Giveness and Revelation is a short and compelling volume, based on Jean-Luc Marion’s popular Gifford Lectures given at Glasgow University in 2014. The volume, grouped around four of his lectures has been carefully translated by Stephen E. Lewis and provides a useful way into understanding the theological and religious application of Marion’s particular approach to phenomenology. The guiding principle throughout the lectures is the notion of the saturated phenomenon as pure given — an idea recurrent in Marion’s body of work since God without Being. Here, the concept is analysed in relation to revelation, allowing for the religious aspects of his thought to become more clear.
Moving from his opening lecture which begins with a broad historical critique of revelation drawing on Aquinas in some depth to argue for a distinction between philosophical theology (wherein things of the Divine are inferred from their effects) and sacra doctrina which has revelation as its immediate object. The second lecture covers the phenomenological re-appropriation of revelation arguing against an understanding of revelation grounded in epistemology. As Marion asks, ‘does God reveal himself in order to make himself known…Or does he instead reveal himself in order to allow himself to be loved and to love us?’ Inevitably this discussion of revelation leads to an examination of Christ. Jesus is for Marion the only phenomena that ‘has ever, without remainder and without reserve, respected the phenomenological program.’ All phenomena show and give themselves to a degree, yet it is only Christ that does so absolutely and from himself. Christ is thus presented as ‘the phenomena of phenomena.’ Christ is thus the absolute keystone of a phenomenology of givenness, yet Marion’s focus is not simply on the figure of Jesus but widens out onto a discussion of the Trinity more generally.
The final section of the lectures forms a compelling meditation on the Trinity, manifested within the Christ-phenomena. It is the Trinity that is the ground and ‘dogmatic presupposition for the revelation of Christ as the Son of the Father’ as Marion so memorably puts it. To see Christ as Christ thus can only occur within a logic of Trinitarian manifestation. Within that logic, we are, through the Holy Spirit called to take up the Fathers view of the Son – Christ appears as God if, and only if, the Spirit allows us to take the right position of viewership. As Marion argues, the Spirit guides and orientates our gaze, bringing forth the ‘filial glory of the Father.’ In this short, dense and provocative work Marion presents a compelling and rich phenomenological theology that is philosophical grounded and spiritually compelling.