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COMPANION TO CHRISTIAN METAPHYSICS

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It is not uncommon to encounter understandings of metaphysics which characterise it as abstruse, confusing, abstract, and as lacking any basis in or relevance to reality. Given this now well-established critique, why would one care about, let alone desire to take up, the philosophical discipline of metaphysics? More specifically, why is it that in the context of contemporary Christian philosophy and Christian theology there is an increasing interest in metaphysics, not only as a historical aspect of the tradition, but moreover as a resource with which to continue to articulate the faith? The answer is twofold. The first, more expansive answer may be found by looking again to the Oxford English Dictionary, where still, despite this history, the primary definition remains: ‘The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things or reality, including questions about being, substance, time and space, causation, change, and identity (which are presupposed in the special sciences but do not belong to any one of them); theoretical philosophy as the ultimate science of being and knowing.’ These are the concerns of religion, of the meaning, and being and knowing that precede, and support all of our other sciences. There exists no suitable replacement for metaphysics. Even after at least 500 years of the critique of metaphysics, Western civilization still finds itself asking metaphysical questions despite the oft expressed desire to escape them. The second answer, more particular to this project, is the question of whether Christianity requires metaphysics if it is to intelligibly articulate itself.

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