According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Ontological Univocity of God's Being from a Postmodern Perspective

 


Scot McKnight, The Past is Never Dead:

"...Gregory connects John Duns Scotus and William of Occam to a new metaphysic (univocity vs. analogy) that more or less made God’s being like our being and put God into the materialistic universe of proof vs. non-proof (and God loses since God is transcendent, etc) and the Reformation’s battle over [the Catholic doctrine of] transsubstantiation was but one example of how a metaphysic can unleash theological battles that ended up separating God from reason and science. (I’m not a specialist in this field but I’m not so sure the Protestant view of the “presence” of Christ might be more analogical than univocal, and the Catholic view more univocal.)"
 


Definition of Terms
 
1 - Univocal (adjective) - having only one meaning; unambiguous (synonym)
     Univocally (adverb)
     Univocity (synonym)

2 - Equivocal (adjective) - having several meanings; something that is necessarily ambiguous; can be confused with equivalent ("equal in value, or the same thing as")
  • allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous: an equivocal answer.
  •  
  • of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious: aliens of equivocal loyalty.
  •  
  • of uncertain significance; not determined: an equivocal attitude.
     equivocality or equivocacy (noun)
     equivocally or nonequivocally (adverb)
     equivocalness or nonquivocalness (noun)
 
3 - Analogical (adjective) - showing a similarity between two things on which a comparison may be based (ex., the analogy between the heart and a pump).

     Synonyms - comparison, likeness, resemblance, similitude, affinity, correspondence.
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * *


 
 
 
Commentary
by R.E. Slater
 
According to Brad S. Gregory, author of The Unintended Reformation, the Reformation period changed the metaphysical conceptions of the God of Late Medievalism from holistic category to the dualistic categories of reason and rationality; immateriality to materiality (of substance and form); of scientific proof (in which case God is unprovable by reason and science except through faith); of removing a world-view of faith and theology to a rational world-view of man-oriented philosophy and science; and so forth.

Said another way (and contra to Norm Geisler's avowed beliefs) the Reformation birthed Modernism which would bring with it many of the things Late Medievalism did not subscribe to:

1. Death of God - Atheism
2. Death of objective truth - Relativism
3. Death of exclusive truth - Pluralism
4. Death of objective meaning - Conventialism
5. Death of thinking (logic) - Anti-Foundationalism
6. Death of objective interpretation - Deconstructionism
7. Death of Objective values - Subjectivism

Hence,  modernity may be characterized as consisting of two sides: “the progressive union of scientific objectivity and politico-economic rationality . . . mirrored in disturbed visions of unalleviated existential despair" (1990: 5). - Postmodernism and Its Critics

And into this list Postmodernism now comes to re-examine each area through its own lenses:

"The primary tenets of the postmodern movement include: (1) an elevation of text and language as the fundamental phenomena of existence, (2) the application of literary analysis to all phenomena, (3) a questioning of reality and representation, (4) a critique of metanarratives, (5) an argument against method and evaluation, (6) a focus upon power relations and hegemony, (7) and a general critique of Western institutions and knowledge" (Kuznar 2008:78).  - Postmodernism and Its Critics


The following are some proposed differences between modern and postmodern thought: Contrast of Modern and Postmodern Thinking

Modern
Postmodern
Reasoning From foundation upwards Multiple factors of multiple levels of reasoning. Web-oriented.
Science Universal Optimism Realism of Limitations
Part/Whole Parts comprise the whole The whole is more than the parts
God Acts by violating "natural" laws" or by "immanence" in everything that is Top-Down causation
Language Referential Meaning in social context through usage
Source: http://private.fuller.edu/~clameter/phd/postmodern.html (note: this link is no longer working as of 4/30/2012)


What we see then is the increasing spectrum of Modernism's secular divorce from all things God and God-ward beginning with the start of the Reformation until today. Creating an environment that would give to us 500 years later the inevitable backlash of a non-secular (authenticizing) Postmodernism to its secular twin of Modernistic Reason and Rationality. As such, a postmodernistic deconstruction must occur to modernism's results as well as a postmodernistic reconstruction to replace modernism's secular statements.

