Tyranny of gratitude

Many of Shakespeare’s plays explore the moral and political consequences of ingratitude, but Shakespeare is also cognizant of the tyrannical uses to which the demand for gratitude may be put. Lear is certainly about ingratitude, the “marble-hearted fiend” that infects and distorts . . . . Continue Reading »

In praise of Pietism

Friedrich Oetinger was a leading German pietist intellectual and theologian, deeply interested in the science of his day. And critical of science and rationalist philosophy as well. Against thinkers who placed a primacy on reason, Oetinger argued that sheer logical clarity is insufficient . . . . Continue Reading »

Communion in humor

I tell a joke, and you get it. I include a veiled allusion to, say, Faust in a casual conversation; you catch it; and we exchange a mental wink. Humor provides a pathway into the hermeneutics of texts and communication. It also seems to provide a pathway into the sociology of communication. When . . . . Continue Reading »

Keeping in mind

Gadamer notes the ambiguity of “keeping something in mind.” We sometimes hold something in our mental “gaze” in order to knock into it head on. We watch it carefully until we can grab it. But keeping in mind can also be a form of forgetfulness. We might also keep something . . . . Continue Reading »

Mysticism and culture

Gadamer notes that the concept of Bildung (culture) has its origins in medieval and baroque mysticism, and continues to carry a mystical connotation when it begins to be used of the cultivated humanness. Von Humboldt, for instance, says “when in our language we say Bildung, we mean something . . . . Continue Reading »


Responding to Isaac Watts’s claim that we love things purely out of our choice, Jonathan Edwards deftly isolated the problems of that position: When we choose one thing over another, we are clearly preferring that thing, but “that the mind sets a higher value on one thing than another, . . . . Continue Reading »

Glory and craft

In English, Psalm 19:2 is arranged in a neat parallel structure: A. The heavens B. tell C. the glory of God. A’. The firmament B’. proclaims C’. the work of his hands. In Hebrew, the verse is chiastic: A. The heavens B. are telling C. the glory of God. C’. The work of his . . . . Continue Reading »

New Year’s Sermon

INTRODUCTION We often have a problem with time. We get used to things the way they are, and we want them to stay that way. We are nostalgic for what seems a happier time of our lives. Living in time means living in uncertainty about what the next year, or the next minute, will bring; and we crave . . . . Continue Reading »

Christmas Eve Sermon

Matthew 2 has all the elements of an exodus story. There is a murderous king, who slaughtering Jewish babies. There is a infant who will be Israel’s future deliverer, saved from the murderous king so He can later return to save His people and lead them to the Promised land. There is an exodus . . . . Continue Reading »


In his history of American movies (thanks again Ken Myers), David Thomson notes that “there was in the ordinary lifestile of the first moguls a steady habit of gambling.” David Selznick, he says, “lost a couple of million dollars in two years.” No wonder: Their whole . . . . Continue Reading »