Articles by Peter Leithart

  • Sex

    Christians get sex wrong when we start from the wrong end. We start from human desires, passions, biological drives and “needs.” These are treated as givens, as the base-line natural reality of human sexuality. Then we come to the Bible and find, to our surprise, that God places all kinds of restrictions on how we […]

  • Galilee of the Gentiles

    Matthew records that Jesus “withdrew” to Galilee to begin His public ministry there after He “heard that John had been delivered up” (Mt. 4:12). Matthew’s typically matter-of-fact style veils the truly remarkable character of Jesus’ withdrawal. Matthew has been presenting Jesus as the Messiah, the Seed of Abraham and Son of David (1:1, 16), Immanuel […]

  • Paul Among the People

    We’ve all heard it, too often to count. The Apostle Paul was a misgynistic homophobic pro-slavery authoritarian, probably a repressed homosexual himself, the first Puritan – Puritan here defined as “someone who cannot sleep if someone in the world is having fun.” To call this a caricature is too generous. Caricatures resemble their subjects, and […]

  • The Rock That Followed Them

    “. . . and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).   Paul’s passing comment about the rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness has often been treated as a bit of Jewish tradition that crept […]

  • Hezekiah’s Sign

    The story of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery is familiar to every child who has attended Sunday School. Informed that he would die, faithful King Hezekiah pleaded in tears for a longer life. God heard his prayers and saw his tears, and promised fifteen more years. As a sign that He would keep His promise, God […]

  • Joseph, the Righteous Husband

    During the Middle Ages, Joseph, the husband of Mary, was the butt of many jokes. Medieval theater and art often depicted him as something of a buffoon, decidedly marginal to the gospel story. In part, this was the unfortunate obverse of the exaltation of Mary; any man would suffer by comparison with such a being […]

  • The Theology of the Drink Offering

    The drink offering or libation (nesek) is mentioned in only three places in the book of Leviticus. When the sheaf of the firstfruits was waved before the Lord, a grain offering was to be burned, along with “its libation, a fourth of a hin of wine [approx. one gallon]” (23:13). Similarly, libations were to be […]

  • The Unseen Things

    Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The famous definition of faith with which the eleventh chapter of Hebrews opens has received a number of different interpretations. The crux of the problem is the interpretation of the words translated in the KJV as “substance” (hupostasis) […]

  • Building the Church

    “And I also way to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Matthew 16:13ff. has historically been one of the most oft-cited passages of Scripture. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was used to support the claims of […]

  • Funerals and Flutes

    Matthew 8-9 records three clusters of miracles, interspersed with snatches of Jesus’ teaching about various aspects of discipleship. Just as the Sermon on the Mount displays the authority of Jesus’ Word in teaching, these chapters display the authority of Jesus’ Word over sickness, uncleanness, the creation, demons, and death. In Jesus, the kingdom comes not […]

  • The Dramatic Structure of Proverbs

    The book of Proverbs appears as a largely random collection of aphorisms drawn from experience saturated in law. Despite its random arrangement, however, the book does have an over-arching structure that reinforces its main themes. One way to gather clues regarding the structure of a biblical book (or any book) is to look at the […]

  • Addressees and Author of James

    James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the diaspora, greetings (James 1:1). Though the epistle of James is considered a “general” epistle, the letter originated from particular circumstances that can be discerned from the New Testament. In order to sketch its background, it will be helpful […]

  • The Crooked Way to Glory

    During the final hours of Jesus life, His disciples stumble. They stumble for the same reason that John and his disciples were in danger of being scandalized. A Messiah who leaves suffering and imprisonment in His wake is not much of a Messiah. A Messiah who gets seized and tried and crucified, and doesn’t do […]

  • The Dew of Heaven

    The Hebrew word for dew (tal) refers both to morning dew and nighttime mist. Dew was important to Ancient Near Eastern agriculture. The climate was so hot and dry that often only the dew kept vegetation alive during drought and heat. According to the New Bible Dictionary, “Dew is beneficial to summer crops. This has […]

  • Course Recap: “Theology of the Sexes” with Alastair Roberts

    The 2018 Theopolis Easter term course on the theology of the sexes was a resounding success. Visiting instructor Dr. Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham) laid out a rich biblical theology of sexuality, before addressing a variety of philosophical, political, and ethical issues. Roberts stressed that our questions about sex and gender, as much as our answers, […]

  • The Flying Scroll

    And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits” (Zechariah 5:2). Immediately following his vision of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the restoration community (4:1-14), Zechariah saw a flying scroll. The interpreting angel told him that […]

  • Daughters of Zion

    Isaiah warns that Yahweh is coming to remove Judah’s leaders in every area of social, economic and political life so completely that there will be no one left to lead besides children (3:4) and women (v. 12). As Isaiah goes on, however, it becomes clear that the women of Judah are no more compassionate, just, […]

  • What is a Priest?

