November 14, 2018

In her book on Benjamin Constant, Liberal Values, Helena Rosenblatt examines the intertwining of religious and political concerns in the work of Constant and his lover/collaborator, Madame de Stael. Through his early study of liberal Protestant theologians in Germany, Constant “hit upon what would be a central principle of his mature liberal philosophy – that there should be complete freedom of opinion and belief, and that such freedom was conducive to both intellectual and moral progress.” Freedom of religion was… Read more

November 13, 2018

  Gillian Rose (Hegel Contra Sociology, 21-24) examines how sociology attempts to overcome Kantian problematics, but remains within them all the same. Neo-Kantianism, she argues, “founded two kinds of ‘sociology,’ two logics of the social: a logic of constitutive principles for the sociology based on the priority of validity, and a logic of regulative postulates for the sociology based on the priority of values. The former identifies social reality by a critique of consciousness; the latter locates social reality within… Read more

November 12, 2018

Barth is no feminist. In his discussion of man and woman (CD 3.4), he insists on the created differences between male and female. Men and women must resist the temptation “to exchange their special vocations, what is required of the one or the other as such” (154). Instead, “each man and woman owes it not only to himself but also to the other always to be faithful to his own sexual characteristics” (154). He launches an attack on the explicit… Read more

November 8, 2018

Genesis describes sex with a variety of terminology: 1) The command to “be fruitful” (Genesis 1:28) implies sex. 2) Adam “knew” (yada’) Eve and she conceived (4:1, 25). The same term is used for Cain (4:17), for the Sodomites who attack the angels (19:5). “Not known a man” is a description of virginity (19:8; 38:16). Judah no longer “knew” Tamar after she became mother of his son/grandson (38:16). 3) Men “take a wife,” a phrase that implies sexual activity but doesn’t… Read more

November 7, 2018

Where does my speech come from? Klaus Hemmerle (Thesen zu einer trinitarischen Ontologie) argues that the answer is more complex that we might think. On the one hand, the word originates from the speaker: “I speak the word, it’s up to me.” There’s no gap between me as speaker and the words i speak. I design the speech and direct it to the addressee. In short, “the whole of speech is rooted . . . in me.” Yet even though… Read more

November 6, 2018

This is a selection from the forthcoming second volume of my commentary on Matthew. Matthew 28 is a richly typological passage. Jesus’ appearance to the eleven culminates not only the story of Matthew’s gospel, but also shows Jesus as the fulfillment of a host of Old Testament hopes. The Magi were the first to worship the king of the Jews (2:2, 11). Now that Jesus has been raised, the eleven remaining disciples join in (28:16). This is no ordinary bow;… Read more

November 5, 2018

Brief reflections on a sermon on Genesis 3 given by Eric Venable at Trinity Presbyterian Church (TPC). The sermon will be available on TPC’s web site in a week or two. 1) Eric emphasized the competing voices of the narrative. God speaks the world into being, and gives commandments, positive (“be fruitful, multiply, subdue, rule”) and negative (“thou shalt not eat”). Adam speaks to Eve. Genesis 3 introduces a new character, the serpent, who also has a speaking part. After… Read more

November 1, 2018

This essay was first published in Credenda/Agenda. On the evening of April 6, 1994, a missile destroyed the airplane of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana as it descended into the Kigali airport. Within hours of the assassination, Hutus armed with sticks, clubs, machetes, along with the odd grenade and gun, fanned out over the country and began killing Tutsis and any Hutus who tried to protect them. By early July, when Kigali fell into the hands of the predominantly Tutsi Rwandan… Read more

October 31, 2018

In various places, Jean-Pierre Dupuy cites Adam Smith’s claim that “speculation” is the essence of economic activity. Dupuy traces economic “speculation” to its etymological source in the Latin speculum, a mirror. In The Mark of the Sacred, he writes: “In a key passage of his greatest work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith asks what wealth consists in. It is not what assures our material well-being, since a frugal life would provide for this satisfactorily enough. It is everything that is desired… Read more

October 30, 2018

In various works, Rene Girard analyzes the “underground” of Dostoevsky, most elaborately presented in Notes from Underground. The underground is both a psychology and a metaphysics. The psychology arises from the dynamics of mimesis and rivalry that are Girard’s key themes, which lead to alienation of frustrated resentment, ressentiment. This is linked to underground metaphysics, which involves the idolatry of the model or mediator, the one from whom we derive our desires. Thus the underground man in Dostoevsky’s novel models… Read more

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