16 Sep 2020

Pensées and a Course in Reality (Part One)

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal measures the relative space of a collection of small sculptures. Small. A few inches at most. And though there are 264 of them, they could all be put in an average-sized box and stored away on a shelf somewhere. De Waal recognizes, however, that these wee pieces, called netsuke, take up considerably more space than their actual size. Paraphrasing Lord Digory, they’re bigger on the inside

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14 Sep 2020

Dogma as an “Instrument of Freedom”

Flannery O’Connor once wrote “for me dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of restriction. It preserves mystery for the human mind” (The Habit of Being 92). O’Conner proclaims that dogma, that often maligned and mistreated word, is in fact an essential aspect of human freedom. How often do we hear that ‘dogmatization’ is wrong, limiting, restrictive, and contrary to our creativity, freedom, and personhood? Dogma has

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11 Sep 2020

Ruth as Hero: Responding to David Justice’s ‘Ruth: Model Minority’

The book of Ruth is the Bible’s only bucolic idyll and, as the great Hebrew scholar Robert Alter says, “one of the few truly successful stories in any literature that concentrates almost exclusively on good people.” It is, he concludes, “one of literature’s most touching stories with a happy ending” (vol. 3, 621, 624). Yet, despite its apparent superficiality, the book is deep, complex, and difficult. The most jarring moment is when Naomi advises her

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03 Aug 2020

Reading Tobit with Christic Eyes: Christ Images in the Book of Tobit

The Book of Tobit, found in the Septuagint and maintained as deuterocanonical/canonical in both East and West, is replete with Christological foreshadowing and imagery. Within the Anglican context, we see that Tobit is appointed regularly in the Lectionary thereby acknowledging its theological value. This book, and the other ‘apocryphal’ books mentioned in Article VI, are “read for example of life and instruction.” Thus, we see that there is a clear dialogical reality to the Deuterocanon

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27 Jul 2020

How the Liturgy Saved Me: A Psychologist Discovers the Solution to a Problem He Didn’t Know He Had

Liturgy is one of those things that can divide Christians. Some think of liturgy as rote prayers for people who are religious but don’t really know the Lord. I had one person leave the Anglican church I was pastoring because she could no longer pray liturgical prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, unless she knew she could consciously mean every word. By this, I understood that she thought her mind had to be fully engaged as

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15 Jul 2020

Turning Swords into Plowshares

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was watching a celebration on TV and at the same time reading Shane Claiborne’s book Beating Guns:  Hope for Those Who Are Weary of Violence.  Both celebration and book quoted John 15:13: “No greater love is this than the

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22 Jun 2020

Al Mohler, Slavery, and the Bible

If we want to know what the Bible has to say about American chattel slavery, we’ll need to do more than type “slave” into the Bible Gateway search bar. Perhaps that is the lesson we should learn from Al Mohler’s recently surfaced denunciation of runaway slaves on Larry King Live in 1998. In that interview, Mohler contended that Harriet Tubman — and others who ran from slave owners or abetted runaways — disobeyed St. Paul’s

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10 Jun 2020

Racism and Sin

“It is the divinely imposed task of the prophet to break down the wall of our indifference by voicing the suffering and anguish of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed of our society.” -Abraham Heschel A wound, when it is not properly treated, will fester to the point that it will suppurate. This is not only true of our physical wounds but, also, our interior wounds. Imagine a couple who begin a

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25 May 2020

Personal Prayers

Virgin Soul (Isaiah 43: 1-8) Like a virgin bride that waits for her bridegroom, my virgin soul waits for You, oh, Lord! My virgin soul waits to be impregnated with Your Word. Speak It in the recesses of my heart, my being, my virgin soul. My beloved speaks in the dark night, early morning, midday, late noon, early evening. He whispers in my ear as I embrace him in my arms:   I have created

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20 May 2020

Wasteland Christianity

Recently, Tara Isabella Burton published a great column in the New York Times opinion section on the “weird” present and future of American Christianity. She contrasts the slow decrease in religious affiliation among Americans with the increased traditionalism in the thought and actions of those Americans who remain Christian. Ms. Burton’s point ultimately consists in her recognition that many Americans find ourselves increasingly disenchanted with the social and cultural order that we inhabit—whether that discontent