    The Old Testament priests were given a number of seemingly disparate duties. As everyone knows, the priests led the sacrificial worship of Israel; only the priests could sprinkle blood on the altar or within the tabernacle, and only they could approach the altar to turn sacrificial animals into smoke. But priests, along with the other […]

  • Ite, Missa Est

    Missional ecclesiology is all the rage these days, but for many being “missional” means downplaying or even eliminating concern for the “internal” life of the church, particularly its liturgical life. Missional and liturgical, mission and communio, are locked in zero-sum combat. That cannot be right. The liturgy is a means of communion with God, the Triune […]

  • Locusts and Honey

    John the Baptist is presented in the gospels as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise that God would send His messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the glory of the Lord (Is. 40), and the promise to send Elijah before Him to turn the people to repentance (Mal. 4). Thus, Matthew’s […]

  • Preaching, An Art of Division

    The following is an excerpt from Peter Leithart’s forthcoming two-volume commentary on Revelation (T&T Clark). You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings,” a voice tells John (Rev. 10:11). Then someone gives him a “reed like a rod” and instructs him to measure (11:1). Apparently, the reed is the tool […]

  • Back To Egypt

    Josiah is an ideal Davidic king in many ways. He not only “did right,” but he “walked in the ways of his father David” and “did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:2). At the age of 16, he began to seek Yahweh, and four years later he initiated […]

  • Augustine and the Music of Time

    One of the best discussions of Augustine’s views on time comes from Jeremy Begbie’s Theology, Music, and Time (ch. 3). Following Paul Ricoeur, Begbie claims that Augustine’s distentio “is conceived as the three-fold present, and the threefold present as distentio. The distentio consists in the non-coincidence of the mind’s three modes of action. They are in discord. As we attend to impressions, […]

  • Toledoth and the Structure of Genesis

    As many commentators point out, Genesis is structured by 10 uses of the word toledoth, “generations.” The word means something along the lines of “begotten things,” and the toledoth statements head the various sections of Genesis. When Genesis 2:4 announces “these are the begettings of heaven and earth” and then proceeds to recount the creation […]

  • Confession, Absolution, Kyrie

    Confession Confession belongs at the beginning of the liturgy. We enter into God’s house, invited for a meal, and we need to clean up before we do that. Cleansing was a requirement for the priests of the OT before they entered the sanctuary to minister (Exodus 30:17-21). When Yahweh appeared at Sinai, Israel had to […]

  • God’s Market, the Church

    Woe to the sinful nation. Woe to those who enlarge their estates and build their portfolios. Woe to the drunks. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. Woe to the proud who are wise in their own eyes. Woe to Congressmen who pass unjust laws and to judges who defend them. Woe […]

  • Hymn of the Justified

    Romans 8:31-39 is better sung than commented upon. It’s a thrilling, ecstatic hymn of boisterous assurance that God’s purposes will be accomplished. Yet, I will attempt to comment on them. If we sing Paul’s hymn, let’s make sure we sing with understanding. Given the character of these verses, it’s easy and understandable that they, like […]

  • The Tragedy of Asa

    King Asa of Judah made a strong start, purging the land of idols, altars, and images, and winning a war against the ginormous Cushite army led by Zerach. It all unraveled in his final years. From his thirty-fifth year to the forty-first year, when his reign came to an end,  Asa was plagued by war and eventually suffering from […]

  • Justified by the King

    What appears to be Paul’s first recorded statement on justification comes in Acts 13, in a sermon at Pisidian Antioch. It’s can serve as a summary of Paul’s letter to the Romans, and throws some important light on the themes of that letter. Paul begins his sermon  with a quick survey of Israel’s history. Addressed […]

