Remembering Jenson

A few items from the archives about Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson, who died earlier this week. Here’s my best effort to summarize Robert Jenson’s take on God-and-time, written with faux-Jensonesque pithiness. Is God eternally and infinitely the eternal and infinite God that He is?  Of course.  He’s God. Is God dependent on creation for His fulfillment?  Of course not.  He’s God. The biblical God uniquely does not try to escape time.  All other gods do; that’s what makes them… Read more

David, Jonathan, Jacob

The following is an excerpt from my commentary on 1-2 Samuel, A Son To Me. Saul was rejected from being king before the battle of Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14), but a replacement was immediately introduced, his son Jonathan. Just as Eli was replaced by his “son” Samuel and just as Samuel was replaced by his “son” Saul, so now fallen Saul was to be replaced by his son. And Jonathan was a worthy candidate: Bold and aggressive as a warrior,… Read more

Abram’s Election

Genesis never says that Yahweh “chose” Abram. In some English translations, Genesis 18:19 speaks directly of Abram’s election, but the Hebrew verb is yada’, “know.” Nehemiah 9:7, though, does use “chose” with reference to Abram, the one “chosen” and therefore “brought out” from Ur and given the name Abraham. We know from Acts 7:2 the form this election took: God appeared in glory to Abram while he was still in Haran and called him to go to a land that he was… Read more

Covenanted Civility

How can we live together when we disagree in the midst of our deepest differences? asked Os Guinness in his 2008 The Case for Civility. In a month that has seen violent clashes across the US, his question is more relevant now than when he wrote the book. The civility he advocates isn’t a soft or easy toleration. It’s not “niceness and mere etiquette or dismissed as squeamishness about differences.” It doesn’t require us to lay aside our convictions to… Read more

What Is Place?

“What is a place?” asks Massimo Cacciari in his contribution to The Intelligence of Place. To answer, he turns to Aristotle, who claimed that “all suppose that things which exist are somewhere.” Fair enough, but what does that mean? Aristotle has some difficulty: “Entities are characterized by their ‘residing’ in a topos. But to know the nature of topos . . . is a matter of greatest difficulty, a search ‘beset with aporias'” (14). How so? Place seems to “have… Read more

Degas and His Models

The Paris Review published an excerpt from Jeff Nagy’s forthcoming book on Degas and His Model. Written by one Alice Michel, and purportedly based on a first-person account from one of the painter’s models, named Pauline, the account was first published in 1919 in Mercure de France. Nagy thinks the account genuine, though he can’t identify Pauline and surmises that “Alice Michel” is a pen name for the radical novelist Rachilde. It’s not a flattering portrait of the artist. He is not… Read more


David Nelson and Chad Raith (both friends of mine) offer a concise, lucid guide for those perplexed by Ecumenism. After an opening chapter defining ecumenism, the book traces the history of the ecumenical movement from its origins in the early twentieth century through the epochal shifts of the 1960s (Vatican II above all) to the present. Along the way, they stop to examine some of the key achievements of the ecumenical movement (the Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,… Read more

Divorce and Social Networks

A report published in Social Forces examines the ripple effects of divorce. Instead of individualistically tracking the effects of divorce on the divorced couple, examining the costs and benefits of divorce, or, at most on the rest of the family, the study summarizes a social network analysis of divorce: What happens to networks of friends when a couple gets divorced? As the authors put it, “Divorce represents the dissolution of a social tie, but it is also possible that attitudes about divorce… Read more

Limits Of Tolerance

Writing in the 1955, Walter Lippmann already discerned that the US was approaching the limits of toleration and facing a crisis of civil discourse. In his Essays on the Public Philosophy, he writes: “As we know from the variety and sharpness of schisms and sects in our time, we have gone beyond the limits of accommodation. We know, too, that as the divisions grow wider and more irreconcilable, there arise issues of loyalty with which the general principle of toleration… Read more

Interior and Exterior Solemnity

In discussing the rise of “mysteriological liturgical piety” in the fourth century, Alexander Schmemann (Introduction to Liturgical Theology) emphasizes the increasing pomp and ceremony of the liturgy. Orthodox liturgist though he is, Schmemann doesn’t approve the development, as it emphasizes “exterior” rather than “interior” solemnity. “Exterior solemnity,” he writes, “consists in the sacralization of sacred ceremonies and actions, in emphasizing that they are not ‘simple,’ in building around them an atmosphere of sacred and religious fear which cannot fail to… Read more

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