Theology Without Metaphysics

Is a book being discussed over on First Things. The premise, from the Amazon summary:

One of the central arguments of post-metaphysical theology is that language is inherently ‘metaphysical’ and consequently that it shoehorns objects into predetermined categories. Because God is beyond such categories, it follows that language cannot apply to God.

Thus, after 2 sentences, the book ends.


Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

6 thoughts on “Theology Without Metaphysics”

  1. Can’t expect too much self-awareness, the author’s an academic theologian! Makes one despair of there ever being another apophatic theologian of the caliber of Dionysius the Areopagite.

  2. I hate to ruin a good joke–especially a self-congratulatory one!–but the sentence following the ones you quote indicate that the book DOESN’t ENDORSE these arguments. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. The summary’s third sentence reads as follows: “Drawing on recent work in theology and philosophy of language, Kevin Hector develops an alternative account of language and its relation to God, demonstrating that one need not choose between fitting God into a metaphysical framework, on the one hand, and keeping God at a distance from language, on the other.” The whole point of the book, accordingly, is to call the quoted arguments into question. Professor Leithart, at least, seems to understand this.

    1. Thanks for understanding that this post was intended as a joke.

      The more serious matter: isn’t ANY book titled “_fill_in_the_blank Without Metaphysics” already a joke of sorts? For, if I write a book, using words with which I hope to convey meaning to another human being, am I not already embracing a rather full-featured metaphysics? A quite Aristotelian one in which books, people, ideas and communication are inescapably necessary? Isn’t the problem here a gross misunderstanding of what metaphysics IS?

      My argument is most likely not with you, who are in all probability an heir, but rather with philosophy over the last few centuries which strives to make the simple difficult and the complex incomprehensible.

  3. There are good reasons for disagreeing with my book’s argument, but this isn’t one of them. As you’re undoubtedly aware, the term “metaphysics” means more than one thing, and I clearly indicate–beginning on the book’s second page–which of these I am (and am not) trying to do without. I therefore grant, on page three, that what I’m proposing could also be considered a sort of metaphysics (in other relevant senses of that term), for I do defend claims about what’s true, about the way certain fundamental world-structures hang together, etc. I am fully aware, then, of objections such as yours, and I explicitly address them right at the outset. All that is to say, it’s not clear how my book could be thought liable to the accusation of “gross[ly] misunderstanding…what metaphysics IS,” nor of exhibiting any sort of “cluelessness.”

    You are right about one thing: your argument is certainly not with me.

  4. My apologies – I have not read your book, and am offering no criticism of the arguments you make in it, because I don’t know them. Congratulations on its publication. My entire commentary has been on the title and the first 2 sentences of the Amazon summary.

    I am glad my argument is not with you. In this humble blog, which is nothing more than the ramblings of an amateur philosopher, I tend to go after current ideas that bug me. One idea that drives me nuts is the idea that metaphysics is some sort of mysticism, both arbitrary and unimportant. One hears scientists all the time talk about how they don’t need no stinkin’ metaphysics – drives me crazy. But you are not doing that here, even though I think perhaps we can agree that a naive reading of the title of the book suggests you are? At least, to me it did.

  5. Thanks for this gracious response. I actually agree with you about certain prevailing attitudes toward (and assumptions about) metaphysics. I can see how the title “Theology without Metaphysics” might seem to exemplify those attitudes and assumptions, and, therefore, why you responded as you did. (A less charming, but more accurate, title would be “Theology without ‘Metaphysics,’ in one sense of that term, to be specified in Chapter 1”.) Hopefully I have now clarified my own attitude toward these attitudes & assumptions, and, in consequence, the extent of our agreement..

    Thanks again.

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