Change of Heart (Thomas Oden)

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Autobiographies written by those who lived through the Great Depression have a certain feel to them.  Extra points if you were in the Dust Bowl. Methodist theologian and patristics scholar Thomas Oden describes his life growing up in a poor farming community in Oklahoma to become a radical activist towards ending up as a respected Patristics scholar.  

As a liberal professor he read the New Testament not around the central themes of Incarnation and Resurrection, but around man’s guilt, anxiety, and freedom.  He was a Bultmannian. Fun fact: In the 60s Oden was a devotee of Saul Alinsky, who influenced Obama and Hillary Clinton. 

I was surprised at how much psychotherapy dominated liberal Protestant thought.  Carl Roger’s “unconditional acceptance” became God’s “unconditional love” with Tillich’s “accepting our acceptance.”

His chapter on the 60s made it seem like he personally knew every major American existentialist theologian.  And then there were the hippies. And Oden was always writing about the “next big movement,” all the while slowly abandoning liberalism.

The 1970s were a U-Turn.  It was when Oden met the Jewish conservative Will Herberg that he became a true theologian.  Herberg told him he was a fake because he was a know-it-all pundit who had never read the real Tradition.

Nemesius of Emesa corrected Oden’s psychology as he described the body-soul interface.

The 1980s.  He had open-heart surgery and nearly died on the table.  He describes his soul feeling peace and light. He describes “being bathed in a world of glorious light–stunning, radiant light of a different source than I had ever seen.  The light seemed to be not the light from the operation room ceiling, but from somewhere far beyond.”

Classic pastoral care:  meant caring for the health of the inner life of the person. 

He tells how he visited Cuba and the poverty there.  American democrats today would be shocked to learn “that was real socialism.”

Oden has a thrilling section on Early African Christianity.  He tells of his travels in Africa, meeting with Coptic and Ethiopian leaders, sub-Saharan leaders struggling with Mugabe, how the World Council of Churches loved Mugabe, and such.

Odens ends the book with a reflection on his own spiritual formation, the Office of the Hours, etc.


Oden knew all of the mainstream figures in mainline Protestantism.  His book reads as a “Who’s Who?” 

He tells the neat story of how the Ancient Christian Commentary series (ACCS) came about.  As someone who has been reading the church fathers on a weekly, if not daily basis for the past 12 years, my own experience with this series is mixed.  I get the idea that we need to move beyond the extreme criticism. Yeah, that’s useless to the life of the church. Yet on the other hand, the Spirit has continued to work in lexical studies.  Our knowledge of Hebrew is so much better. That’s not arrogant. We know more about the Hebrew language now than we did 1500 years ago.  

Where the ACCS is valuable, though, is in spiritual formation.  That’s probably closer to what the Fathers intended, anyway.



4th Political Theory (Review)

This review has in mind St Cheetos the Prophet.

The phrase that best sums up Dugin’s approach is “Negating the Logic of History.”  Dugin begins by listing the three most common (and modern) ideologies:

    1. Liberalism: the individual is the normative subject
    2. Fascism: race or nation is normative subject
    3. Communism: Class

      The second and third options failed, leaving liberalism in charge.
    4. 4th political theory: Dasein is the acting subject.

Liberalism is the broad, architectonic worldview that hinges on several assumptions (the challenging of which will entail a drone strike). Classical Liberals defined freedom as “freedom from.”  There should be no ties on an individual’s will.   It is these individuals, acting alone but taken as a whole, who form the circle of liberal action.Lacking a telos by definition, liberalism is hard-pressed to explain what we have freedom for.

Against this Dugin posits Heidegger’s Dasein as the acting subject of the 4th Political Theory. Dasein is a way to overcome the subject-object duality.  It is inzwichen, the “between.”

One valuable insight of Dugin’s is his pinpointing the bigotry of Western liberals.  All societies must accept liberalism in its current manifestation.  What if you don’t want to?  Well, if you don’t have natural resources you are probably okay.  Otherwise, look out.