However, for this present discussion I would like to explore the theme of univocality from a postmodernistic perspective. Which is at once a Reformational theme that must be rescued from its modernistic expression into postmodern terminology to recapture the essence of the Church's Late Medieval theology. One that is no less Orthodox, but is Orthodox from a postmodern progression of an older idea which had pushed the Church towards the secularization of God instead of towards its now Emergent Christian twin of non-secularized postmodernism.

To thus, decouple the modernistic dualism of materiality v. immateriality applied to God's Being towards a holistic synergism of both concepts (that is, a re-coupling, if you will) in a theological escalation upwards towards the idea of Relational Theism (cf., the sidebars under theism). Thus elevating the older Reformed ideas of God (sic, known in biblical studies as systematic theologies) into a postmodern (or Emergent) theological expression of God, as we have been doing here these past many months....

But first, let's look at Wikipedia's statement of univocity (or, univocality)...
 
 
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
Univocity of being

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Univocity of being is the idea that words describing the properties of God mean the same thing as when they apply to people or things, even if God is vastly in kind.
 
In medieval disputes over the nature of God, many theologians and philosophers (such as Thomas Aquinas) held that when one says that "God is good", God's goodness is only analogous to human goodness. John Duns Scotus argued to the contrary that when one says that "God is good", the goodness in question is exactly the same sort of goodness that is meant when one says "Jane is good". That is, God only differs from us in degree, and properties such as goodness, power, reason, and so forth are "univocally" applied, regardless of whether one is talking about God, a man, or a flea.
 
Gilles Deleuze borrowed the doctrine of ontological univocity from Scotus.[citation needed] He claimed that being is univocal, i.e., that all of its senses are affirmed in one voice. Deleuze adapts the doctrine of univocity to claim that being is, univocally, difference. "With univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we - and our individuality - which remains equivocal [("to call by the same name')] in and for a univocal Being."[1]
 
Deleuze at once echoes and inverts Spinoza,[citation needed] who maintained that everything that exists is a modification of the one substance, God or Nature. He claims that it [(univocality)] is the organizing principle of the Dutchman's philosophy [(Spinoza)] - despite the absence of the term from any of Spinoza's works. For Deleuze, there is no one substance, only an always-differentiating process, an origami cosmos, always folding, unfolding, refolding. Deleuze summarizes this ontology in the paradoxical formula "pluralism = monism".[2]

 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * *


An Abbreviated version of Spinoza
from Wikipedia
 
The Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza rejected the French philosopher, Rene Descarte's position of dualism and claimed that everything is from one Substance of Reality. A substance that we call God or know as Nature. From which we get the idea of classical pantheism ("all is God, and God is all") or classical panentheism ("the world is not God, but in God, or a subset of God"). This idea evolved from the Enlightenment's rationalization that pure materialism presented Nature as an extended substance of a greater Reality. As such, Spinoza re-established the idea of God into the idea of a godless ontology.
 
Secondly, to Spinoza, God is a abstraction (or abstract idea) which (not "Who") is an impersonal, deterministic force which excludes creational indeterminacy and human free will. As a force, it cannot be known, or observed in its effects. Effects that are beyond our comprehension except for its merest evidences in a space-time reality that we reside within. As such, God is an abstraction we cannot know but partially, if at all. Within which we are mechanistically moved and guided contrary to the idea of Deism which denied God's involvement in creation (a God that created and stood aside to its mechanistic outworkings).
 
Thirdly, the ideas of truth, morality, and ethical judgment are illusions to our free will, giving to us a false idea of choice, predicated upon our conscious experience of reality. As such, we have no responsibility for our actions (this could be described as materialism, and/or stoicism).
 
Overall, "the attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late 18th-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to [crass] materialism, atheism, and deism. Three of Spinoza's ideas strongly appealed to them:
 
  • the unity of all that exists;
  • the regularity of all that happens; and
  • the identity of spirit and nature.

