The Biblioblog Reference Library

[«] Posts From the Blog "Leithart"(#285)

December 13 2017, 4AM

Evangelicals commonly say things like, God would have been perfectly just if He had sent the whole of sinful humanity to hell. Anselm would beg to differ. God created “rational beings” so that “through rejoicing in him, it might be bless... [Anselm]

December 12, 5AM

Boso, Anselm’s interlocutor in Cur Deus Homo, cites a collection of New Testament texts, and concludes: “Christ endured death under the compulsion of obedience, rather than through the intention of his own free will” (276). Anselm denies... [Anselm] [Atonement]

4AM

Three waves of Gentiles flood Judah in the book of Isaiah. The first threat is from Aram and Israel, from Syria and the Northern kingdom. Assyria is the rising power to the east, and that power is threatening to overrun the nations to the west of Assyri... [Bible - OT - Isaiah]

December 11, 4AM

Should we expect our political leaders to be saints? There’s a case for saying No. We might begin by making a distinction between private morality and the use of public authority. The ethical question that’s relevant to a political leader is... [American Politics] [Political Theology]

December 8, 7AM

In what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “the dead universe” of nature, “time gallops ‘like water, flung from cliff to cliff’ and is never present” (In the Cross of Reality, 250). This means that “we get to know time only ... [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Time]
Philip Terzian isn’t much disturbed by the tumult in the Republican Party. He concedes that the Party is going through some changes, whose outcome remains to be seen: “The coalition that propelled Donald Trump into the White House may be a har... [American Politics]
In his Death, Burial, and Rebirth in the Religions of Antiquity, Jon Davies attends to the communal significance of the deaths of biblical patriarchs. He writes, “Jacob is gathered ‘unto his people,’ not explicitly unto his God. On the order... [Bible] [death]

5AM

Julie Bindel’s study of The Pimping of Prostitution takes a sustained, unrelenting look behind the veil of what’s euphemistically called “sex work.” According to the TLS reviewer, Bindel’s study is based on “interview... [prostitution] [sex trafficking] [sexual abuse]
“We encounter reality only if we approach it on all the paths which we, as creatures, can tread,” writes Rosenstock-Huessy (In the Cross of Reality, 230). He’s commending his quadrilateral cross of reality, arguing that we must pursue t... [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Sociology]
CP Snow’s famously complained about the divergence between “two cultures” of humanism and science. Among Romantic poets, the humanist resistance to science is best exemplified by Blake. As Algis Valiunas observes, Blake’s “un... [poetry] [Romanticism] [science]

4AM

“Once upon a time,” writes Anthony Madrid, “there were two traditions in Anglophone poetry. On the one hand, there was poetry that was completely easy to understand and whose elegance depended on translucent phrases and straightforward s... [poetry]
Considering the roots of contemporary “new nationalism,” David Goldman contrasts the biblical roots of Anglo-American nationalism with the mythical roots of German nationalism. He suggests that Christianity faces a “conundrum,” sin... [myth] [nationalism]
John Frame is engaged in a battle over “classical theism” or “scholasticism” as articulated by James Dolezal (about whom I’ve written here). Leave the terminology aside. Frame gets to the heart of the question, and gets it ri... [Classical Theism] [John Frame]

December 7, 5AM

Isaiah reads like a “greatest hits” of Messianic prophecy. Isaiah prophesies the birth of the Messiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (I... [Bible - OT - Isaiah]
Christian conceptions of prophecy are sometimes a mish-mash of ancient and modern conceptions. Plato thought prophecy a form of divine madness, somehow analogous to the madness of poetry and love. In the Phaedrus, Socrates says:”The divine madness w... [Prophecy]

December 6, 4AM

At the climax of John’s prologue he announces the beginning of the gospel: The Word became flesh. John has already told us a good bit about that word. The Word was “in the beginning.” John refers to the opening verse of the Bible, where we learn tha... [Advent] [Bible - NT - John]

December 5, 5AM

“The power of procreation and the power of conviction together confer on us, thanks to marriage, the combine strength of making epochs.” So writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (In the Cross of Reality, 212). Marriage infuses new life into society, ... [Marriage] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

4AM

The Chronicler’s brief, undetailed account of the reign of Jotham begins and ends formulaically. “Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem,” we learn in 2 Chronicles 27:1. Seven verses later,... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

December 4, 4AM

Armen Avanessian’s Present Tense: A Poetics is an intricate, illuminating study of the uses of tenses in fiction, and the changes in the uses of the past and present tense in the novels of high modernists. Käte Hamburger’s work sets the term... [fiction] [Time]

December 1, 7AM

Nicholas Cook (Music: A Very Short Introduction) observes that “Advertisers use music to communicate meanings that would take too long to put into words, or that would carry no conviction in them.” To illustrate, he cites a 1992 Prudential commer... [Advertising] [music]
On the fourth Sunday of Advent, 1511, a Dominican friar, Antonio de Montesinos, preached a sermon to the Spanish colonists in the main church of Santo Domingo. Bartolome de Las Casas was in the congregation that day, and the rest, as the say, is history. ... [Advent]
In Local Justice, Jon Elster discusses various principles that guide the allocation of resources in local settings. One of the common principles is “absolute equality,” which he thinks is defensible on various grounds: “Even when there i... [equality]

5AM

For Luther, faith isn’t mere assent to truth, nor even confidence and trust in a distant savior. As David Fink puts it, “Faith . . . becomes the unitive force,” or, in Luther’s words, it “takes hold of Christ and has Him pre... [justification] [Luther] [Union with Christ]
Speech exists that we may “lovingly create names,” writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (In the Cross of Reality, 149). “Speaking is always courting” (149). Courtrooms exist for those times when speech falters. In a courtroom, speech tur... [philosophy] [Rosenstock-Huessy]
Jay Zysk’s Shadow and Substance is a recent contribution to a growing literature linking early modern theology with early modern drama. Zysk focuses on the ways Reformation disputes about the Eucharist play into plays, how Eucharistic semiotics shap... [Coriolanus] [Eucharist] [Reformation] [Shakespeare]

4AM

In his analysis of Luther’s treatment of Galatians (in Reformation Readings of Paul), David Fink gives a brief overview of pre-Reformation interpretations of the letter. Jerome said that the letter “is concerned especially with establishing th... [Bible - NT - Galatians] [Patristics] [Reformation]
Vico’s claim that verum et factum convertuntur, “the true and the made are convertible,” has been taken as a sign of the foundational atheism of modernity. Benedict XVI sees Vico’s claim as a secularization, a turn from the uncreat... [Trinity] [Vico]
“Liberals and communists,” writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (In the Cross of Reality), “have in common that they wish to make do without church and dogma, and indeed without faith. . . . reason is enough, for we can say what we think”... [credit] [liberalism] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

November 30, 5AM

Amid the swirl of sexual harassment charges, Claire Dederer asks what we ought to do with the art of monstrous men. It’s not a side issue. Many of the geniuses in the history of art have been monstrous. Dederer even ventures that monstrosity is inh... [art] [ethics]

4AM

Things are not as they should be, and Judah calls for Yahweh to descend to help. Rip the heavens, shake the earth, boil the sea; tear the three-story house of the universe apart brick by brick, but come down to help! (Isaiah 64). Judah has come to acknowl... [Bible - OT - Isaiah]

November 29, 5AM

The following is snipped from my essay in The Words of the Wise are like Goads. The imagery of Ecclesiastes 7 hooks back to the imagery of Lady Folly from the early chapters of Proverbs, the exhortation to delight in the woman you love leans toward the So... [Bible - OT - Ecclesiastes]

November 28, 4AM

Calum Carmichael is one of the most inventive biblical scholars around. He has made his career with studies of the interaction of narrative and law in the Old Testament, arguing, for instance, that the Levitical rules of consanguinity represent judgments ... [Bible - OT - Leviticus]
The bulk of the Chronicler’s account of the reign of Abijah (2 Chronicles 13) is taken up with a long speech by the king, delivered before a battle with Jeroboam of Israel. Standing on Mount Zemaraim (“Twin Peaks”) he calls Israel to re... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

November 27, 4AM

For some, the “two kingdoms” political theology of Luther and Calvin is the essence of Reformation political theology. Francis Oakley argues (Watershed of Modern Politics) that it was an unstable early position that later Reformers couldn... [Political Theology] [Reformation] [Two Kingdoms]

November 22, 5AM

Thanksgiving was clearly a part of the liturgical life of the early Christians. In talking about tongues, Paul says that one who does not know the tongue cannot join in the “Amen” at the eucharistia , since he cannot understand what has been said (1... [Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians] [grace] [Thanksgiving]

November 21, 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]

4AM

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]

5AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

5AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

5AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

5AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

5AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

5AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

4AM

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]

October 9, 7AM

My Firstthings.com column last week was about Scottish poet Thomas A. Clark (not to be confused with the American poet Tom Clark). Here are the first few paragraphs: Thomas A. Clark is ambitious. In a short essay on “Imaginative Space,” the Scottish p... [poetry] [Thomas A. Clark]

5AM

Though sometimes conflated, purity and holiness aren’t the same thing in the Old Testament. There are two overlapping spectra: A spectrum from profane or common on the one side and holiness/sanctity on the other, and a spectrum with unclean/impure... [Bible - OT - Leviticus] [Holiness] [purity]

October 6, 7AM

Truth has a bad rap these days. A claim to know truth sounds dogmatic, oppressive, perhaps even racist. Truth-claims shut down dialogue: If you already know the truth, there’s nothing for us to talk about. In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate... [Benedict XVI] [love] [truth]
John Milbank argues (Crisis of Global Capitalism, 29) that societies tend to be mixed – combining a necessary hierarchical element with elements of democracy and oligarchy. He begins from the Augustinian premise that “sort of human association... [liberalism] [Political Philosophy] [Political Theology] [Political Theory]
John Neville Figgis (Pluralist Theory of the State) acknowledges that corporate persons exist. The key question is: “how is this personality to be conceived? Is it a natural fact, the expression of the social union; or is it merely something artifi... [Political Philosophy] [Political Theology] [Political Theory]

5AM

Writing in 1942, Christopher Dawson already recognized (Judgment of the Nations, 52) the inner contradiction of the international principles embodied first in the League of Nations. “Self-determination” was the ideal for every people; yet at t... [Globalization] [International Politics]
Philosopher James Ross explores “Musical Standards as a Function of Musical Accomplishment.” It’s a radical idea: We don’t measure music by anything outside music itself. Music is assessed and valued by standards that are internal to the performan... [music] [philosophy]
I’ve been checking the news more often than usual for the past week to find out if there’s a breakthrough in the Las Vegas massacre. I imagine I’m not alone. When horror strikes, we look for explanations. We want to classify. Most often,... [evil] [sin]

4AM

Stephen Beale argues that the NFL’s real problem isn’t protests against the flag but the league’s militarization. He asks the question few have asked: Why is the anthem played at football games in the first place? According to Beale, &#... [American Military] [sports]
From the earliest times, Christians have offered typological interpretations of ancient myths. According to Marie Cabaud Meaney (Simone Weil’s Apologetic Use of Literature), Weil revives this tradition in a new intellectual milieu: “Weil uses... [classics] [Simone Weil] [Typology]
“All political power,” write John Milbank and Adrian Pabst (Politics of Virtue, 332-3), “tends to become imperial.” They see three reasons for this: “either to stabilise volatile ‘backyards’ (e.g. the United State... [empire]

October 5, 5AM

Judge Roy Moore isn’t cool. The recently chosen GOP candidate for the US Senate from Alabama flashes pistols at his rallies. He wears a cowboy hat and rode a horse to the polling booth on election day. He says nutty things, channeling wild, half-re... [American Politics]

4AM

One driving interest behind Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical method is hissuggestion that speech the means for integrating the demands of the Cross of Reality, and for meeting the crises that arise at each pole of the Cross. Rosenstock-Huessy wants... [Language] [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Sociology]

October 4, 4AM

Speech arises, Rosenstock-Huessy claims, from shock. The beauty of the world, the “it” outside us, shocks us with amazement, and loosens our tongues. A command from another confronts us and forces us to say Yes or No in response. Suffering evokes the ... [Language] [Rosenstock-Huessy] [Sociology]

October 3, 5AM

2 Chronicles 10 is a fall story. The Chronicler’s long account of the reigns of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 11-2 Chronicles 9) has portrayed an ideal. David and Solomon form a joint new-Adam, overseeing the Levites who stand to serve in the gard... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

4AM

The following is an excerpt from my The Baptized Body (Canon, 2007). Protestants have always emphasized that salvation comes through faith, yet most Protestants have baptized babies. How can these two things hold together? Luther and Calvin held together ... [baptism] [Infant baptism]

October 2, 4AM

Last week, I summarized Thomas Aquinas’s argument to the effect that human beings do not create. As Thomas would have expected, there’s another side to the story – a sed contra – neatly outlined by Robert Miner in his Truth in th... [Aquinas] [Creation] [Creativity]

September 29, 7AM

Writing at The American Conservative, Bonnie Kristian explains why the “few bad apples” defense of American policing doesn’t work. She offers seven lines of evidence to show that police brutality is systematic rather than occasional. Fo... [Police]
Stuart Schwartz knows that his All Can Be Saved “goes against the grain in many ways. First of all, it is an examination of attitudes of tolerance among common folk, not philosophers or theologians. Second, it deals with both the Spanish- and Portug... [Tolerance] [Toleration]
Fintan O’Toole highlights the “border issue” that may undo Brexit. He’s referring to “the question of whether a hard customs and immigration border is to be imposed between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.” It&#... [Brexit] [Britain] [Ireland]

5AM

In the course of a review of Vittorio Montemaggi’s Reading Dante’s Commedia as Theology, Rowan Williams offers these observations on Inferno and Purgatorio: “There is still a tendency among not very attentive readers – not to mention p... [Dante]
“God’s work in history,” writes Mark Searle (Liturgy Made Simple), “is to gather into one the scattered children of God, to overcome divisions, to provide a place for the homeless and the lonely, to give support to those whose burd... [liturgy]
David Lachterman (Ethics of Geometry) suggests that the specific novelty of the modern age is that it doesn’t regard itself as a period of history. It’s instead “consummate,” in two senses: “as the ‘final’ period ... [modernity]

4AM

John Milbank argues in his Beyond Secular Order that “historicism cannot straightforwardly be considered as something specifically modern” (8). In fact, it originates from a Christian insight: “the sense of estranged distance from the p... [historicism]
Last week, I wrote a Firstthings.com column summarizing the argument of Graham Allison’s Destined for War, a study of Sino-American relations organized around the concept of the “Thucydides Trap.” Allison says that the ancient Greek hist... [china] [Thucydides]
Christine Chaillot has a fascinating summary of the liturgical traditions of the “Ancient Oriental Churches” (Egyptian, Ethiopian, Syrian, Assyrian, Indian) in The Oxford History of Christian Worship. She quotes this Eucharistic hymn from the ... [Eucharist]

September 28, 5AM

In ST I, 45, 5, Thomas Aquinas asks whether God alone creates. His sed contra cites Augustine’s de Trinitate (3.8), where Augustine says that angels cannot create anything. If angels cannot, Thomas reasons, neither can any other creature. He presents se... [Aquinas] [Creation] [Creativity]
Art by pleithart via Leithart (#96647)
The following thoughts are largely inspired by Rowan Williams’s Grace and Necessity. 1. Art is about making, not primarily about making a point. It is not fundamentally self-expression, or copying something that’s already there. It’s about cons... [art] [philosophy]

September 27, 5AM

The following is an extract from chapter 3 of my Against Christianity (Canon Press, 2003).  You can get a 30% discount on the book by entering LEITREADER during checkout at www.canonpress.com/AgainstChristianity   Modernity is a revolt against ri... [liturgy] [ritual] [sacrament] [Sacramental theology]

September 26, 5AM

Sheba comes to Jerusalem to test Solomon. He passes the test. He can answer everything she asks. 2 Chronicles 9:2 describes the encounter with a neat chiasm: A. Reported (nagad) to her B. Solomon C. all her words. D. Not-hidden C’. a word B’. ... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

4AM

Like most contemporary theologians writing on the Eucharist, David Grumett (Material Eucharist) works off of the work of Henri de Lubac. But he identifies two “principal shortcomings” in de Lubac’s eucharistic theology (8). The first wa... [Eucharist] [Henri de Lubac]

September 25, 4AM

When Moses ascends Sinai with the priests and elders, they see the God of Israel resting his feet on a sapphire pavement above them as they eat and drink (Exodus 24). The scene has a triadic structure: mountain, pavement, and Yahweh above. That structure ... [Ark of the Covenant] [Bible - OT - Exodus] [Tabernacle]