Liberal ideology is necessarily evolutionary.  The concept of progress takes one from barbarism to technologism and the more refined way of life of the markets. This is what Dugin calls “The Monotonic Process:” he idea of constant growth, accumulation, steady progress by only one specific indicator (60).  In other words, in a system only one value (x) grows.  Only one thing (or a small group of things) accumulates.  Applied to either machines or biological life, this is death.  

Modern political options have all seen progress and time in a linear fashion.  Even more so, because of time there must naturally be progress.   By contrast, Dugin suggests that

T1: Time is a social phenomenon with its structures arising from social paradigms (68).

By this he wants to safeguard the idea that there can be “interruptions” and reversals in the flow of time.  History does not simply teach the march of capitalism upon earth (borrowing and adapting Hegel’s phrase).

Nevertheless, and perhaps unaware, Dugin remains close to the linear view.  He does note that time is “historical” (70) and from that draws a very important, Heideggerian conclusion:  it cannot be objective.

Why not? The acting subject, the historical observer (whom we will call “Dasein,” but this is true also of the individual in liberalism) is finite.  He doesn’t have a god’s-eye view on history. Of course, that’s not to say it can’t be real or reliable per the observer, but we don’t have the Enlightenment’s dream of a god’s-eye application of reason to reality.

Dugin then analyses how Leftist and Conservatism evolved in the 20th century.

Finally, he ends with a dense and staggering discussion on the nature of time.  Kant denied that by mere perception we have access to the thing-in-itself.  Therefore, if the being of the present is put in doubt, then all three moments (past, present, future) become ontologically unproveable. From the perspective of pure reason, the future is the phenomenon, and hence, it is (157).

Kant puts time nearer to the subject and space nearer to the object. Therefore, time is subject-ive.  It is the transcendental subject that installs time in the perception of the object.

Dugin notes, 2: Dasein as Actor

  1. What is the nature of freedom?
    1. Classical Liberals defined freedom as “freedom from.”  There should be no ties on an individual’s will.  
      1. It is these individuals, acting alone but taken as a whole, who form the circle of liberal action.
      2. Lacking a telos by definition, liberalism is hard-pressed to explain what we have freedom for.
    2. All political theories have an acting subject.
  2. Dasein as subject.
    1. Dasein is a way to overcome the subject-object duality.  It is inzwichen, the “between.”
  3. Hidden Racisms
    1. Is “progress” racist? Maybe.  Progressive societies have an implicit judgment that other societies, who do not hold such views, are inferior.
    2. The only true human rights are those enshrined by global capitalism, democracy, individualism.
  4. Ethnos: A community of language
    1. Racist societies, whether Nazis or American neo-liberals, reduce society to a concept like race, blood, market.
    2. A better reduction, if reduction it is, is language.

Dugin outline, chapter 1

I am doing an analytical outline of Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory.

Birth of a Concept

  1. Three Ideologies
    1. Liberalism: the individual is the normative subject (this includes both free market capitalism and the Democratic Party.  I am using “liberal” in a non-perjorative sense).
    2. Fascism: race or nation is normative subject
    3. Communism: Class
      The second and third options failed, leaving liberalism in charge.  Without any alternatives, liberalism is the norm.
    4. 4th political theory: Dasein is the acting subject.  We will explain more on this later.
  2. Postmodernism
    1. Global Market Society
      1. Globalism
      2. Technology
    2. Kingdom of Antichrist
  3. Heidegger and the Event
    1. The ancient greeks confused the nuances between pure being (Seyn) and a being (Seinende).
    2. Nihilism and the event
      1. The “Nothing” is the flip side of being and paradoxically reminds one of Being’s existence.
      2. Event: the sudden return of being.


Notes on Liberal Democracy

While noting that Donald Trump is most likely a horrible person, one of the good things emerging from this political season (and to a much lesser degree from the Bernie Sanders campaign) is the fact that the “party system” in particular and “liberal democracy” in general is failing to make good on its post-Enlightenment promises.  Of course, I expect left-wing outlets to attack any criticism of liberal democracy, but I was surprised to see some anti-Trump conservatives defend liberal democracy. Moreover, they see, possibly accurately, that the attacks on liberal democracy come increasingly from the so-called “Alt Right” and from monarchists like myself.

