In a fascinating essay, ‘Art and the Moral Realm’, Noël Carroll argues that art is a valuable component of our moral reflection, and he argues that in particular narrative works of art shape our moral reflection in a unique and profound sense. This is so primarily because we have to see or configure our lives as narrative in order for them to have any significance:
‘…to answer the question of whether our life is worthy, we need a holistic sense of it, and that holistic sense is best captured by narrative – an incomparable device for organizing or colligating or collecting the diversity of our experiences into a unity. To see our lives as significant requires at least an ability to configure them as meaningful stories. But whence do we learn the skill of rendering or configuring our lives as meaningful narrative?’ (‘Art and the Moral Realm’, in ‘The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics’, p. 133)
The answer to this question Carroll finds in the exposure to other narratives, bildungroman, where we learn how to best how to configure our lives into a meaningful unity:
In her contribution to ‘Theological Theology: Essays in Honour of John Webster‘, ‘The Sinlessness of Christ’, Katherine Sonderegger looks at a variety of ways of thinking about the doctrine non posse peccare. In its own right it’s a fantastic essay, focusing primarily on Aquinas, with a glance at liberation theology as well as patristic theology. She also sketches out her own approach which closely follows the classical accounts (namely, that Christ did not and could not sin), which she develops in light of and against Karl Barth and Edward Irving’s understanding of Christ’s assumption of fallen human flesh. It seems to me, though, that her own approach is marred by a serious misreading of Barth, and it’s on this specific aspect of her essay that I want to focus on.
‘The Holy Trinity – God for God and God For Us: Seven Positions on the Immanent-Economic Trinity Relation in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology‘, by Chung-Hyun Baik
Pickwick Publications, 234 pp. $20.80
The debate surrounding the immanent/economic Trinity is a hot topic right, and will, in all likelihood, continue to be a hot topic for some time. Chung-Hyun Baik gives us with this volume a solid lay-of-the-land of the contemporary scene with the goal of providing a constructive ay to move past current impasses. Seven positions are examined by way of eleven contemporary theologians: Barth, Rahner, Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jenson, Leonardo Boff, William Norman Pittenger, Joseph A. Bracken, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki,Catherine Mowry LaCugna and Jung Young Lee.
The book is broken up into six chapters, the first of which is centered on ontology, epistemology and mystery in the contemporary debate. Here a brief look is given at these three topics within the contexts of biblical theology, philosophical theology, systematic theology and historical theology. Some well-known names such as Barth, Rahner, Kant, Grenz, Lossky, Jungel all make appearances here as well as Baik fleshes out the extent to which Trinitarian theology has become the focal point of theological reflection and engagement.
Emergence in the philosophy of mind is one of the more popular positions on the contemporary philosophical scene, and I myself have strong sympathies towards it. I’ve considered it to be one of the very rare philosophical doctrines that gives appropriate weight to both philosophical as well as scientific ideas – an example being John Searle’s commitment to seeing consciousness and the mind in general as biological phenomenon (I’m not a naturalist myself but I do think his heart is in the right place.
Hans Urs von Balthasar opens his seminal study on Gregory of Nyssa with a chapter on the idea of ‘spacing’ – or, more precisely, he opens his study with an observation of an apophatic nature: the creature is not God. This seems somewhat obvious and perhaps even trivial, but it’s fundamental in his concept of spacing. Space, for Balthasar, is roughly the character of the creature that establishes quantity and number. It denotes the non-identity of the material world – non-identity being another way of denoting the material worlds created-ness. To think in terms of space is, then, to think apophatically. The world and the creature are created and this is set against God, who is uncreated. This is the sharpest possible distinction that can be drawn. The creator/creature distinction, Balthasar says, is a ‘fact of creation’ that is the ‘limit’, as it were, of finite being:
In his essay, ‘Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind’, in ‘The Engaged Intellect’, John McDowell, drawing primarily on Wilfrid Sellars distinction between the space of reasons and the space of placement in nature, argues that there are essentially) two kinds of naturalism. One is a strict naturalism, committed conceptualizing the mind – specifically, the acts of thinking and knowing – in terms of natural laws . This is set in contrast to Sellars’s idea of the space of reasons, which is a space of justifying and being able to justify what one says. Both of these kinds of naturalism accept, obviously enough, that the mind is natural or a part of nature, but against the strict naturalist view of the mind, McDowell sets thinking and knowing firmly within the space reasons, where he argues that they ‘are concepts of occurrences in our lives’.
‘Trinitarian Theology After Barth‘, edited by Myk Habets and Phillip Tolliday
Pickwick Publications, 418 pp. $36.80
I love books of essays. Spaces can be opened and explored in a collection of essays in ways that can’t be done in a monograph, and this volume is no exception. Focusing on three main themes – theology with Barth, theology after Barth, and theology beyond Barth – the essays here all engage, in one way or another, the doctrine of the Trinity.
After a brief foreword by John Webster, the first theme, theology with Barth, is composed of four fantastic essays by Paul Molnar (‘The Role of the Holy Spirit in Knowing the Triune God’, which went on to form a large section of his latest book, ‘Faith, Freedom and the Spirit’), Ivor J. Davidson (‘Divine Light: Reflections After Barth), Murray Rae (‘The Spatiality of God’), and Bruce McCormack (‘The Doctrine of the Trinity after Barth: An Attempt to Reconstruct Barth’s Doctrine in Light of His Later Christology).