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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19 Jul 2021

The Ambivalent Earth

“Re-enchantment of the world” is one of those phrases that tends to frequently show up within certain aesthetically inclined Christian circles. However, unlike other buzzword-y concepts that often make appearances in conversations along these lines (“human flourishing”?), this one is at least somewhat easier to nail down. Charles Taylor, one of the leading exponents of the theme, wrote in 2008: [T]he boundary between agents and forces is fuzzy in the enchanted world; and the boundary

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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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22 Feb 2021

Timeless Eternity Is Not Divine Frozenness

Over the last few centuries, God’s timeless eternity has not been a strongly emphasized divine attribute. For many Christians, this precept reflects a particularly troublesome Hellenistic influence, given that the Platonic tradition laid great weight on the immutability of the eternal Forms and their corresponding immunity to corruption and decay. A doctrine of timeless eternity, in the eyes of its critics, necessarily calls into question the ability of God to work in history or respond

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02 Dec 2020

Bonaventure on Prayer

Bonaventure’s entire theological project is deeply prayerful, and many of his most famous works are bookended by prayer. This is nowhere more evident than the Itinerarium, which begins by advising souls seeking peace to cry out in prayer, and ends with David’s words from Psalm 73—invoking mystical “passing over” into Christ through death. To read Bonaventure rightly is to stand in humility before God, the immeasurable Creator Whom no one can see and still live.

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09 Oct 2020

Can I Get a Hero?

I know the internet needs another article about the changes in the television industry like I need another recipe for slow-cooker chicken chili, but hear me out. Like many cord-cutting millennials, my husband and I have spent the last three years making our way through the critically acclaimed “prestige TV” of the last decade. This loosely defined (and somewhat pretentious) term refers to the serious, cinematic, dark, and novelistic television. Many claim that The Sopranos

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17 Aug 2020

Infinities upon Infinity: Reflections on Borges’ Library of Babel

The Myth of Babel The Library of Babel is one of those seminal texts to which I must return regularly if I am to feel fully alive. Alongside works like Annie Dillard’s novella Holy the Form, this is art that is best read out loud and pondered, cherished—even venerated. For it informs us deeply of our distinctively human condition. It rips back the veil and exposes our woefully inadequate, time-bound conceptions of God (and God’s

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17 Apr 2020

Suffering Subverted: Good Friday, Easter, and Divine Impassibility

Opportunities for meditation on the nature of God’s being often present themselves in surprising places. For example, on Holy Wednesday, I was in a Zoom class at my progressive, mainline Protestant seminary. The class was discussing accessibility for disabled people in the Church. In the course of this discussion a classmate of mine posited the idea that, because God is “super able,” our theology can easily tend to exclude people with disabilities. He then followed

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06 Jan 2020

On Hierarchy

Away from my family on study retreat, I went to St. Isidore’s for the Sunday English language mass. While looking up toward the dome before the service, I caught sight of the four Evangelists, in Baroque attitudes of dramatic inspiration, pages under their poised fingers, living creatures over their shoulders. I prayed something like the following: Lord, you pour forth power and wisdom and goodness without cease According to your own mode, which is limitless,

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23 Sep 2019

A Theophany of Plants?

Last week, Union Theological Seminary—perhaps the epicenter of liberal Protestantism—tweeted out a photo that was roundly mocked across the internet: students “confessing to plants” in a chapel service, offering their “grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow” to “the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.” In follow-up tweets, Union explained that the rite was a response to a recent visit by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Native American botanist

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02 Sep 2019

Round Table: The Knowability of God

The Scriptures are somewhat ambiguous about how fully God can be known by human beings. On the one hand, the Son has revealed God to be our Father and has pioneered the path of faith—offering unprecedented access through grace. Jesus teaches that the pure in heart “will see God” (Matt 5:8). Likewise in the first Johannine epistle: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do

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19 Apr 2019

The Necessity of Contingency, Part 2: Human Freedom

Last month I wrote a post called the “The Necessity of Contingency.” It was largely a response to an earlier post by AJ, though I also addressed some other issues surrounding the label of “Calvinism.” My basic argument, however, was that Reformed theology, properly understood, does not espouse determinism, and that the idea of real contingencies are essential to the Reformed conception of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom.   An impromptu roundtable has emerged, which

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25 Jul 2018

The Theologian’s Free Association with the Academy

I was recently perusing the latest edition of JAAR (Journal of the American Academy of  Religion, vol. 86 [2]) and was reminded of why I have been, shall I say, pessimistic about the current practice of so-called academic theology. Still, all is not without hope. And this recent article—a cause for such hope in my estimation— has put me in mind to write my own few lines about the subject of theology and the academy.

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13 Jul 2018

Open Theism Misses The Mark With Metaphysics (Review)

A friend and I recently conversed about possible positive appropriations of “open theism.”1 While initially ill-at-ease with the label, I soon began to understand why this movement has been so influential. In an effort to learn more, I read chapter three of The Openness of God (a seminal text for open theism). What follows is my critique. Metaphysics and Personhood Throughout this chapter, Pinnock goes out of his way to situate “metaphysics” in opposition to

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25 Apr 2018

The Calvinist Conundrum

When Calvinists argue against the conceptual validity of libertarian freedom, they undermine their own theology of God. First, let’s clear up some terminology. Libertarian freedom, according to Robert Kane, has two main components: “We believe we have free will when (a) it is ‘up to us’ what we choose from an array of alternative possibilities and (b) the origin or source of our choices and actions is in us and not in anyone or anything

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23 Feb 2018

At Home in the Body

“…as long as we have a body and our soul is fused with such an evil we shall never adequately attain what we desire.” – Plato (Phaedo, 66b)   I often wonder     what it means          that God gave us               bodies   made of bones,     flesh, and water—          with fingers, for example,               to pop open sodas   for sipping on     some hot summer          day—or with               eyes   to wander into the gaze     of others—strangers,          enemies, lovers—

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20 Nov 2017

Christ, the Revelation of God’s Agency

This is the second part of a series based on notes from a lecture delivered by Rowan Williams at Saint Louis University on 7 March, 2017. Part One can be found here. Part One: Historical Perspective If we look at the way language about Jesus Christ develops from the earliest days onwards, what we see is a gradual clarification—not just of what is said about Christ, but of what is said about God. In the early

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23 Oct 2017

Metaphysics, Christ, and Creation

This article is based on notes from a lecture delivered by Rowan Williams at Saint Louis University on 7 March, 2017. Metaphysics and God’s Activity Austin Farrer was possibly the greatest Anglican theologian of our time. In a 1948 series of lectures (The Glass of Vision), he brought together philosophy, devotion, and Scriptural exegesis in a remarkably beautiful way. It was something of a theological watershed. In these lectures, Farrer builds on his major work Finite

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