individual and the state can maintain an appropriate relationship only so long as a flourishing civil society mediates between them

Ross Douthat in his introduction to Robert Nisbet’s book, The Quest for Community: In premodern society, this yearning [for a feeling of participation, for a sense of belonging, for a cause larger than one’s own individual purposes and a group to call one’s own] was fulfilled by a multiplicity of human-scale associations: guilds and churchesContinue reading “individual and the state can maintain an appropriate relationship only so long as a flourishing civil society mediates between them”

recognizable and transfigured

Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament’s Jesus. He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He’s an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a wise ethicist theContinue reading “recognizable and transfigured”

an intellectual effort that spanned generations

The Christianity of the Nicene Creed isn’t a set of self-evident statements that follow inexorably from a quick read of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s the fruit of an intellectual effort that spanned generations—an effort that took one of religious history’s most striking stories, as told and retold in a multiplicity of styles andContinue reading “an intellectual effort that spanned generations”

tools for recovering the real Jesus

Even fundamentalism, for all its official emphasis on “the Bible alone,” owes its end-time obsessions to the extracanonical innovations that Cyrus Scofield’s influential Study Bible wove into the scriptures it was supposedly dispassionately interpreting. “Unlike most commentators,” Paul Boyer points out in his history of end-times beliefs, When Time Shall Be No More (1994), “ScofieldContinue reading “tools for recovering the real Jesus”

orthodoxy’s grumpy but indispensable twin

“With no small amount of irony,” Jonathan Wright points out “[heretics] did many favors to the cause of orthodoxy. Heresy was always orthodoxy’s grumpy but indispensable twin.” …Both doubters and believers stand to lose if religion in the age of heresy turns out to be complicit in our fragmented communities, our collapsing families, our politicalContinue reading “orthodoxy’s grumpy but indispensable twin”