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I read with interest "Evangelical Ressourcement," Matthew Milliner's thoughtful review of Hans Boersma's Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry [November/December]. Hans and I, along with several other colleagues, have the privilege of working together on a foundational integrative course at Regent College. (In his preface, Hans dedicates the book to the colleagues and students in that class.) Discussion after lectures is usually pretty vigorous, and never more so than when Hans speaks of the need for "sacramental ontology."
Our discussion is vigorous because our disagreement, though genial, is often profound. My Biblical Studies colleagues, for example, are unconvinced that the way they teach Scripture (grounded in what the historical-critical method can yield of the biblical author's meaning) is necessarily less spiritual than the "spiritual interpretation" (grounded in patristic exegesis and "the rule of faith") which Hans defends (and on which subject he hosted a brilliant international conference last fall at Regent titled "Heaven on Earth? The Future of Spiritual Interpretation").
My own concerns are more with the implications of "sacramental ontology" as Hans describes it, for our knowledge of and relationship to the created world. As Milliner points out, Hans argues that the warp on which the strands of the sacramental tapestry of medieval Christianity was woven was Christianized Platonism, particularly (as the title of his book suggests) the idea of participation. In this view, created things do not have their own reality. As Hans puts it, "created being is simply of the borrowed kind; created being is being only because by grace it participates in the being of God." This conviction underlies the key Thomistic idea of "the analogy of being": things are like God only by analogy; nothing is univocally like God, for no created thing has its own being; its being is "borrowed" through participation.
Here Hans agrees with ...