I don’t want to identify with the Alt Right simply because too many of them are vile racists and post-Nietzscheans.  Nevertheless, in many of these conversations few have actually defined and identified liberal democracy.  Taking my cue from Matthew Raphael Johnson, I’ll give it a try.  You will note that both Establishment Republicans and Establishment Democrats agree with every one of these points.  This is why “voting” rarely changes anything.

most of these points are taken from Matthew Raphael Johnson)

(1) Commitment to a market ideology which sees the world in quantified terms (and by market I don’t necessarily mean “capitalism,” though that could be included)
(2) a web of relations that depends on social credit
(3) Commitment to representative institutions, albeit with a major caveat: liberal loyalty to representative institutions only makes sense if liberalism itself is served.
(4) commitment to some abstract idea of “universal human rights.” But of course, a universal right is often too vague to be useful.

In another essay, Johnson lists these tenets as defining liberal democracy (especially in foreign politics)

1. Liberalism alone grants legitimacy.
2. Liberal values are comprehensive and self-evidently true. They require no supporting argumentation.
3. The “global community,” is a real entity, but the “nation” is the product of “myth.” It has the right to intervene wherever “democracy” is threatened.
4. Implicitly, the American taxpayer should be coerced to pay for these actions.
5. Capitalism is the sole rational mode of production.
6. Liberal democratic capitalism should be (and is) the only ideology that has the right to be imposed and enforced with American arms.
7. The only objects that exist in the universe are individuals. Collectives are only conventions.
8. Nationalism (which is undefined here) is inherently monstrous and ruinous. This includes all forms of economic nationalism such as import substitution.
9. Only the leader of global liberalism has the right to intervene in the politics of other states. Anyone else, especially if they are against the liberal consensus, does not have this right and should be obstructed by force.
10. American influence and power, if it is controlled by liberal values, is inherently just

Situation Ethics (review)

You can summarize Fletcher’s ethic as “Claim love, and then you can use it to fornicate and stuff.”

Even though this book is bad, it isn’t completely bad. The beginning of the book is fairly well-written. I will do my best to outline Fletcher’s position but I will follow with an extended critique.

While Fletcher’s ethics is formally empty, he does explain it (sort of). Situationism: the mean between legalism and antinomianism (Fletcher 26). It has an absolute “norm” (love) and a calculating method (27). All rules are contingent provided they serve agape-love.

What is its method? Fletcher helpfully outlines (33).
1. Only one law, agape.
2. Sophia of the church and culture, containing “rules” which act as illuminators.
3. Kairos: the moment of the responsible self in a situation.

Fletcher identifies his historical pedigree.

1 Pragmatism. In short, he focuses on “satisfaction” as a criterion for truth (41ff). Of course, works toward what? This is the value problem 2. in ethics. Not surprisingly, Fletcher lists “love” as his value.
3. Relativism. To be relative means to be relative to something (44).
4. Positivism. Faith propositions are posited a-rationally. “Every moral judgment is a decision, not a conclusion” (47).
5. Personalism. Love people, not things (50).

First Proposition: Only love is intrinsically good (57).
Second Proposition: “The ruling norm of the Christian decision is love: nothing else” (69).
Third Proposition: Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed (87).
Fourth Proposition: Love wills the neighbor’s good, whether we like him or not (104).
Fifth proposition: Only the End Justifies the Means; nothing else (120).

*Fletcher isn’t all bad. He exposes the false promises of historicist ethics. Simply by noting the past one cannot anticipate the right action in the present, given the inevitable unfolding of the past. Basically, Hegel is wrong.

*True, ethical decisions always take place in a situation and context.

*Fletcher reminds us that Victorian social mores are rarely biblical (even if he has the unfortunate habit of labeling his critics as such). Further, though not always called out by him, most of the “horrid” puritanical legalism (in this book) derives not from church law but from secular ethics.

*Fletcher exposes some incoherent moments in Barth’s ethics (62, cf. CD III/4, p. 416-421).

*Fletcher notes some difficulties in Roman Catholic birth-control positions along with some difficulties in NFP (80).

* calls classical pacifism legalistic (83-84). In fact, he has a very perceptive critique of Tolstoyanism: they want love but deny order.

