01 Jul 2019

The Logic of Closed Communion

A few weeks ago, I found myself having a fruitful discussion about Christian unity with a nondenominational friend. His concerns echoed many of those voiced by Peter Leithart in The End of Protestantism—fragmentation over comparatively insignificant differences, the mandate of Jesus that his followers be one, and so forth. And I tend to think that many of those observations have force: in a cultural moment where questions of orthodoxy seem less and less bound up

John Ehrett 1
28 May 2019

The Strange Case of American Lutherans and the “Sin of Unionism”

Over the last few years, following my grandparents’ decision to downsize and move into an assisted-living community, my family has been sorting through a treasure trove of documents to piece together our ancestors’ story. As we’ve explored the letters and records left behind by our forerunners, perhaps the most prominent theme that comes through is their deep commitment to their Lutheran faith. In fact, we think they originally fled Europe in search of religious freedom

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10 May 2019

Why I Hardly Went to Church for Years (A Confession)

As I write this, it’s Easter evening, the end of Holy Week 2019—and last night, my wife was confirmed into the Lutheran church at our congregation’s Easter Vigil service. It’s been wonderful, after years of migrating from city to city during college and law school, to settle into the rhythms of a local church community. That recognition is a little bittersweet, though, because it reminds me of an uncomfortable truth: there was a three- to

John Ehrett 0
08 Apr 2019

Misunderstanding “Calvinism”?

I greatly appreciated reading Timon Cline’s recent piece, The Necessity of Contingency, written in response to AJ Maynard’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and the Pitfalls of Calvinism. In fact, I wish I’d read something like Timon’s piece a few years ago, during one of my more vitriolic anti-Calvinist stages. Indeed, over the last few years, I’ve come to learn (to my chagrin) that I’ve been trafficking in mischaracterizations of historic Reformed thought. In my concern to

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11 Mar 2019

What Does Healthy Theological Dissent Look Like?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the work of Catholic theologian Paul Griffiths (an erstwhile professor at Duke Divinity School). His most recent book, Christian Flesh, is probably the most extensive reflection I’ve read on precisely what it means to be an incarnate being—and more particularly, a baptized incarnate being. And Decreation: The Last Things of All Creatures is a sweeping work of speculative eschatology that considers the ultimate destiny of

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11 Feb 2019

Millennial Burnout and the Demise of Vocations

By now, thousands of people have read Anne Helen Petersen’s widely-shared BuzzFeed News article, “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.” It’s a well-written article, and one that raises some valid concerns about the future of an enormous demographic. But I can’t help wondering if the phenomenon Petersen is driving at reflects a deeper generational crisis than simply financial instability. At the heart of Petersen’s analysis is a harsh dichotomy between the promise of early millennial

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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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14 Jan 2019

In Defense of Hymnals

When my wife and I first started attending our church, one thing in particular really stood out to me. Our church doesn’t print the texts of hymns or the elements of the liturgy in a bulletin handed to us on the way in. Instead, just like in the “olden days” we use real hymnals—heavy, leather-bound copies of the Lutheran Service Book nestled in each pew. This was unfamiliar to me, and took a bit of

John Ehrett 1
03 Dec 2018

The Problem of Irony

I recently had the pleasure of reading Leah Libresco’s fine new book Building the Benedict Option: A Guide to Gathering Two or Three Together in His Name. Despite the title, the book has very little to do with large-scale questions of Western civilization or the future of Christianity in a secularizing age. Instead, it’s something far simpler and more refreshing: a straightforward how-to guide for building “thick” Christian community with one’s friends and neighbors. It’s

John Ehrett 1
28 Nov 2018

What We’ve Been Reading: Fall 2018

Here at Conciliar Post, many of us are avid readers, both within and without our varied vocations. These are just a few of the good books we’ve been reading lately! Jeff Hart, Presbyterian Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age (Alan Noble) If you’ve ever wondered why it is so difficult to live out and share your faith in our modern context, you will benefit from reading Disruptive Witness. Drawing on the work of

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05 Nov 2018

When You’re Not Countercultural Enough

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything about the Benedict Option—permit me one more foray. Maybe I’m just beating a dead horse here, but it seems to me that this ongoing conversation gets at important issues surrounding the turbulent relationship between faith and civic participation in the modern West. Anyway, a few days ago, an anonymous blogger posted an extended review/critique of Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” that’s worth engaging. It’s highly erudite

