A Covenantal Correspondance Against A Sacramental Universe

T.F. Torrance followed his mentor Karl Barth in a strident rejection of natural theology as a factor in man’s knowledge of God. While both affirmed that both God and the world he created are perceptible or apprehensible, the way that they affirmed it was a marked departure from how it had been classically conceived. Torrance, in particular, spent a good deal of time working through classical natural theology, both its roots and its consequences, and though he was appreciative of it, he was for the most part quite critical of what he took to be serious problems inherent within it. For Torrance, natural theology as a way of arriving at a knowledge of God via abstracting from sensory experience was destined to die the same death as empiricism and logical positivism. Torrance held that the idea of that scientific knowledge proceeds via the abstraction from sensory or observational data (what Sellars might call ‘observation reports) was roughly equivalent to classical natural theology and so the same weaknesses in empiricism were weaknesses in classical natural theology. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Only Sacrament Left to Us: The Threefold Word of God in the Theology and Ecclesiology of Karl Barth’, by Thomas Christian Currie

The Only Sacrament Left to Us: The Threefold Word of God in the Theology and Ecclesiology of Karl Barth’, by Thomas Christian Currie, Pickwick Publications, 196 pp. $25.00

In this volume, Thomas Christian Currie does a service to modern theology by unpacking, at length and in detail, Barth’s theology and ecclesiology of the Word of God. There is, in all actuality, probably no more misunderstood aspect of Barth’s thinking than these topics, and I wouldn’t hesitate at all to say that Currie’s study here should be required reading for anyone engaging Barth.  Continue reading

Not a Trace: The Vestigia Trinitatis in Karl Barth

The doctrine of the vestigia trinitatis has a long and distinguished history in theology, going back at least to Tertullian and formulated with some rigor by Augustine. The general idea here is that within creation (immanent to it, one might say) there is a kind of ‘trinitarian disposition’ (to quote Barth). Creation in itself and as such is ordered trinitarian-ly. Standard examples include faculties of the human person such as willing, remembering and understanding (Augustine) while Tertullian draws out examples from nature such as fountain, river and stream. All these are traces of the Trinity – examples in nature or in humanity as such of three-in-one-ness . Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Apathetic God: Exploring the Contemporary Relevance of Divine Impassibility’, by Daniel Castelo

The Apathetic God: Exploring the Contemporary Relevance of Divine Impassibility‘, by Daniel Castelo, Wipf and Stock, 172 pp. $17.60

Impassibility is something of a perennial topic for me. I can generally read just about anything on it and come away feeling that the time spent reading was time well-spent, and Daniel Castelo’s short but sweet little volume is definitely time well-spent.

One of the strengths of this book is that it’s not merely a historical study or a survey of the doctrine of impassibility – though both of these things do comprise part of the book – but it is also a sustained interaction with contemporary theology of a passibilist persuasion. Castelo spends the bulk of the interaction with Moltmann (who seems to function as something like an archetype for modern theology), and this interaction, as I’ll note below, is both appreciative and critical. Continue reading

The Birth of the Subject as the Death of Art

It is virtually unquestioned that the essence of art lies in the expression of the self. To give a dangerously vague definition of this doctrine: Art is the taking of something inner by way of some medium and rendering it external. It’d be fair to say that this is a watered-down and popular version of expressionism, which is a doctrine that ‘stresses the artist’s emotional attitude toward himself and the world,’ (H.W. Janson, History of Art, p. 666). This doctrine may have its origin in Kant, for whom aesthetic judgement of taste cannot be subsumed under any universal law or generalization, which seems to kick off the ‘turn to the subject’ in aesthetics – that is, post-Kant, aesthetics is primarily concerned with the inner state of the subject. This isn’t too far from romanticism – indeed, expressionism and romanticism are in some cases so similar it can be difficult to distinguish them:

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