01 Aug 2018

Suggestions for Social Media Sanity

In case you haven’t heard, social media has garnered quite the reputation. Whether you’re talking about the perniciousness of Twitter-fueled outrage, the placidity of hashtag activism, the propensity to waste hours of your life, the easy propagation of fake news, or the paucity of meaningful conversation, social media is often viewed negatively. But social media isn’t all bad. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. In its best moments, social media still accomplishes its

Jacob Prahlow 0
05 Jul 2018

Orthodoxy and Relevance

Christians have long talked about life as a journey, whether as runners or pilgrims or travelers or something else. Journeys tend to involve forks in the road, decisions to make, and obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, the decisions of this journey are between light and darkness, holiness and sin, redemption and backsliding. In these instances, the follower of Christ is called to choose the path of faithfulness. Other times, however, the decisions we make along the

Jacob Prahlow 2
19 Jun 2018

Four Years of Conciliar Post

Friends, This past weekend, Conciliar Post celebrated its fourth year of promoting dialogue across Christian traditions. In an era of increased incivility, tribalism, and negativity, the Conciliar Post community remains committed to thoughtful and charitable dialogue, even—especially—when it comes to controversial issues. During the past year, our writers have tackled such issues as divine immutability and impassibility, the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, Trump and false prophecy, barrenness, post-secularism, doubt, the Passion, the growth

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06 Jun 2018

Struggling to Discern God’s Will

Our lives are often guided by the questions we ask. Great inventors are driven by the impulse to build a better world. Explorers ask what lies beyond the edges of their map. Great philosophers question and question until they find a satisfactory answer. The curiosity of children leads them to wonder “why?” without end. A question that has dominated my own life is, “How do I know what God’s will is?” I’ve asked this question—in

Jacob Prahlow 2
09 May 2018

The Personal Nature of Grief

“Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” — Proverbs 25:20 (ESV) Grief is miserable. Suffering and loss are perhaps the lowest points of human existence. Nothing compares to the emptiness felt inside after the death of a loved one; nothing can prepare you for the sting of loss. Yet far too often we act as if saying something

Jacob Prahlow 0
11 Apr 2018

The Non-Denominational Reformation

Every 500 years or so in the history of the Christian church, a significant restructuring seems to take place. Around the year 500, a church council at Chalcedon published what most of Christendom calls the clearest explanation of orthodox Christology: Christ is one person with two natures. However, large swaths of Christians—the Oriental Orthodox (such as the Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian churches) and the Church of the East—found the Chalcedon Definition lacking. And so the

Jacob Prahlow 0
14 Mar 2018

Should I Hide When Mormons Come Knocking?

One of the great privileges of serving in the local church is the opportunity to hear intriguing questions from congregants. A couple of weeks ago, I had such an experience after talking about evangelism. The topic of door-to-door Mormon missionaries  came up, and eventually our conversation turned to how to interact with non-Christian missionaries—and if they should be shown any sort of hospitality at all. One participant in the conversation mentioned that they do not

Jacob Prahlow 0
16 Feb 2018

Mourning with Those Who Mourn

In what may be his most practical stretches of writing, Paul admonished the Roman church to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” in Romans 12:15.1 Modern Christians, as a whole, do a pretty good job with the first part of this verse. In just the past year I’ve celebrated birthdays, marriages, weddings, births, anniversaries, job promotions, home purchases, sports victories, and a whole host of other events with my Christian sisters

Jacob Prahlow 0
17 Jan 2018

Sermon-less Church: A Thought Experiment

“If you took away the sermon from your worship service, what sort of theology could you construct from what remains?” Sometime back, a Facebook friend shared this quote from Pastor Mark Jones and it got me thinking. What would a sermon-less church service look like? What messages and theology would it convey? Would we attend? Just how central is the sermon to Christian worship? In order to really consider this question, consider the state of

Jacob Prahlow 0
29 Nov 2017

Kids and the Kingdom

It’s wonderful to be a father. I always suspected as much, but there are some things in life you just have to experience in order to truly understand. Sure, being a parent is hard work. You learn to die to your wants and to put your spouse and kid(s) ahead of yourself. You sleep less, you work more. But it’s all worth it when you see that smile, hear that laugh, and get that hug

Jacob Prahlow 1
01 Nov 2017

Listening to Destitute Minds

I believe we suffer from a propensity to look at people with whom we disagree and say to ourselves, “That person can’t teach me anything. They are so wrong in how they think, so insufficient in their intellectual capacities, so distorted in their worldview, that I could not possibly see reality more clearly by interacting with this person.” Think of the political divide. Republicans decry working with “the other side” as a compromise of values.

