18 Nov 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part III: Ecclesiastes

In my first and second posts in this brief series, I raised the classical question of ethics and walked through at least part of Plato’s and Aristotle’s answers. While gleaning much from them, I argued that neither help us much in our encounter with death. I need to be clear on this point. I am not critiquing them for not giving a full or adequate account of the afterlife. Although I suppose an argument like

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07 Oct 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part II: Aristotle

In my first post, I noted that—to the question of what whole way of life makes for the most worthwhile life—Plato proposed it must be the just life; the life of the one internally ordered toward the Good. In this post, I’ll consider briefly Aristotle’s musings on the same question. As stated in part I, the purpose of this is not so much historical survey or a ‘rereading’ of these thinkers and their respective positions.

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02 Sep 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part I: Plato

Introduction As summer turns to fall, I always become more reflective. Perhaps it’s my age. Perhaps it’s the pandemic. Perhaps it’s this new stage of my life. Perhaps it’s just, as Pascal would say, the grandeur and misery of being human. Whatever the reason, this fall I’ve been thinking about the good life. What makes for human happiness? That is the classical question of ethics, of course. I am not going to attempt anything like

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12 Aug 2020

On Lions and Injustice

“If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmund Tutu “If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations  As I was perusing my various social media feeds waiting for my son to finish his blackberries, I came across this quote, “If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Wanting more of

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29 Jul 2020

It is a Sin Not to Wear a Facemask

Anyone perusing social media these days will be well aware that the latest politicized controversy dividing American society is about wearing facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic. One cannot make a simple trip to the grocery store without becoming bogged in a morass of invisible social pressure, judgment, and labels regarding whether one decides to don a face covering or not. Christians and Christian Churches are divided, largely along political lines, as to the compulsoriness of

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15 Jul 2020

Turning Swords into Plowshares

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was watching a celebration on TV and at the same time reading Shane Claiborne’s book Beating Guns:  Hope for Those Who Are Weary of Violence.  Both celebration and book quoted John 15:13: “No greater love is this than the

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13 Apr 2020

John Cotton, Protestant Integralist

What follows is, so far as I can tell, the basic tenets of Catholic integralism— a topic of heated debate lately— or what is sometime called “Gelasian dyarchy,” a reference to Pope Saint Gelasius’ letter to Emperor Anastasius in the late fifth-century which espoused the dualistic principle of church and state, (i.e. “duo sunt”). 1) There are two powers that rule humanity: a temporal power (the state) and a spiritual power (the Church). Since man’s

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16 Dec 2019

Is Teaching Universal Salvation Pastoral Malpractice?

There’s been plenty of chatter in the theological blogosphere over David Bentley Hart’s provocative new book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, which argues forcefully that for God to be truly God, all things must ultimately be reconciled to Him. Much can be—and has been—said already about the merits of Hart’s argument (my own review is coming out in Ad Fontes in a few weeks). But as I’ve reflected on the

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15 Feb 2019

Althusius, Symbiotic Man, and Reliving the Sixteenth Century

Introduction Back in December, historian Niall Ferguson gave a lecture in which he drew an analogy between today’s political polarization and the religious polarization of the post-Reformation sixteenth century, which as we know, led to a hundred-year decimation of Europe and culminated in the Thirty Years’ War. Ferguson’s analysis suffers from an overly materialistic focus, as secular historians are wont to employ, and fails to give due regard to theological motivations. This is forgivable since

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28 Jan 2019

The Erotic Gift of Self-Denial

“The word ‘God’ defines a personal relation, not an objective concept. Like the name of the beloved in every love, it does not imply separation and distance. Hearing the beloved’s name is an immediate awareness, a dimensionless proximity of presence. It is our life wholly transformed into relation.” —Christos Yannaras, Variations of the Song of Songs THE EROTIC GIFT OF SELF-DENIAL         Love transforms existence into relation. Without love, the created order exists in a

