Category Archives: Theology

Nate Kerr’s Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission

Nate Kerr’s Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission is now out in the U.S. through Cascade Books.  Ben Myers has posted an except on his Faith and Theology blog of chapter 5 bearing the title, “John Howard Yoder: The Singularity of Jesus and the Apocalypticization of History.” Those outside of the U.S. will need to buy the book here in the Centre of Theology and Philosophy’s Veritas series published by SCM Press, which will be out very soon.

This January on the Church and Postmodern Culture blog, we hope to have a symposium on Nate’s book.  More on that later as we are still working out people to engage the book!

Grandeur of Reason round-up

Some excellent reports and reflections:

Reflections and a report on the Grandeur of Reason conference

Grandeur of ReasonLast Thursday was the last day of the four-day Grandeur of Reason conference.  [Immediately after returning from the conference my wife and I took a bus down to London to visit a very good friend and I’ll have a separate post on that with pictures later…all of which is why I am only now blogging this.]  I attended with many of the University of Nottingham crew along with a total of over 250 attendees–180 of whom also presented papers.  It was a very, very full conference, and I was definitely put to work.  Unfortunately, there were some papers I was not able to attend that I really wanted to see, but that is what happens in a large conference such as this I suppose.  I’ll attempt to go over some anecdotal highlights of the trip for myself.  I’m looking forward to other blog reports from other perspectives!

I met the rest of the students from the University of Nottingham, including Andrew Thomas (lives in Norway) and Chris Hackett who is now studying at the University of Virginia, not to mention Philip Gorski and Thomas Lynch who is finishing up his MA.

Also, I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Tyson whose PhD adviser wrote a bookback in 1994 which is basically very similar to my own proposed research thesis.  Thing is, I didn’t know about this similarity until a few months after I had already been accepted to the University of Nottingham. I had seen a footnote that Paul gave to his adviser’s book in the recently-released Belief and Metaphysics volume (see p. 412).  Paul had some very encouraging words to say regarding that, and he was a great conversation partner.  I hope to talk to him more and read more of his work.

I had this conversation with Paul on the way to St. Peter’s cathedral on the Sunday before the conference started.  I don’t think I quite realized where we were going because within 90 minutes of arriving in Rome I was standing in front of an amazing sight:

We didn’t have a chance to walk around inside the cathedral because we had to head off to a late lunch and head back to the conference hotel to finish up putting together the packets of information for each delegate.

When the panels started the next morning at 9:00am, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the papers at this conference were top-notch.  Rarely did I hear a paper that disappointed, and most also invited good discussion. The first plenary on Monday evening consisted of a session arranged by Conor of three of his former professors: James Williams, Cyril O’Regan, and Graham Ward.  Of the three, I was really only familiar with the topic of Graham’s paper on ‘Hegel and  the Messianic’ considering my MA thesis was half on Hegel.  I want to be sure and follow up with him about as I am curious to see where his paper was intending to go–he was not able to finish the full implications of the direction of his thought due to time restraints.

The next morning I heard a very interesting panel which consisted of a paper entitled ‘If’ by Darrell Lackey (the only other former resident of central California in addition to myself at the conference); a paper on ‘A NonMisologist Platonism’ and the director Pasolini by Jones Irwin; and a paper by Cornelius Simut on the thought of Edward Schillebeeckx.  It was a surprisingl good panel.  Darrell had never presented a paper at a conference like this before and I would say he performed rather well, and his pastoral perspective was especially welcome.  Jones Irwin’s paper was extremely intriguing regarding the work of Pasolini, and moreover, it was a surprisingly hospitable paper in regards to the conference topic (Tony Baker–the chair of that panel–and I were talking afterwards and definitely wanted to find out more about Pasolini).  Cornelius Simut’s paper on Schillebeeckx was, for me, a helpful and bizarre introduction to the thought of Schillebeeckx.  It was helpful because Simut’s paper was focused on little-known interviews with Schillebeeckx and it was bizarre primarily because of what Schillebeeckx actually believes.  I’m probably the last to know this, but basically, Simut made the comment a couple of times that he was suprised that Hans Kung got censored (or whatever the official word is) but that Schillebeeckx did not, especially considering that Kung is far less radical than Schillebeeckx.

