Notes and Thoughts on the Pactum Salutis

A while ago Peter Leithart blogged on the Pactum Salutis, and I’ve been mulling jit over ever since. The Pactum Salutis (PS) doctrine turns on the idea of negotiated agreement or settlement or whatever term you prefer. The extent to which this is flattened and weakened is the extent to which the PS really stops being an actual doctrine of PS. Turretin and Owen (among others) try to turn the PS into a super duper trinitarian thing but also keep it super duper undivided by limiting the PS to the economy. Of course it pretty much isn’t ad intra at this point, and also at this point there really ceases to be any kind of ‘agreement’ between ‘legal parties’ as the PS posits. There isn’t much of a way to have your cake and eat it too here. Continue reading

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Works and Glory: or, Brief Assorted Thoughts on the Christology of John 5

John 5 begins with the fairly familiar story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man by the pool on the Sabbath, incurring the wrath of the Jews. During their persecution of him, Jesus has a number of interesting things to say:

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‘Barren, Silent, Godless’: or, how Cormac McCarthy and Bonhoeffer Find God in a World Without God

In his essay for The Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy entitled ‘The Quest for God in the Road’, Allen Josephs spends a good deal of time tracing out the textual evidence for and against the presence of God in The Road (TR). There’s no shortage of passages that suggest just such a deus absconditus (and McCarthy here goes further than mere absence: there is a sense that if God is in fact absent he has purposefully left the world alone or abandoned the world, a line of thought that is explored in the metalcore band Zao’s album The Funeral of God), but I want to suggest that TR isn’t occupied so much with the absence of God but rather with a very specific and concrete form of the presence of God. This presence-absence is a major theme in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings (especially his later prison writings) and there is a good deal of overlap between McCarthy and Bonhoeffer on this topic. Continue reading

‘Authority Under the Word’: or, a Brief Thought on Why a Critical Attitude Ought to be Maintained Toward Tradition

In and of itself, tradition has zero normative force. Take the term ‘tradition’ to encompass things such as the ecumenical councils, received dogmas, things of that nature. These things have normative force only to the extent that they are correct and not in virtue of their status as tradition. Because the normative force derives from the correctness of tradition, it has to be shown that the tradition is in fact correct, and there cannot be a presumption of this correct-ness. This doesn’t mean an attitude of skepticism or suspicion towards tradition; it is helpful to think of tradition as our theological older brother/sister . We listen to them and to their wisdom before we say they are wrong, but we nonetheless validate what they say. In the case of tradition, this validation comes through exegesis and submission to the Word. One should not thumb their nose at the collective wisdom of the tradition: if one takes it to be the case that the tradition is wrong then it must be proved. However, to reiterate a point above, this does not mean that the presumption of correctness is on the side of tradition. Tradition can and has been wrong; there is no a priori reason to think that tradition ought to be given the benefit of the doubt simply because its status as tradition. Continue reading

Against Pure A Priori-ism

In a recent article for Aeon magazine, Prof. Bruce Russell argues that all our justified beliefs ultimately rest on a priori justification. At first glance, this appears to be quite a claim, for surely some of our justification is a posteriori – how can empirical propositions such as, say, the sun will rise tomorrow, because it has risen in the past (the inductive proposition par excellence) turn out to be justified a priori? Russell argues that even induction is justified a priori – a contentious claim, to say the least, but not an indefensible one. The question of its viability, then, hinges on the quality of the arguments given in its defence. It is important to note at the outset and keep in mind Russell’s definition of a priori justification – this will prove significant later: Continue reading

Assorted Thoughts on Whether or Not Chalcedon is Doing Metaphysics or Commits Us to Classsical Metaphysics (it probably isn’t/doesn’t)

It seems that the the idea that the metaphysical language of Chalcedon itself gives us a normative description of reality, or commits us to a specific metaphysic, is mistaken. While the creeds language is highly metaphysical, are all these terms, substance, person, nature, essence, about the person of Christ to be taken in the strictest metaphysical terms? Are we committed to a broadly classical metaphysic by Chalcedon?

 

Upon closer inspection, however, Chalcedon itself doesn’t appear to commit us to any such thing (the assertion that it does would probably only have any force if it was assumed that such a metaphysic was already the case) nor is it required to remain within the bounds of orthodoxy. It is absolutely possible, for example to construct a fully orthodox christology without metaphysics on the ‘basis of the narrated history of Jesus’ ( such as that of Bruce McCormack). But there’s a few significant things about Chalcedon that, to me, put a few nails in the overtly classical  concept of Chalcedon (a lot of this comes from Sarah Coakley’s essay on Chalcedon ‘What Does Chalcedon Solve’ in ‘The Incarnation’) Continue reading

(Partially) Enchanted Amphibians: or, What Kant, McDowell and Aristotle Have to Teach Us About Our Second Nature

Modern philosophy can be characterized by two things: a deep hostility to any idea of ‘enchantment’ and a deep forgetfulness of the idea of ‘second nature’. Properly qualified, the former is acceptable (there need be no overarching enchanted metaphysical scheme underlying nature), but the latter is the source of some of the key problems of modernity, the most prominent of which might very well be the problem of the naturalness and mindedness of man. This is the axis on which German Idealism turned, and the answers the idealists struggled for continue to fund contemporary discussions; it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the question of naturalness and mindedness encompasses nearly every aspect of philosophy. The problem itself will be discussed first, then the idea of ‘second nature’. Continue reading