  • Adam McIntosh Completes the Certificate Program

    When Adam McIntosh was ordained as Pastor of Saint David’s Church (CREC) in Houston on June 11, 2017, it was the culmination of decades of preparation. Adam is the product of two continents and three Christian traditions. Born in Paducah, Kentucky, he lived his early years partly in Jericho, where his father had planted a […]

  • Attaining Unity: A Reply to Mike Allen

    Mike Allen of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, scores some points in his review of The End of Protestantism. He lodges the fair complaint that my rhetoric sometimes outruns my evidence. He argues that more stress on the present reality of the church’s unity deepens the tragedy of division; divisions in the church “straightforwardly oppose reality.” […]

  • Comic Trinity

    I begin with two observations. First, on any millennial view, the Christian account of history is progressive, moving from the garden to the city. It is eschatological not only in that there is an end, but that the end is a glorified beginning, not merely a return to origins. To say the same in other […]

  • Political Church

    The church is a new form of polity that erupts into the world as much as the Son of God comes into the world. It’s a real-world political alternative to the polities of the ancient world. It resolves many of the political dilemmas of the ancient world, though not simply by splitting the difference. The […]

  • Obedience of Rulers

    One of the most extensive and penetrating responses to the Yoder-Hauerwas attack on Constantiniansm is found in Oliver O’Donovan’s Desire of Nations, in a chapter entitled “The Obedience of Rulers.” O’Donovan defines the word “Christendom” as “a historical idea,” specifically “the idea of a professedly Christian secular political order, and the history of that idea in […]

  • Church on the Cross

    Life, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy says, is suffering, battle, pain, shock, failure, elation. Human beings are always torn, always riven. Much of human life, individually and col­lectively, is an effort to deal with suffering and death. By being the first Man, Jesus establishes the possibility of a different stance toward suffering and death. Life after the cross, […]

  • Philanthropic God

    Again and again the liturgy of St Chrysostom calls God a lover of mankind. He is Philanthropolos Theos (man-loving God), Kurios Philanthropolos (man-loving Lord), Philopsychos (lover of the soul). Philanthropy wasn’t a Christian invention. Roman benefactors gave benefits to subordinates. What was new was the shape of philanthropy, for the philanthropic Christ doesn’t bestow benefits […]

  • Church in the Metropolis

    It seems that denominationalism has had its day. A 2009 Barna survey found that denominational commitments have gone squishy in mainline Protestant churches, and Evangelicals don’t fare much better than the rest. After a similar survey, Ron Sellers of Ellison Research said that Protestants are as “loyal to their denominations as they are to their […]

  • Myth of Religious Violence

    Revisiting William Cavanaugh’s devastating 2009 The Myth of Religious Violence. The myth of Cavanaugh’s title is a well-known one. According to the myth, religion is a distinct sphere of human life and practice from the rest of human social life, a universal impulse in human beings, and is dogmatic, private, and interior. Since the early […]

  • Thomas and Us

    An octave is a repetition, a repetition with a difference. It’s not the first note played again, but the first note played at a higher pitch. Octaves have always marked new beginnings. Hebrew boys were circumcised on the eighth day. Firstborn sheep were dedicated to Yahweh on the eighth day. Aaron entered the priesthood on […]

  • Resurrection: The Best and Worst News

    We say Jesus’ resurrection is good news. It wasn’t good news for the disciples on the first Easter. More like perplexing, bewildering news. For others, it wasn’t perplexing, and it certainly wasn’t good. It was plain old bad news. Early in Luke’s gospel, Herod is terrified that Jesus might be John the Baptist raised from […]

  • How the Reformation Failed

    The Reformers did not start out with a plan to found separated churches. Their goal was to reform the entire Latin church. In this they failed. The paradox is sharp, and we need to feel its point and its edge if we Protestants are to reckon honestly with our history during this year of celebration. The […]

  • Borderland

    Rousing Soviet songs surround us as we pass through a gloomy gauntlet of titanic statues on our way to Kyiv’s Museum of the Great Patriotic War. My friends, a Polish and a Ukrainian pastor, remember the songs, which played incessantly on the radio during their childhood. The sculpture complex depicts lunging soldiers and hardy peasants […]

