Thursday, April 27, 2017

NOminalism and the Benedict Option

What have I been saying for all this time?

"The Benedict Option” traces the decline of faith in the West all the way back to a fourteenth-century debate about the nature of God. God tells us how to be good—but are the things he deems good actually good in themselves, or good just because God says they are? According to one group, the “realists,” God is constrained by reality: the goodness toward which he points really exists in the world. According to the second group, the “nominalists,” God is totally free: simply by saying that something is good, he makes it so.

The nominalists thought they were doing God a favor, by recognizing his power. In fact, Dreher writes, they undermined him. Today, most people are nominalists. They doubt that entities like God, beauty, and evil are real in the same sense that the physical world is real. Even if they believe in God, they imagine a boundary between the transcendent plane, where God lives, and our material one. This boundary makes God abstract—a designer, a describer, a storyteller—rather than a concrete presence in our everyday life. By contrast, the early Christians were realists. They lived “sacramentally,” as though the world itself were charged with God’s presence. Last year, in a blog post called “Re-Sacramentalizing My Life,” Dreher wrote, “We won’t start to recover spiritually and morally until we begin to recover this ancient Christian vision to some significant degree—though how we Christians in postmodernity do so out of our own traditions is a very difficult question.”

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