Thursday, November 08, 2007

Understanding Nominalism, Part 1

What's in a Name?

by Carl E. Olson

— God could have redeemed us by becoming a donkey.
— God justifies man, but man remains as sinful inwardly as before.
— Words have no meaning but are merely text.

What do these statements have in common? Apparently little: The first was the belief of a fourteenth-century Franciscan theologian. The second captures the heart of classical Protestant soteriology (the theology of salvation; see sidebar). The last is the essential position of postmodern deconstructionists.

Yet the common intellectual source of the three statements is one of the most powerful ideas that nobody talks about. It is an idea that has had a deep influence on Western thought and has helped shape Christian theology and Western thought for six hundred years. That idea is nominalism. If there was ever a poster child for the remark that "ideas have consequences," it is nominalism.

What are universals?

In 1948, Richard M. Weaver (1910-63), a professor of English at the University of Chicago, published Ideas Have Consequences. Decrying the modern assault on language and objective truth, Weaver laid the blame for such attacks at the foot of William of Ockham (c. 1285-1347). The English Franciscan, Weaver wrote, "propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience."

It may sound like a lot of ivory tower irrelevance, but the denial of universals has had deadly consequences in our society. So what are these "universals"?

Whereas St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) had taught that man can know the true, objective essence of things, Ockham denied it was possible. As Benjamin Wiker observed in Moral Darwinism (InterVarsity, 2002), Ockham believed that "when we use the word dog there is really no universal entity, essence or dog-ness that we perceive. Dog is merely a name we apply to particular things that happen to look alike. Hence, the name of his system, nominalism, for the Latin nomen, 'name.'"

In other words, nominalism is a philosophical system claiming that everything outside the mind is completely individual: Reality cannot be comprehended through the use of universal and abstract concepts but only through the empirical study of specific, individual objects. Historian and Benedictine monk David Knowles, in The Evolution of Medieval Thought, wrote that nominalism holds that "there is no such thing as a universal, and it is nonsense to speak of the thing known as present in an intelligible form in the mind of the knower."

Yes, it's a complex idea — but the consequences are very real. By denying that there is any basis in reality for universals that every human mind can grasp, nominalism moved knowledge away from objectivity and toward subjectivity and prepared the way for further radical propositions in the realms of theology It makes sense: If God's acts do not possess a logical, objective nature — as Ockham and his disciples taught — then they are merely the result of a groundless divine will unconcerned with what humans call "reason" or "logic." If that is the case, obviously man cannot use his reason or logic to determine what is just or unjust. Natural law, then, is simply nonsense.

Ockham went so far as to say that the Incarnation had value only to the extent God gave it value; God could have redeemed mankind just as easily by becoming a stone, tree, or donkey. If there is no common, or universal, human nature, the Incarnation was not so much about the Logos taking on human nature as it was about God working as he wishes, in a manner unrelated to any sort of logic or reason.

Because of the arbitrary nature of reality, man cannot know the essential nature of sin and grace. Thus, he has no way of knowing his state before God — outside of intuition and inner experience. Besides, nominalism insisted, God can declare sin and grace to exist within man at the same time, regardless of man's worthiness.

Apparently, Ockham was motivated by what he thought was proper humility before God's greatness. He viewed Thomistic realism (and its respect for Aristotelian logic) as an arrogant approach that claimed to understand God in a systematic and supercilious fashion. Unfortunately, however good his intentions were, Ockham set the foundation for some of the most powerful and mistaken ideas of the Protestant revolt.

Mystery destroyed

Heiko A. Oberman, a leading Luther scholar (and admirer), admitted in Luther: Man between God and the Devil that "Martin Luther was a nominalist; there is no doubt about that." Fr. Louis Bouyer, a former Lutheran pastor and theologian, stated in The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism that this connection to Ockham's nominalism is the key to the "negative elements" of the Reformation:

No phrase reveals so clearly the hidden evil that was to spoil the fruit of the Reformation than Luther's saying that Ockham was the only scholastic who was any good. The truth is that Luther, brought up on his system, was never able to think outside the framework it imposed, while this, it is only too evident, makes the mystery that lies at the root of Christian teaching either inconceivable or absurd.

