Friday, May 8, 2009

Marion on the idolatry of "God"...

It's been a while since I've posted anything that is theologically/philosophically abstract, so here's a bit from Marion's "God Without Being," which I'm currently reading...

"When a philosophical thought expresses a concept of what it then names 'God,' this concept functions exactly as an idol... because it apprehends the divine on the basis of Dasein [Being], it measures the divine as a function of it; the limits of the divine experience of Dasein provoke a reflection that... allows it to freeze the divine in a concept... Notably, the 'death of God' presupposes a determination of God that formulates him in a precise concept; it implies then... a grasp of the divine that is limited and for that reason intelligible." (Jean-Luc Marion)

3 comments:

Phil said...

Interesting post. Do you think that this is why Barth focused so much on the knowledge of God being his revelation of himself in his own freedom? It seems like we can easily make our own ideas or classifications of God into idols, but sometimes God expresses himself with these same classifications and concepts in his own revelation and within the corpus of the scripture. I also think this is why Barth focused so much in the first part of his dogmatics to just probe the problem of saying anything about God.

I just thought of revelation here after the brief post...

Roy said...

As I was reading this I thought of these "concepts" as "snapshots" of God. Maybe you see a perspective but not the whole - sort of like the blind man and the elephant analogy. But if all of our concepts are just snap shots and if these ideas only become idols, doesn't that finally bring us to any of humanities foundation claims about God being essentially idol worship?

Geoff said...

Yeah, Phil, I think Marion (as a Catholic philosopher/theologian) resonates deeply w/ Barth... I know I've read a couple articles that make favorable comparisons between the two - and, of course, critique them both for the same reasons! It brings revelation to the forefront, but then we have to deal with the questions of how that revelation is received and interpreted. I think a key point is to always remember that anything we say about God - even what is written in Scripture - is by definition limited, since it is said/written by limited creatures. So, even when God reveals Godself to us directly, we won't "get" most of it, at least not in expressible terms. That's how it seems to me, at least...

Roy, that's Marion's point, I think, is that any claim we make about God is actually idolatry, UNLESS it's made within a certain frame of reference. For example, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the 2nd member of the Trinity. If we believe that, it must be because we've seen/experienced some revelation that makes us believe it.

However, there is no "concept" by which we can express that revelation which will not become idolatrous as soon as we think it's an adequate explanation. So - much like Kierkegaard says - true faith is never something you can explain to anyone. You can only find community with others who believe they have been given that same revelation, and then you build upon that. Of course, there's always the chance you could be wrong, but that's the chance faith has to take.

One of my prof's liked to say that we're all heretics, in one way or another. I think his point is similar to Marion's -- to have faith is one thing, but as soon as we try to systematize it using terms that make sense to us, we can be sure that we're leaving something out, or adding someting, or confusing something... essentially, creating an idol.