Hope in the Potter

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 acknowledge that she’s to blame for her own condition. Verse 6 uses a series of comparisons (using the particle k- four times) that stress the universality of Israel’s predicament (kol, “all,” is used three times):… Read more

Solomon’s Sexual Wisdom

Proverbs instructs the young man, Choose the right woman. Ecclesiastes adds, Enjoy her love in a world of death and change. The Song of Songs gives the crowning assurance. Read more

Joseph and Sacrifice

Levitical sacrifice provides a way to relive the exodus ritually, the ascent from Egypt to Sinai’s covenant feast. Read more

Structure in 2 Kings 13

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 return to Yahweh with a “Shema”: “Hear me, Jeroboam and Israel” (13:4). After that, the speech turns chiastic: A. Yahweh gave rule to David, 13:5 B. Jeroboam rebelled, 13:6-7 C. Do you come with force and golden calves? 13:8… Read more

Two Kingdoms

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’t sustain and eventually abandoned. Luther claimed that Christians existed “between the two orders or realms (Reiche) God has established for man’s existence in this world, and the related (or overlapping) distinction he draws between the two divinely ordered institutional orders of government (Regimente) pertaining to those realms…. Read more

Thanksgiving, Multiplier of Grace

Literally in Greek, “thanks” contains “grace” but expands it, makes it bigger. Read more

Colonizing Liberalism

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 Ruszard Legutko (Demon in Democracy) puts it: “the history of the world – in the case of liberalism – was the history of the struggle for freedom against enemies who were different at various stages of history… Read more

Public Legacies of the Reformation

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 present day. Before I attempt to answer, let me indulge that venerable academic pastime of questioning the question. Prior to answering, we need to ask three complicating questions. First: What counts as a “legacy of the Reformation”? This… Read more

Modernization Projects

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 thesis: “both attitudes – the communist and the liberal-democratic – are linked by  . . . some common principles and ideals” (1). His book examines five themes – history, utopia, politics, ideology, and religion – to fill out the parallel. At the outset, he… Read more

Slipping to Locke

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 America, those of New England, and their influence was by no means negligible among the other colonies. Puritanism as it developed in America was holy commonwealth Calvinism, with strong connections not only with England and Scotland but also with the… Read more

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