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 | 1 Comment

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

The Reopened Wounds of Jacob

The Theopolis blog has just posted an article of mine, in which I discuss the story of David against the background of the story of Jacob, exploring how things changed following his sin with Bathsheba.

Just as the beginning of David’s life is a powerful illustration of the capacity of a blessed and righteous man to restore a people to its full health and vigour, as David epitomizes the spirit of Jacob raised to its true stature, in the latter days of David we see the sins of the house of Jacob returning to David’s bosom and the old family wounds bursting open once more. David is Jacob throughout, wrestling with both the promises and the warnings of its deep historical destiny. Will it decay as it exacerbates the sins found at its origins, or ascend into the realization of the divine purpose held out to and intimated to it from the beginning?

Much as David might have fancied that he could compartmentalize his sin in the privacy of his own life, as human beings we are not detached individuals. The poison that David introduced into his house exacted its greatest toll from his children. He lived to see in his own sons the reflection and exacerbation of his own wickedness, and in his wives, daughter, and slain sons the true cost of actions that he once lightly committed. Despite forgiveness and a measure of restoration, David was never the same man again. He remained Jacob, but experienced but the tragic shadow of an identity that was once glorious in him. Sin exacts its bitter price.

Read the whole article here.

Posted in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Bible, Christian Experience, Ethics, Guest Post, OT, OT Theology, Sex and Sexuality, Theological, Theopolis | 2 Comments

Protestant Wisdom Summer Program 2019

This summer, from July 29th to August 10th, I will be in South Carolina, leading the Davenant House Protestant Wisdom Summer Program. This is my third year of involvement in this program. The course is a deep dive into the subject of Christian wisdom, in a small group, with intense discussion, fellowship, and instruction. Spending such a time working, living, eating, studying, worshipping, and enjoying the beautiful surroundings is also a wonderful opportunity to develop strong friendships with others.

If you, or someone you know, would like to attend, you can find out further details about and sign up for the program here.

Posted in Public Service Announcement | Leave a comment

Devilish Diversions

I have posted a reflection on Luke 4 over on the Political Theology blog. Within it, I discuss the ways in which the devil sought to divert Christ from his mission and how Luke’s framing of the temptations of Christ illumine his greater calling.

The temptations faced by Christ are also faced by his Church. The Church too is presented with the temptation of accommodating itself to, while perhaps lightly ameliorating, the present sinful order. Rather than finding our source of life and our food in God’s word, whatever the pain of the vocation it sets before us, we desire the comfort of social standing, secure employment, leisure, material wealth, and the praise and friendship of our peers.

We might engage in well-regarded charitable efforts, support government programs, and the like, but would not countenance anything that might threaten our comfort, reputation, or economic security. We might render this sinful age more habitable, but never call any to look to another, greater city.

Then there is the temptation of submitting to this age’s powers and their means. We will pursue the kingdom by compromising it at its root, by adopting idolatrous loyalties and wicked means. We will countenance cruelty towards the alien and stranger, the killing of the infant in the womb, the waging of unjust wars, iniquitous and exploitative economic practices, the despoliation of the environment, the celebration of sexual immorality, racial hatred, or a host of other forms of wickedness as the acceptable cost of political power and influence. We will prostrate ourselves before the rulers of this present age, hoping that, if we only serve them, presidents, political parties, or other social institutions will give us the power that we desire.

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Bible, Ethics, Ezekiel, Guest Post, Lent, Luke, NT, NT Theology, OT, Politics, Society, Theological | 2 Comments

Debating the Invisibility of the Church

Over on the Theopolis blog we recently started hosting conversations, with several posts engaging with a viewpoint over the course of a month. In our latest conversation, we are discussing the visibility and invisibility of the Church. My response to Peter Leithart’s post on the subject, which opened the conversation, has just been published here.

Perhaps we could think of the visible Church as the building site, and the invisible Church as the completed building. There are various things on any building site which do not belong to the building that is being formed, which must be removed before the project is concluded. There are various other materials that still need to be brought in to complete the building and several currently detached areas of construction that remain to be integrated.

The building is both visible and invisible in the building site. There is probably much that is obscured by scaffolding and hoardings, much that remains to be added to the edifice, some things to be demolished, and a lot of debris and refuse that need to be removed. Nonetheless, we ought to be able to see the building gradually taking shape, recognizing that, while it may be distinct from it temporally and otherwise, the building site is not detached from the completed building.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Church History, Controversies, Guest Post, The Church, Theological, Theopolis | 10 Comments