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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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09 Apr 2018

Book Review: “Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World”

Peter Leithart’s slim 2016 volume The End of Protestantism outlined a bold vision for a post-denominational Christianity, but was skimpy on theological specifics. Now, Lutheran academic Gene Edward Veith and Lutheran pastor A. Trevor Sutton have answered Leithart’s call. Their new book Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World is an ambitious, audacious case for confessional Lutheranism as a universal Christian denomination (or, in their words, a “metachurch”). Veith and Sutton go

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26 Mar 2018

A Brave New Post-Secular World

In my final semester of law school, I had the opportunity to take a unique interdisciplinary class—“Law, Environment, and Religion: A Communion of Subjects”—taught through the law, forestry, and divinity schools. There’s a great deal I could say about this course, but one thing in particular stands out in hindsight: the way my classmates responded to its content. Almost to a person, they agreed that the course provided a uniquely valuable opportunity to discuss their

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12 Mar 2018

A Vigorous Defense of “The Shape of Water”

Last week, Guillermo del Toro’s masterful film “The Shape of Water” won big at the Oscars. The movie took home not only the Academy Award for Best Picture, but also awards for Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. As a longtime admirer of del Toro’s work—his 2006 historical fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth” is my all-time favorite film—I was naturally delighted to see him receive the accolades he deserves. Make no mistake, “Shape” is

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26 Feb 2018

Book Review: “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”

Jordan Peterson —the University of Toronto psychology professor who rose to prominence after taking a controversial stand against his university’s decision to mandate the use of transgender students’ preferred pronouns—has rapidly emerged as one of today’s most interesting public figures. Famed for his provocative YouTube videos expressing hard truths to young men, Peterson routinely stresses the evolutionary realities of life and humans’ place in the world. Given this pattern, one might expect Peterson’s recent book

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12 Feb 2018

Book Review: “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan”

“Epically ambitious” is a good way to describe Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan, Yale professor Anthony Kronman’s magisterial evaluation of Western theology, history and philosophy. Kronman’s grand goal—advancing and defending a theological “third way” between theism and atheism—is staggering in scope, a project that canvasses thousands of years of Western culture. And despite its voluminous page count, Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan is a spellbinding read. Confessions deftly weaves together art, philosophy, science, history, music,

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29 Jan 2018

Still Searching for God in the “Waves”

Up until a year or so ago, I’d never even heard of Mike McHargue, better known by his online moniker “Science Mike.” McHargue, a touring speaker and co-host of the popular “The Liturgists” podcast (and erstwhile contributor to Conciliar Post), has emerged as a prominent voice in the “post-evangelical” space occupied by writers like Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, and David Gushee. Curious to learn more, I read through McHargue’s memoir of faith, “Finding God

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15 Jan 2018

“Mother!” Of God?

As far as I’m concerned, Darren Aronofsky is the best film director working today. The auteur behind movies as diverse as “Pi,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain,” “The Wrestler,” “Black Swan,” and “Noah,” Aronofsky creates works that blend surreal imagery, wrenching performances, and complex spiritual motifs. “Mother!,” his latest, is no exception—as Ben Winter recently noted. Indeed, it might be Aronofsky’s most ambitious work yet—and will undoubtedly be the most controversial. It’s impossible to

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06 Sep 2017

Spaces for Dissent?

I’ve always been intrigued by the phenomenon of “Catholics in dissent”—those who claim affiliation with the Catholic Church, but aren’t shy about registering their opposition to certain more-or-less authoritative teachings. At least some commentators have argued that “in order to protect the intellectual vitality of the Church’s understanding of itself, responsible dissent is not only allowed, it is required.” As a low-level dissenter from the official doctrine of my denomination—I don’t adhere to the view

John Ehrett 1
08 Aug 2017

Art and Its Justifications

Over the last few months, there’ve been more than a few controversies about art. For instance: the National Endowment for the Arts has found itself on the budgetary chopping block; white artist Dana Schutz’s painting of murdered black teen Emmitt Till has been denounced as exploitative; Netflix’s suicide-themed drama “13 Reasons Why” has been called an irresponsible and dangerous work; a standoff between sculptures on Wall Street has raised questions about artistic integrity. These brouhahas

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27 Jul 2017

Benedict Optioning, Protestant-Style

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rod Dreher’s much-hyped (and bestselling) book The Benedict Option in the weeks since its publication. While I had many critiques of the book’s lament-oriented aspects, I agreed with a great deal of it—particularly Dreher’s call to focus on developing doctrine among the youth of the church. However, Dreher’s book focused primarily on Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities’ approaches to fostering such catechesis, and largely left unanswered the question of

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