Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finitude and God

An awareness of God is present in the question of God. This awareness precedes the question. It is not the result of the argument but its presupposition. An awareness of the infinite is included in one's awareness of finitude. One knows that one is finite, that one is excluded from an infinity which nevertheless belongs to one. One is aware of one's potential infinity while being aware of one's actual finitude. If one were what one essentially is, if one's potentiality were identical with one's actuality, the question of the infinite would not arise. One must ask about the infinite from which one is estranged, although it belongs to one; one must ask about that which gives one the courage to take one's anxiety upon oneself. And one can ask this double question because the awareness of one's potential infinity is included in one's awareness of one's finitude.

The presence within finitude of an element which transcends it is experienced both theoretically and practically. The theoretical side has been elaborated by Augustine, the practical side by Kant, and behind both of them stands Plato. Neither side has constructed an argument for the reality of God, but all elaborations have shown the presence of something unconditional within the self and the world. Unless such an element were present, the question of God never could have been asked.

The unconditional element appears in the theoretic functions of reason as the true itself, the norm of all approximations to truth. It appears as the practical functions of reason as the good itself, the norm of all approximations to goodness.

The skeptic acknowledges the absolute element in truth in denying the possibility of a true judgment, and becomes a skeptic precisely because one strives for an absoluteness from which one is excluded.

Adapted from Paul Tillich
Systematic Theology