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No fool he

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God..." 1 John 4.7

I once heard that the term "dunce", a disparaging reference to the one at the bottom of the class, is a corruption of the name John Duns Scotus. If ever there was an historical injustice! The late mediaeval theologian of that name was one of the most eminent thinkers to grace the divinity halls of Europe's ancient universities - and he was Scottish!

One can see how it happened: John Duns Scotus championed such dodgy causes as the Immaculate Conception (implying that Jesus' mother Mary was conceived in miraculous circumstances, like her son). And he paved the way for the Reformation claim "Sola gratia" (that we are saved by God's grace alone and not because we have earned or deserved it).

How could he have held together such unlikely convictions, far less acquired the academic reputation he enjoys? Two factors emerge from the most cursory glance at his legacy: his penetrating mind and the integrity of his life and teaching. John Duns Scotus wore his faith on his sleeve, applying every ounce of his being to living out that faith because he understood the fundamental importance of reconciling what one believes with how one lives. He was captivated by what he observed of the love which binds the Trinity - and its overflow into the hearts of believers, who are embraced into this transcendent yet all-pervading communion of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Extrapolating from this insight, John Duns Scotus was an advocate for unity at every level and in particular in the church. It's been a long time coming but has his day finally arrived?



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