Brian Daley - "God Visible"
8:32AM Jul 7, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
It is our deepest honor today to be speaking with Father Brian Daley. Father Brian Daley is a Catholic priest in the order of the Society of Jesus, the Catherine f huskins, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, he received from Pope Benedict the 16th in 2012, the Ratzinger prize for theology, and is the author of the text that we'll be discussing today, God Visible: Patristic Christology Reconsidered, available from Oxford University Press. 2018 father Daley, thank you so much for your willingness to be with us today.
Well, thank you, Dr. Armstrong for inviting me. It's wonderful to be with us
father daily. This book traces the development and legacy of the Christology of the Council of calcium. By first appearances. The creative calcitonin seems to say something that is contradictory Is that Christ has two natures. And yet that these two natures are united in a single person, would you be willing please to explain to us the teaching of the Council of Kassadin?
Well, it always remains paradoxical. I mean, we can certainly try to clarify the concepts. But what we're affirming what the counsel from remains a great mystery, a challenge to human understanding. And I think that is the mystery of God's presence in the world of God's nearness to us, who is always the other always transcendent, as we say, always, not a part of our world. And yet we believe also God is omnipresent in the world and in us. But in saying, Jesus, Jesus Christ is one person and two natures. We're using ancient philosophical categories to say that he is a single agent, a single actor, that he has all the characteristics each of us do as independent people, independent agents Jesus exists really on two levels. And what the ancients meant by a nature is the ability to do things to act in the world. I always tell my students that a person refers to who, by nature refers to what. And we're saying, and it says that Jesus is a single who is single, who, who is the Eternal Word of God, the Son of God,
but that he
includes two watts, that, that who is able to act as God, to heal the sick and to walk on water and so on. And also able to act as a human and experience as a human to suffer, to eat and drink, to walk and so on all the things that are part of our human set of abilities. And to say that is not to explain or to solve, but to affirm I think, this great mystery of God's presence, the presence of the sun, the Word of God, in our midst, in our life and our community, communicating to us what God is what what the summit God is inviting us to also to be with him, children of God. So a lot is involved in this. But it never is an explanation in full sense. It's an affirmation, I would say, to say that he's one into nature's
father daily, if I may ask you, what were some of the questions that you yourself. Were trying to answer as you put together this masterful study of the classic doctrine of calcium?
Well, I, I've been teaching classes seminars on Christology in the early church for years. And it always seemed to be that as the standard histories of patristic theology presented, the council's definition was presented as the end of the trajectory as long as a solution to a long debate. I want to find this in the standard handbooks, Jan de Kelly's book and grill miners history, and of course, there's a lot of important truth to that, but As I work through the texts of ancient theologian, it struck me that in many ways, concert on does not represent so much a solution or an end as a kind of midpoint, and along and even continuing debate and reflection, because to say that Christ is one actor in two natures, is assessed to affirm what had been said, but also to raise new issues. And I think you have to see it, first of all, in the context of the work of theologians. That's why in this book, I try to begin with a short reflection on a biblical Christology and look at the earliest writings that we have the writings of second century authors. Then some of the early debates are RNAs and origin. How they use the Bible was his understanding of Jesus's person and his natures. And then ultimately to come to the period of the great councils. The Council of Nicea, affirming that Jesus eternally the Son of God, but not a creature of the same substance and reality as God Himself. And then we go on through that to some of the later fourth century debates to a Gustin and then beyond calcium, looking at the way it's received, because in some ways, rather than being a solution to problems, it simply exacerbated them. A number of large groups of Christians in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, especially broke communion with the rest of Christianity, and are still separate churches, not in communion with the rest. And that's another tragic effect.
So I tried to
kind of narrate that whole story to see it as a way of trying to make sense of earlier tradition, but as an opening new questions that still really challenge us. And the book tries to contextualize calcium rather than to see it as the end of a debate.
Father daily, thank you so much for those very lucid comments. What does our street goal to understand the teaching of counseling about the two natures of Christ. Tell us about our stuck our struggle to understand the unity of the church that is the body of Christ.
Well, there is certainly an analogy or a parallel there, I think.