  • More Anti-Catholic Than Thou

    The “second Reformation” introduced Reformed liturgy and teaching into Lutheran Germany. This was seen by some as a continuation of the Reformation and a purgation of Catholic remnants. The effort to carry on “further reformation” led to disputes with Lutherans. As Bodo Nischan has put it, the hottest debate in German Protestantism in the late […]

  • God In the Dock

    Idolatry has deprived Israel of her senses. This was one of the early messages to Isaiah (Isaiah 6). Yahweh sent him out to a people who had been deprived of their senses because of their commitment to idols. They become like the idols they serve. They still have eyes, but they can’t see. They still […]

  • Triune Personhood

    In the current climate of Trinitarian discussion concerning personhood, it’s good to reach back to David Bentley Hart’s treatment of the subject in his wonderful Beauty of the Infinite. Hart addresses the dangers of misreading Rahner’s rule, namely, the danger of dissolving the ontological Trinity into the economic. In this section, he discusses the opposite […]

  • Chris Kou Completes the Certificate Program

    Chris Kou is the oldest son of Chinese immigrants. Chris and his brothers run a branding and marketing business, Imagineering, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In his spare time, he takes online courses from Reformed Theological Seminary, and aspires to be a pastor. Chris is also one of our first and most loyal Theopolis […]

  • House of Living Stones

    The following was delivered as the Solemn Charge and Exhortation to Theopolis students beginning the Easter term course on Architecture and Liturgical Space. As we will be reminded repeatedly throughout the week, the Bible has a lot to say about building and buildings. Long stretches of Exodus, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezekiel are verbal blueprints, and […]

  • Footstool of His Feet

    The translation and theology of the Hebrew term kapporet have long been puzzling to scholars. On the translation of the term, I have nothing new to offer. I wish instead to concentrate on the theological symbolism of the kapporet. The kapporet was the solid gold slab that laid “above” or “upon” the ark of the […]

  • School of Suffering

    As evangelicals, we’re convinced that Christ’s work is finished, complete, and utterly sufficient. For many evangelicals, this is the gospel: Nothing can take away from Christ’s work, and surely nothing can be added to it by my works or my penance, by self-denial or sacraments or sacrifice. Nothing is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. […]

  • Anthropomorphism and Christian Humanism

    Medieval bestiaries are packed with quaintly inaccurate information about animals, birds, and other created things. Foxes and snakes are devilish critters; stags, pelicans and elephants are Christlike in their various ways. Of course, the medievals picked this up from the Bible, where bestiary observations are fairly common. “Go to the ant, you sluggard” is the most famous. […]

  • Kingdom First

    Whatever else the 2016 Presidential cycle has accomplished, it has brought the chasm between nationalism and globalism into sharp relief. Many see this divide as the issue of the campaign (Robert Merry) or of the century (Pat Buchanan). It seems to be a choice we have to make. Christians must refuse the choice. We are […]

  • God, Gift, Sacrament

    Salvation is a gift. The righteousness of justification (Romans 5:17) and eternal life (Romans 6:23) are gifts freely offered. According to Risto Saarinen (God and the Gift), “God is directly called the giver 104 times [in Scripture], of which 42 are in John’s Gospel and John’s Letters. In addition to these, the so-called divine passive […]

  • Epiphany and Mission

    God’s people are a missionary people, and this is not true only of the New Testament church. God called Abraham to bless the Gentiles through him, and one of Israel’s recurring sins was her failure to carry out this mission. Israel was supposed evoke praise from the Gentiles, but instead her idolatries and sins caused […]

  • Readiness Is All

    Are you ready for the New Year? Are you ready to follow Jesus wherever He takes you this year? Are you read to follow Him into the garden? Are you ready to stay at His side to be arrested, interrogated, tortured, crucified, buried? Are you ready to follow Jesus wherever He leads? Are you ready […]

  • Exodus to Eden

    From Genesis 3, West-to-East movement is always movement away from God’s presence and His house (cf. Genesis 3:24). Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden to the east, and when Cain was later cast out he was sent to the land east of Eden. The men of Babel, the nations that descended from […]

  • Immanuel’s Table

    In his account of Jesus’ birth, Matthew cites a prophecy assuring Judah of her victory over Israel and Aram. Immanuel is also a sign of the Lord’s judgment. When God comes near, He comes to bless and to curse, to save and to condemn, for deliverance and for judgment. The Lord’s table is the table […]

