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

December 12, 2018

Wesley Bergen’s Reading Ritual  explores Leviticus through the lens of contemporary popular culture. Instead of treating Leviticus as “religious” ritual in opposition to daily life, he tries to de-de-familiarize Leviticus ritual by finding parallels with contemporary culture. In the first chapter, he examines the ritual dimensions of a meat-packing plant, drawing comparisons with the activity of priests at the tabernacle. Following Catherine Bell’s criteria for ritualized activity (formalism, traditionalism, rule-governance, invariability, sacred symbolism, and performance), he finds that meat-packing meets 4… Read more

December 11, 2018

In the third volume of his magisterial Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Richard Muller offers a helpful summary of pre-Reformation discussions of divine simplicity. Today, simplicity is making a comeback, taken as essential to orthodoxy. Muller’s discussion is a healthy reminder that “the doctrine of divine simplicity has not always been understood in the same way or received the same emphasis in theology.” At a minimum, simplicity provided a way of buttressing unity and heading off any idea of composition, and hence… Read more

December 10, 2018

In Can We Trust the Gospels?, Peter J. Williams, Principal at Tyndale House, Cambridge, doesn’t aim to prove that the gospels are true. He wants to show rather that “they can be rationally trusted” (120). If successful, this demonstration is a big deal, as Williams says on the closing page (140). But his aims are rather modest. I admit that I started out with a hearty Yes to the title question. But I think any careful reader will find Williams’s arguments powerful,… Read more

December 7, 2018

Literally, woodenly translated, the 9th Word is: “Thou shalt not answer (‘anah) with/against your neighbor a false witness.” The verb ‘anah is of interest, mainly because it is such an uninteresting word. Of the 300+ times it’s used in the Old Testament, the KJV translates it as “answer” 240-some times; the NASB typically renders it as “answer” or “reply.” The KJV translates it as “bear” only four times, in Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:18, Proverbs 25:18, and Job 16:8. It translates… Read more

December 6, 2018

Children provide a test case for psychological and epistemological theories. Many theories fail: They do not suffer the little children to come to them. That’s part of the point of Vasudevi Reddy’s fascinating How Infants Know Minds. The title contains the thesis: Infants know other minds. They don’t act by mere instinct, or mere reflex. And they aren’t just responding to stimuli or bodies. Infants know other minds. Reddy began to formulate her thesis when she had children of her… Read more

December 5, 2018

Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude opens with a powerful assault on what he calls “correlationism” through a defense of the distinction of primary and secondary qualities. He explains the rationale behind the distinction of primary and secondary. On the one hand, “nothing sensible – whether it be an affective or perceptual quality – can exist in the way it is given to me in the thing by itself, when it is not related to me or to any other living creature. When… Read more

November 29, 2018

The first five commandments appear to be chiastically arranged. To wit: A. I am Yahweh; thou shalt have no other gods. B. Thou shalt not make image, bow to it, or serve it. C. Thou shalt not bear the name of Yahweh lightly. B’. Remember the Sabbath. A’. Honor your father and mother. The suggestion that the first five words are chiastically arranged rests on verbal repetitions and conceptual parallels: A/A’: Each of the first five commandments uses the phrase yahweh ‘eloheyka;… Read more

November 28, 2018

In a 2000 article in Isis, Ann Blair examines what she describes as “Mosaic physics,” an effort to derive principles of physics from a literal reading of the creation  account in Genesis 1. Most philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tried to offer a pious natural philosophy, one that coordinated with Christian teaching more smoothly than Aristotle: “Even Rene Descartes, in devising his new philosophy, felt that he was fulfilling a mission assigned him by Cardinal Berulle, one of… Read more

November 27, 2018

In a wide-ranging essay on how theology alone saves metaphysics, John Milbank explores the parallels between notions of “given” and the primacy of possibility on the one hand, and notions of the “gift” and the primacy of actuality on the other. He starts with Aristotle, for whom “the actual was primary in terms of definition, time and substance. We can define things because we encounter them; some things are possible only because other things are already actual; things that are… Read more

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