That "mystery" is divinization: the Catholic doctrine that God's grace — his supernatural life — can infuse man and heal his wounded nature, especially through the sacraments. This belief was abhorrent to Luther, who believed such communion between God and man impossible, even blasphemous. Justification, Luther taught, was not an inner change but a juridical or forensic reality, outward only and imputed by Christ. The justified man is still as sinful as before, but he is "cloaked" in Christ's righteousness.

Total depravity

Neither Luther nor John Calvin could conceive of man as somehow sharing in God's divine nature, because man, in their estimation, was totally depraved and incapable of any good. The nominalism of Ockham and his disciples congealed in the teachings of these Protestant fathers, resulting in a skewed understanding of God and his relationship with man.
"What, in fact, is the essential characteristic of Ockham's thought, and of nominalism in general," Bouyer asked, "but a radical empiricism, reducing all being to what is perceived, which empties out, with the idea of substance, all possibility of real relations between beings, as well as the stable subsistence of any of them, and ends by denying to the real any intelligibility, conceiving God himself only as a Protean figure impossible to apprehend?"

The nominalist fragmentation between substance and nature became the cornerstone for two principles of classical Protestant theology: total depravity and sola fide.

Man, being totally depraved, lacks any free will and the ability to know what is right. For Luther, looking through nominalist-colored lenses, grace was a quality external to man and therefore unknowable in any objective way. Grace is God's divine favor and belongs to God alone. Luther believed that if God did infuse man with his divine life, then God would be joined to man and obligated to him in a manner incompatible with his sovereignty and omnipotence. Man can have no part in grace except in an outward manner — imputed righteousness — in which no real communication of the divine life occurs.

So sola fide — faith alone — became the means of salvation because faith, for the Protestant fathers, is an inner quality, knowable through experience and intuition; it is not a sharing in God's divine life.
"Similarly, and as radically," wrote Bouyer, "it follows that grace, to remain such, that is the pure gift of God — must always be absolutely extrinsic to us; also, faith, to remain ours, so as not to fall into that externalism that would deprive man of all that is real in religion, must remain shut up within us."

Radical individualism

This prepared the way for the radical individualism — what French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain called "the advent of the self" — that became a distinguishing feature of Protestantism. In the moral realm this radical separation of faith and grace meant a severing of the moral act from its actual value. If God can impose any value he desires upon a moral act arbitrarily, then it follows that man's actions cannot possess any objective value relating to grace or the meriting of eternal life. Protestant theologian Alister McGrath summarized the Reformers' view in his volume on justification, Iustitia Dei (Cambridge University Press, 1998):

There is a fundamental discontinuity between the moral value of an act — i.e., the act, considered in itself — and the meritorious value of an act — i.e., the value that God chooses to impose upon the act. Moral virtue imposes no obligation upon God, and where such obligation may be conceded, it exists as the purely contingent outcome of a prior uncoerced divine decision.

Calvin systematized this discontinuity by basing his Institutes of the Christian Religion around the central theological theme of predestination. Calvin made it clear that God can be sovereign only if man is nothing, that is, totally depraved and lacking any free will.

It has been said that for the Protestant fathers justification was the article of faith upon which the Church either "stand or falls." But their denial of free will is actually the key article of faith, as it informed their position on justification as well as that of Scripture, Church authority, and the sacraments. Without free will, man's moral actions mean nothing, so justification becomes a legal fiction, not a lifetime of growth in God's divine life.

The Reformer from Geneva also took up Ockham's view of the Incarnation, as McGrath noted in A Life of John Calvin (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1990). Calvin "makes it clear that the basis of Christ's merit is not located in Christ's offering of himself," McGrath wrote, "but in the divine decision to accept such an offering as of sufficient merit for the redemption of mankind (which corresponds to the voluntarist [nominalist] approach). For Calvin, 'apart from God's good pleasure, Christ could not merit anything' [Institutes, II.xvii.i-iv]." McGrath also noted that "Calvin's continuity appears to be with the late medieval voluntarist tradition, deriving from William of Ockham and Gregory of Rimini."

The crucial break between each moral act (known by revelation) and its meritorious value (unknown and reliant on God's arbitrary will) is evident. So Calvin taught a distinct break between justification and sanctification. The former is external, imputed, and eternal; the latter is internal and pertains to salvation as an evidence only shown by good works, a sign of perseverance, which the truly predestined saint will possess. Believers can know they are saved by the signs of their works, all the while knowing that those works possess little, if any, actual value in the eyes of God.

