Archive Civic Polity Ecclesiastical Polity Natural Law Peter Escalante Philosophy

Who Are You Calling a Modernist?

We watched with interest the recent controversy in the pages of First Things on natural law, knowing that sooner or later the spry Dr Feser would say the right thing and settle the matter. When he did, we said he had said the right thing, and in doing so said that certain First Things contributors struck us as “thoroughgoing modernists” on the topic of natural law, which was in effect a synonymous reiteration of Dr Feser’s own point. At this Anna Williams took genial umbrage; she declared war.

We watched with interest the recent controversy in the pages of First Things on natural law,[1] knowing that sooner or later the spry Dr Feser would say the right thing and settle the matter. When he did, we said he had said the right thing, and in doing so said that certain First Things contributors struck us as “thoroughgoing modernists” on the topic of natural law, which was in effect a synonymous reiteration of Dr Feser’s own point. At this Anna Williams took genial umbrage; she declared war. Her surprise is unsurprising; First Things is, after all, the flagship journal of conservative Christian intellectuals, and on the face of it very unlikely to be manned by modernists. But at the end of our consideration here, we hope that not only will the meaning of Pastor Wedgeworth’s words be clear, but also it may be no surprise at all that “modernism” might comport quite naturally with a certain meaning of “conservative.” We are not saying any of this in order to diminish the good work many of these writers have done, or to express any contempt for them, and we certainly aren’t suggesting that any of them are consciously “Modernist.” We mentioned it rather to highlight and hopefully illuminate a matter of concern which is all the more worrisome precisely because its proponents otherwise have so much good to offer.

Natural law is a topic we have treated before, and will have occasion to treat again. We do not need to discuss it at length now. Those interested can consult especially the essays of Feser, Snell, Kozinski’s important but not definitive reply to Snell here, or Pastor Wedgeworth’s essay here. What we will do here is consider what is at stake in these debates about the role of the natural law, and what we think the abandonment of natural law arguments is actually getting at. So first, a word about the context.

Natural Law and the Meaning of Marriage

We would be the last to maintain that “natural law arguments” are traditionally intended as primary means of public deliberation. We are completely skeptical of any attempt to do so, and in fact can claim to be the first and foremost critics of the recent neo-Reformed distortion of the classic two-kingdoms doctrine, which distortion claims that natural law is wholly sufficient to form an irreligious architectonic principle for the commonwealth.[2] Positive law and prudence presuppose human nature, and the pattern of that nature, regarded as measure of motion through choice and act toward toward human fullness, is “natural law.” But natural law is something like Stahl’s “Law-Idea,” whereas life is lived in fact by conscience, prudence, and positive law.

Saying that most people nowadays aren’t persuaded by natural law arguments is true, but not at all to the point. Of course we can’t appeal to natural law as if it were a traffic code written clearly on everyone’s heart – or everyone’s speculative reason – and to which we need only point. That is not what natural law ever really meant. But in our arguments of public reason for or against certain policies, the fact that there is a human nature, the actuality of which is the inner rationale of our laws and customs, cannot be ignored, upon pain of complete absurdity.

Leithart, for instance, in his reply here to our own Alastair Roberts, protests that the public simply won’t listen. Well we are the International, which means we take a global view; as Mr Roberts notes, there is no reason to assume a WEIRDocentric vantage point.

And even with regard to the United States (which might or might not be representative of the wider global North) there is no reason at all to believe that these poor Ninevites to whom our postmodern Jonahs will not preach are really for gay marriage in any positive sense, though pollsters often force them into that kind of expression; there is actually every reason to believe that they are, rather, not against it because they’ve been led to think that to make public moral truth claims would be a breach of the social contract that allows them the freedom to live their own lives by their own lights. This is confused and even mistaken, but it isn’t widespread moral unconsciousness. It is worth considering the possibility that we really aren’t dealing with a loss of corporate reason or even the natural law per se, but rather with a large-scale Liberal/libertarian “none of my business” philosophy of legislation. Most Americans are not themselves in favor of homosexual activities. They are just opposed to the government outlawing them, since they intuit that this is justice in the Liberal arrangement, not knowing, of course, that this Liberal arrangement is more appearance than substance in the present situation.

