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[«] Posts by the Author "Peter Leithart"(#882)

November 21 2017, 5AM

The history of the world, proponents of liberalism argue, is the history of the struggle for freedom, the struggle between freedom and slavery. Democracy also sees history as a struggle, in this case the struggle to establish the power of the people. As R... [liberalism]


Below is a portion of my opening comments at an ETS session on “public legacies of the Reformation,” presented on November 16, 2017. I was asked to identify the legacies of the Reformation that help us face the emerging challenges of the prese... [liberalism] [Reformation]

November 20, 4AM

Ryszard Legutko’s The Demon in Democracy is a bracing read. Legutko, a Polish philosopher and member of the European Parliament, has lived under both communism and liberalism, and so is unusually well-positioned to articulate his counter-intuitive t... [Communism] [liberalism]

November 17, 7AM

Locke is often seen as the heir to Reformation political theology. Ruben Alvarado (Calvin and the Whigs) begs to differ. Locke was waiting in the wings when Calvinist politics eroded. He writes: “Puritans founded some of the chief colonies in Americ... [American Politics] [Locke]
While in North Korea, President Trump held back on schoolyard insults to Kim Jong-un, and focused on the damage that Kim’s regime has caused to North Koreans: “Far from valuing its people as equal citizens, this cruel dictatorship measures th... [Korea]
Adam Kuper reviewed Emmanuelle Loyer’s Claude Levi-Strauss in a 2016 issue of the TLS. A few noteworthy tidbits. It’s intriguing that the great classifier of kin relations should come from a densely interconnected family: “Lévi-Strauss... [Levi-Strauss]


Adrian Vermeule has a brilliant review of Ryszard Legutko’s Demon in Democracy. He begins with Tocqueville’s observation that the French Revolution “developed into a species of religion” but one without ritual. Legutko, and Vermeu... [liberalism] [liturgy]
In an essay on covenant as a political concept, Daniel Elazar briefly traces the development of covenant, and its relation to natural law, from Philo to Spinoza. Reformed theorists like Althusius loom large, what with their recovery and expansion of the ... [covenants] [Political Philosophy] [Spinoza]
How did everything get politicized – every choice of a favorite beer, every style decision, every nook and cranny of everyday life? Bruce Schulman blames it on Rolling Stone magazine. As he writes, “/the magazine embraced the countercultural i... [Counter-culture]


Albanian isn’t usually considered an important literary language, but Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare explained in an interview with the Paris Review how the language merges classical and modern forms of literary expression: “Albanian is simp... [Albania] [Ismail Kadare]
Infants and toddlers can’t dress, feed, or transport themselves. Yet in the paradoxical world of the Bible, their very weakness makes them strong. One Child, the Davidic one with the government on His shoulders, is strong enough to overthrow Satan. As a... [Advent] [children]
In The Whole Church Sings (41), Robin Leaver summarizes Andreas Karlstadt’s 53 theses against Gregorian chant (1521): “It is a consecutive tirade, not particularly well-organized, against all forms of liturgical music then current, not just G... [music] [Reformation]

November 16, 5AM

Some notes following a discussion about Job with the Theopolis Fellows. 1) Theopolis student John Crawford pointed out that Job is described as blameless (tam) at the outset of the book. It’s the same word used for Noah, Abraham, and Jacob but it i... [Bible - OT - Job]


Children have a high profile already in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus raises the stakes immeasurably. He is the Word made flesh, Word made baby. God speaks His eternal Word in infant flesh, child flesh, boy flesh before He finally speaks it in the crucified fle... [Bible - NT - Gospels] [children]

November 15, 6AM

I have defended Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore’s  statements about God and law, but his conduct is indefensible. Not only in decades past but in the past week. Four women have charged that Moore made sexual advances when he was thirty-plus ... [alabama] [American Politics]


God created man male and female, blessed them, and commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28-29). Procreation is one of the most basic vocations of human beings. The language of “fruitfulness” is originally used of the ... [Bible] [children]

