Galatians 3:27 – The Re-mapping of Israel

Paul does not describe the shift from the Old to New as a simple shift from external to internal…Paul’s letter is not primarily about individual soteriology, but about the union of Jews and Gentiles in the one new man, Jesus the Christ, and the coming of a new creation through His death and resurrection…All those who share the faith of Abraham are “sons of God” (v. 26), that is, true Israelites (cf. Exod. 4:23)…they are all heirs of the inheritance promised to Abraham, the promise of the Spirit (vv. 28-29)…Baptism into Christ and being clothed with Christ is thus all about incorporation into membership in this new body, the body that is “one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28), the community of those who “are Christ’s” (v. 29)…Circumcision distinguished between Jew and Gentile, and also between male and female. In the New Covenant, baptism is applied indiscriminately to all who believe – whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. Baptism thus symbolizes and enacts the union of Jew and Gentile int he church, ritually marking all the baptized as sons of Abraham.

Peter J. Leithart, The Baptized Body (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2007), 45-46.

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Reducing a Wink to a Blink

We do, of course, need to remember that when the word “baptism” refers to the water ritual, the writer is talking about baptism and not merely water. The word “baptism” in this sense is not even equivalent to the action of pouring water or dunking in water. We cannot reduce a wink to a blink, or a wave of the hand to a nervous twitch of the arm, or an execution by lethal injection to a murder…These actions are different because of the intentions and authorization of the actors. So also, baptism involves a particular use of water, a use authorized and commanded by Jesus Christ, and baptism is always done in connection with the word Therefore, the question is never “Can water do this?” but always “Can baptism do this?”

Peter J. Leithart, The Baptized Body, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2007) 32-33.

“Baptism” is Baptism

[M]any believe it is impossible for water to do what the New Testament says baptism does. But this is…often little more than an assumption brought to the text rather than a conclusion derived from it. It is equivalent to saying John’s teaching that “The Word became flesh” doesn’t mean “God became man” because we already know it is impossible for God to become man.

Peter J. Leithart, The Baptized Body, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2007) 30-31.

The Opium of the People

[M]y impression is that religion is an ‘opium’ when the religion in question includes the Platonic downgrading of bodies and of the created order in general, regarding them as the “vain shadows” of earth, which we happily leave behind at death. Why try to improve the present prison if release is at hand? Why oil the wheels of a machine that will soon plunge over a cliff? That is precisely the effect created to this day by some devout Christians who genuinely believe that “salvation” has nothing to do with the way the present world is ordered…
It was people who who believed robustly in the resurrection, not people who compromised and went in for a mere spiritualized survival, who stood up against Caesar int he first centuries of the Christian era. A piety that sees death as the moment of “going home at last,” the time when we are “called to God’s eternal peace,” has no quarrel with power-mongers who want to carve up the world to suit their own ends. Resurrection, by contrast, has always gone with a strong view of God’s justice and of God as the good creator. Those twin beliefs give rise not to a meek acquiescence to injustice int he world but to a robust determination to oppose it.

N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, New York: HarperOne, 2008.

The Five Love Languages Critiqued

While Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages offers some insight into how one can better communicate love and care to others, it’s core assumptions are fundamentally flawed, and the “economy of love” that it assumes is, at day’s end, the opposite of true love: self-interested manipulation of the beloved rather than self-sacrifice for the sake of the beloved.

Elaboration: Read Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently by David Pawlison.

Economics in One Lesson: Chapter I “The Lesson”

The fallacy of contemporary economic thought is, according to Hazlitt, essentially an inability (or refusal) to ‘see the forest for the trees,’ complicated further by the special pleading of interest groups (15). This tendency to only view the short term effects or the impact on a particular group, to the neglect of studying the long-term effects, Hazlitt dubs the “fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences (15-16).”

The Lesson then, is this:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups (17).

In one sense, this is a perfectly obvious and common-sense statement, truisms and cliches for which abound. And as far as the truism aspect of the statement goes, I’m wholly on board. Nobody should be willfully short-sighted. That is foolishness.

In addition, Mr. Hazlitt properly qualifies the statement of this lesson, guarding against the mirror-image fallacy (though I think he improperly downplays it’s significance in popular “conservative” thought):

In considering a policy, we ought not to concentrate only on its long-run results to the community as a whole. This is the error often made by classical economists. It resulted in a certain callousness toward the fate of groups that were immediately hurt by policies or developments which proved to be beneficial on net balance and in the long run (17).

Mostly to the good thus far. The concerns I have at this point are not with the principles explicitly stated in “The Lesson”: Rather, I am troubled by some of Mr. Hazlitt’s presuppositions which are implied in the way he frames his exposition of this lesson. Both of my current concerns stem from what I see as assumptions that reveal the “tradition” out of which Hazlitt is operating.

My first concern is more vague, and may be nothing more than a semantic quibble (though I doubt it, in light of his statement of purpose in the preface): Mr. Hazlitt seems to presuppose that economics is primarily a question of governmental “policy”; whether that policy be comprehensive rational organization enforced from the top down (socialism) or some kind of Lockean protection of “rights” such that “natural laws” may proceed upon their merry way unimpeded (or a combination thereof). We will have to see how this plays out in Hazlitt’s critiques of so-called “fallacies” in later chapters, but I expect that his views of the relationship between economics, government, and right behavior will bring us into conflict at some point.

My second (though related) concern is highlighted as Hazlitt waxes eloquent on the errors of the “new” economists:

They overlook the woods in their precise and minute examination of particular trees. Their methods and conclusions are often profoundly reactionary. They are sometimes surprised to find themselves in accord with seventeenth-century mercantilism. They fall, in fact, into all the ancient errors…that the classical economists, we had hoped, had once and for all got rid of [emphasis mine] (18).

Such a sweeping chronological snobbery is revelatory of a significant blind-spot in Mr. Hazlitt’s thinking: “Orthodoxy” is defined by your god. And anyone who has studied the Enlightenment should be just a little uneasy with this statement, however it works out in subsequent chapters.

Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics, (New York: Three River’s Press, 1979).

A Little More from the Teapot

Dr. Peter Leithart has just been awarded an Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education (ARIHE) Lectureship for 2010-2012 (Member institutions include Calvin, Covenant, Dordt, and Geneva colleges, among others). You can read about it at New Saint Andrew’s website (take particular note of the topics for his upcoming lectures). Congratulations, Dr. Leithart.

The timing couldn’t be better.