Yahweh shows Abram the starry heavens and says “so shall your seed be.” Abram believes, and Yahweh counts it as righteousness (Genesis 15).
When Paul quotes this in Galatians, he emphasizes the singleness of that Seed: The Seed is Christ. Paul claims that the seed promised to Abram is fulfilled in Christ.
That seed may be the individual Jesus or, as N.T. Wright has argued, the corporate Christ. Either way, the seed is a starry seed, either Jesus the heavenly man or the church as the constellations and galaxies of the highest heavens. Either way, Yahweh promised a seed that is light in the darkness, a seed royal like the stars of heaven.
“The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
“This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving—HOW NOT TO DO IT.”
Orthodox Christianity is often accused of fomenting antisemitism because of its “supercessionist” conviction that Christianity overcomes and replaces Judaism.
Antisemitism is more accurately the product of the abandonment of orthodoxy. In a fine essay on Erich Auerbach, Arthur Krystal writes, “During the nineteen-thirties, many religious leaders in Germany traduced the Old Testament’s authority, in an attempt to strip Jewish history of its original meaning. In 1933, Cardinal Faulhaber noted (disapprovingly) the widespread sentiment that a ‘Christianity which still clings to the Old Testament is a Jewish religion, irreconcilable with the spirit of the German people’ . . . .
In the New Yorker, James Wood retraces the steps from his youthful secret atheism in a devoutly Christian home to his discovery of the pure freedom of fiction:
“My anguish about death was keen, because two members of my parents’ congregation died at an early age, of cancer. One of them was a single mother; I played with her children. Prayers were uttered when she fell ill; prayers were unanswered. But then my parents told me, ‘God has called Mrs. Currah to be with Him in Heaven,’ and I wondered whether God, in some mind-bending way, might have been answering our prayers by failing to answer our prayers. So inquiry was welcomed up to a certain point, but discouraged as soon as it became rebellious. Job could not become Captain Ahab. . . .
Lorrie Moore doesn’t offer a moral critic of the sex in the controversial lesbian film Blue is the Warmest Color. Instead, she calls the sex scenes “an almost fatal narrative mistake.”
She goes on: “Cinematic sex (unlike pillow talk, and that includes the pillow talk here, as well as that of Rock Hudson and Doris Day) is not all that fascinating because it is not all that sharable. What is being experienced by the characters is not something that can be felt by viewing. But the other problem is that despite these young women appearing expert in what they are doing in bed, the sex may be inauthentic—no youthful fumbling here. Manohla Dargis has written inThe New York Times that their pantomiming is obvious; others have noted that Kechiche’s lesbian sex is laughably constructed with pornographic tropes; Julie Maroh, the author of the book the film is based on, has also complained of the bedroom choreography. For a filmmaker whose strength seems to be a vital naturalism, these are sticking criticisms.”
Moore says that the sex scenes “mute and obscure the actresses.” Like “most carnality,” these scenes cause “the interesting parts of these women’s personalities to recede. The actresses for long stretches of time become action heroes, and the portrait of them that the film has ostensibly been working on grinds, so to speak, to a halt.”
R. R. Reno thinks that Francis is best described as a “populist.” In another in a series of carefully balanced essays on the Pope, Reno assesses the pluses and minuses of populist papalism.
Reno says that he finds Francis’s “generalizations” about capitalism and the free market “overheated,” but at the same time commends Francis’s “intuitions.” Reno writes,
George Weigel characterizes Pope Francis a “revolutionary,” but insists that he is not a revolutionary in the ways most observers have suggested.
Weigel writes, “The pope is passionately concerned about the poor, and he knows that poverty in the 21st century takes many forms. It can be found in the grinding material poverty of his native Buenos Aires, caused by decades of corruption, indifference, and the church’s failures to catechize Argentina’s economic and political leaders. But poverty can also be found in the soul-withering spiritual desert of those who measure their humanity by what they have rather than who they are, and who judge others by the same materialist yardstick. Then there is the ethical impoverishment of moral relativism, which dumbs down human aspiration, impedes common work for the common good in society, and inevitably leads to social fragmentation and personal unhappiness.”
Behind objections to Trinitarian “relational ontology” lie assumptions about creation and the way human language applies to God. The assumptions of theologians often differ from the assumptions of the biblical writers.
Christians often deny that addictions are “diseases” and that they are “genetic.”
But this denial often assumes a materialist view of psychology, as if there are only material causes of disease and only “genetic” forms of inheritance.