September 22, 7AM

Bill Gates is looking for an energy miracle. Fossil fuels pollute, but they are far and away the cheapest and most efficient fuels. Nothing else has come close and, argues Mark Mills in The New Atlantis, we cannot imagine anything coming close, given the ... [science] [Technology]
Modernity, Sergei Bulgakov once said, is a sphinx. It poses a riddle, and those who cannot or will not answer the riddle are devoured. The editors of Political Theology in Orthodox Christianity cite this at the beginning of their study to highlight the am... [Orthodoxy] [Political Theology]
“One of the factors that has rendered [Bach’s] Matthew Passion so successful over the course of its reception,” writes John Butt (Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity, 36), “lies in its evocation of subjectivities that somehow res... [Bach] [music]

5AM

US By TR by pleithart via Leithart (#96369)
Graham Allison’s Destined for War is a study of contemporary politics, Sino-American relations in particular. Along the way, he asks what we would think if China started acting like the U.S. did as we rose to global prominence. The career of Teddy ... [American Foreign Policy] [American History] [American Military] [American Politics] [Theodore Roosevelt]
William Golding, writes Allan Massie in a review of John Carey’s biography in the TLS, was “a late starter, one oppressed in youth by doubts and feelings of social, and perhaps intellectual, inferiority. Until his middle forties he was a poor,... [William Golding]
Alastair Roberts’s contribution to Our Secular Age, a collection of essays on Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, focuses on the effect of secularism on liturgical piety. Taylor identifies “authenticity” as one of the features of our s... [liturgy] [secularism] [secularization]

4AM

John Lanchester reviews James Scott’s latest (Against the Grain) in the New Yorker. Scott contends that human civilization is the product of our mastery of fire. Fire enabled humans to cook food, and that gave us, Scott argues, and evolutionary adv... [fire] [prehistory]
A couple of years ago, Kyle Nicholas summed up “The Progress and Future of Radical Orthodoxy,” now entering its early adulthood. Though the movement has waned, he argues for “its continuing relevance.” “Amidst scathing crit... [john milbank] [Radical Orthodoxy]
In his Material Eucharist (30), David Grumett summarizes the “Homily on the Grain” from the Syrian poet Cyrillonas: “Alluding to the incarnation and to Christ’s two natures,. he describes the grain falling into the earth and its ke... [Eucharist]

September 21, 5AM

Leviticus is divided into thirty-seven speeches, each introduced by “Yahweh spoke to Moses” (see Warning, Literary Artistry in Leviticus). The 19th speech – the central one – is Leviticus 16, instruction for the “day of cover... [Bible - OT - Leviticus]

4AM

Joseph Bottum offers a Girardian analysis of the current craze for knocking down monuments (Weekly Standard). Along the way, he explores the origins of the Confederate memorials, observing that “The list of removed statues and memorials seems mostly... [Confederacy]
IV. Cross of Reality Christianity’s history is the story of the cross’s penetra­tion into human experience and society. New epochs are formed when the cross begins to mark a new “sphere of our minds or bodies” (CF, p.165). In the new era that Ros... [Cross] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

September 20, 4AM

III. The Cross and Civilization Jesus gives abundant life. As the Crucified and Risen Man, he also creates new possibilities for history, forms a new epoch of history, the Christian era, and forms the possibil­ity of a new civilization. To understand ful... [Cross] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

September 19, 5AM

Jehoshaphat allies with Ahab of Israel by marrying his son to Ahab’s daughter Athaliah (2 Chronicles 18:1-3). He follows up with a religious alliance, sharing a sacrificial feast with Ahab. That leads to a military alliance, as Jehoshaphat puts Yah... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

4AM

II. The Cross in Christian Experience How are the cross and resurrection reproduced in human life since Jesus’ cross and resur­rection? Essentially, Jesus incorporated death into life. Christian faith means faith in a God who makes death into a positiv... [Cross] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

September 18, 4AM

For a general introduction to the life and work of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, see my “The Relevance of Rosenstock-Huessy.” “The Crucifixion is the fountainhead of all my values,” wrote the German-American philosopher and historian Eugen Rose... [Cross] [Rosenstock-Huessy]

September 15, 7AM

I grew up taking piano lessons. My mother, a college music teacher before her marriage, made sure of that. I didn’t care much for it, and gave it a lot less attention than my free throw technique. Tristesse. I wish I had believed my teachers who tol... [music]
Maxwell Johnson ends a chapter on “the Apostolic Tradition” in the Oxford History of Christian Worship with a reflection on the challenge of identifying the content of the “liturgical tradition”: “it has become extraordinaril... [Liturgics] [liturgy] [Tradition]

5AM

Julian Young offers a neat summary of the Arthur Schopenhauer (the “first European Buddhist”) at the TLS. Schopenhauer’s philosophy can be pinpointed by contrast with two better-known thinkers. Against Hegel’s fantastic “Bil... [philosophy]
“How is it possible,” asks Terry Teachout, “that a man who made his conducting debut when Grover Cleveland was president should still be sufficiently well known and revered that most of his recordings remain in print to this day?” ... [art] [music] [Toscanini]
Worship, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) says, orders everything in human life: “It is only . . . when man’s relationship with God is right that all of his other relationships . . . can be in good order . . . . Worship . . . is essential for the r... [Benedict XVI] [Technology] [Worship]

4AM

The first published book of Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinian poet and short-story writer, was Fervor de Buenos Aires. Borges later wrote, “Fervor de Buenos Aires foreshadows everything I would do afterward.” It was a slapdash production, Borg... [Jorge Luis Borges] [publishing]
John Colmer observes in his study of E.M. Forster that Forster’s novels transpose Christian terms into a secular key: “a whole set of religious terms – salvation, grace, conversion, transfiguration – become assimilated into an e... [E.M. Forster] [fiction] [novels] [E. M. Forster]
Richard Florida’s 2002 Rise of the Creative Class was a manifesto for urban hipness. As Joseph Bottum sums up the book, Florida argued that “cities thrive when these creative types are allowed to build the creative economy. Their tolerance f... [cities]

September 14, 5AM

“Medieval tolerance” sounds like an oxymoron. Everyone knows the medievals were intolerant. Everyone knows that tolerance was invented in the modern world. Everyone who knows such things is wrong. Istvan Bejczy demonstrates in a 1997 essay tha... [middle ages] [Tolerance] [Toleration]

4AM

We can fill out Paul’s exhortation to give thanks for all things in all circumstances concretely by bringing it more explicitly into connection with the liturgy of the todah and the Eucharist. Giving thanks is a pattern of acknowledgement, recital, ... [gratitude]

September 13, 4AM

The combined sacrificial-verbal todah (thank offering) carries over directly into the Christian Supper. The main elements of the ancient Israelite rite are present, either in the New Testament or in very early post-apostolic celebrations of the Eucharist... [Bible - NT - Timothy] [Eucharist] [gratitude]

September 12, 5AM

Most English translations introduce the terminology of “thanks” in of Leviticus, as a translation of todah (Lev 7:11-15), a noun derived from yadah. In the Levitical system, todah does not refer to emotions or verbal expressions of gratitude but to a ... [Bible - OT - Leviticus] [Bible - OT - Psalms] [gratitude] [sacrifice]

4AM

The following is an excerpt from my commentary on 1-3 John, From Behind the Veil. The chapter division in our Bibles does not follow the flow of John’s argument in 1 John, which slips past the end of chapter 1 and flows into the beginning of chapter 2. ... [Bible - NT - John] [Johannine Epistles]

September 11, 4AM

“What is thanks?” Scripture answers that thanks is neither an emotion nor a virtue.[1] It is accompanied by emotions, and as we get to the New Testament it broadens to become a tone or stance of life, something like a meta-virtue. Fundamentally, thank... [gratitude]

September 8, 7AM

Brian Jones argues that defenses of capitalism are anthropologically thin. They “need a more humane anthropology, sensitive to man’s social and communal nature, lest they forget to ask the crucial question of what economics is for.” He cites... [capitalism] [Economics] [economy]
Cheating by pleithart via Leithart (#95656)
Cheating is pervasive, but rarely receives extended ethical analysis, argues Deborah Rhode in her forthcoming Cheating. We cheat on taxes, in games and sports, in love, in finding shortcuts to get what we want. She argues for a stringent set of criteria f... [Uncategorized]
Poet and novelist Ben Lerner struggles to explain the experience of reading the poems of John Ashbery, who died this week. The experience, mind you, not the poems themselves, which tend to defy explanation. Lerner quotes his first novel, where a characte... [John Ashbery] [poetry]

5AM

Josiah presides over the greatest Passover in the history of the monarchy (2 Chronicles 35:18). No sooner has the celebration subsided than Josiah heads out of Jerusalem to confront Pharaoh Neco as the latter marches north to fight Assyria. Josiah makes a... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]
Neel Mukherjee reviews recent books on India, including Adam Roberts’s Superfast. Roberts, he says, offers a serious book that exposes the appalling problems that India faces. Not least is the current government’s penchant for authoritarian ... [India]
The title novella in Patrick Modiano’s collection, Suspended Sentences, is a masterpiece of disquieting understatement. The adult narrator, Patrick, tells of the period of his childhood spent (as “Patoche”) with an odd assortment of care... [Patrick Modiano]

4AM

In his Life of Bertrand Russell, Ronald Clark describes the austere Evangelical regimen of the philosopher’s childhood: “Lady Russell’s evangelical concern to press her younger grandson into a mould of her own choice stamped him physica... [Bertrand Russell] [English History] [philosophy]
Do Protestants concede infallibility to the church when we affirm the canon of Scripture? Some Catholics argue so: The church created the canon, and so when we accept the canon we are implicitly accepting the church’s infallible decision-making powe... [Bible] [canon] [church] [Roman Catholicism]
Burdens by pleithart via Leithart (#95644)
Trace the development of the Hebrew massa’ (“burden”) through the Bible. In Torah, it refers to the physical labor of the Levites, carrying the furniture of the tabernacle and especially the ark. In Chronicles, it refers to the Levitical... [Bible - OT - Chronicles] [liturgy] [music] [Prophecy]

September 7, 4AM

Creation has a musical quality both in its origin and in its very nature. Genesis 1 sets out a melody: The act of creation is musical, a patterned, recurring sequence of speech acts. As product of God’s creating activity, creation is also melodic, ... [Creation] [Holy Spirit] [music] [Robert Jenson]

September 6, 5AM

A few items from the archives about Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson, who died earlier this week. Here’s my best effort to summarize Robert Jenson’s take on God-and-time, written with faux-Jensonesque pithiness. Is God eternally and infinitely the... [art] [Bible] [Robert Jenson] [Sex] [Time] [Trinity]
The following is an excerpt from my commentary on 1-2 Samuel, A Son To Me. Saul was rejected from being king before the battle of Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14), but a replacement was immediately introduced, his son Jonathan. Just as Eli was replaced by his ... [Bible - OT - Samuel]

September 5, 5AM

Genesis never says that Yahweh “chose” Abram. In some English translations, Genesis 18:19 speaks directly of Abram’s election, but the Hebrew verb is yada’, “know.” Nehemiah 9:7, though, does use “chose” with reference... [Bible - OT - Genesis] [election] [predestination]

4AM

How can we live together when we disagree in the midst of our deepest differences? asked Os Guinness in his 2008 The Case for Civility. In a month that has seen violent clashes across the US, his question is more relevant now than when he wrote the book. ... [American Politics] [civility]

September 4, 4AM

“What is a place?” asks Massimo Cacciari in his contribution to The Intelligence of Place. To answer, he turns to Aristotle, who claimed that “all suppose that things which exist are somewhere.” Fair enough, but what does that mean... [Europe] [philosophy] [place] [space]

September 1, 7AM

The Paris Review published an excerpt from Jeff Nagy’s forthcoming book on Degas and His Model. Written by one Alice Michel, and purportedly based on a first-person account from one of the painter’s models, named Pauline, the account was firs... [art]
Ecumenism by pleithart via Leithart (#95316)
David Nelson and Chad Raith (both friends of mine) offer a concise, lucid guide for those perplexed by Ecumenism. After an opening chapter defining ecumenism, the book traces the history of the ecumenical movement from its origins in the early twentieth ... [Catholicity] [ecumenism]
A report published in Social Forces examines the ripple effects of divorce. Instead of individualistically tracking the effects of divorce on the divorced couple, examining the costs and benefits of divorce, or, at most on the rest of the family, the stu... [Uncategorized]

5AM

Writing in the 1955, Walter Lippmann already discerned that the US was approaching the limits of toleration and facing a crisis of civil discourse. In his Essays on the Public Philosophy, he writes: “As we know from the variety and sharpness of schi... [American Politics] [Public Philosophy] [Toleration] [Walter Lippmann]
In discussing the rise of “mysteriological liturgical piety” in the fourth century, Alexander Schmemann (Introduction to Liturgical Theology) emphasizes the increasing pomp and ceremony of the liturgy. Orthodox liturgist though he is, Schmeman... [liturgy]
If we wanted to remodel a church, we’d hire a general contractor as project manager, and he’d hire the various carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other craftsmen to do the work. Not Josiah. When he sets out to repair the temple, he calls... [Bible - OT - Chronicles] [music]

4AM

In his contribution to Spoken and Unspoken Thanks, Kevin Reinhart observes that “in English both ‘thanks’ and ‘gratitude’ belong to the domain of individual inner life and using them in a religious context mirrors our Western... [gratitude] [Islam]
“The division . . . between ‘corporate’ and ‘private’ worship must be discarded,” writes Alexander Schmemann in his Introduction to Liturgical Theology (24). He explains: “The purpose of worship is to constitute t... [Eucharist] [liturgy]
Adam Gopnik reviews Frederick Crews’s Freud in The New Yorker, and along the way to the review gives a brisk overview of the spread of Freudianism from Vienna to Hampstead to Berkeley, where Crews spent his career teaching. Crews was among the earl... [Freud] [Psychology]

August 31, 5AM

For many Christians today, the purity rules of ancient Israel seem bizarre and opaque. We’d never think of trying to observe them. This “disenchantment” of purity is a sign of the power and success of the Reformation, because medieval Ch... [middle ages] [pastoral theology] [purity]

4AM

Russian Orthodox liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann died in 1983, but his importance continues to grow, and in surprising ways.  A Russian transplanted to Paris and then to Crestwood, New York, he was an acute observer of the American religious sc... [Eucharist] [Orthodoxy]
The Chronicler’s account of the reign of Amon, son of Manasseh and father of Josiah, is very brief (2 Chronicles 33:21-25). But these few verses hold some treasure. Like his father, he does evil in the eyes of Yahweh. Throughout 1-2 Chronicles the v... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

August 30, 4AM

The story of Ruth shows us that the Lord will restore all that Israel lacks. [Bible - OT - Ruth] [evangelical newsletter]

August 29, 6AM

How is liturgy related to life? We might explore that question by attending to the nouns: What is liturgy? What is life? I instead want to pay attention to the conjunction: What are we saying when we say we talk about liturgy “and” life? The “a... [liturgy] [Theology - Liturgical]

5AM

The Chronicler’s account of Manasseh’s reign (2 Chronicles 33:1-20) is organized in a chiasm: A. Manasseh becomes king, v. 1 B. Builds high places, erects altars and an image, vv. 2-9 C. Manasseh does not listen, v. 10 D. Yahweh brings host of... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

August 28, 4AM

The story of the tower of Babel, writes Harvey H. Guthrie (Theology As Thanksgiving) is “a sarcastic caricature of ancient Near Eastern culture and society and religion” (91). The tower is “the structure through which the human community... [Bible - OT - Genesis]

3AM

For much of the past century, theologians have busied themselves reconceiving the doctrine of the Trinity. Taking cues from Adolf von Harnack, some complain that the lively God of the Bible was domesticated by the fateful triumph of “classical theis...