After lunch I was to present a paper with probably a few too many “and”‘s in the title: “The Grandeur and Disenchantment of Reason: Universalism and Irony in Hegel and Kierkegaard.”  The other students in the panel in which I was a part during the Tuesday afternoon student session were of high quality and the question and answer sessions after each were well-informed and lively.  I would have liked to have attended the other Nottingham student papers, but they were all scheduled during the same time slot. After my paper people asked me how it went and all I could really say was, “people tell me it went well.”  I got good questions and people complimented my paper but I honestly still feel like I can’t produce a real opinion on my performance just yet.  So I think it went okay!?

Later that evening was the second plenary with François Laruelle, Michele Lenoci, and Dustin McWherter.  Quentin Meillassoux was actually supposed to be presenting on that panel as well but just a few days before the conference–and after the programmes were printed–his father-in-law passed away and so he could not attend.  I confess a nearly complete ignorance with the thought of these thinkers, so I will just post one picture for now of Laruelle (more later, probably in a post here).

The next morning began with a visit to the Vatican.  Here is Graham Ward (back of his head), John Milbank, and Stanley Hauerwas standing in line:

We were standing in line to see Pope Benedict XVI give an address.  And here he is:

I forget how large the audience was here, but I think it was something slightly below 10,000 people.  Groups from around the world were introduced (“pilgrims from Nigeria…”, etc.), greeting Benedict with songs, flag-waving, cheers, and even brief musical numbers.  And, despite the silly outfits of the Swiss guards (see above), it was a celebratory occasion: the catholicity in the room was apparent.  The pope spoke in maybe 6 different languages, greeting different peoples and giving a brief homily of sorts.  Afterwards, Stanley Hauerwas and John Milbank personally greeted the pope and gave him a painting painted by Conor Cunningham’s sister, Sara Cunningham-Bell.

The remainder of Wednesday and Thursday consisted of non-stop panels.  The first one after the Vatican visit was a plenary session with Oliver O’Donovan, Stanley Hauerwas, and John Milbank (chair: Graham Ward).  As was to be expected, it was a varied and lively session:

As well as a session with Daniel M. Bell, Stephen Long, and Michael Budde (chair: Hauerwas…and apologies for the bad white balance on this one):

Thursday was jam-packed with sessions including a session on the three recently-released books in the INTERVENTIONS series of books published by Eerdmans.  The volumes on Naturalism, Žižek, and Heidegger were represented by Charles Taliaferro and Stewart Goetz (pictured far left), Marcus Pound (pictured 3rd from left), and Sean McGrath (pictured far right), respectively, with Pete Candler and Conor Cunningham (pictured 4th and 5th from left) both chairing the session as well as representing themselves as the editors of the series:

The final plenary session was with Giorgio Agamben who spoke on the topics of his recent research on oikonomia and glory in Il Regno e la Gloria (helpful chapter-by-chapter notes can be found here on this work still not translated into English):

I’m still pretty tired from the conference, and there was a frickin’ ton of papers, so much of the sessions are a bit of a blur.  But, despite all the lack of sleep, and despite the fact that it would have been better if all of the attendees could have stayed in one place instead of scattered throughout different hotels/seminaries–I would say it was overall a good conference.  It was especially nice to see friends that I do not see very often such as Craig Keen and many of his former students, as well as the friends I have continued to stay in touch with since Granada in 2006 and the AAR in San Diego last year.  It was also a pleasure to finally meet both the Archbishop of Granada whom I had not met when we were in Granada back then, as well as Dave Belcher–whose paper was quite beautiful (and who I somehow missed meeting at a conference that my pastor organized back in January 2007).

Every night we were up late till 3 or 4am and up again by 9am for the sessions, so while I am sleeping until term starts for me on the 22nd of this month, I look forward to hearing reflections from others who have blogs or who would care to add anything in the comments section below (and unfortunately I just read that Ben Myers got sick, so I am not sure how much of the conference he was able to attend).

As a final note, we plan on posting more pictures (in full resolution), videos of the plenaries + Q&A sessions for each, etc. online sometime soon, so stay tuned here or here for that.

Programmes

The programmes for the Grandeur of Reason conference have been printed as of yesterday.  I have to continue writing my paper so that page 10 won’t be tellin’ lies.  More later!

The Return of Metaphysics

If you attended the Radical Orthodoxy and Process Theology panel at the 2007 AAR in San Diego, one of the interesting commonalities between the two sensibilities was an embrace of a return to metaphysics.  In 2006, the Centre of Theology and Philosophy hosted a conference called ‘Belief and Metaphysics’ (CoTP report here) around this issue (although not related to process) and subsequently published a collection of essays from the conference by the same title.

