ or ‘breath of wind’. and warned them by your spirit through your prophets. 3:10. 23.

who will inaugurate a new age of universal peace and righteousness. . ‘the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him’ and he shall possess ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding. therefore. for Christians. The words or body of the text are shaped by the Author’s breath. but the meaning remains unconsumed by any particular act of interpretation. Again in terms which derive from our governing model. then. who is filled by it. But the Messiah himself will be marked by the Spirit. 28. which needs to be resolved against the background of authorial intention. the spirit of counsel and might. is the world’s remembrance of its origins within the divine originary speech. in which the indeterminacy is the result of an excess of presence. according to Isaiah. The Spirit. the Spirit is the original creativity of God at work.Spirit and Letter 111 cosmological applications it is suggestive of the pervasive presence of God within the physical fabric of the world as creative energy.28 From the perspective of the model of the world as text. But it is also the dynamic resonance of those origins: the co-ordination of the divine voice as it breaks through the surface of the text. The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel (2nd edn. 1964). This combination of Schleiermacher’s model with a theological account of the creation of the world produces a form of pragmatic hermeneutics to the extent that God’s meaning can truly be known by the interpreter of the text. power. in a manifestation of the divine logic which is the deep history of the world.30 According to Deutero-Isaiah. marks the point at which what we are calling the ‘authorial voice’ is fully realised within the creation. for. pp. This is to affirm Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics in so far as the spirit of the author permeates the text. is signalled by the inspired speech of the prophets. who is the Spirit of the creativity of God. whose generative words shape the world in an interconnectedness of text and voice. 23–37. The advent of the Messiah. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. conceived of as the suffering servant. God’s meaning within the text both saturates the mind of the interpreter and escapes any totalising or hegemonic appopriation of it. Aubrey R. 11:2. Isa. in the form of a speechagent. This is a hermeneutics both of indeterminacy and of authorial intention. 29. the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord’.29 Word It is fitting therefore that the Spirit. But the fact that the author in this case is God means that the Spirit-Presence of the divine author fulfils the text and overwhelms the recipient in a way that is more reminiscent of postmodern conceptions of the text as a field of irreducible indeterminacy. 30. these significations express the extent to which the world-text is sustained by the dynamic of the authorial voice. which remains in a sense internal to them within the otherness of their inscription. should play a vital role with respect to the Incarnation of the Word which. breath and wind. Johnson. the messianic figure.

528–51. Theology of the Old Testament. shows the continuity between the Spirit of the Old Testament and that of the New with regard to the ultimate. Alternatively. 31. Both of these forms of utterance show an internal relation with the function of the sign as reference. upon whom God ‘puts his spirit’. The Incarnation is the supreme manifestation of what Walter Brueggemann calls the divine ‘power for life’. Brueggemann. In terms of the textual metaphor for the world as divine creation. encourages the good and opposes evil. ‘will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth’.34 Jesus teaches and heals. Isa. . they are grounded in the awareness of God as Creator. 33. 1:35. 34. and in his own ministry as one who baptises not with water but with the Spirit. 3:11–12. into the divine breath. The servant. on the other hand. Lk.112 The Creativity of God will also put into question in an ultimate way the abuse of power which is the corruption of divinely granted freedom. while the latter is heard in the messianic prophecies which envisage history in terms of a dramatic fulfilment. while remaining text.33 The role of the Spirit at the baptism of Jesus. the text can be ‘repristinated’: transfigured by the realisation or sounding of the voice in attendance – taken back. greeted Mary who was with child. 35. much like the Spirit. Lk.32 The Spirit is present when Elizabeth. provides a narrative of origination. bearing John.31 The same link between the Spirit and messiahship is sustained in the Lucan birth narrative. eschatological fulfilment of the divine presence on earth. It is the knowledge encoded in the text that that voice remains in attendance on the creation in such a way that the breath can be withdrawn and the text be dissolved in cosmic destruction. The incarnate Word. therefore.35 For all its continuity with the life of the Spirit. The former knowledge is expressed in prophetic voices that warn of divine destruction and the ‘day of the Lord’. Matt. pp. where at the Annunciation Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. 32. His words are ‘a light to the world’ and Christians see in his life and death the structure of an irreversible and consummate intervention of God which has foundational cosmic and historical significance. 1:41–2. but it is also and paramountly a modality of address. the intervention of God in the Incarnation is a modality of God’s presence in the world which differs in significant respects from that of the Spirit. 42:1–4. the Spirit is the text’s own memory of its origins in the divine voice.

just as Daniel. because he anointed me to bring good news to 36. Additionally. In Genesis 2 we read that when God had formed man from the dust of the ground. and their lives are touched by the power of God. as expressed in the world. Speech is intrinsic to the status of humanity as being ‘in the image’ of God. in dreams and in Scripture. he read a messianic passage from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. As a boy he disputes with the teachers in the Temple so that ‘[a]ll who heard him were amazed at his understanding’ (a phrase which recalls the messianic passage at Isa. . The prophets who testify to the failure of Israel to follow the divine will are inspired by the Spirit. 2:47. as it is most frequently expressed in biblical language).38 And subsequently the Gospel of Luke records that when Jesus returned to Nazareth. as in the Letter of James 3:1–12. This already signals that there is an intimacy of relation between humankind and the divine breath. he ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’.36 But contained within the human capacity to speak. 4:8 (also 5:11 and 14). or ability to comprehend. and the role of the Spirit in its formation. is a human activity which is especially associated with the Holy Spirit. Interpretation of this kind entails an element of divine illumination. to follow and to obey. Our hermeneutical tasks are part of our spiritual character as reflective linguistic beings. referring to ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding’). 2:18–20. Lk. therefore. possesses the power of naming. which draws the individual interpreter more fully into the realm of divine power.Spirit and Letter 113 The question of the nature of God’s definitive intervention in Jesus Christ is closely bound up with the scriptural account of human nature. Gen. 37. The interpretation of the divine will. Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and has ‘the spirit of God’. The scriptural self is one who is summoned into a reciprocal relation with the God who speaks. The interpretation of God’s word is therefore at the centre of the human condition. as he does that of blessing and cursing. 41:38. as given by our affinity with the divine nature. who interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Gen. in terms of our attentiveness. Dan. is ‘endowed with a spirit of the holy gods’. or intervention. 38. Note also the power of human speech. in a way that suggests that he shares something of the originary power of God’s speaking. too. as blessing or cursing. as we struggle to make sense of what has been given to us to understand by the divine initiative. however partially and remotely. 11:12. our openness to what is said. Adam.37 Jesus’ own acts of interpretation are likewise spirit-filled. there is also the human capacity to understand (or ‘to listen’.

seems reflexive to the extent that he is not only the one who is empowered by the Spirit to bring the good news and to release captives. Human beings made in the image of God might correctly understand the divine purpose. The divine had itself to become body. 58:6. and bodies like texts. subject to all the vagaries of reading and reconstruction. something other was needed than the sounding of God’s speech within the creation. that it had been fulfilled in their hearing that day.114 The Creativity of God the poor. But Jesus’ reading of Scripture differs from any possible reading of our own in a way that is determinative of Christian salvific history. or reanimated the text of the world. away from the living immediacy of the body’s reality. Texts are like bodies. as a divine orality of pure presence was exchanged for a textuality at the heart of which was the act of – human – interpretation. which is to say. was at the same time the point at which the Creator’s voice re-entered. For both are voice-bearing. preferring their own partial and distorted constructions. . In order for the text of the world to be united once again with the divine voice. The divine meanings presupposed a human interpreter. but it is by the same Spirit that he is able to read the Scripture to them in this way. The reading is taken from the LXX version of Isa. In either case.’39 Jesus’ interpretation of the Scripture to those present with him. The body frames the voice. The world was poised at its centre on the contingencies of the human mind. to let the oppressed go free. Jesus read Scripture as the one of whom Scripture speaks. or they might misunderstand and reject such a purpose. the originary divine voice was now under alienation. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. Jesus’ own interpretation of Isaiah on that day is itself an aspect of his life in and through Scripture and of his particular ability to discern its meaning. his entry into its foundational meanings. 4:16–30. His reading of it. 61:1–2 to which has been added a phrase (‘to let the oppressed go free’) from Isa. Lk. Conclusion The model of author and text represents a postcritical attempt to recreate the structures of a pre-modern paradigm of the universe as participating 39. and that body had itself to become world. The unfathomable act of generosity which was the creation of the world represented also the fundamental alienation of the divine voice. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. like a semantic echo. under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit. while the text carries the voice.

Peter Ochs has drawn our attention to the extent to which modern pragmatism resonates positively with ancient rabbinic forms of exegesis. This sat uneasily with Thomas’ insight that divine causality was not like any other kind of causality (since it was ‘creatio ex nihilo’).Spirit and Letter 115 in the life of God. which is that the relation between God and the world is akin to the relation that obtains between an author and his or her text (or more specifically the authorial voice and the text). There is a sense in which this language of voice and embodiment seems closer to the scriptural world than are extrinsic notions of causality and existence. and thus the caused bears a likeness to its cause. This is to replace likeness with implication (the divine voice is implicated in or given with the world) and causality with embodied extension. and thus more theologically coherent. must itself be viewed as being integral to the textuality of the world. What we might call ‘right’ or ‘deep’ interpretation on our part will be interpretation which grasps the nature of the world’s textuality. and which – under the guidance of the Spirit – receives it as divine relation and covenantal gift which is transparent to the divine author who gives. In the patristic and medieval periods. Law . between the creation of the world and the giving of the Law. understanding and perceiving. then the act of interpretation. It is not that we are observers. created being provided a structure for a theological logic and semantics. The cosmological idea advanced in this book. Running through these paradigms was the idea that a cause replicates itself in some degree in its effect. But there is a further advantage in the voice-text model which is to do with the emphasis it places upon interpretation as a human activity. This sequence is already adumbrated in the movement between Genesis and Exodus. therefore. but nevertheless the notion that causes and the caused are linked by likeness was so fundamental to the pre-modern understanding of the world that it necessarily had a great influence upon the way that theologians conceived the relation between the world as created and the nature of God as Creator. Pragmatism seems in a way to be the practice of an implicit theology of creation. indeed of experiencing. standing outside the world and looking within. sophisticated forms of metaphysics predicated upon specific notions of a causal relation between the divine being and contingent. Speech about God was meaningful since the world from which language derives bore a certain likeness – by virtue of its state as caused – to the divine nature itself. seeks to replace the traditional metaphysical view with a nonmetaphysical dynamic of voice and sign. If we hold that the interpreter is an intrinsic part of the textuality of the world (which we must do if we hold to a ‘world-text’).

