Chapter 5: The Absence of God and God-Language
Theists are agreed on the reality of God; however, not all are agreed on the way God’s reality is to be explained. I am not speaking here of so-called "proofs" for God’s existence, for as I have indicated earlier, I do not believe in natural theology. Rather, I am speaking of the way one’s belief in God is to be elaborated. Now, in traditional elaborations and thinking about the reality of God, the basic presupposition has been that to accept the reality of God is also to accept his presence. As a consequence, to show the reality of God is the same as to show his presence. I would like to dissent from this basic method, for it does not necessarily follow that to accept the reality of God is to imply his presence. An absent God is not any less real than a present one.
It is difficult enough to show God’s reality, but it is made more difficult, I think, because of the failure to distinguish between two senses of the term "presence." In the first sense, presence is opposed to non-being or non-existence; in the second sense, presence is opposed to spatial or temporal absence. Presence in the first sense is opposed to total absence or absolute nothingness, while in the second sense, it is opposed to partial or provisional absence of a present reality. Because this distinction was not always made, many of those who tried to show the reality of God also tried to show his actual presence here and now, that is, that he is "spatially" and temporally present in the present, meeting enormous difficulties in the attempt. Thus, as one writer has observed, "the debate about God takes the form of a quest for data about God and experience of God."1 The same writer observes that this manner of asking the question was influenced by the scientific method of searching for scientific data. In the particular problem of God, the quest accordingly took the form of looking for the answer to the question, "What is that area of human experiencing in which awareness of God is to be found?" 2 Various answers were proposed: Schleiermacher tried to base the presence of God in feelings of absolute dependence, Barth in direct revelation from God, Bultmann in existential experience of pure inwardness, Thomism in the analogy of being which leads to the awareness of Supreme Being, Tillich in asking the right questions about ultimate concern.3
It is not only traditional theologies that try to show the reality of God by way of his presence. It has always been the desire of many people throughout the centuries to wish "to ‘experience’ God or at least to search for a God who would speak in their lives."4 This desire to look for the presence of God is not only an ancient and medieval problem but is the search of millions of people today.5
Even many secularizers attempt to show God’s presence in time and history. But I believe that all attempts to make God appear is bound to fail. If one claims that God is present, then the linguistic analysts have a field day in showing the illogicality of the affirmation. For if we are using time and history in the accepted senses of the term, we would be forced to produce an historical or empirical evidence of God, which obviously we cannot. On the other hand, if we say we are using the term historical or temporal in another sense, we are forced to show that such use is not really identical with suprahistorical or supratemporal, and that we are not surreptitiously introducing metaphysical categories into the discussion. Thus, there does not seem to be a middle position between the suprahistorical or supratemporal, on the one hand, and the historical or temporal, on the other. If we start with the presupposition that God must be shown as present at all costs, then the only logical way of escaping the empiricist’s critique is the affirmation that God is metaphysical. But the position is not safe from the empiricist’s critique either, for how does one distinguish which metaphysical statements are real and which are myths? One can have recourse to fideism and subjectivism, but the question remains: How does one show that fideism is not myth? How does one test the reliability and truth of suprahistorical or metaphysical statements? Ultimately, one has to ground such statements on the empirical. And in our particular case, i.e., the presence of God, we have to ground presence on the empirical. It would seem, however, that when we try to do so, the attempt likewise becomes fruitless. Many intelligent people are therefore led to conclude that God is unreal because his presence cannot be shown.
Part of the current difficulty in trying to show the presence of God proceeds from asking the wrong question. We should redirect the whole effort from trying to show the reality of God by his presence to showing his reality by his absence. This means abandoning the pattern of thinking which situates being in the present. The past is no longer being, the future is not yet. The present is thus made the region of being and also of presence. Now, if the present is the place of the real, then, logically, we would demand that the most real of beings be in the present. Accordingly, efforts to show the reality of God have been to show his presence in the present. It is this framework which has guided not only traditional theists but also the linguistic analysts in the way they ask questions about God. The linguistic analysts are really Aristotelians at heart and mind, for they demand that the verification of the truth and falsity of a statement be the existence of an extramental correlate in the present. Even for them, the present is being. They haven’t learned to think and speak evolutionarily.
