Being With, Being Towards

Being With, Being Towards December 3, 2014

The appendix to Stanslas Breton’s The Word and the Cross is an interview of Breton with Richard Kearney. Breton reveals that his earliest intellectual formation came through his interest in the Latin language, enhanced by his exposure in seminary to the scholastic logic of relations, the “scholastic emphasis on professional rigor and prepositional distinction” (130).

What fascinated him in particular were theological questions “which theology itself could not answer.” He offers an example from Trinitarian theology: 

“the Being-in relation provided an explanation of the unity of the Three Persons of the Trinity, while the distinction and difference between the Three could be understood in terms of the intentional or transitive relation of the Being-towards. The Spirit could thus be interpreted as a two-fold relation: (i) the perpetual attraction between the Father and the Son; and (ii) the power of movement and carrying-beyond (meta-pherein), which refuses the finite limits of proprietal possession and makes the Trinity an infinite relation” (130).

Breton argues that the same logic of relations is useful in tracing out the theology of the incarnation as well: “The ‘substantialist’ theology of the Councils, which spoke of the two natures in one, seemed to me insufficient in so far as it privileged the notion of substance over that of function or relation. The dynamic relation of the Being-towards category struck me as being closer to the biblical language of transivity. God as a Being-in-itself, as an identical substance, cannot be thought by us; we can only know or speak about God in terms of His relation to us, or ours to Him” (130-1). This is not a denial of an ontological Trinity; on the contrary, Breton’s argument is that we can only speak of God ontologically because within the life of God there is Being-with and Being-towards, a life of relation and transitivity.

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