Seeds of skepticism

Like a stream growing as it flows from a mountain into a valley, nominalism has helped shape modernity's view of God, man, and reality. Ockham's focus on empirical knowledge played a vital role in Luther and Calvin looking inwardly in search of faith. But it was not long before Enlightenment thinkers would cast aside the tenuous reality of self-enclosed faith and begin searching for data and evidence in a new way.
Instead of looking to the detached and unknowable God of nominalism, intellectuals and theologians began looking to the immediate, concrete world around them. After all, if God does not want to have communion with man but only desires to show his sovereignty, what keeps man from turning his back on God and demonstrating his own power and autonomy? While God, for the Protestant fathers, is free from any obligation to man, in the Enlightenment era man became equally autonomous, free from any obligation to God and his natural law.

What the Protestant revolt and later modernity had in common was that a subjective, individualistic view of reality turned into the essential basis of knowledge. The difference was in the object of focus. The Reformers looked to God, relying on intuitive, subjective experience. Later thinkers, relying on their own intuitive experiences, concluded that man is autonomous and God is unnecessary. The former resulted in Lutheranism, Calvinism and a host of splintering groups. The latter resulted in all sorts of nasty "isms": empiricism, positivism, moral relativism, and deconstructionism.

Summarized, the move toward subjective and intuitive knowledge, opposed to abstract and universal knowledge, led to increasingly radical philosophical propositions. G.W. F. Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Karl Marx pushed the envelope of nominalist-indebted thought. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote, "There are no facts, only interpretations" — a sentiment echoed in the common contemporary refrain: "There is no truth, only opinions."

In the twentieth century, Jacques Derrida's work in deconstruction — which asserts that truth cannot be known and words lack real meaning — was a type of hyper-nominalism. Derrida's famous statement that "there is nothing outside the text" was a denial that words refer to a reality beyond them.

Like a constantly mutating virus, nominalism lives on. Yes, ideas do have consequences. And bad ideas, no matter how well-intentioned, have bad consequences.

Soteriology: Catholic v. Protestant

"Classical Protestant soteriology" refers generally to the teachings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and their followers about the nature and means of salvation. Classical Protestantism emphasizes the salvation of man by a personal act of faith in response to God's divine (and essentially external) favor, while Catholic soteriology emphasizes the divinization of man by the infusion of God's grace, or supernatural life, especially through the sacraments. In Catholic doctrine, as articulated by the Council of Trent, justification and sanctification are distinct but intimately bound together in the process of salvation. In classical Protestantism they are separated, sometimes to the point where the two have little to do with each other: Justification is a matter of legal standing with God while sanctification is the subsequent inner work of the Holy Spirit. While Catholicism recognizes the primacy of faith, it also emphasizes the need for good works done by grace in the "working out" of salvation. Classical Protestantism stressed the doctrine of sola fide ("faith alone"), which denied that good works, no matter their source, had anything to do with justification.


Ted said...

It would be a lot more helpful, Beth, if you would just post a brief summary of the external author's work with a link, and then provide your own thoughts. Without known what you are thinking, I hardly know how to respond. This piece is as much an attack on Protestantism as it is on nominalism.

At least, though, I'm beginning to see where you and I have our basic disagreement. You view nominalism as the fundamental way in which modern philosophy has gone awry. In my view it is materialism.

Christian said...

Ted writes: "You view nominalism as the fundamental way in which modern philosophy has gone awry. In my view it is materialism."

It would appear they are the same thing (nominalism and materialism).

Materialism, as much as nominalism, denies the immaterial. Rather than being "birds of a feather", I would say that the former is encouraged--if not begotten--by the latter.

Dr Rick Daniels said...

