Friday, June 1, 2012

Scotus and the Reformation

My son Stephen brought to my attention a brief review at First Things: The Late Middle Ages Rightly Blamed. This is a review of Brad Gregory's new book, The Unintended Reformation. The subtitle accurately reflects the overall theme, "How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society," but in telling this tragic story Gregory lays a major portion of the blame on what Etienne Gilson long ago described as the "Breakdown of Medieval Philosophy"--thus the title of the First Things review, which directs our attention to the philosophical shortcomings of Scotus and Occam in particular. The review is written by a Protestant, Matthew Milliner, a professor of Art History at Wheaton College. In his review he observes:
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.