On being a theology student

I have to apologize for a month-long hiatus on this blog as school started… I hadn’t even bought new pens and pencils (still haven’t!) when suddenly the school year was upon me. I’m still getting used to life as a TST student (and, on Monday mornings, a covert operative at Tyndale) and the minute particulars of this stage in my theological education.

Every school has its own quirks and internal debates. At Regent, there was a recurring (but friendly!) debate on both the level of students and faculty between proponents of an ontology of participation (a more Catholic/Radical Orthodoxy/Neoplatonist model) and those of a more, let’s say, historical-realist/materialist (ie. Protestant-inflected) concept of being and beings. It was like Plato and Aristotle all over again, but between the Theology and Biblical departments! At TST, a similar congenial debate hangs heavy in the air, except with a more strongly Protestant-Catholic coloration: the historical debate between Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar/Erich Pryzwara over the “analogy of being.” Barth called it the invention of the Antichrist… although the most recent issue of Modern Theology makes the case that he softened his criticism of the concept over the years. Balthasar thought it was the missing piece in Barth’s theology of the Word, detrimental to his ecclesiology as well as precluding any kind of meaningful sacred or secular philosophy. In any case, the analogia entis is very much a topic of interest at TST, which reassures me – a Protestant on the Catholic/Balthasarian side of these debates – that I’m in the right place!

Right now the analogy of being figures quite heavily in both of my classes, a seminar on Balthasar at Regis College and a course on the history of beauty/aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies at College & Spadina. Is there an analogy between the earthly and the divine, or are the two (as in Barth) incommensurable? Does grace perfect nature (the Catholic view) or destroy it? How can we understand earthly beauty (in nature and art) as reflecting something of the beauty proper to God? Is the “mystery of being” a participation in form, or does the introduction of form (Gestalt, for Balthasar) reflect an unhelpful Platonic idealism at odds with the historical, nitty-gritty facts of the narrative we find ourselves in?

Lots of questions. Today, however, this central debate was sidelined by a protracted discussion of the necessity of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I realized that I was worlds away from film school! 

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