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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Dynamic and Relational God ... of Christian Platonism

So I have just been reading the umpteenth book that is telling me how Platonism corrupted Christian theology by substituting the dynamic, relational view of God with a static view of God-as-statue.

And in defense of this view we were introduced to ... Gregory of Nyssa, with his relational view of the Trinity.

Pardon me!

Gregory of Nyssa was a Christian Platonist!!!

Which just goes to make the point that this oft-repeated accusation against Christian Platonism is ill-informed. (Or, when it is better informed, it is often the influence of the wonderful Colin Gunton that lies in the background. But what the critics often do not realize is that Colin's interpretation of Augustine have come in for a lot of criticism from Augustine specialists.)

1. The Trinity on Christian Platonism is indeed relational (the persons of the Trinity are what they are only in relation to each other), and, contrary to what many think, the metaphycis of Christian Platonism are relational metaphysics (on which see Adrain Pabst's new book, Metaphysics, though be warned — it is very dense).

2. God in the theology of Christian Platonism is indeed unchanging but this should not be confused with lifeless and dead. Rather, God is dynamic because he is, as Aquinas says, pure act. God is maxiamlly dynamic, as it were, and supremely alive.

So if you want a relational, living, dynamic God Christian Platonism is well worth considering.

And if you wish to criticize it that's fine but make sure you understand it before you do.

4 comments:

Marston said...

Robin,

Thanks for this post. I've recently been rereading Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology. Do you think his criticisms of Platonism fall into this category?

Thanks!

Robin Parry said...

Marston

I have no idea. I have not read Jenson's ST. Jenson is a bright bloke, though I suspect that we would not be on exactly the same page theologically.

Robin

Micah said...

Hi, Robin --

Have you considered writing a book on Christian Platonism, to give your own broader perspective? :) (or maybe you have already, and I wasn't aware). This is a topic I'm eager to explore further.

Micah

Robin Parry said...

Micah

I did wonder about it but I am not immersed enough in the literature to do it well.

However, we are publishing a book introducing and defending Christian Platonism within the next year by Paul Tyson. That'll be good.

Robin