29 Nov 2020

Advent Devotionals – Week One

Advent is about anticipation. As a young child might anxiously await the riches of opening presents on Christmas morning, so the Church awaits the coming of the Lord, which it understands to be the riches of God’s grace breaking forth into human history to save us. Each year, in the prayers, Scripture readings, and liturgy of Advent, the Church invites all of us to wait patiently and journey faithfully together through dark and uncertain times

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23 Nov 2020

Surprises in the History of Early Pentecostalism in Brazil

I remember, several years ago, learning for the first time about the demographic shifts in world Christianity that took place over the course of the 20th century. Pie charts from the Pew Research Forum compared the “Regional Distribution of Christians” in 1910 with the distribution a century later in 2010.[1] The 1910 chart showed about 96% of the world’s Christians to be located in Europe or the Americas, while the 2010 chart showed significant Christian

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04 Nov 2020

Divisiveness on Conciliar Post

We live in a divisive time. As I write these words, the outcome of America’s presidential election is uncertain (and may remain so for some time). Regardless of the result, it will leave many unsatisfied and will further foment tension. Now is a fitting time to remind ourselves that, at Conciliar Post, our mission is to facilitate meaningful dialogue across Christian traditions. This is becoming more and more difficult. The reality is that our own

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30 Oct 2020

Canoeing the Mountains

After fifteen difficult months of travel, they had made it. Lewis and Clark had reached the spring that began the Missouri River, that great river they had been following since they crossed the Mississippi and began their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. For over three hundred years before Lewis and Clark arrived at this spot, explorers from numerous nations had assumed that just beyond the headwaters of the Missouri were the headwaters to the Columbia

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28 Oct 2020

Review: Hear Us Emmanuel: Another Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church

Hear Us, Emmanuel: Another Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church (Doug Serven, ed.) is a collection of essays that addresses a variety of issues regarding racial inequality and the church in the United States. The compilation, a follow-up to Heal Us Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church (2016), is the attempt of a particular denomination (Presbyterian Church in America) to address these issues specifically within

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26 Oct 2020

The Longest Lent

Lent began eight months ago today.   Eight months ago I was in a cool, dark sanctuary, listening to my vicar say “You are going to die.” I didn’t know how accurate that statement would be for this year. We rose, row by row. Ashes were traced across my forehead, I returned to my seat. We rose, row by row, again going forward—this time to receive the bread, the wine. In darkness we stepped into

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24 Oct 2020

Aquinas, Protestants, and the Book I Wish Was Read More

For we think of a thing, in one sense, when we think of the word that signifies it, and in another sense, when we understand the very thing itself. -Anselm, Proslogion, IV Problems with Comparative Studies I’ve noted in another post the resurgence of interest in Thomas Aquinas and Thomism among Protestants. One ‘type’ or genre of writing that is popular in this resurgence is what I’ll call a comparative approach. This approach asks what Thomas (or

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20 Oct 2020

William Temple’s Vision for a Truly Catholic Church

Anglicans and the Catholic Church There is often confusion about the meaning of the word “catholic” within the Christian religion. Used as a common adjective, the word simply means “universal.” This seems to be what the Apostles’ Creed refers to when it speaks of the “holy catholic church.” It is also the meaning that Protestants tend to prefer when they use the word. On the other hand, throughout most of church history, Christians have also

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14 Oct 2020

Of Gnosis and Seagulls

The first time I read Richard Bach’s beloved novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I was charmed. This slim volume tells the tale of a young seagull, Jonathan, and his quest to master both the art of flying and the depths of self. On the surface, there’s much to enjoy. The story has a forthright, fable-like quality. The themes of youthful idealism, self-discovery, and growing wise are compelling and relatable. Even the grainy, black-and-white photos of seagulls

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03 Oct 2020

Round Table: Free Speech

“How should Christians think about free speech?” We asked three of our editors to reflect on this question. Their essays raise fundamental issues Christians must wrestle through if we hope to facilitate real dialogue in our increasingly polarized society. These reflections center on the definition of free speech, when free speech becomes a problem, and what sort of action ought to be taken in our current moment. In the spirit of Christian charity, we have