If we say that even “purely physical” diseases have non-physical causes, and that there are other forms of inheritance of traits other than genetic, we may need to say that addictions are “diseases” and are inherited.
Aidan Nichols gives a neat summary of the Triune unity of the church in his Figuring out the Church: Her Marks, and Her Masters. Following Heribert Muhlen, he particularly emphasizes the role of the Spirit, who is “one Person in many persons” (27).
More fully: “The Church’s members are not one through hypostatic union with Christ. Rather, the unity of the una quaedam persona comes about through the mediation of the Holy Spirit, who is himself one and the same in Christ and in ourselves. Thus the unity of the Church in Christ is not . . . simply the result of the Father’s predisposing plan. The Father’s predisposing plan is to render a world created and saved a unity in the human species precisely by sending the Holy Spirit to be one single Person in the Word incarnate and ourselves. We – Christ and each other in Church – form una mystica persona, ‘one mystical person’” (29).
Ignacio Carbajosa’s Faith, the Fount of Exegesis: The Interpretation of Scripture in the Light of the History of Research on the Old Testament answers John Ratzinger’s twofold call for a “criticism of criticism” and for a renewal of faithful, faith-filled exegesis.
With regard to the first, Carbajosa carries out an internal critique of Old Testament criticism. Following Ratzinger’s observation that historical criticism, as a historical discipline, can only be true to itself if it examines its own philosophical assumptions and genealogy, he argues historical criticism of the Pentateuch is built on romantic and evolutionary assumptions that ill fit the data. He also offers a fine summary of recent work by Rendtorff and others that has abandoned the documentary hypothesis from within critical scholarship itself.
In the foreword to Antonio Lopez’s Gift and the Unity of Being, Milbank says that by giving “gift” a transcendental status, Lopez offers “a rethinking of the Thomistic metaphysics of act and being that renders it a fully Trinitarian metaphysics” (xii).
He elaborates, “The divine actus is already, as in the case of the Paternal origin, in a certain sense receptive in order that it may act at all; equivalently we cannot see any finite reality as an act unless we also see it as a received gift.
Gifts must be received to be given, and therefore, “if every being is a gift of itself to itself, then it can only exist as reflectively giving itself to itself. This means that consciously spiritual beings are the first and primordial created beings. There cannot be a cosmos without spirit, as indeed Aquinas like the Fathers taught, and equally every non-spiritual creature must exhibit this spirituality in some lesser, analogical degree.” Milbank sees in the metaphysics of gift a form of “vitalism” that begins not from immanence but from transcendence.
What follows is that “every being qua being is a gift and that God is eminent generosity,” but also “that every being is internally and externally involved in a gift-exchange of initiation, reception, and counter-giving that in God is Trinitarian relation” (xii-xiii).
“We need not fear that we have lost our world when we acknowledge the theory-impregnated nature of our understanding,” writes Mark Johnson (The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, 204). “‘Things’ outside us talk back to us, and proclaim their presence, with a very loud voice most of the time. And it is our being situated in relation to them, and interacting with them, that assures us that we are realists.” That is all the realism Johnson thinks we need.
What we don’t need is a theory, such as what Johnson calls “Objectivism.” Like idealism, Objectivism assumes that “the organism and its environment are two wholly separate things,” about which we can ask “how the two are related, and which one is responsible for the structure of the world” (207). The basic false assumption is that organisms are independent of environments. Once we dispense with that, we have all the realism we need in insisting that there is a world and that we have contact with it (which is a naive experience, without much need for theorization).
John W. Dixon makes an intriguing argument in a 1998 Anglican Theological Review essay on “Trinitarian anthropology.”
He offers a fundamental anthropology rooted in physics and evolutionary biology, and suggests “The human mind and its products are a part of the web of relations. The relational structures of human culture are added to the order of nature as a part of it as well as supplementary to it, not over against it as something wholly other.” In the human mind, “The rich and complex array of neuronal patterns and linkages in humans generates a depth of memory that is not only greater in extent but in productive power than anything available to animals. Such memory in conjunction with present situations requires a transformed sense of the future in which deliberate planning is necessary. With planning there comes purpose and with purpose, hope.” There are “emergent properties” constitute “the realm of the spirit.”
Drawing on Mark Johnson’s The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, he suggests that our bodily interaction with the world shapes imaginative meanings, such that “metaphor is at the center of these symbolic constructs that organize our neuronal processes.” Further,