I just remembered this old post from the Powerblogs site, a post relevant to present concerns. Written February 2008.
I raised the question whether divine revelation is miraculous. I answered tentatively that it is not. Though revelation may be accompanied by miraculous events such as the burning bush of Exodus 3:2, I floated the suggestion that there need be nothing miraculous about revelation as such. So I was pleased to find some support for this notion from another quarter. The following is from an essay by Leo Strauss on Hermann Cohen's Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism:
Revelation is the continuation of creation since man as the rational and moral being comes into being, i.e., is constituted, by revelation. Revelation is as little miraculous as creation. (Leo Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, U. of Chicago Press, 1983, p. 237.)
This is an extremely interesting suggestion in that it may offer us a way to make sense of the notion that God creates man in his image and likeness but without interfering in the evolutionary processes most of us believe are responsible for man's existence as an animal.
Man as an animal is one thing, man as a spiritual, rational, and moral being is another. The origin of man as an animal came about not through any special divine acts but through the evolutionary processes common to the origination of all animal species. But man as spirit, as a self-conscious, rational being who distinguishes between good and evil cannot be accounted for in naturalistic terms.
As animals, we are descended from lower forms. As animals, we are part of the natural world and have the same general type of origin as any other animal species. Hence there was no Adam and Eve as first biological parents of the human race who came into existence directly by divine fiat without animal progenitors. But although we are animals, we are also spiritual beings, spiritual selves. I am an I, an ego, and this I-ness or egoity cannot be explained naturalistically. I am a person possessing free will and conscience neither of which can be explained naturalistically.
I suggest that what 'Adam' refers to is not a man qua member of a zoological species, but the first man to become a spiritual self. This spiritual selfhood came into existence through an encounter with the divine self. In this I-Thou encounter, the divine self elicited or triggered man's latent spiritual self. This spiritual self did not emerge naturally; what emerged naturally was the potentiality to hear a divine call which called man to his vocation, his higher destiny, namely, a sharing in the divine life. The divine call is from beyond the human horizon.
But in the encounter with the divine self which first triggered man's personhood or spiritual selfhood, there arose man's freedom and his sense of being a separate self, an ego distinct from God and from other egos. Thus was born pride and self-assertion and egotism. Sensing his quasi-divine status, man asserted himself against the One who had revealed himself, the One who simultaneously called him to a Higher Life but also imposed restrictions and made demands. Man in his pride then made a fateful choice, drunk with the sense of his own power: he decided to go it alone. This rebellion was the Fall of man, which has nothing to do with being expelled from a physical garden located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Original Sin was a spiritual event, and its transmission was not by semen, but by some spiritual (socio-cultural) means.
If we take some such tack as the above, then we can reconcile what we know to be true from natural science with the Biblical message. Religion and science needn't compete; they can complement each other -- but only if each sticks to its own province. In this way we can avoid both the extremes of the fundamentalists and the extremes of the 'Dawkins gang' (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, et al.)
Returning to Hermann Cohen's suggestion above, as mediated by Leo Strauss, we can say that the divine-human encounter whereby the animal man becomes spirit is God's revelation to man. God's revealing himself is at the same time a creation of man as a spiritual being. In Heideggerian terms, at the moment of encounter moment man becomes Dasein, the Da of Sein, the site where Being (Sein) achieves finite self-understanding. But there is nothing ontically miraculous in this, no contravention of any law of nature.
Revealing himself to man as Being itself -- Exodus 3:14 "I am who am" -- God creates man as understandor of Being.
Leo Strauss sketches an answer in his "How to Begin to Study Medieval Philosophy" in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. T. L. Pangle, University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp. 221-222, bolding added:
For the Jew and the Moslem, religion is primarily not, as it is for the Christian, a faith formulated in dogmas, but a law, a code of divine origin. Accordingly, the religious science, the sacra doctrina, is not dogmatic theology, theologia revelata, but the science of the law, halaka or fiqh. The science of the law, thus understood has much less in common with philosophy than has dogmatic theology. Hence the status of philosophy is, as a matter of principle, much more precarious in the Islamic-Jewish world than it is in the Christian world. No one could become a competent Christian theologian without having studied at least a substantial part of philosophy; philosophy was an integral part of the officially authorized and even required training. On the other hand, one could become an absolutely competent halakist or faqih without having the slightest knowledge of philosophy. This fundamental difference doubtless explains the possibility of the later complete collapse of philosophical studies in the Islamic world, a collapse which has no parallel in the West in spite of Luther.
It is a general observation that people write as they read. As a rule, careful writers are careful readers and vice versa. A careful writer wants to be read carefully. He cannot know what it means to be read carefully but by having done careful reading himself. Reading precedes writing. We read before we write. We learn to write by reading. A man learns to write well by reading well good books, by reading most carefully books which are most carefully written. (Quoted from Edwin Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza's Ethics, Princeton University Press, 1988, p. ii.)
"We learn to write by reading." This is why reading good books is essential to becoming a good writer.
The following is highly relevant to our Trinitarian/Christological discussions:
For Leo Strauss, ". . . Western civilization consists of two elements, or has two roots, which are in radical disagreement with each other." ("Progress or Return?" in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, p. 245) These two elements are the Bible and Greek philosophy, Jerusalem and Athens. The "whole history of the West" is an attempt at harmonizing this radical disagreement. But the various attempts at harmonization were doomed to fail for the following reason:
. . . each of these two roots of the Western world sets forth one thing as the one thing needful, and the one thing needful as proclaimed by the Bible is incompatible, as it is understood by the Bible, with the one thing needful proclaimed by Greek philosophy, as it is understood by Greek philosophy. To put it very simply and therefore somewhat crudely, the one thing needful according to Greek philosophy is the life of autonomous understanding. The one thing needful as spoken by the Bible is the life of obedient love. The harmonizations and synthesizations are possible because Greek philosophy can use obedient love in a subservient function, and the Bible can use philosophy as a handmaid; but what is so used in each case rebels against such use, and therefore the conflict is really a radical one. (Ibid., p. 246, emphasis added.)
I should point out that Strauss goes on to speak of an underlying agreement between the Bible and Greek philosophy, but I'll leave that for a subsequent post. What he says above, though, strikes me as exactly right. First, Western civilization does have the two roots mentioned, a fact apparently missed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson when he sang at Stanford University, "Hey hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go." Did Brother Jesse realize that he was advocating the throwing out of his own bread and butter?
Second, the two roots or elements are in radical, albeit fruitful, tension. Indeed, the vitality of the West, as Strauss remarks elsewhere, derives in good measure from this tension, a tension which, absent in the Islamic world, may help explain the inanition in that world.
A reader suggests that Pope Benedict's Regensburg address can be read, in part, as an implicit response to the Straussian thesis of radical disagreement between the Bible and Greek philosophy. Compare this passage:
Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the λόγος". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, σὺν λόγω, with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.