Though I was a bit suspicious when I saw the three quotations at the head of the article I was enjoying it until it got to the part headed by "Mystery destroyed" when the author began to reveal a failure to understand Luther, Calvin, or "classical Protestantism" and began to radically misrepresents them. To begin with, while Luther preferred some few features of Ockham over most other Scholastics, he accounted Ockham the best of a bad lot. Nominalists talked about many things and it was possible to agree with them on some matters (such as the authority of Scripture over rationalistic confidence in reason, or the absoluteness of the divine will) while rejecting them in others. Luther’s teaching of the working of divine grace is in fact a direct rejection of Ockham along with his school, and his teaching of the incarnation as revealing God is in opposition to the Ockhamist preoccupation with God as hidden. Calvin and other Protestants also reject the teaching of Ockham. The problem with this kind of argument is that Luther and Calvin do not argue for their position from the correctness or incorrectness of Nominalism but from their exegesis of the Scriptures (though they may present the results of their biblical study in a non-biblical setting such as Luther’s Disputation Against Scholastic Theology). Luther and Calvin do not teach us to look inward to search for faith, but that faith is a look Christward. They are far from destroying the fact of "mystery," in theology, they just locate it in a different place than their Roman Catholic opponents. Furthermore, justification sola fide was not taught in isolation from the teaching of regeneration. It is the old oft-repeated error, a failure to see that the teaching of the alien righteousness of Christ as the ground of justification does not contradict the prominent Protestant teaching of the monergistic gift of the Holy Spirit as the source of both faith and new spiritual life. The article presents a false, though oft-repeated, caricature of Protestant teaching that is perpetuated by selective quotation, especially of secondary sources, but easily corrected by a genuine reading of the Reformers’ commentaries and their replies to similar allegations made by their contemporaries.

Beth B said...

Thanks, Dr. Daniels, for your comments. There's a lot to respond to! For starters, though, I'd be curious about your reaction to the article, "Martin Luther: Separated 'Son' of Augustine." . Scanlon writes:

"For Martin Luther, the doctrine of justification by faith is "the article on which the Church stands or falls." He had been taught that the righteousness (justice) of God was the righteousness whereby God is just and punishes sinners. But how could that be "good news?"

Then he discovered that the righteousness of God, revealed in the Gospel, is a divine gift given to sinners. God is not a harsh judge but a merciful, gracious God who gives us what we can never attain by our own feeble effort. This biblical righteousness is the external or alien justice of Jesus Christ, a justice never our own but always Christ's. Through grace-enabled faith, this justice of Christ is imputed to the sinner, who becomes simultaneously both justified and sinner (simuL justus et peccator).

Here Luther moves away from Augustinian and medieval transformationist models. To avoid the notion of a gradual process of healing and transformation, Luther did not draw a distinction between justification and sanctification. The Lutheran simul (the Christian is both sinner and justified) is central to his theology.

He described his point in colorful, at times scatological imagery! Ever the passionate preacher and polemical theologian, Luther developed a theology that was essentially rhetorical, given to hyperbole in its attempt to persuade on the basis of experience. Misunderstanding between him and the Scholastic theologians was inevitable.

The Lutheran only's are famous: God only through Christ only (with focus on the Cross) by grace only, received by faith only, disclosed in Scripture only saves sinful humanity. Christ is central because he only reveals the "hidden God." Faith is radical trust in God rather than belief. Luther's theocentrism is Augustinian but his rejection of all transformationist models in describing the Christian is not.

If Roman Catholics recognize an authentically evangelical thrust surging through the more or less adequate formulas of Luther and Reformation anthropology in general, then they must see in it a theology of grace that is a valid complement to their own and other traditional formulations.

Luther was a religious genius and deserving of consideration as a doctor of the Church universal. He accurately theologized the cardinal point of the Christian vision of human existence in its relationship to God at a time when the Catholic hierarchy, caught in the whirlpool of the Renaissance and the real politik of emerging nation states, could not hear him.

The fundamental coherence of Luther's position with Augustine, the Council of Orange and Thomas Aquinas, along with its striking formulation, merit for him pride of place with them in the Western theological tradition. This ecumenical recognition is now evident in recent Catholic publications in Christian anthropology. An excellent illustration of this recognition is work done recently on the differences between Luther and Thomas Aquinas. Needless to say, they are quite different. But while Luther can be described as an "existential" theologian focused on our experience of ourselves as sinners graced through Christ, Thomas can be seen as a "sapiential" theologian focused on God the creator, transforming his creatures into friends."
From what I understand you to be saying, Dr. Daniels, the "existential" model is the only valid scriptural hermeneutic and model of faith, as it upholds monogerism and imputation. Both are consistent with a nominalist metaphysic, as (unconsciously?) practiced by Luther. However, a transformational model is not. Luther and Calvin, like Aquinas, urge us to look Christward. But the question is: can Christ penetrate to our core--a transformational process requiring real relationship, which you might call "synergism"--or must He always remain as a "coating" to our sinful nature, clothing us in His righteousness but never saturating us with his cleansing blood?