Jürgen Moltmann confirms our opinion when he observes that traditional knowledge of God was based on the category of the Greek logos -- hence, a reality which is always there, now and always.6 Moltmann contrasts this hellenic view with the scriptural view in which God is a God with "future as his essential nature" as made known in Exodus and in Israelite prophecy.7 Consequently, God is a God we cannot "have" but can only await in active hope.8 Johann-Baptist Metz also points out that God is a "God before us." We can also add that another image in the Scriptures of God’s absence is that of the Lord of. the vineyard who is away on a journey but promises to come back. Yahweh is therefore a Deus Absconditus (a hidden God), a God Who Cometh.
In accordance with the scriptural view of God, then, our task as theists is to show the reality of God by his absence, not by his presence. Moltmann seems to confirm this new direction when he says:
But now the more recent theology of the Old Testament has indeed shown that the words and statements about the "revealing God" in the Old Testament are combined throughout with statements about the "promise of God." God reveals himself in the form of promise and in the history that is marked by promise. This confronts systematic theology with the question whether the understanding of divine revelation by which it is governed must not be dominated by the nature and trend of the promise.10
In the New Testament, adds Moltmann, God is known and described as the "God of promise" (Heb 10:23; 11:11) and God of hope (Rom 15:13).11
By redirecting our thinking about God to his absence rather than to his presence, we not only portray the true God of the Scriptures but make him more credible. This may be a surprising thing to say, but paradoxically enough it is true. For if we try to claim that God is present but cannot give evidence of his presence, then God becomes incredible. However, if we, as we should, claim that God is absent and we are able to show good reasons why he is absent, then God becomes credible. We can just as well explain the reality of someone by giving reasons why he is absent than by the evidence of his presence.
In order to give credibility for God’s absence, we must answer some nagging questions which are perfectly justified. For example, a question that comes not only from unbelievers but also from believers is why, if the Christian God wanted to win all to his service, does he not make the task easier for himself and his followers by showing some clear evidence of his presence, so that there could be no doubt about it even for sincere men, rather than remaining hidden and forever being a mystery. Is the Christian God a shy God? Does he have a passion for hiddenness? Why does he not come in person and present himself for all to see so that the issue that divides theists and atheists would be solved?
In the previous chapters of this book we have shown that God is a Creator-Ground, a Ground of Growth, and a Ground-Omega. But when all is said and done, the most evident aspect of God is his inevidence. We have no experience of this Creator-Ground, or Ground of human temporality or Ground-Omega. There is no empirical evidence of him in the present. Does it follow that the God we have presented is unreal? Yes, if his reality depended upon the evidence of his presence. What we should do then is to show why God is absent.
The Christian God would be more real and also more human if it were shown that he is absent, not because he wants to, but because of the nature of the situation. The Christian God does not want to be absent for absence’ sake, for as the Scriptures attest, the desire and the delight of Yahweh is to be with the children of men, to walk with them. It is just that he cannot help it, given the present situation. It is this situation that we must show. We must give a credible explanation also for faith, and show that faith is not based on the fancy of God as to what the present situation would be, but rather that the present situation determines that faith be characteristic of it.
Let us attempt now to show the reason for God’s absence. First, let us put ourselves into the evolutionary pattern of thinking by briefly recalling the ontological dimensions of reality-as-process as shown in the diagram below:
past present future
non-being becoming being
Corresponding to the ontological dimensions are the revelatory dimensions illustrated thus:
past present future
total absence half-present presence
darkness twilight light
night night & day day
Corresponding to the revelatory dimensions are the cognitive levels or dimensions of reason, shown thus:
past present future
"unbeliving" reason beliving reason seeing reason
science faith or belief vision
In the diagrams above, we are situated in the present. This present includes the simple historical future, so that the term "present" is contrasted with the eschatological future. Now, according to the ontological dimensions of process, God, who by presupposition is the most really real, would be located in the absolute future, for that is the region of the fullness of reality. God therefore could not be located in the present, for it is not the region of the fullness of being. By way of contrast, in a static atemporal pattern of thinking, in which the context does not affect essentially the nature of being, it is indifferent to a given being into which ontological dimensions of reality-in-process it is placed. However, if evolution is valid, then a being is determined, not only ontologically, but epistemologically, by the evolutionary stage it is in. Thus, a seed is a seed precisely because it is located at the first stage of the process. It would be absurd to say that the seed could be found in any stage of the process. In fact, the seed is identical with the first stage and is defined as the first stage of this particular process. What is true of individual processes is true of the macrocosmic process of evolution. Thus, man is man precisely because he emerged at a particular stage of the evolutionary process. And matter is matter precisely because it is situated at the first stage of the process. Man has his own dimension, the historical dimension or level of noogenesis, which distinguishes him from the infrahuman levels. Matter, a plant or an animal cannot enter the historical dimension because it does not have self-consciousness and freedom. Or to put it in another way, to be in the historical dimension is to be human. Thus, the ontological dimension determines what a being is ontologically and defines it.