At this year’s AAR in Chicago, Nate Kerr is moderating a panel on the recently-released Belief and Metaphysics volume in the Veritas series entitled “The Return of Metaphysics: A dialogue on the occasion of the publication of Belief and Metaphysics.”  The panel is graciously sponsored by SCM PressVeritas Series and The Centre of Theology and PhilosophyClick on the poster above to see the larger version which lists all the details for the event, including the list of panelists.  If you received your AAR book in the mail this past week, you will also find these details listed on page 151. It looks to be a pretty exciting panel!

Regrettably, chances are very likely that I will not be able to attend the AAR this year because of our upcoming move to Nottingham in the fall.  We have a bit too much going on and not enough money to fly everywhere and attend everything.  However, I will be going to and presenting at this, which will be much easier to get to from Nottingham.  Still, if you can make it to the AAR, I highly encourage attendance at this this panel.  It looks to be quite interesting and a lot of fun with a good diverse response to the book.  The book itself is very diverse so we’ll see what happens!

Absolute and the Divine

The absolute paradox would be if the Son of God became man, came to the world, went around in such a manner that absolutely no one recognized him; if he became an individual human being in the strictest sense of the world, a person who had a trade, got married, etc. . . . In that case God would not have been God and Father of mankind, but the greatest ironist. . . . The divine paradox is that he becomes noticed, if in no other fashion, then by being crucified, by performing miracles, etc., which means that he is recognizable, after all, by his divine authority, even if faith is required in order to solve its paradox.[1]


[1] From Kierkegaard’s journals as quoted in Garff, Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography, p. 265, emphasis mine.  C.f. Kierkegaard, Point of View, p. 16.

When I first read this, I missed the difference between absolute and divine. Wow. If this is a real difference, and I think it is, this is an extremely illuminating passage from Kierkegaard’s journals. I only wish that there were better citations in Garff’s biography so that I could find this passage easier for the full context. Although journals are often fragmentary, so maybe there is not much more (?).  Those are Garff’s ellipses above though, not mine, so I dunno.

“Kierkegaard” and the collapsing of ironic distance?

In an article, Kierkegaard says that if the second edition of Practice in Christianity were being published for the first time, it would not

have been by a pseudonym, but by myself . . . Earlier, my idea had been that if the established order could be defended, this was the only way of doing so: by poetically (therefore, by a pseudonym) passing judgment upon it. . . . Now, on the other hand, I am completely convinced of two things: both that, from a Christian point of view, the established order is untenable and that every day it exists is, from the Christian point of view, a crime; and that one may not call upon grace in this manner.  Therefore, take the pseudonymity away; take away the thrice-repeated preface and the ‘Moral’ to the first section—then, from a Christian point of view, Practice in Christianity is an attack on the established order (As quoted in Joakim Garff, Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography, trans. Bruce H. Kirmmse [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005], p. 751, emphasis mine).

Nonetheless, prior to this, Kierkegaard appended an unpaginated “A First and Last Declaration” to the end of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments–where he ‘outs’ himself as the author behind the pseudonyms–which contains the request, “If it should occur to anyone to want to quote a particular passage from the [pseudonymous] books, it is my wish, my prayer, that he will do me the kindness of citing the respective pseudonymous author’s name, not mine.”

However, as Garff points out, when Practice in Christianity was originally sent to press, it was veronymously written by Kierkegaard.  It was only at the last minute that Kierkegaard changed the authorship to Anti-Climacus, “because Kierkegaard’s own ‘existence’ did not live up to the radical Christian requirements in the work” (p. 630-2).  As Garff points out, this change was fueled more but personal concerns regarding Kierkegaard and not maieutic considerations concerning the reader.

Even if Kierkegaard wants us to now read Practice in Christianity with the pseudonymity ‘taken away’, ultimately, Anti-Climacus’ point remains concerning indirect communication in the section on the “Categories of Offense.”  If we take Anti-Climacus off the title page and replace it with the original “S. Kierkegaard,” the case holds that we are still receiving a communication from an indirect communicator—the God-man.  Kierkegaard had exhausted—in fact literally and ironically emptied—the tool of pseudonymity of its usefulness.  Garff also states that toward the end, “Kierkegaard continually adjusted his [pseudonymous] writings so that they corresponded as precisely as possible to his own position.”  As Kierkegaard stated in the conclusion to his dissertation, “Irony as the negative is the way; it is not the truth but the way.”

[This has been adapted from part of my in-progress MA thesis.]

Where is my mind?