  • Holy Innocents

    For many in the modern era, Christianity has been seen as an apolitical religion. Christianity is a private, spiritual religion. It’s a convenient myth for modern people. After the Reformation, Europe entered a period of protracted and often vicious conflict that left large portions of Western Europe devastated. Many concluded – inaccurately – that “religion” was […]

  • Christmas Light, Christmas Love

    The Christmas gospel announces the coming of day. Those in darkness see a great light, as the Sun rises with healing in His wings. The light has come into the world that lightens every man, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. The Light of God Himself, […]

  • Word Made Food

    How do we know God loved the world? John tells us that He demonstrates His love in sending His Son. To paraphrase Paul, God has demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ was born for us. He sent His Son to take on human flesh, to live and die […]

  • Christmas Light

    “In the Word was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness.” Thus John describes the incarnation of the Son. He comes as the living and life-giving light of the world. That’s good news. In the beginning, God spoke and light shone into the darkness, and unending […]

  • The Spirit of Christmas

    Christmas is all about Jesus. The angels announce Jesus’ birth, shepherds and wise men come to see Jesus, Herod wants to kill Jesus. We occasionally think of the Father who sent the Son, but we keep returning to the Son made flesh in Bethlehem’s manger. Meanwhile, as always, the Spirit takes a back seat. Yet, […]

  • The Humility of God

    Christmas is about many things, but one of the chief things revealed in the gospel of Christmas is the humility of God. We don’t often think of humility as an attribute of God. If God is glorious and exalted, we think, He must be haughty and proud and self-centered. We think this way because we […]

  • Advent of Unity

    John famously begins his Gospel with a piece of theology: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Matthew starts with a genealogy. John celebrates Advent with a hymn, Matthew with a list. For John, Jesus is the Word of creation in human flesh. For Matthew, […]

  • Joyful Humility

    Christmas is a joyful season, but for many it turns into something else. Instead of joy, it is full of disappointment and unhappiness. Instead of an occasion for family fellowship, it becomes an opportunity for opening old wounds, reigniting old arguments, giving new life to rancor that should have died long ago. Instead of being […]

  • Adam Ascended

    David has become king. He has conquered the capital city of Jerusalem. He has brought the ark of Yahweh into the city and placed it in a tent. He has stationed Levites at the tent to offer sacrifices of praise. An anomaly hits him: He has a cedar-paneled palace, and the Lord is still enthroned […]

  • Reformational Catholicism, A Wish List

    In a 2014 piece published in First Things, I offered a “wish list” for Protestant churches, a checklist for a future catholic Protestantism. The wish list doesn’t cover everything. It doesn’t mention those things that Protestants, especially Evangelicals, already do, often exceedingly well, things like missions and evangelism and mercy ministries. It gives some concreteness […]

  • Renewing Circumcision

    When the Aaronic priests were ordained, the blood of the ram of “filling” was placed on the lobe of the right ear, the right thumb, and the right big toe (Lev. 8:22-24). Similarly, the cleansing rite for a leper included smearing the right ear lobe, thumb, and big toe with blood from the `asham (“guilt” […]

  • Enemies and Victims

    In the power of the Spirit, the gospel forms a society in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, a society that is characterized by unity, long-suffering, patience; love. The gospel forms a culture whose participants do not steal but labor and give, who are not angry and bitter but kind and […]

  • Sovereignty and Self-Gift

    At the 1997 Biblical Horizons Summer Conference, the Rev. Jeffrey Meyers presented a series of remarkable lectures on the gospel of Mark. Among his many insightful comments, he suggested that the second gospel continues where the first gospel ends; Matthew ends with Jesus saying “Go” (Matthew 28:19), and Mark’s shows the “way” to go (Mark […]

  • Priestesses?