pp. Judaic Law issues from the belief that right understanding is tied in with practices of living which are grounded in the order of creation. Judaic Law also places great emphasis upon the bodies of those who interpret the world ‘textually’. in implied recognition of the analogy that flows between the world as divine ‘body’ and the body of the one who interprets or receives that body rightly or in depth. its vestments and practices.40 What we can term the ‘embodied interpretation’ of Jewish Law.116 The Creativity of God is interpretation governing principles of action which is ordered to the world as divine breath or word. which is to say interpretation that takes place in and through the body. 156–69. and which cannot be exercised outside that relation. I shall return to this theme in chapter 8 below. . 40. as the self-communication of God. is an important signal of what in the Christian dispensation is understood to be the uniquely radicalised interpretative practices of Jesus as the embodiment of divine life.

for it already stands in the most intimate relation with divinity. that is to say. but does so in a way that requires interpretation: only through a sequence of interpretative acts by others can that voice be released and ‘heard’. It is a kind of primal matter. But the ‘text’ that deposits through the divine creative act is more properly to be thought of as a ‘Primal Text’. This Primal Text participates in and communicates the divine speaking. This Primal Text is the very bedrock of spatio-temporal existence and from this our world emerges. Like a text. it cannot itself be known as text. but it does so through something other. personal and immediate. but is that by which textuality is possible. It is not a foundational passivity. Nicholas of Cusa. for it eludes all our constructions. Scripture is like bread which until it is broken up and given out does not satisfy our hunger. [117] . though not in the sense that the scholastics used this term. non satiat.6 Voice and sacrifice Scriptura est sicut panis. but something far more dynamic. is encoded and made strange in the visible and material signs of the text. Sermones The extended exegesis of the preceding two chapters posits that the world precipitates from the living and plural speech of God as a text crystallises from the dynamic speech-processes of human culture. for even a Primal Text must combine the material and the notional in a way that primal matter did not. as the human voice. it contains the author’s voice in encoded form. from whose speech it has precipitated. which is what the scholastics understood by primal matter. qui nisi frangatur et distribuatur.

The Word must in some sense give itself utterly to be interpreted or exegeted by the Father with the Spirit. in kind and mediate the universe of interpretations and social meanings embedded in language and social actions. The Primal Text must itself be a kind of overflow from the infinitely fecund semiosis that is the inner life of the Trinity. We see textuality in the recent understandings of the way that brain and consciousness interact. as we discern distinct objects about us. The status of the Primal Text as that which offers itself to understanding suggests that semiosis is intrinsic to the Trinitarian life itself. then some manifestations of this primal textuality show a primacy of the material and others of the ideational or notional. through originary reference. It yields itself to us as a multitude of textualities. and by the Spirit with the Father. as a combination of material signs and notional meanings. and in their consequent capacity to interact with each other in the formation of an . or in the genome which maps the genetic inheritance of the human race. If textuality itself can be defined as the ordering of material entities in such a way as to engender more complex meanings. These include the products of art. high culture and education. Some fields of meaning are dominantly of the senses and to do with the physical construction of the world as a unity of objects. seem to have no base in the material order despite the inherent materiality of the sign. each in interaction with the other. is the very structure of existence and is the readability of the world. Others again are literary or more properly textual in form. High-level social or cultural meanings. since it is too intimately bound in to the inner life of God. Text. as first reflex of the Trinitarian life. as the combination of the material and the ideational. in a continuous and infinite perichoresis of knowing and understanding through love and self-giving. since in them the signifying function of the sign has attained an almost absolute power. And even if it is unknowable in itself.118 The Creativity of God The Primal Text that I am proposing represents the point at which God willed the divine speaking to turn outwards. Other semantic fields are more notional. then. For the world itself is known to us in and through interpretation. the Primal Text. must underlie every aspect of the created order. Perception itself is the recognition of a concept within the material order. in the participation of all the semantic fields which constitute our experience in the same unity of the material and ideational. and must itself exegete the Father with the Spirit. on the other hand. and the Spirit with the Father. This deep textuality is manifest. thus calling the material world as that which is other than God into being. It is from that inexhaustible fount of meaning that the world-text itself must flow. or cultural.

that forms world. if the world at its root is Primal Text. ideational. then. Scripture offers a celebratory conformity to the life-giving compassion of God that is the ground of the world. we could not know of God’s action in history. A sign.Voice and sacrifice 119 infinitely complex structure which we call world. in the definition given above. the divine voice. artistic. We find in the Bible. we must give a special place to Scripture. literary or any combination of these. In other words. together with the astonishingly diverse dimensions of existence which they embody. We can think of Scripture. It stands as an icon of the divine creativity and offers those communities who enter into it through repeated acts of deep reading the possibility of access into the vital structure of the world as divine text. which creates the possibility of the analogical. It is only the capacity of the material and the ideational to interact. whether conceived of as a word or an object in a divinely instituted world. Thus we hear a kind of echo of the creative speaking of God. then our capacity to interpret the world must itself be part of our own participation in the Primal Text. which it records and to which it testifies. As a reflex of the divine creativity. Textualities can be material. the pure reality of the divine speaking within history. only truly comes . cultural. but among those textualities which are textual artefacts and which we most commonly denote as conventional texts. captured by human voices whose own celebratory expressivity was constituted in a vital response to the originary speech of God. is the aggregation of texts which body forth the human voice. Scripture. It is one of the chief fallacies of human consciousness that the mind observes the world without itself being part of the world. which is the ultimate historical referent of the text. social. But the proximity of Scripture to createdness of the world is greater than this. in fragmented but analogical form. shaped and transformed by the divine speaking in history. or the formation of the world. Inhabiting the Text I argued in the previous chapter that human interpretation of the world is itself part of the world. and it is this principial intertextuality. But there is a significant distinction to be made between the human mind and the world it cognises since – from a scriptural perspective – the world is itself composed of signs. Without the biblical text. as a textual and therefore accessible performance of the unknowable Primal Text. world-generating interrelation of all things. never to be discerned directly in itself.

we are destined always to remain alienated with respect to our own self-knowledge. revelatory speaking. In so far as we embrace our own compassionate nature. exercised before the other. 2001. 24–46.120 The Creativity of God into view to an observer. is a kenotic discourse and the exteriorisation of that speech. Our true. creative dynamic. on account of the dialectical character of our own being in the world. Scripture awakens us to the possibilities of our participation in the Primal Text and 1. we actually realise our own signing nature. as the congregation of texts written by those whose own voices have been shaped in celebration by the divine speaking. and never by ourselves. The final question in this section. This appears to be the predicament of human nature. we actually enter into our own nature as divinely constituted sign. who stands outside it. the signifying properties of the world are grounded ultimately in the inner life of the Trinity. Compassion is an act of self-renunciation which. authentically mediates to us the structure and dynamic of God’s originary. which is a condition of our existence in the world. If we ourselves are part of a textual world. entails the compassionate engagement of God with his creation. Trinitarian speech. The fact that we cannot see ourselves as sign does not mean that we do not carry out the inner functions of the sign in our daily living. therefore. concerns the relation between our own participation in the Primal Text and self-realisation as compassionate sign and the reading of Scripture. paradoxically. And thus. or interpreter. We are constituted as those for whom the world signifies. We gain life through self-risk undertaken for the sake of the other. then we cannot ever apprehend our own nature. But in fact this view rests upon a misunderstanding of human existence.1 But in so far as we realise our own compassionate nature. According to a scriptural view of the world. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Signalling is an exterior act in which the sign’s own resting in itself is given out. as signs. As a textualisation of that compassionate. leads to an enhanced or enriched state of existence. I have already argued that Scripture. and is exhausted. by its signifying function. which I traced in chapters 4 and 5. and thus give realisation to our own participation in the Primal Text which is the root of the world. if we are part of the divinely ordered world of signs. can only ever be known by others. especially pp. made accessible to us in and through the person of Christ. I attempted to give a phenomenological account of this structure and dynamic in my earlier Theology of Compassion (London: SCM Press. 2003). then. signifying nature. . but can be realised only in the ecclesial gaze of others. our inner nature is that of an interpreter. and are in essence signs.

which signals the supernatural quality of authentic scriptural reading. I hope to address the theme of scriptural reading more fully in a future work. It is perhaps most easily understood by analogy with the pragmatist school of philosophy. the role of the Spirit is the guarantee that the authentic appropriation of Scripture can never be purely individualistic but is always in essence an ecclesial act. The answer traditionally has been that we attend to the Bible in and through the power of the Spirit. or even an inchoate memory of our origins. ˆ ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’. 1998). as Word and Spirit of the Word. In his study Pierce. The Spirit in us. Its movement within us. in the way that it does. those who hear or read the words of Scripture. which circulates within the Gospels and their Hebrew foundation.Voice and sacrifice 121 gives us access to it.2 But further. but the Christian scriptural hermeneutic I have begun to outline in this volume is greatly indebted to Ochs’ insights and work. to enter the biblical world. it is the divine imprint within the world and is its capacity to be integrated again – as text. . as materiality – into the divine breath. is not address as such but the dynamic which makes address as communication possible. it is the world-text’s memory of its origination in the divine speaking: as ruah meaning ‘wind’. if we allow the Spirit. who reflectively practise it. we become one with his body the Church in a conforming of the self with the divine logic of Scripture which shapes in us a new celebratory and compassionate form of life. But this needs to be given a somewhat fuller theological content if it is to be useful as providing an insight into a Christian biblical hermeneutic. We put on ‘the mind of Christ’ when we read Scripture in and through the Spirit. Pragmatism and the Logic of Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. What I am advocating here is neither fundamentalist (since interpretation is at its centre) nor relativist (since agency lies with the text). Christians or Muslims. It allows us to ‘hear’ the divine voice that speaks within the biblical word and to become integrated into the perichoretic speaking. in the domain of biblical reading and interpretation. in the act of reading. then. From the perspective of a theology of creation. is the mark of our own elemental belonging to the created order and is to be found as a propensity. is at the same time the discovery that the power of God has preceded us: the Word of which we read is already present to us. deep within us. 2. whether Jews. in the analytic given in chapters 4 and 5. But the question remains as to why it should speak to us. the Spirit is a participation in the economic life of God. The Spirit. as it is to those others. Peter Ochs has set out a contemporary rabbinic scriptural hermeneutic. There are likely to be some subtle distinctions to be made in the formation of a Christian analogue to Ochs’ programme. as the deep structure of the createdness of the world. As Trinitarian. and kenotic way of life. a tendency. It is the Spirit that allows us.