August 25, 5AM

Patristic Inerrancy? John Woodbridge contests the widespread notion that Fundamentalists invented the inerrancy of Scripture, that it’s a peculiarly post-Cartesian development. He assembles an impressive array of witnesses, including these two quota... [American Politics] [augustine] [history] [Inerrancy] [pop culture] [science] [Technology]

August 24, 5AM

President Trump garbled the message, but he was right. There was violence on both sides during the horrific events in Charlottesville. [American Politics] [Donald Trump] [Race]

4AM

It is often said that we come to worship to give and not to receive. That is a dangerous half-truth. [liturgy] [Theology - Liturgical] [Worship]

August 23, 4AM

When he became king at the age of twelve, Manasseh of Judah “turned,” “built,” “raised” altars, prostrated himself, and engaged in liturgical service (2 Chronicles 33:3). It looks like a promising sequence of actions, w... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

August 22, 6AM

James Dolezal (All That Is In God) spends a chapter defending the claim that God is eternal Creator. In the course of this discussion, he interacts with Scott Oliphint’s view that God takes on “properties that he otherwise would not have had&... [Theology - Trinity]

5AM

The Bible never mentions theology. It does not preach theology, nor does it encourage us to preach theology. [Bible] [theology]

August 11, 3AM

Anthony Kronman thinks that Christianity contains the seeds of its own undoing. A “born-again pagan” and former dean of Yale Law, Kronman argues that the Incarnation, which seems to link God with the world in unimaginable intimacy, ends up sep...

August 10, 9PM

Moving Day by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#94331)
For the past five years, I have blogged here at First Things . I was surprised when Matt Schmitz first offered me this prominent venue, and I remain humbled at the privilege and the astonishing freedom I've had to write and publish to my heart's content....

August 9, 9PM

What do we do when we disagree about what the Scriptures say? Augustine's answer to that question has rarely been put into practice. Continue Reading »
Jon Baskin's piece on David Foster Wallace is the best thing I've come across on Wallace. He starts with the arresting claim that in time “it will be recognized that Wallace had less in common with Eggers and Franzen than he did with Dostoevsky an...

August 8, 9PM

Hezekiah “completes” a Passover (2 Chronicles 31:1a), then starts breaking things. He continues until the destruction is also “complete” (2 Chronicles 31:1b; Heb. kalah ). He breaks pillars, cuts down Asherim, and pulls down ...

August 7, 9PM

Since at least Max Weber, historians and sociologists have assumed that the Reformation contributed to what Weber called the “disenchantment” of the world. The thesis has inspired rich historical, sociological, and philosophical studies, from&...
A “Kantian chapter on emotion and responsibility,” write John Sabini and Maury Silver ( Emotion, Character, and Responsibility ),  Continue Reading »

August 6, 9PM

The Chronicler's account of Hezekiah's Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1-12) is arranged in a neat chiasm: Continue Reading »

August 3, 9PM

The late John Webster offers this statement about the relationship between Scripture and “dogmatic reasoning” about creation ( Christian Dogmatics , 134-5): Continue Reading »
Anthony Kronman begins his monumental Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan with several chapters on gratitude and its shifting fortunes in Western culture. He describes the shift from a gratitude-based organization of social life to an rights-based society...
Paul writes letters. Letter-writing - or mail electronically composed and delivered - has become so commonplace that we don't immediately grasp the significance of Paul's activity. Noting the Old Testament background will shake us from our privatized assu...
Boyd Hilton writes (in Age of Atonement ) about Evangelical “aetiology of business immorality” that emerges from 19th-century sermons, novels, and pamphlets:  Continue Reading »
John Calvin isn't the first theologian who comes to mind when thinking about either liturgy or art, much less the combination of the two. W. David O. Taylor thinks that's unfortunate, and his recent Theater of God's Glory is an effort to rehabilita...
“Few studies” of the Reformation, writes Alexandra Walsham ( The Reformation of the Landscape ), “have considered how it affected attitudes and practices associated with the world of trees, woods, springs, rocky outcrops, caves, mountain...
At the New Yorker , Blythe Roberson is having fun imagining futuristic updates of Jane Austen's novels. Real-life efforts to update Austen aren't nearly as much fun. Continue Reading »
Ritualism was a major issue in mid-19th century Anglicanism. Though inspired by the Tractarians, the ritualists went much further in elaborating the Anglican liturgy. As Peter Marsh puts it ( Victorian Church in Decline ), “For over thirty...

August 2, 9PM

Ahaz of Judah didn't dismantle the temple, but he might as well have done. He cut up the utensils of temple worship, perhaps including the musical instruments used by the Levites (2 Chronicles 28:24). He closed the doors (28:24), which meant that the vari...
Robert Emmons's study of the “new science of gratitude” ( Thanks! ) begins with a discussion of what gratitude is and implies. Continue Reading »

August 1, 9PM

Many Reformed theologians have taught that redemption in history unfolds from a “covenant of redemption” ( pactum salutis ) between the Father and Son. As Francis Turretin defined it, Continue Reading »

July 31, 9PM

Lutheran Pastor James Prothro generously allowed me to see an advance manuscript of his forthcoming  Both Judge and Justifier: Biblical Legal Language and the Act of Justifying in Paul  (WUNT II; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck), a revision of his C...
Esther Meek ( Longing to Know ) uses Magic Eye 3-D pictures to probe what it means to know. Following the instructions, you hold the picture to your face until you can see the picture past/through the surface details. For Meek, the process of seeing the d...

July 30, 9PM

The Chronicler is a generous judge of Judah's kings. King Joash “did what was right” (2 Chronicles 24:2), even though he murders Zechariah the prophet, son of Joash's savior, Jehoiada (24:20–21). Amaziah “did right” (25:2), e...

July 28, 3AM

When God judges Israel, he throws the world clock into reverse and makes time run backwards. In one afternoon, Saul and his sons die, while the Philistines drive Israel from their cities and enslave some of the Israelites (1 Chron. 10). Conquest and exodu...

July 27, 9PM

Richard Oastler, advocate of the Ten Hours Bill to limit the work week, was a decided Tory, not because he wanted to preserve class privilege but because he believed that conservative policies benefitted the most vulnerable: Continue Reading »
Herbert Schlossberg recounts efforts at school and university reform following the religious revivals of the late 18th and early 19th centuries ( The Silence Revolution & the Making of Victorian England ). One of the factors that stymied reform w...
R.W. Dale was the most prominent orthodox Congregationalist pastor in late Victorian England. As Herb Schlossberg puts it, he “was dismayed by the decline of the old theology in favor of an easy-going God, who was not to be feared. He thought rather...

July 14, 2AM

Paterson by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#94539)
Paterson (2016; directed by Jim Jarmusch) is a cinematic poem in seven stanzas, a week in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. Continue Reading »

June 30, 3AM

Christians go to church to eat and drink. This is nothing new. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, through a complex history of liturgical change, there is one constant: The people of God always worship at the table. Continue Reading »

June 29, 9PM

Stephen Greenblatt writes in The New Yorker about “How St Augustine Invented Sex.” How typical of The New Yorker,  a cynic might say - interested in the greatest theologian in the Western tradition only because he said something ...
My son Woelke sent this along, from Louis Menand: Continue Reading »
In the course of reviewing Philippe Desan's Montaigne: A Life , Jane Kramer speculates on the fraught question of Montaigne's influence on Shakespeare. Such influence is historically plausible: “Although Florio’s 1603 effort was the first ...
In her essay in Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine , Mary Doak unpacks some features of a Trinitarian, communion-oriented political theology. She doesn't, however, think that communio ecclesiology implies pacificism, and, as a ...
Reflecting on the retirement of actor Daniel Day-Lewis at Variety , Owen Gleiberman suggests that “What retired . . . is something that’s waning in the culture: the belief in acting as a highly sculpted soul transplant—as the mys...
Dan Piepenbring comments briefly in The Paris Review on a bizarre fashion trend of the eighteenth century:  Continue Reading »
Luke Bretherton argues ( Christianity, Democracy and the Shadow of Constantine ) that “For the church, listening is the constitutive political act” (71). This is true in part because “Through listening and responding to the Word of God...
The book of Acts ends with a sailor's yarn. Paul has appealed to Caesar, and is sailing toward Italy when the ship hits a squall. Luke gives a detailed account of the efforts to save the ship and the final shipwreck at Malta, during which all 276 people o...

June 28, 9PM

King Asa of Judah made a strong start, purging the land of idols, altars, and images, and winning a war against the ginormous Cushite army led by Zerach. It all unraveled in his final years. From his thirty-fifth year to the forty-first year, when his rei...
Bessian Vorpsi, a young writer from Tirana, makes headlines in the Albanian capital when he decides to spend his honeymoon on the Rrafsh , the High Plateau, a semi-autonomous portion of Albania governed by the detailed rules of the medieval  Ka...

June 27, 9PM

In his quirky little essay on Benedict XVI, The Mystery of Evil , Giorgio Agamben cites Odo Casel's finding that “the term mysterion indicates a praxis, an action or a drama in the theatrical sense of the term as well, that is, a set of gestures,...

June 26, 9PM

In an essay contributed to Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine , Capodistrias Hammerli looks at and through the Lautsi case to expose the rift between Eastern and Western Europe. The case began when Mrs. Soile Lautsi filed suit ag...
In his study of The Power of God in the Trinitarian theology of Gregory of Nyssa, Michel Rene Barnes distinguishes what he calls “Nicene” theology from later “pro-Nicene” theology. One of the key issues has to do with the co...

June 25, 9PM

Ahab of Israel pops into Chronicles for the first time in 2 Chronicles 18. Readers of Chronicles don't know the background that 1-2 Kings provides—about Ahab's father Omri, about Baal worship and the temple of Baal in Samaria, about Ahab's marriage ...

June 22, 9PM

In The Sacredness of the Person , Hans Joas offers an “affirmative genealogy” of the notion of human rights. He traces the historical origins of the concept not, in Nietzchean fashion, to debunk, but to validate. Isolating the origi...
Joseph Ratzinger ( The God of Jesus Christ ) discerns an underlying commonality between rigorous asceticism and free libertinism. Both express a hatred of the body: “In the false asceticism that is hostile to the creation, the body becomes a di...
Beatitude by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#92826)
As the title suggests, Jonathan Pennington's The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing  sees the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus' instruction in a way of virtue and wisdom that leads to flourishing. As Pennington puts it, “Jesus provides...
Dear Jane by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#92889)
We may think that Jane Austen has only recently entered pop culture consciousness. We'd be wrong. Devoney Looser's The Making of Jane Austen  traces Austen's fortunes between 1833, when her novels were republished, and 1975, the bicentenary of her b...
In the course of a discussion of the “harmony” of the economy of grace, the great English Puritan John Owen remarks on the incomprehensible universal harmony of creation ( Doctrine of Justification by Faith , 55) : Continue Reading &ra...
Father God by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#92891)
Pagans called Zeus “Father,” but, according to Joseph Ratzinger ( The God of Jesus Christ ), “they meant that Zeus was like human fathers—sometimes really nice, when he was in a good mood, but ultimately an egotist, a tyrant, unpre...
Back in December, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors scored 60 points in a game. That's a lot. More impressive is the fact that he scored 60 points while playing 29 minutes, for an average of 2.07 points per minute played. The mind-numbing stat, t...
In Enneads 5.143, Plotinus reasons: “If the First is perfect, the most perfect of all, and the primal power, it must be the most powerful of all beings and the other powers must imitate it as far as they are able. . . . Fire warms, snow cools, and...
The loss of Aristotelian/Thomist teleological conceptions of reality is often cited as one of the significant shifts in the formation of modernity. It wasn't, however, a secularizing move. As David Hawkes points out ( Idols of the Marketplace ), ...

June 21, 9PM

David Goldman argues that Trump  sent “a clear message to America’s Muslim clients in Saudi Arabia: No more double games with non-state actors will be tolerated.” The double games have been going on a long time: “Saudi royal f...
Richard Rothstein's Color of Law demonstrates that “until the last quarter of the twentieth century, racially explicit policies of federal, state, and local governments defined where whites and African Americans should live” (vii). Segr...

June 20, 9PM

In Paul's letters, the verb “justify” (Gr. dikaioo ) means “acquit, judge favorably,” with overtones of forgiveness and reconciliation. It has an invariably positive meaning. Continue Reading »

June 19, 9PM

Joshua W. Jipp argues in  Christ Is King  that “kingship discourse” provides the “most helpful framework” (42) for understanding Paul's teaching on law, salvation, and justice. Greco-Roman political discourse was ful...
We live in a death-avoidant culture. We have moved the dying from the home to nursing home or hospital, out of the paths of everyday life, and we send the dead to the antiseptic environs of the funeral home. We can view an embalmed corpse without the noxi...

June 18, 9PM

When Queen Sheba visits Solomon, she sees things that take her breath away (2 Samuel 9:3–4), seven things, which roughly match the seven days of creation: Continue Reading »

June 16, 3AM

Matthew Tuininga’s Calvin’s Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church aims to be more than an historical study of Calvin’s “two kingdoms” political theology. Tuininga wants to demonstrate that Calvin’...

June 2, 3AM

Samson is the most Spiritual man in the Old Testament, the most Pentecostal of Israel’s heroes. Given his reputation for lechery and bravado, my thesis seems counterintuitive to say the least. But it’s an easy case to make, provided we insist ...

May 28, 9PM

Taking a summer break. Back later in June. Continue Reading »

May 25, 9PM

In one of the many obituaries for Peter Augustine Lawler, Yuval Levin reviews Lawler's case for “postmodern conservatism.” Continue Reading »
Reflecting on President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, Ted Galen Carpenter (co-author of Perilous Partners ) notes that “the Saudi regime abets extremism in multiple ways. Riyadh has funded schools (madrassa) in various Muslim count...
Joseph Poon devotes a monograph , based on his PhD thesis, to identifying the land and sea beasts in Revelation 13. Poon makes creative use of the tripartite structures identified by Georges Dumezil to explain how the dragon, the sea beast, and the ...
In a 1981 article on “The Chronicler's Solomon” in the Westminster Theological Journal  (43:2), Ray Dillard lays out the following chiastic structure for the reign of Solomon (pp. 299-300): Continue Reading »
In their classic 1982 article on “broken windows” policing , George Kelling and James Q. Wilson note that while many communities can self-police to some degree, actual uniformed police are essential:  Continue Reading »
George Kelling's and James Q. Wilson's famous and influential “Broken Windows” article raises a question more relevant today than when the article appeared in the Atlantic in 1982: What is policing for? Law enforcement, or community order...
The industrious John Paul Heil has produced another book, this on the Gospel of Matthew . The subtitle captures his approach: “Worship in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Heil points out that the book begins with the announcement of God's presenc...
Chris Cillizza suggests at CNN that The Simpsons can explain method behind Trump's scandal du jour madness: Continue Reading »
To John Ruskin's eye, the economists of his time (John Stuart Mill, e.g.) had a reductive understanding of human nature. According to the economists, “The social affections . . . are accidental and disturbing elements in human na...

May 24, 9PM

In his  Ascension Theology , Douglas Farrow insists that, if the ascension is bodily, and if Jesus ascends with all His creaturehood intact, then the ascension must be to a place : “It in the resurrection Jesus is already transfigured and...
Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended into heaven to take His place at the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:3). The New Testament regularly cites Psalm 110 as a prophecy of this event. Continue Reading »
Wager by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#91413)
Raymond Barfield's Wager is a lovely meditation on beauty, suffering, and the variety of philosophical “styles.” Everyone, not only philosophers, has a “philosophical style”: “Constructing a life is a philosophical act. Phi...

May 23, 9PM

Value by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#91339)
At a recent Theopolis intensive course on political economy, James Jordan argued that only a theological treatment of value can account for the double-sidedness of the concept. On the one hand, certain goods have cross-cultural, trans-historical value; go...

May 22, 9PM

Hearing the hearing of Solomon ( shema is both verb and object in 2 Chronicles 9:1), Queen Sheba visits Israel's king with an impressive retinue (“very glorious strength”). She discloses everything that is on her heart. Solomon has ...
Life, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy says, is suffering, battle, pain, shock, failure, elation. Human beings are always torn, always riven. Much of human life, individually and col­lectively, is an effort to deal with suffering and death. By being the first ...

May 21, 9PM

2 Chronicles 8:11 reads (NASB): “Then Solomon brought Pharaoh's daughter up from the city of David to the house which he had built for her; for he said, ‘My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel because the places are holy ...

May 19, 3AM

Saul’s three sins (1 Samuel 13-15) correspond to the sins of Adam, Cain, and the sons of God (Genesis 1-6). Like Adam, Saul breaks a command from God; like Cain, he attacks a “brother”; like the sons of God, he allies with an enemy. At e...

May 18, 9PM

The Beginning of Politics by Moshe Habertal and Stephen Holmes is a study of politics in the book of Samuel. Unlike other commentators, they don't believe that the author is a partisan, either of a pro- or an anti-David faction. That line of interpretati...

May 17, 9PM

Joy by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#91047)
In his commentary on Chronicles , Mark Boda notes that joy is a key theme in Chronicles. Commenting on 2 Chronicles 7:10, he observes that “proper attention to worship legislation is not seen as dutiful drudgery, but rather joyous celebration&rdquo...
Work by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#91059)
“T here is a fundamental difference,” John Milbank writes ( Future of Love ), “between the Biblical and the Greek attitude to labor. The latter supposes that the gods have hidden from human beings the sources of abundant provision...

