Post-Metaphysical

by caseybedell

After listening to Bruce McCormack’s Kantzer lectures from 2011 my interest in him as a constructive evangelical Barthian has piqued. I am not sure what to do with him.

Post-metaphysical theology (PMT) is paradigm shifting to say the least, especially after having studied under Douglas Kelly, Sinclair Ferguson, and John Frame at Westminster and RTS.

The PMT argument I can follow.   One has to see the history that transformed the classic cosmological worldview (Copernicus to Galileo to Kepler) to the anthropological (Hume to Kant), then the shift from substance to subject and the rise of German Idealism (Hegel).  This gives rise to modern theologies obsession with the anthropos, the subjective, the experience, the historical and disdain for all metaphysical talk.  Lessings ditch is a b****. The basic argument as I see it is that post-metaphysical theologians do not want to be funded by resources from the world of Aristotle as mediated through Aquinas and all subsequent classical thought, especially scholastic theologians and the Westminster tradition.  These traditions they argue utilize tools from a world that is not commensurate with the biblical world.  In fact, they are an imposition on the God of the bible.  The trinitarian life of God (ad intra) they argue gets reduced to a metaphysical construal (simplicity, impassibility, etc.).

Part of me is like okay, but then again, I cannot help but wonder if there is a genetic fallacy at work here.  While the same tools of classical theology (think concepts, language) may be employed by theologians today, their present meanings and substance cannot be judged according to their past use.  They have to be understood according to their present context.  Bavinck for example, who was 32 when Barth was born, is someone who is fully in dialogue with classical thought (Justin, Augustine, Aquinas, etc.), yet is entirely biblical when it comes to funding these classical concepts.  While seeking to be truly catholic he is also truly Reformed and seeks to invest the classical language with the richest biblical content.  Bavinck, a man of retrieval, is also judicious man.

After reading Fred Sanders chapter on the The Trinity in Mapping Modern Theology, I noticed he tipped his hat to Bavinck, a book edited surprisingly by McCormack.  All this to say, the sensibility that has characterized the best theologians of the past is a catholic sensibility, one which Bavinck embodied.  Reformed Theology is at its best when it seeks to be catholic.  Post-metaphysial talk unfortunately makes me think that everyone has had it wrong until so and so came along, and this ain’t no catholic spirit.

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