True Ritual Versus Hypocritical Religiosity

A piece of mine has just been published over on the Political Theology site:

The temptation to put faith in religiosity, to employ religious ceremonies and rituals as akin to compensatory ‘moral offsets’ for our godless, oppressive, and unjust behavior is a perennial one. Treated in such a manner, what we suppose to be our worship of God can be made an integral element of our oppressive and perverse societies, as if it were a valve designed to release the discomfiting pressure of uneasy consciences.

Like the people of Judah Isaiah excoriates, we can come before God with gifts rank with the stench of exploitative economic practices from which we have grown rich and hands bloodied from unjust wars. We can ignore the needy and the stranger in our neighborhoods, while expecting to receive God’s welcome when we visit his house. We can pollute our lives with all sorts of immorality and fornication, while feigning to be the spotless Bride of Christ.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Bible, Culture, Ethics, Genesis, Guest Post, Isaiah, OT, OT Theology, Politics, Theological, Worship | 1 Comment

Welcoming the Stranger: A Final Immigration Response

My final response in the Theopolis conversation on immigration has just been published here.

We beware of treating the condition of the uprooted immigrant as paradigmatic. As Christians, who are committed to the universal value of Christ, we can easily succumb to the distorted universalisms of the modern world, a universalism that resists the humility of particularity. Gottfried Leibniz expressed the modern liberal ideal of the universal human subject: “I am indifferent to that which constitutes a German or a Frenchman because I will only the good of all mankind.”

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Bible, Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Politics, Society, Theological | 6 Comments

True Hospitality and the Immigration Debate

The Theopolis blog is hosting another conversation, this time on the subject of the immigration debate. I was invited to kick this discussion off and my opening post has just been published.

A neighbour-focused ethic is an ethic of love, an ethic that commits itself to particular persons over others. A liberal humanitarian ethic, on account of its abstract object, can undermine the particularity and the concreteness of our bonds and their related obligations. For instance, beyond the force of parental instinct, the reason why I should take especial concern for the well-being of my own children over the children of others may not be clear to someone holding such an ethic. However, Scripture makes clear that our moral duties are not generalized duties to humanity as such, but duties that are focused in concentric circles of proximity. We have duties to our households that we do not have to anything like the same degree to those outside of them. Likewise, our obligations are especially focused on the people of God (Galatians 6:10). Those who claim to be serving God in radical humanitarianism, while neglecting their obligations to their neighbours—those persons most immediate to them—reject the commandment of God (Mark 7:6-13).

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Exodus, Genesis, Guest Post, OT, OT Theology, Politics, Society, Theological, Theopolis | 8 Comments

The Family of Abraham

I have just completed a 42-part, 25-hour-long, series on the story of the family of Abraham. Within it, I discuss the book of Genesis from chapter 11 to the end and reflect upon its relevance for us today. Take a listen here.

Posted in Audio, Bible, Genesis, OT, OT Theology, Podcasts, Soteriology, Theological | 4 Comments

The Rite of Circumcision: A Response to Dru Johnson

A piece of mine has just been published over on the Theopolis Institute’s website, in which I respond to an article by Dru Johnson. Johnson’s article argues for a close relationship between moral and ritual knowledge and I explore the particular case of circumcision in this regard.

In The Savage in Judaism, Howard Eilberg-Schwartz speaks of circumcision as a ‘fruitful cut’. He observes the way that fruit trees are spoken of as being ‘uncircumcised’ and having ‘foreskin’ (Leviticus 19:23-25). He suggests that this association implied that the tree needed to be pruned of its ‘foreskin’ for a few years before its fruit could legitimately be enjoyed. This not only made it permissible to eat from the tree, but also served its fertility. And this association illumines the meaning of circumcision too. Circumcision is a sort of pruning of the generative organ of the body, so that it might bear legitimate fruit in a well-cultivated manner. Through the ‘pruning’ of Israel’s foreskins, they cease to be a wild tree and are domesticated by God to bear fruit for him. In removing part of the body, they cease to be an untamed people and their bodies are rendered ‘whole’.

There is a sexual import of circumcision to observe here. Circumcision conscripts the sexual conduct of Abraham and his household. They must now act as a well-cultivated tree and no longer a wild one. They must not repeat the error of seeking to produce the promise through the virility of the flesh, nor must they imitate the rapacious sexuality of the Sodomites.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Ethics, Galatians, Genesis, Guest Post, NT, OT, Romans, Sex and Sexuality, The Sacraments, Theological | 3 Comments

Hearing the Story Again for the First Time

I’ve just posted a piece over on the Political Theology blog, on the subject of Palm Sunday. Within it, I argue that, when we listen carefully to the narrative of Luke’s gospel again, as if we didn’t already know its conclusion, kingdom themes will probably appear far more prominently.

Extricating ourselves from the vantage points of Good Friday and Easter Sunday to view the events of Palm Sunday on their own terms, however, as if we did not already know how the story was going to end, may lead us to ask different sorts of questions. What might strike the reader of Luke’s account, from the Triumphal Entry until the Last Supper, are the prominent themes of authority, rule, and kingship.

Entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus is heralded as the king. In the few days that follow, he cleanses the Temple, defends his royal authority against a variety of opponents, gives several judgment sayings declaring the coming destruction of Jerusalem that his future advent in judgment will bring, identifies himself as the Messianic Son of David and the Danielic Son of Man (who will have a universal empire, with all peoples, nations, and languages serving him), speaks of the way that his disciples will sit on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel, and affirms before the Sanhedrin that he is the Son of God and before Pilate that he is the King of the Jews.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Guest Post, Luke, NT, NT Theology, Politics, The Gospels, Theological | 4 Comments

Theopolis Junior Fellows Program

The Theopolis Institute’s Junior Fellows Program has been revised and is open for applications!

Join us for intensive training in July and January.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, Liturgical Theology, Society, Theological, Theopolis, Video, Worship | 3 Comments