Tuesday, 22 July 2008

On the mediation of divine reality

Today's post represents the last of Hägglund's five implications of the regula fidei for dogmatics. For the overview of all posts, go here. It's rather long, and so will be divided into a number of subsections (text in bold is my own):

If it is really the case that the rule of faith is related to all church tradition in the manner that we have just outlined, then it becomes clear that the rule of faith must be of decisive importance for our work on the dogmatic portrayal of theology as well for the way in which the history of theology should be written.

a) Dogmatics, as it is practised today and despite differences in method and perspective, can be see as the continuation of what in the ancient church was called the doctrinal tradition of the church, the traditio in the broader sense of the word. The task set for dogmatics as a scientific discipline can be no other than that of mediating the content of Christian faith. In whatever situation, it is ultimately necessary to present that which is the object of faith (Gegenstand des Glaubens). If this wasn't the case, if the scientific and “ecclesial” tasks came undone, then it would mean that the scientific evaluation would set itself up as judge over the content of faith, given once and for all. Dogmatics would then choose a standpoint from which to adjudicate truth or falsity in the revelation. That would be a betrayal not only the Christian faith, but also of the true task of science, i.e. a false mixing of faith and knowledge.

The task of dogmatics is indeed “only” a passing on (Überliefern), a “tradioning” (“tradieren”), of that which was once given. Like the other sciences, it stands before a reality that must be regarded as the final authority for every statement. Its object is something which is believed, yet at the same time is something “which our ears have heard,” which “our fathers have recounted to us” (Ps 44:2).

Giving a regula fidei precedence over our dogmatic statements means that both find their unity and their coherency in the actual order of salvation history (in der tatsächlichen Ordnung des Heilsgeschehens), in the οικονομια. In the final analysis every truthful statement about this order must be grounded in the actual events themselves, as we have already seen concerning the Fathers of the ancient church, who refer the regula fidei to the facts of the revelation itself.

This reality of the divine order of salvation, however, does not encounter us as a reality which we can directly apprehend, see, hear or touch. Rather it is a linguistically mediated revelation (durch das Wort vermittelte Offenbarung), one which is mediated through the original witness of the prophets and apostles. This bondage to the revealed and revealing word gives dogmatics, in comparison to all other disciplines and sciences, its particular characteristic (Gepräge). The word “revelation” means, in other words, that we are concerned with matters which on our own terms we are not able to perceive or generate. We are dependent on the witness of others, on that which “we have heard,” what others have related to us. And for this reason “the traditioning process” (“das Tradieren”) is accorded such significance.

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