November 14, 5AM

The Peace of Westphalia (1648) has been marked as a turning point in European political history, the origin of the modern international system of sovereign territorial states. Benno Teschke (Myth of 1648) summarizes the thesis: “After 1648, formaliz... [church and state] [Europe] [Peace of Westphalia] [secularization]


Judith Gundry’s contribution to The Child in the Bible examines the place of children in Mark’s gospel, with particular focus on the episode of Jesus blessing the children. It’s an illuminating essay. Mark includes no infancy narratives,... [Bible - NT - Mark] [children]

November 13, 4AM

In his Happiness Paradox, Ziyad Marar explores the sources of “justification.” Humiliation is a uniquely human form of suffering. How do we deal with it? Our strategies for staving off humiliation are strategies of “justification.”... [justification] [Psychology]

November 10, 7AM

Virginia Woolf, atheist though she was, couldn’t avoid religious language when she spoke about her writing. Writing began from “a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances; and I make it real by putting it i... [Virginia Woolf]
Robert Brandom (Tales of the Mighty Dead, 13-14) observes a continuity between Hegel and Kant: Both take concepts as “norms for judgment. They determine proprieties of application to particulars of terms that, because of the normative role they play... [Hegel] [rationality]
Did the Council of Trent allow communion in both kinds, in bread and wine? The answer is complicated. Nathan Mitchell (Oxford History of Christian Worship, 338-9) writes that “After intense behind-the-scenes negotiations, Pope Pius IV authorized co... [council of trent] [Eucharist] [Roman Catholicism]


Reviewing Carlos Eire’s Reformations at First Things, Eamon Duffy claims that “Protestantism ‘desacralized’ the world by accepting an essentially binary division of reality into spirit and matter. That division was expressed in Ref... [Reformation]
“Stay, you are so fair.” That is the sentence that Mephistopheles tempts Faust to utter in Goethe’s poem. To wish to remain in one moment is to abandon the restlessness of human experience. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse takes... [Virginia Woolf]
“That the kiss is the icon of intimacy is so obvious it is in danger of becoming a cliché,” writes Ziyad Marar (Intimacy, 33). “How many romantic films end, or at least peak, with that image? The orchestra swells, the hearts melt in one... [Dante] [intimacy] [Rodin]


Nathan Mitchell (writing in the Oxford History of Christian Worship, 324) denies that Zwingli taught a “mere symbolist” according to which the Supper “simply served to remind believers of the great benefits bestowed on them through Chris... [Eucharist] [Reformation] [Zwingli]
Beverly Gaventa (The Child in the Bible) points to the role of speech in Romans. Perverse speech is one of the key symptoms of the world of sin; by the cross and resurrection, Jesus has redeemed speech. She points to the inclusio around chapters 1-3: R... [Bible - NT - Romans]
How did the American federal government expand its power and reach? World War I is often cited as a turning point, but Christopher Capozzola’s Uncle Sam Wants You shows that this expansion wasn’t just a federal project. New forms of political... [American History] [American Politics] [nationalism] [violence] [World War I]

November 9, 5AM

Some years ago, I gave a quiz to college-bound high school students. Take if yourself: Finish the following sentences or phrases: With great power . . . . Hasta la vista . . . . Do the . . . (Dew) Shaken, not . . . . Space, the final . . . . Think outsid... [Bible - NT - 1 John] [pop culture]


The Bible speaks of children from beginning to end, the history it tells is a history of children. To recite the story of children in Scripture would be to recite Scripture. In the beginning: *Adam was born of earth and divine breath, naked as a newborn. ... [Bible] [children]

November 8, 4AM

“Modern” is an invention of the Christian Middle Ages. According to Krishan Kumar (From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society), “Modernus, from modo (‘recently’, ‘just now’) was a late Latin coinage on the model of hodiernus (fr... [middle ages] [modernity] [Time]

