Tag: theology

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Christians and Jews should not think in the same manner as agnostics. There will always be much to explore and to discover. But some answers have been given to us. Sacred scripture and apostolic tradition bear witness to received truths, general or particular, from which research and reason can proceed in confidence.  Hadley Arkes explains […]

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Holy Thou Art

 

What does it mean for something to be holy? I think it means that a thing or person directs us to God or expresses His presence. Holiness is connected with pious awe. 

What artistic works seem holy to you? Which are the most peculiarly holy — holy in some unusual and perhaps less obvious sense? Is there some work of sculpture or architecture, painting or music, oration or literature that draws you closer to God in a way your associates don’t fully share? 

Knowledge by Faith

 

My newest academic article is out in Evangelical Quarterly: “Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen and Yet Have Known By Faith: Knowledge, Faith, and Sight in the New Testament.” Ricochet saw the earliest version of this article in this old post. In an early draft of the article I began, by way of illustration, with a familiar New Testament way of teaching—a story:

At the time of the initial composition of this paragraph, I am between jobs. Technically, I am unemployed. I worked for four years as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College in Pakistan before my name was found on a document in the possession of a local terrorist organization. So my family and I spent the past academic year—the fifth at FC College—packing and looking for a new job. Shortly after we returned to Texas I was blessed with a job offer at Hong Kong Baptist University—another liberal arts university in Asia with a Christian heritage. HKBU, thankfully, allowed me the option of a contract beginning in January of 2018. It is now August of 2017, and my wife and I have a few months to sort through our footlockers, our crate from Pakistan, and our storage unit—and repack for moving to Hong Kong! I prefer to think of this time as a sabbatical rather than unemployment—an opportunity to do some reading, some writing on Augustine, and some writing on other projects such as this one. I’m not worried about my family’s financial situation because we’re not likely to go into debt, because I think future income is more important than how much money I have now, and because my future salary is going to be a raise as compared to my last job.

Book Review: Protestants, by Alec Ryrie

 

I have read and recommended many books to friends, acquaintances, and strangers over the years, but I have done so selectively, carefully choosing what I recommend and to whom I recommend it.  I have found few books, aside from dictionaries and Douglas Adams, that I would urge on others almost without condition.  I have added one to that list: Protestants: The Radicals Who Made The Modern World, by Alec Ryrie.  

The Protestant Reformation made and remade what we consider to be modern Western Civilization, and regardless of what your faith is (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist), Protestantism has affected it for good or ill, even if you live half a world away from the epicenters of its origins in Europe.  Regardless of whether you are even a Christian, you live in a world where Protestant Christianity has shaped, and even governed the way entire nations have thought and acted.  If the 20th Century was the American Century, and the 19th Century was the British, then both were also the Protestant Centuries, for the very identities of those nations were inextricably bound up with Protestantism, both in their greatest triumphs and darkest sins.  Alec Ryrie, a devout Anglican himself, presents the history of Protestant thought, denominations, and life in a single narrative volume that spans the past 500 years.  It is his love letter to his faith, but told fairly and written with honesty and humor, and as such, it is an invaluable window into seeing the state of the modern world, and the origins and workings out of much of what we assume to be true.

Protestants are fighters and lovers.  They will argue with anyone about almost anything.  Some of these arguments are abstruse, others brutally practical. If we look at the great ideological battles of the past half-millennium – for and against toleration, slavery, imperialism, fascism, or Communism – we will find Protestant Christians on both sides…. But Protestants are also lovers.  From the beginning, a love affair with God has been at the heart of their faith.  Like all long love affairs, it has gone through many phases, from early passion through companionable marriage and sometimes strained coexistence, to rekindled ardour.” (pages 1-2)

The Atheist and the Acorn

 

This starts with a joke. Not a particularly good one, but perhaps the novelty will save the humor. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it told.

An atheist is arguing with a priest as they walk through a grove of trees. “How can you believe in a God who created such a disordered universe? Look at these mighty oak trees. See the tiny acorns they produce. And yet the massive pumpkin grows on a feeble vine. If I had designed the world that situation would be corrected, let me tell you.”

The Last Supper and Defiant Desires

 

In his homily today, Father Joseph Mary of EWTN noted that at Christ’s last supper only Judas the betrayer addresses Jesus as “Rabbi” — Teacher. The other apostles address Jesus as Lord.

