08 Feb 2019

Round Table: Confession

In 1996, the independent Scottish band Belle & Sebastian released their second full-length album, If You’re Feeling Sinister. More than twenty years later, Sinister is still revered as one of the greatest albums of the 90’s—ranking alongside notable alternative rock acts such as Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Nirvana. While the aforementioned bands were known for their use of heavily distorted electric guitars, Belle and Sebastian crafted a gentler tone, reminiscent of 60’s era folk-rock

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04 Feb 2019

The Theology of a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s 7:00 a.m. and I reach for the snooze button. The alarm rings again at 7:09 a.m.—and let’s be real—at 7:18 a.m., too. As I slowly rouse myself to put the kettle on, the day’s tasks fill my mind. With few exceptions, I struggle to get to bed before midnight. I’ve developed this tendency from my college years, then from choosing to work late when I began telecommuting, and from staying out late on the

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11 Jan 2019

Nature, Grace, and Learning: Aquinas on Catechesis and Infant Baptism

One thing that the historical Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions have generally shared is a conviction that catechesis is vital to a robust faith. While the word catechesis today may have a slightly more Catholic flavor—especially since the implementation of the RCIA and the publication of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church—any quick glance at the sixteenth century will show the affinity with which reformers of all stripes displayed for catechetical instruction. We might

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17 Sep 2018

In Praise of Redoing the Kitchen

For three years now, my wife and I have been debating remodeling our crumbling builder-grade kitchen. So far, uncertain of how long we will live in the house, we have put it off, glued the cheap linoleum back down, scrubbed the dated appliances, and waited. How different this life is from the life I now experience as I spend a few days with the Benedictines at Belmont Abbey. Here the kitchen is industrial, and the

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30 Jul 2018

Fear This, Not That

In 2000, sociologist Barry Glassner published The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. An updated version is expected later this year. Glassner’s thesis is that American concerns about crime, drugs, child abuse, and other issues are not founded on data but are instead the product of the scaremongering tactics mass media outlets depend upon to attract and maintain viewership. Negative stories capture more clicks, more eyeballs, and generate more conversation

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30 Jun 2018

Ahead of the Curve: A Reflection on the Joker’s Terrible Insight

Introduction Early in The Dark Knight, Alfred describes the Joker in perhaps the most memorable lines of the film: Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn. The Joker is characterized as someone who is beyond reason: crazy, deranged, out of his mind. His ostensibly pointless acts of violence and mayhem appear to reinforce this assessment.

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25 Jun 2018

A Humble Silence

Silence is a sort of nothingness. In spite of this, silence often possesses a variety of qualities. We may experience the angry silence of a hurt loved one, the peaceful silence of the person at rest, or the patient silence of a watcher. The silence of persons turns out to be something. It may be a lack of sound, but it is filled by the quality of a human person.[1] Humans spend much of their

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14 May 2018

Theology, Sanctity, and the Academy

It could be said that, throughout history and even now in the “less enlightened” parts of the world, the cults of the Saints drive not only the practice of Christianity but also speculation (in the older, more revered sense of the term) about Christianity itself. That is, hagiography as such – the vitae Sanctorum – is not a strange collection of bygone myths (in the newer, less revered sense of the term), but the pulse

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30 Apr 2018

The Significance of Lions

For my father’s birthday, I made him a set of bookends that featured the silhouette of a lion. I chose to design the bookends in this fashion because a lion seemed to fit with how I view my father. This reasoning may appear natural to some, and odd to others. Those who deem it odd are probably the more observant. Why should a silhouette of a lion have any connection with my completely human father?

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06 Apr 2018

Creation’s Revelation and the Hope for Discovery

Does knowledge hinder the adventure of discovery? After concluding some work in mainland Japan one winter, my father made his way south to Okinawa—where I lived at the time—for a weekend visit, before returning to the United States. We had talked about this particular visit for some time, as it would coincide with the seasonal visit of the humpback whales to the warmer waters of our region. My father and I made arrangements to take

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21 Mar 2018

The Mystery of Honesty and Truth

“I hate going to Confession,” I told my father-confessor recently. “As long as you keep on going,” he responded. Then he added, “Of course you do. It’s not easy admitting to failure.” I grew up in a dysfunctional household where disapproval reigned. Expecting chastisement or even condemnation is a hard habit to unlearn. I’d been anxious enough about making my first Confession that I had postponed my Chrismation and entry into the Orthodox Church for