What we hope for and pray for, and labor for, I think, today is to find a way that Christians can see themselves as a single body, a single community, and to act that way in the world as witnesses to the gospel. while remaining in all the richness of our diverse traditions, people speak to their reconciled diversity. That's one of the ecumenical phrases. I think it's a good one, that many different ways of understanding God and Christ and the work of salvation and the community have developed over the course of 20 centuries. And we don't want to level them and say we have to come to a the unity of a single organization, but say how as a different order. Can we see that we'll be basically share is one professional fee, and just respect each other and our difference while saying we together, worship God and we do the work of Christ in the world. That's a challenge. How do we conceive that? How do we reach it? How do we stop competing with each other, which we do? How do we emphasize our unity? Well, recognizing the value of diversity, and those things are paradoxical in the sense parallel to the paradox of, of calcium to how Jesus one person what Asia in these two natures, how is our church, perhaps a single agent in the many different distinctive characteristics that we have? I don't think we have an answer for that yet but we labor to purchase
father daily we'll return to those questions in just a moment. Thank you. Father daily in your text God visible patristic Christology reconsider After analyzing the Christology is of several second century authors, you devote the third chapter to Aaron as an origin. How does the Christology that Aaron as develops in his anti gnostic writings foreshadow the teachings of calcium?
Well, it his main concern, as
you mentioned, was to answer some of the challenges of what we call gnostic Christianity. And that's a whole subject in itself, but gnostic Christianity was a whole family of practices and theologies that really challenged the value of the present world that we live in and told ahead of backstory behind the biblical narrative of creation and redemption. For the Gnostic traditional, there are many different variations on it. The world that we live in the work that God has done in our world, or is the end of a long story of really infidelity and decline the world To the Gnostic systems originates in a very remote set of interactions between kind of abstract personified abstract figures, and because of a number of mistakes and rivalry between these early figures, eventually a creator is generated, who is of lesser virtue and lesser understanding who creates this present world, and that for many of them, but Valentyn Ian's is the God of the Old Testament is the God of Sinai. And what Jesus does and the Gnostic systems is to come from a very distant place he has generated from from ultimately the God who is the source of all things, and comes to redeem the world from the domination of law of that God assignment that creator of the Old Testament, and irony is recognized that this in it says totally appends our faith in Jesus or discipleship. And really, I always say what he's trying to do is to affirm the humanities of the Christian faith, the unity of God, certainly, the unity of history, a continuity between creation, before redemption, and unity in Christ, the unity and integrity of the human body in itself, the unity of the church, confessing Christ all over the world, even though people speak different languages. He's very much a common sense theologian, I say, but his his message is to get us to see that there's a single story, which begins with the creation of the world, through the Word of God, as john says in chapter one, and that that word has finally become flesh and dwelt among so and so has saved us from deviation. And I think it to recapture that unity as Irenaeus invites us to do is really central even today in our understanding of Christianity and religion. As been pointed out that Gnosticism is really the classic American religion as well. Harold bloom, a great English scholar and critic from Yale has written a book agnosticism affirming that there are traces of us in American religion. And we need again to rediscover the unity of Christ and His message to us to what it implies for us.
Father Daly in chapter four of your text, you investigate the area in crisis, where if you would be willing, sir, precisely was areas break with the Christian tradition concerning the nature of Christ,
or areas was a well read and very talented, priests depressed, bitter in Alexandria at the beginning of the fourth century. And as Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has suggested and a wonderful book on areas in some ways areas was very typical of earlier Christian reflection. He represented a lot of ideas and themes that you'll find in somewhat similar form saying the words of Origin The Great biblical scholar or other writers He was seeing Jesus Christ, as the mediator between a transcendent God and a world of creatures. And being the one who represents God communicates God and does God's work among us in the world. And that of course, is central to Christian understanding, but areas focused on the idea that if the Son of God is generated, as our children are generated for
then the son has a beginning of his existence, as the as the beginning, then as air is supposed to say, there was when he was not, and areas identifies generation, with creation if you want, and will go out and say quite boldly, that if Jesus the Son is generated from the Father, then that has a beginning and time
that he to generate is to create from nothing.
areas really wanted to argue that the sun is a creature And he will say the highest of preachers, the best of preachers and so on, created in order to help other creatures, but still a creature and not God. And the bishops gathered
at nicea in 325. debated this apparently we had
two acts of the council but reflected on and insisted on the rather unpopular position that we want to say more about the sun. The sun is in some way, part of the mystery of God, always that the sun is eternal as much the father is eternal, that raises all kinds of problems that had to be worked through. And it seems that many well educated bishops and leaders and writers in the mid fourth century weren't willing to go all the way with nicea. They were not happy with areas either seemed a bit extreme, but they were looking for some kind of a middle position. And it wasn't ready until the so called capitation fathers basil and Gregory ganz is Gregory of Nyssa in the 370s, that ways were developed to think about the role of Jesus that could both affirm his folded entity and affirm his full humanity his full membership in his board of creation. But it took 50 years of arguing and reflecting to see how I see it
made sense within the longer Christian biblical Jewish
father daily. You also include in your book a chapter on St. Augustine, what do you see is St. Augustine's most important contributions to Christology?