From Spinoza's philosophies many variants spun off in reaction to his idea of "God or Nature" (Deus sive Natura) which provided a living, natural God in contrast to the Newtonian mechanical "First Cause" or the dead mechanism of the French "Man Machine". Coleridge and Shelley saw in Spinoza's philosophy a religion of nature.[1] Novalis called him the "God-intoxicated man". Spinoza inspired the poet Shelley to write his essay "The Necessity of Atheism".
 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *




Commentary Continued
by R.E. Slater
 
 
... Let me continue discussing the univocity of God by first agreeing with Spinoza that there is One Substance to which biblical revelation tells us is God (as understood within Orthodox Christian doctrine; and contra atheism). Secondly, this God is personal (as understood through Relational Theism). That the Jewish-Christian God is intimately involved with His creation (immanence, sovereignty; and contra deism). That creation has been "purposely created with" (not simply "granted with," a weaker positional statement) indeterminacy; and that humanity has been purposely created with free will (contra determinism). Where from human free will comes morality and ethics found in the personage of the Triune Creator-God. A God who actively redeems what He created back to its intended design and purpose (the Hebrew idea of Sholom).

To these ideas we must discuss the univocity of God by saying that God's being is different from our being (statedly of course), even as His character and attributes are reflections in our being. Hence, God is ontologically different from us in His divine Being, but reflected in us univocally through His divine Being. As such, we may speak of God as we would of one another, realizing of course that God is ontologically different in His divine being from our own. We may speak of love, goodness, forgiveness, mercy and fundamentally understand those relational terms because God is love, goodness, forgiveness, mercy in His divine Being (which also is relational because of His Trinity).

Moreover, though there is a univocal difference of ontological being between us and God, there is also a univocal reflection/similarity between our beings and God's in character and attributes as we just mentioned. Many would think of this relational difference in terms of degrees - that is, God's love is so much higher, greater, stronger, deeper, than our human love for God or for one another. But to quantify God's qualitative character and attributes simply does Him an injustice, no less than it does an injustice to ourselves. Love may be all those adjectival descriptions, but it can never be measured in quantitative metaphysical terms as one would measure-out spaghetti noodles, cups of sugar, or a teaspoon of salt).

Another way to say all this is that our ground of being is founded upon God's being. Without His divine Being we simply are not. This epistemological rational for ontological groundedness (or creation's solidarity with the Divine) must be univocal. Even though we may express God's likeness in analogical terms (God is like this, or like that) yet we may be confident in saying God is the ground for all creation's being. We may again try to compare God to ourselves by using creational analogies which may try to comprehend God. but yet analogies fail in their symbolism to accurately qualify our knowledge of the Divine. By example, we use the description of an egg (shell, egg white, yolk) to speak about the Trinity (or even of our body, soul, spirit) but the egg illustration fails at many levels to sufficiently explain the Godhead's relationship as a Tri-unity (just as it does with our wholistic human spirit that is described as one essence in the Hebraic sense).

Thus, we are because God is. We are the encapsulations, reflections, portrayals, poems, songs, rhythm and music to God's being, as much as we are creational beings, human, man and woman, hearts, minds, souls, spirits, hands and feet to God's expression. Language fails our efforts of description even as our faith, feelings, aspirations, assurances, would lend us the certainty of knowledge of the Divine.

If God is our ground of being univocally than I think we can express these things better than we can analogically. For if God is analogical to our being than we cannot know who God is. He would remain wholly other to us - and in some continuing biblical sense I do think this is true.... That God is wholly other than us. But I fail to understand this for if I use the illustration of God as a force I cannot conceptualize this divine force as being separate from the divine Personage of God. For does not a man or woman's muscular force come from his or her's presence of being? As such, without being there is no force, and consequently describing God as a pure force would be inaccurate. It would be more accurate to describe God's Personage from which His divine force results.

Moreover, for biblical purposes of redemptive communication, God relates His Being to us univocally, and not analogically - in ontological terms. and not in analogical literary terms of expression as I have used the examples of analogy above. Hence, we seemed to sense the Person of God because we are in kind, or similar to, the Divine's Personage. If God were simply an analogical expression of divine being than we could not sense (or understand) our Creator-Redeemer. Strictly said, God would be wholly unlike anything we could know. Or speak of. Or understand. So for myself, the Medieval terminology would be better to separate its analogical discussions of God by (i) abstaining from speaking of God's ontological Being in analogical terms while (ii) maintaining its analogical uses in literary, epistemological terms.

