Keynote Abstracts

The Grammar of Faith in Twelfth Night: Richard Hooker’s Gift to Shakespeare

John Baxter, Dalhousie University

Shakespeare’s religious views are notoriously difficult to pin down, and Twelfth Night, despite the nod in its title to the Epiphany, might seem very unpromising material for theological analysis. “A silly play, and not relating at all to the name or day,” thought Samuel Pepys when he saw it in 1663. Richard Hooker’s weighty treatise Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), clearly relevant to such plays as Measure for Measure (whose biblical title very much does relate to its theme), looks like rather heavy stuff to bring to bear on Shakespeare’s ethereal romantic comedy (1601). Yet I propose to explore some of the ways in which the other-worldly atmosphere of Twelfth Night’s Illyria offers a kind of proving ground for what Hooker calls “the law which natural agents have given them to observe, and their necessary manner of keeping it.” And a crucial component of that necessary manner involves the kind of work done by the language of the play—which is what I mean by a “grammar” of faith. In terms of one of the great issues of the Early Modern Period, Shakespeare, like Hooker, can be seen seeking an Anglican middle way between the claims of faith and works.

An English Major’s Theology? An Incarnational Approach to Literary Studies

Christina Bieber Lake, Wheaton College

One afternoon I was talking with a student about where she was planning to attend church. She said “I want to go somewhere that teaches, you know, more of an English major’s theology.” Since this was a student who had taken my Flannery O’Connor class, I think I know what she meant. Her soul found resonance with the sacramental thinking that I believe to be at the heart of all literary endeavors: God became a person, revealing that this world is good, beautiful, and mysterious. Writers know that the only way beyond this world is through it: taste and see that the Lord is good. In this talk, drawing on Jens Zimmerman and Hans urs von Balthasar, I will argue that putting the person of Christ at the center of our thinking will reveal that the riches of God cannot be fully accessed by reason alone, yielding a powerful and pivotal role for the arts in our lives.

Sola Fide: What Happens to Reason When We are Justified by Faith Alone?

Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth, Mount Mary University 

In 1515, Martin Luther suggested that philosophers who sought to understand the nature of things by reason alone were mad men trying to make a gay science out of a sad creation. In his last sermon at Wittenberg, he called reason the Devil’s whore. In between Luther preached a revolution of values rooted in his conviction that human beings are justified through the love of Christ by faith alone. This Reformation thinking had consequences for theologians and the Western Christian church certainly; but also the Reformation revolutionized the fields of philosophy, ethics, political theory, and empirical science. This paper will trace briefly the Augustinian, nominalist, and humanist traditions that influenced Luther’s understanding of both faith and reason while explaining the effect Luther’s views continue to have on contemporary ethics, politics, and scientific debate.

Catholic Reflections on Reason and Faith after Five Hundred Years of Reform and Enlightenment

Douglas Kries, Gonzaga University

Borrowing from Augustine’s division of philosophical reasoning into logic, physics, and ethics, this paper will begin with a brief assessment of the post-Reformation Church’s encounter with each. The suggested conclusion of the first part of the paper will be that, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Enlightenment reason no longer has much to say to faith because, after Kant, reason no longer has much confidence in its own abilities. But if this is so, then Christians need to find a philosophical tradition they can engage on the question of reason and faith. The paper will argue that what this means in actuality is that Christians should pursue a re-engagement or enhanced engagement with the pre-modern or at least pre-Kantian tradition. Most of the paper will be devoted to explaining the basic contours of this re-engagement. The paper concludes by distinguishing between metaphysical pre-modern philosophy and political pre-modern philosophy and by stressing the advantages of the latter.

Reason and the Paradigms of the Nature-grace Relationship

Albert Wolters, Redeemer College

The question of the relationship between reason and faith is a subset of the broader theological question of the relationship between “nature” and “grace,” meaning by those terms the created world outside of redemption in Christ and the new life brought about by redemption in Christ. I will argue that within the tradition of orthodox Christian thought (broadly conceived to include Greek Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and historic Protestantism) the relationship between nature and grace has been conceived in four fundamental ways: grace opposes, supplements, flanks or restores nature. Corresponding to these four paradigms of the nature-grace relationship are different views of the relationship between reason and faith. This holds true not only for the five hundred years since the Reformation in the West, but church history as a whole. I will argue that there are strengths and weaknesses to each of these approaches, but that the biblically most satisfying is the fourth, which sees grace as restoring nature and faith as directing reason. This view, which is essentially Augustinian, breaks with the long tradition  of considering reason to be religiously neutral, and argues that all scholarship is essentially faith-based. It is prominently represented in modern times by the nineteenth century revival of Calvinism associated with the names of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, and with contemporary thinkers like Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. The relationship of reason and faith as construed in this tradition provides a powerful impetus for the development of unabashedly Christian scholarship.