And too, the sulking over the supposed moral deafness of the masses conveniently ignores the fact that these masses are in fact incorporated into a servile system which is the primary agent of the dissolution of marriage and family; way back in the 19th century, when the system was much less developed than it is now, even Marx and Engels were able to say with justice that it was hypocritical for the bourgeoisie to charge communists with wanting to destroy the family when in fact the proletarianization of the citizenry had already done that job pretty thoroughly. Academic theologians chiding the masses for their moral deterioration are almost exactly like rich foodies snorting at poor people for not eating seasonal vegetables and artisan salumi.

We would agree, though for different reasons than the opponents of natural law arguments do, that natural law arguments are mostly useless. First, because that has never been the use of natural law. It is prudence and positive law which settle matters of public moment, not natural law directly, which in itself is not a positive law, but rather the principle of positive law. Second, we think that while there is a common reality and a common nature, part of what is involved in that common human nature is the religious sense; as Calvin says, natural law moves magistrates to be formed by civil theology, and it is civil theology which is decisive for human communities.[3] So unlike the new-2K, which thinks that natural theology and natural law alone are sufficient to found and direct polities, we think they are not. But this doesn’t mean that natural law isn’t in fact a common dimension across polities with different civil theologies, and in some measure accessible to common reason. In fact it is.

Further, we are not immediately very interested in the public discussion of gay marriage. We think it for the most part a diversion from much more foundational concerns, and that it is very probably unsettleable in the terms on which officially sanctioned public discourse presently operates. And we can understand the many good reasons for wanting to rethink or even quietly abandon the “culture war” as it presently being waged. In this, we would seem to concur with the men we have criticized. But insofar as they go farther than mere prudence, and give other, more peculiar reasons, a vast difference opens up, and that vast difference is of vast importance.

As Mr Roberts put it very directly in his reply to Leithart’s rejoinder:

In such a context of cultural dullness, theological arguments fare no better than natural law arguments. At the heart of my argument above is the point that it is quite possible to acknowledge our culture’s dullness and disorientation without retreating to these theological arguments. The only thing achieved by Dr Leithart’s apparent retreat to aesthetics is the seeming concession that reality really is up for debate and that, from a perspective internal to the natural order, marriage is a contestable institution.

More than this, to the extent that a particular theologically grounded aesthetic lies at the core of Dr Leithart’s position, it is difficult to see how it can participate in our broader cultural debate. One is also left wondering whether, implicit in Dr Leithart’s seeming abandonment of natural law arguments and dependence upon theological arguments and the aesthetic appeal of Christian witness, there lies a sort of theonomic ecclesiocentricism, whose apparent surrender of the ground claimed by natural law is motivated by a far more radical claim upon that ground on other terms.[4]

And this is what we see at stake in this debate. It is whether we build on the common rock of reality, or the sands of fantasy: the retreat to commitment to incommensurable worldviews, and the impotent posturing of a totalizing aesthetic fideism.

What is a Modernist?

So what did we mean when we said that a number of contributors to First Things, supposedly a flagship of orthodox Christian thought, were “thoroughgoing modernists” on this point? We do our best to be very careful with words, to define our terms and use them precisely. First in order is a definition of “modernism.”

In a short post on method, we reasserted the central importance of:

Classical theism and classical apologetics, rejecting absolutely the skeptical and gnosticizing transcendental turn in modern theologies, even and perhaps especially in those which mistakenly regard themselves as “conservative” – which unwittingly share the transcendentalism of their “liberal” opposite numbers, but with merely a different and angrier inflection. The creation and its clear implication of a Creator is knowable even by fallen man, and the capacity for natural knowledge, although distorted accidentally by depravity, is not destroyed. In this thesis, we affirm the teaching of Calvin and the Protestant consensus, including the Princeton doctors and Bavinck. To affirm the opposite and and claim that even natural knowledge, as such, depends upon regeneration, is to substitute fanatical gnosticism for Biblical Christianity.

This is the crux of the matter; and, as will be seen shortly, we have another ally in this besides the Reformers and the evangelical doctors. Dr Feser has already coined the very useful tag “conservative subjectivism”:

Without an actual argument to back it up, the cri de coeur or leap of faith Hart and Dreher seem to be commending to us is just an appeal to emotion or sheer willfulness. It is, in short, a further manifestation of the modern disease they want to fight, not a cure – a conservative subjectivism, perhaps, but subjectivism all the same.

Dr Feser’s expression indicates the same thing which have, following Bartley’s usage, called “the retreat to commitment.”[5] But it was called “Modernism” and defined very carefully by someone long before us, someone whose credentials ought to carry great weight with the First Things crew: Pope Pius X.