But what if monergism and imputation are not the complete story? What if we remove the lenses of a nominalist metaphysic and anthropology as we read Scripture? Might we discover what Scanlon calls a "transformational" model of faith? Might we speak of virtues as being "infused," so that they actually penetrate into the very core of our being, and truly change us, instead of only changing the way God looks at us? Might there even be such a thing as "theosis?" (2 Peter 1:4) What if there is more to Scripture than the book of Romans, that most existential of Paul's letters?

I've always wondered why the Great Reformation didn't happen earlier...after all, there had been plenty of little ones (Benedict, Cluny, Francis, Dominic)long before Luther and Calvin. Something was different, that the environment should be so ready to explode. The only satisfactory answer I have found is that the Black Death, coupled with the nominalist metaphysic of the late middle ages undergirded and abetted the rise of nation-states, the Great Western Schism of the papacy (1378 to 1417), and the rise of capitalism, all of which combined to create the tinder that Luther set afire. Would you disagree?

Finally, IMO, what was good news to Luther isn't such good news to me, because 1) it tends to make my individual experience of sin and salvation the focus of the story, instead of God's character and activity, while at the same time 2) it denies the power of Christ's blood to fully cleanse me of sin, and 3) it fails to tell the complete story, which is not just about my personal salvation and sanctification-- but about that of all creation. (Romans 8:18-22)

Dr Rick Daniels said...

Thank you, Beth, for your very careful and interesting reply. I'm unable to give it all the consideration it deserves for a while but I hope to get back to it. However, I think that I owe you some effort at a response so here is the beginning of one. I think one of the big problems in studies of historical theology is the tendency to so focus on the great distinctive statements (sound bites, if you will) that we fail to observe in others what we commonly practice ourselves. I'm referring to the offering of explanations of and qualifications to comments we make that others have misunderstood or misapplied. So, for example, in order to provide some corrective to the widespread opinion that Luther's doctrine of justification left no room for transformation consider the following passage from vol. 41 of his works. Luther writes,

"That is what my Antinomians,too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article,of sanctification, that is, of the new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstances use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whore-monger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all!”
Tell me, my dear man, is that not granting the premise and denying the conclusion? It is, indeed, taking away Christ and bringing him to nought at the same time he is most beautifully proclaimed! And it is saying yes and no to the same thing. For there is no such Christ that died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life. Thus they preach Christ nicely with Nestorian and Eutychian logic that Christ is and yet is not Christ. They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach de sanctificatione et vivificatione Spiritus Sancti, “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extoll so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, he has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men—we die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond, as St. Paul teaches. Christ did not earn only gratia, “grace,” for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christi Christi” He must be damned with this, his new Christ."

I'll follow up on some of your other very real and appropriate concerns later, if I may. Thanks again.

Beth B said...

What a wonderful dialogue this is becoming, Dr. Daniels! I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for this quote from Luther, especially the line, "Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians." Am I misinterperting Luther if I say that this leads me to conclude that he would not be considered a monergist?

Also, I would be very interested in seeing a similar quote from Calvin! : )

Thanks again, and Christ's peace and joy be yours this Christmas.

Dr Rick Daniels said...

