Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, and an adjunct Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College. He is author, most recently, of Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor).

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Samson

From Leithart

Perhaps it’s the JPS Tanakh translation, but it struck me that the Samson narratives manifest the broad comedy of a Babylonian myth or the legends compiled by Levi-Strauss. He goes about tearing lions like lambs, posing riddles, lighting foxes on fire, and so on and on. Only moralistic . . . . Continue Reading »

RPW and Leviticus 10

From Leithart

Leviticus 10 is often cited in support of the Reformed “Regulative Principle of Worship.” It does support that principle, but not if the principle is formulated, as it often is, as “whatever is not commanded is forbidden.” The sin of Nadab and Abihu was offering . . . . Continue Reading »

Ritual and Chaos

From Leithart

Frank Gorman says that ritual in Bible is means of maintaining order of world against chaos: “ritual must function as a means of ‘manipulating’ the orders of creation. It is the means by which the categories of ‘order’ and ‘chaos’ can be negotiated. Ritual . . . . Continue Reading »

Art

From Leithart

The following thoughts are largely inspired by Rowan Williams previously-mentioned book. 1. Art is about making, not primarily about making a point. It is not fundamentally self-expression, or copying something that’s already there. It’s about constructing a new thing, an object. 2. If . . . . Continue Reading »

What Makes Poetry Possible

From Leithart

In his stimulating Clark Lectures (recently published as Grace and Necessity ), Rowan Williams suggests, following David Jones, that there are certain ontological conditions for the possibility of poetry: “the ontology, if we can use that forbidding word here, of a universe that is . . . . Continue Reading »

Turn of civilization

From Leithart

At the end of his wonderful essay on “Art and Sacrament,” the Welsh poet and painter David Jones included a fragment that he wrote and rewrote over several decades. Here is wisdom: I said, ah! what shall I write? I inquired up and down (he’s tricked before with his manifold . . . . Continue Reading »

The Pianist and the Nazis

From Leithart

In a 2003 TNR review of Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film, The Pianist , Michael Oren gives information about Wilm Hosenfeld, the German officer who assists Szpilman: “while scrounging in an abandoned house for food, Szpilman comes face-to-face with a German officer. Instead of . . . . Continue Reading »

Marilynne Robinson

From Leithart

Here are a couple of selections from a September 2004 New Yorker interview with Marilynne Robinson: Q. “In your nonfiction collection, ‘The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought,’ you wrote about the sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin, and about his strong sense of . . . . Continue Reading »

Odysseus’ return to himself

From Leithart

Charles Segal argues in his Singers, Heroes, and Gods in the Odyssey that Odysseus’ return to Ithaca is a return to himself. This works in several dimensions. Through the second half of the epic, various characters reconstruct the story of Odysseus’ life - the story of his naming and . . . . Continue Reading »

Matter and spirit

From Leithart

Discussing the question of the corporeality of angels, Herman Bavinck argues that angels cannot have bodies because that would imply they are material and “matter and spirit are mutually exclusive.” He charges that “it is a form of pantheistic identity philosophy to mix the two . . . . Continue Reading »