Why is the Catholic Church so Defensive?

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The recent PBS documentary from Frontline, “Secrets of the Vatican,” was an artful mix of baroque music, sweeping cinematography, imaginative speculation, and recycled conspiracy theories. It contained a gelatinous mixture of truths, half-truths, and no truths. Still, it left me feeling . . . . Continue Reading »

Saving Rock and Roll

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Rock and roll has a rebellious sound. I write that hesitantly, because there is really no such thing as rock and roll, in terms of having a permanent nature or ongoing essence. Speed, loudness, and distorted acoustical effects do not a musical genre make. Rock is a mishmash of various musical . . . . Continue Reading »

Theological Stakes of Sexual Difference

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One of the most neglected recent books on sexual difference is also one of the most important. Christopher C. Roberts’ 2007 book, Creation and Covenant, is a remarkably comprehensive and detailed theological investigation of the topic. By giving us a narrative arc that stretches from the earliest Church Fathers to Pope John Paul II and beyond, Roberts considers not only the ways in which these figures disagree with one another but how they provide resources for understanding sexual difference today. Continue Reading »

Karl Barth’s Finite God

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The concept of infinity has a long pedigree in philosophy. Taken on its own terms, it surely exceeds all the efforts of our understanding, but the story of its appropriation by Christian theologians can be briefly told. The ancient Greeks equated the infinite with matter in its unformed and thus chaotic state. The infinite was just another name for everything we can never know, since we know material objects only according to their form. When Christian theologians realized that an infinite nature is also eternal, they concluded that God’s freedom and power should not be limited. So they transferred the concept of infinity from matter to the divine, which laid the foundation for most of the philosophical moves that have come to be associated with classical theism. That’s where the matter rested until Karl Barth rejected the whole thing. . . . Continue Reading »

Plato Is Not Paul

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When I was in graduate school in the eighties, foundationalism was a dirty word. We didn’t think it was possible or even desirable to provide a metaphysical grounding for theological claims, so we spent our time doing method instead. Methods, after all, can be applied to a mode of inquiry without raising the question of truth. We were not confident enough in the truth of our faith to subject it to any single account of what truth is… . Continue Reading »

The Problem of Place in Douglas Farrow’s Ascension Theology

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“Come up here,” Jesus said to John, and at once John was standing before his throne (Revelation 4:1). Where was Jesus, and where did John go? Christian theology is much better in dealing with time than space. We profess that Jesus will return in the future, and thus we are resigned to the absence of his glorified body in the present, but in the meantime, where is he? . . . Continue Reading »

Catholic Churches and the Hard of Hearing

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Catholic churches are hard on the hard of hearing. Part of the problem is architectural. Catholic churches are built for the eye, not the ear. Interior spaciousness is meant to elevate your vision, just as the priest elevates the host. The church is a sacred space that opens onto the heavens. Churches that aim toward the light, however, often end up burying the human voice. There is plenty of room for incense to waft but also for voices to disperse. Nevertheless, size alone isn’t the problem … Continue Reading »