‘Intertextuality and the Study of the Old Testament in the New Testament’. Shires states that the sources of Jesus’ citations include thirty of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament (Finding the Old Testament in the New (Philadelphia: Westminster Press. 88).122 The Creativity of God Christology The Bible speaks to us of Christ who is himself the ground of the world and. Matt. and the thoroughgoing practice of non-violence. as dialogical. for a useful overview of the theoretical parameters of intertextuality. 2000). North (Sheffield: Sheffield University Press. and the practice of reading is itself at the heart of the Gospel message. The question now arises as to the alignment between the way in which we read Scripture. purity of intention.: Westminster/John Knox Press. Ky. See Steve Moyise. pp.3 The New Testament abounds in direct and indirect references to the Old. Following the Beatitudes. then what of Jesus himself? What insights can we gain from the Gospels about how Jesus may have read Scripture and how this may have found expression in his life and values? The relation between the world of the New Testament and that of the Old as reflected in the practice of intertextuality has come in recent years to establish itself as a primary area of thematic concern for New Testament scholars. Henry M. 1974). Essays in Honour of J. Old Testament sources within the narrative framework of his Gospel. . is the realisation in the created order of the originary Trinitarian speech of creation. which is to say indeterminate.5 Jesus applies 3. or two-way. L. or postmodern. 14–41. 4. 5:21–48. The Old Testament in the New Testament. 5. in the sense of interpreting. and the way in which Jesus himself read Scripture. Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark. in idem. p. as divine–human presence with us.4 He is generally supportive of Old Testament perspectives but is also capable of bringing striking new interpretations to bear. If reading Scripture authentically in the Spirit is for us to become increasingly conformed to the structure of the divine creativity manifest through an ecclesial speech. and its history in biblical scholarship. in both Hebrew and Greek versions. as a divine–human speech-agent. This is the case not only in terms of the use made of Scripture by the Gospel writers and the early Church in order to present Jesus as the fulfilment of the Hebrew prophetic and legal traditions but also in Jesus’ own application of Scripture within his ministry. Louisville. Joel Marcus’ discussion of intertextuality in Mark (The Way of the Lord. The reconstruction of the place of scriptural quotation in Jesus’ own teaching shows that he had an extensive knowledge of the books of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus expands the moral precepts of ‘ancient times’ in terms of a radical ethic of interior righteousness. presence-with and compassion. 1992) is an exemplary study of the way in which a Synoptic author engages in a coherent and extended act of reading.

2000).6 Repeatedly the Gospels present occasions on which Jesus makes implicit or explicit claims regarding his own status as the one who comes to fulfil the Old Testament promise. pp. Williams.: Hendrickson Publishers. Jesus is shown reading a text based on Isaiah 61:1 in the synagogue at Nazareth and interpreting it in terms that are to be significant for his own ministry. 12:1–8. or ìani hu ì. in the Gospel narrative. 74–7. Williamson. and no one can deliver from my hand. which may persuade us of the historicity or otherwise of any individual pericope. G. At one level the words 6. Swartley. ‘Luke/Acts’. . Carson and H. 42–50. I kill and I make alive. pp. This kind of language of divine subjectivity reaches its climax in a passage from Deuteronomy 32:39 where the intensive form ìani ìani hu ì is used as God declares: ‘See ˆ now that I. 4:16–21. Israel’s Scripture Traditions and the Synoptic Gospels (Peabody. ˆ God expresses his own unique sovereignty. even I. 7. in D.Voice and sacrifice 123 texts directly to his own situation. pp. in a fusion of prophetic ‘Exodus’ traditions which stemmed from Galilee and royal.7 At Luke 4:16–30. Lk.8 Whatever historical-critical arguments are brought to bear. For an analytical summary of the use of the Old Testament motifs of exodus. 24:27 and 44. see William M. Mass.. Barrett. Israel’s Scripture Traditions. 21:1–6) in order to underline his own authority. 9. 8. as it is in his status as creator of the world. ‘I am He’ One of the ways in which Jesus most explicitly inhabits the scriptural text is the ‘I am’ sayings. am he. Swartley. For a detailed and nuanced discussion of the deuteronomic ani hu ì. M. 1988).’9 This declarative form which articulates God’s subjectivity as supreme ruler of the world reoccurs in the New Testament in the Gospels of John and Mark. as ‘lord of the sabbath’. 231–44 (here 235–6). It Is Written. In the Deuteronomic phrase ‘I am he’. and specifically his support and deliverance of his people. priestly traditions which were associated with Jerusalem and the Temple milieu. the engaged reader of the New Testament cannot but feel that Jesus himself was steeped in the language and precepts of the Old Testament and that his own life was patterned upon it. K. God’s claim against the ‘foreign gods’ is one that is grounded in his manifest power of control over Israel’s history. see Catrin H. Scripture Citing Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. I wound and I heal. as when he quotes the account of how David and his men ate the bread of the Presence (1 Sam. eds. Matt. there is no god besides me. cf. conquest. 1994). temple and kingship. The most interesting passage in Mark is the point at which Jesus identifies himself to the disciples when walking on the sea. Lk. ì ˆ ¨ I am He. A. See also C. The Interpretation of ìAni Hu ì in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (Tubingen: Mohr ˆ Siebeck.

124 The Creativity of God ‘Take heart. I tell you whoever receives one whom I send receives me. compromising the freedom of God with respect to that history. Karl Rahner.14 This represents an attempt to maintain a continuity between Jesus’ experience of God with our own experience of God without. A Christology of this kind attempts to give expression to the dialectical nature of the revelation itself. It seeks to locate Jesus Christ within human history without. reducing the former to the latter. Jn 4:26. Jn 13:19–20. ‘consciousness Christology’ or ‘degree Christology’ but rather an attempt to articulate in a variant form what Karl Rahner has termed ‘ontological Christology’. and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. it is I’ serve to alleviate the disciples’ shock at what they are seeing. 8:24 and 28. an Introduction to the Idea of Christianity (London: Darton Longman and Todd. Foundations of Christian Faith.’11 In later passages eg ¯o eimi is used in order to assert the identity of Jesus against his detractors. found equally though differently in Mark and John. 14. but at another they are a declaration of the divine subjectivity in Jesus who – with echoes of Genesis 1 – stands above the waters and controls the wind. that the Old Testament resonances of the Greek ‘I am’ (eg ¯o eimi) are most extensively present. by affirming that the divinisation of Jesus Christ is at the same time recognisably our own divinisation and the entry into the world of the divine presence in a new and unparalleled way. you may believe that I am he. Jn 8:58. 12. . 11. however.’13 It is impossible to know whether and to what extent the ‘I am’ usage. Early in his ministry Jesus uses the phrase to identify himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman: ‘I am he. is grounded in the early kerygma of the Church or reflects something of Jesus’ own selfunderstanding.’ In the verse that follows this line. pp. I am. the one who speaks to you. cf. 10. 13. 302–3. Mk 6:45–52. before it occurs. so that when it does occur. before Abraham was. Jesus alludes to his own forthcoming death and states: ‘I tell you this now. But it is the case that the Gospel narrative records Jesus’ inhabiting of the Old Testament text in this particular way. the messianic content of the phrase is again made explicit: ‘Very truly. however.’12 Following Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet. however. 1978).10 It is primarily in the Gospel of John. What we can discern here is the outline of what we might call ‘a Christology of textual awareness’ as a criterion of the subjectivity of Christ which is not. however. again in an overtly messianic sense: ‘Very truly. I tell you.

In terms of the present textual metaphor. to adopt another patristic insight. however. brings about the re-creation of the world. is the divine image in us and is the mark of our own integration into the world-text as part of that text.Voice and sacrifice 125 I argued in the previous chapter that human nature is intrinsically hermeneutical. speaking now from within the text of the world. This is a . and our own interpretation of Scripture and the world. is an intrinsic part of the way in which we exegete the world as God’s creation. The act of interpreting the world as God’s creation. In so far as we enter the Primal Text. is hermeneutical in the inclusive sense in which I have used the term. under the guidance of the Spirit. Our capacity to interpret. In the case of Jesus himself. we are ourselves conformed to it in a life of celebratory holiness and commitment to the other. and that the human nature of Christ. leads to a sanctification of life. therefore. which is the evolving understanding and – with it – acceptance of his divine mission. In the case of Jesus. and not as extraneous to it. the creativity of which extends to the regeneration of the world. which is to say. this marks the point at which a single created individual becomes the total presence of the principial and originary voice of God. The distinction between Jesus’ interpretation of Scripture and of the world. by the argument given above. that transformation is a total one and entails the complete emptying of himself into and for the world. his own act of reading Scripture and world. Jesus therefore understands himself to be the centre of both Scripture and world in a dialectic of identity and difference which is grounded in the Word’s own contemplative exegesis of the Father. as scriptural cosmologists such as Origen and Hamann have maintained. Jn 1:18. as the Word. the Trinitarian ground of creation. And if the Word ‘exegetes’ or ‘interprets’ the Father as the Father’s image (cf. is the centre and meaning of Scripture and the world. that human compassion is identical with the divine compassion. A second point of continuity and distinction with respect to the incarnate Son and ourselves rests in the principle of compassion which. This involves a transformation of body and spirit. along the principle of the perichoretic kenosis and compassion which is the structure of the creation itself. indeed our intrinsic nature as interpreters in a world that gives itself for interpretation. then we can further say that humanity is formed ‘in the image of the image’. Further. in which the word ex ¯eg ¯esato occurs). each single act of human compassion signals the compassion of God and communicates a deepening of the divine creativity in the world. is that he exegetes these as the one who is their ultimate meaning. Since Jesus himself.

For the argument that the Last Supper was a Passover meal and that the words of institution contain signals that they represent the ipsissima vox of Jesus. the otherness of creation itself. when the Jewish people recalled their liberation from the Egyptian exile by God’s power and the consecration of the firstborn in remembrance and thanksgiving for it. We can note for instance a linguistic trace which sets up a subtle resonance with the baptism–transfiguration nexus which was explored in chapter 4. The 15. and marks a point in Jesus’ mission which both looks back to his struggle in Gethsemane and looks forward to the Passion. 1966). 26:26–30. Matt. It thus communicates to us something of Jesus’ self-awareness as he undergoes and accepts the unfolding logic of his scriptural life. Jesus attended that meal in Jerusalem with his disciples and. 1 Cor. . as the fulfilment of time and sign of the kingdom. according to the New Testament record. ‘This is my body’ The institution of the Lord’s Supper is recorded in all the Synoptic Gospels as well as in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. presence-with and compassion.16 The words of institution represent in the first place Jesus’ own self-possession as one who inhabits Scripture. 22:14–23. For Jesus to know who he was. The occasion of this pericope is the Passover meal. was for him to know that he was utterly given out. blessed the bread and the wine in the traditional Jewish way. But in the second place there is in the words of institution a perfect coincidence of creativity of speech. The manifestation or realisation of the voice of the Creator.126 The Creativity of God divine movement which necessarily entails the redemptive healing of the world-text. brings with it the healing and repairal of what has been lost or damaged or misunderstood through a divine act of compassion which is the assimilation of the otherness of the text. pp. expressed in terms of the coming of the kingdom and the reign of heaven on earth. covenant with God and the advent of God’s kingdom. 11:23–6. the realisation of which is an utter emptying of the self for the sake of the other. see Joachim Jeremias. Mk 14:22–5. sacrificed. adding words which expressed his understanding of his own imminent fate as being one of sacrifice for others. Jesus inhabits Scripture then as the one of whom Scripture speaks. 16. 15–88 and 201–3. speaking from within the creation. for the sake indeed of the whole of the creation. Lk. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (London: SCM Press. back into the divine order.15 It takes place immediately prior to his betrayal and arrest. The textual alienation of the divine voice leads inevitably to misinterpretation and misappropriation of the created order. for the sake of the world.

