Leithart, Wilson, and What is this “Church” Thing Anyway?

Yesterday, New Saint Andrews College played host to a little-advertised but intensely interesting informal debate between Peter Leithart and Doug Wilson on the topic “Ecumenism and the Marks of the Church.” Any time when you get to see these two erstwhile Muscovite co-belligerents square off is a treat, but this topic held particular interest for me. After all, last year around this time I was working on an article for Theology Today which could readily have been given the same title as this session (the published title was “Sectarianism and Visible Catholicity: Lessons from John Nevin and Richard Hooker”). And last year on the same very date, April 29—a coincidence that Leithart failed to remark on—I was helping run a big event down at Biola University, starring the same Peter Leithart and on roughly the same theme: “The Future of Protestantism: A Public Conversation.” Indeed, I would almost like to self-servingly think of the gentlemanly little exchange yesterday as “Future of Protestantism” 2.0, only of course much smaller, without the livestream, and more importantly, without the #Stache.

The precipitant for both events was various summonses to “Reformational catholicism” issued by Peter Leithart on First Things, and in both cases, his interlocutors quite naturally wanted to know how the brand of catholicity or ecumenism he was advocating did and didn’t relate to classical Protestant ecclesiology. Yesterday’s event, like last year’s, was much too short and much too gentlemanly to bring nearly as much clarity as many of us might’ve liked, but there were still a few revealing moments. Read More

Empire, Order, and the “Truth of History”

If this isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is:

“All of the early empires, Near Eastern as well as Far Eastern, understood themselves as representatives of a transcendent order, of the order of the cosmos; and some of them even understood this order as a ‘truth.’  Whether one turns to the earliest Chinese sources in the Shu King or to the inscriptions of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, or Persia, one uniformly finds the order of the empire interpreted as a representation of cosmic order in the medium of human society.  The empire is a cosmic analogue, a little world reflecting the order of the great, comprehensive world.  Rulership becomes the task of securing the order of society in harmony with cosmic order; the territory of the empire is an analogical representation of the world with its four quarters; the great ceremonies of the empire represent the rhythm of the cosmos; festivals and sacrifices are a cosmic liturgy, a symbolic participation of the cosmion in the cosmos; and the ruler himself represents the society, because on earth he represents the transcendent power which maintains cosmic order. . . .

In so far as the order of society does not exist automatically but must be founded, preserved, and defended, those who are on the side of order represent the truth, while their enemies represent disorder and falsehood. . . . Read More