27 May 2016

The Shadow of the Sacred

The Shadow of the Sacred I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to tour Israel and visit a number of historical and sacred sites. And as I fully anticipated from the beginning, the trip’s most memorable moments by far were found within the city of Jerusalem. Seated at the intersection of three different faith traditions—Jewish, Christian, and Islamic—the city has been contested for centuries, and currently exists in an uneasy “status quo” arrangement predicated on mutual

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17 May 2016

Round Table: Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? This is a question which has received much attention in recent years, with numerous theologians and cultural commentators weighing in on what has become a hotly contested debate. And rightly so, for as Christian and Islamic civilizations clash, a clarification of the foundations of each worldview remains necessary for understanding each religion and what is at stake. Yet the question of this month’s Round Table discussion does

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29 Apr 2016

Does Apophatic Theology Denature Christianity? Part II

Does Apophatic Theology Denature Christianity Part I. I. The Reality of Sin in Apophatic Theology Viewing God as the ultimate embodiment of moral rightness means that moral action, and the moral life, is intrinsically oriented away from the self: one ought to sublimate one’s own will and desires when those sentiments impel toward self-aggrandizement or self-centeredness. Moral evil, then, is a self-oriented derogation from the moral perfection God epitomizes. Spong correctly (and in line with

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15 Apr 2016

Does Apophatic Theology Denature Christianity? Part I

Introduction: Tracing the Implications of Metaphysical Theology The branch of philosophical theology known as classical theism has long written of a God who is the Ground and Source of Being, both wholly transcendent and wholly immanent (Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart’s brilliant exposition and defense of this concept, The Experience of God, is still one of the most influential and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read). This concept, implicit in Eastern Orthodox and much Catholic

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28 Mar 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice | Movie Review

This movie is not as bad as you may have heard. It is much, much worse. This is the kind of movie that a fourteen-year-old, who thinks they’re “edgy” after just discovering Nine Inch Nails and Richard Dawkins, would make in stop-motion with their old action figures. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was supposed to be the movie that launched D.C. Comics’ own competitor to Marvel’s Avengers juggernaut. And while I’ve had a few

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18 Mar 2016

Sola Scriptura and Interpretive Paradox

In most Christian circles, the simple statement that “Christians interpret the Bible in a different way than they interpret the Constitution” would probably be largely uncontroversial. The intuitive objection to juxtaposing the documents in this way–that the Bible is the Word of God, while the Constitution is man’s words–does not directly address the interesting paradox: why do many political and theological conservatives use interpretively “liberal” language (“underlying purpose,” “culturally specific,” “not literal”) in their interpretation

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03 Mar 2016

No Longer Scandalized?

Revisiting Mark Noll in 2016 Though it’s had an outsize impact on evangelical intellectual culture, I’d never actually sat down with Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind until this past week. Centrally, Noll (himself a Reformed evangelical) argues that the rise of fundamentalism drove a lasting wedge between mainstream academic inquiry and American Protestant communities. In Noll’s telling, this cleavage led to previously fringe theological positions (six-day creationism, flood geology, strict biblical literalism)

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22 Feb 2016

Deadpool | Movie Review

I watched this movie, first and foremost, because I promised the filmmakers on Twitter that I would, back when they were trying to get it greenlit. (Never let it be said that I don’t put my social media slacktivism into practice!) Clearly, an R-rated superhero black comedy was a hard sell to the studio–and indeed, Deadpool isn’t exactly a member of Marvel’s A-list squad. While “Deadpool” exists within the same satirical tradition that gave viewers

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18 Feb 2016

Mercy, Justice Scalia, and the Price of Self-Government

The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia has set off a flurry of political debate and public controversy over the judicial titan’s legacy. While most media attention has breathlessly fixated on the congressional gamesmanship to come, critical consideration has also been paid to Scalia’s approach to judicial life. Some have glibly crowed over perceived inconsistencies in Scalia’s opinions, but more courageous critics have turned instead to a simple frontal attack: rigid application of an archaic document,

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04 Feb 2016

Mark Driscoll’s Golden Parachute

Or, Why Denominations Matter Among those Americans who felt the brunt of the 2008 financial crisis, many were infuriated when the Wall Street bankers involved–many of whom had engaged in high-risk trading behaviors–faced virtually no consequences. Instead, many walked away with multimillion-dollar “golden parachutes” and cycled into new professional pursuits. The message sent was intolerable to many victims of the crash: within the financial sector’s privileged caste, reckless and dubiously-legal behavior does indeed pay off

