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Document Details :
Title: De immanentie van Gods transcendentie
Subtitle: De uitdaging van Levinas’ ethisch denken naar-God-toe
Author(s): BURGGRAEVE, Roger
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume: 47 Issue: 3 Date: 2007
This article has a twofold purpose: to elucidate the main theme of Levinas’ thinking ‘unto God’ and to connect this with Christian thinking about God. It does this by following Levinas’ thoughts, by taking them further and by surpassing them critically. A good key to this is the double dynamic that one of Levinas’ teachers, Jean Wahl, discovered in metaphysics as ‘movement toward the totally other’, namely transAScendence (beyond) and transDEscendence (hitherward). In the first, briefer part, Levinas’ familiar view of the ethical alterity of the face as trace of the Infinite that calls upon us to accept responsibility for the other, is summarized. This view’s extreme emphasis on God’s transcendence and on its own ethical qualification seems to impede a Christian discussion with it, especially because Christology places a special emphasis on immanence. That is why the author pauses longer over the second, downward movement that descends into the subject and discovers there how people are marked by what is ‘other than being’ and thus by what has already been dedicated to the other, prior to all awareness, thought and action. When considered fully, this means that the Infinite as the ‘idea of the Good in me’ has placed its mark in the subject’s very depths. The third part connects this to Christian anthropology and theology. To the extent that the subject bears the mark of the totally other in itself, it becomes clear how the modern, literal anthropology of the autonomous and contractual I must be superseded by an anthropology of humanity as creatures in a covenant with and for the other. Next, the article connects Levinas’ idea of the Good beyond being to the biblical God expressed in ethically qualified terms such as mercy, justice and love. Beyond Levinas, this ethically qualified God is revealed as grace: the ethic of the One (God) means grace for the other (humanity). Moreover, the idea of the ‘Infinite in us’ triggers the Christian emphasis on God as Spirit that enlivens us with divine love (grace) and calls upon us to love (ethics). Finally, the article uses the image of the suffering servant (First Covenant) to reflect on the way Levinas philosophically explores the Christian confession of Jesus Christ as human and divine and surpasses it using Paul’s idea of God’s self-emptying in Christ.