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08 Oct 2018

The Grace of God’s Immutability

For the last month or so, I’ve had a hard time writing anything substantive. Much of what I’ve written over the last few years focuses on the need for deference to the wisdom and insights of the past. I haven’t really seen any other alternative to the shifting, turbulent, incoherent landscape of modern life—all of which often seems to collapse into a Nietzschean nightmare of raw power politics. Whether or not we choose to admit

John Ehrett 1
10 Sep 2018

Horror Cinema and the Natural Law

Under the conditions of modernity, it’s not easy to make “natural law” arguments sound terribly persuasive. Much ink was spilled in this area during the run-up to Obergefell v. Hodges, nowhere more eloquently than in the book penned by Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Such arguments, however, largely fell on deaf ears. Yet the eclipse of natural law arguments in the public square doesn’t invalidate

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13 Aug 2018

Activism Without Pelagianism?

I read Wesley Walker’s recent article “Activism as Pelagianism” with great interest. While I largely agree with the conclusion he draws—that the Church’s first duty is the proclamation of the Word and administration of the Sacraments—I’m not altogether convinced that churches face an either/or choice. That is to say, I’m not sure the responsibilities associated with Word and Sacrament need be juxtaposed against active engagement with the challenges of contemporary life. In particular, I submit

John Ehrett 0
16 Jul 2018

Cogs or Contemplatives: A False Dilemma?

Confession: I’ve been an admirer of Ayn Rand’s fiction for a long time—almost a decade, in fact. I realize there are plenty of circles where this admission risks drawing a hailstorm of rotten fruit. Many folks have deemed her doorstopper-length novels to be turgid and overwrought, laden with unrealistic characters and numbing speeches. Plenty more have decried her philosophy of “Objectivism” as a hideously amoral version of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake”—a social Darwinism

John Ehrett 1
11 Jul 2018

Round Table: Euthanasia

The 2016 film Me Before You stars Emilia Clarke as an awkward young woman who needs employment to help support her poor working class family. After losing her job at a local bakery, she applies to become a caretaker for the adult son of a wealthy family. The son, played by Sam Claflin, was an active and successful young man before being injured in a motorcycle accident that left him as a quadriplegic. The two

John Ehrett 7
18 Jun 2018

Music of the Everyday

Electronic dance music (EDM) certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste. All too often, producers of contemporary pop submerge artists’ raw talent in a sea of synthesized bleeps and burbles. The subculture is eccentric, to say the least. And there’s something painfully banal about the fact that pressing the “play” key on a MacBook constitutes an EDM “performance.” But though I never would’ve believed it a few years ago, there’s a profound beauty and complexity underpinning the

John Ehrett 0
21 May 2018

Visiting D.C.’s Museum of the Bible

To take certain commentators’ reports at face value, the Museum of the Bible in downtown Washington, D.C. is just one small step removed from Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter—an expressly sectarian environment cloaked in pseudo-neutrality. At least, that’s the line peddled by Candida Moss and Joel Baden, longtime critics of the project and authors of “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby.” Echoing Moss and Baden, Vox writer Tara Isabella Burton similarly

John Ehrett 1
07 May 2018

Why I’m Not Reformed (But Admire Them Anyway)

I have a complicated relationship with Reformed theology. Growing up, I first encountered Calvinist ideas in early high school. I was floored by the thought that anyone might really embrace a kind of theological “hard determinism,” in which anything could ultimately be causally attributed to God. It took only a little dot-connecting to see the implications: without free will, the Fall itself was an “act of God”… which, it seemed, would inevitably make God the

John Ehrett 2
23 Apr 2018

Why “The Prince of Egypt” Is the Bible Movie Viewers Deserve

Most “Bible movies” fall into two categories. On the one hand are saccharine, unchallenging films that cater to audiences’ predetermined tastes (anyone who’s ever browsed a megachurch library will immediately recognize the type). On the other are more daring secular takes that inevitably end up sparking some controversy or another (I’m reminded of Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” and Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings”). But every year or so, I revisit DreamWorks’ 1998 animated masterpiece “The

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