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BOOK REVIEWS Search for the Absent God: Tradition and Modernity in Religious Understanding . By WILLIAM J. HILL, O.P., MARY CATHERINE HILKERT , 0.P., ed. New York: Crossroad, 1992. Pp. 224. $27.50 (cloth). In presenting the fruit of a lifetime of exploration on the part of this theological craftsman of the highest merit, the editor has performed an unparalleled service. For William Hill is a clear and courageous thinker, and one whose selfless editorial duties have perhaps curtailed his own writing over the years. Yet these essays make up for that, and afford younger students of theology a starting point for their reflections beyond the fads of the moment, yet seizing the challenge of contemporary proposals. His grasp of classical and of modern idiom, together with his range of reading, make him a theologians' theologian par excellence . For with his classical mentors he is concerned with conceptual coherence, yet equally anxious to respond to the anthropological perspectives of contemporary theological inquiry. Briefly characterized, the work brings Thomas Aquinas into dialogue with Heidegger and with Whitehead, using each of the latter figures to challenge an earlier " Thomistic" synthesis of the thought of Thomas Aquinas, and highlight dimensions of his theology hitherto left quite implicit. This creative recovery of medieval thought begins with an established interpretation of Aquinas's metaphysical transformation of the neoplatonized Aristotle of Avicenna: his insistence that esse {existing ) precedes essence (or possibility) . The identification of God as that One in whom essence and existing are identical sets the stage for Hill's explicitly theological treatment of free persons, by analogy with the " persons " of the divine triunity: " each divine person ' posits ' the others as over and against himself and thereby posits himself in his hypostatic identity. What all this bases itself upon is the understanding that the Christian revelation of freedom as radically constituting personhood enables it to function as a category which surmounts the Greek dichotomizing of reality into contingency and necessity " (117). If the identification of existing with essence in God confronts Heidegger's critique of " ontology," Hill's use of classical trinitarian thought to suggest a fruitful distinction in human creatures between nature and freedom allows him at once to correct the caricature of Aquinas proffered by process theologians as "classical theism," and 521 522 BOOK REVIEWS also to profit by their criticisms of the use of hellenistic categories like impassibility in divinity. "The key ... lies in the mystery of freedom. Abstractly, freedom is a property of nature, but its exercise is the pre· rogative of person as the existential instantiation of nature. The person viewed ontologically (as subject of the act of existing) thus determines itself though its nature to be the sort of person it is, viewed psychologi· cally and historically" (127). Finite natures need to negotiate all sorts of causal influences in effecting such a determination of themselves; not so " an infinite nature whose freedom is transcendent." Yet when that One freely determines itself to be source and goal of all, and espe· cially of rational creatures (cf. Summa Theologiae 1.2 Prol.), then " that choice is one of willing to be constituted, personally and so relationally , and in this sense to be determined, by other free beings" (127). So the God who (in Aquinas' idiom) is not "really related" to the world in the sense of enduring (in Hill's words) "passive influx," nonetheless freely relates to intentional creatures in such a way as to be responsive to their freedom. So his response to Moltmann's conten· tion that God suffers " in his very deity " is an explicitly Christological one: "first, that God remains immutable and impassible in his own intrinsic godhead, so that his genuine love for creatures cannot entail suffering within divinity as such; but second, that God does choose to enter personally and relationally into the heart of humankind's suffering in his transcendentally free and loving response to it. God truly suffers ... in and through his humanity which is one with the humanity of all men and women" (162). If this resolution sounds "classical," it is, both in its concern for conceptual coherence and for bringing out the radical implications of doctrines like that of Chalcedon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 521-524
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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