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 »

Bacon the Prophet

In his defense of the legitimacy of the modern age, Hans Blumenberg attempts to pry apart the legitimate kernel ideas of modernity from the illegitimate, mostly medieval and superstitious, husks by which the kernel ideas were often expressed. Whether this works for any early modern thinker, it does . . . . Continue Reading »

Honor in Therapeutic culture

Bowman examines a scene from The Sopranos where John “Johnny Sack” Sacramoni seeks permission, from Tony Soprano among others to “clip” Ralph Cifaretto for jokingly insulting his wife’s weight, which has done damage to her “body image, self esteem.” None of . . . . Continue Reading »

Honor and the Right

There’s a scene in Malory where Launcelot has been caught in Guenevere’s bedroom by his enemies, Aggravayne and Mordred, and in the ensuing altercation Launcelot kills 14 knights, all but Mordred, who is wounded. Summoned to appear before Arthur, Launcelot still protests his innocence: . . . . Continue Reading »

Virtue and Violence

Mandeville made explicit the connection between violence and ancient virtue that Milbank and others have commented on: “The Word Moral, without Doubt, comes from Mos, and signifies every Thing that relates to Manners: The Word Ethick is synonimous with Moral, and is derived from [Greek: . . . . Continue Reading »

Honor skeptics

In his recent book on the cultural history of honor, James Bowman notes that “both Greeks and Romans had a history of skepticism about honor that ran in parallel with the mainstream culture’s celebration of it. Plato anticipated a particular Christian tradition of other-worldliness by . . . . Continue Reading »