Having shown that the ontological dimension defines the being at that level, let us now study the dimension of the present. The present stage of any given process, that is, the stage of becoming, has the essential characteristics of being half-developed, half-revealing, half-concealing, in short, imperfect and absent from the fullness of being in the future. The significance of these characteristics for our problem is that they determine how a given reality is to appear in it. Let us illustrate what we mean by the use of the example of the seed. In its process of growth, the seed has the following stages:
stage of becoming stage of being
or the present or the future
seed (alpha) fruit (omega)
In the diagram, in order for the fruit to appear at alpha, it cannot appear in its omega presentation, that is, as fruit. It has to take on the appearance of the seed, which means that the fruit has to be concealed or hidden, so to speak. The structure of alpha prescribes the way omega is to appear at alpha. For omega to appear as omega at alpha is tantamount to putting an end to alpha, since for alpha to become omega is precisely for it to have reached the fullness of maturity or the end of the process. But if omega is serious and intent about the evolution of alpha, then for it to appear at alpha without destroying the structure of alpha, it must appear in the trappings of alpha, as it were. In other words, the result of the "incarnation" of omega in alpha is a descent or kenosis, a concealment and an absence from the future, such that the very proof of the presence of omega in alpha is precisely its absence. To demand that for omega to really exist, it present itself as omega at alpha is to deny the very nature of the process as evolutionary. This demand could come only from a static-minded person. In evolution, the very structure of alpha demands the absence of omega in its formal and full presentation at alpha. Thus, in the context of process, we see why omega must paradoxically reveal its presence by its absence, which is the same as to say that omega is present at alpha symbolically. Now, a symbol is a proof of the existence of an absent object. The symbol, in the context of process, points to omega; it half-reveals, half-conceals. At alpha, the only kind of proof for omega is precisely the character of alpha itself as symbolic.
With the above analysis, we are now in a position to understand God’s absence in the present. God’s revelation of himself must be seen as a process whose fullness is in the absolute future and whose beginning is none other than creation. If this is true, then in the present God could not appear in his total glory and majesty but would have to hide himself in much the same way that the fruit hides itself in the seed. Just as the fruit is in a totally different context or dimension from that of the seed, so God is in a different time dimension. What follows from this is that God cannot totally identify himself with the present order without destroying it. God who is the Fullness of Being could not be in a region of lack and absence of being. God who is the Fullness of Time could not be in the region of lack of time. God who is the Fully Real cannot be in the present which is the region of the partly real. God who is the "I am" cannot be in the present which is the stage of "may be." The present is the region of the contingent, the possible, the subjunctive, the contradictory. It does not have full actuality; it could fail to reach its omega or future. God is none of these. God who is the Fullness of Actuality could not be in a region of becoming. God who is the Fullness of Light could not be in the region of night and day without putting an end to the darkness. God who is the Fullness of Truth could not be in the region of partial truth. God who is Presence could not be in the region of half-presence, half-absence.
God cannot appear in the present order in his total glory and majesty, for this would mean the total destruction of the present. It would be the end of the world, the final judgment, the parousia. It would be like the seed becoming a fruit, which means the destruction of the structure of the seed and the emergence of a new one, the fruit. But as long as the seed exists as a seed, then the fruit cannot incarnate itself at that dimension precisely as fruit. Similarly, for God to come precisely as Omega in our present order would mean the removal of contradiction in the present, the maturation of time, and the removal of all concealment, hiddenness and all darkness. It would mean the final transfiguration and transformation of the present order and the ushering in of a New Age, a New Order, a New Heaven and a New Earth. But as long as God wants the world to evolve, as long as the world is in need of development, then God cannot come in his total glory and majesty.
