Bruce McCormack’s TF Torrance Lectures – Lecture 4

Steve Holmes has posted his fourth reflection of McCormack’s recent TF Torrance lectures at St Andrews. He writes of Bruce’s proposal:

Let me approach it like this: it is a standard thesis of classical theology that God’s being is His act; further, God’s act is single, and simple. This is, of course, already a problem, at least if one wants to continue to maintain that God’s existence is independent of the created order: St Thomas devotes considerable ingenuity to explaining how God’s act of creation can happen without any change in God (1a q.45 arts 2 &3). When Barth brings the doctrine of election into the doctrine of God (it is treated in the second part-volume of vol. II, not the first of vol. III), and links election closely to incarnation, the problem becomes acute. However, the gains of Barth’s novel doctrine of election are sufficiently obvious that almost every serious (Protestant) theological proposal of the second half of the twentieth century chose to face the problems, rather than lose the gains.

In general, and in one way or another, the problems were eliminated in the later twentieth century by the simple expedient of losing the axiom of impassibility, properly understood: if God’s life is allowed to be dependent on creation, there is no problem. The single greatest merit of Bruce’s proposal, it seems to me, is that he is not prepared to play this game. Instead, he develops a novel account of kenosis.

Read the full post here. I have linked to all of Steve’s notes here, and I hope to post my notes from these lectures sometime soon.

Also, around the traps …

  • Locke and Mill both believed in being open to the other side’s ideas. Read here.
  • Andy and Jim (part 1; part 2) have both posted reviews on Rob Warner’s, Re-inventing English Evangelicalism 1966-2001: A Theological and Sociological Study
  • Barry Smith of Birkbeck College London gives a lucid account of Wittgenstein’s conception of Philosophy in this MP3.
  • Stanley Fish asks, ‘Will the humanities save us?’. He concludes:

Teachers of literature and philosophy are competent in a subject, not in a ministry. It is not the business of the humanities to save us, no more than it is their business to bring revenue to a state or a university. What then do they do? They don’t do anything, if by “do” is meant bring about effects in the world. And if they don’t bring about effects in the world they cannot be justified except in relation to the pleasure they give to those who enjoy them.

    To the question “of what use are the humanities?”, the only honest answer is none whatsoever. And it is an answer that brings honor to its subject. Justification, after all, confers value on an activity from a perspective outside its performance. An activity that cannot be justified is an activity that refuses to regard itself as instrumental to some larger good. The humanities are their own good. There is nothing more to say, and anything that is said … diminishes the object of its supposed praise.


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