*Says the social gospel is “pietistic” about love (91).

*His criticism of Catholic moralism’s separation of love as a supernatural virtue but justice as a natural virtue is interesting and should have been more developed (93ff).

* He helpfully outlines Chrysostom’s ethics as not confusing ends and means. Fletcher just sinfully rejects it.

The Critique:

(1) Fletcher says we can’t “milk universals from a universal” (27). What he means is we can make principles from “the law of love,” but not rules. But why not? He just asserts this. He doesn’t prove it.

(2) Although this is a minor point, it is worth noting. Fletcher holds to the (debunked) “Biblical vs. Hellenistic” dichotomy (29). The Hebrew is “verb-minded” while the Greek is “noun-minded.” “It doesn’t ask what is the good, but how to do good” (52). But if I don’t know what the good is, rather just labeling it x, then how will I know if I am doing not-good?

(3) Can one really define agape-love without recourse to revelation? Why can we privilege the term agape, itself drawn from revelation, while saying the rest of revelation is off-limits? The apostle John defined love by God’s commandments. Fletcher wants to reject the idea of “unwritten rules from heaven” (30), but without any specific content to “love,” that is just what he has.

(4) Fletcher rejects legalism because of the bad things legalism has done. Francis Kovach draws the following devastating conclusion: “Human laws happen to have had certain undesirable effects; therefore, let’s do away with all human laws” (Kovach 99).

(5) When faced with the obvious question, “So what do I do in situation x,” Fletcher admits the best he can say is, “It depends” (80). Which is another way of saying, “I don’t know.”

(6) Fletcher’s arrogance is obvious. He routinely scorns his opponents as “fundamentalists,” “literalists,” “legalists” and the like. He ridicules those who “Believe in a Fall” (81).

(7) Fletcher holds to utilitarianism and so his position is suspect to all of the critiques of utilitarianism. But more to the point: in his calculus do we evaluate neighbor-good qualitatively or quantitatively? Unbelievably, he even says we can use numerical factors for issues relating to conscience (118). He is actually serious. Even worse, he tells a tale of the god-demon Moloch and sides with Moloch on how many to kill!

(8) More on utilitarianism: who gets to determine what “good” means? Fletcher himself? From where does he get this knowledge? From Jesus and the Bible? Sounds kind of “literalist” to me! Even worse, his position offers no protection to minority viewpoint, since by definition they will never been in the “greater” number. Fletcher defends racial minorities. Good for him, but it’s not clear on his ethics why he can do so, since they are never “the greatest number.”

As Norman Geisler points out, “The definition of “end” is unclear. Do we mean a few years? Lifetime? Eternity? In that case, only God could be a utilitarian and he is not.”

8.1) Another problem with utilitarianism, as noted by Arthur Holmes. What does it mean to “maximize the good?” Do we take the sum of the surplus good or do we just average it across the population? If we talk about the “Greater good,” can we ignore minority rights as long as we maximize the greater good?

“If 100 people each receive 10 bens (units of benefit), then the sum total is 1000 “bens” and the average is 10. But if we increase the benefit for 10 people to 100 bens each, give the next 60 people their original 10 bens, and the remaining 30 no bens at all, then the total benefit is 100 + 600 + 0 = 1600 bens; and the average is up to 16. But the distribution is now extremely unequal. Which of these two is the morally better distribution of benefits” ?

Can the utility principle by itself tell us how to best distribute benefits?

(9) Says Paul was “obscure and contradictory” about the problem of the justice of God (122). In fact, Fletcher formally disagrees with Paul on Romans 3:8. That’s because, per Fletcher, Paul erred in seeing “good” and “evil” as properties, not predicates.

(10) If love is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of neighbors, and Fletcher lists the situation where a group of people are hiding from murderers and a baby starts crying, which would expose the group, then the most loving thing to do is kill the baby. Okay, what if I refuse to kill my baby, did I sin? Corollary: Does Fletcher say I must kill my baby? Corollary #2: What if I refuse? Should the group make me?