Lastly, Emergent Theology is attempting to syncretise postmodernism's holistic approach to modernism's incomplete language and thoughts built upon secular bifurcation and competing dualisms. It is attempting to complete what the church's Reformation systematic theology split apart under its Catholic orientation. And for that matter, to attempt to heal what man's philosophical statements have said about God and humanity in both a materialistic and a-theistic setting using determinative syntax. For a postmodern. emergent theologian, the task is to add God back into man's secular sciences, church dogmas, and philosophies. Not by ignoring what each discipline has said, but my completing each discipline's formative endeavors. Not by recanting all of the Reformation and Enlightenment, and returning to Late Medievalism, but by accepting everything that has been said and done, by weaving together variant Christian statements into an uplifted, postmodern, pluralistic fabric of Emergent Theology. A fabric more similar to Joseph's coat of many colours than to the pure white toga of the Roman statesman. A coat blood stained upon the breast of Jesus rather than blood-stained upon the togas of the sacrilegious Scribe and Pharisee. Dyed upon by the hands of God in Emergent expression than smeared in the the dividing colours of secular Modernism.

R.E. Slater
January 23, 2013


*ps - by way of commentary on Wikipedia's last paragraph, I would not care whether we view God as either a metaphysical substance or process, for we ourselves are so much the same.... Our lives appeareth as a vapour that is but an instant of time and process, folding, and unfolding, and refolding, over-and-through the membranes of time and relationship to all of creation. Does it matter so much that our physical beings are at once metaphysical processes as they are metaphysical entities? I think not, inasmuch as we are more than flesh... we are spirit. And in our spirits doeth bear the Spirit of Almighty God, who is our sum-and-substance, whether as substance, process, or some other thing.
 
 
 
 For further discussion please refer to -
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Or, continue to -

How the Reformational Church Brought Secularism to Society


The Past Is Never Dead
 
by Scot McKnight
Jan 23, 2013
 
William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This is the argument of Brad Gregory in his monumental and erudite volume, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. This 600 page ramble of Western history traces interlocking themes that affect us today but which gained their fresh life in the Reformation. I’d say the book is a critique of modernity as much as the Reformation while it is also a strong apologetic for the Catholic Church.
 
A big idea is that there is a seamless story from the late Medieval church into the Reformation and that what was unleashed in the Reformation — a revolution in religion — has resulted in modernity and postmodernity. In other words, with undeniable sophistication, Gregory lays at the door of the Reformation the seeds of secularism that we inhabit today. The world’s enchantment took a step backward, then, because of the Reformation.
 
Gregory connects John Duns Scotus and William of Occam to a new metaphysic (univocity vs. analogy) that more or less made God’s being like our being and put God into the materialistic universe of proof vs. non-proof (and God loses since God is transcendent, etc) and the Reformation’s battle over [the Catholic doctrine of] transsubstantiation was but one example of how a metaphysic can unleash theological battles that ended up separating God from reason and science. (I’m not a specialist in this field but I’m not so sure the Protestant view of the “presence” of Christ might be more analogical than univocal, and the Catholic view more univocal.)
 
[Reason and] Science divorced God from the discussion and scientists could no longer be considered intelligent unless they presupposed a personal God. Gregory’s discussions involve probing into how relativizing doctrines and controlling the churches (State control of Reformation churches) and subjectivizing morality (manifest in Western’s sense of tolerance) and manufacturing the goods of life (Weber’s famous thesis at a new level) led eventually to a secularization of knowledge (by keeping God out by [the scientific] method).
 
Let’s grant Gregory the lion’s share of his argument: the Reformation’s cracking up of medieval Christianity’s hegemony [this was not proven or explicated and I do wonder how unified late medieval times were] led to fractures not only at the ecclesiastical and theological levels but also at the intellectual, political, aesthetic and scientific levels — and those fractures have led to modernity.
 
And let’s grant that Gregory is not being nostalgic and pleading a return to the medieval conditions — as if one could. But let’s not fail to observe that the two major thinkers — Duns Scotus and William of Occam — who got the ball rolling here, were Catholics [as it seemed most Christians were in the late medieval period - res]. In the end, it was also the anti-institutional [(sic, anti-Catholic Church - res)] move by the Reformers that set this ball rolling. Also, ironically, Gregory’s book leaves a fairly sharp periodization of the Reformation.
 
