The Revelation of God in All of Reality
- ISBN: 9780801098291
- Published By: Baker Academic
- Published: November 2018
Everyday Glory is a timely book that offers a beautiful and winsome introduction to the typological worldview, and I hope it finds a wide readership amongst laypersons and students looking for an everyday sacramentality. For the many Christians in flight from the hauntings of a Deist past, Gerald McDermott’s book offers an everyday spirituality grounded in the immanent presence of a transcendent God. As such, it is a great starting point for one to engage the history and theology of reflection on God’s presence in the world.
McDermott aims to introduce a typological worldview of the Christian premodern past. He begins with Christ and the earliest Christians. “Jesus and the apostles,” writes McDermott, “read all the Old Testament as a massive typological system—one giant type” (18). But McDermott aims not only at elucidating biblical types but also types in all of reality. There are types in categories that one might readily expect: history, law, and nature. McDermott then goes beyond this, however, to explore types almost everywhere, for the “revelation of God” is indeed in “all of reality” (from the title; emphasis added). So, he includes chapters, for example, on sex, science, and sports, describing the kind of types that exist therein.
McDermott notes, for example, that the New Testament speaks of marriage as a type of the Christ-church union (Eph 5:31–32). The union of marriage is a type that points to the Christ-church union, which is in this case the antitype. Paul’s use of the rock (1 Cor 10:4) is another introductory example: “The rock that gushed water was Christ! It was not just a symbol of the future Messiah that Moses imagined or a sign of his love that God sent. . . . Christ himself is the rock miraculously spouting water” (19, emphasis original). For McDermott, thinking of truth, goodness, and beauty in nature merely as “symbol,” “sign,” or “image” falls short of the typological view of reality presented in scripture. “It seems to me,” avers McDermott, “on the basis of what Scripture tells us about types, that the type participates in the antitype—that is, it shares in the being of that to which it refers” (33; emphasis original). For McDermott, our perceptions of goodness, truth, or beauty in the world are not extrinsic images or signs but intrinsic participations in the very being of God.
One of the main strengths of McDermott’s book is his basic explication of the movement in history away from a typological mindset. The reader will be most impressed and edified by the wide array of sources McDermott deploys to explain this: ancient theological sources (Ephrem the Syrian, Cyril of Alexandria, and Origen), medieval and modern (Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, Hans urs von Balthasar, Søren Kierkegaard, and Jonathan Edwards), and contemporary (Levering, Boersma, and Alastair McGrath). Most importantly, the author thickens his account by relying on Edwards, whom he knows well from previous scholarship, and John Henry Newman. Through these sources, McDermott ably takes the reader by the hand to develop the content and basic tradition of the typological worldview. Along the way, McDermott opens the newcomer to a wonderful, long list of deeper reading on various aspects of the typological view.
The typological worldview of the Great Tradition is set against an alternative worldview that antithetically pits heavenly realities against natural realities—in its most basic sense, the Deist perspective. But McDermott is not merely revolting against 17th-century Deism. More contentiously, he proposes Karl Barth’s well-known rejection of the analogia entis as the conceptual fodder that explains the modern resistance to a typological worldview. He also associates Luther with Barth, contending that Barth’s reading of Luther influenced Barth’s rejection of the analogia entis. McDermott synthesizes his view of Barth on analogy and types: “all the supposed types that observers say they find in nature and history and that point to the true God are counterfeit. . . . In a word, they are idols” (205). Drawing most primarily on Jonathan Edward’s typological theology, McDermott’s anti-Deist, anti-Barthian, and anti-Lutheran affirmation of typology is unwavering.
On his basic point that the world is full of types, Everyday Glory should be considered a great success and a unique contribution to the literature on this topic, especially for the lay reader wanting to be introduced to the sometimes perplexing topic of participatory ontology. I leave the McDermott’s potential reader with a question. How does typology, participation, images, and biblical warrant relate to one another? McDermott envisions types as God-planted and maintains that types need biblical warrant (see ch 2). He also claims that a type “shares in the being of that to which it refers” (33; emphasis original). Types are not merely “signs,” “images,” or “symbols.” So, does McDermott implicitly leave much of the world’s beauty, goodness, and truth outside of God’s being? If we can’t find biblical warrant for some beautiful relationship in the world, would McDermott’s account leave this beauty in the non-typological realm, and thus not participating in God’s being? If so, where is this beauty’s source? In some other source than the being of God? On this question, I found it fruitful to compare the mother-father-child relationship, which is a type of the trinity (146) to McDermott’s claim that the “free creation” (156) or “timelessness” (159) inherent in sports are merely images (161). Is our sense of timelessness (i.e., eternity) or free creation unhinged from the being of God?
For its winsome style, clarity, expansive use of primary material from the Great Tradition, and lucid account of a critical topic, McDermott’s book is a welcome and important contribution to the field of introductory books on the typological-participatory worldview.
Brian Dant is a graduate student at Regent College in Vancouver, BC.Brian DantDate Of Review:February 16, 2021