resurrection and ascension.’ ‘This is my body . The institution of the Lord’s Supper is a critical moment in the nexus of Passion. he spoke not with a human voice but with the voice of the Father: he instituted the very thing which he declared to be the case. for it did not bring something from nothing. . 19. Listen to him. . but the epiclesis of the Spirit which occurred in many early liturgies could be said to pick up the descent of the Holy Spirit recorded in the account of the baptism. . therefore. the one human and the other divine.19 In the words of Eucharistic institution. third and fourth Eucharistic Prayer of the modern Roman Rite. my blood] which is given for you’ with a command ‘Do this in memory of me’ is already given in the transfiguration pericope where we have: ‘This is . Its position immediately before the Passion narrative signals Jesus’ own acceptance of what is to come. Jn 6:22–59. as an expansion of the line ‘yet. which tended to view the child as the product of the man’s seed. . The epiclesis can also be found in the second. 22. But it marked his point of entry into the biblical metaphor. . . This was not originary speaking in the sense of the fiat. is now internalised and assumed into his own identity as blood poured out for others. and it offers an insight into his state of textual awareness at this significant point in his mission. and the fusion of two voices.’ The parallel ‘This is my Son . which Jesus feared and with which he struggled in the Gethsemane pericope. in Johannine phraseology.17 There is no reference to the Holy Spirit at this point in the text. .Voice and sacrifice 127 Lucan structure of the declarative ‘[t]his is [my body. not my will but yours be done’ (Lk. The ‘cup of wrath’ of Psalm 60:3 and Isaiah 51:17.’ can be read as a chiasmus since a son is in a sense an extension of the body of the father.18 This is a divine speaking which is therefore at once declarative and institutionary. This is more evidently the case according to pre-modern understandings of procreation. . Voice is actually a radically corporeal notion. and when he declared them to be his body and blood. In a parallel way. 18. life-giving love constitute Jesus’ point of entry into Scripture in an act of personal appropriation of its meaning and telos as the one of whom Scripture speaks. symbols both of God’s justice and his nourishing. When Jesus blessed the bread and wine. recalling the act by which Yahweh fed his people in the wilderness. in the person of Jesus has profound implications for the condition of his 17. . [my Son] . Jesus himself now becomes the ‘bread from heaven’ and ‘the bread of life’. for the voice with which he speaks is simultaneously his own human voice and the voice of his Father. His speaking at this point is both glorified and sacrificial. 22:42).

Multivocal speech At the centre of the Eucharistic celebration. resurrection and ascension. In the first place there is the characteristic of a pluralistic dialogism. Secondly.20 Eucharist The celebration of the Christian Eucharist is a primary way in which those who follow Christ come to inhabit Scripture. the Eucharist is the most radical way of reading Scripture. while remaining text. the body of Jesus is also the body of God. which articulates an appropriation through faith and in the Spirit of the transformation of the bread and wine into Jesus’ own body and blood effected by the original words of institution. It is this unendurable paradox which is resolved. I sought to describe the particular role played by silence in the context of the divine sacrifice. with 20. in the sacrificial pouring out of the body and blood of Jesus into the material elements of the world which is first signalled in the institution of the Lord’s Supper and is accomplished in the Passion.128 The Creativity of God embodiment. and it is one which is accomplished through a ritual participation in the way in which Jesus himself inhabited Scripture. or perhaps better to say realised. . In the vocal terms that are being developed here. The participation in Jesus’ own entry into the Word of God as the Word of God shows a twofold structure. a Trinitarian rhythm of speech which centres on the presence of the Word with and for the people. Jesus’ body resurrected and ascended is the unity of the world as text with the authorial voice of God. is the priest who speaks from within the heart of the community. His sacrifice in and through this ‘dual’ embodiment is the regeneration and repristination of the world. This is a highly contradictory notion. it is the point at which the words of the text are filled again with the authorial voice. Located at the centre of Christian life. This now becomes dual in a real sense: as the bearer of the divine speaking. performed or actively remembered by the community who gather in his name to celebrate and give thanks for his creative love. April 2003). In ‘Silences of the Cross’ (unpublished paper given to the Society for the Study of Theology. in the modern Catholic model. and the text. becomes the divine body. since the body of God is infinite while the human body of Jesus is finite. there is the more metaphysical structure of what has been known in Catholic tradition as the Real Presence. These are recapitulated.

Trinitarian disruptions (doxologies. to which the people give the reply Amen. the voices of those who are oppressed. kyrie).Voice and sacrifice 129 the voice of Jesus. Further. petitions). for the sake of the community. so that they may increasingly be formed in the breath or Spirit of God and so live lives that are opened out with thanksgiving into the compassionate creativity of God. In each case the emphasis is upon the loving unity of the Church. The Sunday Missal (London: Collins. points to the fact that the dialogism of Eucharistic speech is fundamentally triadic and perichoretic in form. An Old Testament reading is placed side by side with a Psalm and a passage from the New Testament. the Prayer of the Faithful. 25. but it also evokes the person of Christ intertextually. ‘[t]hrough the readings. who struggle or are needful in some way break into the Eucharistic speaking: through the compassionate concern of those celebrating the Eucharist. 1975). formed around the reception of the Eucharist. The responses at the end of the readings reinforce the dialogism here. against the Old Testament background. The affirmation of the three Persons in the Creed which follows the readings is the people’s response to that revelation. The Liturgy of the Word sets this speech rhythm firstly in the context of the divine speaking-with. 21. Eucharistic speech itself is multiple and celebratory. play throughout the Eucharistic service and are apparent already in the priest’s greeting in the name of Father. and it too must be allocated to the work of the Spirit in a particular way. The role of the homily is to help to integrate that divine speaking into the lives of the faithful. God speaks to his people of redemption and salvation. In the intercessions for the world. recontextualised with triadic. p. Dialogical rhythms (responses. setting up a structured series of internal resonances.21 Effectively the ground of Eucharistic speaking as thanksgiving and celebration now comes into view: Christ is present in his word and speaks through Scripture with the people of God who are assembled around him. . absolution. as do the repeated responses within the Psalm. and nourishes their spirit with his word. grounded in praise and thanksgiving. According to the rubric of the Order of the Mass. which finds expression also in the exchange of the sign of peace prior to the act of communication during the rite of communion. who suffer or are sick. Christ is present among the faithful in his word’. Son and Spirit. following the Entrance Song. which concludes the Liturgy of the Word. The Spirit is also invoked in the Memorial Prayer of the second and third of the Eucharistic Prayers as it is in the Intercessions for the Church of the fourth Eucharistic Prayer.

The term sacrament. then we can say in Pauline language that it marks the point at which we put on the ‘mind of Christ’. Real presence The formal expression of union with Christ in the Eucharist in Catholic tradition is the belief that in the act of consecration.130 The Creativity of God their voices enter into the flow of celebratory-compassionate speech. or in patristic language. for instance. the priest is indwelt by the voice of Jesus who speaks from the midst of the text. a new intensity of signification was achieved whereby the ‘pointing to’ occurred only within a specific rite and overtly Christological context (in contrast with the implicit and diffuse Christology of the earlier usage). only gradually did the term come to be restricted to the seven sacraments we know today. which caused or brought about that which they signified. The grace of God was . the voice of Jesus becomes present under the aspect of speech and not as written text. Under Aristotelian influence. or culmination. transforming and sanctifying. however. With that development in the twelfth century. This movement recapitulates and makes present Jesus’ own inhabiting of the scriptural text when he declared the bread and wine to be his own body and blood that was to be given for all. In the most intimate sense. the bread and wine truly become the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. as we find it in Augustine. If the rite of consecration represents our own entry into the way that Jesus entered into the biblical text. But here the distantiation of the text is left behind. If in the Liturgy of the Word the Church hears Scripture. expresses the belief that the things of creation have some kind of signifying relation to the Creator. of a tendency which is foundational to sacramental theology. the point at which we participate in Christ’s own nature as Wisdom. if not the most fundamental. enriching it and extending the speech inclusively into the world. then in the Liturgy of the Communion the priest performs with and on behalf of the people Jesus’ own speaking. this is a ritualistic form of reading in which the Church corporately partakes. As the words of institution are repeated at the consecration of the elements. read out as text and reflected upon in the homily. the voice of Jesus is no longer alienated under the aspect of a visible sign: through the priest’s own voice. of that new condition of mind is an entirely new way of seeing the world: not as a sphere of reference but rather as divine address. the sacraments were now efficient signs. The transformation from sign to address which takes place in the Eucharistic act of consecration is an intensification. One of the fundamental expressions.

which is the extreme of signification. take on presence. Nor is it a transformation such that B changes into A. But the body and blood is not present in any normal sense. But the manner of its persistence is peculiar. touch. whereby some item A takes the place of item B. The theology of the Eucharistic presence constituted a further and ultimate degree of intensification. In other words. together with the creative speaking of Christ at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. the body and blood. the materiality of the Eucharistic signs becomes so transfigured by signification that the object of their signifying. . In other words. The technical term for this kind of sacramental sign was signum et res: the material sign and the divine reality it signifies in combination. the elements become the body and blood of Christ. otherwise we would not see the remaining elements. For to the eyes of faith. Eucharistic presence marks the intensification of signification to an extreme of plenitude. But the manner of that presence is not that of ordinary objects in the world. is not an ordinary presence but a presence which is simultaneously an absence. which must remain intact if the act of signifying is to be accomplished. but received from within. This kind of presence then. The first is that of a theology of creation which affirms that the world is created through Christ.Voice and sacrifice 131 not only suggested by the application of the material elements within the rite but was actually made manifest in the world. thus instituting a new and quite unique modality of presence. which is no longer there. that is. and again ceases to be there: the sight. The transformation of the elements marks the unity of two sets of intersecting trajectories. smell and taste of the elements are evident to all. for it was now asserted – in the classical expression that we find in Thomas Aquinas – not only that the signs signify invisible grace in a way that makes it effective but also that they now signify it so comprehensively that it becomes ‘substantially’ present. Neither the bread and wine nor the body and blood are present on the altar in any ordinary sense. It is not a form of replacement. but both are present and absent in a reciprocal sense. and specifically in the lives of those who participated in the sacrament. Integral to this dynamic is the preservation of the sign. just as the body and blood are both present and absent: the one cannot be conceived without the other. The change is of a more subtle kind and cannot be conceived outside the frame of reference established by the sacramental tradition. the elements are both present and absent. The fact that the Eucharistic presence grows from the process of sacramental signifying is fundamental for our understanding that the presence of the body and blood is not imposed upon the elements from without.