(11) Throughout the book Fletcher makes a number of category confusions. This is not surprising, given his lack of ethical knowledge due to his only reading Neo-Orthodox and death-of-God theologians. For example, ethical theories like graded absolutism do not see deception in war as lying.

(12) Fletcher is guilty of circular reasoning:
P1: The end justifies the means
P2: The end does not justify itself
C1: Only love does.
Yet, how can I know the loving action?
P3: Love = greatest good to greatest neighbors. Yet, this is materially the same thing as P1.

Therefore, his argument runs:
Therefore, P1

(13) Fletcher openly ridicules Middle-Class America (137).

(14) He wants to say that “law-based” citizens would have rejected Dr King, yet on what grounds can Fletcher say that? Why can’t the evil-capitalist-white-man say, from his perspective, that the most loving thing to do is uphold segregation? Now, I believe the segregationist is wrong, but I can say, unlike Fletcher, that he is absolutely wrong.

(15) Unless there is advanced cognitive content to what “love” is, then one doesn’t really know what I am commanded to do.

(16) Let’s go back to his consequentialism in ethics. The mainline Protestant denominations more or less adopted Fletcher’s position? How are they doing today, membership-wise? The PC(usa) and TEC are losing members by the tens, if not hundreds of thousands. Seems like they failed Fletcher’s consequentialist test.


While Fletcher highlights some interesting and difficult issues in ethics, he rarely gives solutions (unless it involves extra-marital sex, in which he is always for it). This is not surprising. He cannot give solutions. He cannot give solutions because his criterion for value, “love,” is empty and meaningless.

Fletcher likes to tell “bleeding-heart” stories to show how wrong his critics are. Okay. Two can play at that game, as one reviewer notes. Fletcher tells the story:

A young woman, jilted by her lover, is in a state of great depression. A married man, with whom she works, decides to have an affair with her in order to comfort her. Some, like Fletcher, would argue that what he did might well have been a noble deed, for the man acted out of concern for his friend. What a perverted viewpoint! Here is the rest of the story. The man’s wife learned of his adulterous adventure, could not cope with the trauma, and eventually committed suicide. One of his sons, disillusioned by the immorality of his father and the death of his mother, began a life of crime, and finally was imprisoned for murder. Another son became a drunkard and was killed in an automobile accident that also claimed the lives of a mother and her two children. Now, who will contend that that initial act of infidelity was the “loving” thing to do?

At the end of the day, not only is Fletcher’s ethics morally depraved, it is logically useless. As Erwin Lutzer notes, “It’s like saying, “The only rules to the game is “Be fair!”” (less)

Barth and Ramsey on Political Power

This is a summary of Oliver O’Donovan’s essay of similar title, found in Bonds of Imperfection.  What’s important is not so much the conclusions reached, but how they are reached.

Ramsey: The crux of the difference between pacifists and justifiable-war Christians turns on the person and work of Christ (Ramsey, Speak up for Just War or Pacifism 111, quoted in O’Donovan 247).

  • While this sounds pious and truistic, it has a very precise meaning for both thinkers.
  • For Barth it concerns the proper location of the political order within the covenant of Reconciliation between God and man (OO 251).
  • For Ramsey it means that Christ assumed one common humanity: there is no ontological disjunction between homo politicus and any other kind of man/order.


O’Donovan summarizes Barth’s ethics in several stages:

    1. Despite some of Barth’s shifts on election, there is a stable stream of ethical reflection–grudgingly acknowledging the state’s right of force but noting the abnormality of it.


  • Romerbrief may be discounted as “anarchist” and “backwater” (O’Donovan 249).


  1. Barth’s wartime writings veered closer towards a realist use of the State’s force.  His later writings veered towards a more anabaptist view.
  2. This is because of a dialectic within Barth’s thought that is never fully settled.
  3. This is partly the case because Barth doesn’t (will not?) imagine the possibility of both a peace-state and war-state within the same framework.

Here is where possible confusion arises:  Ramsey will critique “liberals” on pacifism and note they follow Barth.  What does he mean by “liberals?”  I don’t think it is simply “those who reject the Bible.”  I think he has in mind Niebuhrian liberalism.

