January 14, 2019

Some observations about the story of Tamar and Judah, recorded in Genesis 38, inspired by a lively discussion of the narrative at the Theopolis Regional Course in Dallas last weekend. 1) The chapter has a chiastic structure: A. Judah’s family, vv 1-5: take wife and conceive; births; replacement of firstborn B. Sons die: Tamar returns to father’s house, vv 6-10 C. Judah sends Tamar back to father’s house, 11 D. Tamar prepares for her encounter with Judah by disguise as... Read more

January 11, 2019

Steve Duby objects to my brief set of warnings about the uses of philosophy in theology. I suppose I’ve said ill-considered things about philosophy or some philosopher in some of my writing. But this post was, in my judgment, generous in spirit, moderate in its claims, and modest in its aims. Duby says nothing to modify this assessment, because in the main his response attacks views I didn’t defend, or even mention, in my post. To summarize what I said:... Read more

January 9, 2019

In a chapter on “Nicene metaphysics” in The Hidden and the Manifest, David Bentley Hart explains the radical differences between the Plotinian metaphysics and the metaphysics implicit in early Trinitarianism. The article turns on the dynamics of hiddenness and manifestation. Plotinus’s ultimate principle, “the One,” cannot reveal itself. It can never be manifest. That’s the case because “the disproportion between the supreme principle of reality and this secondary principle of manifestation remained absolute. Hence all revelation, all disclosure of the... Read more

January 8, 2019

Leviticus 1 tells us that Yahweh called Moses from the tent of meeting to deliver instructions about sacrifice. What is that “tent of meeting” (‘ohel mo’ed)? Judging by the usage of Leviticus, it would seem to be the tabernacle or a portion of the tabernacle. Most of the 40+ uses of the phrase in Leviticus describes the “doorway” of the tent of meeting where offerings occur, where the priests are ordained, where blood is presented. The phrase seems to refer... Read more

January 7, 2019

The Ten Words include twelve negative commands. Most of the verbs that are negated are unique: 1) Thou shalt not have (lo’ yihyeh-leka; literally, “there shalt not be to thee”) other gods. 2) Thou shalt not prostrate (lo’-tishtachweh) to them (i.e., images). 3) Thou shalt not serve them (lo’ ta’avdem; again, images). 4) Thou shalt not bear (lo’ tissa’) the name of Yahweh lightly. 5) Thou shalt not kill (lo’ tirtzach). 6) Thou shalt not commit adultery (lo’ tin’aph). 7)... Read more

December 20, 2018

Thomas Aquinas summed up a long tradition when he said that philosophy is theology’s ancilla, its maidservant. That’s an apt description, and applies as well to natural science, social science, poetry, literary criticism, history, etc. etc. Philosophy has a special role only because her work often resembles theology’s, and because she so regularly tries to take over as mistress of the house. Theologians have to learn her tricks so that they can keep her in her proper place. I offer a... Read more

December 19, 2018

John Milbank currently has a series of essays on natural law running a Church Life Journal. It’s a “revisionist” account of natural law. And one of the revisions is Milbank’s post-Kantian conception of the relation of nature and culture, something he lays out in his essay, “Only Theology Saves Metaphysics.” Milbank begins, as he is wont to do, with the linguistic turn in philosophy, which he sees as a theological turn. It is not, he insists, merely a linguistic form... Read more

December 18, 2018

Steven Duby (Divine Simplicity) addresses the sort of argument I offered in yesterday’s post. I quote a long paragraph (p. 148), with comments interspersed. “One might contend,” Duby writes, “for a divine complexity that is necessary and irrevocable with no risk of divisibility. Such a hypothesis elicits several comments. First, complexity cannot be absolutely necessary but, at beast, hypothetically necessary. For the amalgamation of parts arises from an antecedent determination about those parts.” He quotes Thomas (Summa contra gentiles) in support:... Read more

December 17, 2018

This is a response to the notion of divine simplicity. It’s not a refutation. It’s an experiment designed to tease out the logic of the claim. Simplicity means that God is without parts. He has no physical parts, and He’s not a composite of any metaphysical “parts” either. He’s not a combination of form and matter, nor of essence and existence. In part, simplicity underlines the Creator-creature distinction. It points to the difference between divine existence and creaturely existence. This... Read more

December 14, 2018

In his monograph on Divine Simplicity, Steven J. Duby discusses the relation between metaphysics and dogmatics. He writes, “In addition to Thomas’s metaphysics, the metaphysical works of Bartholomaus Keckermann, Johann Alsted, and Johannes Maccovius provide guidance here. For Keckermann, metaphysics is ‘the science of being [entis], or of a thing [rei] absolutely and generally accepted. It is therefore ‘first philosophy.’ It concerns ‘being’ (ens, or ‘that which is’ and ‘that which has essence’) or a ‘thing’ (res) as such. In treating ens... Read more

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