Friday, October 22, 2010

Betz on Christianity vs. Platonism

John Betz has a two-part piece on the analogy of being that appeared in the journal Modern Theology. It mind-blowing. Here’s a snippet. I've included his own footnotes here:

In response to postmodern attempts to deconstruct theology on this basis, one might begin by pointing out that Christianity is not coterminous with Platonism (i.e., any stable economy of representation), whatever similarities there may be; that, unlike Platonism, it does not fear the sublime ocean of the infinite (apeirōn), but subverts Platonism’s metaphysical categories in order to speak of God’s infinite beauty (as David Hart, following Gregory of Nyssa, has recently argued).[1] In addition, given that much of the debate between Christianity and “post”-modernity comes down to what one under- stands by freedom, one must reaffirm that for Christianity—however unintelligible this may be to those outside of the Church—it is precisely obedience to love that leads to freedom,[2] even to ecstasy—admittedly, not the ecstasy of Dionysian frenzy, which is the terminus ad quem of postmodern autonomy (though postmodernism claims to have no teleology), but rather the ecstasy, beyond all violence, of loving union with God.

--John Betz, “Beyond the Sublime: The Aesthetics of the Analogy of Being (Part 1),” Modern Theology 21/3 (2005): 373–374 [367–411].



[1] The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 104ff.

[2] Such freedom does not mean “choice”, i.e., “freedom” to enact one’s will, whatever it may hold in store at the given moment and however corrupt it may be, but freedom precisely from sin (cf. John 8:34)—that true freedom that Evagrius calls apatheia and whose daughter is love. In other words, Christian freedom (unlike modern freedom) means freedom from sin, from the passions, so that one is free to love—anything less than this is someform of slavery, which operates under the illusion of freedom.

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