is the discovery that perception itself is redeemed. love me!”’. but only by virtue of his creative power. the second is the encounter 22. 67.22 The Eucharist proleptically grasps the end and the beginning of things in a complete transparency of the world to its creator. we read as Jesus read. The first is the cosmic institutionary narrative of Genesis 1. Thinking Biblically. Union with Christ in the Eucharist is therefore a union that is accomplished across the gap of the ages through the retrieval of a written text into its oral medium: a liturgical moment which is itself founded on the Passion and resurrection of Christ. p. The effects of our own participation in this transformed reality are also not easily grasped but come into view only gradually in the slow mediation of the everyday. They concern the substrate of our senses. as the Word of God indwelling the Word of God. as sublimation of the sign. But at the same time what we see in the Eucharistic celebration is the intersection of Christ’s own inhabiting of Scripture.132 The Creativity of God whereby Christ continues the movement of divine revelation by performing within the company that is to be his church his own unity with the created order. with the Church’s depth reading of the Scriptural text. each of which was simultaneously a moment of deepening creation. Paul Ricoeur has argued that the temporality of Genesis is one in which the ‘always-already-there of Creation does not make sense independently of the perpetual futurity of Redemption’ and that ‘between the two is intercalated the eternal now of the “you. whereby the material text of the world became again the divine breath. our fleshliness. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. . This is the semiotics not of referring signs but of address. with the world. In the Eucharist. Conclusion In the previous chapter I identified three primary stages in the dynamic movement of revelation of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Andr ´e LaCocque and Paul Ricoeur. and the contours of our thinking. by his own infinite act of reading which was the fulfilment and end of Scripture’s meaning. with the consequent entry of God into language as himself a speaking subject. in the slow diffusion of wisdom through senses and mind. The Eucharistic moment is not a moment of presence but one which so fills presence as to be no longer graspable under that aspect: it is the pleroma of time itself. 1998). Integral to the reception of the world as a New Creation. and embrace of its kenotic meaning.

The third such stage is the Incarnation with the fusing of the divine and human voice in Jesus. . With the creativity of the universalisation of the Son. and which discovers itself to be joyfully at one with the world-text’s ceaseless play. In the case of the self-emptying of the Son in the Incarnation. At each point the deepening movement of revelation through divine speech grounded a new kind of humanity. This is the community of those who are moved by God’s address in and through the person of Christ. it was the establishing of human subjectivity. one which is celebratory. resurrection and ascension did the voice of God enter once again into the text of the world. That new existence was subsequently shaped as the Spirit-filled speech of Pentecost. The recognition of the world as divine text-body is itself constitutive of a new kind of human embodiedness. Only through his death. human nature was called into existence in its perfection. there was a further opening out in the creation of the Eucharistic community. In the second case.Voice and sacrifice 133 between God and Moses in which God revealed his name and established a relation of conversation – or ‘speaking with’ – Moses ‘face to face’. summoned into existence through the divine subjectivity (Gen. undermined the ontological stability of the voice-bearing body of Jesus. revealing the triadic nature of the divine speaking. This manifested in some cases as a selfrisking prophecy and in others as speaking for the marginalised and vulnerable in society: for the ‘stranger. In the first case. as wholly transparent to God. of God. 1:29: ‘I give you’). celebration and thanksgiving. This was concomitant with the granting of the Decalogue and establishing of the Covenant. widow and orphan’. with the reception of the divine commandments and the obligations which flow from a ‘speaking with’ relation with God through Moses. who was ‘given’ and ‘poured out’ for all. Eucharistic and compassionate. effecting redemption. or extended body. This unity of voice. prophecy. in his post-Resurrection body. leading to praise. leading to his sacrificial self-identification with the material world which is itself the text. and who are empowered with a new way of seeing the world: as divine body. it was the establishing of the self as an ethical subject. divine and human.

.

III Eucharistic Wisdom .

.

But we can discern also a primary or fundamental mode of referencing. and after the earthquake a fire. an v¡r \WrW rj . In the second section I proposed a scriptural cosmology. We have worldconstituting reference. the way in which linguistic signs refer to entities which are at the same time natural signs that point to yet further entities in a complex weave which grounds our experience of and participation in the world. the world and its objects are of God’s making. and after the fire the voice of a gentle breeze. and have a dual signifying function. an v5 `v¡r W rj.7 The abundant real ∑ \Wr ¨ r=∆ h™hπ hT [¨ Í ∆ ◦≈ ≈ ` an h™± hπ yqÖp `!y»lõ rœ ¢uW !yïW qr Ñu qΩ» k¨ hlØdfl ∆ . and a great and strong wind rent the mountains. as an effect to [137] . and language combines with things in the formation of world. but the Lord was not in the fire. According to this view. ∆ -± -‘ ` ù ‘ `` ∑d . Things refer to other things.hä .h∆tt⁄ lØq v5 W rj . and after the wind an earthquake. but the Lord was not in the wind.` ` ù ≈ And behold.. 1 Kings 19:11–12 < < ∧ ∧ < In the first section I surveyed some pre-modern perspectives on the cosmological which seemed – albeit at the cost of a liaison with archaic science – to give powerful theological expression to the principle that creation is through the Word.¨ ∆ . They can be said both to refer and to address.h™ hπ v¡ r.¨ h™hπ \Wr. but the Lord was not in the earthquake. as things refer back to their maker. the Lord passed by. Their referential function can be further classified into two types. We can term this type of world-constituting reference the secondary referential function of the sign.¨ h ™hπ v5. ≈ ` . which is to say. words to other words. and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord. predicated upon an oscillation between sign and address.

To be a sign which refers is a form of self-emptying as the existent is evacuated into the presence of another entity. structures the world in an entirely different way. The functional modality of the sign as address. however. As the spatio-temporal realm in which the voice of God is heard. Thus we can say that a reading of the cosmological passages of the New Testament proclaims the possibility that the referential function of the sign can be overwhelmed by a divine addressivity. In the framework of the present argument. ‘I love you’ or ‘Please don’t do that’. which is the ground of a new cosmological principle. But a strong addressivity occurs where one speaker directly addresses another. That semiotic needs to be distinguished from natural theology on the one hand just as it does from a direct. Such a semiotics of divine address leads to a cosmological structure of fullness and of voice. In pointing beyond itself to the divine Creator. This can be described as a form of veiling as one entity is overshadowed by another whose own visibility is commensurate with the vanishing of the signifying entry. unmediated experience of God on the other. then. then my address to you is a form of transaction with you and is an attempt to directly influence our relationship. But if I say. Here we can say that addressivity overwhelms the referential function. constituted by its memory of a prior and truer homeland. The second function of the sign as addressivity can also be divided into two types. There is a weak addressivity in which all utterance participates. if I say to you. All speech is in a sense address. then I am speaking to you about John. Natural theology tends to organise the world as a diaspora. the world does in a sense recede from us and become instructional: the world is veiled as it points back to and casts light on a divine causality. . It does not eradicate it – the world-constituting reference of the sign retains its force – but the sign receives a new intensification of meaning through the sense of a divine presence which communicates with us from within the world. which is the referential function of a natural theology of the sign. It is this primary referencing which is the foundation of natural theology. which operates within it at a new level of communicative intensity. predicated on a movement between reference and a strong mode of address. God speaks with us from within his creation.138 The Creativity of God its cause. ‘John has fallen asleep’. for example. this entails a semiotic. we can say that 1. The use of language implicitly or explicitly presupposes one who listens to or otherwise receives the communication.1 At this point the dialogism which is implicit in language as such is explicitly realised within the context of a relation between speech-agents.

The abundant real 139 the world becomes in a sense the voice-bearing body of God. We need not look beyond them for anything corresponding to reality. According to this perspective the cultural traditions we inhabit are as important an element within our cognitions as the objects or reality which are external to them. in Humean terms. We cannot think away signs. I shall contrast a Christian realism with secular accounts of the nature of reality and begin to reflect upon the kinds of claims the real makes upon us and the varying possibilities that inhere in the different ways in which we can learn to receive the world in its abundance. any more than we can shed the relativism which is deeply ingrained in a contemporary world-view which understands differences between languages and perspectives to be innate to the order of things and to embody as much a claim to the real as any sense of ‘immediacy’ which inheres. Within such a Christian cosmological framework. and of the world reconfigured within the body of Christ. Further. will be a primary element in the embodied Christian experience. for whom the constructions of language make known an ‘external’ world. Realism and Eucharistic semiotics The reality of the sign is itself a contestation of the real. or speak together. as the human and divine voice merge. we may take the view that signs are essentially all that we have. but should learn to . and their unity – manifest at the level of body – precipitates the universalisation of the body of Christ. the realisation of the reality of the sign will determine how we conceptualise the world. as an extra-semantic sphere. If we understand it also to govern the world of objects. In this third section of the book I shall investigate the nature of the reality of the world at work within that semiotic of Eucharistic disclosure. but only heuristically and partially. which is at once the body of an individual speech-agent and the body of the world. the role of the body of Christ. understanding and practice of the real. they are free-standing and independent elements which are themselves constitutive of what we know as the real. to belief as distinct from fictions of the imagination. then our philosophy will take on the colour of a correspondence theory whereby the sign articulates and is in the service of the world. If we take it as something which is governed by a reality which is ‘external’ to it. then we shall find we have much in common with the critical realist school. It is this dynamic which first comes into view in Jesus’ words of institution of the Lord’s Supper. Since the discovery of the centrality of the sign to human cognition.

