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Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, and an adjunct Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College. He is author, most recently, of Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor).

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A Politics of Two Advents

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We will never know what happened between Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the maid in his hotel room. What, if anything, did Herman Cain say or do to the women who accused him of sexual harassment? What are Putin and Hu and Ahmadinejad planning? Until this week, how many knew the U.S. has drone bases in the Seychelles? … Continue Reading »

Word Made Martyr

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We miss the full force of John’s Advent announcement if we understand “flesh” as “body” or “human nature.” In the Bible, flesh names a particular quality of human life. It is Scripture’s global term for the physical and moral condition of postlapsarian existence… . Continue Reading »

How the Church Lost Her Soundscape

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“By the twelfth century,” Christopher Page writes in his magisterial The Christian West and Its Singers (2010), “the Latin West could be imagined as a soundscape of Latin chant.” From the eighth-century alliance of Pope Stephen with the Frankish King Pippin, a Frankish-Roman “repertory of plainsong” spread throughout Europe, suppressing competitors. By the end of the first millennium, cathedral singers in Hungary knew the same liturgy and sang the same chants for the same days as monastic singers in Spain and Sweden. … Continue Reading »

Intrusive Third Parties

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In the October 2011 issue of First Things, editor R. R. Reno ponders why it is so difficult for our culture “to identify a real difference between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.” Relaxed sexual mores and the erosion of traditional male-female roles have destabilized marriage. So, Reno emphasized, has the decoupling of sex from fertility. It is especially here that an effective defense of marriage today requires not only political effort, but “a renewal of our moral and social imaginations.” … Continue Reading »

Of Mystics and Activists

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Derived from the Greeks, the contrast between the contemplative and active life early on became a Christian commonplace. It was systematized by Thomas Aquinas, who regarded the distinction as both “fitting” and “adequate.” Fitting, because each human being, as a rational being, occupies himself with what is most delightful to him, whether that is the pursuit of knowledge or a life of active service. Adequate, because Jacob had two wives and no more, and Lazarus had only two sisters… . Continue Reading »

Does the Sun Rise?

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About this time each year, I survey my theology students on the question, “Does the sun rise?” Most say, No. This year, one said it’s “super-obvious” that the sun does not rise. They fall into nervous silence when I insist that it does. The occasion for my survey is an annual discussion of Galileo’s famous 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess Christina. During a dinner party with the Grand Duchess, Benedictine friar Benedetto Castelli defended the new heliocentric theory and refuted the Scriptural arguments that another member of the party advanced in favor of geocentricity… . Continue Reading »

Hamann’s Century

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Strange things are afoot among the intellectuals. Neo-Marxists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri see the world divided into oppressive Empire and the resistant Multitude, and take inspiration from Saint Augustine’s two cities. Slavoj Zizek, who hailed Hardt and Negri’s 2000 book Empire as the “Communist Manifesto of the twenty-first century,” can’t stop quoting Chesterton. You can’t join the club of Continental deep thinkers nowadays unless you have published a book on the apostle Paul. Not that any of them actually believe any of it, but radicals have got religion… . Continue Reading »

God Is Still Back

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When nineteen jihadist hijackers slammed two airplanes into the World Trade Center towers and another into the Pentagon ten years ago, they saw themselves as heroes of an apocalyptic holy war. For a moment, it seemed that they had instead given new life to secular modernity. During the decades preceding 9/11, religion of an intense variety made a surprising comeback. Pentecostalism blazed through South America, an exotic stew of indigenous Christianities bubbled up in Africa, Chinese churches grew at an astonishing rate, Evangelicals had political clout in the U.S., Islamic fundamentalism was on the rise. As the Economist’s John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge put it in the title of their 2009 book, “God is back.” … Continue Reading »

A Cheer and a Half for Biblicism

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“Biblicist” is a fighting word. It’s what Catholics call “bibliolatrous” Protestants, what liberal Protestants used to call Fundamentalists, and what moderate Evangelicals like to call immoderate Evangelicals. It is a word more bandied than explained. One of the strengths of Christian Smith’s recent The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (Brazos, 2011) is his precision in identifying the object of his attack… . Continue Reading »

Jesus and the “Ogre”

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It’s become one of the most-quoted passages to emerge from the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins’s tirade against the God of Israel: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser… .” Less well-known is Dawkins’s approval of Jesus, who is “from a moral point of view … a huge improvement over the cruel ogre of the Old Testament.” … Continue Reading »