Over time the assault on authority and power in the Catholic Church led to democratization with all its implications, including thousands of sorts of Protestants (and post Protestants). And, yes, at some level then the Reformation contributed to the secularization of society – though some might point a long finger or two at strains of Catholicism as well.
 
Question: "Is the Post-Reformation world a better world (for the church) than the Pre-Reformation world?"
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 
Univocity of being

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Univocity of being is the idea that words describing the properties of God mean the same thing as when they apply to people or things, even if God is vastly in kind.
 
In medieval disputes over the nature of God, many theologians and philosophers (such as Thomas Aquinas) held that when one says that "God is good", God's goodness is only analogous to human goodness. John Duns Scotus argued to the contrary that when one says that "God is good", the goodness in question is exactly the same sort of goodness that is meant when one says "Jane is good". That is, God only differs from us in degree, and properties such as goodness, power, reason, and so forth are "univocally" applied, regardless of whether one is talking about God, a man, or a flea.
 
Gilles Deleuze borrowed the doctrine of ontological univocity from Scotus.[citation needed] He claimed that being is univocal, i.e., that all of its senses are affirmed in one voice. Deleuze adapts the doctrine of univocity to claim that being is, univocally, difference. "With univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we - and our individuality - which remains equivocal in and for a univocal Being."[1]

Deleuze at once echoes and inverts Spinoza,[citation needed] who maintained that everything that exists is a modification of the one substance, God or Nature. He claims that it [(univocality)] is the organizing principle of the Dutchman's philosophy [(Spinoza)] - despite the absence of the term from any of Spinoza's works. For Deleuze, there is no one substance, only an always-differentiating process, an origami cosmos, always folding, unfolding, refolding. Deleuze summarizes this ontology in the paradoxical formula "pluralism = monism".[2]



for further discussion please refer to -
 
The Ontological Univocity of God's Being
from a Postmodern Perspective
 


 
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
Amazon.com Book Review
go to amazon link here
 
About the Author
Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.
 
 
Book Description
In a work that is as much about the present as the past, Brad Gregory identifies the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation and traces the way it shaped the modern condition over the course of the following five centuries:
  • hyperpluralism of religious and secular beliefs,
  •  
  • an absence of any substantive common good,
  •  
  • the triumph of capitalism and its driver, consumerism,
 
all these, Gregory argues, were long-term effects of a movement that marked the end of more than a millennium during which Christianity provided a framework for shared intellectual, social, and moral life in the West.
 
Before the Protestant Reformation, Western Christianity was an institutionalized worldview laden with expectations of security for earthly societies and hopes of eternal salvation for individuals. The Reformation’s protagonists sought to advance the realization of this vision, not disrupt it. But a complex web of rejections, retentions, and transformations of medieval Christianity gradually replaced the religious fabric that bound societies together in the West.
 
Today, what we are left with are fragments:
  • intellectual disagreements that splinter into ever finer fractals of specialized discourse;
  •  
  • a notion that modern science—as the source of all truth—necessarily undermines religious belief;
  •  
  • a pervasive resort to a therapeutic vision of religion;
  •  
  • a set of smuggled moral values with which we try to fertilize a sterile liberalism;
  •  
  • and, the institutionalized assumption that only secular universities can pursue knowledge.
 
The Unintended Reformation asks what propelled the West into this trajectory of pluralism and polarization, and finds answers deep in our medieval Christian past.
 
 
Editorial Reviews
A strikingly brave and wide-ranging work, in which a distinguished historian of early modern Europe interprets the contemporary world. The precision and clarity with which Gregory lays out his evidence and the accuracy with which he handles materials in many different languages and of many different kinds give this original book extraordinary credibility. It's rare for a book to attain this level of scholarship nowadays. An astonishing achievement.
 
--Anthony Grafton, author of Worlds Made by Words
 
A work of deep moral seriousness. Gregory's greatest contribution is his portrayal of the Reformation of Christianity as a central moment of disturbance and creativity in the modern Western world. In this endeavor, he has no equal among living authors. The Unintended Reformation is simply the most intelligent treatment of the subject by a contemporary author. It is also the most unconventional and most stirring engagement I know with the problem of how the West has dealt with its heritage of plural religions and concepts of values and happiness.
 