Does it mean that God cannot be present in some way in our present order? God can come into the present but in a concealed way. This is the only way he can come into the present without destroying the character of the present as evolving. He cannot come, as we already mentioned, in his character and function as Judge, as Omega, if he allows both "cockle and wheat to grow." God has to assume the character of the present by putting aside the glory of his divinity. Because the revelatory dimension of the present is the region of night and day, all things in the present order partake of this character -- they are half-light, half-intelligible, half-revealing. In other words, the present is a symbol of the eschatological future. God’s presence, then, in the present order is in the form of symbols. As the revelation of God evolves through time, the symbols become more and more revealing of him, much as the development of the seed manifests more and more of its final form. The Scriptures in fact attest to the presence of God in history in terms of symbols. First, creation itself is a symbol of God, a vestige of God. Then man himself as an image of God becomes a clearer symbol of God. But God did not stop at man as a revelation of himself. He chose a still fuller revelation of himself by choosing a people in which he manifested himself through his saving acts. From this people, he chose types of himself -- Abraham, Moses, David -- and finally he sent the perfect symbol of himself, his only Son.
Corresponding to the absence of God-Omega in the present is the character of faith as an experience of absence. In this experience of absence, the reality of God is implied, but not the presence of God, since man is a wayfarer, dwelling in tents, away from the Lord. He is on a journey, an exodus toward God who dwells in inaccessible light (1 Tim 6:16), with the light of faith as his guide amid the darkness. It is the condition of the journey or exodus, or, as we expressed in the first chapter of this study, the unfinished character of the present -- that is the foundation of belief, and not the whim of God. Belief is necessary because it is the only way we can recognize the Future where Truth is found and be open to it. It has often been said and taught that in belief we attain God’s presence. This is true in the sense that belief relates us to the Absolute Future, makes us recognize it, but not in the sense that in belief we attain a religious experience of God. No, faith is darkness in relation to the Absolute Future which is the region of day. The substance of faith, precisely, is the eschatological hope that eventually the rhythm of darkness and light will give way to an eternal day, when God will be his people’s light (Is. 30:26; 60:19-22; Hos. 6:3; Zech. 14:7; cf. Eccl. 12:2; Is. 2:1; Rev. 21:23; 22:5).12 For the Christian, Christ’s coming announces the dawn of a New Age, which will never be followed by a night (Rev 21:23; 22:5).13
Faith is not all darkness, but darkness only in relation to the eschaton. In relation to unborn or unbelieving reason, faith is a light. As St. John says, those who do not believe remain in darkness (In 3:19-21), while those who believe are children of light (Jn 1:12-13; 12:36). We may illustrate the paradoxical nature of faith as being both light and darkness or presence and absence thus:
unbelieving reason ---> faith or believing reason
(darkness or absence) ---> (light or presence)
faith ---> vision
(darkness or absence) (light or presence)
In the diagram, faith in relation to unborn reason is a light; it is a presence in the sense of a recognition of the reality of God. But faith in relation to vision, which is light or presence, is darkness or absence. This paradoxical nature of faith cannot be recognized in the static pattern of thought which is based on the logic of the identity of concepts. Thus, faith cannot be both light and darkness, presence and absence. Historically, what was emphasized was the triumphalistic aspect of faith, rather than its eschatological or futuristic dimension. Faith was seen exclusively as an experience of the presence of God, with the result that not only the false hopes of unbelievers were aroused and a crisis of faith in believers induced but also a wrong direction on the question of God of looking for a datum of God’s presence was initiated in theology. As Moltmann brings out, God is the not-yet-datum-for-us; God is he-who-is-to-come. Therefore, the search for a datum, be it metaphysical, existential or intuitive, cannot yield an experience of God.
The man of faith lives in a paradoxical situation. He is unable to give a datum for his belief in God -- hence, belief seems irrational to reason. But for the man of faith, the light of faith is a surer light than that of reason to guide man on his journey toward the Absolute Future. Having said this, we must also say that the life of faith in relation to the life of vision is one of darkness, for we do not yet see the consummation of which faith gives the certainty.14 Again, in relation to reason, faith gives freedom, security, and deliverance from despair (Gal. 4:1-5:13; Rom. 6:12-19; Eph. 2:1-5; Col. 3:5-10; 1 Thes. 4:3-9, etc.), but in relation to the eschaton, faith is the experience of fear, of doubt and of absence, for, precisely, the Christian walks by faith, not by vision (2 Cor 5:7). Because in relation to vision, faith is absence, faith requires constant affirmation. It needs to be nurtured, for it is in process of growth toward final qualitative transformation into the life of vision and glory.