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02 Oct 2020

Free Speech Roundtable: Speaking Freely in Christ

Let me begin with a confession: I do not know how freedom of speech should be legislated in a modern, democratic nation-state, and I will not do my readers the disservice of pretending otherwise. It seems probable to me that, in a fallen world, John Ehrett and Barbara White are correct: a largely unrestricted understanding of free speech is a substantive moral good and provides important safeguards against our sinful desire to control, coerce and

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01 Oct 2020

Free Speech Round Table: The Quiet Courage of Free Expression

Nobody likes free speech. This may seem incongruous or even controversial in a theological roundtable dedicated to weighing the relative merits and Christian response to issues of free speech, but I am convinced that it is true. Free speech guarantees that you will hear something you don’t like, or even that deeply offends and troubles you. You have to listen to mean people tell lies, sometimes about things you believe in. And despite this, I

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30 Sep 2020

Freedom of Speech Round Table: Revising Our Definition of Freedom

As Christians, our relationship to freedom of speech is complicated. On the one hand, it is certainly a gift. C.S. Lewis once remarked in Mere Christianity that it’s good Christians cannot impose their views of marriage onto non-Christians, because Christians would not want Muslims to forbid drinking alcohol. In an ever-secularizing world, freedom of speech is a necessity: I have to be okay with the existence of acts of speech like “Immersion (Piss Christ)” by

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29 Sep 2020

Free Speech Round Table: The (Substantive) Christian Case for Free Speech

The problem of liberty is a frequent motif among right-of-center political commentators these days. According to a growing number of writers informed by the Christian (primarily Catholic) theological tradition, the “traditional” or “libertarian” American case for personal freedom—understood in the sense of an abstract commitment to certain procedural limitations or an ill-defined ideal of absolute autonomy—is no longer sufficient. Rather, any arguments for social policies or practices must be founded in a substantive account of

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28 Sep 2020

Free Speech Round Table: When to Speak and when to be Silent

The July 7th publication of A Letter on Justice and Open Debate in Harper’s Magazine sounded an alarm: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” Glancing at the list of signatories, many of us will find figures we respect—or at least figures to whom we listen. Their letter argues against “swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” It

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24 Sep 2020

In Memoriam, Prof. Philip Rousseau

Early Christian Studies has just lost an important voice. No one will ask me to write a remembrance of Prof. Philip Rousseau, who passed away on September 3rd, 2020. I cannot claim to have been a family member, close personal friend, PhD directee or professional peer. Although I worked alongside him for seven years, I was formally his student for only a single semester—my first at the Catholic University of America—in 2008. Still, such is

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21 Sep 2020

Self-Interrogation and Writing on Conflict in Christian History

I find “Meaningful Dialogue Across Christian Traditions,” the headline at Conciliar Post, to be a simple and beautiful way to capture much of what we write here. The common ground of faith in Christ, accompanied by a sense that various Christian traditions have potential strengths others can benefit from, makes for a wide-ranging and charitable field of discussion of which I am glad to be a part. Considering my appreciation for this kind of harmony,

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09 Sep 2020

Immeasurable Grace: How a Buddhist Reformer Led Me to the Gospel

The summer after my freshman year of high school, my family vacationed in Lahaina, a picturesque town on the western side of Maui. My parents and brother were drawn to the beach, but I was pulled in a different direction. There were Buddhist temples in town, and I was a starry-eyed, self-proclaimed admirer of Buddhism. One afternoon, my mother and I slipped away to take a tour of the closest temple I could find: the

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24 Aug 2020

The Evangelism or Social Action Question—A View from Late 19th Century Paraguay

One perennial question for Christians when it comes to a church’s local outreach or missions is the relative priority that should be given to evangelism and to social action. I am sorry to present this dichotomy, because many theologians have rightly spoken out against any polarization of these two tasks. The gospel news of Christ’s incarnation and work on the cross speaks so directly to how people should live, and anticipates so enthusiastically the new

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29 Jul 2020

It is a Sin Not to Wear a Facemask

Anyone perusing social media these days will be well aware that the latest politicized controversy dividing American society is about wearing facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic. One cannot make a simple trip to the grocery store without becoming bogged in a morass of invisible social pressure, judgment, and labels regarding whether one decides to don a face covering or not. Christians and Christian Churches are divided, largely along political lines, as to the compulsoriness of

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