Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Miklos Veto

In a warm review of Robert Jenson's America's Theologian Miklos Veto writes 'Yet at this point I must be allowed a moderately critical remark. Jenson sets out by stating that Edwards has not only been America's greatest theologian but also that "his theology meets precisely the problems and opportunities of specifically American Christianity and of the nation molded thereby" (p.3). Throughout the book - which often appears as a subtle and urbane revival of the "great American Jeremiad" - Jenson insists on presenting the insights and implications of Edwards's theology as capable of remedying the plight of contemporary American Christianity. I don't wish to contest the appropriateness of calling upon eighteenth-century teachings to meet the challenges of our own time, and yet I must beg to register respectful disagreement. It would seem that Jenson's Edwards addresses himself exclusively and explicitly to Americans. But surely Edwards was great enough to speak not only to his own folks but also to the great world at large. He may well have been the American divine par excellence, but he was also the greatest Christian theologian of the eighteenth-century.' in Church History, Vol. 58, No. 4. (Dec., 1989), pp. 520-522.

Veto has written on Edwards and there is an interesting article about him in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is a fascinating story - here is part of it.

After arriving in Paris, Mr. Veto completed his undergraduate degree, in philosophy, at the Sorbonne, focusing on metaphysics and the philosophy of religion.Mr. Veto, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, underwent a religious conversion as a teenager and became a devout Roman Catholic. Studying in the West, he says, presented opportunities that had not been available back in Hungary."I had never wanted to study law," he says. "Originally I wanted to study comparative religion - but the Communist regime pushed you where they wanted to."

Mr. Veto earned a master's degree at the Sorbonne, then went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Oxford, which had also committed to help Hungarian student refugees. At Oxford his thesis was on the ethics of Simone Weil; his adviser was the Weil-admirer Iris Murdoch, the novelist, whom he describes as "very delicious, very nice."The thesis became the basis of his first book, The Religious Metaphysics of Simone Weil.

Of the dozen books Mr. Veto has written since then and the many more he has edited, the ones on Weil and From Kant to Schelling, a study on German idealism, are best known and the most widely translated.Mr. Veto later received a doctorate from the Sorbonne and studied Catholic theology at the University of Strasbourg. "I have always felt deeply grateful to the French and English authorities who helped us - even though they also enjoyed having well-educated students enter their universities," he says.

While he says he enjoyed both the Sorbonne and Oxford "intellectually," the Sorbonne, and its Catholic student center, was the place he felt most at home. "I love the French," he says, "but I only respect the English."

Although Mr. Veto received French degrees, became a French citizen, and married a French woman, finding an academic job in France proved enormously difficult because he was not French by birth. So he went to the United States, where he taught philosophy at Yale University and held various visiting professorships. He also spent five years teaching in the Ivory Coast. In 1979 he returned to teach in France, at the University of Rennes, then at the University of Poitiers, where he is now professor emeritus.

In his retirement, Mr. Veto says he is writing a treatise on his "system of metaphysics."He and his wife have three children and seven grandchildren. To this day, Mr. Veto says he is ambivalent about having left Hungary. "You become free, yet you lose your roots," he says. "I never cease to be a Hungarian, yet I would not like to live there."

Still he finds his life to have been blessed. "I feel, despite the grievous things which happened to us," he says, "that God has been infinitely kind to carry me through all these 70 years and to give me the experiences of many different cultures and the religious faith with which I live my life and think about."


Blogger Jerry Stutzman said...

Do you know of any plans to translate his work on Edwards, "La pensee de Jonathan Edwards"?

3:51 pm  
Blogger Jerry Stutzman said...

Do you know of any plans to translate his work on Edwards, "La pensee de Jonathan Edwards"?

3:52 pm  
Blogger caleb maskell said...


Prof Veto has considered a translation, or an updated work on JE in English. I am not sure where those plans stand at the moment. We will know more after the "Jonathan Edwards in Europe" conference in May.

Caleb Maskell

4:17 pm  
Blogger Michael McClenahan said...

And we'll have more information on that conference when it is available.

5:26 pm  

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