We cannot be suspected of cuddling up with Rome. Unpopular as it is to do, we affirm the old Reformed condemnations of Rome without reservation, and one thing we find tiresome about the legacy of Neuhaus is that it isn’t really concerned to crown the city with the kingship of Christ, but rather, serves as a sort of halfway house for the crankier sort of Romantic evangelical on the way to Rome and thus, out of the public square and into Societas Perfecta, Inc. But those condemnations of the pretensions of the Papacy do not mean that the Pope is incapable of doing or saying anything good; and in the case of Pius X, a Pope said something remarkably good in his Pascendi Dominici Gregis, and it is worth quoting extensively:

6. We begin, then, with the philosopher. Modernists place the foundation of religious philosophy in that doctrine which is usually called Agnosticism. According to this teaching human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that are perceptible to the senses, and in the manner in which they are perceptible; it has no right and no power to transgress these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognising His existence, even by means of visible things. From this it is inferred that God can never be the direct object of science, and that, as regards history, He must not be considered as an historical subject. Given these premises, all will readily perceive what becomes of Natural Theology, of the motives of credibility, of external revelation. The Modernists simply make away with them altogether; they include them in Intellectualism, which they call a ridiculous and long ago defunct system.

For “intellectualism,” substitute “Enlightenment foundationalism,” or “the high modern project,” “secular reason,” or any similar postmodernist buzzwords, and one will see the similarity in argument.

Nor does the fact that the Church has formally condemned these portentous errors exercise the slightest restraint upon them. Yet the Vatican Council has defined, “If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason by means of the things that are made, let him be anathema” (De Revel., can. I); and also: “If anyone says that it is not possible or not expedient that man be taught, through the medium of divine revelation, about God and the worship to be paid Him, let him be anathema” (ibid., can. 2); and finally, “If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men should be drawn to the faith only by their personal internal experience or by private inspiration, let him be anathema” (De Fide, can. 3).

This is redolent of the ecumenicalist outreach of modern Rome which makes much of Cardinal Lubac’s supernaturalization of all creation and consequent reduction of reason to ecclesially mediated doctrine.

But how the Modernists make the transition from Agnosticism, which is a state of pure nescience, to scientific and historic Atheism, which is a doctrine of positive denial; and consequently, by what legitimate process of reasoning, starting from ignorance as to whether God has in fact intervened in the history of the human race or not, they proceed, in their explanation of this history, to ignore God altogether, as if He really had not intervened, let him answer who can. Yet it is a fixed and established principle among them that both science and history must be atheistic: and within their boundaries there is room for nothing but phenomena; God and all that is divine are utterly excluded….

For conservative subjectivists, however, it is nature and reason which are excluded in favor of a totalizing fideism.

7. However, this Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernist: the positive side of it consists in what they call vital immanence. This is how they advance from one to the other. Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But when Natural theology has been destroyed, the road to revelation closed through the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. Hence the principle of religious immanence is formulated. Moreover, the first actuation, so to say, of every vital phenomenon, and religion, as has been said, belongs to this category, is due to a certain necessity or impulsion; but it has its origin, speaking more particularly of life, in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sentiment. Therefore, since God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and the foundation of all religion, consists in a sentiment which originates from a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favourable circumstances, cannot, of itself, appertain to the domain of consciousness; it is at first latent within the consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the subconsciousness, where also its roots lies hidden and undetected.

Should anyone ask how it is that this need of the divine which man experiences within himself grows up into a religion, the Modernists reply thus: Science and history, they say, are confined within two limits, the one external, namely, the visible world, the other internal, which is consciousness. When one or other of these boundaries has been reached, there can be no further progress, for beyond is the unknowable. In presence of this unknowable, whether it is outside man and beyond the visible world of nature, or lies hidden within in the subconsciousness, the need of the divine, according to the principles of Fideism, excites in a soul with a propensity towards religion a certain special sentiment, without any previous advertence of the mind: and this sentiment possesses, implied within itself both as its own object and as its intrinsic cause, the reality of the divine, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sentiment to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this it is which they consider the beginning of religion.

