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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik
Mezei, Balázs M.
London u. a.: Bloomsbury T & T Clark 2017. 384 S. = Illuminating Modernity. Geb. £ 110,00. ISBN 978-0-567-67778-5.
Balázs M. Mezei’s Radical Revelation is his second major work dealing with the philosophical analysis of the Christian concept of revelation. His first, Religion and Revelation after Auschwitz, took the tragedy of World War II as a point to address the difficulties of religion in light of tragic anguish. In doing so, he broaches themes that he will continue in Radical Revelation, namely the relation-ship of past suffering to the newness that the future affords. Yet, whereas his previous work begins with a concrete event, his latter book assumes the »fact of revelation« (35–42) and works out a philosophical theology of revelation, with its attendant implications. In doing so, M. provides an intriguing exercise that is related to the contemporary Catholic tradition of »foundational theology« (XX), while being distinct in its interaction with artistic, cultural, and biblical sources.
M. titles his methodology for examining revelation, a »non-standard radical philosophical theology of revelation« (51). It is nonstandard due to its philosophical nature, which M. connects with the inability of theology to examine that which is axiomatic for it. M. seeks a radical perspective in the sense that he is looking to the »root« of revelation, which he finds in freedom. Thus, the actuality of revelation assumes God is free to reveal, a freedom that is enacted in »self-donation« (XI). M., then, philosophically analyzes that free act, as well as tracing artifacts that display that such a re-velatory idea is fundamental not just to theology, but indeed to human culture.
In the first three chapters of Radical Revelation, M. attempts to define revelation and clarify what is revealed. Recognizing that revelatory activity is by divine intention and that humans are involved in terms of their cognitive receptivity, the author begins with the Christian tradition and the various facets of its depiction of God’s manifestation. He believes that revelation must be understood as a »rich fact« (36), which is more than simple actuality and encompasses a fact in the context of its meaning, significance, and implications (i. e. its relationships). As a rich fact, it requires philo sophical elucidation, for which M. argues that a methodology which proposes models of revelation that are established based on their explanatory power, internal consistency, and coherence with the Christian scriptural tradition (67–107). He concludes that vari-ous historic models have oversimplified revelation and should, instead, begin with self-revelation.
M. understands the object of revelation to be the self and that self being divine unity (109–149), similar to the Thomistic sense whereby one understands the idea of God before the triunity of persons. However, he places greater stress on that unity being the source of all things, so that he can draw connections to ad intra unity of God leading to the ad extra movement of creation and re-velation (124–126). When speaking of self-revelation, M. distin-guishes between direct and indirect self-revelation, with the former being directed such that the form and content of revelation are merged and the latter being mediated such that the self is seen as the distinguishable agent of revelation (121). God’s freedom in revelation means that he is willing to deny himself in his ad intra unity and blessedness to give of himself to his created world. This choice has no necessity, but is absolutely free and has the outcome that God is manifest in his personhood to humanity (130).
In chapters 4 and 5, M. resumes theme of personhood to move from the what of revelation (i. e. the self) to the how of revelation (i. e. radical personhood). God’s revelation as the free act of self-donation is such that God is understood as an absolutely unique person and involved in a network of intersubjective relationships (138–139). As a »rich fact«, God’s indirect self-revelation should re-late to all of creation, such that it can be seen throughout one’s model. M. attempts to demonstrate this by showing how the facets of his view of radical personhood can be seen in »gestures of free-dom« (156–177), which are events that point to freedom as seen in the Christian Scriptures and represented in art. He then moves on to speak of direct self-revelation whereby God is seen in his »apocalyptic personhood«, which is his unmediated revelation of self as seen in eschatological literature (194–224). Of special emphasis is M.’s discussion of the paradoxical unity of the »lamb of God« imagery whereby the same lamb is slain and seen victorious. In this, the unity between the sacrificial nature of radical personhood and the glorious nature of apocalyptic personhood is retained.
The last two chapters (6 and 7) are essentially an application of the philosophical analysis of the previous chapters to cultural analysis. M. develops an »apocalyptic phenomenology« that takes the openness of freedom to newness and applies it to historical representations of God’s revelation (248), especially in architecture and music. Furthermore, the author develops a view of the »catholicity« of revelation that points to the universality of free revelatory ac-tivity being seen in the openness to newer and newer expressions of revelation, particularly in the church (293–310). He illustrates this by taking the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (311–327) and demonstrating how they have echoes in cultural innova-tions, both within the church and without.
M.’s treatment is intriguing in both its methodology and scope. There are a few caveats and a few difficulties that should be recognized when reading Radical Revelation. M.’s understanding of the relationship of the self to the person (130–144) is novel, but de-finitely not uncontroversial. Moreover, his felicity with such a broad range of subjects and traditions places strong demands upon his readers. This is both problematic and beneficial, since his work displays an interdisciplinary nature that is becoming more infrequent. The most looming difficulty, though, is the tension one notices between M.’s desire to speak of how revelation can »enrich« God, while not moving in the direction of Neo-Barthians who frequently deny the immutability of God. This can be seen in his claim, upfront, that »radical revelation, taken in itself, is the self-enrichment of the revealer (inasmuch as that is conceivable in God)« (XI). How well one reacts to his work will be strongly corre-lated to how convinced she is that he resolves or, at least, mitigates this tension.
In spite of the aforementioned qualifications, M.’s work is very significant. His historical perspectives on philosophical and theological developments are excellent, as are his frequent termino-logical clarifications. His ability to move between Continental and analytic philosophy, Catholic and Protestant theology, and ecclesiastical and popular cultural icons is commendable and intriguing even if one is not an expert in the field (which is why frequently one may have to have computer ready to bring up photos of the various art pieces or architectural examples to which he refers). Furthermore, he, in many ways, provides an alternative method for Catholicism to investigate revelation and the Trinity in a system that learns from the late 19 th century and early 20th century developments, while being distinct from the manner of appropriation of Rahner and von Balthasar. M. is reluctant to conflate the immanent and economic Trinity, as seen in his utilization of nulla proportio, which makes him somewhat unique within present day scholarship. This, itself, is reason enough to undertake the challenging task of reading Radical Revelation.