Well, obviously, I wasn’t able to make it to the theological symposium on the Analogia Entis.  In being buried underneath thesis work, I kind of forgot about it, which is probably for the best.  It’s starting today and goes to Sunday.  Anyway, aside from Joel Garver, did anybody else go?  I’d love to hear a report.

For those that actually hop over to my blog to read (and not just RSS), I’ve updated a few things.  I had to tweak the current theme to put the ‘pages’ back into the header (about me, papers, thesis reading books, etc.).  I also added a few feeds in the sidebar: one to my dorky Facebook status updates, and one to my Tumblr blog of things I’ve been reading/watching lately.

Music-wise, I’ve been dipping back into my CD collection and listening to things that I haven’t listened to in quite some time to help keep me stimulated during the writing process:

  • Squarepusher – Big Loada
  • Alice in Chains – Unplugged (probably one of my favorite albums of all time, actually.  where were you?!)
  • VNV Nation – Matter + Form (hands-down my favorite VNVN album but for some reason it fell out of my usual rotation.)
  • Mayfairgrin – Equine Noir: The Ambient Selections (probably my favorite moody ambient album ever.  you can hop over to my last.fm page and see how many times I’ve listened to this gem in the past few years.)
  • 30 Seconds to Mars – A Beautiful Lie (now, I understand why a lot of people don’t like this band as it is one of the quintessential emo rock bands, but I absolutely love this album and really think Jared Leto’s voice is awesome.  I usually play this on repeat after 11pm when things start to drag for me during paper writing.)
  • Nirvana – Nevermind and In Utero (just classic 90’s fun)
  • Apoptygma Berzerk – Welcome to Earth and Harmonizer (still not a fan of their stuff post-Harmonizer though… )

Of all the April Fool’s gags I saw online, this one was probably my favorite: World of Warcraft: Molten Core.

I recently got new glasses.  The last time I got a pair of  corrective lenses was my freshman year of highschool.  I had contacts for a while after that and used them for a while but got lazy.  I can now see road signs!

Minimal update: I fixed a grip of typos in this post… I was up till 4am last night so I am a bit out of it.

Judging a Cover by Its Book

I am no stranger to book covers. Having designed the covers in two book series, this has sparked some fun discussions with my friend Kaz over the evolution of cover design, especially in theology and philosophy books.

Most book covers until recent times have been about careful text placement on usually a single-color background. To illustrate just a few examples, see, for instance, the bright red cover to the Krell-edited Basic Writings of Heidegger; the simple large text upon white of Charles Taylor’s Hegel and Modern Society; the original cover to Hauerwas’ The Peaceable Kingdom, which ups the ante a bit by applying a radial orange-yellow gradient; the highly recognizeable two-tone covers of Princeton’s Kierkegaard Writings series with SK’s portrait at the two-tone intersection. And from here, more multi-tone and pictures are introduced so that there really does not seem to be much of a limit in design any longer, outside of the usual printing costs.

Enter Continuum Press, namely, their Continuum Impacts series. These are reprints of well-known philosophical texts that have already established themselves in the history of philosophy, most of them being within the wider contintental tradition, with plenty of exceptions, theological and otherwise (Erasmus and Luther on Free Will, Barth, Schillebeeckx, Gandhi, et. al.). To see a slapdash view of all of the covers in this series, click here (after quickly extracting all the ISBN’s, I whipped up a short PHP script to display all the books in the series).

I’m curious, what do you think about the covers in this series? What say you?!

Update: Anthony has alerted me to a post he wrote three years ago on the same subject, with funny and appropriate commentary worth checking out.

The Grandeur of Reason: Religion, Tradition and Universalism

This is the upcoming Centre of Theology and Philosophy conference called The Grandeur of Reason: Religion, Tradition and Universalism. I’ve put in a lot of work into making this conference page so let me know what you think! (special nod to Mootools for creating such a nice javascript framework!)

Also, if you’re interested in attending, we are now accepting reservations for the conference as well as paper abstracts for panels. All the information you need is on the site.

Discussion on Jonah Goldberg’s Book

There is a good discussion going on between Dan and Dr. Craig Carter on Carter’s blog (although it seems to have stopped by now).  It concerns Jonah Goldberg’s book called Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.  Be sure to read the whole discussion.

Like Dan, I was a bit baffled that Carter, in light of the fact that he has written rather approvingly on John Howard Yoder, would find so much to affirm in Goldberg, especially considering that Goldberg has been an apologetic neo-conservative and a shill for the Republican party for some time now.  He is able to be ‘Augustinian’ enough to discover Goldberg’s own Augustinian distrust of humanity as well as being able to plunder the good amongst the ridiculous in Goldberg, but is seemingly unable to do the same when it comes to the Marxist critique, which Dan very helpfully points out.

