In this rich and dense book, Michael Allen Gillespie is self-consciously trying to correct the “standard” understanding of the origin of modernity. Rather than being the “victory of secularism,” modernity, he says, is a series of attempts to grapple with fundamental theological issues: the realities of God, man, and nature, and, in particular, how meaningfully to construe the relationships between divine omnipotence and freedom, and human action and freedom: “[I]t is a mistake to imagine that modernity is in its origins and at its core atheistic, antireligious, or even agnostic . . . ” Rather,
from the very beginning modernity sought not to eliminate religion but to support and develop a new view of religion and its place in human life, and . . . it did so not out of hostility to religion but in order to sustain certain religious beliefs.
We should see modernity as
an attempt to find a new metaphysical/theological answer to the question of the nature and relation of God, man, and the natural world that arose in the late medieval world as a result of a titanic struggle between contradictory elements within Christianity itself.
At the heart of the matter is the ascendency of nominalism within the framework of scholasticism: “Modernity came into being as the result of a series of attempts to find a way out of the crisis engendered by the...