July 31, 2018

The Lord curses Cain in Genesis 4:12: “When you serve (avad) the ground (adamah), it will not give (natan) its strength (koach) to you.” Invert that, and we have a fair summary of God’s blessing, and a mini theology of the natural environment. Humanity’s stance toward the earth: Service, not exploitation, pillage, or rape. When the adamah is well served, she gives. The relation of humanity to creation is not master-servant. Humanity doesn’t dominate but serves; and the exchange that… Read more

July 30, 2018

In his 1876 letter in Fors Clavigera, Ruskin muses on the import of the sons of Ham. Mizraim, Phut, and Sion represent three African powers and three natural environments, the watered plain, the desert, and the sea. Each also represents a certain stage of human development: “A. Egypt is essentially the Hamite slavish strength of body and intellect. “B. Ethiopia, the Hamite slavish affliction of body and intellect; condemnation of the darkened race that can no more change its skin… Read more

July 26, 2018

Ruskin’s concept of “typical beauty” is a piece of theological aesthetics. In the second volume of Modern Painters, Ruskin distinguished kinds of beauty, the typical and the vital. Of the first, he says: “that external quality of bodies already so often spoken of, and which, whether it occur in a stone, flower, beast, or man, is absolutely identical: which . . . may be shown to be in some sort typical of the Divine attributes, and which, therefore, I shall,… Read more

July 25, 2018

In the third volume of Modern Painters, Ruskin addresses the “German dulness, and English affectation” that has “multiplied among us the use of two of the most objectionable words that were ever coined by the troublesomeness of metaphysicians,—namely, ‘Objective,’ and ‘Subjective.'” The words are “exquisitely . . . useless” and he sincerely to “get them out of my way, and out of my reader’s.” What he has in mind is a theory of this sort: “The word ‘Blue,’ say certain… Read more

July 24, 2018

George Landow argues (Victorian Types, Victorian Shadows) that the poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins would look less bizarre, though no less innovative, if we placed Hopkins more firmly in the poetics of his time. Which is to say, placed him in the context of a typological poetics. Hopkins’s “entire conception of inscape and its relation to the structure of a poem seems to develop from a mind accustomed to seeking types and figures of Christ” (7). Landow cites “The Windover”… Read more

July 23, 2018

Architecture, Ruskin claims (Seven Lamps of Architecture), isn’t the same as building. Architecture refers to the specifically artistic features of a building, and the specifically artistic features have to do with adornment and not function: “Architecture concerns itself only with those characters of an edifice which are above and beyond its common use. I say common; because a building raised to the honor of God, or in memory of men, has surely a use to which its architectural adornment fits… Read more

July 19, 2018

John Ruskin was the main art critic of his time; he was an artists himself, and also wrote on a variety of other topics, especially on the state of English politics and economy. He abandoned explicit attachment to Evangelical Christianity but remained deeply indebted. He provides an excellent example of the persistence of typological structures of thought into the latter part of the nineteenth century, when orthodox Christianity was in something of a decline. In his discussion of the paintings… Read more

July 18, 2018

Typological forms of thought weren’t confined to sermons and commentaries, but made their way into 19th-century English poetry. -Some poets put typology to orthodox uses, though here we can see divergent deployments of a similar typology. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a poem, Casa Guidi Windows (1851) about the Browning home in Florence. In one section, she speaks of the priesthood of Christ and the effect it has on the formation of the church:   Through heaven’s gate The priestly ephod… Read more

July 17, 2018

Typology was a traditional method of reading Scripture, one that persisted into the Victorian age. Most obviously, this took the traditional form of finding shadowy figures of Christ in Old Testament characters and institutions and promises. J.C. Ryle, a leading Evangelical Anglican, claimed that one “golden chain” runs through the whole of Scripture – it is entirely about Christ: “no salvation excepting by Jesus Christ. The bruising of the serpent’s head, foretold in the days of the fall, – the… Read more

July 16, 2018

Philosophers sometimes restrict “knowledge” to verifiable facts, logical inferences, statements, theories. In fact, knowing goes on all the time, in many modes and manners. As Esther Meek puts it, our lives are a tapestry of acts of knowing. Our knowing is nestled within God’s knowing. Our acts of knowing occur within the passivity of being-known. Psalm 139 is the Psalm of knowing. It begins, “Thou has searched me and known me, thou dost know when I sit down and when I… Read more

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