May 16, 9PM

The church’s stance with regard to civil order is neatly articulated in Romans, provided we read chapters 12-13 together. Continue Reading »

May 15, 9PM

In David's final speech (1 Chronicles 29), he offers a fivefold praise of God's perfections (v. 11): Yours is. . .  Continue Reading »
Despite its claims to the contrary, Patrick Deneen writes in a 2014 pieces in the American Conservative , “liberalism was never about ‘limited' government” or curbing absolutism. Rather, liberalism is about “the pursui...

May 14, 9PM

Patrick Murray's essay in Culmination of Capital lays out sixfold aim of Marx's Capital : Continue Reading »

May 11, 9PM

Justice does not, David Hume argued, arise from judges with a rigorous concern for equity. It arises, like other social goods, from the mysterious harmonization of self-interested actions: “as the self-love of one person is naturally contrary t...
“We dismiss what philosophers take to be the fundamental exercise of justice,” writes Ambrose in his Christianized Ciceronian treatise de officiis (translation, From Irenaeus to Grotius , 84-5). According to Ambrose's summary, philosophical...
In a scathing essay Trump and his New Nationalist supporters, Daniel Krauthammer observes that Trump defines national “greatness” as “winning”: “That was what his whole campaign was based on. His language is never about pol...
All theology is about God. All theology is theology proper. Continue Reading »
In the Divine Institutes , Lactantius takes on Plato's endorsement of common property. He makes a grudging admission that it might be “supported so long as it appears to refer only to money.” After all, “everyone should be wise enough t...
Rummaging around John McGuckin's magisterial, encyclopedic, and very big history of the first millennium of Christianity,  The Path of Christianity , uncovers some delightfully unexpected treasures. In chapter 7, he examines the reasons for the focus...
Oliver O'Donovan takes note of the power of the church's prophetic word. That's sexy. It's not so sexy to be reminded that “the church's speech is also prayer, speech addressed to God, from whom it originated, from the whole body on behalf of...
Solomon is a builder. The verb banah (build) is used 31 times in the Chronicler's account of Solomon, mostly with reference to the construction of the temple. Chapter 8, though, uses the verb 8 times, mainly to refer to building projects other than the ...
Near the beginning of Value in Capitalist Society , Paul Cobben is explaining Marx's use of Hegelian themes and turns of argument when he summarizes Hegel's notion of Perception, a level of knowing beyond “Sense Certainty.” Cobben w...

May 10, 9PM

The Lord's response to Solomon's prayer, and to Israel's song and sacrifice, is laid out in an interlocking series of chiasms (2 Chronicles 7:12-22). After an introductory notice that Yahweh appeared to Solomon by night (v. 12), the first, affirmative res...
In The Watershed of Modern Politics , the last of a trilogy on the emergence of modern political thought from the Latin Middle Ages, Francis Oakley observes that “arguments based on secular political analogies, or arguments simply taking for grant...

May 9, 9PM

The Chronicler can't talk about praise without breaking out in praise. He can't describe Israel's worship without worshiping.  Continue Reading »

May 8, 9PM

Psalm 72 is one of the most majestic, calmly triumphant Psalms in the Psalter. Attributed to Solomon, or written for Solomon, it is redolent of the glories of his reign. This king has received judgments from the God of Israel, and that enables him ...
“Populism seems more and more to be an inevitable drift of unqualified liberal democracy,” writes John Milbank (244). Well, duh, we might say, except that this appears in a book published in 2009 ( The Future of Love ), before Le Pen or B...

May 7, 9PM

“The time has come,” writes Luigino Bruni ( The Wound and the Blessing ), “to rewrite the economic and civil history of societies, taking seriously the civil and economic role of charisms.” It's impossible “to understand eith...

May 5, 3AM

Adam Smith is known as the founding theorist of capitalism. Surprisingly, he agreed with many of his contemporaries’ criticisms of emerging commercial civilization. He acknowledged that the division of labor produces inequality and can weaken virtue...

May 4, 9PM

At the Daily Beast , Joel Kotkin exposes the “arrogance of Blue America,” expressed in talk of Blue State secession and contempt for Red State Trump country. According to Kotkin, “The blue bourgeoisie’s self-celebration rests on m...
I've quoted this before, often, but it's so good it merits re-quotation. From Luther's 1528 “Confession”:  Continue Reading »
Don-John Dugas's recent  Shakespeare for Everyman offers a revisionist account of the rise of “authentic” stagings of Shakespeare in the twentieth century. The very meaning of “authentic” changed, as Sally Barnden explains in...
Enforcement of current immigration laws is a political prerequisite for immigration reform, whatever direction that reform is supposed to go. This is one of the points made by Peter Schuck in a dispassionate, informative piece on immigration in  The ...
In Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue , Ryan Patrick Hanley explains why Smith considered the “inequality of precommercial societies [to be] infinitely more pernicious than the inequality to be found in commercial society.” He d...
Reviewing Adrian Forty's Concrete and Culture in the TLS , James Hall summarizes the shifting fortunes of concrete as a building material: “Reinforced concrete's global heyday spanned roughly from the 1920s to the 60s, when exposed, cantilev...

May 3, 9PM

Solomon knows that the temple cannot contain Yahweh. He can't be contained within the limits of earth, or even the “heaven of heavens” (2 Chronicles 6:18): How then can He be confined to a tiny cube called the “holy of holies.”&nbs...
Mediators by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#90343)
Ancient conceptions of society were tinged by the potential for tragedy, a potential linked to the inescapable necessity of alterity, of encountering an “other.” As Luigino Bruni puts it ( The Wound and the Blessing ), “if happiness requ...

May 2, 9PM

Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple begins with a prayer structured as a double chiasm (2 Chronicles 6:14–21). The first runs from verses 14–17: Continue Reading »

May 1, 9PM

The Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder is best known for his seminal book on The Politics of Jesus (1972). Yoder’s writings about the Old Testament “prequel” to Jesus are less well known, partly because they are scattered in arti...
The ark has been placed in the temple, the Levitical musicians have played, Yahweh's glory has descended to fill the house, and then Solomon start talking. He declares the completion of the building (2 Chronicles 6:1–2), blesses Yahweh for...

April 30, 9PM

In a contribution to Bonds of Imperfection , Joan Lockwood O'Donovan examines varieties of nationalism and the neglected biblical and theological sources for understanding modern nations. Continue Reading »

April 27, 9PM

Explaining the numerological structure of Psalm 72,  C. J. Labuschagne points out that the Psalm has 17 verses and adds, “The 17-word doxology, together with its 2-word conclusion . . .  ‘Amen, Amen' (vs. 18-19), brings the tot...
Charles Taylor ( Modern Social Imaginaries ) observes that one of the great boasts of modernization has been to pacify war-mongering noblemen—to turn swords, if not to ploughshares, at least to shares: “the transition to the commercial stage w...
Charles Taylor's Modern Social Imaginaries examines fundamental features of the modern social imaginary, the “ways people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expec...
Tight accommodations, high prices, delays and cancellations, abysmal customer service. Nearly everything is wrong with American airline companies. In Europe, by contrast, fares are lower and service is better. Even a brief 1 1/2 hour flight has time for a...
Ross Douthat argues that the cultural and religious diversity of Europe and the US is an enemy of democracy: “mass immigration and cultural fragmentation have brought authoritarian temptations back to life.” Continue Reading »
In an essay on von Balthasar's ontology of generosity (in Ordering Love ), David L. Schindler calls attention to the dualities we often invoke in “accounting for our experience”: “God and the world; the order of reality and the order of...
God is the Father of precipitation, Job says (Job 38:25–30). Rain is filial, the Father’s nourishing gift to the world. Continue Reading »

April 23, 9PM

The Chronicler's account of the completion of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 5-7) is arranged in a fairly neat chiasm. Continue Reading »

April 21, 3AM

We Westerners know how modernization works. Light dawns in the north and west and spreads Reason and Science to brighten dim worlds to the south and east. We’ve had to nudge the laggers along, for their own good—sometimes with a bit of force&m...

April 20, 9PM

Identity politics has weakened national identity, but it hasn't destroyed it. As Jean and John Comaroff put it ( Theory from the South ), “the fractal nature of contemporary political personhood, the fact that it is overlaid and undercut by a politi...
Anthony Marx's Faith in Nation tells the story of the “exclusionary” basis for modern nationalism. Nations were unified not by inclusive policies but by exclusions within and without. Behind these exclusions were the religious divisions of t...
Robert Cardinal Sarah ( Power of Silence ) notes that “For some years there has been a constant onslaught of images, lights, and colors that blind man. His interior dwelling is violated by the unhealthy, provocative images of pornography, bestial vi...
In a 1991 essay in the American Political Science Review , Timothy Mitchell assesses various theories of the state, concluding that they all attempt to draw a line between state and society, and fail. He proposes to take the very difficulty of drawing th...
Terrence Malick has been on a filmmaking tear, most recently releasing Song to Song . He's back, but that hasn't dulled his skepticism about the film industry. Continue Reading »
Karol Berger argues ( A Theory of Art ) that Lyotard's famed distinction of modern and postmodern is “far too stark.” In fact we aren't faced with a simple choice “between a belief in universal history grasped by an all-explaining meta-n...
What might democracy mean in Africa? What, in particular, “might it mean in cultural contexts, like those in Africa, in which freedom is not reducible to the exercise of choice, the equivalent to homo politicus of shopping to homo economicus ? In...
Jean and John Comaroff offer what they recognize is “a rather stark inventory” of the symptoms of what they call “policulturalism” ( Theory from the South ), which they describe as “politicization of diversity that expresses ...

April 19, 9PM

The prophet Joel famously describes a locust plague. His is the locustest book of the Bible. Continue Reading »
Is the autonomous self a European invention? Jean and John Comaroff address this question in their Theory from the South , arguing that certain African tribes have sophisticated conceptions of the self that include an element of autonomy and anticipate &...

April 18, 9PM

Samskara by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#89718)
According to Ferdinand Kittel's 1894 Kannada-English Dictionary , the word “samskara” means “forming well or thoroughly, making perfect . . . forming in the mind, conception, idea, notion . . . preparation, making ready, preparation of ...

April 17, 9PM

The Reformers did not start out with a plan to establish separated churches. Their goal was to reform the entire Latin church. In this they failed. Continue Reading »
Karol Berger ( A Theory of Art ) states the common observation that “autonomy is widely seen today, especially among theorists and historians of a sociological bent, as the single most important feature distinguishing modern from premodern art.&rdqu...

April 16, 9PM

We say Jesus’ resurrection is good news. It wasn’t good news for the disciples on the first Easter. More like perplexing, bewildering news. Continue Reading »

April 14, 9PM

Christian often focus on the intense physical suffering Jesus endured on the cross. During crucifixion, a victim’s body was torn with nails and his limbs stretched, as he slowly suffocated. Think of Matthias Grunewald’s angular, contorted Jesu...
From the cross, Jesus cries, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s from Psalm 22, but the Jews say He’s calling for Elijah. Are they so dull they can no longer recognize Scriptur...

April 13, 9PM

Michel de Certeau ( The Writing of History , 126-7) quotes Alphonse Dupront on the post-Reformation situation of the church: “a first piece of raw material, as obvious as capital for the modern mind, is the progressive promotion of heresy in confess...
Guy G. Stroumsa writes in The Making of the Abrahamic Religions in Late Antiquity that “For Weber, as is well known, the most striking ‘disenchantment of the world' in history occurred with the rise of the ‘inner-worldly' asceticism ( ...
In his contribution to Signifying Identities , Fredrik Barth suggests that our notion of political, economic and social boundaries is an extension of the feeling that a tool extends the body: Continue Reading »
In his Landscape, Liberty and Authority , Tim Fulford examines the paradox of William Gilpin's travel writings and tour-leading in the picturesque wilds of Wales, England, and Scotland. Gilpin was aware that “the picturesque might be socially dan...
The great question haunting late medieval piety was that of the inadequacy of human piety. As Berndt Hamm puts it ( Reformation of Faith ), the “harrowing question” was that of the “spiritual inadequacy” of Christians (88). Contin...
Wise words concerning shifts in Christian teaching on the family from Oliver O'Donovan ( Desire of Nations , 266-7). Continue Reading »
Oliver O'Donovan ( Desire of Nations , 262-3) points to the difficulty in the concept of equality. A purely formal doctrine is uninteresting and thin. A theory of equality must be capable of posing a challenge to “alleged distinctions which may be s...
Karol Berger ( Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow ) sets out to reassess what we mean by “modernity” in music. For Berger, that involves discovering a caesura somewhere between Bach and Mozart. They are not, he argues, to be considered part of a con...
Richard Sorabji observes ( Time, Creation, and the Continuum ) that there have been disputes among philosophers concerning the goodness of philosophical perplexity. Wittgenstein compared it to a fly trapped in a bottle, which suggests “it would have...

April 12, 9PM

In a 1971 essay, H.G. Koenigsberger challenged the notion that the Reformation broke up a unified Europe. He criticizes historians and social scientists for assuming a norm of unity: “We have assumed that the theological and ecclesiastical unity of ...
Peter Matheson ( Rhetoric of Reformation ) recognizes that polemic is “both necessary and useful” (8). It enables underdogs to gain a foothold, and “enables us to see things as they are. Its caricatures are nearer to the truth than the s...

April 11, 9PM

2 Chronicles 3-4, the Chronicler's account of the temple, uses the phrase “left and right” several times. Jachin and Boaz, the two pillars, are “left and right” at the porch (3:17). Ten basins are set up in two groups of five on th...

April 10, 9PM

In a famous essay on “rites of violence” in sixteenth-century France, Natalie Zemon Davis argued that one motivation behind mob violence was the desire to purge “the community of dreaded pollution. The word ‘pollution' is often on ...
In her study of Leviticus as Literature , Mary Douglas notes the “house that Jack built” quality of the Levitical descriptions of sacrifice. Priests put animal parts on the wood that is on the fire that is on the altar. Douglas takes this as ...

April 9, 9PM

The Chronicler's account of the construction of Solomon's temple (2 Chronicles 3:1-5:1) follows the creation week of Genesis 1 in general and in specific details. Continue Reading »

April 7, 3AM

Jehu is one of those hyper-violent Old Testament characters who make Christians uncomfortable. Anointed by Elisha’s servant to carry out Yahweh’s vengeance against the house of Ahab, Jehu does his business with relish. Continue Reading &raqu...

April 6, 9PM

Garry Wills is the NYRB's resident expert on Evangelicals, and he gives an overview of the Evangelical movement under three headings - crowds, drama, and cycles. It's familiar territory, and much of it is unexceptional - neither mistaken nor particularl...
Eamon Duffy tells the fascinating story of a Yale library manuscript, Beinecke MS 408, a book of herbal lore and astrology, written in an indecipherable code. It is also known as the “Voynich manuscript” because of the role of Wilfrid Michae...
In a review of new editions of the works of Israeli novelist S.Y. Agnon, Robert Alter highlights Agnon's debts to both his Jewish heritage and modernist revolt against tradition. His description of Agnon's story collection, A City in Its Fullness , cap...
Robert Scribner doesn't think Protestantism “disenchanted” the world. Reformers did attack certain forms of medieval “magic.” They rejected “sacramentals,” which were “functional” rituals that could be used ...
When Jesus condemns hypocrisy, argues Oliver O'Donovan ( Desire of Nations , 109-10), He is speaking of conformity to “public expectation.” O'Donovan suggests that the sense is captured by the word “performance.” Continue Reading ...
John van Engen argues in a 1986 article that the romanticized “legend of the Christian Middle Ages” doesn't hold up to historical scrutiny. Until the Reformation and counter-Reformation, Europe was only superficially Christianized, full of pag...
According to many biologists and philosophers of science, evolution has eliminated all notion of purpose, teleology, and form from biology. Living things are machines that operate by chemical and physical processes, guided by the purposeless process of na...
Christopher Carroll reviews two volumes of music criticism written by Virgil Thomson at the NYRB . Carroll characterizes Thomson as a “knight errant” because of principles like this one, enunciated in his book, The State of Music : Conti...
Abolition by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#89142)
Why didn't the apostles move more quickly to protest and attempt to abolish slavery? There are various answers to that, but Oliver O'Donovan's gets to the heart of the issue: The church “believed that Christ had abolished it” ( Desire of Natio...

