What Does it Mean to be Human? Leithart on the Nature of Natures (Delivered from the Elements Review, Pt. IV)

(See previous installments of this review here, here, and here).

In this installment, we turn to what is perhaps the most puzzling, but also perhaps one of the most consequential, features of Leithart’s book: his treatments of the notion of “nature.” It is, I must confess, far from clear just how much Leithart is trying to do with his reconceptualization of this basic metaphysical and theological category. On the one hand, we might be dealing with little more than rhetorical flourishes or shifts of emphasis away from a category that Leithart thinks has too often preoccupied the attention of Christian theologians. On the other hand, we might be dealing with a fundamental reconception of the status of the human person and its relations to God and to other persons along radically voluntarist lines, a reconception that cannot help but have far-reaching consequences for much of Christian theology and ethics, consequences which could not but be largely harmful in my view. I wish to tread carefully, for fear of either being an alarmist on the one hand or a naively charitable reader on the other.

Similarly to my approach in the previous post, I will first state in a nutshell what I take to be the salient features of Leithart’s exposition on this point, and then list my main points of concern/critique. I will then expound these points at considerably greater length (though thankfully shorter than my last post), with accompanying quotations from the text, before concluding by suggesting a better way forward. Read More

Everyman’s Hooker #2: “Jealousies, Heartburnings, Jars, and Discords”


From Preface, Chapter 2, paragraph 2:

It was the manner of those times (whether through men’s desire to enjoy alone the glory of their own enterprises, or else because the quickness of their occasions required present dispatch), so it was, that every particular Church did that within itself, which some few of their own thought good, by whom the rest were all directed. Such number of Churches then being, though free within themselves, yet small, common conference before hand might have eased them of much aftertrouble. But a greater inconvenience it bred, that every later endevoured to be certain degrees more removed from conformity with the Church of Rome, than the rest before had been: whereupon grew marvelous great dissimilitudes, and by reason thereof, jealousies, heartburnings, jars and discords amongst them. Which notwithstanding might have easily been prevented, if the orders which each Church did think fit and convenient for itself, had not so peremptorily been established under that high commanding form, which tendered them unto the people, as things everlastingly required by the law of that Lord of Lords, against whose statutes there is no exception to be taken. For by this mean it came to pass, that one Church could not but accuse and condemn another of disobedience to the will of Christ, in those things where manifest difference was between them; whereas the self same orders allowed, but yet established in more wary and suspense manner, as being to stand in force till God should give the opportunity of some general conference what might be best for every of them afterwards to do; this I say had both prevented all occasion of just dislike which others might take, and reserved a greater liberty unto the authors themselves of entering into farther consultation afterwards. Which though never so necessary they could not easily now admit, without some fear of derogation from their credit; and therefore that which once they had done, they became for ever after resolute to maintain.

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Special Issue of Theology Today on the Mercersburg Theology

I am proud to announce that the journal Theology Today, published by Princeton Theological Seminary, has featured the work of the Mercersburg Theology Study Series, which I am editing, in a special issue of their journal (vol. 71, no. 4) devoted to the Mercersburg Theology. The issue, featuring articles by Linden DeBie (editor of vols. 1 and 2 of the Mercersburg Theology Study Series), Ted Trost and David Bains (co-editors of vol. 3, forthcoming), Bill Evans (editor of vol. 4, just published), and Lee Barrett (editor of vol. 10, forthcoming), as well as myself (I also co-authored the article with Linden), grew out of the special panel on the Mercersburg Theology at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore, MD.  After that panel, Gordon Mikoski proposed adapting the papers presented for a special issue of the journal, and I added a version of the paper I was preparing as a Keynote Presentation at the 2014 Mercersburg Convocation. Read More