Alright, so here are some comments on the rest of the Radical Orthodoxy essays.
“Wittgenstein after Theology” by Conor Cunningham
Cunningham’s basic upshot is that, despite Wittgenstein’s reputation and his own insistence that he operates outside of metaphysical debates, he defaults to a Kantian-style immanentism, claiming agnosticism about “things in themselves.” The problem with that move, as with Kant’s, is that to deny the possibility of knowledge, one must have a grasp on the beyond-entity’s relationship with knowable things. Thus Christian theology, which holds that God the Father is ineffable but maintains strong doctrinal confessions of the relationships between that ineffable and the created, intelligible, mediating reality through which we worship the ineffable Father, offers a more proper intellectual humility in lieu of agnostic pride.
The essay also discusses post-Scotist ontology (there’s Scotus popping up again) as making room for modern atheism to happen:
If God is God purely because of quantitative omnipotence, then a Nietzschean remains “holy” in his hubristic rebellion, as it is only a matter of amount which separates creator from the created. God is in effect immanentised because God is only one more ontic entity struggling for “expression.” (83)
My Miltonist heart soared when I read that section; Wes Arblaster sent me a link to a Radical Orthodoxy treatment of Paradise Lost the other day, and I’m sure he’s going to make this sort of argument, but I think it will still play well if I treat PL in my dissertation. At any rate, Cunningham’s argument is that analytical rejections of metaphysics really only mask a crass immanentism.
“Heidegger and the Grounds of Redemption” by Laurence Paul Hemming
The kernel of Hemming’s argument has to do with nihilism and its relationship to Christian theology. Nihilism, in his argument, rejects not the God of Christian faith but the Scotist “being” that purports to precede God and creation. Thus nihilism does not nullify Christian theology but clears out the space that modernist theism once claimed, opening the way for alternatives, such as Nietzschean agonism and Christian theology, to make their appeals. A quote from Hemming works nicely here:
Nihilism is the situation from out of which I am called to redemption, it is the experience of world apart from God. Understood like this, nihilism is that place from out of which I come and into which I fall in the continuing desire to be faithful, the continuing need to redeem the place in which I find myself. (105)
“Augustine beyond Western Subjectivity” by Michael Hanby
Hanby’s essay is a wonderful exploration of Augustine’s major works in search of an ontology rooted in relationship. Ultimately ontology, for Augustine, happens as the human person participates both in common life and in the life of the Trinity:
The creature’s “nature” is not primarily an indeterminate self-positing given, subsisting behind its intentions, but rather is finally determined through its intentions by the company she keeps and the objects of her worship, expressed through the descriptions she gives of herself and the world. Again, despite many “trinities” that can be discerned in the mind’s activity, it can only be an image of God, only manifest God in creation, insofar as it doxologically participates in God’s charity through the historic ecclesia. The self, who serially is through activity which is formally doxological, is an icon for the “object” of its worship, by which that “object” and the self are in turn made manifest. (115)
Self, in other words, is always relative to other selves, and being is always a gift. To negate the giftedness and the gift-character of existence itself is in fact to surrender to nihilism.
“St Anselm, Theoria and the Convolution of Sense” by David Moss
I’m getting tired of summary, so Moss’s point is that Anselm construes friendship as grounding being. A quote:
Rather fancifully, one could suggest, then, that if Heidegger’s way to thought was in mediation upon the concrete and universal “Here I am,” and Descartes’ upon the abstract universal “I am a thinking ego,” than what we are set to think with Anselm is the thought: “We are friends.”
Moss sees Anselmian friendship as the actual, concrete working-out of Hegel’s self-consciousness. I perceive my friend while at the same time perceiving that my friend is perceiving me. Reflection of reflection and all that.
I’m not going to give a synopsis of “God’s Sex” by Gerard Loughlin here; I’m certain I can remember it when comps come around. Yeesh.
I think I’ll do the other summaries later; I’ve grown tired.