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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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

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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

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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

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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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