October 14, 2023

Today I have war on my mind. A week ago, a surprise attack on Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip ignited a war in the middle east on a scale I haven’t know in my lifetime. We are 18 months into a war in Ukraine that began with an invasion and ground troops such as hasn’t been seen in Europe since the second world war. The prophet Joel writes with war on his mind. We know next to nothing about... Read more

September 9, 2023

The doctrine of the Trinity solidified as a doctrine, which is to say as a particular teaching of the church, over a long period of time. The heavy lifting took place across the first five centuries of the faith. Does that mean the Trinity is not in the Bible? Is it part of the New Testament? Did Saint Paul believe in the Trinity? How did we get to “The  Great Three in One?” To answer the question about St. Paul,... Read more

August 26, 2023

From time to time I post brief descriptions of the books I’ve been reading. I’m constantly scanning the shelves of people I know to see what has drawn their attention, and I assume everyone is like me. Here is a sampling of my reading over the past summer. Well, let’s say spring and summer. The genres are all mixed up, since that’s just how I read. Origen, On First Principles I read this straight through in Fr. John Behr’s new... Read more

August 5, 2023

In my work as a theologian, I study the language and traditions of Christian holiness. That does not mean I think I am holy. There is far too much evidence to the contrary. Instead, it means that one of the questions that drives my work is, “how can people be holy?” This question is never far from my mind when I study the Bible, ancient and contemporary theological writings, mystics, or philosophers. I hope to one day write a thickish... Read more

July 22, 2023

At the center of Christian faith stands a great irony. The unwillingness of one man to save himself from a cross opens the path to salvation for all. How does this transference occur? Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) suggests that it all turns on desire. Theories of the Cross I have written about the mystery of the cross before. Contemplations of its saving power begin in the earliest writings of the New Testament. Think of Paul, aligning the cross with... Read more

July 8, 2023

Pickstock’s Explosive World “Truth,” Catherine Pickstock says, “is both a horizontal dance in time and a vertical dance in the skies.”  This is one of the many lines of her recent book that generates a world of rich ideas. Pickstock’s dense and generative theological philosophy has been my companion since graduate school.  When she flew over from Cambridge to visit my University of Virginia, I had already read her first book.  I was captivated that week by her lectures on... Read more

June 24, 2023

It’s Saturday: let’s talk about the Trinity. (Not for the first time in this column. Nor for the second.) Actually let’s zoom in through an adjacent question: why do Christians baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? The easy answer to that one is “Jesus told us to.” But “Jesus said” or “the Bible says” is how theologians begin their contemplations, not how they end them. So: what is the meaning of the formula Jesus gives... Read more

February 15, 2023

The Genesis flood: one of the archetypal stories of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. A text that’s been used to trace the beginnings of races, to combat scientific theories of evolution, and to demonstrate mysterious connections between distant religions and peoples of the ancient world. The flood. We’re only 5 short chapters into the book of beginnings, and suddenly it all has to come to an end. God’s grief opens the gates of earth and the windows of heaven, and... Read more

January 5, 2023

The Prophetic Books are Faith-Forming Reading the prophets of Israel is tiresome work. I’m 31 chapters into Jeremiah, and I feel a bit like I did a few years ago at mile seven of a half marathon. The prophet has us listening in on metaphors that don’t quite land. I will dash the people of Judah against each other like . . . jars of wine? We hear of symbolic action that seems over the top. Wear a loin cloth,... Read more

December 28, 2022

Now and then I post annotated bibliographies of the reading I’ve doing lately. Here are the books I’ve spent most of my time with in the last few months. Fiction Children of the Arbat, by Anatoli Rybakov I can’t remember where I first heard of this book, but its publication was a major event of the Gorbachev era during the Soviet Union’s twilight. Partly autobiographical, it follows a compelling cast of young adults from Moscow (Arbat Street) as they choose—or... Read more

Browse Our Archives