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21 Feb 2018

Douthat, Paradox, and Dialectic

When it comes to podcasts on religion and public life, Tyler Cowen of the Mercatus Center’s podcast has some rare gems. While most popular politically-charged podcasts are content to frame questions in secular terms, Cowen—an atheist—has a remarkable ability tease out which religious presuppositions are motivating his guests, including some very fine distinctions on points of intra-religious debate. So when the conservative Catholic New York Times columnist Ross Douthat appeared on his show a couple

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14 Feb 2018

The Fast Before the Feast

The Lenten fast is often neglected or misunderstood. But this season offers the time and place to make us freer and stronger.   There’s a reason why fasting sounds exhausting. There’s a reason why people feel uncomfortable just envisioning a forty-day stretch of abstaining from certain foods or activities. The Lenten season is, after all, a long and tiring period for its participants. It’s hard. That becomes clear in the last days of Lent—the days

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22 Dec 2017

Advent Euphemisms and the Assault on Language

The commercialization of Christmas is hardly news. Proclaiming a so-called “War on Christmas” is not enough for some, who ante up their virtue-signaling and cultural critique into announcing a “War on Advent.” In 2012, theologian Diana Butler Bass argued, specifically against Fox News, that the shopping frenzy before Christmas degraded Christ’s Nativity more than a cultural shift away from well-wishing “Merry Christmas” toward a more general “Happy Holidays.”  Father Bill Olnhausen, a retired Orthodox pastor,

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02 Nov 2017

The Word and the Text

The Word and the Text: Allegorical Exegesis and the Christological Ontology of Scripture in the Middle Ages Factum audivimus; mysterium requiramus. “We have heard the deed; let us seek the mystery.” So says Augustine in his tractates on the Gospel of John. Sentiments such as this were the bedrock of Medieval hermeneutics regarding Scripture. The mystical interpretation of Scripture, particularly allegory, had been bequeathed to the theologians and scholars of the middle ages by giants

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26 Oct 2017

Round Table: Interpretation of Scripture

Introduction Christian life flows forth from the nourishing Word of God. Each generation encounters the sacred text, and responds in love to the divine laws written therein. And yet, the interpretation of Scripture is a topic that oftentimes divides more than it unites. The complexity of the text dictates that we may not all think the same way; yet, in line with our mission to promote meaningful dialogue across Christian traditions, we asked our authors

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24 Oct 2017

The Cross as Template: Kenosis, Justification, and the Cruciform Life

When I was a graduate student at a Lutheran seminary I was enamored with the thought of Cyril of Alexandria. His concern for the unity of the person of Christ influenced me greatly, and I developed a trajectory of thinking that was different than most of my fellow students. This made me feel like a bit of an odd duck, as the conversation at the seminary tended to be hyper-focused on justification. Being Lutherans, rock-ribbed

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18 Oct 2017

Luther’s First Good Work

In the opening section of “A Treatise on Good Works,” Martin Luther declares: “The first and highest, the most precious of all good works is faith in Jesus Christ.”1 Luther was not an ethicist as such, but his claim, if true, has wide-ranging implications for anyone in pursuit of the “good life”—that end toward which ethics is aimed. Such a bold idea warrants justification. What could this statement possibly mean? How is faith a work

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10 Feb 2017

Modern Witness

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).1 One of my favorite operas is called the Dialogues of the Carmelites, which was composed by Francis Poulenc. The opera is an adaptation of a true life story of the Martyrs of Compiègne, members of a Roman Catholic order of nuns who were killed during the French Revolution of the late 18th Century. The story follows a young

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24 Jan 2017

We Need More Bart Campolos

“Even as faith endures in our secular age, believing doesn’t come easy. Faith is fraught; confession is haunted by an inescapable sense of contestability. We don’t believe instead of doubting; we believe while doubting. We’re all Thomas now.” – Charles Taylor Is the contemporary North American church in decline? If you do a casual search of the Internet or glance the titles of Christian publications over the past year, you will find a number of

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