The Exodus account pictures very well the paradoxical experience of the life of faith. The Israelites at once felt free and yet unfree: free from the slavery of Egypt, but not yet free from the dangers of the desert. They were secure and yet not secure, alive and yet not quite alive, happy and yet still sorrowing, certain and yet also uncertain and doubtful of the outcome of the journey. Compared to the darkness of Egypt, a pillar of light was given them, but before them on the way to the land of truth and light was darkness. The food given them in the desert was "manna" which was quite unpalatable and tasteless, compared to the fleshpots of Egypt. As a consequence, many succumbed to the temptation of going back to Egypt and, in the attempt, died on the way or reverted back to slavery. So, too, the life of faith is a life of emptiness and darkness in the desert where one’s truth and certainty as food for the journey are not a verifiable and present truth but a promise, just as the manna was a promise of the land flowing with milk and honey. To reason, the truth of faith is unpalatable, for it does not give a "taste" of God. Reason could fall into the temptation of going back to the security of its concepts, proclaiming that God-talk is meaningless. This brings us to the problem of the validity of God-language.
In the introduction to this study, we attempted to establish the empirical foundation for religious language. We stated there that the eschatological dimension is the foundation for religious talk. God-talk, not only because it is part of religious talk, but also because God (which is the object of God-talk) is he-who-comes, is also founded on the eschatological dimension of reality. As Moltmann points out, God-language must be set in the category of expectation, since this is appropriate for a God of promise.15 Our problem here, therefore, is not to establish the ontological foundation for God-talk but to consider the position and claim of linguistic analysis in relation to the question of the validity of God-talk.
One of the most formidable allies of the death-of-God movement is the group of linguistic analysts who claim that God-talk is cognitively meaningless. There are other linguistic analysts, however, who are moving away from the extreme and strict notion of the verification principle. I believe that the movement is welcome. I even see in it the possibility that in the future, linguistic analysis will be of great service to the clarification of religious language. At the present time, then, the task is to broaden the scope and meaning of linguistic analysis so that it can be of service to religious language and, in our particular case, to God-language.
A philosopher notes three areas in which linguistic philosophy could broaden itself: 16 (1) broaden the verifiability principle so as to make other experiences besides sense experience possible, (2) abandon the viewpoint that would reduce all meaning of things to present or actual fact, and (3) pay more attention to conceptual frameworks through which we seek to apprehend the world.
I would concur with the above suggestions, but I would reduce the three points to one: the development of a philosophy of language in the context of an evolving universe. My basic dissatisfaction with linguistic analysis is its static nature. It is valid for a static universe in which present facts alone count and the future is considered of no linguistic value or is reduced to present statements and in which reason is considered statically, that is, as adequate and sufficient for attaining all the meaning there is, when, as a matter of fact, reason is evolving. My second basic dissatisfaction with linguistic analysis is that, like Aristotelian logic, of which it is heir, it is unable to deal with paradoxes. It considers as a contradiction the statement that a Christian is at once a sinner and a just man (simul justus et peccator). It cannot deal with the paradoxical nature of presently evolving realities but must freeze them, as it were, in order to make sense out of them.
Religious language is of a paradoxical nature, as when it is said that Christ is both God and man, that the Christian is at once free and unfree, already born and yet unborn, etc. Religious language is also historical and evolutionary: it depicts the people of God as on a journey to the holy land, the Church as a mystical body evolving toward the fullness of Christ, the liturgy as consisting of cycles of growth, the Christian life as an exodus, grace as growth in the fullness of Christ, dogma as evolving, etc.
It is necessary, then, to develop a philosophy of language that would take account of the nature of religious language rather than taking scientific language as a model and a priori presupposing that religious language is cognitively meaningless, then trying to explain its meaning in terms of non-cognitive, non-factual and emotive uses.
I would like to begin the examination of the validity of the linguistic method for determining the validity of God-talk by a clarification of what is meant by the terms "empirical," "truth," "verifiability" and "reason." If the universe is evolving, then these terms must be seen in this context. Most linguistic analysts take these terms for granted when any true scientific procedure would require their clarification as a necessary step to their proper use in language.
