Speech and Sacrifice

Proverbs 15:26 contrasts plans that are “abominable” to Yahweh with words that are “pure.” Both terms are borrowed from the Levitical system, and suggest that speech and plans are always a form of sacrifice. There is a vertical dimension to all our talk, and God either spits . . . . Continue Reading »

House of the Proud

Proverbs 15:25 warns that “Yahweh will tear down the house of the proud” and promises “He will establish the boundary of the widow.” Though this proverb does apply to any proud man’s house and posterity, it has, coming from the pen of Solomon the temple-builder, . . . . Continue Reading »

Speeding up?

Todd Gitlin says we’re not, or we are in only specific ways. George Eliot complained already in 1859 that “Leisure is gone . . . even idleness is eager now,” and Nietzsche said that “Virtue has come to consist of doing something in less time than someone else.” Actual . . . . Continue Reading »

For the Ladies

Between 1948 and 1951, Sayyid Qutb was in the US, and his reflections on this experience, published as Signposts , has been called the “key text of the jihadist movement.” One of the things that particularly frightened Qutb was the freedom of American women, and the comparatively casual . . . . Continue Reading »

Cultural Change

Hebrews says that with a change of priesthood there is also a change of law, and these two are the main features of covenantal shifts. In context, “law” has specific reference to the rules of qualifications for priests. One might generalize: Fundamental cultural changes are changes in . . . . Continue Reading »


In his book, The Last Days of the Renaissance , Theodore Rabb notes that one sign of the fragility of the late medieval church was its inability to continue to absorb fresh movements. This was not relativism; there was recognizable unity throughout the church. Yet, there was also remarkable . . . . Continue Reading »

Josiah in Cultural History

A book on the uses of the biblical story of Josiah would make a fascinating cultural history. The Reformers found inspiration for iconoclasm in Josiah. Bacon described his program as “instauration,” borrowing the Vulgate’s term for the renovation of the temple. Or, more broadly, . . . . Continue Reading »

Tensions of Modernity

Whitney (the book is Francis Bacon and Modernity , Yale, 1986) offers some additional meditations on the meaning of “modern” particularly as it relates to Bacon. He defines modernity in terms of the tension between innovation and tradition, the frustration that arises from the . . . . Continue Reading »

Revolutionary Reform

Whitney on Bacon again: “Reform invites analogy and multiple levels of meaning as it variously connects old and new; it exposes the poverty of brute facts by, for one thing, fixing knowledge in a hierarchy of literary kinds or genres. Reformative visions in history grow in part out of . . . . Continue Reading »