Some gems from Milbank’s first Stanton Lecture.

The theological separation between nature and grace:

“As Charles Taylor has explained in the case of secularity in general, it was just not the case that secular autonomy arose because secular forces rebelled against sacred ones, leaving the secular behind as a “natural” residue, once a whole lot of weird stuff had been at last subtracted.

Instead, in the case of the secular in general, but also in the case of secular reason, the “natural” was constructed by some theologians as a kind of de-sacralized backdrop which would all the better secure the absoluteness of the divine will, the futility and vanity of death-haunted life on earth, the direct orientation of the mind to the spiritual unmediated by the material and finally the total, out-of-the-dark-blue gratuity of the shining light of grace. (The Oxford colouring here is historically accurate.)

If nature and human society were now so drained of symbolic participation in the divine life, then they could be suitably studied by a philosophical reason equally drained of that participatory “illumination” by the light of the divine Logos that had been taught by both Augustine and Aquinas.

This is part of the reason why Suarez could now write his own metaphysics. Philosophy had become autonomous, not because pipe-smoking men in tweed had rebelled against men in clerical gowns, but because the men in clerical gowns had opened up that space for their own peculiar religious reasons.”

Alternative Modernity:

“In short, we still live within a Franciscan Middle Ages, and this can be shown to be as true of our politics as it is of our philosophy. The question is whether an alternative, Dominican Middle Ages can yet be revived in order to shape, in the twenty-first century, an alternative modernity.”

The task ahead:

“Do we not then need in the future, as Pope Benedict XVI has argued, a reason tempered by faith and a faith tempered by reason? And is this not offered by the Thomistic tradition, understood in the broad sense I have outlined as a perennial philosophy which linked knowledge to love, and contemplation of God to good citizenship?

But in each of these cases I shall re-appropriate the modern from the “Franciscans” for the “Dominicans” by construing language as actual words, phenomena as actual things, mathematics as actual numbers and life as actual transcendence, not virtual immanence.”

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