Paul Ramsey

Key Point: The Legitimate Use of Power

  1. The use of power, including the use of force, is of the esse of politics
  2. The use of power is inseparable from the bene esse of politics.

As a foil, Ramsey will have Barth say:

B3: War should not be seen as a normal, fixed, or necessary part of a just state (CD III/4, p. 456).

Back to Ramsey’s theses.  We may add another

R4: The use of power implies the possible use of force.

Ramsey’s argument presupposes a proper ordo of politics, the connections of iustitia, lex, and ordo.

  • Ordo = the disposition of power.

R5: The cross casts a shadow over politics, not pure light (OO 259).  

Politics, community, and the cross should meet in that area where light and shadow meet.  

R6: “The task of politics is to be a sign of the rule of Christ, disclosing right, preserving community and determining the basis of community in right” (259).

Political reflection based on the gospels should not begin with the Advent, as important as it is, but with the fact that Christ has come in history.  O’Donovan: “He [Messiah] has reached for the crown which will allow no rival crowns beside it.  Because he has come, history has divided into two, its back broken on this outcrop of rock which it cannot negotiate” (260).

Corollary: There is a disjunction within the community of election (visible/invisible church), not in the works of God as such.  

Problems with Barth’s Political Ethics

For Ramsey, God accepts Christ’s regnant new humanity.  For Barth, God rejects the old humanity.  This seems to mean that God also rejects extra-ecclesial orders as such.  When Barth comes to war as such, he does not interact with Just War reasoning but simply lists the evils of the Second World War.

Ramsey can point to “monuments of grace” in such a horror, even to legitimate uses of State force.  Barth can only suggest a delaying action (CD III/4, p. 456).  As a result, notes O’Donovan, Barth “ends up precisely in the place he intended to bypass, in a politics that can only be viewed soberly and not with evangelical faith or hope” (O’Donovan 264).

A Way Forward With Ramsey

Ramsey has what Barth needs: a way to bridge the gap between homo politicus which is redeemed in Christ and homo politicus that is in need of redemption. We are back with the distinction between esse and bene esse.  The latter terms also suggests something along the lines of goal or end. Ramsey is speaking of true political activity.  

Is Barth an Apollinarian?

Ramsey offers a model in which political power is both used appropriately and judged:  the Incarnation, homo assumptus.  This means that Christ takes on the fallen order, including homo politicus.  There is no radical “Other” realm to which Christ has no access.  As O’Donovan notes, “Only so can the homo politicus that is redeemed be the same homo politicus that was in need of redemption” (266).

Barth will not grant this.  But in not granting it, he is partitioning off a section of man’s redemption.  To be fair, Barth resists this temptation in Christology but not in politics.

Who is Ramsey’s “Liberal?”

A liberal for Ramsey is one who splits politics and military doctrine.

Liberalism for O’Donovan: the inadequacy of every human attempt to render justice.  A magistrate’s power should be limited.    Therefore, power is suspect but necessary (270).

What does Ramsey mean by Just War and International Politics?  So, O’Donovan: “The international sphere was a constitutional vacuum, but by no means a moral or political vacuum” 271). Ramsey suspects there is a continuum that links violent with nonviolent resistance. Indeed, is not democracy justum bellum (Ramsey, War and the Christian Conscience, 126)?  Jesus never said to resist evil by ballot boxes.


T. F. Torrance (Intellectual Biography)

This book is divided into two parts: a brief treatment of Torrance’s life and an examination of his thought. His parents were missionaries to China and fostered a deep piety and evangelistic zeal in the young Torrance. Torrance grew up reading the bible through each year. His dad could repeat the Psalms and Romans by heart.

T. F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography

Of particular interest is Torrance’s lectureships in America, ironically at liberal institutions. They were not ready for his evangelistic style of lecturing. Auburn Theological Seminary (largely liberal) invited a 25 year old Thomas Torrance to guest lecture. He ended up evangelizing his students on the deity of Christ. He was invited to teach at Princeton University but they told him it was to be a neutral atmosphere and that he shouldn’t get involved with the students religious beliefs.
Torrance: I make no such promises. He was hired nonetheless.