November 7, 5AM

The description of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6 employs a number of anatomical terms: The temple has a “face” (v. 3), “ribs” (vv. 5, 8), and “shoulders” (7:39). The language makes it clear that already in the OT the temple is “humanifor... [Bible - OT - Kings]


Craig Gay (The Way of the (Modern) World) lucidly traces a line of development from Descartes’ separation of the human subject from the world of objects, through the Cartesian and Newtonian effort to reduce science to mathematics, to the triumph of tech... [Language]

November 6, 4AM

The following is an excerpt from my Brightest Heaven of Invention, published in the misty days of the mid-1990s.  Claudio looks at Hero’s appearance, and concludes she is a maid, a virgin. Because of Don John’s deception, he believes that he has peel... [Shakespeare]

November 3, 7AM

In a TLS exchange with Timothy Williamson on the uses of philosophy, Roger Scruton argues that philosophy’s task is to preserve humanity’s humanity, the subjectivity that sets us apart from the rest of the world. Philosophy mans the boundaries... [philosophy]
Rosenstock-Huessy begins his sociology with a lengthy discussion of the spaces of play. His premise is that “in play, it transpires that we anticipate the experiences of real life.” A little girl marries her boy doll to her girl doll. A boy en... [play] [Rosenstock-Huessy]
Kathryn Schulz observes that “One of the strangest things about the human mind is that it can reason about unreasonable things. It is possible, for example, to calculate the speed at which the sleigh would have to travel for Santa Claus to deliver a... [fantasy] [Walt Disney]


Rosenstock-Huessy scoffs at the notion of presuppositionless sociology (Sociology, vol. 1, 26). In a moving tribute to the life and work of Saint Simon, he argues that, on the contrary, “Everything known to sociology is known only because suffering ... [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Sociology]
Anthony Lane doesn’t much like George Clooney’s 1950s black comedy, Suburbicon. One of the story-lines focuses on the Mayerses, a black family, who move into the Suborbicon neighborhood. All hell breaks loose: “The mailman is astounded.... [film] [Race]
In the early years of Joash, the house of David hangs by a thread (2 Chronicles 23). Its entire future rests in a baby, Joash son of Ahaziah, whom Jehoiada the priest rescues from Athaliah’s slaughter to be raised among the priests. By every empirical m... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]


Charlotte Methuen’s TLS review essay of recent books on the Reformation is the best one-stop summary of recent scholarship I’ve seen during this season of Ref500 commemorations. In the recent biographies of Luther, you can find Luther the medi... [Reformation]
“All theory is eye-obsessed,” writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy in the recently published first volume of his Sociology (3). Theoria is a vision-rooted concept, and a theory attempts to grasp the “idea” of the matter by looking at th... [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Sociology]
Andrew Ferguson reviews Sally Quinn’s memoir, Finding Magic, explaining how Quinn transformed society reporting to become “one of the channels through which the revolution of the 1960s entered Washington and remade the city and American poli... [American Politics] [Journalism] [Sixties]

November 2, 5AM

In a wide-ranging, informative overview of US interests in Africa, Matthew Taylor King summarizes the optimistic narrative of African productivity that emerged in the early 2000s: “In any given year, in a list of the world’s top ten economic perfo... [africa] [African Christianity]


In that seventh year, Jehoiada the priest organizes a covenant renewal that will restore the Davidic kingdom. He places the boy king Joash on the throne (2 Chronicles 23). The covenant renewal is a double or even a triple covenant renewal. The first coven... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

November 1, 4AM

For a week in early October, it looked as if my college football fantasy – or nightmare – might be realized. The three teams I root for all looked as if they might be heading for the NCAA playoff. Yes, I root for three college football teams. I suffer... [football]

October 31, 5AM

On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, a list of propositions aimed at problems in the Roman Catholic Church, to the door of the university church in Wittenberg, Germany. He wanted to start a theological debate. Instead, he started the Refo... [Reformation] [Reformational Catholicism]


