[Part I of this series may be read HERE.]
In Part II of this series, (taken from Mark Noll’s new book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind), Noll discussed a debate between two different schools of 13th century thought concerning the relationship of God’s being to that of all other beings. The outcome of this debate, he writes, exerted considerable influence on later Western history. One view, that of Thomas Aquinas, “held that this relationship is largely analogical, that is that while humans and the created world were certainly like God in many ways, the essence of God remained a mystery known only to himself.” So for example, “everything in the world, he [Aquinas] insisted, happened because of God’s direction. But some things happen contingently, or with the appearance of randomness. The logic of their contingency is perfectly clear to God, but because God in his essence is hidden to humans, humans may not be able to grasp how that which they perceive as random could be part of God’s direction of the universe.” The opposing view was held by Duns Scotus. “His position argued for the univocity of being. The only way to know the essence of anything is through its existence. Although God is much greater and much wiser than humans, his being and the being of all other things share a common essence.” It was Scotus’s views that prevailed. Noll believes that the fact that the western church sided with Scotus rather than Aquinas has had significant ramifications for how we think of divine activity in the natural world, and this in turn has played no small role in the current disconnect between mainstream science and evangelical Christianity. In today’s essay, Noll goes on to explore B.B. Warfield as a 100 year old case study of how one person retained a “commitment to the goal of harmonizing a sophisticated conservative theology and the most securely verified conclusions of modern science.” Although, we have posted a significant number of profound articles and video clips on our web-site, we are not sure we know of a single more poignant representation of what BioLogos seeks to do than what is demonstrated in this reflection upon the work of B.B. Warfield.