Well, of course, he's a great writer, and
he's one of my favorite authors of all time. And Agustin
the great gift of speaking about the mystery of Christ. Without using technical language. He rarely speaks of natures and person really uses the philosophical exactitude said, as used by some of the Greek fathers of his time, but he can be more homiletic he preaches beautifully about the person of Christ, and yet Christ for him is the central figure of the whole story of human salvation. He's the key to understanding the Old Testament and understanding the Jewish tradition. He's also the key to understanding the life of Christians today. As he mentioned in the confessions, which many of us have read, I think, to understand Christ, he would say one has to
understand the humility of God. That God in entering
our world, chooses humility as his path. He chooses to live with ordinary human beings as a carpenter. He ultimately exposed himself to suffering and death. And all these are ways that as Paul was there, or the self emptying of the one who is the Son of God forever and to see that mystery of humility and self emptying is a key to understanding what a Christian faith is about. I think. The other thing I find very valuable in Agustin is that in many of his homily says homily is on the Psalms his inner artheon isms almost we call it his Eight explanations of the Psalms, he reverts over and over again to the idea that the church, the community of worship, that prays the Psalms is, as he says, the whole Christ, the total is Christus. For him, Christ is not simply an other figure, fully gone and fully human. But Christ also has made us a part of his body, that phrase from Paul, and to do that we see ourselves as involved in the same worship, and the same set of activities in a way that Christ has always been involved in. So that sense of the unity of the praying believer with Christ is central to Augustus Christology, I think, and something we can never forget daily. How did
the conclusions of calcium help establish the church's reception in the centuries following the fifth century of icons
of icon? Well, as you know, the controversy began in the late seventh and eighth centuries. About the propriety of venerating images, first of all of Christ and secondly of the saints, it wasn't simply a question of painting them, but actually showing veneration to them, letting a candle in front of them say or bowing before the most people in the Orthodox Eastern world do today, of course. And while many felt that this could be a kind of idolatry and violation of the commandments given to Moses, others saw it as really central to an attitude of worship, and to understanding what God really done in the person of Christ. And there are a number of council disputes, treatises written for and against the veneration of icons, which is interesting, but kind of complicated story. But the ultimate solution I think of the church, expressed in a couple of eighth century councils, especially the Council of 787, which usually call the second Council and they see it Are you that because of the initial carnation have the word of God, because God has SS entered our world of visibility and bodies and images. The transcendent God is also someone whom we can see and hear, represent. If the Word became flesh,
then you could take a picture of him, you could paint this picture if we had
in those days, video cameras, but you'd have maybe YouTube pictures of Jesus. That should not shock us, but remind us of what the Incarnation really means. And so the council the second Council, nicea affirms that to venerate an icon is a bit to take the Incarnation seriously to say that Jesus, who is one of us who has a human face and human features, makes God present in those human features. So veneration of an icon is not idolatry or worship, in a sense, but reverence towards something that reminds us of Jesus's humanity. It really is a final step. I think in this affirmation of the Incarnation
father daily in addition to your many scholarly projects, you've also been involved in ecumenical dialogue for a number of years. In your view, sir, what are the major roadblocks to real ecumenical progress today?
I wish we knew. I mean, it's a puzzling, well, very exciting activity to be in. Much of my ecumenical activity has been involved in conversations with Orthodox Christians here in North America. And of course, the similarities and differences between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians are a particular kind. We have many similar habits and trade traditions. If we're not able to share a communion with each other or to see ourselves yet as a single institution with Protestant Christians, the differences really are more rooted in the Reformation. I've been involved in conversation with Lutherans as well. And they're the the difficulties that separate is of a different kind from a separate us as Catholics from the Orthodox. But I think one problem is for the leaders of our churches to know when they can move towards a deeper level of Christian sharing. You know, I think people who take leadership positions in our churches, we'll do it usually with a deep sense of responsibility of maintaining the tradition that brought up in any given and that's central in any kind of leadership. But as a result, they can sometimes be very hesitant to move beyond the boundaries that we find ourselves in, and to say, I see in you, a faithful Christian in the tradition of the apostles, although we have different ways of speaking and worshiping. We are both Christian and authentic sense. So should act together in various ways. The problem is, what are those ways for orthodox and Catholic Christians that would certainly be sharing anything Eucharist as the center of church life, that would be true also of Episcopalian, and probably Lutheran and reformed Christians, with orthodox and Catholics, with people who are more free church tradition and have less emphasis on the Eucharist and on what we call sacraments. The important point might be more in the comment profession of faith in Christ, and common activity in the world. I think reconciliation would mean different things with different groups. But we hope, at least by talking and acting together, we can understand each other better. And that's the first step in ecumenical reunion.
