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Pro Ecclesia Vol 15-N4: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology

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Pro Ecclesia is a quarterly journal of theology published by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. It seeks to give contemporary expression to the one apostolic faith and its classic traditions, working for and manifesting the church's unity by research, theological construction, and free exchange of opinion. Members of its advisory council represent communities committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, ecumenical dogmatic teaching and the structural continuity of the church, and are themselves dedicated to maintaining and invigorating these commitments. The journal publishes biblical, liturgical, historical and doctrinal articles that promote or illumine its purposes.

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COMMENTARY

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R. Kendall Soulen







The nature of abortion is changing in our society and around the world. In the 1960s and 1970s, when abortion laws were liberalized in many Western countries, the issue of abortion chiefly concerned women with crisis pregnancies and dealt with whether or not to have a child. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the issue of abortion increasingly arises outside the context of crisis pregnancies and concerns what kind of child an individual or couple wishes to have. This is a change with vast implications. If unchecked and unchallenged by church and society, it will gradually transform our culture into one of widespread eugenic selection, in which humans routinely arrogate to themselves the power to separate the fit from the unfit before birth. This is a development that all Christians, pro-life and pro-choice, should unite in deploring and opposing with active spiritual and practical measures. All Christians, pro-life and pro-choice, know clearly something that the world knows only vaguely, if at all: God loves all members of the human family irrespective of their genetic makeup. What is more, they know something that the world can scarcely be expected to know at all: God is especially zealous on behalf of those whom the world judges unfit, unwanted, and undesirable. Indeed, God upsets the standards of human wisdom by time and again preferring just these as the bearers of God’s salvation. A society that silently tolerates the routine abortion or destruction of the undesirable before birth will become ever more disfigured in its own visible makeup and ever more hardened to the wisdom of the gospel. Before we become that society, we need to pause and examine the path that we are on and earnestly ask ourselves where that path is taking us.

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GOD SPOKE: ON DIVINE THOUGHT IN HUMAN LANGUAGE

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Edward Rommen





God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.

Heb 1:1–2

The whole notion of divine thought or speech brings us face to face with the difficult questions of uncreated being, knowledge, truth, and created being. For if we are to speak of divine thought, we will have to posit a personal uncreated being in possession of and able to contemplate (think) some content (knowledge), to which we will have to ascribe the appellation “truth,” or, better yet, “absolute truth.” And if we are to speak of a transfer of divine thought to the human mind, we will have to explain how created beings can access absolute truth without forfeiting the transcendence of its uncreated source and how, once it is acquired, that truth can be transmitted from one created being to another.

Such a project bears all the marks of impossibility. Yet, in spite of the idea’s apparent incomprehensibility, we are told that God does “speak.” The Psalmist insists that God uses creation itself to speak, albeit without words (Ps 19). Prophets confidently proclaimed the “Word of the Lord.” The Gospels teach that Christ incarnate embodies the very Word of God addressed to all of creation (John 1:1–4). We are encouraged to commune with God in unceasing prayer, even when words fail us (Rom 8:26). And, most amazingly, Christ desires to continue speaking through human language to all nations (Matt 28:19).

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“SPOILS FROM EGYPT” YESTERDAY AND TODAY

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Thomas G. Guarino






Tertullian’s famous inquiry resounds throughout the Christian tradition as a perennial challenge: What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem, the Academy with the church? It is a question, perhaps, that has led some to suspect Christians of anti-intellectualism, of a desire to avoid the astringent winds of critical reason by fleeing to the unwavering certainties of tranquil faith. In fact, Tertullian’s well-known query invites reflection on the proper relationship between Christianity and philosophy. What role does philosophy have in contemporary Christian thinking? Is, in fact, a certain kind of approach essential for intelligibly supporting faith’s own claims? In what follows, I would like to trace some central moments of Christian reflection on the relationship between faith and reason, finally returning to these more speculative, but pressing, contemporary questions.1

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ON THE REJECTION OF BOUNDARIES: RADICAL ORTHODOXY’S APPROPRIATION OF ST. AUGUSTINE

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Hans Boersma


Quando enim confirmatae fuerint serae portarum eius, iam in illam nullus intrabit, nec ab illa ullus exibit. Ac per hoc fines eius eam debemus hic intelligere pacem, quam volumus demonstrare finalem.

