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The Double-Edged Sword of Sentimentalism

At the March for Life this past January, I saw a teenage girl holding a sign that read, “She could be the next Beyoncé!” the “she” referring, of course, to the baby inside the womb. Her sign reminded me of the quirky movie, Juno, in which the protagonist, a young teenager, decides not to . . . . Continue Reading »

Out of a Dark Wood

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem
  by rod dreher 
 regan, 320 pages, $29.95 In 2011, Rod Dreher returns to his hometown in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, after years living elsewhere in pursuit of a (highly successful) journalistic . . . . Continue Reading »

Rethinking Theology and Matter with Ibn Gabirol

Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021–1058) was the first Jewish philosopher in Spain, but medieval Christians knew him only by his Latinized name, Avicebron, and they assumed that he was either a Christian or a Muslim. Most scholastics also thought he was a deeply misguided thinker. Gabirol was identified with the doctrine of universal hylomorphism—the idea that everything God creates is composed of form and matter—and treated as a precursor of the nominalist emphasis on the absolute freedom (and thus inscrutability) of God’s will. Some of his poetry remains in liturgical use in Judaism to this day, but his philosophy was all but forgotten. Even experts in medieval theology typically treat him as little more than a footnote to scholastic debates about how angels can be individuated without being embodied. Continue Reading »

Necessity of the Good

We are all disciples of ­Aristotle. Whether we realize it or not, whenever we are talking about the Good we are working with ideas that are Aristotelian in origin. We speak of good food and good company, good behavior and good outcomes. These modes of the Good share a basic assumption: The good is . . . . Continue Reading »

The End of the Analogy of Being

The new translation of Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis is a theological landmark that should go a long way toward clarifying the centuries-long debate about the relationship between analogy and metaphysics. Far from being a rhetorical trope or a philosophical tool, analogy for Przywara is the style of thought that best corresponds to the way in which being makes itself known. Not only is analogy, for Przywara, built into every level of Catholic theology. It is the glue that holds those levels together. The analogy of being is nothing more than the philosophical form that the Roman Catholic Church takes as it embodies God’s presence in the world. Continue Reading »

Against Obsessive Sexuality

For the March issue of First Things, I wrote an essay called “Against Heterosexuality.” In brief, my argument was that the concept of sexual orientation is not historically inevitable, not empirically accurate, and not morally useful. The heterosexual-homosexual dichotomy is counterproductive to encouraging the virtue of chastity, so we Christians should do our best to eliminate “gay” and “straight”—especially “straight,” actually—from the way we think and talk about sex, always with prudence directing us as to the particulars. Continue Reading »

Backing Down from Gregory of Nyssa’s Ascent

The early Church’s appropriation of Greek philosophy is easily caricatured as an exchange that left Christianity intellectually enriched but spiritually impoverished. In reality, the Church Fathers converted Plato before they baptized him. That is, they found Greek metaphysics useful, but they used it for their own purposes. Still, the question remains: Christians changed Plato, but how much did Plato change Christianity? Continue Reading »

Explaining Agamben

Several years ago, Giorgio Agamben began one of his lectures by asking why he had made law and theo­logy the areas of his recent investigation. “A first answer,” he said, “which is obviously a joke, but every joke has a serious core, would be, because these are the only two fields in which . . . . Continue Reading »

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