But I don't think any of us
know exactly what a reunited church would be. And I think, in many ways, it could be many Christians have different traditions, expressing their faith in somewhat different ways, is seeing that they're part of a single body of Christ in the world and rejoicing
and we may not be able or may not want to do anything more than that at the present time. But
are leaders have to make those final decisions?
Father daily many of us look to the ecumenical overtures of Vatican Council to in the mid 20th century is perhaps the most significant theological movement of that century. Many ecumenical dialogues came out of that, that initial Overture, and today we have the possibility of without travel, communicating, as we are today over the internet with really anyone that that is willing to speak with us. If you were to set a, as it were to write on a napkin and agenda here for us, what ought to be the goals and then the methods for ecumenical dialogue as we move forward into the 21st century?
Well, I think first of all, to recognize in each other, a faith in Jesus as the core of our religious practice, and our faith, to see that we share a common a common app established Understanding of Christ, I hope my book might help in a very small way that we can move towards that together and see that we come from the same origins. I think we need to affirm that, as most ecumenical dialogues do, to say I recognize the AU, a follower of Jesus, in the same tradition as Peter and Andrew and James, you know, a follower in that tradition of the New Testament, and then to say, what do we need to say to our world together? There are all kinds of attempts to do them. Catholics and evangelicals together, which was a, an initiative started back in the early 19, early 2000s, I think, affirmed a common interest in ethical questions in our present American situation. That's terribly important. To see that Christians have a variety of traditions still affirm the sanctity of life and you know, the importance of Living publicly as Christians in the world, we need to keep doing that, I think. And then I think we have to develop different sub agendas, you might say, among the different branches of Christianity to be one of the great problems in ecumenical dialogue between, say, orthodox and Catholics on one side, and many other churches on the other now is kind of the unspoken set of issues that exist in many churches, the question of gay marriage, the question of the sanctity of life and how we express that these could be politically fraught, as you know, and very difficult to talk about. And yeah, I think what acts as a barrier in a number of ecumenical dialogue is less what we think about the sacrament, ality of the Eucharist, and more whether we will recognize gay marriages and ordain practicing homosexual people as ministers. Those things are painful and they raise questions Many sides. I think we need to find ways of talking about them that don't divide, but that respect each other and at the same time, that respect our own convictions. And it's very difficult.
Father daily, we're so thankful for your comments today, if I may close our interview with a question that we've been asking all of the guests on this program, and that is this, what would it mean for the church to be united? How would we recognize this unity? And what is it that we can do as Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
That's really a great question of the hour, isn't it? I think, partly it would, it would consist of recognizing that we're already more united they mean they think I think the churches sometimes need to turn around and say, we have differences. We have different ways of talking about our faith, but in many central ways, in our commitment to the person of Jesus, and in our acceptance of his teaching as the central relives and ethical systems. We are more one than we may realize or acknowledge, I think we need to say that to tell our congregations that tell our ministers divide, our ministers have that. And that sense to walk together, we do that much more than we did when I was child. So we need to keep doing it. And doing it more intensely
than we need to keep looking at our tradition and saying,
What is Christian worship? How do we realize it
in different ways? Which is different question for God's people? What is the holy way of
life as regards, you know, sexuality and human relationships? How do we teach them without appearing to be divisive, or to put people down, but to affirm both the dignity of individuals and call people to a deeper level of ethical behavior? These are difficult things to do. And I think we all need to do that together. So I would simply say we need to welcome genuinely the chance to talk with each other as you and I are doing today, and to recognize that what we share is in a sense more deep and more substantial than what divides us and I do believe that truly.
It's been our deep honor today to be speaking with Father Brian Daly, acclaimed author and recipient of the Ratzinger prize for theology. also the author of the text that we've been discussing today, God visible patristic Christology reconsidered, available from Oxford University Press in 2018. Father Daly, thank you so much for your time this morning.
Thank you so much. Dr. Armstrong has been a pleasure.