The following is excerpted from my study of Jane Austen’s novels, Miniatures and Morals. Pride and Prejudice begins with two young, handsome, wealthy men moving into the neighborhood, intent, or so Mrs. Bennet believes, on finding pretty wives. New ... [Jane Austen]

October 30, 4AM

Protestants often focus on the doctrinal issues of the Reformation, but right teaching about justification wasn’t the only issue at stake. The question was, Who is the bearer of Jesus’ kingdom? Or, Which church is the true church? That just raises... [Bible - OT - Chronicles] [Reformation]

October 27, 7AM

Nationalism is sometimes presented today as an antidote to the corrosions of modern political order, globalization, secularism. That’s an odd twist, since nationalism was born from the same fires as revolution. James Billington writes (Fire in the M... [French Revolution] [nationalism]
Nicholas Thompson ( Eucharistic Sacrifice And Patristic Tradition In The Theology Of Martin Bucer 1534-1546 ) stresses the importance of the second great commandment for Martin Bucer’s Eucharistic reforms: “love of neighbour necessarily implied the ... [Eucharist] [Martin Bucer] [Reformation]
For centuries, the history of the Reformation has been written by confessional historians who want to defend their own confessional tradition against the rivals. Lutheran historians make Luther the central character and have demonized the Swiss Reformed, ... [Reformation]


Jehoiada leads Judah in a three-sided covenant. Judah’s communal life is articulated, ordered. It’s not simply Yahweh-with-a-mass of Israelites. It’s Yahweh with Jehoiada the priest, Joash the king, and the people of Judah. Covenant cons... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]
Seizing power doesn’t make a revolution. When you seize speech, then you’ve got a chance at total revolution. Writing of the French Revolution, James Billington writes (Fire in the Minds of Men, 34-5), ” four-letter outbursts of the you... [French Revolution] [Language]


You could find anything in the cafes of the Palais Royal in the last decades of the eighteenth century: “Distinctions of rank were obliterated, and men were free to exercise sexual as well as political freedom. In the course of a single visit, one m... [French Revolution] [sacred]
Toward the end of Corpus Mysticum, Henri de Lubac says that one of the most serious results of the shifts in Eucharistic theology he examines is “the devaluation of symbols.” Augustine’s entire theology was about “signs” and ... [Eucharist] [imagination] [Trinity]
“In the summer of 1789, absolute monarchy and aristocratic authority were overthrown forever in the most powerful kingdom,” writes James Billington in Fire in the Minds of Men (20). If something happens, it must be possible. Just so: The Fren... [French Revolution]

October 26, 4AM

Josiah’s death is a reverse exodus because it’s first an inverted Passover. Zechariah describes a scene of mourning like the “mourning on the plain of Megiddo,” a reference to the death of Josiah (Zechariah 12:11). But the mourning Zechari... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]
Was the American Revolution a Revolution? Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (ERH) concludes it was a “half-revolution” rather than a total revolution on the scale of the Russian, French, Puritan, Reformation, and Papal revolutions. Evaluating the revolutionary... [American Revolution] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

October 25, 4AM

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy claims that the German Reformation qualifies for inclusion as one of the epochal revolutions of Western history (Out of Revolution). This is so partly because the German Reformation gave to Europe a new social role, the civil serva... [Luther] [Reformation] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

October 24, 5AM

The following is an excerpt from Peter Leithart’s forthcoming two-volume commentary on Revelation (T&T Clark). You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings,” a voice tells John (Rev. 10:11). Then someone gi... [Bible - NT - Revelation] [Preaching]


The following is an excerpt from the introduction to my Deep Comedy (Canon, 2006). Viewed as a whole,  the Christian account of history is eschatological not only in the sense that it comes to a definitive and everlasting end, but in the sense that the e... [comedy] [derrida] [Trinity]