St. Augustine2

At first blush, both Radical Orthodoxy’s ontology of peace and its oppositional logic represent an authentic retrieval of the concerns of St. Augustine. With regard to the former, it seems evident that Radical Orthodoxy operates with a metaphysic similar to that of St. Augustine, one that has its roots in a Neoplatonic understanding of participation. The basic commonality would be an ontology of peace: an understanding of the created order as sharing in the divine life and depending for its existence entirely on its suspension from the divine realities.3 Radical Orthodoxy’s oppositional logic seems to go back to the heart of St. Augustine’s City of God: The two cities, whose origins, development, and ends he traces throughout, are antithetically opposed to one another. Indeed, theologians associated with Radical Orthodoxy consistently appeal to St. Augustine, both for their ontology of peace and for their oppositional logic. They want to be self-consciously Augustinian, and their theology clearly contains more than a faint echo from this great Church Father.4

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HEGEL’S CONCEPTION OF GOD AND ITS APPLICATION BY ISAAK DORNER TO THE PROBLEM OF DIVINE IMMUTABILITY

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Piotr J. Malysz



In volume II, a volume of his monumental Church Dogmatics devoted to the doctrine of God, Karl Barth admits that “Hegel speaks forcefully of God”—but immediately goes on to criticize him for doing so only in terms of the hypostatized self-movement of the human nature and spirit.1 At the same time, in this very same volume, Barth explicitly acknowledges his indebtedness to Isaak Dorner’s illuminating treatment of divine immutability.2 It is somewhat ironic, in light of Barth’s scathing criticism of the former and his approval of the latter, that Dorner’s view of God was itself heavily, though not unreservedly, influenced by Hegel’s conception of the divine.

The goal of this essay is to identify the elements that Hegel’s and Dorner’s doctrines of God share in common. Specifically, I hope to demonstrate how, through the implicit appropriation of categories central to Hegel’s thought, Dorner manages to solve the difficulties inherent in the received metaphysical account of divine immutability (such as its un-ethical, or ethically neutral, character and, fundamentally, its irreconcilability with Christological dogma). It will also be shown how, with the help of those categories, Dorner puts forth instead a robustly Trinitarian—that is, ethical, personal, and revelatory—conception of immutability that makes it possible to take seriously the theological notion of the death of God. To accomplish this task, this article will begin with an outline of Hegel’s conception of God in terms of five notions: (1) unarbitrariness, (2) groundlessness, (3) freedom, (4) becoming, and (5) necessity. In this explication, I will attempt to show that Hegel’s doctrine need not be seen in such drastically anthropomorphic terms as Barth opines. An account of Dorner’s doctrine of God will then follow, appealing expressly to the five notions.

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REVIEW ESSAY

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Paul J. Griffiths

Denys Turner

Faith, Reason, and the Existence of God (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 292 pp.

Reviewed by Paul J. Griffiths, University of Illinois at Chicago

Denys Turner’s latest book is a subtle and distinguished contribution to the enormous literature on faith and reason. It’s a book written with clarity and wit, and it also shows a substantial knowledge of contemporary and medieval discussions of the place of argument in knowing God. It is, however, a difficult book. The topics it treats are abstract; they are also controversial among both philosophers and theologians, and, as is the habit of theologians, Turner expends many words upon exegesis of his authorities (principally Thomas Aquinas) and his enemies (principally John Milbank); and although his exegetical efforts yield much, they also sometimes obscure or derail the main lines of his argument. In what follows I’ll make as little comment as I can on these controverted exegetical questions and shall focus instead on the structure of the argument. This is not to say that I think it unimportant to consider what Aquinas or Scotus or Milbank think about the matters discussed in Turner’s book. But it is to say that there is virtue—virtue that Turner should acknowledge given his own emphasis on what reason can do—in considering the position argued in this book largely in terms of its conceptual structure.

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