Levering, Matthew. Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology. Challenges in Contemporary Theology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
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As I mentioned previously (here and here), I would be doing a review through I would be reviewing Matthew Levering’s work. This is the first review covering the Introduction (pp. 1–22), which lays out the problem and Levering’s solution, the plan of the book, and the theological setting.
Levering seeks to address the problem created by recent theologians that draws a sharp divide between metaphysics and Scripture. The problem has been accentuated by the focus on the practical implications of the doctrine of the Trinity, and this has resulted in the diminishing of proper theological reflection (contemplation) and a misunderstanding of the role of metaphysics in theology. For Levering, the reverse is the proper order: first comes contemplative union with God and then the practical implications follow (3). Levering’s challenge is that “modern theologians . . . need to learn anew the contemplative and metaphysical practices that are necessary for worshipping Israel’s God ratter than culturally relevant idols” (4).Throughout the book, Levering will address this by investigating the way “Aquinas’s use of metaphysics illuminates the meaning of Scriptural revelation” (8).
Are metaphysics and contemplation necessary to theology? Drawing from Giles Hibbert, Levering answers in the affirmative: “Hibbert goes on to show that ‘metaphysics’ belongs to the personal encounter by which human words truly express divine revelation. Scripture, as human words about ‘God,’ cannot help but have metaphysical intelligibility” (5). Through metaphysics, humanity encounters in a fuller and more personal way the God who has revealed himself in the pages of Scripture. Because metaphysical reflection is a “spiritual exercise that purifies from idolatry,” one prepares to properly contemplate God through metaphysics (10). In contemplation, “self-centered human beings become God-centered” (3).
The conversation on metaphysics, scripture, and the Trinity will be influenced by Aquinas (4, 10). Levering will apply Aquinas’s insights to “theology as wisdom,” divine being and personhood, and aspects of Trinitarian theology and soteriology. Aquinas’s priority on contemplative union will be further expounded in terms of study and prayer, and how they relate to the transformation of the individual undertaking them (20).
One interesting point in this introduction some of those with whom Levering cites or interacts either in the text or in the footnotes: women and contextual theologians. Some of the women theologians are A. N. Williams, Sarah Coakley, Catherine Mowry LaCugna, and Ellen Charry. As to the contextual theologians, they are Gustavo Gutierrez and Roberto S. Goizeuta. Levering is cites them favorably, with LaCugna perhaps being the only exception.
Levering’s Introduction did not fail to stimulate my interest. Probably of greatest interest will be interactions with some of the renowned Jewish and Christian exegetes in the chapters to come.