Pius could not see that the Modernists whose principles he rightly condemned were in part attempting to save the Roman edifice in the face of the decisive disproving of its foundational historical claims by withdrawing it from the judgment of history altogether, a move initiated by the skeptic Newman, whose “organic development of tradition” and “illation” are the direct precursors of the “vital immanence” which Pius correctly saw as pure subjectivism.[6] Nevertheless, he put his finger on the problem exactly. While the Modernists tended toward full-blown modernism, what Pius could not foresee was the future appropriation of their principles by those who would seem most traditional, but would in fact want an orthodoxy without objectivity: the Romantic “conservative subjectivists.”

The Retreat to Commitment

Although many modern theologians speak obscurely, avoiding definition at every turn (a Continental academic fashion imitated by these writers), we will see in the cases under consideration that despite some statements which sound entirely acceptable – and in the case of Hart, one which is actually admirable – there is a deeply unacceptable common stance, the one described in the quote just above, and that it expresses itself theoretically in a peculiar mix of Kantian and Herderian principles.[7] And what it amounts to is a withdrawal of Christian arguments from the forum of public reason, and into a fantasy ghetto of “Christian experience,” “tradition,” and the most bastard idea of them all, “worldview.” Although it might seem that their aversion to natural law is simply an assessment of the inaptitude of their fellow citizens to listen to reason, or a refusal to “subject” the Word to “human reason,” a closer examination reveals that the retreat to commitment is precisely what is driving them to give up on public conversation.

So we define modernism, in this context, as divided representation, which leaves the world to scientism and places the formal, qualitative, and transcendental aspects of creation, as well as uncreated reality, in the realm of the pure subject, either personal or collective (“the Church”). This immediately involves a negation of reason and of nature as an object of reason. This appeals to a certain “conservative” of either the nostalgic or utopian sort, since it makes the cosmos a lost object of elegiac Sehnsucht on the one hand, and clears the ground for ecclesiocratic reconstruction, “new creation,” on the other. And, as mentioned before, above all it is driven by the desire to “conserve” supposedly threatened authority by ceding common ground to skepticism and removing authority to an untouchable privileged interior.

In the Protestant context, this first took the form of both Barthianism and presuppositionalism. The more mainstream form of the retreat is that charted by Bartley, in which Barth, or at least his interpreters, and other modern Protestant theologians retracted historical truth claims and withdrew Christian distinctives from the forum of public reason.[8] This was a central move of neo-orthodoxy at least as popularly received, and meant that henceforth orthodoxy would have to be defined aesthetically, by criteria of internal coherence and imaginative attractiveness, while still claiming to be true in virtue of corresponding (indemonstrably) to the facts of the noumenal world.[9]

Later, after the inevitable decline of mainline liberal churches committed to an extreme version of neo-orthodoxy, its pseudo-traditional twin began to gain currency in the evangelical and especially Reformed world, taking different forms, but whose key features were modernist epistemology – “worldviewism” – and a tendency toward neo-Anabaptist ecclesiology, whose inherently separatist and perfectionist ecclesiology conduces to the retreat to commitment.[10]

But this habit of mind became prevalent among “high-church” churchmen from other Protestant schools, and also among the ecumenically minded intellectual converts to Rome or Constantinople, and it animates a great deal of the Radical Orthodox project too. That there is indeed something of a common ethos and some common principles among this loose group of writers seems clear from their common voice in this recent discussion.

Now it will be clear to the reader how this schema seems to inform what there is of common ethos among certain First Things contributors. The responses to Dreher, Hart,[11] and Leithart from Dr Feser and Mr Roberts have already said most of what needs to be said. But there is another First Things essay, by the thoughtful and gracious Mr Joshua Gonnerman, which is very much worth citing here because it is, unfortunately, directly illustrative of my point, and has gone largely unnoticed in this discussion. He says:

Because our answers to these questions are not fundamentally biological, but teleological and mediated through the teaching of Christ’s Church, the questions that fall within the scope of science offer no threat to our perspectives on sexual ethics. This is not to say that there is no value to the investigation. Scientific inquiry is capable of functioning as an act of worship to the Creator of an intelligible world. What it does mean is that our theological anthropology is not changed by the outcome. Where the obscure origins of homosexuality can seem like a darkness, our guiding light is not biology, but Christ and his Church. This light is not swallowed up by the darkness, but shines through it, lighting our path so that we need fear nothing hidden by the shadows of uncertainty.

Although he assures us that our understanding of nature is not at risk with this move, from this restricting knowledge of nature to two sources, empirical science on the one hand and positive revelation on the other, what follows necessarily is the erasure of philosophy and the impossibility of a rational knowledge of nature as classically understood. We are left with the figure of Christ as a sort of beau idéal received in a rational void, and we are evidently simply to take the Pope’s word for it that this beau idéal precludes homosexual action, because it just does, and because the Pope says so.

