Review: The Mind of the Maker (Sayers)

Sayer argues that the laws of creative imagination are analogues of the Trinity.   Or to say it another way, there is a Trinitarian structure in the mind of man. This is also mirrored in the writing of a book:

Book as Thought (Idea).

Book as Written (Energy or Word; she is on better ground when she calls it the “form” of the thought.  That at least echoes what St Hilary said).

Book as Read

While she has a fascinating number of insights, this book, rather ironically, suffers from a lack of unity.  It is almost as if there were two books.  One is a theological and trinitarian reflection on the nature of thought and mind.  That book is quite good.  The other book is a sub-conscious literary criticism of then-current England.

A word on the analogies.  She is not saying that the Trinity is like….x.  Rather, she is saying x mirrors (in some limited, analogical way) the Trinity.  That is not heretical.

The Image of God

“The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and ability to make things” (22).  Sayers is quick to point out that this is metaphorical and analogical: we can’t make things out of nothing. And then she gives a meditation on what analogical language is.

It is not that both God and man make things that they are similar.  The very structure of thought and imagination are not limited by finite material.  I have to destroy a tree to make a wooden table. Yet, Shakespeare, in order to create Falstaff, doesn’t have to kill Hamlet (29).  Sayers writes, “The components of the material world are fixed; those of the world of the imagination increase by a continuous and irreversible process.”

Idea, Energy, Power

We see Trinitarian patterns in creation.  There is a trinity in sight: the form seen, the act of vision, and the mental attention which correlates the two (36).  Every thought is a trinity of memory, understanding, and will.

Creative Idea–beholding the whole complete work at once

Creative Energy (activity).

Creative Power

When I form the Idea in my mind, the forming of the idea is itself not the Idea.  It is the self-awareness in Energy (38).

Sayers has a fun chapter on Scalene Trinities, in which she points out imbalances in authors.  


I think her analogy (Idea/Energy/Power) is wobbly.  It is confusing for those of us who have studied the Christological controversies.   For example, for Sayers “energy” and “Power” refer to the Son and Spirit, respectively.  But in Greek the terms are roughly synonymous.  And after Paul in 1 Corinthians, few Christians used them exclusively of the Trinitarian persons, since “power” referred more to capacity than divine person.


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backing up this site

WordPress is attacking my comrades for no reason.  Nothing is safe.  I am backing up the files here.

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H. P. Lovecraft, C. S. Lewis, and Me.

I am going to do a longer analysis of this experience later, but I had basically the same experience, although the demonic element wasn’t quite as strong.

The Oddest Inkling

Here is a guest post by Stephen Hayes, a regular reader of this blog. It is a highly personal, spiritually-autobiographical story about his individual experience. If any of you readers would like to offer a post on Lovecraft and Williams, I’d be interested to hear a pitch.  

tree huggerCONTRIBUTOR BIO: Stephen Hayes was born in London’s East End in 1955 and studied medicine at Southampton 1974-1979. He worked for some 20 years as a Primary Care Physician and is now an Associate Dermatologist and skin cancer diagnostics educator. He blogs about skin cancer and less often about C S Lewis. He is a long-term fan of C S Lewis, and his first (Amazon kindle) novel Darwin’s Adders: A Chronicle of Pagan England 2089‘ was written after the thought came to him one July 2009 morning: ‘What if, in That Hideous Strength, the bad guys had won, and…

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Don’t You Dare Bore Me with the Bible (Heiser)

This is a short introduction to Michael Heiser’s program.  It covers slightly different ground than Supernatural, which is also seen as an introduction to his more scholarly Unseen Realm.  This text works off the premise that “what is strange is probably important.”  

If you’ve read Unseen Realm, there isn’t anything new here.  But I think you should still get it. It’s only a few dollars on kindle and there are some neat exegetical insights which are perhaps easier to find here than in Unseen Realm.

Who is God’s Witness in the Clouds?

In Psalm 89 God swears by another, one who is presumably on the same level with God an in the clouds.  Verses 35-37 form a chiasm:

A.  Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;

B.I will not lie to David.

C.His offspring shall endure forever,

C’his throne as long as the sun before me.

B’ Like the moon it shall be established forever,

A’ a faithful witness in the skies.”