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04 May 2020

The Pandemic and the Wrath of God

In dark moments, I have sometimes wondered whether, when disaster struck, I might lose my faith. Perhaps my God of unbounded kindness would fall away in the face of crisis—shown to be phantom conjured up by an over-hopeful imagination—sand leave me alone in the universe. Yet as it has turned out, the real danger was of this God morphing into a god of wrath, his face twisting into stern, unfamiliar expressions. In this midst of

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27 Apr 2020

“His Earthly Oil Lamp, Laurus”: A Theological Reflection on Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus

Eugene Vodolazkin’s masterful novel Laurus is a tour de force of literary imagination and theological reflection. In a style reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and imbued with as much tragic conviction as Nikolai Leskov’s Cathedral Folk, Laurus stands out as a modern-day masterwork of Russian literature. The novel is full of mystical, sacramental, and eschatological imagery. Vodolazkin marries the mundane to the sacred in a beautiful tapestry of man’s fallenness and God’s redemptive plan. The main character, called at various times

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11 Mar 2020

Moral Relativity in an Ironic Place

“’Good’ and ‘bad,’ applied to them, are words without content: For it is from them that the content of these words is henceforward to be derived.” –C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man In Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis explains the nonsense of a subjective postmodern philosophy, wherein truth has no meaning. When one accepts that truth is a social construct rather than an objective correspondence to reality, the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ no longer hold meaning,

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03 Feb 2020

Beauty in the Everyday: Living Aesthetically

For anyone who grew up with a religious background similar to mine (Southern Baptist with a Reformed bent), art was considered as either dangerous or irrelevant to one’s spiritual life. Imagination and experience and creativity were little regarded, while discipline and right-belief were considered the important things for spiritual thriving. But somewhere along the way someone suggested to me that truth, goodness, and beauty all go hand in hand. How, exactly, the three relate I

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06 Jan 2020

On Hierarchy

Away from my family on study retreat, I went to St. Isidore’s for the Sunday English language mass. While looking up toward the dome before the service, I caught sight of the four Evangelists, in Baroque attitudes of dramatic inspiration, pages under their poised fingers, living creatures over their shoulders. I prayed something like the following: Lord, you pour forth power and wisdom and goodness without cease According to your own mode, which is limitless,

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01 Jan 2020

Above All, the Glory of Christ: John Duns Scotus on the Incarnation

During the Christmas season, this passage from the Nicene Creed regarding our Lord Jesus Christ assumes particular significance: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. That Jesus was incarnated (cf. John 1:14) and the means by which it happened (cf. Matthew 1:18-25) are universal Christian truths. And at first glance it also seems

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04 Nov 2019

JESUS IS KING

After so many delays that some were beginning to wonder whether JESUS IS KING or the second coming of Jesus the King would occur first, Kanye West’s ninth studio album is finally here. And it appears that everyone has an opinion about it. I’ve seen friends celebrating Kanye’s conversion as a high profile defection from the “other side” to “our side,” rushing to embrace and celebrate him as a new ally. Some think Ye is

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23 Oct 2019

Reclaiming Pascal’s Wager

Christians should consider deploying Pascal’s Wager in evangelism efforts. Evangelism is difficult today in America. Theological liberalism and moral relativism pervade academic circles, popular culture, and everyday thinking of many people, as illustrated by anthems like “You do you” and “Well, that’s my truth”. Breaking through the postmodern thicket with the Gospel’s truth is challenging; rather than fostering conversations about objective truth, Christians’ attempts to share Christ are often met with sympathy for their being

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18 Oct 2019

How to Become a Friend of God

The Scriptures are clear: “Abraham was called the friend of God” (James 2:23) … A Sunday School teacher told me once that we should read the Bible every day, and I was an intense, introverted child: I followed her advice, opening my third-grade presentation edition after my evening shower, my hair dripping dimples onto the onionskin pages. Jesus, on the cusp of his crucifixion, called the disciples friends, not servants (John 15:15). I was raised

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04 Oct 2019

Going Beyond “A Secular Age”

In this, the twenty-seventh year of my life, I find myself turning at last to Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. As a preparation for (and procrastination from) the task at hand, I’ve spent considerable time reading many of the Reformed responses and engagements with A Secular Age. In the course of my informal survey, I noticed an apparent disconnect between Taylor and many of his readers. While several hundred pages remain before I’ll be able to

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