there have been other Protestant responses to Gregory’s book, namely that of the evangelical historian Mark Noll. Noll disagrees with Gregory’s distribution of blame for secularism on the Reformation. However, Noll agrees with Gregory’s point of historical departure: The suggestion that the univocal metaphysics of John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham’s nominalism were profoundly harmful, and did much to put the young Luther in the unenviable state that precipitated (thanks in part to Luther’s disruption of episcopal income streams) the tragedy of the Reformation.
According to Noll, univocal metaphysics, bequeathed to us by the later Middle Ages, remains the rickety stage upon which the fatuous debates between creationists, some ID proponents, and the new atheists take place.None of this is news in the scholarly world, but it bears repeating--frequent repeating. There is simply no way of understanding the modern Western crisis without absorbing this lesson, and Milliner provides useful references to the relevant historiography.
Michael Sean Winters also provides an enthusiastic review of the book, stating in part:
Gregory, who teaches history at Notre Dame, seeks to show how the changes wrought by the Reformation unintentionally led to the ideological, social, political, intellectual and economic consequences that still shape the world in which we live today, and, especially, how the internal contradictions of our current world appear incapable of resolving themselves unless we reacquaint ourselves with the historical context, and the historical choices, from which those contradictions emerged.
Gregory looks at six different issues in examining how we went from late medieval Christendom to the world we inhabit today. He repeats many times that these issues are examined discretely to organize the argument, but they all affected one another in various ways and were part of one, complex, historical story. The first chapter is the most philosophically challenging, looking at how the “rejection of the long-standing Christian view of God’s relationship to creation beginning in the later Middle Ages,” led to what he terms a “metaphysical univocity.” Here, the first culprits predate the Reformation: Duns Scotus and Occam with his razor. Their thought resulted in the laying aside of the traditional Jewish and Christian insistence on the radical transcendence of God, replacing it with a God who, in some sense, shares “being” the way creatures do, albeit in a more exalted fashion. Gregory leads this insight through Newton and Spinoza, we visit with Descartes and Kant and Hume and Hegel. It is quite a tour de force and this first chapter requires careful attention and the occasional dusting off of college philosophy books. Do not be deterred. Gregory is right to put the heavy philosophic lifting first, as metaphysics remains the ground from which other intellectual pursuits start, even if those who engage in such pursuits scarcely take the time to consider the metaphysical assumptions they make. Before heading on to other topics, Gregory does not want the reader to make the same mistake. It is important to refresh our memories about these first principles, to be reminded about Heidegger’s Sein and Dasein, although I always thought Heidegger was Insane. (Couldn’t resist!)