17 Mar 2021

“Keeping Wide and Kind the Bounds of Christian Fellowship”: Robert E. Speer on Christians Working Together

Like congregations working together to carry out ministries of mercy in their local areas, our writing together at Conciliar Post is a kind of cooperative Christian endeavor, based on the idea that we can all learn from the various emphases that have been cultivated by our various traditions. While often this kind of action flows naturally out of shared Christian convictions, some have attempted to explain the basis of cooperation scripturally and theologically. One such

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03 Feb 2021

What is Reformed Theology? A Review of the OUP Handbook of Reformed Theology

The year 2017 saw a flurry of publications on Protestantism, the Reformation, and its various theological traditions. Some were good. Many were merely opportunistic. The recent publication of The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology, edited by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, is not merely opportunistic. This volume is rather clearer-headed regarding its aims, organization, and content than many of those that made an appearance in the publishing frenzy of 2017. Though not opportunistic, I

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11 Jan 2021

Goals and Motivations for Presenting Sin in Church History

During the past several months, I have had the privilege to take part in weekly small group discussions, sponsored by a local ecumenical organization, on Christian responses to racial injustices in the United States. The curriculum, designed by Latasha Morrison, leads participants through several liturgical phases, a few early steps of which are acknowledgment, lament, and confession. These steps, particularly acknowledgment, with its emphasis on knowing the history of racial prejudice, have forced me to

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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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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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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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08 Jul 2020

Discovering the Late 19th Century Arguments for Women’s Preaching and Ministry

For all of my life, I have been a part of a US Presbyterian denomination which does not ordain women to the ministry. The extent to which women are allowed to teach men in church settings, lead in formal worship, or serve in non-ordained diaconal roles varies a good deal congregation by congregation. Nevertheless, across the board, preaching in regular services and serving as an elder is possible only for men. This fact, of course,

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13 Apr 2020

John Cotton, Protestant Integralist

What follows is, so far as I can tell, the basic tenets of Catholic integralism— a topic of heated debate lately— or what is sometime called “Gelasian dyarchy,” a reference to Pope Saint Gelasius’ letter to Emperor Anastasius in the late fifth-century which espoused the dualistic principle of church and state, (i.e. “duo sunt”). 1) There are two powers that rule humanity: a temporal power (the state) and a spiritual power (the Church). Since man’s

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28 Feb 2020

On The Law of Nature: A Demonstrative Method (A Book Review)

Niels Hemmingsen, On the Law of Nature: A Demonstrative Method, trans. E. J. Hutchinson (Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law, 2nd Series, Grand Rapids: CLP Academic, 2018), 202 pp. Over the past couple of decades or so, there has been a remarkable surge of interest in post-Reformation Reformed theology, with a particular emphasis on republishing previously untranslated primary sources. A natural result of this trend has been an accompanying enthusiasm for assessing early

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04 Oct 2019

Going Beyond “A Secular Age”

In this, the twenty-seventh year of my life, I find myself turning at last to Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. As a preparation for (and procrastination from) the task at hand, I’ve spent considerable time reading many of the Reformed responses and engagements with A Secular Age. In the course of my informal survey, I noticed an apparent disconnect between Taylor and many of his readers. While several hundred pages remain before I’ll be able to

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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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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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08 Jun 2019

The Necessity of Contingency, Part 3: Act and Potency

This is the third installment in the series stemming from my original post, “The Necessity of Contingency.” You can view part two here. In the last post, I discussed the ontological presupposition behind classical theism, namely, man’s dependence. The goal of this post is to establish another foundational metaphysical presupposition of classical theism which will permit fuller discussion of causality, God’s knowledge, and human freedom in a later piece. What is laid out below is

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15 May 2019

The Reformed Tradition and Human Freedom: An Overview of the Scholarship

I have been both fascinated and, it must be admitted, frustrated with the some of the discussions on Conciliar Post of so-called “Calvinism” over the past couple of years. The most recent set of discussions has been for me, I happily admit, more fascinating than frustrating. Rather than inserting myself into the middle of so fine a discussion being carried out by Timon, Jody, and John (wouldn’t want to darken their counsel, after all), I

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19 Apr 2019

The Necessity of Contingency, Part 2: Human Freedom

Last month I wrote a post called the “The Necessity of Contingency.” It was largely a response to an earlier post by AJ, though I also addressed some other issues surrounding the label of “Calvinism.” My basic argument, however, was that Reformed theology, properly understood, does not espouse determinism, and that the idea of real contingencies are essential to the Reformed conception of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom.   An impromptu roundtable has emerged, which

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15 Mar 2019

The Necessity of Contingency

One of my favorite aspects of writing for Conciliar Post is the chance to engage with others of ecclesiastical traditions and theological persuasions different from my own. This requires the willingness to have my own convictions critiqued, and attempting, when able, to respond with all the charity and clarity that a sinner like myself can muster.   AJ Maynard, in his recent post, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and the Pitfalls of Calvinism, has offered another opportunity

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15 Feb 2019

Althusius, Symbiotic Man, and Reliving the Sixteenth Century

Introduction Back in December, historian Niall Ferguson gave a lecture in which he drew an analogy between today’s political polarization and the religious polarization of the post-Reformation sixteenth century, which as we know, led to a hundred-year decimation of Europe and culminated in the Thirty Years’ War. Ferguson’s analysis suffers from an overly materialistic focus, as secular historians are wont to employ, and fails to give due regard to theological motivations. This is forgivable since

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21 Jan 2019

Book Review: Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense

David Haines and Andrew Fulford, Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense (Davenant Trust, 2017), 142 pp. Introduction A recent book by David Haines and Andrew Fulford, and published by the Davenant Institute, called, Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and Biblical Defense, seeks to acquaint Protestants with the natural law tradition as it was received and developed by the Magisterial Reformers of the sixteenth century and the Reformed orthodox of the seventeenth century. Natural

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17 Dec 2018

Sola Fide and Justification According to Works

I recently reread one of Matthew Bryan’s posts from December 2015 titled, “The False Gospel of Protestantism.” While I was reading it, I was struck first with regret that Matt does not write as regularly for CP anymore. I have always enjoyed his articles (although I almost always disagree with his position) and profit from engaging with him in the comments section. For being a “post-Protestant,” he certainly embodies what I consider to be a

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12 Dec 2018

Reformed Catholicity: A Review

Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation, by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain Importance of the book Michael Allen and Scott Swain have written (and Baker Academic has published) an important book. Let me highlight three reasons for its importance. First, they are seeking to recover and reappropriate what was an essential Protestant polemical claim early on, that Protestants are heirs of the catholic tradition. In a time when being

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