reference does not cease but is overwhelmed by the divine presence which is its ground. and is the assimilation of reference back into its originary ground as address. God as Trinity is therefore implicated in the very ground of the world.140 The Creativity of God discern within them the shape and formation of our world. First and foremost it insists that all questions to do with the sign. as Author of that world. As one who speaks. The Eucharist is the making present in the everyday of that redemptive inhabiting of the text of the world by the divine voice. Such a Eucharistic account of realism stresses the place of divine initiative on the one hand and . A Christian semiotics based on a Eucharistic metaphysics is somewhat at variance with all three of these – lightly sketched – paradigms. as sign is overtaken by voice. Meaning is generated by self-evacuating signs which simultaneously constitute the world. and is himself spoken of. This means to say that the nature of the sign as referring is held ultimately in the act of Trinitarian address: signs only refer because they are part of a world which is itself constituted as the issue or outflow of an act of communication between God and God. must be located within a broader semantic field which is that of the world-text. without taking cognizance of the fact that – from a Christian perspective – the givenness of the sign resides in the giving of God: as creator of the world. whose realityreference in turn is realised only within language as the ultimate notional aggregation of possible meanings which attain the density of a world. which is to proceed from the sign as a given. It is important that we do not replicate the move of secular semiotics at this stage. while emptying it of anything which might cohere with traditional notions of presence. According to this – deconstructionist – reading. whether that of the Eucharistic elements or not. the createdness of the world. The Eucharist does not in itself constitute a unique instantiation of Christian semiotics. who enables speech. its origins and destiny. with particular clarity. God moves at a central point in human history and in the created order as such. the reality of the sign is its reference not to any extra-semiotic realm but merely to other signs. In the Eucharistic presence as received by the worshipping community. which is to say. or the real. It can therefore be used to illustrate the relation between sign and origin. which – together with the Father – are missions of the inner life of the Trinity. In chapter 5 we saw that the analogy of literary or epistolary texts helps us to envisage this world-text as being itself informed or animated by the authorial breath (Spirit) or voice (Word) of God. but is rather a particularly intensive representation of the principles of Christian cosmological semiotics as such.

iii (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. as sign of God’s authorship. as the hospitable and habitable space. of the world on the other. trans. . vol. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. God as both origin and referent of the sign. the ground of which is Christ’s own reading of the world. p. occupy a shifting space as interpreters whose own existence is conditioned by the fugitive character of the signs which exist for them. and humanity as the one who interprets the sign and draws out its meaning. signs are ‘under-way’ or transitional entities whose claim to reality is balanced by their condition of self-evacuation. J. A. what holds us and gives us balance are those points of address. or selfemptying. In the natural state.The abundant real 141 the incompleteness. a richly effervescent but also irreducibly mobile and potently anarchic assemblage of meanings that self-evacuate for other meanings in a spiralling turbulence of deferred resolutions. similarly. The sign fulfilled In the natural state. V. which is shaped by the divine speaking and which in turn can shape and sanctify the world through action. 87. who are 2. human beings who live in a world of signifying signs. Werke. 65). 116. the voices of others who speak with us and for us. both human and divine. The Vocation of Man. W. and trans. Fichte. p. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press. or ‘journeying’. G. 3. the cosmic semiosis.2 Or. we become a ‘dream of a dream’: a nomadic. culture and expression. Hegel. Such an account will seek an ultimate unity between all three of the elements of semiosis: the world itself. For a sign to exist is for it to be poised on the brink of vanishing for the sake of the reality which it designates: whether conceived as objects in an extra-semantic world or the infinite deferral of other signs. 1987). in the act of pointing beyond themselves to something other. in G. The Vocation of Man (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett.3 Indeed. And we can ourselves seem in that display to be what Hegel described as ‘an appearance’ or ‘surface-show’ of ‘being that is directly and itself a nonbeing’. Ph ¨anomenologie des Geistes. 1977). 1970). This unity becomes the site of the emergence of a new vision of the real. p. and for whom signs ‘mean’. conceived in the fecundity of a new kind of perception and responsivity to the creativity of the divine revelation. Peter Preuss (Johann Fichte. F. We cannot see beyond the contingent surfaces of the world’s flux. It also gives a fundamental role to the human community. de-spirited point of self-awareness adrift in a chain of disconnected narratives. as Fichte stated. ed. in which the world will be released into its ultimate destiny as New Creation.

but reflects an understanding of body as 4. through and in whom God speaks creatively with us. That renewed perception belongs to the New Creation and is grounded in the sense or awareness that the world itself is in some profound and incommunicable sense the breath of God and the body of Christ. Christian thinking on the createdness of the world. so too it is the coming of the Spirit in a new way through the Word’s unity with the world that makes of the world a divine body. The claim of a Eucharistic semiotics is that Jesus’ own complete entry into Scripture. See Fichte. Part iii.142 The Creativity of God epiphanies of reality. renewed creation and cosmic. The Vocation of Man. The question of whether signs point primarily to objects. As we have repeatedly noted. shaped in and through the Son. It is here that the Spirit plays a particular role. This is not a device to explain the relation between the world and its Author. was also the point at which the Word through whom all things were made became again the speaking ground of all that is. and hence on the nature of the sign which is foundational to the structure of the world. is not essential to the deeper insight that their mode of reference. Just as. The descent of the Spirit at Pentecost and in the Eucharistic epiclesis draws the themes of new speech. Eucharistic metaphysics offers a model of reality which takes the world to be in a sense the body of God.4 A Christian fundamental semiosis offers a radical alternative to the conventional semiotic systems outlined above. since the Spirit is at the same time the breath that forms speaking and the breath that animates bodily life. which was marked by his utter self-giving for the sake of others – as broken bread and wine poured out – in an anticipation of the coming of the kingdom. or whether they point primarily or purely to other signs. through ostensive reference. . as is commonly the case. The Eucharistic claim is further that the human communities who gather in his name at particular times and places can – by the power of Jesus’ words – enter into his very act of reading through the liturgy of their common life and can thereby receive a new way of seeing the world. Understood as an exemplum of the real. resurrected life richly together. must start from the scriptural passages which identify the Word as the originary cosmological principle: the one through whom all things were made. in Ezekiel. then. is itself grounded in the divine address as God speaks with God. it is the advent of the Spirit of God that raises the dry bones and sinews into living bodies. or constitution as sign. and in whom the sign with all its magical multitude of meanings achieves the stability of presence.

for this would be to evade reality through networks of thought. 1959). therefore. the traditions of Western philosophy can be viewed as successive projects based upon a prioritisation of some element within experience. or voice. it would be the fabrication of what 5. Indeed. in which the sign is fulfilled. . or our knowledge of the world. Fiddes. The principal problematic is that the real. which overwhelms the signifiers. reasoning and feeling. through the textuality of the world: as an overwhelming which is the fulfilling of the created sign by the self-communication of the triune God with us as voice which is simultaneously body. Traditional Christian discourse on the body has tended to be influenced by notions of the materiality of the body as a mode of individuation. A Christian philosophy of the real There have been numerous attempts during the history of philosophy to capture what can be designated as ‘the given’. attempts to give a unified account of what it is to be in the world. I am arguing for a view of the bodiliness of the world which understands it in terms more of a divine erotics than definitional logic: as divine embrace. is not to be found in the sign. which then becomes the ground of the ‘ultimately real’. A Christian philosophy of the real cannot begin as philosophy. whose necessary emptiness is a form of pregnant expectation. The deep reality of the world. Paul S. in our specific temporal and spatial locations. Individuals (London: Methuen.6 In this chapter. which becomes manifest in the address. F. which is deemed to be more foundational than others and which takes on the role of a governing principle within a conceptual system which. my concern lies with the question of how a distinctively Christian philosophy of the real is to be formed (while in the final chapter I shall reflect upon distinctively Christian ways of reasoning which are predicated upon it). 9–11. Strawson. ‘Incarnation and the Embodiment of Christ’ (unpublished paper). or self-realisation within the world. in what Strawson calls the ‘prescriptive’ or ‘metaphysical’ tradition. nor is it to be found in the ostensive reference of the realists. the deep reality of the world. P. Rather.The abundant real 143 relation: space configured as love. emerges at a point which is prior to the constructions of our language. as body which is at the same time world. therefore.5 Here. 6. pp. in contrast. It is an event which constitutes the core of our experience and hence eludes thematisation as experience. is the presence of God speaking with us.

It is this that my use of the term ‘passivity’. or intuition or condition of the self which mediates the sense of an encounter with the other that is beyond or beneath language. can be taken to be something akin to ‘command’ or perhaps ‘power’. the more it would elude us. So the questions which mark the beginning of a Christian philosophy of the real are these: where shall we learn this deepest passivity and be awakened to its possibilities? How shall we make its discovery? 7. before the intractable otherness which is at the core of experience. It cannot be self-induced because passivity as such is always the gift of another. which is a long hesitation. neither rational nor non-rational. which means something like ‘stillness’ or ‘responsivity’. This condition might also be described as ‘submission’ or ‘resignation’ but in both of these cases the object. therefore. 8. with another state of mind. to denote a condition which is ordered to a pure divine activity or dynamic presence that is pre-conceptual.8 In other words. seeks to emulate. by the Teacher. Christian philosophy must begin in another. and the adjective Christian would simply describe the colour of its inauthenticity.144 The Creativity of God can be packaged and offered as the real. but only if the learning is a form of discovery of what is already there and available to us. or that to which they are ordered.7 It is this that registers the presence of the real. even familiar. prior to its deflection into avenues of evasion. neither reflective nor naı¨ ve. we can learn to see what is already a possibility. The medieval theologian Meister Eckhart made extensive use of the terminology of wirken (divine acting) and leiden (human suffering or passivity) to designate the foundational relation between humanity and God as one conditioned at its heart by the divine reality. both of which already function at the conceptual level. a waiting in patience. It must begin in a mood. Passivity is the mark of the authenticity of our perception before the irreducible actuality of reality. more primordial place. and yet which is still a condition of experience: recognisable. I am using the term ‘passivity’ here in an entirely neutral sense. But the learning of a deep passivity is also a difficult concept: for who shall teach us? Who could mediate to us such a primal posture of the self before reality? And yet in a certain sense passivity of this kind can be learned. But where is this passivity to be found. Christian philosophy must begin with the exercise of a certain passivity. . The more we struggled to achieve it. but is a state that is given from outside ourselves. and which quickly becomes as remote from the real as any other cultural scripting. for it cannot be self-induced? Where is it to be learned? The attempt to make ourselves passive would be a striving of the will and thus a form of activity. This condition of passivity is not drawn out from within us. to borrow a phrase from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. A Christian philosophy which began in a process of reasoning would be in some sense a contradiction in terms since – as philosophy – it would be an act of evasion.

