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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Sacramental Economy

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Money is something of a mystery. Classical economics views money as a commodity that is selected as a medium of exchange and standard of value, which enables a society to grow from a barter system to a more complex and efficient economy. As Ole Bjerg points out in Making Money, a recent excursion into the philosophy of money, the classical theory leaves some puzzles in its wake. For starters, it doesn’t fit known historical facts. Anthropologists have yet to find a pure barter economy. Media of exchange always seem to be there already. Continue Reading »

Remember the Prisoners

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“Nobody criticizes us. We have no enemies,” Warden Burl Cain tells me as the servers load our plates with Big Lou’s brisket, ribs, chicken, grits-n-shrimp casserole, and baked beans. “I have the number for the head of the local ACLU on my cell phone, and she has my number on hers.” Continue Reading »

Public Living, Public Dying

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Clive James is dying just as he lived—in full public view. The Australian-born poet, critic, BBC television personality, Radio 4 presenter, translator, memoirist, journalist, raconteur, and wit is dying of leukemia and emphysema. James retired himself from television years ago, but at seventy-four he keeps very much in the public eye, as British newspapers report each new farewell poem he publishes. Continue Reading »

Politics and the Arts

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Jed Perl warns in the August 25 issue of the New Republic of a new threat to the arts. Art for art’s sake has been displaced by a view of “art as a comrade-in-arms to some more supposedly stable or substantial or readily comprehensible aspect of our world.” Art is losing its “purposeful purposelessness” and is becoming a bondservant to “some more general system of social, political, and moral values.” It’s hardly news, Perl knows, when art is enlisted for some extra-artistic cause. The new danger is that many have drawn the conclusion that “art has no independent life.” Continue Reading »

Tradition and the Individual Theologian

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Catholics, Orthodox, and not a few Protestants have been known to reject theological novelties with a wave of the hand and an appeal to tradition. “Shouldn’t we follow the tradition rather than the judgments of an individual scholar?” Sometimes the modifier “idiosyncratic” is added to “judgments” for rhetorical oomph. “Tradition” is implicitly capitalized, for who can argue with a capital letter? Continue Reading »

Greeks Bearing Debts

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Classics is no longer seen as a cutting-edge discipline, but two centuries ago German scholars devoted to the “cult of the Greeks” created the modern university when they developed new methods in philology and installed Altertumswissenschaft, the science of antiquity, at the center of the curriculum Continue Reading »