Psalm 89 requires an equal to God who is distinct from God yet not another God.  God’s holiness (A), which is the same thing as God given divine simplicity, means that his “faithful witness in the skies” (A’) is also God. We see something similar in Revl. 1:4-5.

The Eyes of Ezekiel 1

The whole scene is connected with Babylonian astronomy.  No, it is not copying Babylon. It is trolling Babylon. Cherubim have four faces.  Possible connection with four cardinal directions. What happens in heaven affects what is on earth.  Also, in the Hebrew it reads as if the wheels are covered with eyes (ayin).

Satan’s Fall

Similar material found elsewhere.  When Jesus said he saw Satan fall, it wasn’t in the context of a Miltonian pre-history, but as a result of his sending the 70 (The New Table of Nations, Genesis 10) out to get rid of demons.  This event is connected with the kingdom. If this happened in the past, then why wasn’t the Kingdom established then?

There is nothing new in this book but it is a good primer to his work.  Each chapter is only a few pages long. My only qualm is that sometimes Heiser avoids giving his own conclusion.

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Biographia Literaria (and what makes genius)

The Essence of Genius in Writing

It was the union of deep feeling with profound thought; the fine balance of truth in observing, with the imaginative faculty in modifying, the objects observed; and above all the original gift of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world around forms, incidents, and situations, of which, for the common view, custom had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dew drops.

“TO carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood; to combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances…it is the merit of genius to ‘represent familiar objects as to awaken in the minds of others a kindred feeling concerning them and freshness of sensation” (202).

Translation: to make our experience of a universal be fresh and new.

I think this is why Lewis’s fiction and Tolkien’s have such a profound impact. Neither one of them said anything new. In fact, they would be offended if you suggested that. But they made you feel as if it were fresh.

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Biographia Literaria, chapter 1

I am reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s literary memoir, Biographia Literaria.  It is fantastic.  This was similar to CS Lewis’s Experiment in Criticism long before Lewis wrote.  In many ways it is even more practical.  Coleridge gives his own impression, buttressed by a lifetime of poetry and criticism, on what makes for good (particularly English) poetry. Citations are from The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics).


Keep words from getting too florid.  He writes “The rule for the admission of double epithets seems to be this: either that they should be already denizens of our language, such as blood-stained….” (158).

His early mentor: “I learnt from him that poetry, even that of the loftiest, and seemingly, that of the wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe as that of science” (159).

While Pope is a genius, much of his power comes from acute observations on men.  And when you read Pope, note the epigrammatic structure: look for the “punchy” conclusion at the end of the second line of the couplet.

Coleridge wanted to justify his own style of lines running into each other and of “natural language, neither bookish, nor vulgar….” (167).  To do so he “labored at a solid foundation, on which permanently to ground my opinions, in the component faculties of the human mind itself.”

Conclusion: we must combine natural thoughts with natural diction (169).

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Frequency of the Lord’s Supper: Fluidity as an in-between category

How often should we take the Lord’s Supper?  I am going to ignore Roman Catholic and Orthodox counters for the moment.  Rome used to be quite infrequent and in EO countries many do not take the Eucharist at all (sort of like a Kuyperian church).

As an autobiographical aside, I used to be a big proponent of weekly communion.  And if approached with humility, I think that is a good idea.  Unfortunately, some who advocated for weekly communion did so in an arrogant spirit.  I’ll set forth some theses.  Maybe they will help some folks work through this topic.

My own position is somewhere between weekly and monthly.  I think at least twice a month is good.  My own church does monthly and I am content with that.  Logistically, it would be harder to do it more frequently at this point.  Drawing upon Keith Mathison’s own work, even if I don’t go with his conclusion on weekly communion.

 Calvin defined sacraments as “visible words from God” (7); the offer in the sacrament is objective, but can only be received by faith. The sign and seal of a sacrament must be distinguished but can never be separated. It is a seal of the promise that believers who truly partake of it partake of the body and blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the bond of the mystical union between the believer and Christ (19).

How Is Christ Present? Christ is bodily in heaven and the reality and benefits of Christ are channeled to us by means of the Holy Spirit. The flesh, indeed the whole Christ, is given to us by means of the Holy Spirit (29):
1. The body of Christ remains in heaven and retains all its properties.
2. The Holy Spirit lifts our souls to heaven whereby we partake of the body of Christ.
3. Eating Christ is a heavenly action in a spiritual [read Holy Spirit] manner.
4. The presence of Christ is a real presence and a real descent effected by the Holy Spirit.

