Knowing the “From the Begining”

1 John 2:13-14 twice says that groups within the church “know the one from the beginning.” That is a perfectly fine way to translate it, but the Greek has TON AP’ ARXES, “the from the beginning.” To whom is this phrase referring? The more awkward translation suggests . . . . Continue Reading »

Overcoming the world

The sequence from 1 John 2:14-15 seems abrupt: John moves from addressing children, fathers, and young men to the warning not to love the world. But there is a link between the “overcoming” in 2:14 to the “world” in 2:15. Every other time the verb “overcome” is . . . . Continue Reading »

Persistence of the past

The doctrine of original sin is bound up with the conviction that the past inheres in the present, for the human race and for individuals. And for this the denial of original sin is the necessary premise for all revolutionary politics and also explains why revolutionary politics invariably ends up . . . . Continue Reading »

Political religion

Few have said it with the forthrightness of Joseph II, the Habsburg emperor from 1780 to 1790, who justified his 1781 Edict of Toleration because “with freedom of religion, one religion will remain, that of guiding all citizens alike to the welfare of the state. Without this approach we shall . . . . Continue Reading »

Enthusiasts of reason

Since Carl Becker’s book on the heavenly city of the philosophes, historians have recognized that the Enlightenment was motivated, by a secularized version of the biblical story - a fall from the Golden Age of the classical world into the darkness of superstitution and priestcraft, the gospel . . . . Continue Reading »

Cleric and Philosophe

Battle lines are never, in reality, as clean as we see them in retrospect. Some 700 of the 20,000 freemasons in pre-Revolutionary France were Catholic clergy, and Michael Burleigh reports that “revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries, clergy and laity shared a taste for the same authors. . . . . Continue Reading »

Science of Individual

One aspect of the rise of “discipline” that Foucault traces is the development of what he calls the sciences of the individual. These are dependent upon the development of a network of techniques of gathering and recording information - “the accumulation of documents, their . . . . Continue Reading »


Discussing Nietzsche’s view of nobility, Alphonso Lingis emphasizes the role of forgetfulness. Though he’s not writing theology, this is (making necessary allowances) one of the best descriptions of the existential effects of justification by faith that I’ve run across. I’m . . . . Continue Reading »

Marx and New Left

Kolakowski describes the New Left revolution of the 60s as an “explosion of academic youth” and “an aggressive movement born of frustration.” It “easily created a vocabulary for itself out of Marxist slogans, or some expressions from the Marxist story: liberation, . . . . Continue Reading »

What counts as history?

Marx ( German Ideology , 1845-46) objected to historians of the past for what they left out of history. The first presumption of historical study, he suggested, is “human existence,” which means that “men must be in a position to live in order to be able to ‘make . . . . Continue Reading »