01 Jun 2022

The Providential Love of God: Reflections on Psalm 107

Psalm 107 is a song celebrating the steadfast love of the LORD: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” This love is experienced by God’s people after a particular historical pattern; one that deserves some reflection if for no other reason than the corrective it provides to the banal triumphalism that pervades so much of American evangelical celebration of the love of God in song. Psalm

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04 May 2022

Modes of Being

The term “being” is used in many senses, but with reference to one thing and to some one nature and not equivocally.   — Aristotle I claimed in the last post to have made some progress toward clarifying the notion of “being” (for the remainder of this post I will use the term “existence” so as to avoid an annoyingly numerous number of quotation marks). Following the train of thought whereby we come to know the

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06 Apr 2022

For the Love of Learning

The task of the Modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. – C. S. Lewis   Perhaps it is the essence of the (so-called) “learned” to grumble about the (so-called) “learner.” Sometimes, I am sure, the complaints come from a sense of superiority and a place of pride, but I would wager that the majority of the complaints come from good intentions being frustrated. Teachers are, more often than not,

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09 Mar 2022

Does Existence Exist?

That is not the case when you say “is” alone, for it is by itself “nothing…” – Aristotle (De Interpretatione I, 3) ipsum esse nondum est.[1]– Boethius (De Hebdomadibus, rule II.) In a previous post I explored what I had called “the glimpse of being” to discover that there is a distinction between what something is (essence) and that something is (existence). The study of being—at least as the metaphysician takes it up—is the study

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09 Feb 2022

On God and Hypotheticals: Further Thoughts

  “I do not think that we can possibly deny that there is some other way than the one we have spoken of, on the supposition that God can do what human reason cannot comprehend.” -Anselm of Canterbury “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” – Jesus of Nazareth I recently read with great interest Wesley Walker’s article entitled “The God of

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06 Oct 2021

From Essence to Existence: Pondering the Glimpse of Being

And the question which has always been raised, in times of old and still in our day, and always embarrasses us, is ‘what is being?’ – Aristotle I’ve noted previously that our common sense approach to reality leads to a kind of intuition of “being” as that highest of all unities. Everything that is is, as Parmenides put it. Saying it this way, however, is liable to misunderstanding. “Being” is not simply what we come

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08 Sep 2021

A Glimpse of Being

As a concept, being is both the most universal and the most abstract of all. Its extension is the richest, its comprehension the most poor. – Étienne Gilson It is the same with this object of thought, this primordial reality we call being. We have not looked it in the face. We think it something far simpler than it is. We have not yet troubled to unveil its true countenance. – Jacques Maritain In two

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09 Aug 2021

From Metaphysics to Classification: The Epistemological Turn in the Seventeenth Century

In a previous post I noted that the classical understanding of metaphysics—by which I mean Aristotle and the subsequent and variegated peripatetic tradition—differs significantly from the Modern, analytical understanding. (Of course, such a note is admittedly a generalization which admits of many an exception.) Rather than thinking of metaphysics as a synthesizing and generalizing theory of all the various scientific fields of inquiry about our physical world and the human place and purpose within it,

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07 Jul 2021

Some Preliminary Reflections on Metaphysics

I have over the past decade or so engaged often with friends who to one degree or another find so-called ‘classical theism’ to be suspect. More often than not, I find myself convinced in these conversations that their suspicions ought to be able to be cleared away with some careful definitions and distinctions. But, then, more often than not, my attempts at definitions and distinctions do not actually clear away their doubts. Why not? It

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02 Jun 2021

Keep Scholasticism in the Schools

He was in Logick a great Critick Profoundly skill’d in Analytick. He could distinguish, and divide A Hair ’twixt South and South-west side: On either which he would dispute, Confute, change hands, and still confute. – Samuel Butler The title of this post is purposefully ambiguous. I could mean by it that contemporary academic theology—theology done in universities, seminaries, divinity schools—suffers from a neglect of scholastic theology, as it was developed and practiced in the