  1. I think we can all agree that the phrase “Doing it weekly just seems too Catholicky” is about as bad as one can get.
  2. Or, it makes it less “spayshull.”  The point of the Supper is not to work up a spayshull feeling. It is to let our Covenant Lord feed us.
  3. What about preparing ourselves?  I agree we should.  I just don’t think a month-long prior examination before the Supper is the way to go.

Michael Horton, following Kline, suggested that the Supper is the feast that ratifies the treaty.  So as often as we hear the word from the king and hear the Treaty being ratified, we should feast with the king.  That means every week.  I’m not ready to go that far.

I think weekly is good but I don’t think the arguments for it are 100% air tight.

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The Well-Educated Mind

Bauer, Susan Wise.  The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had.  New York: Norton, 2003.

This isn’t just a book review.  I am also making a template on how to approach literature, as given by Bauer.

Image result for the well-educated mind

Anyone can become an autodidact.  It’s harder today because we don’t always know where to start.  Bauer gives good advice.

The Act of Reading

If you’ve read Adler’s How to read a Book then there isn’t much new here.  Good stuff, but I didn’t spend too much time on it.

Keeping a Journal

I used to, but when I saw the awesome power of google docs, I moved everything there.  Simply no comparison. However, her suggestions on how to reflect on literature are good.  The goal is to understand, evaluate, and react to ideas. Interact with ideas. This is why the further you move along the Great Books track, the more you can interact and the more critical your thinking becomes.  A basic beginning:

* Write the title of the chapter on the first page (or google doc). Skim it first and get your mind acquainted with main ideas.

* After the end of the first real reading, write down your reactions.

Understand the structure.  Evaluate the assertions. Form an opinion.

Starting to Read: Final Preparations

The following obtain if you own the book.  Don’t do this if you don’t. And some won’t like my (and Bauer’s suggestions).  I understand. But you need to understand that I am right on this one. She structures the art of reading around the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric).

The grammar stage:

  • Underline in pencil. And dog-ear the pages where key arguments are developed.  Post it notes are good, too.
  • Pay attention to the table of contents and the structure of the book.  The mind works from part to whole to part.
  • You take notes to create a broad outline, not an in-margin essay.

The Logic Stage (evaluation)

  • Reread the difficult sections.  Do they make sense now? Sometimes they won’t.  The author might just be incompetent.
  • Does the book’s structure make sense?
  • Is the author’s thesis/aim established?  How so?

The Rhetoric Stage

  1. What does the author want me to do? Believe? Experience?
  2. Bauer suggests a reading partner.

She takes these three stages and applies them to novels, histories, memoirs, drama, and poetry.  Here is how you should read them


  1. Grammar–keep list of characters, summary.  Main event of each chapter.
  2. Logic–what does the character(s) want?
  3. Rhetoric–what is author’s take on human condition? Is novel self-reflective?


  1. Grammar–what are the challenges the main people group face?  Who/what causes challenge?
  2. Logic–what are the historian’s assertions? What questions is he asking?  What and how does he use sources? Does evidence support connections between questions and answers?
  3. Rhetoric–Does the story have forward motion? Are men free or determined?


  1. Grammar–what are central events in writer’s life?
  2. Logic–what is the theme that holds things together?  God, the self, or no unity? Is there a conversion moment?
  3. Rhetoric–what are the three time frames (time of the events, the time remembered, the time the book is read)?


  1. Grammar–pay attention to surface-level details; what holds play together?
  2. Logic–what gives the play unity: plot? Characters? ideas?
  3. Rhetoric–how would you direct this play?


  1. Grammar–read 10-30 pages of poetry. What is your initial reaction?
  2. Logic–what is the poem’s form? Syntax?
  3. Rhetoric–is there moment of choice or change? Where is the self?

The Good

She gives several remarkably lucid summaries of rather dense texts.  Her take on Bede and Augustine is quite good.


It’s probably not fair of me to criticize her for leaving out the poets/authors I like. Nevertheless, she failed to mention Alexander Pope, whose poems are like feasting on beams of light, yet gave attention to the 20th century.  I would rather suck on a gas hose than read 20th century poetry.  Here are the lists:

I understand that grad students need to read deeply into the essence of despair, namely 20th century literature.  But for those who want their soul cleansed, substitute Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Edmund Spenser instead.