October 23, 4AM

“To date,” writes Norbert Elias in his Essay on Time, “enquiries into the sociology of time are almost non-existent” (38). This deficit, he suggests, is due to a dichotomy of the natural and human worlds, a dichotomy reflected in acade... [Norbert Elias] [Time]

October 20, 7AM

David VanDrunen, has worked out an understanding of natural law and the “two kingdoms” Christologically. He writes, “The Son of God rules the temporal kingdom as an eternal member of the Divine Trinity but does not rule it in his capacity as the in... [natural law] [Two Kingdoms]
Benedict rejects the notion that Catholic social theory treats social and political institutions – the state, the economy, civil society, for instance – as – autonomous, extrinsically-related “subjects” with different logics. On this view, the e... [Benedict XVI] [Catholic Social Teaching] [love]
Robert Bellamy states the thrust of his “republican defense of constitutional democracy” up front (Political Constitutionalism, viii). He rejects the common assumption that “a written, justiciable constitution, incorporating a bill of... [constitution] [democracy] [Political Theory]


Adam Kirsch can’t bring himself to say that poet Richard Wilbur, who died last weekend, was a Christian. In a 2004 New Yorker review, he comes close – recognizing religious themes and describing him as a “Transcendentalist.” Kirsch... [poetry] [richard wilbur]
In Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (33-4), Tracey Rowland takes note of the Pope’s sharp critique of popular music, including contemporary Christian music. Benedict “quotes Adorno’s judgement that ‘the fundamental characteristic of... [Benedict XVI] [music]
Evolutionary theorists want to present evolution as a theory of everything. Benedict XVI (Truth and Tolerance, 180-1) doesn’t buy it. Philosophically, the question is “whether reason, or rationality, stands at the beginning of all things and i... [Benedict XVI] [evolution] [rationality] [reason]


Oakley, Kingship, 90-1. the Augustine whom one usually encounters in the Latin Middle Ages is the Augustine of the City of God only insofar as that work was reinterpreted in light of the tracts he wrote during the course of his long and bitter struggle ag... [augustine] [middle ages] [Political Theology]
Gaul is still divided into three parts, according to Stefan McDaniel in a 2016 essay in First Things. Three parties are vying to determine the future of France – deconstructionists, children of 1968; reconstructionists, in search for new values to g... [France]
In Truth and Tolerance, Benedict XVI argues that the Western world is in a crisis that can only be solved if “reason and religion . . . come together again, without merging into each other” (144). He insists this isn’t a matter of protec... [Benedict XVI] [reason]

October 19, 5AM

Dead time, Rosenstock-Huessy says, is entirely a product of the past, a result of a cause. That conception of time works for physics, but it fails to account for the reality of human time, which always involves surprise and a break with the past. Through ... [future] [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Time]


According to the doctrine of the Trinity, the ultimate source of all things, the God in whom we live, move and have our being, is both one and plural, one God in three persons. This has enormous implications for how we think of the world. In ancient philo... [love] [Trinity]

October 18, 4AM

Rosenstock-Huessy believes that God has a unique relationship to time that no human being has, but he describes this unique relationship in ways that are unusual for the Christian tradition. Instead of saying that God is “timeless,” he says that God i... [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Time] [Trinity]

October 17, 5AM

Modernity’s reduction of time to clock-time is not socially or psychically healthy. As Rosenstock-Huessy puts it: “We need the intersecting of many rhythms of time. Our stomach and our consciousness respond to a 24-hour rhythm. Our faith and our h... [calendars] [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Time]


Enlightenment secularism is committed to “freedom” as its overarching value. In an address on “Freedom and Truth” (published in The Essential Pope Benedict XVI), Benedict XVI describes the Enlightenment as a “will to emancipation” (citing Kan... [abortion] [Benedict XVI] [freedom]

October 15, 6PM

The following is an excerpt taken from my Blessed Are the Hungry (Canon, 2000). The Lord’s Supper is the world in miniature; it has cosmic significance. Within it we find clues to the meaning of all creation and all history, to the nature of God and the... [Eucharist]