It’s an amazing moment. Was Judas the Iscariot not with them in the boat when Christ calmed the storm and walked on water? How many miraculous healings, exorcisms, and resuscitations did Judas witness?

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Today, Christians recall a man who was born blind but was given sight by Jesus the Christ. Jesus says that it is not for the man’s own particular sins nor for the sins of his family that he was born blind. He was blind so that in being healed the Lord’s goodness can be recognized, […]

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“Now, more than ever…”  I hate that phrase. But here it is apt. In an era bombarded by absurdities that make reality almost impossible to satirize, we are especially able to understand the value of experience. When daily news, attitudes, and behaviors venture beyond what one could have believed possible only a decade or two […]

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Quote of the Day – A Perfect Order

 

It is the function of science to discover the existence of a general reign of order in nature and to find the causes governing this order. And this refers in equal measure to the relations of man – social and political – and to the entire universe as a whole.

– Dmitri Mendeleev

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Can one know God?  Can one experience God?  Saint Gregory Palamas, an ascetic monk, priest, and later Archbishop of Thessalonica asked these very questions.  His answers, based on centuries of understanding and experience, became the foundation of the final major dogmatic development in Orthodox Theology.  For this, St. Gregory is commemorated on the second Sunday […]

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Zeal Without Knowledge

 

The translators of Proverbs 19:2 are in agreement: Zeal without knowledge is dangerous. I’m a little hesitant on the accuracy of this as a translation, since the word zeal apparently does not appear in the Hebrew. (Even the ancient Greek translations lack the word zelos–along with, apparently, the whole verse!)

But I’m not hesitant at all about the idea. It’s a correct idea. Zeal is lauded in the Bible in any number of places, like Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17, Romans 12:11, and Psalm 119:139. But zeal doesn’t create righteousness or wisdom out of nothing. Zeal is meant to be a righteous stand for a truth coming from elsewhere. Zeal is to be built on knowledge; see also Romans 10:2.

Discerning God’s Will

 

Judging by my Duck-search results, nearly every single preacher, pastor, rabbi and priest in the country has at one time or another written a study guide or given a spoken teaching — either a sermon of the classical type or a podcast — addressing the discerning God’s will in our lives and the world. John Piper, Tony Evans, J.I. Packer, Henry Blackaby, Benjamin Nunez… the list is gigantic.

I’m quite sure that a lot of the material is both insightful and written with the most benevolent intentions, and some of these entries I have even read, watched or listened to. But, it seems to me they might just be overthinking the question. A couple of more important authorities stated it more succinctly. From the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12:

Quote of the Day: Alan Turing on Theological Arguments

 

I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past. In the time of Galileo it was argued that the texts, “And the sun stood still… and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13) and “He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any time” (Psalm 104:5) were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory.” — Alan Turing

As a recovering math major, I must admit that I also have some difficulty with most theological arguments. Metaphysical interpretation makes a lot more sense and is applicable in everyday life. I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but I do care to be able to identify when I am taking a bite of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And on a political site like Ricochet, folks are handing me those fruits to taste every day. Usually, I pass and stay in the Edenic state of consciousness. But I doubt Turing ever met that sort of metaphysics.

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Several months back, in our Wednesday night bible study of the book of John, we found ourselves reading John 17 – Jesus’ high priestly prayer dedicating his work on earth to the Father. In typical bible study fashion, we read the chapter together, then clumped together in small groups to answer a set of pre-arranged […]

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Christianity and Eros: Essays on the Theme of Sexual Love, by Philip Sherrard, first published in 1976, is a modest attempt by an Orthodox theologian to begin to address the “sacramental potentiality of sexual love” from a Christian perspective, to correct what the author sees as several ways Christian thought has mis-stepped or erred over […]

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An American man traveled to Spain. There, in the great smithing center of Toledo, he bought a sword. Back home, he displayed it for neighbors and friends who universally admired the sword for its beauty.  Beauty? Is not the greater virtue of a sword the strength of its steel? That is how Toledo made its […]

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This one’s for @pseudodionysius. I don’t, ah, tumble, but some link recently redirected me to Discarding Images, a tumblr on Medieval illumination. Turns out the scribes who illuminated the initial Ks of psalters (K for Kyrie) were some pretty sick puppies. That’s some NSFR(EMP)* stuff right there. One less-bawdy illumination that caught my eye, however, […]

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