Baruch Spinoza

Harrisville and Sundberg, in “Baruch Spinoza: The Emergence of Rationalist Biblical Criticism,” outline the momentous changes brought about in the development of Rationalist Biblical Criticism, namely the historical criticism employed by Spinoza in the mid 17th century.

From the outworking of the Reformation came the expectation, saddled on common readers of scripture, to interpret and discern the truth of scripture so as to snap out of the unquestioned superstitions of Medieval Catholicism. This proved difficult to most people without the tethers of the Clergy to guide them. As a result, the humanist concern with the temporal significance of political governance became a manner in which earthly existence gained greater import.

Spinoza typified this approach; his colored company of cosmopolitan and capitalist cohorts revealed his own aims to articulate a theory on liberal democracy and modern biblical criticism. Spinoza believed that much of Jewish and Christian religion comprised superstition and dogma and only by submitting scriptural text to the employs of reason and historical analysis could one free truth as contained in the true virtues of obedience to God in justice and charity.

Essential identities in Philosophy and Theology

My background is in philosophy (full disclosure) but I’ve only begun to read and engage with non-reductive materialism and radical orthodoxy. I found your paper captured many of my intuitions about the relationship herein.

Where I would disagree with Milbank, and in fact a host of continental philosophers is that all is philosophy, even the narrowest of medieval Christian orthodoxy is philosophy. Theology is thought, neither more scared nor profane than continental thought. Radical theology has to buy what it is selling and move away from such preoccupations with identity. If all the categorizations of the world are subject to sacramental participation then why distinguish, John, between the Queen and her magistrate philosophy? It seems RO’s totalizing view is not internally consistent.

But philosophy cannot deny its place of birth either. For instance, as much as I wish my birth certificate says I was born in Vancouver (speaking of vain identity ;/), it simply does not reflect my wish. It’s an empirical fact; I was born in New Westminster. So western philosophy must come to grips with it’s humble origins and recognize it’s teleological baggage, western philosophy originated from a babe in a manger.

I think where RO goes sideways and jeopardizes affordance of any self-respect is in the neglect of epistemological skepticism. Why and how one can make such ontological pronouncements as they do, I’ll never know.

I have no problem with RO absorbing the world in its vision (we all do it!), IF the vision were not only of the lamb. The Lion is not in the picture. The ‘history’ and ‘conflict’ as you say Marika, is not invited into this vision. And that’s a shame because ultimately it can only be a fundamentally flawed vision of reality; it is empirically deficient. RO is not robust enough to receive the materialist critique. Rather than confront the unsettling, RO turns it aside as “nihilism”, which sells nihilism short BTW!

Just a few fragmentary thoughts, thanks!