Additionally, I also agree with Dan’s Augustinian emphasis on worship (which I think can also work in conjunction and exchange with desire) over the other ‘fundamental’  causes of history that they mention.  To lean too much toward family as Carter does neglects the words of Jesus that tell us that we may need to forsake parent-child relationships in service of the Kingdom as well as Paul’s words about celibacy.  In other words, Carter seems to implicitly reject monasticism (or at least doesn’t consider it) as a reality that has been with us as a strong witness throughout most of the Christian Church.

Interview with Marcus Pound

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My friends over at The Other Journal have just posted an interview with Marcus Pound, recent author of Theology, Psychoanalysis and Trauma in the Veritas series.  Knowing Marcus from a few conversations at various conferences (and enjoying his ability to rock out on some folk songs), his responses are as lively and enlightening as he is in person.

Books Read in Fall ’07

As my good friend Rusty is wont to do, here is my list of books reading during this last semester. Not all of these were read for class, but most were either assigned reading or read for papers. Some of these books were read over the Christmas break, making this more of Fall ’07 semester through yesterday reading list. This is, of course, in addition to a big handful of related journal articles to these topics. The only books not listed (because I did not have time to read them in full, but of which considerable sections were read) were a couple works by Graham Priest, notably In Contradiction: A Study of the Transconsistent, and An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic, not to mention Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, which I am still working through.

“Any sane economy has to rest in an exchange of gifts

Well this is rather cool. In my post below on the Gift ‘vs.’ Economy, I suggested that a way forward would be toward some form of distributivism, linking to John Médaille’s book in the process, called The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace. Yesterday, I copy-and-pasted that post into a post over on the Church & Pomo blog, and John Médaille actually showed up and offered his comments! Turns out he has what looks to be a rather interesting group blog as well.

Pete Candler on the final books of Augustine’s Confessions

In the spirit of my earlier post here, Pete Candler says it much better:

Memory is, for Augustine, ultimately a questin of desire, of the right intentio or affection towards that which one remembers. The well-trained memory is one in which good use is made of the “things” in one’s memory. “A character,” he says, “is only to be praised for loving passionately when what it loves deserves to be passionately loved.” He describes the threefold character of disposition, learning and practice (usus) which correspond to the threefold division of memory, understanding and will (which further corresponds to the three rhetorical functions: delighting, teaching, moving). As is typical in his treatment in De Trinitate, the third term is a combination of the first two. Thus the practice of a person’s memory, or its “use,” consists in the “use the will now makes of what the memory and understanding hold, whether it refers them to something else or whether it takes delight in them as ends in themselves.” Therefore, to remember well is to will rightly, to have the proper kind of learned disposition towards that which one remembers [pp. 61-2].

And then, with this in mind, Pete says a couple of pages later:

What follows, then, in the remaining three books of the Confessions, is no mere afterthought, as some have argued. Instead, from what we have seen so far, we are in a position now to understand Books IX-XIII as the actual activity of the memory doing its work, as the plumbing of its unfathomable and mysterious depths. Yet the locus of this activity is not only the individual mind, but the collective memory of the church. The content of that recollection is not the boyhood adventures of Augustine; it is rather the story of God’s way with the world. Thus he begins Book XI with a retelling of the account of creation in Genesis, and concludes in Book XIII with a discussion of the eternal Sabbath. That is to say, Augustine now formally situates his own personal narrative within a larger story, that which the church tells — moreover, that story in whose telling and performing the church is itself enacted [pp. 65-6].

New Interview with William Cavanaugh

There’s a new interview with William T. Cavanaugh at The Other Journal:

The Nation State Project, Schizophrenic Globalization, and the Eucharist: An Interview with William T. Cavanaugh
by Ben Suriano

Really good stuff, as always, although some familiar material for those who know Cavanaugh’s stuff.  Looks like Cavanaugh also has a new book coming out called Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire.

Economy vs. the Gift?

In Peter Leithart’s post “Gift and Economy,” after clarifying that in reality, the gift and economy are not actually opposed, he concludes with the following question: “If I am right about classical economic theory (and I might stand corrected), the question arises of why it should have developed this way.  Why would gift/gratitude/relationship be left out of economic consideration?  And, how would economic theory be different if it’s included?”