April 5, 9PM

Philip Rieff notes, “That word [ Kulturkampf ] first appeared in common German use in the early 1870s during the struggle of the National Liberal political party to disarm by law the moral/educational authority, and political punditry, of a triumpha...
K. Luria examines the Sacred Boundaries (xxvii-xxxxi) of early modern France, in an effort to correct extremes of historiography. Some have argued that sacred boundaries between religious groups led to violence; other historians have pointed to continuo...

April 4, 9PM

A 1989 article by Wolfgang Reinhard on the relationships among the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and early modern state-building is an excellent brief summary of the relationship between Reformation and post-Reformation “confessionalization&rdqu...

April 3, 9PM

Overall, the Chronicler's account of Solomon's temple construction (2 Chronicles 3:1-5:1) is arranged chiastically: Continue Reading »
Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe , edited by Will Coster and Andrew Spicer, aims to fill a gap in accounts of early modern Europe. Despite intense attention to sacred space among anthropologists, scholars of comparative religion, historians, and sociol...

April 2, 9PM

Scott Hendrix argues that the Reformation was united by an agenda of Christianization. By “Christianization,” he means, first, the effort “to reform the rituals of late-medieval piety in conformity with sound doctrine” and, second,...

March 30, 9PM

Earl R. Wasserman ( Subtler Language ) observes that “Until the end of the eighteenth century there was sufficient intellectual homogeneity for men to share certain assumptions. . . . In varying degrees . . . man accepted . . . the Christian interpr...
Mona Charen states the obvious : “There are good and bad arguments against immigration.” Continue Reading »
In an essay on Alexander Schmemann (in Ordering Love , 301-2), David L. Schindler observes that “Creaturely power begins in wonder and gratitude before the inherent beauty of the other. The power of creaturely being originates and consists primaril...
“Laughter,” writes Indira Ghose, “stakes out an area of discourse as a game which follows its own rules” ( Shakespeare and Laughter , 106). Continue Reading »
During the 15th century, Boxley Abbey in Kent boasted a crucifix with a movable Jesus. It was able “to bow down and lifte up it selfe, to shake and stirre the handes and feete, to nod the head, to rolle the eies, to wag the chaps, to bende the browe...
Pew Wars by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#88776)
Margo Todd's The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland is an extraordinarily rich study. One brief note will serve to illustrate. Continue Reading »
It's time for “Bluexit,” argues Kevin Baker at The New Republic , a blue-state secession. Here's the thesis: Blues fund most of the federal government, and are responsible for most of the economic output of the country. Red states receive v...

March 29, 9PM

The Chronicler's description of the free-standing cherubim in the temple's Most Holy Place (2 Chronicles 3:10-13) is delightfully repetitive and complicated. The repetition is more obvious in the Hebrew, so I provide a woodenly literal translation: Conti...
Joel Harrington and Helmut Walser Smith summarize the interests of research into confessionalization under three headings: “Research on confessional identity has focused on three processes: the construction of confessional identity as part of early ...

March 28, 9PM

Imagine that you have just been given a new technology that allows you to respond almost instantaneously to critics and opponents. Imagine too that you find yourself in a highly charged situation where attacks and counter-attacks are a regular occurrence....

March 27, 9PM

The late William J. Stuntz spent his life studying the American criminal justice system. In a 2001 article on our “pathological politics of criminal law,” he lays out the institutional barriers to the fundamental reform that we need. Continue...
The “second Reformation” introduced Reformed liturgy and teaching into Lutheran Germany. This was seen by some as a continuation of the Reformation and a purgation of Catholic remnants. The effort to carry on “further reformation” ...

March 26, 9PM

In her “new history” of the Reformation , Lee Palmer Wandel offers a stark, sobering summary of the shattering effects of the Reformation. Continue Reading »

March 24, 9PM

Candy Gunther Brown's The Healing Gods is an effort to explain how Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) “entered the American cultural mainstream,” and especially how it achieved “a niche among evangelical and other theological...

3AM

Why are Dostoevsky’s novels so compulsively readable? What makes his characters seem so alive? Continue Reading »

March 23, 9PM

In his Aesthetics of Architecture , Roger Scruton summarizes RG Collingwood's distinction between art and craft. It has a surface plausibility: “Initially it seems quite reasonable to distinguish the attitude of the craftsman - who aims at a certai...
In his book, Disenchanted Night , Wolfgang Schivelbusch considers the difference between lighting by torches and lighting with candles. With the torch, “the site of combustion and the fuel are one and the same thing, while in the candle they are ...
Hesiod's “Hymn to Hekate” seems to interrupt the Theogony to no good purpose. Hekate isn't a major goddess, and the hymn doesn't seem to be integrated into the rest of the poem. Continue Reading »
Retrotopia by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#88419)
Zygmunt Bauman thinks we are awash in nostalgia. We have created a Retrotopia . Continue Reading »
Patrick Deneen ( Democratic Faith , xiv) tells the story of the desacralization of the Cathedral of Saint Genevieve in 1791. The national assembly decided to “rededicate the basilica as a resting place for France’s revolutionary heroes. Above ...
Pop Sacred by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#88421)
“T here's a new ‘sacred' in town,” write Juan and Stacey Floyd-Thomas in The Altars Where We Worship . Continue Reading »
At the American Interest , James S. Henry examines Trump's Russian connections. It's an unnerving read. Whatever his relationship with Putin, Trump “has certainly managed to accumulate direct and indirect connections with a far-flung private Russia...
Two hundred years ago this month, Jane Austen put aside her pen for the last time, dating an unfinished novel that has come to be known as Sanditon . Anthony Lane thinks the novel shows that, despite her physical decay, Austen had lost none of her powe...
Summarizing the argument of Walter Scheidel's The Great Leveler , the Economist reports: “inequality within countries is almost always either high or rising, thanks to the ways that political and economic power buttress each other and both pass d...

March 22, 9PM

Beginning in 1559, the magistrates of the German city of Wesel, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, required the citizens to commune together (Jesse Spohnholz, “Multiconfessional Celebration of the Eucharist in Sixteenth-Century Wesel”). The...
Molly Ball's Atlantic piece on “ America’s empty-church problem ” is a must-read. It provides a penetrating, and sobering analysis of the political shifts that came to the surface in the 2016 Presidential election. Continue Reading &...

March 21, 9PM

Matthew Bates argues in Salvation by Allegiance Alone that “our contemporary Christian culture often comes prepackaged with functional ideas and operative definitions of belief, faith, works, salvation, heaven, and the gospel that in various ways ...

March 20, 9PM

After summarizing recent work on temple building in the Ancient Near East ( 1 & 2 Chronicles , 227-229), Mark Boda takes note of the differences between the accounts of Solomon's temple building in Kings and Chronicles, with an eye to the question of ...
In the blink of an eye, globalization has changed from the inevitable future and the panacea for all human ills to a curse word and the source of all American misery. It takes guts to speak up for globalization these days. Continue Reading »

March 19, 9PM

Paul said that God gives us abundantly more than we can ask or imagine, according to the resurrection power of Jesus in us (Ephesians 3:20). Solomon could have told us as much. Continue Reading »

March 16, 9PM

Without authority, Yves Simon argues ( A General Theory of Authority ), our efforts at collective action would be stymied: “decisions concerning the common action of a multitude could be taken unanimously, at least under the ideal conditions of a co...
The Bible is a narrative of architecture and city planning. The Creator is a divine architect and builder. On earth, He is first a landscape architect, designing and planning a garden, then a designer of tents and temples, finally an architect of people w...
Despite efforts to show that animals cry, Robert Provine ( Curious Behavior ) argues that “dispassionate evaluation of evidence indicates that neither elephants nor chimpanzees, our primate cousins, shed an emotional tear. The exclusivity of humanki...
Slavoj Zizek ( Mythology, Madness, and Laughter ) explains Hegel's sublation of Kantian transcendentalism by noting that Hegel accepts Kant's root insight, the “the subjective constitution of reality, the split that separates the subject from the in...
Next door at First Things , James Rogers asks, “Does the welfare of non-Americans count in the creation of U.S. economic policy? Secondly, to what extent, if at all, should it count?” Or, more fully: “Responding to the impact of globali...
Trees are slow, like Ents. The electrical impulses that pass through trees travel at a rate of one-third of an inch per second. Continue Reading »
Near the beginning of their Dialectic of Enlightenment , Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno “allegorize” on an episode in the Odyssey , in which Odysseus takes his ship past the Sirens who entice mariners toward the dangerous shoals of their...
James Jordan has often called attention to Ezekiel 43:10-11, where the Lord explains the purpose of the elaborate temple vision that He has shown the prophet. When Israel hears the design and plans of the temple, its entrances and exits, it straight lines...
Lawrence Feingold doesn't much like de Lubac's work on the natural desire to see God . He doesn't think the neo-Thomist distinction of natural and supernatural is responsible for the rise of atheism and naturalism. On the contrary, the distinction is nec...

March 15, 9PM

Listening to architect Daniel Lee teach a Theopolis course this week, I had many moments of insight. Here are a couple of them. Continue Reading »
David's ecstatic prayer in 1 Chronicles 29 - the last words he speaks in Chronicles - includes this notable verse: “Who am I and who are my people we we should have strength to volunteer offerings like this? For from you comes all, and from your han...

March 14, 9PM

David's speech to the assembly of princes (1 Chronicles 29:1-9) has a roughly chiastic form. It begins with David's review of his contributions to the temple and his declaration of his delight in God's house. He sets an example by donating additional gold...

March 13, 9PM

In his recently-published The Great Leveller , Walter Scheidel summarizes evidence from archeology and anthropological studies to answer the question, Has inequality always been with us? Continue Reading »
David's plan for the temple is partly a floor plan. He gives Solomon the pattern for the “porch” and its associated buildings, treasuries, rooms, courts (1 Chronicles 28:11-12). The plan also includes instructions for organizing the priests an...

March 12, 9PM

David gives Solomon the “plan” (Heb. tabnit ) for the temple. Unlike Moses, David doesn't have to climb a mountain to get it (cf. Exodus 25:9, 40). It comes from “the spirit ( ruach ) with him” (1 Chronicles 28:12), and from a &ld...

March 10, 4AM

Christians have long worried over laughter. Church fathers pointed out that Jesus wept but never laughed, and even mild endorsements of laughter were qualified with warnings that laughter must be moderate, never excessive. Continue Reading »

March 9, 10PM

David and Solomon traded in gold from “Ophir.” Later Jehoshaphat attempted to revive the trade route, but failed when his ships sank. Continue Reading »
In an old Paris Review interview with Robert Frost, the interviewer mentions a poet who writes from six to nine every morning. Frost responds with, “I don’t know what that would be like, myself,” and then adds about writing couplets: ...
Robert Provine ( Curious Behavior ) notes that we can't laugh on command, and that tells a lot about our laughter and ourselves. In his experiments, he found that it took longer for people to laugh on command than to say “ha, ha.” That &ldqu...
In an essay in the journal European Legacy , Norman Fiering summarizes the thought of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy on biography. Fiering asks whether there are recurring patterns in the lives of significant individuals, and, relying on Rosenstock-Huessy, call...
In his 1971 study of Modernist architecture, The Golden City , Henry Hope Reed observed that Modernists transferred moral categories to architecture. Buildings could be “honest” (if they revealed their structure on the surface) or “fals...
What is “the Gothic”? Answers vary, and that is, Catherine Spooner argues (in Post-Millennial Gothic ), because Gothic bears “multivalent meanings” and “has adapted and changed with the times” (9–10). Continue R...
S tephen Halliwell begins his Greek Laughter by calling attention to the difference between philosophical and poetic notions of divine laughter. Most Greeks had no doubt that “laughter (and smiles) had an important place in the divine realm; a dei...
“A s a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion” (Proverbs 11:22). Continue Reading »

March 8, 10PM

Popular cliche is that Lutherans and Anglicans are high-church, Reformed lower. Lutherans and Anglicans are sacramentally-minded, Reformed less so. Lutherans and Anglicans take liturgy serious; Reformed do not. Continue Reading »
David assembles the leaders of Israel for Solomon's coronation (1 Chronicles 28–29; cf. 29:22), and, even more importantly, to encourage them to contribute skill, energy, and material to the temple, King Yahweh's fortress. Judged by terminology used...

March 7, 10PM

In a fascinating article on “the structure of significant lives,” Norman Fiering summarizes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy's description of the development of Freud and the psychoanalytic movement. Each involves a different sort of time, and a differ...

March 6, 10PM

At the end of 1 Chronicles, David delivers a series of speeches to the qahal (assembly) of Israel, the officers and princes of his court and bureaucracy (on 1 Chronicles 28-29 generally, see here ). The qahal consists of the “princes” ( s...
According to John Milbank (“Politics of time”), “libertarianism insists that the future lies with the isolated ‘reflective' individual manipulating a plethora of life-choices” but also “claims that civil society is soun...

March 5, 10PM

My youngest son, Smith, is reading through the Bible this year. He's getting bogged down in Leviticus. Continue Reading »

March 2, 10PM

Thomas Nagel reviews Daniel Dennett's latest, From Bacteria to Bach and Back , in the NYRB . It's a wild ride. Continue Reading »
In her editor's introduction to Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing , Candy Gunther Brown observes: “According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals (2006), more than a qua...
Charles Rosen celebrated Chopin's birth in June 2010 with a NYRB essay on the composer. Rosen observed that until the twentieth century, Chopin was often treated as a minor figure: “Chopin’s concentration on the genres of salon music conside...
In a New Yorker profile of filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan ( Manchester By the Sea ), Rebecca Mead calls attention to Lonergan's interest in depicting the lives of teens, manifest especially in his film Margaret . In Margaret , the lead character, named Li...
In an essay on the Brandenburg Calvinist pastor John Bergius, Bodo Nischan observes that “ Unlike most Protestants and Catholics at the time, Bergius did not think that a ruler should impose his religion on his subjects. True faith, he argued, coul...
“W estern history is not, John Milbank argues, an evolutionary progress away from religion and toward human freedom and control.” It should instead be seen as “the history of a tremendous revolt against either particularism or the cult o...
Robert Carle suggests that “sensible refugee policy will balance two competing realities: first, it is a moral duty for a wealthy country like the United States to help displaced and suffering people; and second, not everyone who wants to immigrate...
John Milbank writes, “ Since life passes and is only mediated through memory and desire, every concrete instance of life is always also something other than itself, part of a larger, dimly-imagined reality, disclosed only partially.” Continu...

7AM

In his history of popular culture in early modern Europe, Peter Burke traces what he describes as the “triumph of Lent” during the 17th and 18th centuries. He refers to Brueghel’s painting, Combat of Carnival and Lent and says, &l...

March 1, 10PM

William Henry Green's 1890 Bibliotecha Sacra essay on “ Primeval Chronology ” has been a touchstone of evangelical biblical scholarship for over a century, its arguments regularly cited or alluded to by scholars dealing with the genealogies ...

February 28, 10PM

In his recently-published Sign and Sacrifice , Rowan Williams notes the continuity between the post-Maccabean theology of martyrdom and the death of Jesus. For intertestamental Jews, as for Romans, death could be noble and triumphant. Continue Reading ...

February 27, 10PM

Rowan Williams ( Sign and Sacrifice ) summarizes the Anselmian understanding of the atonement using the categories of sacrifice, obedience, and gift, all set within a Trinitarian frame. It's quite lovely. Continue Reading »
Helmut Kuhn begins his 1941 article on “true tragedy” by noting the chronological proximity of Plato and Sophocles: “When Sophocles died, Plato had just come of age. So the question naturally arises whether the chronological succession i...

February 26, 10PM

Describing the assignments of Levite gatekeepers, the Chronicler records that there were four at the “highway” at the western end of the temple, and two “at the Parbar,” which was also on the west (1 Chronicles 26:18). Continue Re...

February 24, 4AM

If you’re looking for a display of uncorked athleticism, there’s no better show than the NBA All-Star Game. It’s all good fun—soaring dunks, rim-shattering put-backs, off-the-board passes, half-court three-pointers, Steph lying dow...

