Saturday, 22 April 2017
Returning to Reality, by Paul Tyson
Paul Tyson, Returning to Reality: Christian Platonism for our Times, 2015 The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge
Paul Tyson makes a case for a revival of Christian Platonism. I think I agree with Tyson that a Christianized form of Platonism is a good thing, though in a number of ways, I found this a frustrating book. I think it would have been helpful for readers for Tyson to have made some more direct comparison between Christian Platonism and other forms of Christian metaphysics, such as Thomism. Tyson spends a good deal of the book critiquing modernity. That is a worthy task, but well read Christians are likely to have read a number of books attacking both modernity and postmodernity, so it felt somewhat tedious.
Tyson makes reference a view times to John Milbank, but otherwise he does not make any mention of Radical Orthodoxy. This is somewhat disingenuous, as it is very clear that Tyson has been influenced by the Radical Orthodoxy school of theology. This is seen most clearly in his identification of Blessed Duns Scotus as the originator of modern thought with his advocacy of the univocity of being. Personally, I am not convinced of the univocity of being, but I am very uncomfortable with the way Radical Orthodoxy has turned Blesed Duns Scotus into a theological Darth Vader. Scotus made many wonderful contributions to theology. Might one not alternatively blame St. Thomas Aquinas' empiricism (and Tyson does hint at this as a root cause later in the book). Tyson does acknowledge that some scholars have questioned the approach he takes to Scotus, but it might have been better if he had avoided that whole avenue of controversial historiography.
What was most frustrating was the way our author connects adopting Christian Platonism with a left-wing anti-capitalist stance. I find it puzzling that he makes the connection between Christian Platonism and radical politics, as the Patristic Fathers did not share his politicized approach to the faith. Many of the anti-Nicene Fathers were positive in their views of the Roman empire and had no interest in political change. The post-Nicene Fathers were even more accepting of the Christianized empire.
I think Tyson is mostly on the right lines, but this book could have been better.