    CS Lewis’s 1948 essay on “Priestesses in the Church” strikes a reader today as simultaneously quaintly naive and trenchantly prescient. The naive part comes near the beginning, where Lewis describes the decision to take “a revolutionary step.” It would “cut ourselves off from the Christian past and to widen the divisions between ourselves and other […]

  • According to the Ordinance

    After 9 chapters of genealogy, the Chronicler begins his history with the death of Saul and the rise of David. The latter part of 1 Chronicles 12 describes the assembly of warriors from the twelve tribes to Hebron to celebrate David’s coronation as king. They have a three-day feast, with seven kinds of food brought from the […]

  • Help

    1 Chronicles 12 is a flashback. The Chronicler has told the story of Saul’s death at the battle of Mount Gilboa. He has described how “all Israel” gathered to David at Hebron to make him king over all Israel (11:1-3). At the beginning of chapter 12, we move back to a time when David was exiled […]

  • Bearing Sin

    Fredrik Hagglund ( Isaiah 53 in the Light of Homecoming After Exile (Forschungen Zum Alten Testament) ) argues against the common notion that Isaiah 53 is about the atoning suffering of Yahweh’s Servant. The Servant’s suffering is vicarious (i.e., he suffers for the sins of others) but it is not atoning (i.e., it does not […]

  • Dagon’s Good News

    If 1 Chronicles were a movie, it would begin with two hours and forty-five minutes of credits: Name after name scrolling across the screen, most of them (as far as we’re concerned) obscurities and nonentities and unknowns, forgotten fathers and sons and mighty men; all the bit players in the cast, the assistant assistant assistant […]

  • On Poetry

    My title is too grand. What I offer here falls far short of a full description of poetry. I barely offer a definition. A more accurate title would be “Axioms and Suspicions About Poetry.” Axioms first. I have three of them. The first is the closest I can come to a definition of poetry: Poetry […]

  • Junior Fellows Program Postponed

    Since Theopolis began in 2013, we have been aiming for the fall of 2016 as the launch date for our year-long Junior Fellows Program. As it turned out, we had only a handful of applicants, most withdrew for one reason or another (none for lack of interest), and we are left with only one live […]

  • Do Not Forget

    Proverbs 3:1-12 form a section marked off by the reference to the father-son relationship at the beginning and end (vv. 1, 12). Within this section, Solomon gives a series of six commands to his son (vv. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11), the first and the last (vv. 1, 11) being introduced by the phrase […]

  • Gatekeepers

    1 Chronicles 9:1 seems to bring the genealogies of 1 Chronicles to an end. The Chronicler has recorded the genealogy of the human race from Adam, focusing on the descendants of Abraham through Jacob. Summing it all up, he says, “So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of […]

  • Are the Divine Persons Persons?

    The “personalist” understanding of the Trinity, articulated most influentially in the work of John Zizioulas, has fallen on hard times. Recent scholars have attacked Zizioulas’s idea that Cappadocian Trinitarianism represented an ontological revolution, hammering on the distinction between divine and human personhood. Michel Barnes’s conclusion is the most drastic of the lot: “If the word [person] […]

  • Why Theopolis? Take Two

    At the end of Revelation, John sees the heavenly city descending to earth. The city shines with the brilliance of God’s glory, which lightens the nations, so that kings bring their glory to the city. This is not a vision of the final new heaven and new earth. It’s a vision of the church in the […]

  • Why Theopolis?

    Why Theopolis? Don’t we already have seminaries and Bible colleges and other institutions for theological education? Why do we need another one? I get this question now and again. I ask myself this question even more often. What follows is a partial answer. Back in the 1990s, seminaries seemed to be thriving. A 1994 cover piece […]

  • New Season & New Relationships

    We have moved from death to new life, from Lenten darkness to Easter light. And while Easter Sunday may have come and gone, it’s effects are continually with us. This season has brought with it several new relationships, events, and signs of growth for Theopolis. We have been networking with Christian leaders in the Birmingham area in […]

  • Social Eucharist in the Middle Ages

    In The People’s Work, a social history of Christian Worship, Frank Senn summarizes the developments of the medieval period with regard to the Eucharist. He begins by challenging the assumption that medieval society was held together by “the church.” He notes that the church was often divided and conflicted, and that there were also political […]

  • Eighth Day, Eighth Verdict

    For some in first-century Israel, Easter was anything but good news. It was a terrifying surprise. For the rulers and powers that put Jesus to death, the idea that He had been raised by some power beyond their control was chilling. Early in Luke’s gospel, we’re told that Herod thought John the Baptist had been raised, that […]

  • Pilate the Kingmaker

    God is not mocked, Paul says. God is mocked, says Matthew. Who’s right? The two are in perfect harmony, but to see that, we need to run through the passage again. We’ll see that at every point, the mockery is being turned against the mockers. At every point, mockery is turned inside out; injustice becomes […]

