My friends and fellow bloggers are talking about metaphysics. So, I will jump in. Matt Milliner announces, “Attempts to overcome metaphysics [have] been shown to be themselves irrepressibly metaphysical.” Matt Anderson insists:
Either a natural order exists, or we impose it. Either the meaning is tied to the structure of things, or we make it up. And if the order exists, our options are conformity or rebellion. There is no middle ground here, despite the ambiguities and uncertainties that we experience in our confrontation with it. But if we reject metaphysics, our only resource for ethics is our will, and God’s.
His point reminds me of a former professor of philosophy, who asked his students: Is reality discovered or constructed? For nearly an hour, the classroom engaged in a spirited discussion, students falling into one camp or another. Once the thoughts were fielded, the professor asked a final question: What if reality is both discovered through creation, incarnation, resurrection, and revelation while also constructed through human understanding?
To reflect on this further, here is an excerpt from William Hasker’s Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Contours of a Christian Philosophy):
Is there a Christian metaphysic? According to [Alfred North] Whitehead, “Christianity has always been a religion seeking a metaphysic.” What he meant by this is that Christianity came into the world as a religion of salvation rather than a metaphysical system; since then Christian thinkers have adopted a number of different systems but have failed to establish one of them as definitive.
If Whitehead is right about this, then in at least two senses there is not and cannot be such a thing as a Christian metaphysic. In the first place, there is no one metaphysical system which is definitively Christian, but rather a number of systems, all of them more or less inconsistent with each other and all of them more or less adequate to the content of Christian faith. But the fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation also suggests that in a sense no philosophical system can be fully Christian, because no philosophical system can express the unique content of Christianity.
Philosophy is a discipline based on human reflection and human intellectual resources. But the message of salvation is not a discovery of human reflection. It comes to us by revelation, and Christians have consistently acknowledged that its central truths – the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, his atoning death for our sins, his resurrection from the dead, salvation by grace through faith – cannot be known by unassisted human thought. No metaphysical system can incorporate these truths without becoming something other than philosophy, and in this sense no metaphysical system can be fully and distinctly Christian.
But if Christianity is not a metaphysical system, it nevertheless implies metaphysical claims. And since very early times Christian thinkers have struggled to formulate these claims in philosophical terminology and to demonstrate their rational acceptability using philosophical methods. If by a Christian metaphysic we mean the result of such reflection, in which a Christian thinker seeks to develop a metaphysical system which is compatible with Christian faith and which is an adequate vehicle for the expression of Christian convictions, then not only is there a Christian metaphysic, but there are quire a few of them . . . .
First, a Christian metaphysic must speak of God. God is the ultimate and supreme reality; he takes first place in our answer to the metaphysical question, “What is there?” And an adequate account of God’s nature – at least, as adequate as possible – must be a high priority for Christian philosophy . . . . A Christian metaphysic must also speak of creation . . . . Finally, a Christian metaphysic must speak of man as the image of God.
This then is metaphysics: a set of questions which press us to the very limits of human understanding, answers to those questions which are passionately held and yet deeply controversial, and in support of those answers seemingly endless arguments and counterarguments, rebuttals and counterrebuttals. The task of seeking understanding is indeed endless. May we all continue in it, as we seek to love God with all our minds.