I am no economist, but my first inclination is to say that the reason that gift/gratitude/relationship is left out of economic consideration is because modern economics itself it predicated upon an economy of lack.  The gift is one of surplus, one that in divine terms as D.B. Hart puts it in regards to Anselm, one that “exceeds every debt.”  In the gift, there is always a ‘more’ that exceeds the violence of exchange, which is also why Milbank is right to argue for the gift before the contract in our society (see his essay “Liberality versus Liberalism”).  Economic theory, if it assumed an economy of abundance (jubilee economics), would be very much more distributive, I think!

Dr. John Wright on CBS News

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There is some contrived “morality quiz” in the latest issue Time magazine right now, full of myopic dilemma ethics. CBS News in San Diego interviewed my professor and pastor John Wright to ask him what he would respond to the three highly contrived situations. Instead, he told them something else. Here is a link to the CBS8 article, and you can watch the video by clicking on the ‘Watch Video’ link right underneath the “Morality Quiz Full Of Impossible Dilemmas” header.

Of course, they interviewed him for 15 minutes and only give him about 10 seconds of airtime for sound bite purposes. In talking with John this morning, he said the most brilliant answer he heard to the ‘impossible dilemma’ of the crying baby was from his wife Pastor Kathy: nurse the baby!

Eugene McCarraher on ‘Consumerism’

In light of such discussions as those going on at David Fitch’s blog concerning ‘consumerism’, the following is an interesting and helpful comment by Eugene McCarraher in a recent interview from the Other Journal:

… First, I think that Christians should stop yakking about “consumerism.” “Consumerism” is not the problem—capitalism is. Consumerism is the work ethic of consumption, the transformation of leisure and pleasure into duties. Talking about consumerism is a way of not talking about capitalism, and I’ve come to think that that’s the reason why so many people, including Christians, whine about it so much. It’s just too easy a target. There’s a long history behind this, but the creation of consumer culture is very much about compensating workers for loss of control and creativity at work, and those things were stolen because capital needed to subject workers to industrial discipline. (I don’t, by the way, believe that we inhabit a “post-industrial” society. Our current regimes of work are, indeed, super-industrial.) Telling people that they’re materialistic is both tiresome and wrong-headed: tiresome, because it clearly doesn’t work, and wrong-headed, because it gives people the impression that matter and spirit are antithetical. As Christians, we should be reminding everyone that material reality is sacramental, and that therefore material production, exchange, and consumption can be ways of mediating the divine. [my emphasis – Eric]

I especially like how McCarraher ends this section, as it seems like there is too much of an disingenuous ‘anti-materialism’ that inhabits these debates. We need the critiques, yes, but as the Word has been made Flesh (Jn 1:14Open Link in New Window), all of our material (so to speak) has been redeemed.  The rest of the interview, of course, is well worth the read.

Gregory of Nyssa: The union of power and love

nyssa.jpg. . . let us penetrate the successive events of the gospel story, in which the union of power with love for man is displayed.In the first place, that the omnipotent nature was capable of descending to man’s lowly position is a clearer evidence of power than great and supernatural miracles. for it somehow accords with God’s nature, and is consistent with it, to do great and sublime things by divine power. It does not startle us to hear it said that the whole creation, including the invisible world, exists by God’s power, and is the realization of is will. But descent to man’s lowly position is a supreme example of power–of a power which is not bounded by circumstances contrary to its nature.

It belongs to the nature of fire to shoot upwards; and no one would think it wonderful for a flame to act naturally. But if he saw a flame with a downward motion like that of heavy bodies, he would take it for a marvel, wondering how it could remain a flame and yet contravene its nature by its downward motion. So it is with the incarnation. God’s transcendent power is not so much displayed in the vastness of the heavens, or the luster of the stars, or the orderly arrangement of the universe or his perpetual oversight of it, as in his condescension to our weak nature. We marvel at the way the sublime entered a state of lowliness and, while actually seen in it, did not leave the heights. We marvel at the way the Godhead was entwined in human nature and, while becoming man, did not cease to be God (Gregory of Nyssa, “Address on Religion Instruction” in Christology of the Later Fathers [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977], pp. 300-301).

All creation is created good, yet remains a sign. In the descent of God in the incarnation, Jesus is not just a sign as creation in the Son in the form of a servant, but Jesus is both God and man, what Kierkegaard would much later call the “absolute paradox.” Creation reflects God’s goodness, but the attributes of God — love, “goodness, wisdom, justice, power, incorruption, and everything else that indicates excellence”(298)– are seen in the gift of the Son who is God.