With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on. -- William Morris

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sed Contra, Barth

I regard the doctrine of the analogy of being as the invention of Antichrist and hold that precisely because of this doctrine one cannot become a Catholic. At the same time, I believe that all other reasons that one can have for not becoming a Catholic are shortsighted and frivolous.[1]

Then again....

Rejection of the analogy of being, properly understood, is a denial that creation is an act of grace that really expresses God's love, rather than a moment of alienation or dialectical negation; it is a rejection, that is, of Acts 17:28, and ultimately of Genesis 1:1 (and everything that follows from it). If the rejection of the analogia entis were in some sense the very core of Protestant theology, as Barth believed, one would still be obliged to observe that it is also the invention of antichrist, and so would have to be accounted the most compelling reason for not becoming a Protestant.[2]

[1] Karl Barth, Die kirchliche Dogmatik (KD) I/i: Die Lehre vom Wort Gottes. Teil I. (1932), pp.viii-ix; cited in Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation, trans. Edward T. Oakes, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), p.49.

[2] David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), p.242.


  • At 12/25/2008 9:38 AM, Blogger Brendan Sammon said…

    Pat -

    of course, Barth was critiquing a version of the analogia that misunderstood it as a univocal predication: he believed that analogy implicated a univocal sense of being in order for the relations to be grounded. Part of this is the misdirection that occurred shortly after Thomas. Once beauty and aesthetics were eliminated from metaphysical mindfulness (to return, thankfully, in Desmond) the kind of analogy that Barth criticized was not far behind. It takes a careful reading of Thomas to overcome this - that, or a certain affinity for Desmond.

    But I suspect you already knew these things.

  • At 12/30/2008 3:36 PM, Blogger Lee Faber said…

    "misdirection that occurred shortly after Thomas"

    Brendan, what misdirection was that?

  • At 1/01/2009 11:25 AM, Blogger Brendan Sammon said…

    Lee -

    As I see it, the misdirection occurred on two fronts. First, the condemnations of the 1270s tightened the metaphysical focus toward logic and 'truth' - not in its relations with the beautiful and the good - but as a growing epistemological category.

    Second, Cajetan's subtle misreading of Thomistic analogy, which had the effect of univocalizing analogy, coupled with his otherwise thoughtful and important contributions, not to mention his influential status, set the tone for much of the posterity of Thomism. No longer would beauty be as important for devotees of Thomas, nor would the effort be made to illuminate the beauty of Thomas's thought itself. Rather, Thomas would become a kind of Catholic panacea against any erroneous teaching. Thomas would become either a philosopher, or a Christian apologist. In either case, beauty and subsequently the analogy of being, would be lost to the domination of analytic thought.

    And with beauty eliminated from metaphysics, metaphysics can only survive (a la Kant) as a pure science. But it simply was not thus for Aquinas.

  • At 1/03/2009 12:00 AM, Blogger X-Cathedra said…


    Indeed, Barth seems to have been critiquing a version of the analogia that misunderstood it in terms of univocity, when in fact it is precisely the overcoming of univocal and equivocal monopoly. I am intent on reading more Barth and his kin on this topic, but if in fact their critiques exhibit such a misunderstanding, then in a sense they haven't actually addressed analogy. This would lead to the conclusion that Barth has misjudged: the analogia cannot be the sole reason not to become Catholic; and nor therefore could it's denial be the defining feature of Protestantism. This line of reasoning has led my professor Reinhard Huetter to ask: if in fact Barth has misunderstood in condemning analogy, then does it follow that no good reason remains for not becoming Catholic?

    I simply like this quote of Barth's because it allows for a certain degree of playfulness, which Hart picks up on. His use of the words "properly understood" are important I think.

    I also agree that there were troubled waters with Cajetan. I find McInerny's criticism of him in _Aquinas and Analogy_ convincing.

    Pax Christi,

  • At 3/02/2010 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with the comments of Brendan and Ex-Cathedra. Later in his life, Barth referred to his comment in the first volume of the Church Dogmatics, as a 'polemical splash,'a hyperbolic statement.
    HIs own knowledge of the theory at the time he wrote the notorious words was derived from dialogues with the Polish Jesuit Erich Przywara, who had developed his own version of the idea.
    Later in the CD, he says that he acknowledges Gottlieb Soehngen's rendering of the meaning of the analogia entis (a phrase Aquinas never actually uses) in relation to the 'analogia fidei' as perfectly acceptable.
    Barth was always -- from beginning to end -- nervous about ecclesial mediation (and perhaps any creaturely mediation) in the new covenant. This is profoundly problematic, but I'm not convinced it is rooted in the theory of analogy.


Post a Comment

<< Home