18 May 2020

Book Review: “Theological Territories: A David Bentley Hart Digest”

If you are the sort of person likely to pick up Theological Territories, you are probably also the sort of person who already has a fairly settled opinion—whether positive or negative—about its author. (I count myself in the former camp.) Unlike last year’s controversial That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, this time around Hart isn’t writing for general audiences: Theological Territories is, for the most part, a collection of addresses and

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20 Apr 2020

Modern Art and the Sacramental Sensibility

Over the last five years or so, I’ve developed an abiding interest in that most mocked of things: modern art. (Last fall, my long-suffering wife spent about four hours longer in the MoMA than she would’ve liked.) The genesis of that interest was a book I read in law school (thanks to a Conciliar Post recommendation, as it were): Daniel A. Siedell’s God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art. A few weeks

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23 Mar 2020

What Should Seminaries Be For?

I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on Timon Cline’s fascinating article from last year, “The School of Churchmen.” In particular, Timon raises an important question that, I think, all Christians would benefit from pondering at least once in a while: What should seminaries be for? This question is particularly interesting to me because it’s one that I repeatedly asked myself when I was researching seminaries for my master’s degree. Speaking from my (admittedly

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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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24 Feb 2020

Further Thoughts on Keeping the KJV

A few months ago, I penned a piece encouraging contemporary Christians not to abandon the distinctive—if somewhat arcane—lyricism of the King James Bible. In the course of my argument, I mentioned Mark Ward’s recent book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, which argues that the modern church should migrate toward the use of more accessible translations. Ward himself was gracious enough to show up in the comments section of that piece,

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27 Jan 2020

Universal Salvation and the Loss of the Law

In my last article for Conciliar Post, I argued that teaching universal salvation from the pulpit—irrespective of whether one is convinced by the view—would likely have a negative effect on the spiritual well-being of most modern churchgoers. That would happen, I argued, because the logic of sin as harmful in itself to human flourishing has largely been forgotten. Over email following publication of that piece, a fellow CP contributor questioned whether, in making such an

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16 Dec 2019

Is Teaching Universal Salvation Pastoral Malpractice?

There’s been plenty of chatter in the theological blogosphere over David Bentley Hart’s provocative new book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, which argues forcefully that for God to be truly God, all things must ultimately be reconciled to Him. Much can be—and has been—said already about the merits of Hart’s argument (my own review is coming out in Ad Fontes in a few weeks). But as I’ve reflected on the

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17 Nov 2019

Why I Love Art Deco

Whether we’re talking about churches, universities, or office buildings, in almost every case I’m a staunch defender of architectural classicism. To my mind, the built environment should be more beautiful than dated “modernist” rectangles, grungy Brutalist monstrosities, or deranged postmodern creations: it’s not hard to intuit that there are certain forms that comport with our deepest aesthetic convictions (as traced by Nikos Salingaros in his magisterial Twelve Lectures on Architecture: Algorithmic Sustainable Design). Give me

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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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21 Oct 2019

Don’t Kick the KJV

Over the last few years, there’s been a spate of critiques in the evangelical world (most noticeably, in my assessment, from the broadly Reformed camp) of the continuing use by Christians of the King James Version—the venerable biblical translation that the West has known and loved since its first publication. Perhaps the best example of this line of criticism is Mark Ward’s book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible—a comprehensive polemic

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23 Sep 2019

A Theophany of Plants?

Last week, Union Theological Seminary—perhaps the epicenter of liberal Protestantism—tweeted out a photo that was roundly mocked across the internet: students “confessing to plants” in a chapel service, offering their “grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow” to “the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.” In follow-up tweets, Union explained that the rite was a response to a recent visit by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Native American botanist

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02 Sep 2019

Round Table: The Knowability of God

The Scriptures are somewhat ambiguous about how fully God can be known by human beings. On the one hand, the Son has revealed God to be our Father and has pioneered the path of faith—offering unprecedented access through grace. Jesus teaches that the pure in heart “will see God” (Matt 5:8). Likewise in the first Johannine epistle: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do

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26 Aug 2019

High-Church Christianity, Evangelicalism, and the Snob Problem

One of the most familiar themes here at Conciliar Post is an appreciation for the historic insights and worship practices of the two-millennia-old Church. Since the site has been online, the majority of contributors and editors have hailed from liturgical backgrounds—whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, or something else altogether. And the blogosphere at large is filled with accounts of young Christians transitioning from the evangelical or nondenominational church experiences of their upbringings into high-church traditions.

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01 Aug 2019

Not So “Young, Restless, Reformed” Anymore?

A few months ago, after reading Timon Cline’s review, I watched the recent documentary film Calvinist. The film is not a history of the Reformed tradition or even of the “doctrines of grace’ themselves.  Rather, it’s a celebration of a distinctly contemporary moment in American Christianity—namely, the “Calvinist turn” in evangelical theology and culture that goes by the moniker Young, Restless, and Reformed (often abbreviated “YRR”). In the film’s optimistic telling, this particular revival of

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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

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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

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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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