A large suburban house with professional landscaping
19 Aug 2020

The Pandemic and the Experience of Vanity

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,     vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil     at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes,     but the earth remains forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-4 NRSV) A month or two ago, I was speaking with a friend about the extra personal time I gain working at home.

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Locked ballot box used in Carson, North Dakota on October 30, 1940. Photo courtesy National Archives and Records Administration. (USDA)
06 Jul 2020

The Right to Not Vote

If you’ve ever been to a neighborhood association meeting or a church committee meeting, you’ve observed something close to true direct democracy. When a decision needs to be made, a vote is taken. All those in favor of the proposition say, “Aye.” All those opposed say, “Nay.” Everyone gets a say, and the simple majority wins. It’s an effective way to do things on a small scale. However, this is nearly impossible on a larger

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Image of a laptop and cup of coffee.
11 May 2020

Church in the Time of a Pandemic

As I have written about previously on Conciliar Post, I attend a small church that meets in a home. On a regular basis I help with the preaching and music ministry at our Sunday morning services and weekday Bible studies. Even though we are a small church, we have a number of young families with children. On any given Sunday morning, 35-50 people typically attend, which is a large group for a house church. Due

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17 Mar 2020

Round Table: Do Animals Have Souls?

In Genesis 1, God creates the animals of the sea and sky on the fifth day and subsequently creates land animals on the sixth. On this same day God also forms a certain kind of land animal in God’s own image and likeness—humankind (Gen 1:26-27). As with the animals of land, sea, and sky, humans are told to “be fruitful and multiply,” but then receive a unique set of instructions from God: “Fill the earth

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Image of a plaque about John Wesley from Savannah, GA
17 Feb 2020

John Wesley and Small Groups

As one raised in the United Methodist Church, I was always familiar with the radical ministry of John Wesley, hearing stories in Sunday sermons or learning the history of the Methodist revival in confirmation class. In my final year at the Candler School of Theology, I had the privilege of exploring Wesley’s life and thought in more detail in a course entitled: “John Wesley’s Theology and 18th Century Epistemology.” For my final assignment in the

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Bust of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
22 Jan 2020

Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace (The Cost of Discipleship, 43). The opening chapter of The Cost of Discipleship features Dietrich Bonhoeffer in some of his best form as a writer. His use of paradox, irony, hyperbole, exaggeration, and sarcasm makes this one of the wittiest criticisms of popular Christian theology ever written. It also can make it hard to understand and follow for the

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Image of a Bible on a shelf.
13 Dec 2019

The Bible Project

About three years ago I was scrolling through my YouTube recommendations feed, looking for new and interesting videos. Since I regularly view biblical and theological content, my feed often contains helpful resources (along with videos on college football or live music). As I scrolled, one particular video thumbnail caught my attention. The thumbnail contained an aesthetically pleasing animated image of Job. I clicked on the video and had my first exposure to The Bible Project.

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Ohio State Library Stacks
13 Nov 2019

What We’ve Been Reading: Fall 2019

Here at Conciliar Post, many of our authors are avid readers. Below are some of the books we’ve been reading in 2019 along with a short review for each one. Feel free to join the conversation and offer your recommended readings. John Ehrett, Lutheran Restoring the Soul of the University: Unifying Christian Higher Education in a Fragmented Age (Perry L. Glanzer, Nathan F. Alleman & Todd C. Ream) The authors—professors at Christian universities—lay out a

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Indigo bunting in a field at sunset
14 Oct 2019

Trusting in God

“Some who think they trust in God actually sin against hope because they do not use the will and the judgment He has given them. Of what use is it for me to hope in grace if I dare not make the act of will that corresponds with grace? How do I profit by abandoning myself passively to His will if I lack the strength of will to obey His commands? Therefore, if I trust

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A brick building with the word "work" on the side.
20 Sep 2019

The Work of Faith

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NRSV). Paul’s second missionary journey began as an excursion to revisit churches planted throughout Asia Minor on his first missionary journey (Acts 15:36). Along the way, the Spirit of God gave Paul

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Image of hospital building
19 Aug 2019

Idols of Modern Society

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,     and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them,     the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals,     and offering incense to idols.” (Hosea 11:1-2 NRSV) The prophets Hosea and Amos were active during roughly the same era in the history of ancient Israel (8th century BCE). Both prophesied primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel during a time of

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A tin pail with ripe summer blueberries
23 Jul 2019

Amos’ Basket of Summer Fruit

“This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit” (Amos 8:1 NRSV). A couple summers ago we took a family vacation to the Indiana Dunes. We had a great time playing on the beach and climbing dune mountains at the local state park, while also hiking trails and observing bird life at the national lakeshore (which was recently upgraded to our nation’s newest national park). On our last morning in the area,

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24 Jun 2019

The Importance of Hospitality

The book of 3 John is both one of the shortest books in the Bible and one of the most unique. Being short, the letter is easy to read straight through, and one can easily grasp the basic themes. Being addressed directly to “the beloved Gaius,” the book is unique in that it is a personal letter (3 Jn 1). In the opening, the author, John, identifies himself as “the elder” (Gk. presbuteros). In the

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29 Apr 2019

L’Arche and Being Human

For the last five years, I have taught an introduction to humanities course at a local community college. Each semester I begin and end the semester with the same question, “What makes us human?” I ask students to think about a pet dog or higher primate like the gorilla. Certainly, we have some characteristics in common with other members of the animal kingdom. Yet, in spite of these similarities, our human intuition imagines that there

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01 Apr 2019

Thomas Merton and Why I Quit Facebook

About five years ago, I sat in a coffee shop reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. During the preceding weeks and months, I considered deleting my Facebook account on several occasions but never found the courage to follow through on my thoughts. I graduated from college in 2005. Somewhere around the second semester of my junior year, Facebook made its first appearance on my college campus. At that time, only users with a valid

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08 Mar 2019

Methodists, Global Christianity, and Human Sexuality

Over the course of four days at the end of February, delegates from the United Methodist Church (UMC) met in St. Louis for a special session of the General Conference to debate issues related to same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy. These topics had been debated before in the UMC at prior global church meetings, but the denomination had always voted to retain the traditional language of the Book of Disciple on matters

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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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07 Jan 2019

Exile and Restoration

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness–on them light has shined.” Isa 9:2 NRSV The prophet Isaiah lived at an unusual point in the history of the Israelite people. His prophetic ministry overlapped the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 722 BCE and their subsequent siege of Jerusalem in the days of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19). The beginning chapters of the book

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30 Nov 2018

The Second Exodus

“To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5b-6 NRSV).” The book of Revelation contains a series of visions meant to comfort and encourage believers under the heavy hand of persecution. When the author, John of Patmos, introduces himself in Revelation 1:9, he says that

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29 Oct 2018

The Terrifying God

Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; if only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face! (Job 23:15-17 NRSV) The book of Job opens with a description of the character of Job as a “blameless and upright” man who “feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). In the

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