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Gnostic Apocalypse

O’Regan, Cyril.  gnostic apocalypse:  jacob boehme’s haunted narrative

Boehme is the site of the gnostic return to the modern world (ix).  CR hints that Milbank is also credited with the gnostic return (2).

The discourse is “haunted” in the sense when it is shadowed by its “other” (Gnosticism shadows Christianity).  

  • Haunting signifies an absence that becomes a presence (18).

Difficulties in interpreting Boehme

1) Boehme himself often unclear.

2) eclectic symbolism (these symbols often subvert Reformational Christianity [8]).  

O’Regan suggests that “narrative” unites ancient Gnosis and modern pneumatic forms of religious thought (12-13).  There could be something to this. If this works, then one can see a connection between ancient Gnosticism, neo-Platonism, medieval mysticism, and post-Renaissance magic.  

Modern narrative “ontotheologies represent the Gnostic return” (13).

O’Regan’s conceptual apparatus:  “Valentinian narrative grammar and rule-governed deformation of classical Valentinian genres.  Valentinian narrative grammar refers to the rules of formation of Valentinian narratives by contrast with the rules of formation of narrative for canonically oriented Christianity” (15).

  • movement from and back to realm of divine perfection through the detour of the catastrophe and fall.   We see these six stages in all forms of Gnosticism (16)
    • realm of undisturbed divine perfection and pleroma.
    • introduction of fault into the realm of divine perfection and a fall of the divine that generates the Other of the divine.  Responsible for demiurge who is proximate cause of the universe.
    • creation of the physical world.
    • fall of human being from spiritual to material existence.
    • appearance of a Savior figure who brings Enlightenment and in no sense atones for judicial sanctions (my language, not O’Regan’s).
    • Eschatology that privileges the gnostics over the others.

metalepsis:  complex disfiguration-refiguration of biblical narrative or any first-order interpretation of it (17).  


pansophism:  mystico-philosophical claim to see “the deep things of God.”  

Narrative Trajectory of the self-manifesting divine

1.1 Boehme’s Six-Stage narrative

  1. (an)archeology: Unground: Wisdom: Immanent Trinity
    1. the language of “nothing” is the nonrelationality of the divine.  “Nothing” is not absolute nothing. More akin to Plato’s me on.
    2. Movement from a divine infinite which is formless to a divine form which has limits.
  2. Engendering a divine nature: the Configuration of Divine Attributes
    1. eternal nature is the nondivine other to the unground.  Close to Aristotle’s “potentiality,” maybe (37).
    2. It is the beginning of multiplicity, taking its cue from “desire.”  
  3. Emergence of the Temporal World and the Human being
    1. “result of a dramatic event of derangement” (42).  “the creative property of imagination guarantees that Lucifer becomes what he images” (43).  This is very similar to Crowley.
    2. sees the Adamic state as one of androgyny, angelic reproduction, and non-physical eating (45).  This is identical to Maximus the Confessor.
  4. Fall of Adam
    1. Sophianic Wisdom is the result of chaotic forces (turba) opening up (45).  
  5. Christ: Savior as Exemplar
    1. This section isn’t entirely bad.  He says a number of correct things like Christ being the foundation of language..  However, Boehme clearly sees Christ overcoming sexual differentiation, which resulted from the Fall
    2. No judicial Christology. Boehme sees forensic justification as negating human responsibility (consistent).
    3. Christ is simply the good example.  “Healing the wound involves a metamorphosis of matter” (47).  
  6. Eschatology and Narrative Circularity
    1. History is agonistic (48–possibly because of “becoming”).

1.2 Narrative teleology; narrative codes

  • gender; the feminine.  

1.3 Trinitarian Configuration of Ontotheological Narrative

  • not so much three persons of the trinity, but three divine principles who undergo self-development.

Discursive Contexts of Boehme’s Visionary Narrative

Boehme’s narrative ontotheology relies on Paracelsian alchemy (57).  

2.1  Alchemy as discursive context and its sublation

Paracelsus seeks a kind of knowledge that embraces both Scripture and nature (59).  The visible world is a sign of the invisible dynamic reality. Invisible “forces beyond the astral level.”  

