Saturday, 11 December 2010

God, metaphysics and morals

In a recent post on Gerald McKenny's latest book on Barth's moral theology I discussed his handling of the 'primordial ethical question' of how human action relates to God's grace. That book proposes a very interesting argument about analogy and continues to fuel my thinking on the subject - something to which I hope to return in blog form in coming days. It is a major question for protestant theology, and moral theology in particular. Barth proves to be an interesting dialogue partner for this discussion. I have recently heard good things about this new volume by Mattew Rose, Ethics With Barth: God, Metaphysics and Morals (Ashgate, 2010). From what I've heard, the author develops an account of Barth's moral theology that argues that his work is best understood along Catholic lines - with nature not as the epitomy of all that opposes grace, but as it fulfilment. This locates nature in the grand narrative of God's gracious dealing with creation, and thus means that, for Barth, the human agent's conformity and obedience to nature is correspondence with divine grace.

There are no doubt good reasons why a Reformed theologian might sit uncomfortably with this appraoch, not least if that theologian is trained in the Barthian tradition (Nein!). I haven't yet read the book to assess the quality of the argument, but I am expecting it in the mail soon enough (I have agreed to review it for The Evangelical Quarterly). I am really interested to see what Rose does with Barth in order to make his case. Certainly some of my own work recently on the Muenster Ethics would concur with the view that obedience to God's command is equivalent to fulfilment of our own humanity, but I have so far understood this along the reformed lines offered by Paul Nimmo - so I'm excited about the Catholic persepctive Rose offers. I will report further in due course.

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