This is not a stillness of the heart or intellect alone. where it comes into view as a responsivity of thanksgiving. the fecundity of the divine creativity made visible in the person of Christ. The real. is the state which is not knowledge itself but is the pre-conceptual ground of knowing. smell and taste. but of the whole self. In the moment of ‘transubstantiation’. It is this. subject and object. but intrinsic no less to the web of the world. In the Eucharist. which becomes a training in the apprehension of the real. nevertheless. A Christian philosophy of the real reflects an immediacy which is prior even to the notion of experience but which does not represent. when the signifying elements are overtaken by the spoken Word. as I have defined it. This is the passivity exercised before Christ. still form a unity. For Catholic Christians that passivity finds its focus in the Eucharistic celebration. a kind of aporetics. breaking sign into presence: in that moment the mind learns a new form of dynamic stillness. touch. And it does so because it forms us in the possibility of a new way of receiving the real. hearing. Here there is a new possibility of the apprehension of the real. as the Spirit’s voice. an unparalleled state of being given over to the other beyond all limits. the dynamic that we might call Eucharistic perception becomes the ideal ground of all human perceiving. that forms the ground of the pragmatic theory. of the world’s createdness which this book articulates. perceived not as a domain to be conquered through a controlling interpretation but as a fecundity and an abundance that excessively fills our minds and our senses. as redeemer and saviour. inhabits our own speaking as celebration and intercession. summoned into dialogue with God through the Word of the Trinity: called out of our own meanings not through interpretation but by the embrace of the speaking other whose voice. through sight. and by an alterity which transfigures their material form.The abundant real 145 For the Christian there is a place where passivity is exercised before all others. in which self and other are not separable and in which sentience and perception. The unfolding from that first moment of the constructions . We discover in worship a primordial attentiveness before the one who is the ultimate other-in-relation. sensing and feeling. or theology. making possible the infinite variety of human ways of knowing. with a primordiality which is a listening or attentiveness to the ground of existence itself. it is not itself known as the alien and strange which becomes resident among us through the operations of the sacrament (although that is indeed one of its possible constructions). for the Eucharistic mind is a mind trained in attentiveness.

and as pre-conceptual. as it emerges. is the shape of the real itself. which is the point of meeting between self and other prior to their differentiation. at the core of our experience: calling. We can only ever know it. Intensities of the real In line with the above argument that the semiotic which comes into view in the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is a semiotic of the world itself and not just of one part of the world. And the Eucharistic attentiveness teaches us that it is Christ himself who holds us. tutored in the experience of Eucharistic presence. is an inevitable process. which is prior to our thought and yet which lays claim to us totally as the primordial place from which subject and object first emerge within the unfolding horizon of a world. and of celebration. Amongst these we must point in particular to the increased sense of compassion. though one which can be delayed by an attitude of attentiveness which is akin to prayer: the posture of a self which is given over utterly to the apprehension of what eludes our categories. and receiving us from within the world as the ground of existence. For a self. therefore. What we encounter in the thematised body of Christ given in the Eucharist. cannot itself be received by us as the object of knowledge. then. communicating. in which the subject. This type of embodiment is as foundational. from our experience in the Eucharist. divine embrace. as divine hospitality. The Eucharist teaches us furthermore that this bodiliness or relation. then. as the real itself. in which we are received even as we receive. sense and knowledge. The ecclesial body which is formed in this encounter is one which is foundationally committed to the other. it is known rather in the claims it makes upon us.146 The Creativity of God and operations of subject and object. is that it is itself a form of relation: the real is itself a kind of bodiliness. it is important to see also the ways in which the real. as the self-communication or embrace of God. and is foundationally worshipful or celebratory (I shall discuss these themes in the following chapter). The pre-conceptual. knows itself to have been welcomed and received. which develops in the Eucharistic self who is set in relation with the transformed elements as the body and blood of Christ. manifests . in the transformations which it effects in our lives. the claim of the real manifests as the formation of a certain kind of embodiment. But what we can know about the real in itself. is also a form of hospitality: a pleroma of generous fecundity.

The abundant real

147

in other areas of our living. In this section we look at some of the other ways in which we can come into an embodied awareness of our relation to the real, itself manifest as the pure relatedness of the divine body. It is naturally the case that every individual’s experience of this will be their own, and there are no prescriptive norms that can be set down. But there is perhaps a certain structure which such ‘passages’ or ‘events’ in life will have in common. We may see in them the structure of belonging and overwhelming which parallels the inner form of the Eucharistic celebration, as an intensive mode of Christian cosmic semiotics. These occasions will be grounded in the sense of the self being given over into the otherness of the real in such a way that the self remains a principle of identity, even if the parameters of that identity can undergo dramatic transformations. But above all, it is in terms of a common temporal structure that we can identify such moments which are an epiphany of the real. Eucharistic presence is characterised as temporal fullness, or pleroma of time. That fullness is to be understood against the background of a theology of creation which, in biblical tradition, is the ‘already-always-there’. As we attempt to comprehend creation, we encounter the impossible paradox of attempting to conceive what cannot be known – at least not by us – as the ‘not-yet’.9 In Pierre Gibert’s terms, ‘the beginning is the place that cannot be grasped, a place that is radically impossible to perceive or experience as such a beginning’.10 That ‘beginning’ is likewise determined as an ‘end’, however, in the close intermeshing of redemptive and soteriological themes with Israel’s reflection upon its origins and the origins of God’s world. The temporal structure of the Eucharistic presence, then, is one in which the end and the beginning sustain each other; each is in the possession of the other. The divine beginning, which encloses the end within itself, cannot be thought of as a sequence of events, which is to say, within our ordinary experience of time, but manifests rather as a fullness of presence, as a way of being in the present moment. This Eucharistic temporality, which is the unity of beginning and end, destabilises the ordinary sense of time of those who participate in it. In Ecclesiastes the Teacher states that although God has placed within us a sense of long duration ( ˆolam), we cannot understand ‘God’s deeds from the
9. Andr ´e LaCocque and Paul Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 31–67, especially 54–67. 10. Pierre Gibert, Bible, mythes et r ´ecits de commencement (Paris: Seuil, 1986), p. 8 (quoted in LaCocque and Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically, p. 50).

148

The Creativity of God

beginning until the end’.11 In other words, the eternity or a-temporality of God’s actions within history disrupts the ordinary sense of time which is native to us, so that we are frustrated in our attempts to make sense of the world as the place in which God reveals himself to us. For Christians, it is the sacrifice on the Cross, together with the Eucharist which makes that one sacrifice present to us again, which is the place where God’s logic of eternity breaks in upon us in the most ostensive way. In that moment the body of Christ is both particular, which is to say temporally located, and is universal, or eternal. Past and future combine in the unity of Eucharistic presence, which shatters the temporality of the world and draws the worshipping community to the threshold of a different kind of time. There are experiences in life which seem to stand in a limit-relation to the natural attitude of our ordinary living. They are moments when questions of ultimate meaning seem to come into play, and the ordinary temporal structure of our lives is radically called into question, as if intensities of the real bring with them a new kind of – Eucharistic – temporality. In the case of the Eucharist itself, that atemporality is not experienced as disorientation or alienation, since the real manifests here as relatedness and hospitality. We are drawn into Eucharistic presence as into a state of having been received which is prior to any act of cognition on our part. The human response to the Eucharistic atemporality, which so restructures our world, is necessarily one of radical trust, as we are called to give ourselves over into the flow and dynamic of elemental reality. Trust and the real are ordered one to the other: the emergence of the real is fostered by trust and an increase in trust follows from our coming-into-relation with the real. Such ‘passages of the real’ as we encounter in our ordinary living are therefore moments of possibility, when we can experience the world in its depths as a being-in-relation, as a form of bodiliness, which calls forth in us a creative, ‘cosmic’ trust. But a total trust of this kind cannot be divorced from hope or joy. Hope is a transcendental condition of the self. It may have a specific cause, coming about on account of particular events in which we reason to the possibility of a positive outcome. But as a transcendental virtue, hope is an expression of our sense of being buoyed up, and sustained, by the deep structure of the world. Hope follows upon trust, and is likewise a modality
11. Eccl. 3:11 (NRSV: ‘he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end’).

The abundant real

149

of being given over to the world, and being received by it. Joy, like hope, can be occasioned by many things, but joy is itself more than delighting in something: it is a deep-seated sense of well-being which is co-extensive with our being in the world. Through the sense of joy, which comes to us spontaneously as a received state of mind rather than one which we ourselves control or manufacture, we again find that we are given over into a structure of transformation which both transcends our individuality and yet is predicated upon it.12 Trust, hope and joy are thus transcendental states of mind which are grounded in the ultimate goodness of the world as it contains and transforms us. They follow from our own participation in the divine creativity, in which we enter into the divine compassion as the deep structure of the world. That is a moment which escapes our cognition in itself but which can nevertheless become known to us in a transcendental and unconditioned way. The trust, joy and hope that come upon us are a sign that we are living in the world as true creatures of the creative and compassionate God. Sense-life In the intense drama that is each and every human life, there are moments, then, when we are summoned into a more intimate, and trusting, relation with the world around us. Perhaps it is not surprising that one of the chief ways in which we experience the claim of the real is in the intimacy of sexual love. In sexual stimulation, with a life-partner to whom we have made a total and open-ended commitment as in the marriage vows, we find that we are given over to the other in a deep reciprocity of sensation. In this case, the externality of the other is overcome at every stage by the increasing intimacy and inwardness of the sexual sensation. The tactility of love-making leads to an intensity of awareness of sensation as a mutuality between self and other, in an exchange of inwardness and externality. In love-making, the senses become the place in which we know ourselves as given over entirely into the sense-impressions of the other, just as the other enters as new intensive life into our own internal and sensate world. In the exchange of love, the senses are no longer the border that separates self from world, the inward from the external, but become the possibility of a unique translocation, as we become
12. Forms of ‘enthusiasm’ or Schw ¨armerei are parallel states of mind but ones which tend to efface the cognising self rather than affirm the point of relation between self and world.

150

The Creativity of God

the sense impressions of the other and they become the life of our own sense-world. The creativity of the participation of the self in the real through sexual love is mediated in terms both of transformation of life on the part of the couple and of the procreation of children who are the embodiment of their love and mutual commitment. The temporal destabilisation which takes place in the former case comes to the fore in the marriage vows, in which each partner commits themselves to the other for the whole of their lifetime. When we are young, it is impossible to have any real sense of what such a commitment over a period of forty, fifty or sixty years might mean. Binding vows entail the embrace of a significant degree of temporal alienation, therefore, as young people make a grave, personal commitment within a duration of time they cannot possibly understand. The ‘creation’ of a person entails more than their physical procreation, of course; the personality of the child is moulded and formed by the shared values and world-views of the couple who parent them: that is, by that same relation which is also the life and fruition of their love-making. But that ‘creation’ of children also entails a degree of temporal alienation, as the parents know that they are only a small part in a chain that will extend far beyond their own lifetimes. The birth of a child is one of the key points in a person’s life when they are brought to an understanding of the limit of their own temporal world. Praying the end The end of life, like the beginning of life, sets us before the claim of the real. Death encircles our lives, and is the constant limit that shadows our health and our strength. We know in youth that it is the logical and necessary end of our existence but this knowledge takes on a new and existential force as we increase in years and experience the loss of close relatives. In their dying we can observe the way in which death is an overcoming of our bodily life but nevertheless one in which the individual person has their own crucial part to play.13 As we approach death, we can reject it, as the irremediable rupturing of our temporality, as something entirely senseless within the patterns of our ordinary living. Or alternatively we can give assent to the greater dynamic of living, finding in the ending of our bodily existence traces of the divine compassion, moving forward in trust, hope and joy. Then we shall find that it is potentially a uniquely creative time: we can
13. Joel Shuman, The Body of Compassion (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999), pp. 1–6.