October 13, 7AM

John of Salisbury, the 12th-century political thinker, called Orosius, author of Seven Books of HIstories against the Pagans, a “disciple of the great Augustine.” It’s true. According to Francis Oakley (Empty Bottles of Gentilism), Orosi... [augustine] [middle ages]
Elizabeth Digeser (Making of a Christian Empire) observes that the Roman emperor Diocletian came to the purple with a disadvantage: He was a usurper. He needed to secure his power, lest another usurp his place. His strategy was to distribute power to a Te... [diocletian] [roman empire]
Thomas argues (ST I, 28, 2) that since “everything which is not the divine essence is a creature” and “relation really belongs to god,” it follows that relation is identical to essence. More fully: “whatever has an accidental... [Thomas Aquinas] [Trinity]


Peter Schjeldahl claims that Auguste Rodin “or his hand, as his mind’s executive—wrenched figurative sculpture from millennia of tradition and sent it tumbling into modernity.” He admits that There’s a stubborn tinge of vulgarity about ... [Rodin] [Sculpture]
“The doctrine of the Trinity is only possible as a piece of baffled theology,” writes Joseph Ratzinger (Introduction to Christianity, 122). This is true in a sheer historical sense: “Every one of the big basic concepts in the doctrine of... [Benedict XVI] [Trinity]
Reviewing two new translations of the Iliad (by Peter Green and Barry Powell), Hayden Pelliccia explores some of the challenges of translating Homer. It starts from the very beginning. Homer writes (in Greek word order): “Wrath sing, goddess, Peleus-... [classics] [homer] [Iliad]


The responses to the Nobel selection of Kazuo Ishiguro for the 2017 literature prize drew mixed, underwhelmed  responses. Someone wrote that he wasn’t awarded the prize for any recent books. The Paris Review, though, posted an old interview to cel... [Kazuo Ishiguro] [literature]
In Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Ratzinger explains how the dogma of the Trinity emerged from early Christian experience. The apostles discovered that “in Jesus Christ one meets a man who at the same time knows and professes himself to be the... [Benedict XVI] [Trinity]
Peter Brown reviews of Sarah Ruden’s new translation of Augustine’s Confessions in this weeks New York Review of Books. I can’t speak to the translation, but I can speak to the reviewer: Everything Peter Brown writes is worth reading.... [augustine]

October 12, 5AM

As we would expect, Rosenstock-Huessy assembles his grammatical material into a Cross. With the distinction of words and names in mind, we can see how Rosenstock-Huessy describes the function of speech in human life and society in a quadrilateral manner. ... [Cross] [Language] [Rosenstock-Huessy]


Old Testament purity rules are badly understood, and a host of myths have surrounded them. Here I discuss three. Myth #1: Uncleanness is “dirtiness.” Though there is some overlap between “dirt” and “impurity,” the latt... [Bible - OT - Leviticus] [purity]

October 11, 4AM

One of the key distinctions in Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical sociology is that between names and words. In his brief discussion of this distinction in The Christian Future (CF), he begins with an expression of his horror at John Dewey’s notion that ... [Language] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

October 10, 5AM

After the northern tribes abandon the house of David (2 Chronicles 10), Rehoboam settles in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 11:5). He builds cities for defense and for storage (11:5-12), receives the Levites and priests who flee from idolatrous Israel (11:13-17),... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]


Underlying Rosenstock-Huessy’s entire discussion of the diseases of speech is the assumption that language establishes relations. In this, Rosenstock-Huessy is again assaulting one of the premises of modernity, namely, the centrality of the Ego, a... [Language] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

June 1, 12 PM

In this post,  Dr. Peter Leithart weighs in on the recent debate concerning relationships in the Trinity. Don’t miss Michael Bird’s overview of the debate over at the Logos Academic Blog. Then, visit this blog next Tuesday for an exclusive ... [articles]