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02 Nov 2018

On Modesty, Shame, and Our Need for Love: Insight from Sartre and John Paul II

On Nakedness and Shame         Human beings show an almost universal desire to conceal certain parts of their body from the gaze of others, especially persons of the opposite sex. We react instantaneously and spontaneously to try and hide our nakedness. But why do we respond in such a way, and why do we feel shame if we are exposed to the gaze of others?                Jean-Paul Sartre and Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II)

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22 Oct 2018

On the Subjectivity of Sin

Sin is a complicated subject. Not only do theologians disagree as to what sin actually is, but Christians seem to be confused as to what is actually “sinful” anymore. Homosexuality, for instance, seems to be the hot topic in our time. However, I believe most of our confusion today stems from the forgotten reality that sin is, and always has been, a subjective experience for man; so it is this aspect of sin that I wish

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17 Oct 2018

Recovering the Beauty of the Theologian

The beautiful is that which is pleasing when apprehended… – Thomas Aquinas In 1970, looking out over the world, still picking up the carnage of its two world wars, and looking back over his own life, ravaged by the brutality of the USSR, Alexander Solzhenitsyn mused upon the ‘enigmatic remark’ of Dostoevsky’s idiot: “beauty will save the world.” “What sort of a statement is that?” Solzhenitsyn asks, “when in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save

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25 Jul 2018

The Theologian’s Free Association with the Academy

I was recently perusing the latest edition of JAAR (Journal of the American Academy of  Religion, vol. 86 [2]) and was reminded of why I have been, shall I say, pessimistic about the current practice of so-called academic theology. Still, all is not without hope. And this recent article—a cause for such hope in my estimation— has put me in mind to write my own few lines about the subject of theology and the academy.

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11 Jul 2018

Round Table: Euthanasia

The 2016 film Me Before You stars Emilia Clarke as an awkward young woman who needs employment to help support her poor working class family. After losing her job at a local bakery, she applies to become a caretaker for the adult son of a wealthy family. The son, played by Sam Claflin, was an active and successful young man before being injured in a motorcycle accident that left him as a quadriplegic. The two

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30 Jun 2018

Ahead of the Curve: A Reflection on the Joker’s Terrible Insight

Introduction Early in The Dark Knight, Alfred describes the Joker in perhaps the most memorable lines of the film: Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn. The Joker is characterized as someone who is beyond reason: crazy, deranged, out of his mind. His ostensibly pointless acts of violence and mayhem appear to reinforce this assessment.

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18 Oct 2017

Luther’s First Good Work

In the opening section of “A Treatise on Good Works,” Martin Luther declares: “The first and highest, the most precious of all good works is faith in Jesus Christ.”1 Luther was not an ethicist as such, but his claim, if true, has wide-ranging implications for anyone in pursuit of the “good life”—that end toward which ethics is aimed. Such a bold idea warrants justification. What could this statement possibly mean? How is faith a work

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25 Aug 2017

We Need A Medieval Theology of Wealth

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10) I recently finished reading Marcia L. Colish’s Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition for one of my seminary courses. Coupled with other readings on medieval theology, I have come to greatly appreciate the richness and depth of medieval theology, an appreciation that

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23 Jun 2017

May We Be Selfless

Loving God, Our walls are too high Our gaze is turned inward We avert danger at the expense of love We seek ourselves to the extent of losing identity We focus on living so much that we never truly exist May the example of your Son be seen among us May his life be dramatized in the play of our lives May we improvise according to the story of the suffering king May we be

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A statue of justice, blindfolded and holding a scale and sword.
13 Jun 2017

You Believe in Legislating Morality

If there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s this: “You shouldn’t use law to force your morality on others.” And if there’s one other thing everyone agrees on, it’s that the other side is always trying to do exactly that. You don’t want to use contraceptives? Fine. Just stop insisting that others avoid them as well. You want to participate in gay weddings? Fine. Just stop making cake vendors do the same. What’s going on

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