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

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 0
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,

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 2
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

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 0
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

John Ehrett 0
12 Jul 2017

Troublesome Trinitarianism

Note: Any time one writes about Trinity-related issues, they’re treading into dangerous theological territory. Accordingly, where I’ve overlooked important distinctions or overstepped my bounds, I welcome correction from those more rigorously trained than me. The recent film adaptation of The Shack put debates about the doctrine of the Trinity back on the public radar. Longtime critics of author William Paul Young drew fresh ammunition from his new volume Lies We Believe About God, a nonfiction

John Ehrett 7
20 Jun 2017

Charles Taylor and “The Witch”

Last year, a curious little horror movie made something of a splash in the indie scene. The Witch: A New England Folktale follows an early American Puritan family’s descent into wilderness madness after their banishment from their community. As the story progresses, it becomes less and less clear whether the misfortunes that befall them are of their doing, or are the work of actual demonic forces. The Witch, with its surreal interludes and conclusion, was

John Ehrett 1
16 May 2017

Evangelical Apocalypse Anxiety

With Donald Trump in the White House, a right-leaning Supreme Court restored to full strength, majorities in both chambers of Congress, and an overwhelming advantage in statehouses across the country, American political power is firmly in the hands of Republicans. This “revenge of the Right” has left some sociologists wondering why, despite having gained such a decisive upper hand politically, so many American evangelicals perceive themselves as threatened. This isn’t a new question, and religious

John Ehrett 2
09 May 2017

Round Table: Angels and Demons

Christianity makes some bold claims: God created the universe. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Human existence does not end at physical death. These statements all point to an important component of the Christian worldview: that which we can see, touch, and measure—the physical world—is not all that is. Reality is composed of something beyond the natural, physical material that we see all around us. Once one accepts the reality of the non-natural, an important question

John Ehrett 7
04 May 2017

A Short Introduction to the Syrian Orthodox Church

Over the last few years, numerous reports have reached the West of Syrian Christians suffering at the hands of ISIS militants. While the overwhelming majority of American Christians correctly recognizes members of the Syrian church as fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, most would probably be hard-pressed to explain the unique richness of the Syrian Orthodox Christian tradition. The Syrian Orthodox Church is deeply rooted in early Christian history, and can readily trace the

John Ehrett 2
28 Apr 2017

The Dark Theology of Stephen King

Stephen King’s brand isn’t exactly synonymous with spirituality. He’s undoubtedly best known for his prominence as a writer of horror fiction—from “Carrie” and “Cujo” to “Pet Sematary” and “Desperation.” His books are drenched in macabre darkness, packed from start to finish with imagery that ranges from horrifyingly visceral to utterly surreal. I’ve been a King aficionado for the better part of a decade (and have written about this subject before). I continue to find myself

John Ehrett 0
20 Apr 2017

Fake News and the Church

Over the last few months, “fake news”—fraudulent journalism passed off as factual—has become one of the hottest topics in cultural debate. Though deceptive news stories are certainly nothing new, their power to reach massive audiences (thanks to social media) has only grown over time. In an era dominated by confirmation biases, fake news can rapidly lead to misperceptions of reality. In part, this is due to the fact that no one quite knows who to

John Ehrett 1
10 Apr 2017

World Christianity or Global Christianity?

As part of my ongoing quest to develop a more systematized theological background, I recently completed the coursework to earn a certificate in theology and ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary. Among my theologically conservative friends, I caught some flak for this choice: traditionally affiliated with the Presbyterian Church–USA (PCUSA), Princeton Seminary has long been accused of heterodox theological liberalism. Indeed, such institutional trends impelled then-professor J. Gresham Machen to found Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929.

John Ehrett 1
10 Mar 2017

Book Review: “The Benedict Option”

I. Introduction This article has been percolating for a very long time. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t reflect on how my faith intersects with the evolving American public sphere, and I’ve probably spent more time writing and rewriting this review than just about anything I’ve worked on in the last couple of years. Plainly, American Christianity stands at a cultural crossroads. And with the release of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for

John Ehrett 1