than in its ending. . in the case of the classic works of art at least. we open ourselves up to an object which is the compressed and complex expression of a whole range of cultural forces. If the world is constituted through its meanings. Art The twofold character of the real as laying claim to the self. comes into view also in the case of art and the aesthetic response. There are two ways therefore in which the work of art destabilises our temporality. with an invitation to a creative participation on the one hand and as a destabilisation of our ordinary temporality on the other. As we struggle to come to terms with its rich complexity. then it is certainly the case that a major art work possesses a semantic richness of extraordinary density. We are exposed in a most intimate and affective way to very different social horizons and times. the work of art lays claim to us as someone who is integral to itself. sustained and open-ended act of interpretation. made part of its meaning. a work of 14. pp. the appreciation of the work of art actually stands in close relation to the way in which we experience the world as such. and in a way which draws us into itself. The first is the extent to which it introduces into our own world the voices.The abundant real 151 perhaps never play a greater part in the mystery of life. we are ourselves. cut off from our ordinary perceptions. 99–150. and to demand from us a serious. In its appreciation. Hans-Georg Gadamer. Hans-Georg Gadamer has argued that the interpretation of the work of art is a particularly intensive example of the way in which we make sense of the world in general. Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward. We can be powerfully addressed by its compelling complexity and astonishing grace. though in ways that are recognisable. one of the defining qualities of an outstanding work of art is its capacity to lay full claim to our attention. Indeed. as interpreters. rather than standing as an isolated experience. the encounter with the work of art can be an encounter with the world itself at a heightened level of intensity.14 In other words. Indeed. insights and imaginations of others who have lived before us. It is easy to forget that the work of art results from the skills of a particular individual who. is likely to have been born at a time and place very remote from our own. and never possess a greater possibility to shape it. 1979). On each occasion when we read a fine novel or stand before an intriguing painting in a gallery. Art is nevertheless a distinctive form of address. In line with the other life events discussed above.

Certain limit-experiences in our lives exhibit a structure which approximates them to the Eucharist as a vehicle for the manifestation of the real. but only as the inculcation of a new passivity of mind and body which is itself the discovery of a prior dynamic of relatedness. we can subtly share with the artist something essential of their own vitality. Such moments. they represent an intensity of engagement with the world which brings with it a powerful invitation to a creative participation. In the reception of their creativity.152 The Creativity of God art can convey in a very powerful way the sense of the presence of those – long dead – who are depicted in it. We encounter it in the Eucharist as body because the real is in its deepest sense God’s relatedness with us. that graciousness comes into view as the fulfilment of the sign. This cannot be taught in any propositional sense. We are not merely observers from without. We receive it as food because the understanding of the real is at the same time a communication in which we ourselves participate as active interpreters of the fulfilled sign who are drawn into the life of God. Although they do not share the explicit thematisation of reality as the body and blood of Christ. which I have called ‘intensities of the real’. but are an intrinsic part of its self-communication. We can be moved by people we have not known. In the celebration of God’s transforming act. but in them the limit of our temporal nature becomes manifest in an unmistakable way. we can share with them the strangeness of reality. The Eucharist teaches us that all reality is to be received as the divine body. Our lives are relativised. the real at its foundation is expressive of the graciousness of God. the structure of the world as created is opened up to us and becomes in itself body and food. and God’s self-communication. too fundamental and pre-conceptual to . In the appreciation of a work of art. But the sense of the artist’s own presence is likewise communicated in the work of art. They also call into question the temporality of our natural attitude. offer an invitation to engage with the heart of life and to reject or receive life in the specificity of its address to us. Conclusion From a Christian perspective. which is given with it. and we are brought before our own temporal limit. at the heart of the world. not as radically as is the case with the real presence. therefore. In the sacrament of the Eucharist. we find that our own time is submerged in the temporality of others.

which comes to meet us at the root of our perceptions. then. . a momentum of embrace.The abundant real 153 be known in any other way than through the slow learning of a new form of – Eucharistic – embodiment in the world. given for us. a wave. is ultimately one which understands it to be not so much resistance or limit as excess. The Christian account of the real. It is in the Eucharist that we can learn to discern and receive the real: as a divine being-in-relation: as the body of Christ.

This is to adopt elements from Romantic hermeneutics. The Primal Text of the creation cannot be known in itself but comes into view in its function as a cosmic principle of intertextuality. which is the structure that enables the emergence of world. however. or the interaction between the different textualities.1 1. which is to say a creative. but looks rather to the organic and expressive relationship of the author to his or her own text. in God. This theory of a first. but also intertextuality. It does not presuppose a pre-modern notion of causality. But it means not only that textuality itself is a product of the Primal Text. which laid a greater stress upon the author–text relation than was the tendency amongst later hermeneutical thinkers (see [154] .8 Wisdom of the flesh Osculetur me osculo oris sui Quia meliora sunt ubera tua uino May he kiss me with the kiss of his mouth For your breasts are more delightful than wine Canticum Canticorum The primary argument I have presented in this book is that the deep reality which is at the root of the world is as much a divine reality as it is a temporal one and that it can be conceived of as a kind of Primal Text. which gave an account of how the successive orders of creation were linked through a common cause. as that which entails the replication of the cause in the effect. This means primarily that all the many textualities which inform our existence are grounded in the one Primal Text. or primary text of creation. cosmic text plays the same role as that of analogy in medieval theology. ‘externalised’ self-communication of God (by analogy with the way that a human author produces a text). and receive their form from it.

is rapidly overtaken by the abundance of the divine self-communication. Voices are produced by bodies. The character of the divine reality as embodied.4 The second part of this threefold structure is found in the alienation of the divine voice within the text of the world. as the divine for instance Schleiermacher’s General Introduction in his Hermeneutics and Criticism. As an encounter with the divine overwhelming. which extends from Origen to Hamann. trans. and thus corporality. I argue that the human act of interpretation necessarily takes on some of the characteristics of deconstruction. since the author concerned is the superabundant divine presence. 186–94. Metamorphoses of the Body (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. mobile and dynamic to the extent that each interpretative act. 3.Wisdom of the flesh 155 I have further argued that it is in the Eucharist that we learn a responsivity to the divine text. here 111). for any material thing can only be the product and not the source of that creative speaking. the originary voice of God. See also note 11 below. But it seems to me to be the case that the universalised body of Christ is manifest within other modalities. We can say. and it is this which underlies the tradition. I am writing this within the Catholic tradition. 1998). of which the individual can only ever be a mediation. In the first place. though possibly full and complete in itself. dialectical space. or the ‘body’ of the Church. 1995) Nicholas Wolterstorff advances a broadly Schleiermacherian account of the nature of texts. The Christian belief that creation is through the Second Person. 2. the scriptural hermeneutics that I am proposing here can be seen to represent an intensification of Schleiermacher’s authorial model but. Renascence 48. by implication. including scriptural ones. According to this model. 1998). It can be argued that the notion of the Son as Word already implies a certain textuality. The body of Jesus. is conceived within this impossible. Bowie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.3 For God to have a voice is therefore. against the anti-authorial tendencies of Paul Ricoeur and Jacques Derrida’s hermeneutics. is also expressive of this same dialectic. ‘Bonaventure’s . for God to have a body. 4. 3–29). St Bonaventure and von Balthasar. it is mediated to us in and through the real presence of the body of Christ. bodies are ‘voice-bearing’. not least in the reading and reception of Scripture itself.2 The structure of that moment is threefold. In his Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. that the Son ‘is the very language of the Father’ (Peter Casarella. There is also an implication here that embodiment – however construed – is a principle which obtains within the Trinity and which prefigures the creation of the world-text and the Incarnation of the Son. See also Ewart Cousins. interpretation becomes partial. Unknowable in itself. ‘The Expression and Form of the Word: Trinitarian Hermeneutics and the Sacramentality of Language in Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology’. See the useful discussion of voice in Jos ´e Gil. pp. whose speaking is the creation. implies the divine revelation to the ‘body’ of Israel. interpretation – though at one level individual – is also grounded in the community and subject to its verification. therefore. Interpretation thus becomes a constant process of reappraisal and repairal undertaken before the intensity and richness of the divine presence. since it is unthinkable that the voice of the one whose speaking is the origin of the world should itself be borne by a body. as the man who bears the divine voice. that the root of the world as divine body is also made present to us in and with the Eucharistic body of Christ. A. sets up the expectation of a divine body. This sets up a highly dialectical process. the Word who – in the formula of the Prologue to the Gospel of John – ‘became flesh’. 111–35. In contrast.2 (winter 1996).

It is the ‘sea’ of touching and being touched in which we move and have our being without ever seeing Mysticism of Language’. But we do not in general know our bodies in this way. who are summoned into unity by the voice of God. .. The realisation of the divine speaking within Jesus led to a moment of sacrificial redemption as his human body – under the weight of the divine voice speaking in him – was broken and poured out. for instance. becoming one with the elements. marking a territory of which we are sole sovereign. 1992).156 The Creativity of God speaking is externalised and made subject to radical interpretation. But body is also the domain of relationality. ed. The third stage is the Eucharistic recapitulation or making present of the cosmic sacrificial act. and require personal space and autonomy. it was necessary for the dialectic of the divine body to be worked out within Christ’s own body. renewing and reanimating the body of the world. We only know our body in its self-replications that play through the fields of our sense-perceptions. of the world can be summed up in the principle that the body of Christ is that which mediates between the voice of God the Creator and the world-text that is the issue of God’s creative speaking. or redemption. is the emergence of radical ecclesiality. The redemptive sacrifice is therefore also the moment when the world is restored back into the unity of God’s speaking and when the world becomes in a new sense the body of God. We know it. Such bodies have rights. It is therefore the point of our greatest vulnerability in the world and greatest receptivity before the creativity of God at work in the world. in Stephen Katz. In order for the divine voice to enter correctively into the very fabric of the world-text. In this chapter I shall focus upon the transformed embodiment which is the appropriate human response to the redemptive self-communication of God mediated through the Eucharist. it is in MerleauPonty’s sense our participation in the element of the ‘flesh’ which transcends any one entity or gathering of entities. 236–57. Bodies are boundaries. Mysticism and Language (New York: Oxford University Press. This calls for a process of repair or healing which is at the same time the repristination of the world. I shall argue that this new body-sense. The human body and the Primal Text The human body is at its core and in its perfection the point of our unity with the Primal Text. This repristination. formed within the celebratory and compassionate community of the Church. as that which defines us as an entity in the world. pp.

6. mediates to us what is other than us. has shown how the church community which Paul was addressing in his First Letter to the Corinthians was one in which two fundamentally distinct paradigms of the body came into conflict. functionalist paradigms of the body which stress chains of causality and which reflect the broader technological mentalities of the age. Martin. The fundamental ways in which we construe our bodies may be governed by the most powerful paradigms that operate in th