When Thomas Paine published Common Sense in 1776, his was not the only commonly held sense of the term “common sense.” Ironically, the term was already complicated at the American founding.
The interpreter that undertakes to compare the works of Plato with the gospel must begin somewhere. Here I attempt to set out Plato’s view on gifts and divine dispensation, and would ask that you consider the two following texts:
In the third book of his Institutes, John Calvin argues that the church’s worship should begin with a corporate prayer of confession:
“Besides the fact that ordinary confession has been commended by the Lord’s mouth, no one of sound mind, who weighs its usefulness, can dare disapprove it….
In the last few years, few issues have been more controversial among Reformed evangelicals than the debate over the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. To the extent that God’s intra-triune life has been thought to be the foundation and model of inter-human relationships, many have perceived their various social programs (particularly in relation to the sexes) to be at stake, at times driving the debate’s resolution in a particular direction. One meta-issue continually at the forefront in the debate over eternal subordination concerns the traditional doctrine of God’s simplicity.
Liberalism has failed. Or so confidently declares Patrick Deneen in his obviously named Why Liberalism Failed. Deneen offers one of the more useful and concise attacks on the often vaporously defined liberalism that has, according to Deneen, plagued modern societies for the last several hundred years. Deneen’s proof of liberalism’s failure is not that it failed to change society, but that liberal societies became exactly what they were supposed to be. The liberal state increasingly worked towards removing cultural and social institutions responsible for governing society’s consumer and sexual appetites. Few orthodox Christians dispute that these are woeful problems. And Deneen deserves praise for identifying the ills that plague modern society. The book’s weaknesses are anachronism, and imprecise and lethargic taxonomy.
Most of us are very familiar with the Reformers’ polemics against the episcopate of their day, but it’s just as important to be familiar with long-standing pre-Reformation critiques of it. For it is there that we can find a major illustration of why it is wrong to claim that the Protestants were the heretics, rebels, and innovators who ripped to shreds the seamless robe of Christ and departed from “the ancient and constant faith of the universal church.”
Natural law is an idea of perennial importance and controversy in the Western world, and now in other places too. This idea didn’t die in twentieth-century Protestant thought, but it fell on hard times. During the opening decades of the twenty-first century, interest in natural law has suddenly sprung to life again in many Protestant circles. This is an encouraging development—from historical, philosophical, and theological perspective. But it remains controversial.
As the controversy surrounding Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses intensified, the University of Wittenberg professor’s prince, Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, arranged for him to be interviewed by Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg during the meeting of the imperial diet there in October 1518. During the meeting the professor and the cardinal discussed indulgences, the treasury of merit, papal authority, the relationship between Scripture and ministry as well as the necessity of faith for the saving reception of the sacraments.
The whole office of a magistrate seemeth to consist in these three points: to order, to judge, and to punish, of every one whereof I mean to speak severally in order as they lie. The ordinance of the magistrate is a decree made by him for maintaining of religion, honesty, justice, and public peace: and it consisteth on two points: in ordering rightly matters of religion, and making good laws for the preservation of honesty, justice, and common peace.
Martin Luther’s political theology has fallen on hard times. While it was once common to give him credit for the emergence of modern political liberties, Luther’s legacy has, especially since the second world war, soured. Many have claimed that he set the stage for an unholy sort of sacred nationalism, while more recent commentators say that Luther had no political theology at all, but was instead content to take a “hands off” approach, ceding everything to an emerging secular state.