Transformational Relationships in Light of Early and Late Modern Categories in the Gender Debates -- By: Justin Miller

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 19:4 (Autumn 2005)
Article: Transformational Relationships in Light of Early and Late Modern Categories in the Gender Debates
Author: Justin Miller


Transformational Relationships in Light of
Early and Late Modern Categories in the Gender Debates

Justin Miller

JUSTIN MILLER is a software engineering manager and a student at Bethel Seminary. He received an M.Litt in theology from the University of St. Andrews, and a B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota, Morris. He lives in Bloomington, MN with his wife, Jen, and three children, Anne, Susannah, and Joshua.

Early and Late Modern Frameworks for the Doctrine of God

In the article, “Sharing in the Divine Nature: Transformation, Koinonia and the Doctrine of God,” LeRon Shults notes three important late-modern developments in the doctrine of God: the retrieval of divine Infinity, the revival of Trinitarian doctrine, and a renewed conceptualization of God as primal Futurity.1 These developments were facilitated in part by a shift in ontology from a substance metaphysic to a metaphysic of relationality. Implied in Shults’ embrace of these developments is a holistic approach that recognizes fundamental human longing for the divine within the categories of truth, goodness, and beauty. Shults emphasizes the biblical decree that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of God—but not a knowledge that objectifies God but rather a participation in the mutual knowing and being known within the Trinitarian Godhead. Our means of participation in this knowing is the Incarnation of the Word of God—Jesus Christ who lived in the power of the Spirit in order to reveal the Father. As a result, grace and God’s role in our salvation and sanctification are emphasized. Finally, Shults’ methodology is integrative and interdisciplinary, seeking to weave together the witness of Scripture, reason, experience, and tradition, and with simultaneous regard for conceptual, ethical, and liturgical implications affecting our ability to achieve transformational relationships.

Generally speaking, these methodological concerns represent responses to tendencies in theology and philosophy during the early modern period. Particularly in the 17th century, the neoclassicism that accompanied the rise of the Enlightenment reaffirmed Platonic and Aristotelian substance metaphysics. This resulted in a tendency to conceive of God as a single subject of immaterial substance who, before the beginning, ordained all temporal history. God was thought of as a quantitatively infinite mind that from all eternity willed everything that happens and exists. As a result, conceptual categories and to a lesser degree ethical categories tended to be prioritized over liturgical ones. Analytical thought dominated—a seeking to break things down to their smallest parts, to categorize neatl...

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