For us, as for Dr Feser, this approach, however well-intentioned, is a disastrous abdication of reason and a default away from wisdom. Modernism can and does appear in the surprising guise of anti-modernism, an enantiodromia which is in fact not surprising at all, once one understands how ideology works.


What is at stake in this debate is not whether or not natural law arguments can or can’t act as trump cards of public rationality. It is, rather, whether we open our eyes to see the fact of our common nature and common mind, or close them and retreat into the Romantic inner world of conservative subjectivism, a move whose principles are very close to what Pius X himself called “Modernism.”

It seems to us that in many respects First Things, so far from serving as an ecumenical forum for celestially reorienting the city, in fact seems to largely serve, like Pro Ecclesia and similar fora, to draw out confused “conservative” evangelical intellectuals from their evangelical homes and draw them into a kind of political uniate rite in orbit around the modern propaganda wings of the old patriarchates, the Roman patriarchate in particular. Of course there are many different kinds of men with different minds writing for them, but the general ethos of at least a prominent high-churchy set of them seems clear. We will have to say more about this general ethos and its relation to Neuhaus’ legacy another time. In short, however, as some commentators have noted, Neuhaus’ vision of the “Catholic moment” as the chance to clothe the naked public square in lace and scarlet involved a hierarchical societas perfecta existing as imperium in imperio, and norming both State and civil society, rather as the Party normed both in totalitarian systems. The romanticized and reified “Church” toward which the retreat is being sounded by the Protestant penumbra of this “Church” is not the corpus christianum, debating with many voices in the public forum, but rather something like what Žižek calls the “totalitarian body”:

… the Party functions as the miraculous immediate incarnation of an objective, neutral Knowledge, which in turn serves as a point of reference to legitimate the activity of the Party … this is precisely the logic of the Party: it is as if, next to and other than classes, social strata, social groups and subgroups, and their economic, political and ideological organizations, that constitute in a group the different parts of the socio-historical universe ruled by the objectives of social development, existed, further more, the Party … the immediate and individual incarnation of these objective laws, the short circuit, the paradoxical intersection between the subjective will and objective laws … the body undergoes a true transsubstantiation….[12]

Transsubstantiation is exactly the right word, and reveals why the evangelical doctrine of the relation of sign and signified is politically and ethically liberatory. If the sign and signified are confused, what results is a fetish, a mystified tertium quid which draws all attention to its illusory self and away from the knowable world.

We do not see an authoritarian corporate ministerium as an immediate threat, however, most especially because modern Roman political doctrine after Murray and Maritain has provisionally entered into a relatively quiescence, and too, because the Unites States is still too overwhelmingly Protestant on the one hand, and too unchurched on the other, for this to be a real problem. Rather, the problem is precisely the retreat on the road of aesthetic fideism to the fantasy world of such an imaginary ideal communion whose members talk only to one another, and out of genuinely faithful presence in the city. The risk is that thoughtful evangelicals will find such a retreat attractive, especially when presented in the apparently anti-modernist mode of “conservative subjectivism” with its ornamental angels and lulling liturgical soundtrack playing on repeat – and it is worth recalling that the Modernism Pius X rebutted often went hand in hand with an Anglo-Catholic liturgical sensibility. But Dr Feser is right: this is giving up not simply on the public square and public reason, it is giving up on reality.

As Francis Schaeffer (a better Thomist than he knew) said, everything hangs on true truth,[13] known through discovery of the world which is there, the first revelation of the God Who is there.

[1] We had already dealt with an instance of this type of argument here in the Reformed context of the new political doctrine associated with Drs David VanDrunen and Darryl Hart.

[2] See just one example among the many on this website here.

[3] On which point we concur with the Romanist Dr Thaddeus Kozinski in his reply to Dr Snell linked earlier, though our own architectonic principles, and the practical political arrangement which follows from them, are quite different. We would also note that MacIntyre’s worldview-relativism does Thomism no favors, and it is unfortunate that Dr Kozinski draws upon it to illustrate a thesis which he might easily have argued for without it. MacIntyre tends to make Leibnizian monads out of Herderian reifications, and this makes it difficult to see that civil theologies are not all exclusive of one another and thus do not create different human natures, and also that they are not all exclusive of Christianity, since many are disposed toward being baptized and perfected by it.

