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THE GOD OF LOVE * KENNETH L. SCHMITZ John Paul II Institute Washington, D.C. GOD WITHOUT BEING introduces English readers to a body of work by the French philosopher, Jean-Luc Marion. It has caused no little stir among French philosophers and theologians. For it is a remarkable book, frequently brilliant, sometimes dazzling, often original, more often still, troubling. Troubling, not so much by its conclusions as by the means used to arrive at them, and the implications suggested by those means. The book begins with phenomenology, passes on to ontology in the Heideggerian vein, and culminates in a theology of agapic love. I almost wrote that it passes through Heideggerian ontology to agape, but that is what is most troubling about the book. One puts it down wondering, despite critical reassurances from the author, whether the analysis has ever freed itself from the shaping hand of Heideggerian ontology, or has done so at too high a cost. It is not that the author accepts Heidegger; indeed his critical exegesis is perhaps the most brilliant part of a very striking book. But nonetheless, Heidegger's stamp is so heavy upon the analysis, his presuppositions so ingrained in it, that the conclusions themselves, while expressly "beyond" Heidegger, nevertheless trail his ontology in their train. In a preface written nearly ten years after the French book first appeared, Marion reassures his English readers (perhaps with a touch of unintended condescension) that God exists. In- *Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being. Hors-Texte, tr. by Thos. A. Carlson. \Vith a foreword by David Tracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991; being a translation of Dieu sans l'etre: Hors-Texte, Librairie Artheme Fayard, 1982. 495 496 KENNETH L. SCHMITZ deed, his argument is meant to tell against any ordinary atheism, and his exposition of the Eucharist glows with Catholic piety. There can be no doubt, too, that his exegesis often opens up surprising senses of the Biblical texts, such as those of the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament and the letters of St. Paul in the New. The first chapter carries out a phenomenology of the difference between the idol and the icon. The idol is not false or illusory in any ordinary sense. On the contrary, its luminescence is an actual reflection of the divine. The fulguration catches the human eye, mind and spirit as it gazes at the embodied manifestation in wonder. But, instead of letting the fulguration measure the import of the disclosure, the gaze stops at the luminous idol and freezes the divine light within the scope of the worshipper's merely human gaze, interest and aim. The aim, then, provides the measure and meaning of the light, referring it back to the human intention. And so the idol divides the fulguration, retaining for the gaze what is so extraordinarily visible, while it lets go what is unattainable through its effort and on its own terms. Marion expresses this remainder by the neologism: invisable, from viser: to aim. We have here an initial insistence upon the inability to reduce God to a concept. The analysis exposes the logic of a first level of idolatry, idolatry which takes form as the regionalization of the divine. Thus, to choose a portentous example, Nietzsche unmasks the regional " God of morality" proclaimed by Kant and other modern thinkers. It is quite the reverse with the icon. The luminosity of the icon presents its visage to the believer who receives it as the face that endows the visible with the inexhaustible invisibility of God. It is of signal importance to Marion's thesis, however, that the invisible is not thereby offered to human sight or conception, but rather that the visible features of the icon ask to be transgressed, giving way-neither to the sight of sense or mind-but to veneration ( 19). For the iconic intention is not determined by any human gaze, but rather by the mysterious initiative of the true revealing God. Whereas the idol shines with a radiance bor- THE GOD OF LOVE 497 rowed from the divine but confined within the limits of the human gaze, the icon glows with an alien glance that stems from its divine...


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