Mad Hatter’s Tea

At the Retreat organized by the asylum reformer Samuel Tuke, the inmates would occasionally enjoy social occasions where the rules of etiquette would be strictly observed. In Tuke’s own description, they would “dress in their best clothes, and vie with each other in politeness and . . . . Continue Reading »

Pietist baptism

Johann Arndt (1555-1621), one of theleaders of German Pietism, wrote of baptism: “This is the true new birth and the new creature that appears before God’s face, pure and holy, cleaned and purified through the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit without any blemish. So perfect is this . . . . Continue Reading »

Baptismal Regeneration

In sorting through questions about efficacy of baptism, it’s important to realize that terms are used differently by various theologians. Chemnitz, for instance, claims that baptism has a twofold effect, “regeneration and renewal.” The very fact that he describes these as distinct . . . . Continue Reading »

Water and the Word

Baptism is made by word and water, Luther says. But the word is not the word of the minister that blesses the water, but the authorizing word of Jesus: “God’s word beside and with the water, which is not something we have invented or dreamed up, but is rather the Word of Christ, who . . . . Continue Reading »

Life in Common

The purpose of the proclamation of the Word of Life, John says, is to extend the fellowship of the apostles to include others; and this means to include others within the community – the sharing of things, and particularly the sharing of life – that the apostles have with the Father and . . . . Continue Reading »

A few notes on 1 John 1

1) This is a oddly rambling opening to a letter. It starts with a relative pronoun, and doesn’t get to a finite verb until verse 3. Plus, it leaves a number of things initially unexplained. “That which” – what does this refer to? We don’t know for a while. “From . . . . Continue Reading »

Really Lost

Last year, we got the first season of Lost on DVD and were instantly hooked. These guys sure know how to hold an audience. But for me the hold is weakening as we begin watching the second seson, as it becomes increasingly clear that all these people escaped from a Sidney psyche ward. Flight 815 was . . . . Continue Reading »

In Praise of Coffee

An early modern document celebrates the purifying qualities of coffee: Coffee is good for “fat persons whose thickened humors circulate with difficulty.” And, it reduces impurities and generally clears out the system: “it restores the stomach, consumes its superfluous humidity, . . . . Continue Reading »

Descartes’s exorcism

Madness in what Foucault calls the “classical period” is conceived as a dazzlement - the madman is darkened with excessive light. In this context, “the Cartesian formula of doubt is certainly the great exorcism of madness. Descartes closes his eyes and plugs up his ears the better . . . . Continue Reading »

Divine madness

For the Renaissance, Foucault argues, the line between madness and reason was thin and easily crossed. The madman, in fact, frequently gained insight that the sane did not; think Lear howling on the heath. Over time, madness and truth had been clearly distinguished, and madness ceased to be . . . . Continue Reading »