7 Quotes that Invite You to Read Josef Pieper

Josef Pieper (1904–1997) was a Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher from Elte, Westphalia, Germany. He imbibed the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas but thought deeply about the rest of the Western tradition, ancient and modern (read a little more about him here). I have found his work a particularly helpful guide to thinking deeply and clearly about what it means to live rightly as a human being. His most famous work is Leisure: the Basis of Culture. If you want to get a sense of the breadth of his work, An Anthology, which he compiled at the end of his life, is a great place to start.

If you want to think about how to live well as a Christian in this time, Pieper’s works are full of wisdom. Pieper’s works are also concise. All of them are short volumes. The chapters are also short. You can usually read a chapter in one short sitting. They stir the heart and the mind and challenge us to be what God has called us to be. Here are 7 quotes that invite you to read Josef Pieper.

1. The key question of our time that our prosperity should make us ask: What is life for? “After we have accomplished, with an admirable amount of intelligence and hard work, all that is necessary, after we have provided for the basic needs of life, produced the essential foodstuff, protected the realm of life itself—after all this, what is the meaning of the life itself that we have made possible? How do we define a truly human life?” (Anthology, 111).

2. Prudence or wisdom is the pre-eminent virtue: “The pre-eminence of prudence means that realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality. He alone can do good who knows what things are like and what their situation is. . . . Realization of the good presupposes that our actions are appropriate to the real situation, that is to the concrete realities which form the ‘environment’ of a concrete human action; and that we therefore take this concrete reality seriously, with clear-eyed objectivity” (The Four Cardinal Virtues, 10). Continue reading “7 Quotes that Invite You to Read Josef Pieper”

Pulling in the Same Direction: Working with God in our Sanctification/Transformation

How do we become what God has made us to become? Can we become what we are supposed to become? Can we fulfill our potential? Can we become joyful, content, and just people instead of angry, frustrated, and selfish people?

The answer that the Christian faith gives us is that on our own we cannot become what we are supposed to become. On our own, we are stuck. However, the message of the Christian faith is that the same power by which God raised Jesus from the dead is a power that is available to anyone to enable them to become what God has called them to be.

This raises several questions. First, if this is true, then why are so many Christians angry, upset, materialistic, and even mean? Continue reading “Pulling in the Same Direction: Working with God in our Sanctification/Transformation”

How Would Adam & Abraham Commune with God?

How would Adam and Abraham commune with God? There is a difference between the two in that Adam began as a creature unfallen into sin and Abraham was a sinful man. There is a similarity, however, in that both of them had limited amounts of special revelation. In other words, they didn’t have a large book (the Bible) to serve as the basis of communion with God. So, how did they commune with God?

For the evangelical Christian, communion with God is primarily through Bible reading. I regard this as a good thing, but I wonder if we miss something. If Adam and Abraham could have communion with God without reading through a large book, then this probably tells us that communion with God is at the least not completely identifiable with reading the Bible (though it may be part of it).

In addition, Bible reading is at best one relatively small part of our day (even if we read a lot of it!). How do we live the rest of our day in communion with God? Can we live life in such a way that we are continually communing with God? Continue reading “How Would Adam & Abraham Commune with God?”

A Theological Framework for Processing Racism

[Note: see my article discussing these ideas at much greater length here]

To talk about race in America is a difficult thing, but it needs to be done. I’ve given a lot of thought to the matter, but I’m by no means an expert. There’s no doubt that some will find this post lacking in a number of ways, but we’ve got to have the conversation.

Let me say right up front that the first thing I want to do in this conversation is listen. I want to hear what others have to say on this matter. I recognize that others may not share my perspective. My goal is to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. I welcome your feedback and thoughts on these matters.

When most people hear the word “racism,” they hear racial resentment, animosity, or hatred. The problem is that we can have prejudice and injustice toward other people without a feeling of conscience hatred. This can occur when we do not positively value others, listen to them, and connect with them.

There’s nothing wrong with loving those closest to us or those who are a part of our own groups. This rooted in the God-given connection to our family. We should take special care of those closest to us. As the Apostle Paul said, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

The trouble is that this allegiance exceeds its bounds. Our groups get an allegiance that they don’t deserve, and other groups receive a contempt that they do not deserve. This tendency is captured well by Jesus who said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46–47). Continue reading “A Theological Framework for Processing Racism”

Karen & the Subtlety of Pride

According to Wikipedia, the pejorative name “Karen” means, “a woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is appropriate or necessary.” It is somewhat ironic that one of the best analyses I have found of Karens is from a woman named Karen.

Dr. Karen Horney (September 16, 1885–December 4, 1952) was a psychoanalyst. She was one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis. This is especially remarkable in that this field was dominated by men at the time.

What Dr. Karen noticed was that low self-esteem and self-loathing were not what they seemed to be. She asked, why do people have such low self-esteem? She suggests it begins with an idealized image of oneself: “Gradually and unconsciously, the imagination sets to work and creates in his mind an idealized image of himself. In this process he endows himself with unlimited powers and with exalted faculties: he becomes a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god” (Neurosis & Human Growth, 22). Continue reading “Karen & the Subtlety of Pride”