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

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

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,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

08 May 2020

Contextual Theology, part II

In Part I of this two-part series on contextual theology, I set about addressing the question: What is the primary context, the fundamental context, of Christian theology? Because the Triune God is the object of theology, I argued, the context of the study of God must first, i.e. fundamentally, be God (for God is, to speak improperly, his own context). Because the Triune God is essentially communicative, there is the possibility for creatures to be

01 Apr 2020

Contextual Theology, part I

I recently wrote a minimal critique of one aspect of the contextualized theology of Jürgen Moltmann. This engendered an article-sized rejoinder comment. I would like to thank Chris Warne for the time he spent crafting his comments. It was clearly a labor of love. The substance of the comments, however, I found somewhat less beneficial. For example, to Chris’s challenging me to show where Moltmann has deviated from the tradition, need I do more than

04 Mar 2020

Evangelicals and Catholics Together…Have Gone Amnesic

The past month or so has seen the virtual world ablaze with comments about another high profile, evangelical-Catholic ecumenical…what shall I call it…‘incident.’ I am normally loathe to chime in on such occasions of internet natter. Only rarely do I judge them worthy of notice, rarer still do I find them worthy of attention. Perhaps rarest of all do I judge myself as having anything of worth to add. But the case of influential Protestant,

05 Feb 2020

A View From Above

How the birds must puzzle as they fly above the Midwest, the Northwest; When they fly over the Great Plains, the Great Mountains.   I flew over the Great Plains. There I saw the grid of man Laid out in straight lines marking plots and straight roads making access a higher priority than aesthetic. To like graph paper we have turned these plains, Upon which to chart yield production and calculate field efficiency; Upon which

08 Jan 2020

Jürgen Moltmann’s Unique Theology: A Critique

Christopher Warne has recently given us something to think about in his first and second takes on Moltmann’s challenge to the doctrine of God’s impassibility. There were many things that caught my eye over these two posts. Here is one. Warne claims that, on the point of God’s impassibility at least, Moltmann comes to “a unique conclusion, that he “rejects the traditional doctrine,” that he “takes a new approach,” that he “makes a unique statement,”