--Thomas A. Brady, Jr., author of German Histories in the Age of Reformations, 1400-1650
 
Gregory's insightful and compelling narrative invites us to recognize the surprising extent to which we are still what the Protestant Reformation and its heirs made us, a society of conflicting and contested truth claims. As he spells out the consequences--and the interest is in the detail--we become more sharply aware of sometimes unrecognized aspects of our present condition.
 
--Alasdair MacIntyre, author of God, Philosophy, Universities
 
A revisionist manifesto, sharp-edged and provocative, The Unintended Reformation analyzes the legacy of the Protestant Reformation with an eye firmly fixed on the present. Gregory challenges many revered assumptions and does so with verve and brilliance. Bound to stir debate for years to come, this magisterial history of the early modern era belongs on the shelf right next to Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Charles Taylor's A Secular Age.
 
--Carlos Eire, author of A Very Brief History of Eternity
 
The Protestant Reformation is considered by many to be one of the pivotal events in the history of the Western world. No one can doubt the central role that Luther, Calvin, and other reformers have played in the lives of Christians through the years... [Gregory] approaches the continuing impact of the Reformation in what he terms a "genealogical" approach--one that sees the Reformation as the root of a tree whose branches reach into every aspect of modern life.
 
Rejecting the "supersessionist" view, that contemporary Christendom constitutes a radically new understanding of God and of the world itself, Gregory insists that our views, even our presuppositions, must be reimagined and re-evaluated in ways that demonstrate how the Reformation continues to reach into our theologies, our laws, our lives... [A] rewarding look at the long reach of history, and how we are the poorer for ignoring it. (Publishers Weekly 20111114)
 
[An] extraordinary new book...But however brilliant is Gregory's historical presentation (and it is brilliant), what ultimately distinguishes The Unintended Reformation is the sheer forcefulness of the narrative, which he pursues by examining the shift in perspectives on six distinct but interrelated themes since the sixteenth century: God, truth, institution, ethics, consumption and knowledge. The effect of this approach is to give the book an uncommon clarity: by going over what is essentially the single narrative in six different ways, each slight turn of the story illuminates the whole, and each new element comes across as both surprising and yet strangely familiar.
 
The Unintended Reformation is unquestionably the most important contribution to the way we understand our present condition since Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. But it is also as a stinging rebuke to all those well-nigh fictitious accounts of the emergence of the enlightened West out of the intellectual darkness and decrepitude of the Middle Ages that now distort our collective self-perception. Let's hope Gregory's book wreaks havoc on some of these myths that we persist in telling ourselves.
 
--Scott Stephens (Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Religion and Ethics blog 20120210)
 
There could not be a more propitious moment for a book on greed and the historical roots of capitalism. Brad Gregory shows that historians have as much to contribute to contemporary debates about business and social ethics as most philosophers or economists...What is bold and unusual about The Unintended Reformation is that it comes from an explicitly Christian perspective and ends by arguing that only religion--properly understood as a doctrine of solidarity--can allow humanity to escape from the predicament of the modern, the material curse of poverty and the mental afflictions of prosperity. Gregory not only offers what is today a highly original combination of history and morality but also cogently explains why that combination is needed today.
 
--Harold James (Financial Times 20120211)
 
This book is truly breathtaking in its scope, erudition and sheer nerve. There is no faulting Gregory's grasp of Reformation history, but to his analysis of what has happened since there could be many objections raised. This is relatively unimportant, however. Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was not completely right either, but it was brilliant nevertheless. Gregory's is a work not just of genuine scholarship but also of sincere moral purpose, which, even if it annoys, frustrates or fails to convince, has opened up an immensely important debate. There may yet be time to fix some of what went wrong in the Reformation.
 
--Lucy Wooding (Times Higher Education 20120309)
 
Restrained and erudite...Apart from furnishing an interesting and well written account of the Reformation, the book is perhaps most interesting when [Gregory] grapples with his opponents...[A] thought-provoking book.
 
--Nick Carn (Financial World 20120601)
 
A lucidly written and far-reaching analysis that shows how the contemporary Western world continues to be influenced by the complex transformations that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries.
 
--J. Werner (Choice 20120701)
 
 
Most Helpful Customer Reviews




5.0 out of 5 stars

 
December 20, 2011, by Christian Smith
 
This is a tremendously important and illuminating work that deftly discloses the deep historical roots of the character of our modern, secular world. Brad Gregory offers us here a massive scholarly achievement of great significance and insight, which deserves a very wide reading.
 