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21 Jan 2016

Imperfect Gifts

Like many in my generation, I’ve been playing Adele’s mega-smash album 25 on repeat during the last few months. Upon multiple listenings, however, a strange realization has struck me: the album is so pristinely produced–so utterly devoid of mistakes–that it feels almost inhuman. This isn’t the fault of the singer: similar music performed in a more intimate setting, while not without its minor recording imperfections, is much more moving–and, I submit, more beautiful. Instead, the

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11 Jan 2016

The Revenant | Movie Review

The marketing materials for “The Revenant” have pitched the movie as a Canadian-wilderness revenge drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who gets smashed around by a gigantic bear. And while that’s all entirely accurate, “The Revenant” aspires to be something more – a haunting glimpse of alien northern landscapes untouched by human hands, within which a lone survivor must come to terms with both his own mortality and his own insignificance. In the capable hands of director

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07 Jan 2016

Concussion | Movie Review

For many today, the observation that “football causes concussions” is such an intuitive proposition that it borders on the redundant. The precise link between professional football and severe neurological damage, however, hadn’t been identified until recently – via a controversial series of events that sparked multimillion-dollar litigation. Inspired by an outstanding GQ article, “Concussion” recounts the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an neurodegenerative condition found in NFL players as

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21 Dec 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Movie Review

Out of all the giant megafranchises that rule Hollywood, “Star Wars” holds a special place in my heart. I first saw the original trilogy as a kindergartener during the 1997 rereleases, grew up with the prequels, played several of the video games, read a few of the novels, and generally acquired an embarrassing level of dork knowledge (if you want to talk about the difference between Dathomir and Dantooine, or between the Rodians and the

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14 Dec 2015

Spotlight | Movie Review

Journalists – particularly those covering highly sensitive events – are often the targets of well-deserved critique (consider, for instance, the grotesque spectacle of the past week that witnessed live news crews rooting through the apartment of deceased mass shooters). Yet often it is journalists who do the legwork required to properly expose hidden evil to public scrutiny, igniting the sparks of major change. “Spotlight” is the story of one such exposure: namely, the revelation that

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09 Dec 2015

“Star Wars” and the Immanence of Myth

As a longtime fan of the “Star Wars” saga (yes, I even have a soft spot for the dysfunctional prequels), I eagerly anticipate the release of the long-awaited seventh installment. And like countless other nerds, I’ve watched the few snippets of promotional material more times than I care to admit. (After all, one can never watch enough lightsaber duels). Perhaps the most striking moment of the most recent trailer for me, however, was the short

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27 Nov 2015

V for Vendetta and the Problem of Eisegesis

Another November 5 has come and gone, and with it contemporary culture’s annual celebration of James McTeigue’s 2005 action film V for Vendetta, which popularized the Guy Fawkes mask often associated with digital surveillance protests and the Anonymous hacking collective. And every year, I find it exceedingly fascinating that the film is embraced and celebrated by individuals across radically different political traditions. Leftists praise the rising of the common people against an oppressive, Eurocentric-fascistic hierarchy.

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16 Nov 2015

Spectre | Movie Review

“Spectre” is a frustrating film to review: in its attempt to provide a resolution to the last several films, it has one hand in the best of modern James Bond (“Casino Royale,” “Skyfall”) and one in the worst (“Quantum of Solace”). Here, Bond (Daniel Craig) continues his journey into the modern era: MI6 is planning to launch a giant global surveillance program, while villainous organization Spectre (headed by an enigmatic figure allegedly from Bond’s past)

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12 Nov 2015

Conscience for Me, But Not for Thee

As a current law student at Yale, I was intrigued to read Ben Weingarten’s recent piece in The Federalist, “Allah and Man at Yale,” decrying Yale Law School’s decision to accept a significant gift for the creation of a new “Center for Islamic Law and Civilization.” My disagreements with Weingarten’s piece run deep. Not only do I strongly dispute Weingarten’s characterization of the new Islamic law center as a specter of “Islamic supremacism,” but the

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29 Oct 2015

On Lutheranism as “Reformational Catholicism”

On Lutheranism as Leithart’s “Reformational Catholicism” As a theologically conservative Lutheran who acknowledges the debt my faith owes to generations past, my celebration of the Reformation is bittersweet. What began as a pushback against corruptive authoritarianism and the exploitation of the weak eventually became an insurmountable, blood-soaked divide within Western Christianity. In this venue and others, I have argued in defense of the rigor and merit of Catholic thought, and in so doing critiqued the

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