February 23, 10PM

David Goldman compares “transgressors” Milo Yiannopoulos and Yuja Wang . Milo's transgressiveness is his essence; Wang, a thirty-year-old Chinese pianist, plays the Western repertoire, her transgressiveness evident in her habit of performing ...
Catherine Pickstock claims that the rejection of liturgy is central to modernity. Having refused the integrations of liturgy, modernity forges various forms of pseudo-liturgy, pale substitutes to accomplish what the liturgy once did in Western society. C...
Following Alvin Platinga, Richard Foley summarizes the principles of Locke's epistemology in three principles ( Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others ): Evidence (the “obligation to base one's opinion on one's evidence,” the latter defined ...
Through a series of thought experiments, Richard Foley ( Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others ) develops a concept of rationality as “a matter of making oneself invulnerable to intellectual self-criticism to the extent possible, of living up to ...
Pete Spiliakos makes the counter-intuitive point that Trump's nationalism will fail politically unless it can become more nationalist: Continue Reading »
Denis McNamara's How To Read Churches is an extraordinary book. Subtitled “a crash course in ecclesiastical architecture,” it covers building types, floor plans, sections of churches (nave, apse, choir), materials, windows, altars, ornaments...
John Milbank cites what he calls “Socrates's subversive realization” that “education can never be democratic” ( Being Reconciled , 182). Continue Reading »

February 22, 10PM

1 Chronicles 27:25-31 lists the officials in charge of David's stores and lands. Twelve men are named and each has an area of responsibility: Continue Reading »
In an article on “Liturgy, Art and Politics,” Catherine Pickstock argues that the liturgy holds together universal and particular in a unique way. It does this in part because it “extends the liturgical tension between the ideal and the ...

February 21, 10PM

In her meticulous and revealing study of The Eucharist in the Reformation , Lee Palmer Wandel argues that Luther and Zwingli divided at Marburg because their respective positions were incommensurate, incomprehensible each to the other. Specifically, they...

February 20, 10PM

1 Chronicles 26:1-19 lists the names and positions of gatekeepers at Solomon's temple. The passage is framed by references to the “allotment” or “apportionment” of assignments to Korahites (v. 1) and sons of Korah and Merari (v. 19...
“The art of man is the expression of his rational and disciplined delight in the forms and laws of the creation of which he forms a part.” This is the first thesis of John Ruskin's “All Great Art Is Praise,” in The Laws of Fesole ...

February 19, 10PM

In their 1662 treatise on Logic, or the Art of Thinking , Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole question the straightforwardness of the Calvinist logical analysis concerning the Eucharistic “This is my body.” They summarise the argument this way:...

February 16, 10PM

According to Ingolf Dalferth ( Creatures of Possibility ), Christianity “contradicts a view that understands human beings in their fundamental dependence, finitude, and passivity, not merely biologically, but anthropologically, as deficient beings ...
Ingolf Dalferth thinks we are Creatures of Possibility . By that, he means that “we are creatures in the making whose actual becoming depends on possibilities beyond our control that occur in our lives as opportunities and chances that we can negle...
Slackers by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#86687)
It’s a challenge to get a clear idea of what slackers are really all about. Tom Lutz isolates the dilemma in his Doing Nothing (18-19): Continue Reading »
According to Pierre Manent ( Beyond Radical Secularism ), May 1968 marked a critical turning point in the political history ofFrance. Despite the persistence of the “Gaullist” party in political power, ‘68 undermined “collective ru...
Slow Grow by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#86689)
In his Rise and Fall of American Growth , Robert J. Gordon argues that the growth rates for the American economy have leveled because the rate of innovation has leveled. And the rate of innovation has leveled, in part, because some innovations happen onl...
Separation of church and state, religion and politics, is not “sufficient unto itself,” argues Pierre Manent ( Beyond Radical Secularism ). After all, he points out, citizens are believers, believers citizens, and they don’t cease to be ...
Christian theology has long taught that we are “finite copies of the infinite Creator: created creators” (Dalferth, Creatures of Possibility , 198). Christian anthropology is eschatologically oriented: “Who we are is not determined by o...
The title essay of John Summerson's Heavenly Mansions sets Gothic architecture in a story of the architecture of fancy. He begins with doll houses, and moves to aedicules, originally small buildings holding the image of a god that eventually became pure...
Joseph Ratzinger reflects on Romans 12:1-2 in his Theology of the Liturgy (349-51), which is evident in the Roman Canon's prayer that “our sacrifice may be rationabilis .” He writes: Continue Reading »

February 9, 10PM

This year marks the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It is a year of celebration, because the Reformers accomplished what they claimed: They stripped away idolatries that had encrusted and obscured the gospel of grace, and they re...
In a brief 1949 article in the Lutheran Quarterly , Roland Bainton observes that, far from being stubborn and intransigent at the 1529 Colloquy at Marburg, Luther and the Lutherans “took the initiative in proposing a formula of concord. They confes...
McDonald's looks like a fast food restaurant, but it's a site of “embedded science,” writes Steven Shapin : Continue Reading »
Jean-Louis Chretien begins his Hand to Hand with a series of meditations on the story of Jacob wrestling with God, and artistic representations of that episode. Continue Reading »
In Hand to Hand , Jean-Louis Chretien meditates on silence in painting. He doesn't simply mean that painting is a visual rather than an audible art. Instead, he argues that paintings must not only be viewed but listened to: Continue Reading »
David Smith and Susan Felch devote several pages of their Teaching and Christian Imagination (129-134) to a summary of John Amos Comenius's seventeenth-century treatise on education, Great Didactic . Comenius starts where humanity starts, with Eden's g...
Writing in the Hedgehog Review (Fall 2016), Lorraine Daston identifies 1890-1914 as the “moment when science went modern” (20). Going modern here involves an acceleration in the pace of discovery and invention: Continue Reading »
“Giving oneself up to sleep can constitute the worst of abandonments,” writes Jean-Louis Chretien ( Hand to Hand ), “wherein we abandon another person to his solitude and his distress by withdrawing ourselves from the common world and fr...
Paul Collier devotes a long, provocative, stimulating TLS review to a sketch of a “new pragmatism.” The review doubles as an essay on the “future of capitalism.” Along the way, Collier discusses the problems of multiculturalism a...
David I. Smith and Susan M. Felch ( Teaching and Christian Imagination ) want to rehabilitate the symbolism of “gardening” as a model of education. Continue Reading »

February 8, 10PM

It is a great mystery. Continue Reading »
In Hand to Hand , a meditation on “listening to the work of art,” Jean-Louis Chretien traces the origins of the notion of God as artist and the artist as created. “How did the creative act, which for biblical Revelation properly belongs...

February 7, 10PM

Day 3 of the creation week was unique, and a turning point in the creation week. When God first made the “earth” and heaven, the earth was tohu-v-bohu , formless and empty, and also dark. Over the course of the creation week, God corrected th...

February 6, 10PM

Irene Dingel's contribution to Lutheran Ecclesiastical Culture, 1550-1675 examines the role of controversy in the formation of Lutheran theology and practice. She examines several early intra-Lutheran controversies, among them the contest between the Gn...
In a 1991 article in the Journal of Biblical Literature , John H. Wright asks what role 1 Chronicles 23–27 play in the Chronicler's account. The chapters look like a digression. David delivers an exhortation to Solomon (1 Chronicles 23) and makes h...

February 5, 10PM

During the early decades of the Reformation, there were efforts on all sides to reconcile Reformers and Catholics. Diarmaid MacCulloch ( Europe's House Divided ) describes the ecumenical efforts of the Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann von Wied. Continue R...

February 2, 10PM

Zechariah thought utopia is a place where there are games in the streets: “the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:5). Continue Reading »
Diarmaid MacCulloch ( Reformation: Europe's House Divided ) points to the “bizarre fortunes” of the Bremen Cathedral to illustrate the “stand-off and ill-will between the two Protestantisms,” Lutheran and Reformed: Continue Readi...
Brad Gregory ( Unintended Reformation , 130-2) argues that, despite their obvious differences, modern states that allow free religious expression, confessional states, and totalitarian states that suppress religion have a common root. Both assume that the...
At the beginning of their Dialectic of Enlightenment , Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno define Enlightenment in terms of disenchantment of the world: “Enlightenment’s program was the disenchantment of the world. It wanted to dispel myths, to...
The Reformation and the Catholic reaction to it caused a massive split within Western Christendom, and further divisions proliferated from that original split. As Diarmaid MacCulloch points out ( Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490–1700 ), that...
Douglas Murray reports at The Spectator on the ongoing and largely ignored persecution of Christian villages in Nigeria: Continue Reading »
Crackdown by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#85904)
“T he most influential work of Italian spirituality in these years, the Bene-ficio di Cristo (published 1543, and apparently selling in tens of thousands before translation into other European languages), illustrates this continuing shapelessness&md...
Owen Chadwick devotes a chapter of The Reformation to “the decline of ecclesiastical power.” He reviews the effects of the Reformation on excommunication, the benefit of clergy, church property and the power of the local parish church. Sanct...
Diarmaid MacCulloch ( Reformation: Europe's House Divided ) calls attention to the effect of Psalm-singing, spurred on by Beza's publication of a French Psalter in 1562–3: Continue Reading »

February 1, 10PM

1 Chronicles 23 begins the concluding section of 1 Chronicles (chs. 23-29), which is mainly concerned with David’s arrangements for personnel and material of the temple. Chapter 23 consists of two chiastically arranged sections. The first is framed ...
T rump is an executive, used to making twenty-five major decisions a day. Now the press is watching every motion of his hand, and it looks as if he's overturning the world as we have known it with each stroke of his pen. Tallying up pluses and minuses is ...

January 31, 10PM

A year ago, I had a long debate about aging with a Polish friend while driving from Poznan, Poland, to Rivne, Ukraine. My friend said he didn't mind dying young, while I said I wanted to live to a ripe old age. My friend accused me of fearing death (not v...

January 30, 10PM

Missional ecclesiology is all the rage these days, but for many being “missional” means downplaying or even eliminating concern for the “internal” life of the church, particularly its liturgical life. Missional and liturgical, miss...

January 29, 10PM

David's census makes him a Pharaoh but he doesn't end like Pharoah. It's not exactly because he offers sacrifice (21:26). By the time he does that, the Lord has already relented (21:15). The chapter's structure makes it clear that the Lord's mercy is the ...

January 27, 4AM

As a service to aspiring writers, I outline the five key stages of writing a book. My plan applies best to non-fiction. Fiction, I’m sure, has its own rhythms. Continue Reading »

January 26, 10PM

In her study of postmodern apocalypticism, Apocalyptic Transformation (xxiii-xxv), Elizabeth Rosen asks what effects secularization has on apocalyptic stories. The most obvious thing is a change in “how the deity is portrayed.” The perfect G...
Vauhini Vara reports at The Atlantic about how US frackers beat OPEC. Continue Reading »
According to Robert Kolb ( Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith , 125-8) Luther had a “relational” understanding of righteousness: “Whereas most medieval thinkers conceived of human ‘righteousness’ in terms of performance or...
Walter McDougall ( Promised Land, Crusader State , 4-5) divides the history of American foreign affairs into two testaments, summarized by the two phrases of the title. Continue Reading »
In her TLS review of new books about Jane Austen, Devoney Looser comments on the irony that we think of Austen as a truthful, i.e., “factual,” novelist, a reporter of life as it was. Continue Reading »
The Economist summarizes the notion of “information asymmetry” pioneered by George Akerlof and others. Using a used car lot a setting for a thought experiment, Akerlof showed (in a paper published in 1978) that the information asymmetry betw...
Robert Kolb ( Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith ) observes that Luther resisted presenting a systematic theology of atonement. Instead, he employed various biblical images and descriptions to meet the pastoral needs of his audience: “When he add...
The Wire is the best TV series I've ever seen. Also among the raunchiest. In an aside in an eccentric piece comparing the Fairie Queene to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit , Cambridge English scholar Joe Moshenska sketches an even more eccentric comp...
Like all right-thinking Americans, Emily Nussbaum is suitably horrified by Trump's election. But she grasps his appeal better than most. He won by being a better stand-up comic and shrugging off criticism by claiming he was just joking: Continue Readin...

January 25, 10PM

The final section of 1 Chronicles is neatly framed by speeches by David. Chapter 22 contains David's speech of encouragement to Solomon, concluded by a brief exhortation to “all the leaders” (22:17-19). Chapters 28-29 record several public spe...
Anticlerical agitation was more consequence than cause of the English Reformation, argues David Loades in his contribution to Anticlericalism . Continue Reading »

January 24, 10PM

1 Chronicles doesn't say anything about David's sin against Bath-Sheba and Uriah (cf. 2 Samuel 11-12). Bath-Sheba is never mentioned in Chronicles at all, Uriah only once, in a list of David's warriors (1 Chronicles 11:41). Continue Reading »

January 23, 10PM

1 Chronicles 22:6-16 records David's hortatory speech to Solomon about building the temple. It is divided into two large sections, both marked by the phrase “my son” (22:7, 11). The first section repeats Yahweh's oracle to David explaining why...
Since the Son is incarnate, argues Aaron Riches in his Ecce Homo , “we must speak of unum esse simpliciter ,” yet Constantinople II determined that the Son is persona composita . Thus, in the words of Aquinas, “there is another being ...

January 22, 10PM

When King Nahash of Ammon dies, David sends his condolences to his son Hanun (1 Chronicles 19). Nahash had shown love-and-loyalty ( hesed ) to David, so David returns hesed (v. 2). Hanun doesn't believe it, and the princes (apparently young advisors) st...

January 19, 10PM

Summarizing a line of argument from Aquinas, Robert Spaemann ( Essays in Anthropology ) notes that Thomas acknowledges that “By nature animals are sufficiently equipped to attain their own end” (15). The question is: Are human beings? And if t...
Jesus is the Lion of Judah. This is no random metaphor, according to the medieval bestiary, the verse Physiologus attributed to the 11th-century writer Theobaldus. Lions have various habits, all of which point to Christ. Continue Reading »
Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter ( Nation of Rebels ) characterize the 1999 film, American Beauty , as “a completely uncompromising recitation of '60s countercultural ideology. It's the hippies versus the fascists, still slugging it out three decades...
Nicholas Barber gets Sherlock just right. Benedict Cumberbatch has the intensity to kill the title role, and, puppyish though he is, Martin Freeman's Dr. Watson is a credible sidekick. The production is slick, the characters compelling, the rapport shar...
In an essay on “America's Shakespeare” at National Interest , Algis Valiunas traces the shifting political of Shakespeare in the US. Continue Reading »
Linguist and philosopher George Lakoff, co-author of Metaphors We Live By and many other works, wants to help Democrats win elections. In a Salon interview with Paul Rosenberg, he explains the advantages conservatives have in American elections. Stu...
In his Eclipse of Man , Charles Rubin traces a genealogy of transhumanism. Among the sources is a now-forgotten 1872 book by William Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man . Continue Reading »
Nick Spencer ( Atheists: The Origin of the Species ) doesn't believe the standard creation myths about atheism. According to the standard account, atheism is the produce of reason and science: “men began to work the metal, which they called ‘r...

January 18, 10PM

David is no Achan. Continue Reading »
Boethius defined persona as an “individual substance of a rational nature ( natuae rationalis individua substantia ). This definition is often cited as evidence that medieval Trinitarian theology, deeply influenced by Boethius, did not teach that ...

January 17, 10PM

Nestled within several chapters of 1 Chronicles that describe David's wars, 1 Chronicles 18:14-17 explains the purpose of those wars: To establish Yahweh's order of justice in Israel, an order of justice that David himself administers and mediates. Having...

January 16, 10PM

In his Essays in Anthropology , Robert Spaemann observes that “the beginning of modern science was marked by polemics against the concept of nature. The concept of nature is now taken to be anthropomorphic, while the essentially teleological idea...
What does God give in creation and redemption? He gives is our own existence, and that the gift He gives is Himself. Both are true. Continue Reading »

January 15, 10PM

Philip Gorski's American Covenant examines the American tradition of civil religion or civic republicanism from the Puritans through President Obama. Gorski contrasts this tradition with the two most belligerent contenders in contemporary American polit...