Modern people love to think that they are radically different from those who lived in the pre-modern age. Gregory clearly shows instead how powerfully governed are modern thinking, practices, and tendencies by assumptions and categories formed in the late Middle Ages, as mediated by the Protestant Reformation. Particularly impressive is Gregory's case for the secularizing and pluralizing logic that the Protestant Reformation set into historical motion.
 
Thoughtful moderns and postmoderns who want to understand the massive historical forces that have produced their own social worlds, and therefore their very lives, must read this book. Professional historians, whose work has grown ever more specialized and narrow, need to read this sweeping narrative, which pulls us all back to the big picture and the big questions. Protestant (and other) Christians today who are puzzled or distressed by the secularization of so much of the world have to confront, absorb, and digest the implications of Gregory's powerful argument.
 
The historical, sociological, and philosophical thought that Brad Gregory has put into this broad-ranging work is extraordinary; his historical scholarship is meticulous; his writing is lucid; and the payoff of insight for readers who take his argument seriously is huge. Gregory is to be much congratulated and thanked for producing this landmark book. I myself have already read it once, and have already started to read it again.
 
5.0 out of 5 stars
January 10, 2012, by Thomas W. Smith, Ph.D.
 
This book is a tour de force by a distinguished historian of the Reformation. The thesis is that many of the significant challenges we face today in terms of politics, culture, economics, and our ability deliberate together reasonably can be traced back to the unintended consequences of the Reformation. This fact is obscured by the assumption among many contemporary historians that we have moved beyond a pre-modern past in ways that mean we no longer need to understand the world of the Middle Ages and Reformation in order to understand ourselves. The book achieves that ambitious goal because the author has mastered an astonishing variety of different approaches to knowing -- history (of course), but also theology, moral and political philosophy, and metaphysics. The erudition and scope of the book is deeply impressive and inspiring. I hope that this work will become for a new generation of grad students what McIntyre's work was for me when I started grad school in the late eighties, or what Millbank's was to many grad students in the last decade -- a book that reorients students away from conventional grad school limitations on what they should learn and how they should learn it. I hope that it will become for everyone an occasion to reflect more deeply on the ways the past has influenced our current situation.
 
5.0 out of 5 stars
January 17, 2012, by Matthew C. Briel
 
My comments here build on earlier reviews, especially Christian Smith's and Thomas Smith's.
 
This book is a great achievement. Here I'd like to focus on what it brings to professional historians.
 
I am in graduate school and my experience of this book is close to what Thomas Smith said he hoped would happen to readers who are entering the academy. It's premature but this book may end up being as important as MacIntyre's After Virtue. However, it is a work of a historian rather than a philosopher and it has the particular strengths of a historian that a philosopher lacks: a great sensitivity to the details of ritual, everyday life, economic changes, political decisions, etc. Gregory's great contribution is his keen sense of how practices and thought impact each other (and some philosophical training seems evident here).
 
Though obviously a longish book, it seems a short book to me for how much it accomplishes. Many of the theorists of the past century and a half (Nietzsche, Heidegger, and other philosophers but especially the profoundly influential Weber and Foucault) are engaged well. My profession is dominated by these thinkers and their intellectual offspring. Gregory, engaged in a critique, briefly acknowledges the good that they have contributed (naive objectivity or positivism of some 19th century historians is no longer possible) but is more concerned to describe the negative effects of their thought and to argue against them- usually it is a question of the premises of their thought rather than mistakes in reasoning. Gregory has argued for a new space in the academy. I hope that he treats these questions in greater detail, or that some other author will develop Gregory's insights here.
 
It is bound to be sharply criticised by both the right and the left because Gregory challenges both in a penetrating analysis. (critical of secular dominance in certain arenas as well as smug Christian consumers.)
 
Like MacIntyre's After Virture (1981), Gregory has made a big step forward. The claims in this book are huge and it needs to be unpacked (could he please make this a trilogy?). I look forward to reading more from Gregory. Really, an intellectual thrill. Give it a full week of three or four hour evenings to soak it in. The longer footnotes (i.e. not just the bibliographical references) enhance the experience.