Barth, Przywara, and the analogy of being

Today I just read Keith L. Johnson’s paper: Reconsidering Barth’s Rejection of Przywara’s Analogia Entis. Barth’s comment regarding analogia entis (analogy of being) was well-known, for better or for worse, as he considered “the analogia entis as the invention of Antichrist, and I believe that because of it it is impossible ever to become a Roman Catholic, all other reasons for not doing so being to my mind short-sighted and trivial.” (I/1, xiii) Strong words, indeed. Johnson argued that in all probability Barth directed his comment specifically against Erich Przywara‘s (early) account of analogia entis. What is meant by analogia entis of Przywara as understood by Barth? “‘God is’ — what does that mean if not that God takes part in being?… God is himself being, the origin and perfection of everything that is… everything that is, as such, participates in God.” (as quoted in Johnson, p. 639) God takes part in being, God is being, and everything that is participates in God. Human is not God, but, by his or her very existence, he or she can know God because God is being in himself and thus the foundation of the human’s being.

After I read this comment, I wondered whether the phrase “God is” was deliberately construed by Barth to parallel his “God speaks” of analogia fidei (analogy of faith). That is, in Przywara’s analogia entis, God is and therefore I am, while in Barth’s analogia fidei, God speaks and now I hear. We can know God not because the inherent possibility in ourselves which is actualized in grace, but because God has spoken to us and this speech is another kind of miracle of its own. (Or, in Przywara, God is being, while in Barth, God’s being is in his becoming.)

Johnson also noted on how Przywara’s analogia entis was based on God’s act “in Christ in the Church” (637), and, as the Church functions as the earthly vicar of God or the “creaturely-visible form of God” (637), the pattern of God’s relationship to the world follows the pattern of his relationship to the church. The Roman Catholics really mean it through and through when they say that the Church is the Body of Christ, while, on the other hand, Barth emphasized over and over again the Lordship or Headship of Christ. The Church are, indeed, the Body of Christ, but Christ is the Head and the Head must remain the Head of the Body. Barth is concerned, I guess, that in Przywara’s analogia entis the Head does not remain the Head but is absorbed and overturned by the Body. (Of course, all of these discussions were pre-Vatican II, not to mention that later on Przywara would incorporate analogia fidei within his theology, or that Barth would incorporate extrinsic analogy of being, such that they were moving closer to each other, indicating fruitfulness of such dogmatic disputes.)


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