January 13, 4AM

Unanswered prayer is hard to take. “Ask and it will be given,” Jesus promises. When we ask and ask, and it’s not given, we wonder if Jesus had his fingers crossed when he said that. Continue Reading »

January 12, 10PM

Awesome by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#84845)
At the Atlantic , Matthew Hutson summarizes recent research on the psychology of awe. The executive summary: Awe is good for you. Continue Reading »
James Fallows summarizes his findings from a period of travel around the US. It's good news: Continue Reading »
In their just-released Decolonization: A Short History , Jan Jansen and Jurgen Osterhammel observe that decolonization not only remade the maps of former colonies, but also involved the “Europeanization of Europe” and produced changes in poli...
Kate Symondson begins her TLS review of recent editions of Joseph Conrad’s letters and his novel Victory with a reminder of FR Leavis's complaint about Conrad's “insistence on inexpressible and incomprehensible mystery.” Continue R...
The Guardian devoted a long recent editorial to an analysis of the political outlook of British Prime Minister Theresa May. Whatever Mayism might be, it is not an ideology, not Thatcherism, not David-Cameronian modernizing. For May, Toryism is not &ldqu...
Saint Nick by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#84871)
In his pre-game New Yorker profile of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, Benjamin Wallace-Wells suggests that Saban is an anomaly, perhaps an outmoded one. Continue Reading »
In a lengthy, admirably dispassionate New Yorker piece on “Intellectuals for Trump,” Kelefa Sanneh notes that “ Trumpism draws on a political tradition that has often been linked to white identity politics.” Continue Reading &...
In an interview with Asia Times reporter Doug Tsuruoka, Brookings Fellow and former US Treasury emissary to China David Dollar assesses the scale and impact of Chinese investment in Africa. Continue Reading »
Christopher Caldwell's review of Walter McDougall's The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy is sooo good. McDougall explains (as his subtitle has it) “How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest.” Continue Reading »
Christopher Caldwell's review of Walter McDougall's The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy is sooo good. McDougall explains (as his subtitle has it) “How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest.” Continue Reading »

January 11, 10PM

The joint Lutheran-Catholic reflection on the Reformation, From Conflict to Communion , acknowledges that medieval Catholicism was muddled on Eucharistic sacrifice. As a result of a “loss of an integrative concept of commemoration, Catholics were f...
From Conflict to Communion , the Lutheran-Catholic commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, offers a summary of Luther's theology, particularly on the points of dispute between Catholics and Lutherans. They offer the following summary of...

January 10, 10PM

1 Chronicles 18-20 record David's wars with immediate neighbors of Israel. The chapters are organized chiastically: Continue Reading »

January 9, 10PM

1 Chronicles 18-20 brings together David's conquests into a neatly packaged unit. (In Samuel, the same wars are scattered over several chapters.) By the end of chapter 20, David has established control over greater Israel, the ideal kingdom promised to Ab...
As recounted in From Conflict to Communion , jointly produced by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Reformation was an academic dispute that careened into a division of the church. Continue Readi...

January 8, 10PM

Daniel Everett thinks language is a tool, and has written a book about it: Language: The Cultural Tool . He develops his theory over-against the notion that language is the product of a biological “instinct.” On this Chomskyan/Pinkerian view,...

January 5, 10PM

Allen Guelzo observes in his history of the Reformed Episcopal Church that historians of American Episcopalianism are misled by Anglo-Catholicism's success in establishing “their own vision of Episcopal history, as the single reigning view of the ...
Two test questions from Michael Lewis's The Undoing Project (184-5, 192-3). Continue Reading »
A delicious 1964 poem from Norman MacCaig ( Poems of Norman MacCaig , 165), entitled “The Smuggler”: Continue Reading »
Religion News Service reports on a Pew survey of the religious makeup of the 115th Congress: “Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening Tuesday (Jan. 3) describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members...
In a TLS retrospective on Kipling , Michael Holroyd notes the obvious: “By the time he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 he was well known as the private soldiers' poet, and had achieved fame for beating the drum on behalf of the British E...
In his The Undoing Project (205-8), quotes two lengthy passages from a 1972 lecture by Amos Tversky on “Historical Interpretation: Judgment Under Uncertainty.” Both describe how historians trick themselves into seeing inevitability: Continu...
In her TLS review of John Kerrigan's Shakespeare's Binding Language , Emma Smith calls attention to the liturgical and sacramental dimensions of Shakespearean oaths, contracts, and vows: Continue Reading »
Reflecting on Daniel Craig's recent performance as Iago, Tamsin Shaw puzzles over the “Iago problem” in a secular world: Continue Reading »

January 4, 10PM

Michael Lewis is the writer every writer wants to be. Every book since Liar's Poker has been a best-seller (30 years on, Liar's Poker is still a best-seller), several have been made into movies, and he writes clean, amusing, vivid, highly informativ...

January 3, 10PM

In his essay on “The End of All Things,” Kant analyzes the “pious language” that speaks of “a person who is dying as going out of time into eternity.” Kant finds no comfort in the thought. On the contrary there is &ldqu...
Joseph did not know his wife until she gave birth to a Son (Matthew 1:25). Why not? Continue Reading »

January 2, 10PM

Eric Gilchrest ( Revelation 21-22 in the Light of Jewish and Greco-Roman Utopianism ) suggests that the conclusion vision of Revelation would receive a quite different reaction from its original readers, depending on whether they had been schooled in Jewi...
Watchers by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#84427)
The angelic “guards” at the gates of the new Jerusalem are, argues Margaret Barker ( Revelation of Jesus Christ , 323), “probably a memory of the ancient guardians of the city known to Isaiah, ‘the watchmen set on the walls' (Isa. ...

December 30 2016, 4AM

The Kingdom of Speech by tom wolfelittle, brown and company , 192 pages, $26 Continue Reading »

December 19, 4AM

Since its first issues appeared more than twenty-five years ago, First Things has been hailed as the leading journal of religion and public life in America, one of the leading journals of its kind in the world. Continue Reading »

December 18, 10PM

I‘m taking a break from blogging over the Christmas holidays. Continue Reading »

December 15, 10PM

Allison Coudert ( Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America ) speaks of an “anthropological revolution” taking place in the eighteenth century, as Europeans became optimistic about the future prospects of human evolution ...
1 Chronicles 23:24-27 is arranged chiastically: Continue Reading »
Costica Bradatan wants us to attend to The Other Bishop Berkeley . The Berkeley that is most often studied is the one who addresses issues of interest to contemporary philosophy. Bradatan looks instead at Berkeley's sources and the uses he makes of the...
Christian Wiman ( My Bright Abyss , 51-2) claims that some poets—“surprisingly few”—possess “a very particular gift for making a thing at once shine forth in its ‘thingness' and ramify beyond its own dimensions.” ...
Christian Wiman ( My Bright Abyss , 41) quotes a poem, “These Poems, She Said” by Robert Bringhurst, which Wiman says he “carried . . . in my mind like a totem.” It begins: Continue Reading »
Adam Seligman compares Modernity's Wager to Pascal's: Continue Reading »
Fellow Alabamian Quin Hillyer says that Trump should pay attention to what's happening in Alabama if he wants to help American workers. Forbes.com rated Mobile America's top mid-sized city for manufacturing growth in 2015, and the growth has come from f...
Timothy Beal ( Religion and Its Monsters ) analyzes Fritz Lang's film Metropolis (1926) as a tale of two monsters. Continue Reading »
In his recent study of figural exegesis, Time and the Word , Ephraim Radner traces the “fate of figural reading.” The Middle Ages form a crucial stage in that history. Drawing on the work of Friedrich Ohly, Radner argues that the “medie...

December 14, 10PM

The authors of Ritual and its Consequences (104-6) note a contrast between civilizations that are bound by authoritative rituals and those that are not. The latter are deeply concerned with sincerity: “ Civilizations or movements with a diminishe...
One paragraph illustrates both the reasons I admire Christian Wiman's 2013 searingly honest My Bright Abyss , and the reasons I find the book frustrating to the point of irritation. A poet and erstwhile editor of Poetry , Wiman came to Christianity as a...

December 13, 10PM

“Priestcraft” was one of the charges regularly lodged by skeptics against clergy and theologians in early modern Europe. It connoted obscurantism, deception, manipulation of popular opinion. It connoted everything wrong with established Christ...

December 12, 10PM

Keith G. Meador devotes his contribution to The Secular Revolution to an analysis of the therapeutic takeover of American Protestantism. He focuses on the role of the Christian Century under the editorship of Charles Clayton Morrison, who used the mag...
One of the virtues of Anthony J. Carroll's Protestant Modernity is his effort to put flesh on the bony term “secularization,” often batted about in an airily sociological fashion. On-the-ground secularization is easiest to spot in Revolution...

December 11, 10PM

Peter Harrison points out in his The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science (10-11) that the Reformation coincided with the rediscovery of ancient skepticism. While the Reformers were undermining traditional Catholic sources of authority from one si...

December 8, 10PM

According to Cyril O'Regan, von Balthasar saw Hegel and Heidegger as the great exemplars of post-Enlightenment mis-remembering ( Anatomy of Misremembering ). Misremembering is not the same as forgetting. To misremember involves a will to overcome forgetfu...
Near the beginning of his Religion and its Monsters , Timothy Beal points to the etymological hint that monsters might have some inherent connection to religion: “the monster's religious import is rooted in the word itself: ‘monster' derives ...
Geography has historically imagined a flat world: “territory, sovereignty and human experience have long been flattened by a paradoxical reliance on flat maps - and, more recently, aerial and satellite images - projected or imaged from the disembodi...
In a 2011 New Yorker profile of Norwegian chess champion Magnus Carlsen, D.T. Max digresses to explain the logic behind the Soviet interest in chess: Continue Reading »
In the middle stanzas of “Erotikos Logos,” watching someone else reading, Scott Cairns ( Slow Pilgrim , 278) writes, Continue Reading »
Thomas Fabisiak wonders, What does the New Jerusalem have to do with modernity? ( Apocalypses in Context ). Ask most modern philosophers, and the answer will be, Not much. Fabisiak speaks of the “'rhetorical construction' of modernity” that ta...
Andrew Pettegree ( Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion ) observes a shift in rhetorical tone in Protestant-Catholic debates between the early and mid sixteenth century: Continue Reading »
Andrew Pettegree ( Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion , 201-2) describes the post-Reformation efforts to cultivate a sense of brotherhood and solidarity among Protestant Christians who had rejected medieval rites and practices of kinship. He quotes...
Karl Shuve's contribution to Apocalypses in Context traces the Christian use of Jewish apocalyptic, especially of the Book of the Watchers from 1 Enoch, which even makes it into the universal canon of the New Testament (Jude). Continue Reading »...

December 7, 10PM

Come out! by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#83356)
“Come out from her!” says a heavenly voice to the saints (Revelation 18). Come out from Babylon, the harlot city, the doomed city. Continue Reading »
King Ahaz of Judah is in a panic. Israel and Aram have allied to resist Assyria's expansion, and they are pressuring Ahaz to join the alliance. If he refuses, they will overthrow Judah and replace him with another king. The result may be the end of the Da...

December 6, 10PM

Mark Garnett ( The Snake that Swallowed Its Tail ) identifies four core beliefs of liberalism: “that the individual ought to be treated as prior to society; that human beings are capable of rational decision-making; that rational people are worthy o...
D. Stephen Long ( The Perfectly Simple Triune God ) claims that the doctrine of divine simplicity is designed to answer a question of Trinitarian theology, specifically, “How do we speak well of the mystery of the Holy Trinity?” Simplicity ...

December 5, 10PM

In a contribution to Apocalypses in Context , Christopher Hays recounts the rise of apocalyptic writing during the Hellenistic period. He briefly discusses the historical context for the book of Daniel, a book that, he says, leaves “a series of &ls...

December 4, 10PM

Nathan MacDonald ( Not Bread Alone , 176–7) has a fascinating chapter on the role of food in the establishment of Israel's monarchy. In part, this has to do with agricultural policy, but it also has an anthropological dimension: Feasts form a circle...

December 2, 4AM

“R epent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” John the Baptist commands in a traditional Advent reading (Matt. 3). It sounds like a threat, and it is. He goes on to urge the Pharisees and Sadducees to bring forth the fruit of repentance or ...

December 1, 10PM

In an editorial introduction to King Lear , GK Hunter observes that the play depicts three forms of madness. First, “The Fool has a quality of savage innocence that the other two lack. . . . His stock consists in the main of songs and riddles, nons...
Alexander Leggatt ( King Lear ) captures the oddity of King Lear by calling attention to the blunt physicality of the play: “The tortured body is a recurring image. . . . According to J.I.M. Stewart, ‘The blinding of Gloucester represents a so...
Note #1: Act 1, scene 2 of King Lear , which initiates Edmund's plots against father Gloucester and brother Edgar, is structured chiastically: Continue Reading »
Nathan MacDonald ( Not Bread Alone ) argues that “The description of the feast in [Isaiah] 25.6–8 is usually taken to be of a coronation meal or a meal to celebrate YHWH's kingship. Although this idea has been related to theories of an enthron...
Stop! by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#83110)
“S cott Alexander” (a pseudonym) applies some common sense the media characterization of Trump as an “openly racist” candidate dedicated to courting the KKK. He estimates, for instance, that there are 3-5000 Klansman in the US. O...
Tangled by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#83111)
Emma Tarlo's recent Entangled is a study of the global market in human hair. Continue Reading »
Dympna Callaghan points out in her Shakespeare's Sonnets that “Petrarchan love was always unrequited and unconsummated, like Romeo’s love for the ‘fair Rosaline' who has taken a vow of chastity in Romeo and Juliet .” Thus, the ...
Diarmaid MacCulloch starts his study of the Reformation, All Things Made New , with a sketch of the medieval world. It's a bit rosy, emphasizing the unity of medieval Europe: “The most noticeable characteristic of Western Europe in what we call the...

November 30, 10PM

1 Chronicles 22 records a lengthy speech from David to his son Solomon. The very setup suggests an analogy with the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon gives instructions to his son the prince. For the Chronicler, Solomon learned to teach wisdom by receivi...
In his 1892 Lectures on the Apocalypse (29-30), William Milligan argues that “the symbolism of the Revelation is wholly and exclusively Jewish.” Continue Reading »

November 29, 10PM

Shakespeare's Sonnet 103 laments the limits of language to capture the thing it describes. “Look in your glass,” the poet says, and you will see a face that overwhelms “my blunt invention quite.” The reality dulls the poet’s ...
The paragraphs below are taken, with slight changes, from a column I wrote at Firstthings.com in July 2015. The questions are even more pressing since Trump's election. Continue Reading »

November 28, 10PM

After David sinfully takes a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21), the threshing site where he builds the altar that arrests the plague becomes the temple site (1 Chronicles 22:1). David begins preparations for the temple. Continue Reading »
Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 embodies the excessiveness of poetry. It’s possible to summarize the poem in a brief statement: “I’m getting old. I'll die. Love me while you can.” Why so belabor the point? Continue Reading »

November 27, 10PM

Like many Renaissance writers, Shakespeare is obsessed with mutability, with the vaporous quality of human life. Nothing remains forever. Kingdoms rise and fall. Monuments erode and decay. People grow old and die. Continue Reading »

November 22, 10PM

In Ecclesiastes 9, Solomon urges, “Go, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.” Joy comes from knowing that God accepts and approves what we do, and, implicitly, accepts a...

November 21, 10PM

For years, I've highlighted the triple structure of Merchant of Venice : Three romances, three plots (casket, bond, ring), three caskets. But then I've forced that triple structure into a dual setting - Belmont and Venice. But the geography of the play i...
Buzzfeed has posted a transcript of a 2014 talk that Trump strategist Steve Bannon gave to a meeting of the Human Dignity Institute, an effort to promote Christian faith in European politics. Continue Reading »

November 20, 10PM

Carl Trueman's review of The End of Protestantism was published in the December 2016 issue of First Things. It's a fair but critical review, and gives much fuel for further discussion. Here I respond to two main points. Continue Reading »

November 18, 4AM

For many Evangelical Protestants, the gospel is justification by grace alone through faith alone. It’s the good news that God has declared sinners righteous solely on the basis of the work of Christ, a declaration that sinners receive by resting o...

November 17, 10PM

Rumination by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#82509)
In his Not Bread Alone , Nathan MacDonald cites the letter to Aristeas, which includes an early Christian attempt to explain the food laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. For Aristeas, the food laws were instructive to human beings. Clean animals ruminate;...
Whatever their later American heirs thought of alcoholic beverages, the Reformers were lovers of beer and wine. For Luther, that goes without saying. Gisela Kreglinger shows ( Spirituality of Wine ) that Calvin's views were the same as Luther's. Continue...
African immigrants to the US are preparing to leave in the wake of Trump's victory, reports Quartz . Though not specifically a target of Trump's assaults on immigrants, they feel they are not welcome. Continue Reading »
In a critique of Locke’s theory of consent (and more extreme varieties), Stephen RL Clark ( Civil Peace and Sacred Order ) invokes the ancient Irish system of gessa (s. geis ). These are obligations placed “chiefly on great chieftains and w...
In his history of American lighthouses ( Brilliant Beacons ), Eric Jay Dolin describes mid-19th century conflicts over the American lighthouse system. It sounds familiar—conflicts between those who wanted to rationalize and those who preferred the r...
James Davison Hunter calls attention to the urban setting of the Reformation ( To Change the World , 65): “During the sixteenth century, international commerce expanded dramatically. In Eastern Europe and in France, growing revenues accrued to the b...
Early medieval evangelists had theological reasons for targeting their evangelistic efforts to kings. Kings were heads of political bodies; convert the head, convert the body. Continue Reading »
Is Trump's election the death rattle of white Christian America? Philip Jenkins doesn't think so . It's true that, if trends continue, the US will be a minority-majority nation by mid-century, with no single ethnic group having more than half the populat...
Gil Bailie notes in his recently published God’s Gamble (25, 27) that modern thinkers have often pointed to the similarities between gospel and myth as evidence against the uniqueness of Christian faith: “The anthropological discovery of the...