  • For Paracelsus the thing is the sign.  Sign and image have to do with the process of life.
    • image as substance (66).
  • Question:  does thinking of the universe as a “signature” in the above sense fit with “chain of being”?
    • I think so.  CR notes, “the descent into origins is an ascent along a chain or ladder of more and more refined invisible dimensions of existence” (60).

2.2 Narrative Deconstitution of Negative Theology

allegory assumed a Platonic split between visible/invisible (87).

  • Allegory is supposed to open up to vision, and the latter needs the former.  Boehme (quite correctly) was aware of this (88).
  • Allegory was later picked up by the Illuminist tradition (89).

God and Creation

  • In Eriugena the created natures abide in the uncreated theophanous expression.
  • In salvation the human being transcends creaturehood (98).  
  • Reality is a form of manifestation (107).  
  • Theogony involves cosmogony.  

First there is a non-principle (Unground)

  • God exists first as undifferentiated substratum, then becomes the principles.  
  • cipher for the divine that is beyond being (69). Transcends knowing and is encountered only in “unknowing” (70; cf. Palamas).
  • separates the mysterious transcendent Godhead from the Trinity (91).  Is this inevitable with hyperousia?


I think O’Regan overplays the issue of how much Valentinianism specifically influenced Boehme and whether Boehme is the decisive influence on Hegel.  At the end of the day this is a difference of degree, not kind. The question is whether modern Gnosticism is a direct descendant of ancient Gnosticism.  It’s an interesting genealogy but ultimately irrelevant. I think a strong correlation actually exists and would even be prepared to argue as much. Still, the worse elements of both systems are equally present.


“Magic is the mother of eternity, of the being of all beings; for it creates itself, and is understood in desire” (Boehme, Sex Puncta Mystica, quoted in O’Regan 3-4).

Prime Matter Substratum

Boehme holds to the Hermetic maxim that God’s center is everywhere and his circumference is nowhere (106).

Holds to the view that behind all language is a primordial language that one can “tap into” and it discloses reality (107).  This is the textbook definition of magic: manipulating reality.


The attributes are real powers expressive of divine life (113).


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The Future of Love (Milbank)

I’ve been critical of Radical Orthodoxy in the past.  I think it’s ontology mutes all distinctions, or wants to anyway.  Nonetheless, John Milbank is just fun to read.  And check out his twitter account.

I’m posting this old review of The future of love so I can have most of my book reviews on one site.

The dichotomy of left and right represents a nominalist social ontology (Milbank loc. 99).

The Christian revolution doesn’t side with noble or base, but it democratizes the noble: hence Paul addresses his hearers as “kings” (loc. 111).

The role of the monarch

  • “The kingly role remains Christological insofar as it foreshadows the integrity of the Resurrected body, when the material will fully shine with the glory of the spiritual” (loc. 154).

Imagination as a Mode of Knowing

In the first section of the book Milbank’s hero is Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  In God alone subjectivity and “outness” are finaly co-extensive and yet the differential relation remains irreducible (464).

Kant’s noumenal distinction fails because it doesn’t take account of mediations of being “with being” (484). Coleridge has in mind the “linguistic network of signs,” of “human participation in the communicative Logos.”

All knowledge is an anticipatio of “a later concrete discovery.”

Conclusion: imagination mediates between reason and understanding “in such a fashion that the ‘resistance’ it receives from external objects has no merely negative value, but can actually act as a spur to a new creative synthesis” (498).

Hegel the Gnostic

A myth of a self-actuating spirit that objectifies itself, and thereby finds itself in estranged form, only to return, with this gain, back to an abstract, rational, self-presence (464).

Nominalism and the Market

Milbank suggests that the earlier Christian socialists in Britain opposed the market in a way that did not commit them to Revolutionary violence or socialist calling cards (e.g., egalitarianism, unions, etc).  The important point was to find a “pivot” that escapes commodification. This is the sacred. It is validated by modes of religious tradition (loc. 170).

“Thatcher realized, as Arnold and his descendants did not, that to ask what are health, industry, and freedom for is a superfluous luxury in a capitalist system” (834).  Wealth and production had always been seen as means to the good life.  Now they are the ends themselves.

