Scientific Miracles

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 current state of physics. To get a miracle, we don’t need more money or energy in improving current technologies. We need a conceptual revolution, a theoretical breakthrough. And, Gates knows, this can only come by devoting… Read more

Modern Sphinx

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 ambivalence of modernity. It has both constructive and destructive qualities, and the two aren’t opposed but deeply united. The very constructive, positive features of modernity end up devouring modernity. They point, for instance, to the political individualism… Read more

Bach the Modern?

“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 resonate with those of the broader modern condition.” Bach’s Passions target “the individual believer, cultivating one’s sense of sinful responsibility for the fate of Christ, and also rehearsing essential elements of religious practice. These might involve the development of a feeling of utmost dependence, a sense of the… Read more

Liturgy In Secular Imagination

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 secular age, and Roberts observes that this can take the form of a consumerist approach to liturgy: “This age of authenticity is one in which consumption plays a crucial role: various companies provide us with the images, styles, and brands by which we can… Read more

US By TR

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 Roosevelt makes the point: “ In the decade that followed [TR’s] arrival in Washington, the US declared war on Spain, expelling it from the Western Hemisphere and acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; threatened Germany and Britain with war… Read more

Late Bloomer

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, reluctant and unsatisfied provincial schoolmaster.” He more than made up for his slow start. When he published Lord of the Flies in 1954, his life rocketed: “he ended with a knighthood and the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first… Read more

Fire Makes the Man

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 advantage. Chimps put a lot of (unconscious) energy into digestion, since they eat raw, hard-to-digest foods. When we cook, foods are easier to digest, we can get more nutrients from them with less energy expended. The excess energy can be devoted… Read more

Twenty-Something Radical Orthodoxy

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 critiques from every corner,” he points out, “Radical Orthodoxy has continued to bear fruit on both sides of the Atlantic for almost a quarter of a century,” which reflects its “philosophical depth.” Further, “Milbank, Pickstock, and Ward have remained active in the continental philosophy of religion, facilitating discussions… Read more

Homily on Grain

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 kernel encased within a dual outer husk. This echoes the image that Jesus offers his disciples after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when he begins to prepare them for the events to come by comparing himself with a grain of wheat that falls… Read more

On the Structure of Leviticus

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 coverings.” From this, one can derive a simple chiastic outline of the book (I’ve discussed this in more detail in my essay in The Glory of Kings): A. Offerings, chapters 1-7 B. Priestly ordination; fall and fire-punishment, chs. 8-10 C. Laws of uncleanness: defile sanctuary, chs… Read more

Follow Us!