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

October 28, 2018

Alan Jacobs has recently (How To Think) used CS Lewis’s essay on the “Inner Ring” to explain what has happened to political discourse in the US. Lewis began his essay by citing a passage from Tolstoy, which revealed an informal hierarchy, an “inner ring,” within the overt organizational structures of the Russian army. He provided a sketch of the phenomenon from Tolstoy’s description: “The [informal hierarchy] is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organised secret society with... Read more

October 26, 2018

A brief overview of key elements of the thought of Rene Girard. Mimetic desire. Desire isn’t individual; it doesn’t emerge from isolated individuals. It’s mimetic. We desire what we see others desiring. This is the basis for the advertising industry; it’s obvious in any day care center, when children try to play with toys that other children are playing with; it’s evident in many of the romantic stories of Western literature (from Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale to Shakespeare and on). Models, the... Read more

October 26, 2018

A brief, sketchy outline applying the quadriga to various topics of Leviticus. The quadriga. Fourfold sense: Literal, allegorical, tropological, anagogical. Examples: Jerusalem; David and Goliath. Strengths *Implies a Christology, an ecclesiology, an ethics, and an eschatology *Allegory and tropology. *Faith, hope, love built into hermeneutical. Quadrigizing the sanctuary. Literal: *Zones and furnishings, according to the pattern (Exodus 25:40). *God’s house. *Tent of appointment. Allegory: What we believe *Christ tabernacled in flesh. *Christ the temple. *Ruin and raising of temple. Tropology:... Read more

October 23, 2018

With Saudi Arabia in the news following the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, there’s an opening for rethinking the US relation with Saudi. The following is an excerpt from my 2012 Between Babel and Beast. Numbers and details may be somewhat outdated, but the main points stand. In August 2011, the Pew Research Center released a report on global restrictions on religion.  The Pew analysis divided restrictions on religious liberty into two categories. The analysis analyzes governmental efforts to control... Read more

October 22, 2018

Gotta love Mary Midgley. She died on October 10 of this year, a month after her 99th birthday. To the end, she did philosophy with a rare degree of common sense and wit. She begins The Myths We Live By, published when she was a mere octogenarian, by explaining how myths function in science, and provides a light takedown of the obsession with machine imagery: “machine imagery, which began to pervade our thought in the seventeenth century, is still potent... Read more

October 18, 2018

Martyrdom is the true resistance to the powers and principalities that rule in heavenly places. Witnesses broke the old creation order. Martyrs shattered the Roman world, so that God’s throne was set up in Europe and began shaking things. Early Christians were witnesses against the religious foundations of Rome. Rome existed because of a “social contract” between gods and Romans; as long as the Romans honored their gods, the gods would give Rome success. Christians broke the social contract by... Read more

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