In fact, how can there be ethics at all, as Milbank notes?  Ethics in the public realm implies recognizing common goals beyond the maximization of wealth and individual freedom.

In fact, if all that matters is my individual choice, as the hippies and libertines said, the only possible result is the market.  The market is the most efficient mediator of minimalized choices.

Milbank Contra Newman

For Newman the “notional” term “picks out an aspect and real assent goes on discerning further and further aspects of a complex circumstance, then, just because real assent does not grasp all aspects at once.”

We never perceive abstract items.  We do not see a river. We see a river flowing.  Nothing apprehended is “sheerly given.”

Milbank’s problem with Newman:  Newman’s argument for papalism and the continent presupposes a Lockean and British thinking inconsistent with papalism.  This means that Newman would fall back on Lockean liberalism–and back to the market (1314).

Theology and British Politics

Critics of Christian Socialism list reasons why socialists should not like Christian socialists:

  1. They were apolitical.
  2. Ignored trade unions.
  3. liked rural and medieval life.
  4. opposed democracy
  5. traditional attitudes towards marriage and family.
  6. They were Christians.
  7. Romantic economics.
  8. They were Tory.

~1. Milbank says they focused more on the formation of associations than agitating for political change.

~2. Not necessarily.  They aimed to keep capital within the association itself.

~3. It’s not that they hated democracy, but that they knew the uneducated can be easily manipulated.

~4. Their emphasis on the land was a redistribution of land.  Further, they claimed that the association of industrialization with socialism was not natural, either.  They were medieval in the sense of desiring medieval “positivity.” There must be a common will to counteract individualism.

Milbank posits socialism as a mode of knowledge. “Revelation is always revelation of a social order, because social relationship is the most fundamental kind of knowledge” (1680).

What would be Milbank’s Goal?

  • turn all people into owners and joint-owners (loc 200).
  • we must think of “social relations of production, in which relations and production are truly inseparable” (2229).
  • “We need once again to form systematic links between producer and consumer co-operatives and we need to see an emergence of cooperative banking, social credit unions, trade guilds, and voluntary economic courts” (5210).

the Body by Love Possessed: Christianity and Late capitalism in Britain

“For Coleridge there is always a linguistic exchange that is counter-poised to, and perhaps more fundamental than, the economic exchange, and the first exchange has its ground and fulfillment in Christ, the communicative logos itself (1849).

Smith and the Thomist Tradition

Smith’s “natural” = three sources of wealth: land, labour, capital.

Aquinas: Adam “originally possessed dominium because he could name things through language” (1882).  There is an ontological connection between the individual to nature via the dominium.  Aquinas refused, however, to identify right and effective ownership.  Milbank says this would have been nominalist.

Marx: “assumptions about the natural sources of profit made by the political economists only echo assumptions which are really made within capitalist practice, and which sustain that practice in being” (1909).

Even if Marx’s theory of value ultimately fails to deliver, it can shine a light on alternative deviations. Accordingly, such a light shows the liberal tradition as voluntarist.  

Neo-Liberalism and De-Industrialization

Marx, unlike Hegel, does not see “objectivicatio” as necessarily alienating; instead what is necessarily alienating for Marx is tropical exchange and abstract universalizing” (2318).
On Baseless Suspicion: Christianity and the Crisis of Socialism

Capitalism as false knowledge: self interest now moderates self interest without the intervention of virtue, “and [it] secured public order without the architectonic of justice” (2583).  

Foucault’s analytic of finitude: a historicism in which it is supposed that one can somehow round upon the finitude and ‘represent’ the human subject in terms of its supposed intrinsic limits as what truly underlies history and paradoxically permits a continuing development” (2668).  People define and reduce humanity to one prior “basic.”

  • Marx: economic needs
  • Freud: Oedipal desires.
  • Heidegger: Being-towards-Death (Sein-zum-Tode)

Contra Deleuze:

Theology and Social Theory: Responses to Responses

metanarratives: Christianity is an anti-metanarrative since it posits the arrival of a community of reconciliation and an end to fateful logics (2995).  It is a Platonic vision of the “Good” as “precisely the harmonious fitting in of all roles and options” (3177).