  • Table Talk

    Along His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus stops frequently to have meals, three times with Pharisees (7:37-50; 11:37-54; 14:1-35). Meals were central to Jesus’ ministry. He comes “eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34). While His meals are not just for refreshment, they are opportunities for teaching the protocols of the kingdom. Meals are one of Jesus’ main […]

  • Gospel as Atonement Theory

    In a characteristically pithy essay, Robert Jenson has decried the “two paired errors” of traditional atonement theory. On the one hand, the cross is separated “from its future, in the resurrection” and, on the other, from “its past in the canonical history of Israel.” For the apostles, crucifixion is “anything but beneficial” without resurrection, while […]

  • 40+ Reasons To Observe Lent

    A murder of tweets. To observe Lent rightly, we have to be persuaded that we already stand in God’s favor. Ash Wednesday reminds us to number our days. It helps us gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). We keep Easter to manifest and deepen our prior share in resurrection. We observe Lent to manifest and […]

  • New Moses

    Dale C. Allison, Jr., The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993). Dale Allison 1993 book is a superb case study in the New Testament’s use of the Old. Though he focuses on only a single typology (Christ as a new Moses) in only a single gospel (Matthew), Allison’s book carries important implications for the study […]

  • American Sodom

    For nearly a half-century, Sodom has been a key symbol in the American culture wars.  On the one side, we have an aggressive movement among homosexuals that has first decriminalized homosexual conduct, then to force cultural and legal recognition of homosexuals as a minority and to normalize homosexual behaviors, finally to change the laws of […]

  • No Sabbath for God

    At the end of Isaiah 61, Yahweh’s Servant rejoices because the Lord clothes Him with salvation and righteousness. He decks Him like a bridegroom with a garland on His head. He wears jewels like a bride. He is a new bridegroom in a new garden of Eden, a garden of righteousness and praise springing up before […]

  • Jane Austen, Pundit

    Few novelists seem as innocent of the temptation to punditry as Jane Austen. Though living through a period that witnessed the birth of an independent United States, the French Revolution and the Terror, the Napoleonic wars and the rise of revolutionary romanticism, and the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, she focuses on a few middling […]

  • Do Things Have Natures?

    Do things have natures? As I am posing the question, it is not simply a question of whether there are particular kinds of things in the world that have characteristic features, patterns of behavior, trajectories of growth and development. If that is what the word means, then the answer is obvious: Yes, each different sort […]

  • Time, Curse or Gift?

    New Year’s Day makes one reflective, at least about the past year, perhaps about life, perhaps, more broadly, about time itself. Many view time as a curse. Some see it as a curse because of missed chances.  As one day or year moves on to the next, all we can see are the missed opportunities of the […]

  • A Child Is Born

    Judah is a sinful nation, weighed down with iniquity. They are not the seed of Abraham, but the seed of iniquity. Their worship is abominable to Yahweh, because their hands are covered with innocent blood. They have not done good, or sought justice, or reproved the ruthless, or defended the orphan or pleaded for the […]

  • God Is Not A Story

    Narrative and story have been all the rage in theology for the last few decades. The attractions are obvious. Narrative theologians favor the active, unpredictable, vibrant God of Scripture to the impersonal first principle of philosophical theology. Narrative theologians reject the notion that theologians need to justify their work by reference to a pre-theological philosophical […]

  • Inverted Atonement

    Revelation 16 is a day of atonement text. The tabernacle of the testimony has been opened (15:5). The angels who receive the bowls are clothed in linen (15:6), the clothing of the high priest when he goes into the sanctuary on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:4). The temple is filled with smoke (15:8). On the day of […]

  • Greater Phinehas

    Jesus’ letter to Pergamum mentions Balaam and Balak (Revelation 2:14), and that is a signal that the whole message is running along the lines of Numbers 22-25. The death of the high priest is a sacrificial moment in the life of Israel. According to the rules of the cities of refuge (Numbers 35), the manslayer […]

  • Are the Divine Persons Persons?

    The “personalist” understanding of the Trinity, articulated most influentially in the work of John Zizioulas, has fallen on hard times. Recent scholars have attacked Zizioulas’s idea that Cappadocian Trinitarianism represented an ontological revolution, hammering again and again the distinction between divine and human personhood. Michel Barnes’s conclusion is the most drastic of the lot: “If […]