What is meant by the truly empirical? Can we really establish an empirical fact? What is a fact? I would start by proposing a definition of an empirical fact as that whose existence cannot be contested. Now, in terms of this definition, what example can we give for an empirical fact? The tree out there which I sense and experience? But that tree out there is open toward the future; hence, its existence is uncertain, contested by future life or death. But perhaps it is asserted that apart from the future and death, the tree exists. The notion of an empirical fact, however, as pointing to the present alone, is an abstraction, existing only in the mind or to common sense, for all things in time cannot be thought of apart from their futures. Remove the future and the present has no existence of its own that may be called autonomous and incontestable. A tree without a future is a dead tree. It is no longer a tree. Reflection shows that the basis for presently existing things is really their future.17 What is it then to be empirical? To answer this question properly, it must be set in the context of the real world which is evolving. Now, since in evolution the direction is toward greater being in the future, it follows that the future is more empirical than the present. It might be objected that since the future does not yet exist, how can it be empirical? The present does exist; hence it is empirical. But the existence of the present is not due to the present but to there being a future. It could be that the future is never reached, in which case the present ceases to be and hence leaves no basis for talk. True empiricism then is based on a realized future, that is, on the achievement of maturity or the fullness of growth, for a realized future does not need to have a future in the line of this particular present growth. The present, then, as becoming or as evolving, is not fully empirical. Because it is an abstraction, it is false to compare the present with the future, for they are not two entities, the present having existence and hence empirical, while the future, having no existence, is not empirical. That the present does not have autonomous existence is clear by what we have said, namely that if the future is taken away from it, it ceases to be. The present, then, is not truly and fully empirical; it is empirical only thanks to the future and because of its participation in the future. If this is true, it is false to reduce the future to the present, making the present the model of the empirical and of what is real.
The implication of our analysis for God-talk is that it would be false to demand that God be found in the present, precisely because the present is not the region of the fully empirical. Hence, to use the present and its language structure as a basis for verifying whether God is real or not is doomed to fail, for God, who by presupposition is the most fully empirical, cannot be found in the region that is partially empirical.
Just as the fullness of empiricism is the stage of maturation in the future, since that is the region of the fullness of being, so also the region of the fullness of truth is the future, since truth is convertible with being. Linguistic analysis, on the other hand, locates truth in the present. For it, that is true which exists extramentally here and now. In this sense, everything that emerges from non-existence is true, but this statement is a tautology and does not say anything new. It starts from a dualism between being and non-being, asserting that the region of being is true. What is at fault here is a static view of the real, such that there is no distinction made between authentic and inauthentic being in which the former is true and the latter false. In linguistic analysis, that is true which exists, and that false which does not. But this usage is tautological. For truth and falsity to be meaningful, they both must have extramental references. To speak of a nonexistent being as meaningless or false is to be tautological. In evolution, on the other hand, true and false both have extramental references. That is true which has attained the fullness of its growth. Truth is equated with the successful completion and maturation of a process. Untruth is in incompletion or death. For example, a seed that is not planted is untrue because, left alone, it will soon shrivel up and die. It is tautological to say the seed is true simply because it exists. Truth, for the seed, is reaching its maturation. In line with evolutionary thinking, a developing reality is half-true because it has not yet reached its fullness or maturation. The present, then, which is a stage of becoming, is the region of half-truth.
If our previous analysis is true, then in relation to God-talk it would be invalid and fruitless to apply the method of linguistic analysis to verify God’s presence in the present, for God who is the Fullness of Truth could not be found in the region of half-truth. God could be found and empirically verified only in the Absolute Future, for that is the region of the fullness of truth.
Let us next examine the notion of verifiability. We can verify things that are present to us, so that presence, obviously, is the basis for verifiability. But when is a thing present? This seems a silly question, but only to common sense, which, contrary to the popular view, is quite un-philosophical. Thus, to common sense, a seed in front of me is present. But is it really present in and for itself? Or, to phrase the question in a more general way, is the developing or evolving present really present in, by and for itself? Our analysis previously has shown that the present has existence only because it has a future, that if the future were sheared off, the present would cease to be present; it would be handed over to death or non-existence. The present, in the context of evolution, being unfinished, half-developed, is not fully present to itself. The future is still unrevealed. What follows from this is that there are realities unseen or unrevealed in the present. If this is true, then we are not able to verify absolutely whether a given reality which does not appear in the present really exists or not. All we can say is that the given reality does not appear in the present. We cannot say absolutely that it does not exist. For proper and adequate verification, we must situate ourselves in a place where all things are present. Only then can we say whether what we are verifying is real or unreal.