Luther, in the strongest terms possible, asserts that he is a monergist in the treatise he considered his most important, "On the Enslaved Will." As he develops his theology of salvation and the Christian life, however, it is clear that, like Calvin and the Swiss Reformers, this monergism is clearly in view in regeneration but the subsequent life of sanctification, while absolutely certain of its predestined course, is synergistic in the process. (One note of caution: unlike most of his successors who clarified the subject, Calvin often uses the term "regeneration" to include not merely the initial passage into the state of grace, but subsequent growth in sanctification.) In the quote to follow, from his commentary on John 17, we see one of Calvin's many references to the connection between the work of Christ and the sanctification of the redeemed:
"'And for their sales I sanctify myself.' By these words he explains more clearly from what source that sanctification flows, which is completed in us by the doctrine of the Gospel. It is, because he consecrated himself to
the Father, that his holiness might come to us; for as the blessing on the first-fruits is spread over the whole harvest, so the Spirit of God cleanses us by the holiness of Christ and makes us partakers of it. Nor is this done by imputation only, for in that respect he is said to have been made to us righteousness; but he is likewise said to have been made to us sanctification, (1 Corinthians 1:30,) because he has, so to speak, presented us to his Father in his own person, that we may be renewed to true holiness by his Spirit."
For much more on this see his Institutes Book III chapter iii where he discusses repentance.
Let me give you one more large quote from Luther, from vol 31 of his works that I think you will also find interesting. If it sounds like "double justification" it isn't, because the second righteousness flows from the justified man, but does not contribute to his justification. He says,
"The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. This is that manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self, of which we read in Gal. 5[:24]: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” In the second place, this righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbor, and in the third place, in meekness and fear toward God. The Apostle is full of references to these, as is all the rest of Scripture. He briefly summarizes everything, however, in Titus 2[:12]: “In this world let us live soberly (pertaining to crucifying one’s own flesh), justly (referring to one’s neightbor), and devoutly (relating to God).”
This righteousness is the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence, for we read in Gal. 5[:22]: “But the fruit of the spirit [i.e., of a spiritual man, whose very existence depends on faith in Christ] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, serf-control.” For because the works mentioned are works of men, it is obvious that in this passage a spiritual man is called “spirit.” In John 8[:6] we read: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” This righteousness goes on to complete the first for it ever strives to do away with the old Adam and to destroy the body of sin. Therefore it hates itself and loves its neighbor; it does not seek its own good, but that of another, and in this its whole way of living consists. For in that it hates itself and does not seek its own, it crucifies the flesh. Because it seeks the good of another, it works love. Thus in each sphere it does God’s will, living soberly with self, justly with neighbor, devoutly toward God"

Thanks for your patient read of my long post. Again, I'll try to get to your other points but I had these quotes handy from a paper I just delivered.

Merry Christmas.

Beth B said...

Dr. Daniels, can you please give me some brief definitions, so I am clear about how you are using the following terms?

1) monergism
2) transformation

Also, would you please give me a brief sketch of your "theological anthropology," prior to the fall, after the fall/prior to regeneration, and after regeneration.

I am trained as a philosopher, not as a theologian, so it would be helpful for me to have a better understanding of your definitions and presuppositions in order to move further in the discussion.


Beth B said...

Dr. Daniels, as our conversation continues, I would also be interested in your response to Dr. Robert Koons' (University of Texas) "A Lutheran's Case for Roman Catholicism."

On p.5, Koons sets out the problem this way: "The crucial
issue is this: is the righteousness by which the justified are justified an alien (italics mine)
righteousness, the righteousness of Christ entirely outside of us (extra nos) (italics mine) and apart
from regeneration and the new kind of life that results? This I can’t find this anywhere
before Luther. If we look at the corpus of Fathers who are typically cited by Lutherans --
Clement of Rome, Ambrose, Basil, John Chrysostom, Augustine -- we find that they all
give to regeneration and to the fruits of the Spirit a role to play in our justification. In
short, we find the Fathers affirming what Lutherans affirm, but not denying what Lutherans deny, and it is the denials rather than the affirmations that are in dispute in the
conflict between Rome and the Lutherans."

This would indicate that Luther's theology offers hermeneutical innovation, rather than a continuation of the tradition of the church fathers. Do you disagree? If so, on what grounds?

ISTM that one must read all of Paul, and not just Romans; and read Paul in conjunction with James. Luther's innovative hermeneutic appear to me be a result of the larger, newer hermeneutic born of nominalism. For example, where in the church Fathers do we see that term, "alien?" To my ears that is a term of discontinuity, rather than relationship.

As a philosopher,I appreciate the need for clear definitions of terms. On p. 10-11, Koons offers the different definitions that Roman Catholics and Lutherans give for "justification," "grace" and "faith." Again, I would be interested in your opinion his Lutheran definitions.

Blessings in Christ,


Carving Ben said...

You might enjoy this article by Fr. Patrick Reardon

The purpose of these remarks is to inquire what sort of guidance theology may give us with respect to choosing a philosophy.