Jacob Prahlow 0
20 Sep 2017

What Are Multisite Churches?

A growing phenomenon among American Churches is the multisite movement. Generally, multisite churches are Christian gatherings where a single church organization holds services at two or more geographical locations. Although you have probably seen a multisite (or two) pop up in your neighbor, few Christians know about the history, forms, and purposes of multisite churches. In fact, few church statisticians have truly begun to examine the multisite movement.1 In this article, I briefly outline the

Jacob Prahlow 1
23 Aug 2017

How to Tell If a Sermon is Good

Every week, millions of people around the world situate themselves in moderately uncomfortable seating and listen to someone talk at them for an extended period of time. I am, of course, referring to Christians who attend church services and listen to sermons. But how can we tell if a sermon is good? This article suggests three sets of questions for reflecting on this question.

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Writings of the Church Fathers
01 Aug 2017

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

Introduction Commonly known as “The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus,” the authorship and origins of this early Christian writing remain debated. The name Mathetes (§11) is not really a name at all, but comes from the Greek term for disciple (μαθητής). Diognetus (§1), the letter’s recipient, appears to have been a fairly common name in the ancient Roman world, and the specific addressee of this letter is unknown. Some debate exists over the possibility of

Jacob Prahlow 1
18 Jul 2017

The Dangers of Isolation

Isolation is dangerous. Webster defines isolation as “to set apart from others; quarantine; insulate.” While brief periods of isolation may not be dangerous, isolation has become a way of life for many. Despite easier, less-expensive, and more accessible interaction with other people, contemporary humans may be the most isolated in history. I will leave others to explain the precise mechanisms and explanations for this reality; here, I want to dwell for a moment on the

Jacob Prahlow 1
11 Jul 2017

Reflections on a Mega Church Experience

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Bethel Church in Redding, California. For those unfamiliar with this church, Bethel was founded in 1952 by Robert Doherty and grew steadily from the 1960s to the early 1990s. Following the call of current senior pastor Bill Johnson in 1996, Bethel underwent a time of divisiveness followed by a period of tremendous growth. Currently, Bethel has approximately 9,000 weekly attendees—easily categorizing it as a mega church—and

Jacob Prahlow 2
06 Jun 2017

Random Thoughts from a Western Adventure

My family recently returned from an excursion in the wild western part of our great nation, where we were summoned for my brother’s wedding. Going for drives—especially long ones—is something that I rather enjoy, even with a 9-month old in tow (though I should note that she is quite generous with her patience at being locked in her car seat for extended periods of time). Thus, we decided to extend our wedding trip and spend

Jacob Prahlow 1
23 May 2017

Bible Translations, Not Inspired

Debates over Which Bible Occasionally, I will run into someone who holds an especially high view of a certain version or translation of the Bible. Sometimes, this perspective follows denominational lines: Roman Catholics have the Douay-Rheims, Reformed churches laud the Holman Christian Standard Bibles (recently updated as the Christian Standard Bible), Dispensationalists fervently search their Scofield Reference Bibles, and Fundamentalists hold to the King James Version. Even when not holding rigidly to one particular version

Jacob Prahlow 1
25 Apr 2017

Some Early Morning Reflections on the Complexity of Life

As I sit by my daughter’s bed at 2am – teething, I’ve been told, will eventually pass – a number of thoughts traverse my tired mind. Most are muddled. What day is it? Did the Cubs win yesterday? What is the meaning of life? But I keep returning to one thought in particular: life is so complex. Doing some self-psychologizing, I came to realize a couple of things about this thought. Firstly, it’s not truly

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11 Apr 2017

How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages

As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Just last week, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens. The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to

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