Essay / Theology

Development Assumption

In Ratzinger’s 1997 book Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, he shares an interesting vignette about his theological training in Munich. First, he characterizes the atmosphere of Roman Catholic theology in Germany at that time thus: When I look back on the exciting years of my theological studies, I

Essay / Theology

A Protestant Preaching Tradition (Claude, Robinson, Simeon)

In the seventeenth century, Huguenot Jean Claude wrote a long essay in French on how to compose a sermon. In the eighteenth century, English Baptist Robert Robinson of Cambridge translated it and annotated it. In the nineteenth century, Charles Simeon, also of Cambridge, republished Robinson’s

Essay / Theology

Progress in Theology

There’s an important sense in which theology doesn’t ever change at all. There’s a logos of theos, a knowledge of God, that is truly immutable. To speak of this unchanging character of the knowledge of God, though, we have to raise our eyes higher than

Essay / Theology

Good without Quality, Great without Quantity

In the fifth book of Augustine’s On the Trinity (Prologue), having declared for the umpteenth time his inadequacy in writing about such subjects, he lays down some rules for how we should think about God: Thus we should understand God, if we can and as

Essay / Theology

Irenaeus on the One God

Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130-202) began to theologize at a crucial period in the history of the church. It was a bit of a mess. From the earlier apologists he inherited a vocabulary of Greek philosophical terms with Christian significance. At the same time, Gnostics

Essay / Theology

Englishing Doctrine

I recently read with great admiration a portion of A Briefe Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinitie by Lucas Trelcatius the Younger (1573 – 1607), which was translated from Latin to English by John Gawen, a contemporary of Trelcatius. Of course he translated it

Essay / Theology

The Soul of God

Does God have a soul? That’s a weird question. But here’s a tidy answer, from Amandus Polanus’ (1561-1610) Substance of Christian Religion. See the screencap for quaint spellings & suchelike. Yes, God has a soul. “By the soul is meant the life of God, that is

Essay / Theology

Two Rules for Theological Work

To keep the work of theology at its proper task, and to keep the theologian from getting distracted, and to keep the main thing the main thing (which is, after all, itself the main thing), there are a couple of helpful rules to observe. They

Essay / Theology

Standard Old-School Toolkit

This Easter season, my reading on the resurrection has included the relevant section from Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)’s book Looking Unto Jesus. The resurrection portion of the 700-page book is about 80 pages long, and Ambrose takes his sweet time examining how Christ was “carrying on the

Essay / Theology

Articles of Theology

Thomas Aquinas knew how to articulate theology, in the double sense of how to be clear about theology and also of how to divide it up into articles. What’s an article? Well, I distinguish two meanings of article in Thomas Aquinas. The most important meaning

Essay / Theology

Every True Practitioner of Piety (Bayly)

Lewis Bayly’s Practice of Piety is a classic work of doctrine and devotion that demolishes the idea that there’s any division between the two. Those of us who simply love to read theology, more or less for its own sake, sometimes need to be reminded

Essay / Culture

On the Shoulders of Farmers

Thucydides’ Revelation of Our Indebtedness Thucydides opens his “History of the Peloponnesian War” by tying the capability for a truly great war with the stable growth of a culture. He argues that the Peloponnesian was the greatest war because no cultures, to his knowledge, had