On Theological Transgression: The Theological Virtues

Can someone who rejects all metaphysics as ontotheology finally avoid a nihilism?  Postmodernism errs in seeing the universal as nothing, and if nothing, then death. If not content can ultimately be justified (in terms of a universal), “a ceaseless variety of content is simply tolerated or permitted according to the formal rules of an agonistic game originally played to the advantage of certain identifiable players” (3330).  Any newness will be construed as a violence from the outside.

The Invocation of Clio

Milbank favors a form of “wild Anglo-Celtic empiricism of Bede et al” (3771).

mythos: stories of the rule of fate.  Ultimately problematic as it always generates new stories of peace to undo the older ones. “It is a tale of eternal fatality.”

Fairy tale: tale of personal creation of interpersonal redemption (3992).

Kant and the Angels

“The existence of immaterial spirits who are not God counterfactually ensures that the Creator is more than the spiritual real; the latter, too, can be created. Equally, though, angelology counterfactually underwrites the distinction of metaphysics from physics…

We have a tendency to view the “beyond” as an experience of God.  But this leads us to think that God is our experience of him. But for pre-Kantians, our apprehension of the beyond “under multiple aspects could be correlated with the conjecturing of a multiple spirit world…and of other ‘presences,’ of more subtle body, within our own physical world (4049).

I think Milbank means that for Kant, it was either the world (phenomena) or God (noumena).  Angelology breaks this dichotomy. Another tool against Kant is the Platonic metaxu that lures knowledge forward to know what it already knows but does not yet know (4060).

Logos must always reach after logos, per Meno.  “Since the lure of truth is the doxa only of truth–the lure is a continent gift.”

Did Milbank commit the genetic fallacy in TST?  Did he say x is wrong because of its pedigree?  Not exactly. He notes “since diachrony is also real, and even, to a degree, prevailing, all meaning and all action involve genealogy” (3868).

Charity as Political economy

medieval charity meant “forging the bonds of mutuality between donor and recipient.”  It was a “state of relation [primarily], not a deed” (4209). It was an exchange. In fact, it was “ontological, reciprocal, and festive in a way that ours is not” (4241).

problem with consequentialist ethics:  at what arbitrary point do we cut off the causal chain of actions to define a ‘consequence’ that should be assessed? Who is legitimately a recipient of a consequential benefit and when, rather than an ethical actor looking to benefit others under a consequentialist imperative” (4225)?

Further, surplus value means lower prices, which means lower-paid workers (who soon can’t afford the goods)

Political Theology today

Sovereignty, Empire, Capital, and Terror

The unity of the modern republic is inherently connected with the accumulation of capital.  It’s only interest is its own interests and wealth and freedom. As such it can’t mediate with “the other” (4741).

Virtue is the middle realm between polis and oikos.

Theology and Pluralism

here Milbank takes up problems with the university.

The End of Dialogue

Milbank has some fun critiques of pluralism.  Most adherents to religious pluralism ironically assume confidence in a timeless “logos enjoying time-transcending encounters with an unchanging reality” (5701).  In other words, they are assuming the Western discourse.

Milbank asserts that linking fashionable causes like ecology and feminism to religious pluralism actually undercuts the former.  Religious pluralism moves towards a liberal market and liberal politics, which mitigate against ecology, at least.

The Conflict of Faculties

The Enlightenment “Free inquiry” project is itself prey to internal, agonistic forces.

Nihilism is not the negative doubting of God but the positive affirmation of the void, and the capacity of that void to generate the appearance of something solid–for all that this appearance, if it arises from nothing, must be without ontological remainder, and must at every instant vanish (6197).  Mere objects do not disclose their origins

Faith, Reason, and Imagination

Different theories of knowledge

representation/correspondence: Because God is simple, the intellect cannot follow, even metaphysically, upon being.

Theopolitical Agendas

A Short Summa in 42 Responses to Unasked Questions

Suspending the material

“A reality suspended between nothing and infinity is a reality of flux, a reality in the end without substance, composed of relational differences and ceaseless alterations (Augustine, De Musica)…For nihilism, the flux is a medium of perpetual conflict, a pagan agon where the most powerful rhetoric will temporarily triumph, only to succumb to an apparently or effectively more powerful discourse in the future (6887,6894 ).

When there is a positing of a sacred against a chaotic other, then the sacred can be deconstructed.  There is something more ultimate than both chaos and the sacred because it governs the passage between them.  “Is not this passage itself chaotic?”


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