Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Realist or Nominalist: Choose

"I was impressed by the argument that "the Church wrote the Bible:" Christianity was preached by the Church before the New Testament was written—that is simply a historical fact. It is also a fact that the apostles wrote the New Testament and the Church canonized it, deciding which books were divinely inspired. I knew, from logic and common sense, that a cause can never be less than its effect. You can't give what you don't have. If the Church has no divine inspiration and no infallibility, no divine authority, then neither can the New Testament. Protestantism logically entails Modernism. I had to be either a Catholic or a Modernist. That decided it; that was like saying I had to be either a patriot or a traitor. " - Peter Kreeft (http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hauled-aboard.htm)

A Calvinist TA said to me last night : "But the Roman Church has so much from Paganism, how can you stand it?" I replied "The Reformed Church has so much from Nominalism how can you stand it?" he granted me the point and said "I guess you have to pick your poison". While I see Nominalism as the poison of all modern philosophy leading to Nietzsche, Thomism/Neo-Aristotelianism is the only other realistic option. You must choose. Either be a post-modern perspectivist (like Rob Bell and N.T. Wright) or a Catholic Thomist and recant the Reformation.



  1. A couple points of apologia:

    (1) Reformed Protestantism (i.e. Reformed Catholicism) is not nominalistic. We confess that the moral law of God is based on and reflective of the immutable charater of God.

    (2) Reformed Protestantism understands that recognizing books as inspired is not the same as making them so. In other words, Scripture attests its own authority.

  2. I would have to disagree with the claim that Reformed Protestantism is innocent of nominalism in terms of moral law. Look at the issue of merit. By only viewing God's sovereign freedom and denying any universal objective standard of holiness Calvin even had to agree with Ockham that "apart from God’s good pleasure, Christ could not merit anything’"

    This seems to be a complete denial of an objective morality and real human holiness.

    But I freely admit that I just stole that quote from the article I cited, and am wading into much deeper waters than is probably safe.

  3. What you have said is only necessarily true if

    (1) Calvin teaching is the sum of Reformed theology.


    (2)Calvin's view on this point is representative of Reformed theology.

    All respectable historical theologians should deny (1). While Calvin's teaching is very important to Reformed theology, it is not the sum of it. And on (2) Calvin's view on this point is neither required by Reformed theology nor the majority view.

  4. I tend to think that meanings have words, not the other way around. Does that make me a Nominalist?

    At any rate, I feel I've been moving in the Realist direction as a result of my reflections on the Eucharist. Would believing in the Real Presence lead to a more Realist philosophy?

    I'm also thinking that this distinction has a strong impact on biblical translation. For example, compare treatments of Revelation 19:8.