The implication of our analysis of verifiability for God-talk is that since the present is the region of half-presence, half-absence, of light and darkness, day and night, then God who is Presence and Light cannot be found in the present. God is absent from the present, not because he does not exist but because the present is absence in relation to the Absolute Future which is the region of presence. To verify Presence, we must go to the region of presence. The present, paradoxically enough, is not the region of presence.
Not only is the present incapable of verifying the reality of God, but also the tool for verification, namely, unevolved reason, is incapable of the job. Only reason reborn to faith can attain the reality of God. Thus, we see the logic and validity of the claims of a reason reborn to faith that one must first believe in order to verify the reality of God.
Now to a static mind, there is a difficulty in understanding the proper role of faith. It thinks that faith is a super-addition to reason. It thinks that to call upon faith as an aid to reason is really an abandonment of reason, and hence unreasonable. But our point is that reason is an evolving reality, hence unfinished, and that, therefore, there is a future to reason. It is this future dimension of reason which we call faith. Therefore, faith is none other than reason, but it is reason reborn to a new dimension. Thus, we are not bringing in an extrinsic criterion; faith is intrinsic to reason, in fact, its "within" or innermost depths. It is static philosophy which influenced both traditional theology and linguistic analysis that is responsible for the dualism between reason and faith, because it considers reason as given fully finished, fully adequate for its role. True, it must be considered fully finished and fully adequate in a static universe; otherwise the creator would be considered unwise and improvident for creating a deficient tool. But in an evolving universe, it is possible to have an unfinished tool; in fact, it is demanded by the context without implying that the maker is unwise, since he allows for the evolution of things in time. Now, since linguistic analysts consider reason sufficient and adequate, faith becomes illogical or at least extrinsic to reason. What we are proposing as a more adequate tool for the verification of the reality of God is believing reason, since it reaches the eschatological future where the reality of God can be discovered. We are therefore appealing from reason unborn to reason-born-to-the-dimension-of-faith to judge adequately the validity of God-talk.
Let us say a few words here on the nature of language in the developing present. The language of the present is that of symbols. Symbols point to the future for their reality; hence they are relative, provisional and always couched in the subjunctive mood because there is the dimension of futurity and possibility in them. Only in the future where being is firmly possessed can there be a true assertion, an assertion in the indicative mood.18 Because the future has the indicative statement, it is in a position to judge the truth of the present, and not the other way around, as the linguistic analysts seem to have presupposed. But this linguistic view is an un-reflected view, supported only by common sense. Common sense would consider the present the place of the real while the future is reduced to the present. Ordinary language based on the common-sense view would speak of the future coming: the coming hour, day, week, year, event, etc. The truth, however, is that the present tends toward the future.
Ordinary language and scientific language by their very nature abstract from ultimate questions. Religious language, on the other hand, deals with ultimate and eschatological questions. For the eschatological dimension, we cannot use scientific or ordinary models of language. In the present, as linguistic analysts have seen, God-talk is neither verifiable nor falsifiable. But it is false to conclude that therefore God-talk is meaningless in itself.
1 D. Jenkins, op. cit., p. 56.
2 Loc. cit.
4 Gabriel Moran, "The God of Revelation," Commonweal, 85 (1967), p. 499.
5 Loc. cit.
6 Moltmann, op. cit., pp. 16-17.
7 Loc. cit.
8 Loc. cit.
9 Johann-Baptist Metz, op. cit., p. 174
10 Moltmann, op. cit., p. 42.
11 Ibid., p. 143.
12 George A. Buttrick (ed.), The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), p. 131.
13 Loc. cit.
14 John L. McKenzie, S.J., The Dictionary of the Bible (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publ. Co., 1965), p. 269.
15 Moltmann, op. cit., p. 143.
16 John E. Smith, The Spirit of Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 221-22.
17 Linguistic analysis cannot develop as a discipline by ignoring ontology, i.e., a reflection on the nature of reality. Ordinary language cannot be a reliable starting point, for it is based on a Ptolemaic ontological view of reality.
18 For a fuller discussion of symbolic language, see Teilhard and the Supernatural, pp. 204-06.