McGrath skillfully makes use of unpublished mss and shows us a very interesting side of Torrance. Torrance’s life often borders on a heroism found in novels.

His Thought

Was Torrance a “Barthian?” No. As he made powerfully clear to Donald Macleod he was an “Athanasian” before he was a Barthian. Nevertheless, Torrance’s legacy is connected with Barth’s.

On the reception of Barth

No one is a pure Barthian. McGrath notes the numerous difficulties in Barth’s reception in the English-speaking world. This narrative takes place within Torrance’s “cold war” with John Baillie. McGrath quotes A. Cheyne in suggesting four different ways someone could “receive” Barth’s teachings:

1. Superficial influence, but largely unchanged and staying within the liberal tradition
2. Entire outlook affected but withheld ultimate approval.
3. real but cautious admirers.
4. Uncritical admirers (Alec Cheyne, “The Baillie Brothers,” in Fergusson, Church and Society, 3-37, 33, quoted in McGrath, 89).

McGrath notes that Barth wasn’t well-received in the Scandinavian Lutheran countries, given Barth’s firm commitment to Reformed Christology. Barth took longer to make headroads into Anglican because, as McGrath ruefully muses, Anglicanism didn’t have much of a dogmatic center (McGrath 122-123). This was not the case in Presbyterian Scotland, which in many ways was a dogmatic center!

McGrath lists four criteria that must be in place if a foreign thinker like Barth is to make headway:
1. Competent translations of the most important works into the new language.
2. A journal dedicated to sympathetic viewpoints.
3. A publishing house which is prepared to handle primary and secondary material.
4. A platform where a rising generation may be influenced.

Torrance’s thought is a Reformed reworking of Athanasius’s insight that the homoousion–the oneness of being between Father and Son–means a oneness of Being-in-Act in God’s saving and revealing himself to us. The doctrine of the Trinity is an outcome of an intellectual engagement with God kata physin. “The nature of God was disclosed to be such that Trinitarian thinking was the only appropriate response to the reality thus encountered” (161). Scientific realism allows direct correlations between self-revelation of God and God himself.

McGrath breaks new ground in shedding light on a key tension in Torrance’s so-called “Barthianism.” Can there be a positive relation between God’s self-revelation and a bare natural theology? Maybe. Problem: If all theology proceeds from God’s self-revelation in Christ, then where can natural theology fit (185)?

Early Torrance: “revelation is an act in which God confronts us with his person, in which he imparts himself” (Torrance, Christian Doctrine of Revelation, 32, Auburn lectures). If this is the case, how can man “reason upwards to God?” Again, and as always, the solution is found in Athanasius. Knowledge of God and knowledge of the world share the same foundations in the rationality of God the creator.
1. God is in possession of an intrinsic rationality–the divine logos.
2. That logos has become incarnate in Jesus Christ, so that Christology becomes the key to accessing the inner rationality of God.
3. the divine rationality is also seen in the created order, in which the divine logos can be discerned at work in the contingent yet ordered nature of the world.
4. Creation (1-3) makes natural theology possible.

The book is magnificent. Its rather foreboding price prevents it from being an otherwise perfect introduction to Torrance’s thought

Rights talk

From Wolterstorff’s Until Justice and Peace Embrace

Initial claim:

(P1) Justice is the enjoyment of one’s rights.

Calvin spoke of a “mutual communication” in society: “each is to contribute what he or she can to the enrichment of the common life” (Wolterstorff 78, quoting Calvin, Comm. Harmony of the Evangelists, 1:103).

Discussion of Rights

  1. Right to protection
  2. Right to freedom
  3. Right to participate in government
  4. Right to sustenance

Classic Liberalism: do your own thing but do not interfere, positively or negatively, with your neighbor.

Sustenance Rights are basic rights–they are necessary for life (82).

Wolterstorff defines “right” as a “morally legitimate claim [to]…the actual enjoyment of a good that is socially guaranteed against ordinary, serious, and remedial threats (82).

  1. A right places an obligation on others, a responsibility–and that is necessary to what it means to be human.
  2. A right is the claim to the actual enjoyment of the good in question.
  3. It is socially guaranteed.
    1. This means that rights always involve social structures.