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05 May 2021

Theology as Reasoning Prayer

I was recently struck by a line from Peter Leithart’s review of Vern Poythress’ recent book, The Mystery of the Trinity. At the end of the review Leithart offers what he deems to be high praise for Poythress: Each chapter of Mystery of the Trinity ends with a prayer. Poythress and Frame want theology to speak to ordinary people in ordinary language, rather than become a playground for professionals who bandy intimidating technical terms about to keep

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07 Apr 2021

Keeping History in Its Place

Over the past couple of years Conciliar Post has published several articles advocating for the study of church history. David Doherty has lamented that many Protestants seem to think that “Christianity lies in biblical interpretation and spiritual discipline…and forays into Church history are optional adventures for restless wanderers.” But this ought not be so, he replies. Church history teaches and inspires us to live well, and studying church history is actually an act of Christian

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03 Mar 2021

On the distinction between thinking from and thinking to

Dicit mihi homo: “Intellegam ut credam”. Respondeo: “Crede ut intellegas”[1]   — Augustine, Sermo 43 Sed inrideant nos fortes et potentes, nos autem infirmi et inopes coniteamur tibi[2]  — Augustine, Confessions I went off to college with a head full of new learning, and high spirits on account of it. I had only a few years prior discovered that there was much gain in reading ‘old, dead theologians,’ and so left for college with a modest

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03 Feb 2021

What is Reformed Theology? A Review of the OUP Handbook of Reformed Theology

The year 2017 saw a flurry of publications on Protestantism, the Reformation, and its various theological traditions. Some were good. Many were merely opportunistic. The recent publication of The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology, edited by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, is not merely opportunistic. This volume is rather clearer-headed regarding its aims, organization, and content than many of those that made an appearance in the publishing frenzy of 2017. Though not opportunistic, I

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06 Jan 2021

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – IV: The Apostle Paul

Seale then this bill of my Divorce to All, On whom those fainter beames of love did fall; Marry those loves, which in youth scattered bee On fame, Wit, Hopes (false mistresses) to thee.         –  John Donne   Over the last few posts (first, second, and third) I’ve been tracing a trajectory concerning the classical question of ethics. I have not, in this tracing, attempted to argue a historical development so much

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18 Nov 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part III: Ecclesiastes

In my first and second posts in this brief series, I raised the classical question of ethics and walked through at least part of Plato’s and Aristotle’s answers. While gleaning much from them, I argued that neither help us much in our encounter with death. I need to be clear on this point. I am not critiquing them for not giving a full or adequate account of the afterlife. Although I suppose an argument like

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24 Oct 2020

Aquinas, Protestants, and the Book I Wish Was Read More

For we think of a thing, in one sense, when we think of the word that signifies it, and in another sense, when we understand the very thing itself. -Anselm, Proslogion, IV Problems with Comparative Studies I’ve noted in another post the resurgence of interest in Thomas Aquinas and Thomism among Protestants. One ‘type’ or genre of writing that is popular in this resurgence is what I’ll call a comparative approach. This approach asks what Thomas (or

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07 Oct 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part II: Aristotle

In my first post, I noted that—to the question of what whole way of life makes for the most worthwhile life—Plato proposed it must be the just life; the life of the one internally ordered toward the Good. In this post, I’ll consider briefly Aristotle’s musings on the same question. As stated in part I, the purpose of this is not so much historical survey or a ‘rereading’ of these thinkers and their respective positions.

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02 Sep 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part I: Plato

Introduction As summer turns to fall, I always become more reflective. Perhaps it’s my age. Perhaps it’s the pandemic. Perhaps it’s this new stage of my life. Perhaps it’s just, as Pascal would say, the grandeur and misery of being human. Whatever the reason, this fall I’ve been thinking about the good life. What makes for human happiness? That is the classical question of ethics, of course. I am not going to attempt anything like

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05 Aug 2020

The Wrath of God Revealed

The basic meaning of the verb ‘to reveal’ is something like, ‘to make known, to disclose, to bring to attention, to lay open.’ There are a couple of ways that we use the term, one obvious, the other a bit more subtle. Take, for example, the sentence, “the clouds drifted eastward, revealing the full brilliance of the sun.” That’s the typical way we use the word. Something hidden becomes manifest; something unclear is shown more

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