16 Jul 2021

Church and Conscience

American Christianity, in certain intellectual quadrants at least, is undergoing a reassessment of established conceptions of church and state. The Gelasian analogy (from Duo Sunt) of church and state, now carried on by contemporary integralists but also by many more before them, is that of soul and body. The former represents the spiritual power and the latter the temporal. This is a proper analogy that, in various forms, was invoked by the magisterial reformers (like

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07 Jul 2021

Some Preliminary Reflections on Metaphysics

I have over the past decade or so engaged often with friends who to one degree or another find so-called ‘classical theism’ to be suspect. More often than not, I find myself convinced in these conversations that their suspicions ought to be able to be cleared away with some careful definitions and distinctions. But, then, more often than not, my attempts at definitions and distinctions do not actually clear away their doubts. Why not? It

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02 Jun 2021

Keep Scholasticism in the Schools

He was in Logick a great Critick Profoundly skill’d in Analytick. He could distinguish, and divide A Hair ’twixt South and South-west side: On either which he would dispute, Confute, change hands, and still confute. – Samuel Butler The title of this post is purposefully ambiguous. I could mean by it that contemporary academic theology—theology done in universities, seminaries, divinity schools—suffers from a neglect of scholastic theology, as it was developed and practiced in the

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05 May 2021

Theology as Reasoning Prayer

I was recently struck by a line from Peter Leithart’s review of Vern Poythress’ recent book, The Mystery of the Trinity. At the end of the review Leithart offers what he deems to be high praise for Poythress: Each chapter of Mystery of the Trinity ends with a prayer. Poythress and Frame want theology to speak to ordinary people in ordinary language, rather than become a playground for professionals who bandy intimidating technical terms about to keep

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24 Oct 2020

Aquinas, Protestants, and the Book I Wish Was Read More

For we think of a thing, in one sense, when we think of the word that signifies it, and in another sense, when we understand the very thing itself. -Anselm, Proslogion, IV Problems with Comparative Studies I’ve noted in another post the resurgence of interest in Thomas Aquinas and Thomism among Protestants. One ‘type’ or genre of writing that is popular in this resurgence is what I’ll call a comparative approach. This approach asks what Thomas (or

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28 Aug 2020

Integralism as Default

The so-called post-liberal debate rolls on; as is to be expected in the midst of the greatest civil unrest and polarization many recent generations have yet witnessed. So long as present problems can be attributed to the status quo, then soul-searching will commence (hopefully on both sides of the ideological and class divide, but I would not advise holding your breath). And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Recent contributions from Sohrab Ahmari and

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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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02 Oct 2019

Go to the Ant, Thou…Curious

Writing in the mid-twentieth century, Dorothy Sayers observed that the church in her part of the world weighed triflingly little in the estimation of its cultured despisers. This was not, however, because its archaic teachings had been finally unmasked as ‘irrelevant’ to progressed, Modern society. No, she insisted, the problem was precisely the opposite: its ancient truths had been hidden from Modern society’s sight: Let us, in heaven’s name, drag out the divine drama from

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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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21 Jan 2019

Book Review: Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense

David Haines and Andrew Fulford, Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense (Davenant Trust, 2017), 142 pp. Introduction A recent book by David Haines and Andrew Fulford, and published by the Davenant Institute, called, Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense, seeks to acquaint Protestants with the natural law tradition as it was received and developed by the Magisterial Reformers of the sixteenth century and the Reformed orthodox of the seventeenth century. Natural

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20 Oct 2018

Dialogue on Church History and Tradition

Over the past few years, Timon and myself (Ben Winter) have engaged in fruitful discussion—via the “comments” section on Conciliar Post—about church history and the authority of tradition. Recently, Timon stated that many of the questions we worked through “are very common . . .from both Catholic friends and fellow protestants.” In light of that, we have decided to reprise our debate. Our goal is to further expand ecumenical dialogue, while learning something new in

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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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24 Sep 2018

Book Review: Puritanism and Natural Theology

Wallace Marshall, Puritanism and Natural Theology (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016), 144pp. H.L. Mencken once famously defined Puritanism as that “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy!” Thanks to the work of Perry Miller and Leland Ryken, among others, the caricature of Puritans as “gloomy, obscurantist foes of science, merriment, progress, and learning” has been debunked (2). The popular-level image of Puritans always did owe more to Arthur Miller and Nathaniel Hawthorne than it

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22 Aug 2018

Non et Sic: Don’ts and dos of Protestant Aquinas Scholarship

The early twentieth century saw, yet again, a renewed interest in the theology of Thomas Aquinas among Roman Catholics (for an overview of this ressourcement of Thomistic theology see, for example, the Introduction of Nicholas Healy’s book). Protestant scholarship on Aquinas, however, suffered from serious neglect, or worse, serious distortion during the same period. Among many post-nineteenth century Protestants, Thomas, because of his (justifiably) high esteem among Roman Catholics, was seen as one who must

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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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14 May 2018

Theology, Sanctity, and the Academy

It could be said that, throughout history and even now in the “less enlightened” parts of the world, the cults of the Saints drive not only the practice of Christianity but also speculation (in the older, more revered sense of the term) about Christianity itself. That is, hagiography as such – the vitae Sanctorum – is not a strange collection of bygone myths (in the newer, less revered sense of the term), but the pulse

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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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22 Sep 2017

A Reflection on Reformation Five Hundred

As most Christians, whether Protestant or otherwise, know, the end of next month will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I hope that such a momentous occasion will not only be cause for celebration if you are a Protestant, but also for deep reflection. The onslaught of Reformation-themed books (and movies) being published this year may be an indication that such reflection will take place for many (even Catholics). But I do not hope

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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 Sep 2016

EpiPen and Aquinas: Arguing for a Just Price

“PHARMA GREED KILLS.” “PEOPLE OVER PROFIT” “Heather Bresch: THE FACE OF GREED” So resounds the public outrage toward Mylan Inc. and the company’s CEO Heather Bresch after having steadily increased the price of EpiPen from $100 in 2007 to $600 last May.1 Critics argue that the price to manufacture the injector has not increased during that time, that the product itself has not changed, that research and development costs cannot justify the decision, and that

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