[4] The emphasis is mine.

[5] Matthew Lee Anderson, remarking upon the newest twist of old fashioned Enthusiasm, uses the very same words to roughly the same effect: “Replacing belief with commitment still places the burden of our formation on the sheer force of our will. As much as some of these radical pastors would say otherwise, their rhetoric still relies on listeners ‘making a decision.’ There is almost no explicit consideration of how beliefs actually take root, or whether that process is as conscious as we presume.”

[6] A similar move was made by supposedly conservative evangelical writers, who, worried that there might not be a difference after all between the really disprovable and disproven foundational historical claims of Rome on the one hand, and the Bible, ever the winner in struggles to historically discredit it, invented presuppositionalism as a means to withdraw the Bible and doctrine from the realm of objective truth. In the name of elevating the Word over “autonomous reason,” what in fact happened was a massive capitulation to secularism, henceforth allowed to claim the ground of objectivity unchallenged. This “fundamentalism” chose a very new and very shaky foundation.

[7] The architectural historian Dalibor Vesely traces in architecture the effects of what he calls “divided representation,” that is, the division of the world into phenomena defined by Galilean qualities, the so-called primary qualities, and then the world of epiphenomenal secondary qualities. This banishing of the classic understanding of form means that form has to reappear as a spectral supplement to physical “reality,” and Vesely shows that this results, in architecture, in a radical division between engineering on the one hand and aesthetic stylism on the other. What Vesely says of architecture in the basic sense can be said of architecture in the broader sense, that is, the order of human dwelling inclusive of politics: there used to be angels arranging it, and now there are not. When the angels of form are banished from architecture, they can reappear as extrinsic ornamental metaphors; the angels become postmodern sylphs of a fake second naiveté, and we then have theologians thinking themselves provocative for claiming to believe in them; this, however, is far from being a genuine atavism or premodernity, for it is in fact simply an extravagantly postmodernist assertion of a certain archaicizing taste for quaint tropes. As we put it here regarding a related phenomenon: “The neo-patristic Christologies are not really historically patristic; the ‘neo’ really makes a difference. What they do have in common with certain Alexandrian-minded ancients is the aversion to history; but they do not actually share the thought-world of those people, since the goal of the moderns is to get human life back. They are inevitably Antiochene, so to speak, in that way; the lost object they’re after is creation. But since they have surrendered it to scientism, all they can get back is the ‘discarded image,’ but without the ancient supposition that the image corresponds to an order of things, and thus, the ‘discarded image’ is retrieved unnaturally detached from an order of things (which perhaps accounts for the appeal of ‘theological aesthetics,’ à la von Balthasar).”

[8] This justified itself historically by either flatly misrepresenting earlier Christian doctors, or dramatically reinterpreting them; see this provocative essay for an introduction to that still obscure affair:

[9] But Neocalvinist epistemology does basically the same thing. See for instance this revealing little essay by Theodore Plantinga. Neither Barthianism nor Neocalvinism deserve the name of Reformed philosophy: that properly belongs to Reformed scholasticism, the Common Sense school, Old Princeton, and Bavinck, and in certain ways, Brunner.

[10] Apparently opposing doctrines, such as the ecclesiologies of David VanDrunen and Peter Leithart, can be seen to agree at the deeper level of principle: common neo-Anabaptist presuppositions, in this case, with one in a distinctively introverted and quietistic mode and the other in a more extroverted and activistic mode.

[11] Hart has said better things in the past which we would with certain qualifications strongly endorse, and which appear to be contradicted now by his latest pronouncements. Similarly, Leithart has written in critique of “worldview,” but in the end, that essay seems less a real departure from worldviewism and more a plea to formally except the Christian worldview from the generic name so as it to mark its privileged status as Truth – though truth received a priori and without reason.

[12] Žižek, The Universal Exception (Continuum, 2006), 68. While we ourselves are arguing for an objective and relatively neutral knowledge, accessible to reason through experience, Žižek is rather referring to an totalizing doctrine more akin to Voegelin’s “gnosis.”

[13] There is a real difference between Schaeffer’s “true truth,” and the “total truth” of some of his followers, both with regard to how it is characterized and to the method proposed by which each is arrived at.

By Peter Escalante

Peter Escalante is a founder and editor of The Calvinist International. He holds a MA in Philosophy.

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