How God relates to the world lies at the heart of the most intense debates in modern theology and philosophy. Movements of Nouvelle Théologie, process theology, radical orthodoxy, modern Trinitarian theology and postmodern theology (i.e. Jean-Luc Marion) all seek to reconsider God’s relation to the world as a corrective of what they perceive as problematic. Of particular significance is the recent revival of the theology of participation, as promoted by Radical Orthodoxy in UK and Hans Boersma in North America. Facing excessive secularism and fragmentation of the modern Western world, Radical Orthodoxy and Boersma resort to the pre-modern theology of participation as the way forward. Relying heavily on Platonism, however, their participatory theology, as critics pointed out, tends to compromise the intrinsic goodness of the creation. In this book, Ge proposes that a distinctively Christian theology of participation anchored in creatio ex nihilo, developed by Augustine and brought to the fore by Aquinas, provides a more promising solution which not only secures the unity of things in God but also the goodness of creaturely plurality.
Since participation in its origin is a solution to the problem of the One and the Many, Ge employs Gunton’s framework of the one and the many in his discussion of Augustine and Aquinas’s theologies of participation. By reshaping their concepts of participation in the light of the doctrine of creation, Ge argues, these thinkers have profoundly transformed the metaphysics of participation, making it finally more suitable for describing the unique relationship between God’s unity and creaturely plurality. This Christian metaphysics of participation is not only an advance on Radical Orthodoxy and Boersma, but also superior to competing theories of reality such as pluralism and reductionist physicalism. The book will also bring out implications for modern science-religion dialogues, the core of which concerns how God relates to the world.
Yonghua Ge is assistant professor of theology and intercultural philosophy at ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University.
Part One: Augustine’s Participatory Ontology
Chapter One: Augustine’s Participatory Ontology and the Question of Unity
Chapter Two: Multiplicity and Matter in Augustine’s Participatory Ontology
Chapter Three: Transcendence and Immanence in Augustine’s Participatory Ontology
Part Two: Aquinas’s Participatory Ontology
Chapter Four: Aquinas’s Theology of Participation and the Concept of Unity
Chapter Five: Multiplicity in Aquinas’s Theology of Participation
Chapter Six: Transcendence and Immanence in Aquinas’s Participatory Ontology
A renewed focus on the metaphysics of participation is one of the most striking features of Christian theology over recent decades. Against the background of Radical Orthodoxy and the sacramental ontology of Hans Boersma, Yonghua Ge offers a fresh reading of participatory metaphysics in relation to creation ex nihilo and the classical problem of the One and the Many. This is a significant contribution to one of the most lively debates in contemporary theology and philosophy.
God has been pushed to the edges in western modernity as either an unnecessary hypothesis or an intrusive meddler, yet the world bereft of God is bereft of meaning and integrity. The recent resurgence of interest in the theology of participation reopens the question of God’s relation to the world. In this incisive and beautifully clear study, Dr. Ge (himself both a theologian and scientist) both provides introduction to some of the most exciting recent work on the theology of participation, especially that of Hans Boersma and of the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ movement, at the same time putting challenges to both. Following Augustine and Aquinas, Dr. Ge suggests that the transformative effect of the Christian doctrine of creation ‘ex nihilo’, takes us to a less platonic and deeply Christian vision of God’s intimacy and love for the created order.
Yonghua Ge’s exposition of the meaning of participation, approached here largely in terms of creation and the relation of creatures to God, shows a keen eye for the central lineaments of that perennially fascinating and important topic: in unity, multiplicity, transcendence and immanence. The treatment of participation in Augustine is particularly welcome, addressing a surprising gap in scholarship in a way that is at once both accessible and deeply grounded in Augustine’s texts.