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Analogy of Faith


Originally a mathematical term, the Greek word for analogy means "proportion" and was borrowed by philosophers to refer to the relationship between concepts of things that are partly the same and partly different. It took on special importance in the concept of analogy of being (analogia entis ). The analogy of faith (analogia fidei ) must not be confused with this more philosophic concept. The phrase analogy of faith is Biblical: Rom 12.6 speaks of the charism of prophecy, along with such similar gifts as ministering, teaching, exhorting. Prophets exercised one of several "offices" within the primitive church (Acts 11.27; 13.1); guided by the Spirit, they gained insight into the faith or recognized tasks to be undertaken. The Pauline injunction is given that this gift of prophecy must be exercised "according to the proportion [ναλoγίαν] of faith." No prophet is to be accepted who proclaims anything opposed to the "one faith" proper to the "one body in Christ." Such preaching would be out of proportion to, or beyond, the objective truth entrusted to the Christian community.

The analogy of faith, therefore, has always been associated with the one unchanging faith of the Church; it is closely related to the notion of tradition and soon became a norm for the early Christian writers. They saw a "proportion" in the manner in which the New Testament complements the Old Testament, and in which each particular truth contributes to the inner unity of the entire Christian revelation. Thus the phrase came to indicate a rule or guide for the exegesis of Scripture (see hermeneutics, biblical). In difficult texts, the teachings of tradition and the analogy of faith must lead the way. The Catholic exegete, conscious of his faith, recognizes the intimate relationship between Scripture and tradition; he strives to explain Scriptural passages in such a way that the sacred writers will not be set in opposition to one another or to the faith and teaching of the Church (cf. Leo XIII, Enchiridion symbolorum, 3283; Pius X, Enchiridion symbolorum, 3546; Pius XII, Enchiridion symbolorum, 3887).

Karl Barth's violent rejection of the analogia entis "as the invention of Antichrist" and his insistence that in questions of revelation only the analogia fidei is acceptable occasioned further study of this problem. In its reaction against the extremes of liberal Protestantism, dialectical theology (or crisis theology) built upon kierkegaard's notion of God as "completely other" than man, and as totally transcendent. Analogia fidei means for Barth that we possess a "theological language" in which God and not man gives meaning to the words. His great fear is that philosophy (represented by analogia entis ) will sit in judgment on the Word of God.

Söhngen points out that Barth misunderstands the Catholic notion of analogia entis, and that it does not make philosophy master over faith [Catholica, three (1934) 113136, 176208; four (1935) 3842]. Though not convinced, Barth admits the pertinence of Söhngen's remarks. Barth's fear of rationalistic "proofs" for the mysteries of faith may indicate here an identification of the Catholic doctrine with the admittedly too rationalistic theories of faith of the post-Cartesian era; a clearer grasp of the Thomist-Suarezian approaches might remove this fear. Barth seems to be more concerned here with certitude, so that he looks upon the analogia entis as something on the level of knowledge rather than beingnoetic rather than ontic. The Catholic will not hesitate to admit that it is God who gives His meaning to the human words used to express the divine; an analogia fidei in this sense is essential. The Christian vocabulary has only gradually been formed throughout the life of the divinely guided Church. To reject the analogia entis entirely, however, cuts man off so radically from God that, as Emil Brunner points out, the end result can be nothing but the most advanced form of Nominalism, in which human words take on divine meanings that are purely arbitrary and are in no way reflected in a reality already existing in the midst of creatures.

Bibliography: k. barth, Church Dogmatics, tr. g. t. thomson (New York 1955). h. u. von balthasar, Karl Barth: Darstellung und Deutung seiner Theologie (2d ed. Cologne 1962). h. bouillard, Karl Barth, 3 v. (Paris 1957) 2:190217. j. l. murphy, With the Eyes of Faith (Milwaukee 1965). b. neunheuser, "La teologia protestante in Germania," in Problemi e orientamenti di teologia dommatica, 2 v. (Milan 1957) v.1. e. przywara, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:473476.

[j. l. murphy]

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