November 16, 10PM

David wants to build Yahweh a house, Nathan the prophet encourages him. Then Yahweh appears to Nathan to correct him and give directions to David. The nighttime oracle is actually two oracles (noted by William Johnstone, 1 & 2 Chronicles ). Continu...
Apart from dispensationalists, few commentators on Revelation try to match the characters and events of the book to particular people and historical incidents. In the view of many commentators, that would be a violation of the character of apocalyptic lit...

November 15, 10PM

NT Wright complains about the marginalization of the Gospels in atonement theology. He doesn't think it's an accident. Rather, it's “the direct, long-term result of the way in which ‘atonement' has been seen as a transaction taking place, as i...

November 14, 10PM

Some commentators on Revelation give the Parthian empire a major role in the book. The Parthian empire stretched from the Euphrates to Iran; the Silk Road passed through, making it crucial to trade routes from the Roman empire to the far east. Romans and ...
In his freshly published Triune God , Fred Sanders emphasizes that God's self-revelation is a communicative act, and that the communication doesn't come only in act but also in speech: “Revelatory words are not epiphenomenal to revelatory acts....

November 13, 10PM

David wants to build Yahweh a house, and Nathan the prophet approves (1 Chronicles 17:1-2). That night, the word of Yahweh comes to Nathan to correct him. When Nathan delivers the oracle, David is a new Abraham, to whom the “Word of the Lord came&rd...

November 10, 10PM

In a scintillating poem, “Late Apocalypse,” Scott Cairns ( Slow Pilgrim , 214-5), Scott Cairns gives the sharpest, pithiest description of the contradictions of communications technology I've ever read. Cairns is playing off Revelation 1, wher...
Nathaniel Rich reviews Arlie Russell Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land in the NYRB . Hochschild, a Berkeley sociologist, examined theories about the rise of the Tea Party and Trumpism, but, she writes, “I found one thing missing in them...
In a TLS review of James Sharpe's history of violence in England ( A Fiery & Furious People ), David Horspool calls attention to Sharpe's account of infanticide in the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue Reading »
Enrique Dussel ( Underside of Modernity ) explains Hegel’s defection from Kant in theological terms. Inspired by Schiller's distinction of reason as “the vital faculty of synthesis” and understanding as the faculty that “determines...
I have only two quick responses to Toby Sumpter's generous and thoughtful review of (a part of) The End of Protestantism . Continue Reading »
Paul Duff ( Who Rides the Beast? 90) calls attention to five parallels between the prophetess Jezebel of Thyatira (Revelation 2) and the harlot city Babylon (Revelation 17-18). Continue Reading »
Lambert Zuidervaart's essay on “radical Augustinian social critique” is, of course, mainly about Radical Orthodoxy. He devotes several pages to Graham Ward and John Milbank, highlighting the power of their work but offering some criticisms. C...
In an essay on radical Augustinian social critique in his Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation , Lambert Zuidervaart zummarizes the social vision of Herman Dooyeweerd with two themes: spiritual antithesis and structural differentiation. The antithe...
Lamber Zuidervaart thinks that Christian scholars have a “modernity complex” ( Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation , 222). He illustrates with quotations from writers from Groen van Prinsterer to Merold Westphal, and concludes that Chri...

November 9, 10PM

International observers have looked with dismay on the 2016 Presidential election, often for good reason. But David Goldman offers a rebuttle. He observes that Trump’s victory “is not strictly speaking a Republican victory. The self-appointe...
After David installs the ark of the covenant in the tent he prepares for it, he sets up Levites to carry on continuous praise before the Lord’s throne. 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 is a long sample of praise. As commentators point out, the Psalm consists of...
When teaching hermeneutics, I've limited myself to giving students two rules: “Pay attention!” and “Remember!” The exclamation points are essential. Continue Reading »

November 8, 10PM

The account of David's reign in 1 Chronicles alternates between house-building and war, house-building and international recognition and repute. David builds his house, and then fights Philistines, spreading fear throughout the region (1 Chronicles 14). T...

November 7, 10PM

In his Apocalypse Commentary , Nicholas of Lyra pauses from his comments on Revelation 11:11 to describe the various ways a figure can figure. He starts from the reasonable premise that “a figure of another thing is necessarily something in itself,...
O God of earth and altar, Continue Reading »
David is the hyperactive organizer of the effort to bring the ark into Jerusalem. After the first attempt ended in Uzza’s death, David determines that they had violated the ordinance, the word of God through Moses (1 Chronicles 15:13, 15). He makes ...

November 6, 10PM

The Hebrew word ma'al is a key term in Chronicles. It means “act of unfaithfulness” or “sacrilege,” and is the sin that leads to Saul's fall (he ma'aled a ma'al , 1 Chronicles 10:13) and to the exile of Judah, whose officials ...
My End of Protestantism (the book) deals with a number of the questions Doug Wilson raises in his brief review . Here I correct several of Doug’s misrepresentations and clarify some points, but mainly point to fuller discussions in the book. Co...

November 3, 9PM

The Reformation was highly improbably, writes Andrew Pettegree in his lively, vivid Brand Luther : “that a monk who into his thirtieth year had published nothing, and who shared the conventional education of other churchmen, should somehow reinvent...
Bruce Ellis Benson ( Improvisation of Musical Dialogue ) doesn’t think that “the binary schema of ‘composing’ and ‘performing,’ which goes along with the construal of music making as being primarily about the production...
In his elegant study of Reformation commemorations ( Remembering the Reformation ), Thomas Albert Howard notes that the first centenary of the 95 Theses started out as an ecumenical effort. Elector Friedrich V of the Rhineland Palatinate hoped to “r...
Tracing the pre-history of European modernity that started with the Cartesian cogito , Enrique Dussel ( Underside of Modernity , 135-6) calls attention to the role of European exploration and conquest in the Americas. Modernity doesn’t begin with D...
In several places in Scripture, idols are characterized by their sensory deprivation (Psalms 115; 135). They have eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear prayer, noses but cannot smell incense of sacrifice. By implication, Yahweh the living God can do...
There were many Dick Turpins, writes James Sharpe in his study of the mythical English highwayman. There was “the son of John and Mary Turpin, born in Essex in 1705, who was a butcher by trade, drifted into crime, became a notorious highwayman, an...
Writing in The Australian , Paul Kelly views the state of American politics from Down Under. He gets some things wrong, I think, but he also nails some of the cultural and political toxins of which the 2016 Presidential debate is symptomatic. Continue R...
In her The Body in Pain , Elaine Scarry describes the “aversiveness” of our experience of pain. By that, she means that pain is sheerly negative, experienced as something set against us. Even though it is in us, it’s not us. Scarry writ...
Age obliterates and collapses our world, writes Elaine Scarry in The Body in Pain (32-3): “the body works to obliterate the world and self of the old person. Something of this world dissolution is already at work even in the tendency of those in ...

2AM

Some years ago, an older friend turned fifty and his body suddenly fell apart. He had several surgeries during his fiftieth year, and every other month revealed another system failure. He recovered, and remains hale and active today, but I took the warnin...

November 2, 9PM

The Chronicler’s account of David bringing the ark of the covenant to Zion takes up several chapters of 1 Chronicles. Chapters 13-15 describe two ark processions, and chapter 16 describes the organization of the ark tent and its worship in Jerusalem...
Derek Rishmawy is on to me . In a charitable review of The End of Protestantism , he sees through my effort to make a proposal that is “pre-emptively impervious to critique.” He’s right that I admit “that any number of my worries...

November 1, 9PM

The thesis here is: Inclusion in the sacraments is a necessary privilege of membership in the covenant people. There is no covenant membership except one that is sealed by participation in covenant signs and rites. Continue Reading »

October 31, 9PM

Paedocommunion not only implies that the church is the new Israel, but that the church is the new humanity . To say the one is to say the other, for Israel was chosen from among the nations to be Yahweh’s instrument to reverse the sin at Babel, the...
Summarizing Russell Moore’s 2016 Erasmus Lecture, Rod Dreher writes : Moore is “saying that the best way to influence the culture for Christ is to stop trying to ‘influence the culture for Christ,’ but rather to be deeply and th...

October 30, 9PM

All paedobaptists agree that the church is the new Israel, formed as the body of the Risen Christ. But paedocommunion reinforces this point dramatically, for it insists that the admission requirements to the church’s meal are exactly the same as the...

October 27, 9PM

Terrence Rafferty calls filmmaker Guillermo del Toro the “Master of Highbrow Horror” ( The Atlantic ). He traces del Toro’s aesthetic to a childlike mix of fear and fascination: “Toro’s work isn’t simply the something&r...
Smile! by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#81806)
Matthew Hutson reports in The Atlantic about technical developments that will make it impossible to know when we’re on camera: Many of the cameras that can be pointed at us today are easy to spot. But researchers are developing recording devices t...
Born to Run is an anthem of escape, seemingly an exodus from the confinements of small-town America: “H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we’re young ...
In an essay on the notion of “cosmopolitanism,” Wayne Cristaudo presents Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy as thinkers who propose an un philosophical cosmopolitanism. That un- is critical, Crustaudo thinks, to a genuine recognitio...

October 18, 9PM

My End of Protestantism (the book) deals with a number of the questions Doug Wilson raises in his rejoinder . I’m sure Doug will have more to say if he reads the book, and I’ll try to respond then. Here I limit myself to a few notes. I stat...

October 17, 9PM

Bernd Wannenwetsch ( Political Worship , 63–65) denies that in Luther’s theology politics and economics “count as being a preserve of the law .” The usus politicus of the law doesn’t mark “a particular preserve not t...
John Milbank and Adrian Pabst ( The Politics of Virtue , 269) argue that secular critiques of liberalism cannot hit home because “they are incapable of making the key argument that various different faith traditions are able to make—that natur...

October 16, 9PM

John is caught up by the Spirit into heaven and sees a throne, cherubim, a sea, seven torches burning. I daresay he knew exactly where he was: In the heavenly temple, specifically in the heavenly archetype of the most holy place, the throne-room of the ...

October 13, 9PM

In a TLS review of several new books on Kierkegaard, Will Rees comments on the therapeutic cruelty of Kierkegaard’s writing. In Sickness Unto Death , “Anti-Climacus explains how, far from an inheritance of birth, the ‘self’ is i...
In Revelation, martyrs sing before martyrdom and after martyrdom (Revelation 14-15). Their martyr songs are the war songs of the Lamb, the triumphal chants of those who overcome because they, like the Lamb, do not love life even to death. Continue Readi...
Prior to the 1830s, argues JCD Clark ( The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832 ), British political debate was carried on with denominational idioms. Political divides were denominational divides. Political and denominational issues overlapped and intertwined....
According to Mathew Crawford ( The World Beyond Your Head ), economics once held “that we are rational beings who gather all the information pertinent to our situation, calculate the best means to given ends, and then go about optimizing our choices...
Greek Love by [Unnamed] via Leithart (#81073)
Summarizing themes from his Love, Sex, and Tragedy , Simon Goldhill highlights the difference between ancient Greek conceptions of eros and Christian and post-Christian conceptions of romantic love. Even the most famous lovers of Greek antiquity, he ...
Look at a wall, suggests Matthew Crawford ( The World Beyond Your Head ). What color is it? You probably have an answer, a simple one, but when you force yourself to look closely you can see all sorts of variations. The paint is uneven; the old color show...
Devoney Looser says that Jane Austen’s juvenilia is an exercise in burlesque . Not the strip-tease variety, but not so far from that either: “Where a parody sets out to mimic conventions and make us laugh, a burlesque relies ‘on an extr...

October 29, 1PM

A week or two ago, my friends at First Things asked me to consider moving Leithart.com to firstthings.com.  After considering and consulting, I’ve decided to do that.  Sometime tomorrow, Leithart.com will become “Peter J. Leithart” at... [Miscellaneous]

10AM

For Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos (The Culture of Giving: Informal Support and Gift-Exchange in Early Modern England (Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories), 382-3), Samuel Pepys life was a typical gentleman’s life of favors given and received.  To us,... [history]

8AM

In his densely detailed intellectual biography John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History), John Marshall places Locke’s moral development in the context of a gentlemanly code of generosit... [history]

6AM

In his study of Reformation iconoclasm (The Reformation of the Image), Joseph Leo Koerner makes the provocative observation that even in the age before iconoclasm “the Christian image was iconoclastic” (p. 12).  Iconoclasm is inherent in Chri... [art]
In his contribution to Culture and Politics from Puritanism to the Enlightenment (Publications from the Clark Library Professorship, Ucla ; 5), John M. Wallace suggests that “A history of the influence of De Beneficiis on English thought would be a ... [history] [philosophy]
INTRODUCTION Cyrus is Yahweh’s Shepherd to lead Israel from Babylon (Isaiah 44:28-45:1; 48:14-15, 20).  But Israel needs more than deliverance from exile.  They need deliverance from sin, and only a Servant greater than Cyrus can provide that. THE TEX... [Bible - OT - Isaiah]

October 28, 3PM

The Reformers claimed to unleash and unchain the Bible, to shine the light of the Bible into the darkness.  How well do Protestants keep this legacy? Not so well, judging from the surveys that inform us of the shocking ignorance of the Bible among Bible-... [Bible]

October 27, 11AM

“Perhaps the most pervasive image of the Reformation,” writes Peter Matheson in The Imaginative World of the Reformation (p. 38) “is that of the liberated word of God.”  He elaborates: “A thousand sermons talk of the chaine... [Bible] [history] [Theology - Liturgical]

10AM

A catena of Augustine quotations concerning the Christian res publica, quoted in Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (pp. 182-3): “Let each man question himself regarding his... [Theology - Ecclesiology]
In his characteristically splendid Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD, Peter Brown describes the career of Paulinus of Nola, whom he describes the first male Christian to follow J... [Economics] [Theology - Soteriology]

October 26, 8AM

“Come near,” Yahweh invites Israel (Isaiah 48:16).  The verb is qarab, a liturgically charged term used frequently in Leviticus.  Especially in Leviticus 1, various forms of the word describe what worship is for (drawing near, qarab), wha... [Bible - OT - Isaiah] [Theology - Liturgical]
When Yahweh urges Israel to “go forth from Babylon” and “flee from the Chaldeans,” He also exhorts them sing and shout (Isaiah 48:20). The songs of deliverance are not merely expressions of joy, though they are obviously that.  Th... [Bible - OT - Isaiah] [music]

7AM

I have some thoughts on how we non-martyrs share in the work of martyrs at www.firstthings.com. [theology]

October 24, 7PM

On three different occasions I have had the privilege of sitting under Jim Jordan and Peter Leithart as they have lectured for the annual Biblical Horizons conference in Florida. Each time I have come away from these conferences with new insight into the ... [Trinity Institute]

October 22, 3PM

The year I spent in Dr. Leithart’s classroom was rich, challenging, and formative. Although I was firmly grounded in the truth of Scripture before, I had grown blind to its beauty. It was Dr. Leithart’s emphasis on reading the Bible as a story... [Trinity Institute]

12 PM

Yahweh does many things for the sake of His Name, to maintain a good reputation.  This might sound self-focused, as if Yahweh were a particularly large version of the ancient hero. I think something like the opposite is the case.  Yahweh shows mercy to ... [Bible - OT]

10AM

Yahweh addresses Israel as the “house of Jacob” who is “named Israel” (Isaiah 48:1).  They have Yahweh’s name in their mouths in oaths and commemorations (v. 1), but not in truth and righteousness.  They have in fact become... [Bible - OT - Isaiah]

6AM

INTRODUCTION Isaiah 48 closes out a section of the prophecy that began in chapter 40.  It ends with the warning that “there is no peace for the wicked” (48:22), a warning echoed in 57:1 and again at the end of the book (66:22-24). THE TEXT “Hear th... [Bible - OT - Isaiah]

5AM

The genealogy of Levi is at the chiastic center of the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-9, and at the center of the genealogy of Levi is the description of the Levitical singers (1 Chronicles 6:31-32). Prior to this point, the genealogies move forward in tim... [Bible - OT - Chronicles]

October 20, 4PM

In What Is Called Thinking? (14-15) Heidegger asks what it is that an apprentice cabinet maker learns from his master.  He learns skills, but not only that.  He gains useful information, but not only that either.  Fundamentally, Heidegger says, the ap... [philosophy]