MOSAIC Spring 2015 - Page 5

THE SOURCES OF REVELATION I s the Catholic insistence on the mutual necessity of Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church simply a means of “institutional control?” Is it an end-run around mature intellectual integrity, relegating us to outdated modes of thinking and living? Or is insistence on the mutual interplay of Scripture, Tradition, and magisterial authority an acknowledgment and outworking within the Church of both the purpose of God and the nature of human society? Tradition as Tutelage? Tradition got a bad rap, beginning especially in the eighteenth century, and continuing in more or less subtle ways to the present. The loose, social-intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment, which has profoundly shaped modern, Western culture, defined its ideal as freedom from tradition. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, “Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-imposed tutelage. Tutelage is the incapacity to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Such tutelage is self-imposed if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another.” When Kant speaks of tutelage here, he is especially concerned with what we understand as Tradition: the handing-on of truth, including ethical truth embodied in a concrete way of life, within a people over time, and carrying a claim to authority. But can we historical mammals—who after all cannot learn to reason without the language we acquire only from those around us—really escape from tradition? Alive to those dimensions of human existence, many recent philosophers are skeptical of Kant’s confidence in selfsufficient individual reason. And can we live together in a peace based on truth without some reasoned adjudication of the disputes over that truth? Community Dimension of Divine Plan Dei Verbum (The Word of God) is one of the most widely admired documents of the Second Vatican Council among our Protestant brethren. It depicts the wisdom of God in providing for his people through a stable written form of his revelation, borne upon a living tradition, within a historical body provided with a concrete authority for maintaining the unity of the Spirit. The document speaks not only to the practical issues of doctrinal formulation and preservation, but it brings out the grandeur of the divine plan of revelation. God speaks to human beings out of the abundance of his love, Dei Verbum tells us, so that human beings might come to know him, the triune God, and come into communion with the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. God speaks to humans as to friends, inviting them into relationship with him. That fellowship of love is not confined to discrete relationships between God and isolated individuals, but is part of a broader communion of love in which men and women have the astounding opportunity to share in the divine nature, that is, to grow into the likeness of God in Jesus Christ, as the Lord makes his presence among us corporately: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gn 2:18). This corporate dimension of the divine plan of salvation is evident in the whole history of salvation. God called Abra- ham from the very beginning to become a great nation and, through the nation, the source of blessing to all the earth. He spoke to and guided the patriarchs of the people of Israel, and then, through the prophets, taught his people through long centuries, preparing the way for the coming of the gospel in a corporate manner. God’s purpose and his manner of working were bound up with one another: the revelation of God, even as it came through individuals, was spoken to a people so to shape the life of a people who would live in accord with his character. He taught Israel through commandment and precept; through admonition, comfort and rebuke; and through corporate experience interpreted by inspired prophets. From beginning to end, God has made himself known through a people, for the sake of a people, in the course of salvation history. Written and Unwritten Form Jesus Christ comes in the final stage of God’s plan as the keystone, the fulfillment, and pivot of this history of divine revelation. He comes as the fulfillment of the whole history of Israel and as the true seed of Abraham by whom all the nations will bless themselves and in whom they will be blessed. He comes out of a people and out of a history, Son of God from all eternity and descendant of David in his human flesh. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1-2). If God has prepa ɕ