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
I greatly appreciated reading Timon Cline’s recent piece, The Necessity of Contingency, written in response to AJ Maynard’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and the Pitfalls of Calvinism. In fact, I wish I’d read something like Timon’s piece a few years ago, during one of my more vitriolic anti-Calvinist stages. Indeed, over the last few years, I’ve come to learn (to my chagrin) that I’ve been trafficking in mischaracterizations of historic Reformed thought. In my concern to
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
“The word ‘God’ defines a personal relation, not an objective concept. Like the name of the beloved in every love, it does not imply separation and distance. Hearing the beloved’s name is an immediate awareness, a dimensionless proximity of presence. It is our life wholly transformed into relation.” —Christos Yannaras, Variations of the Song of Songs THE EROTIC GIFT OF SELF-DENIAL Love transforms existence into relation. Without love, the created order exists in a
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
Theology “Then and Now” More than four years ago, I published my first essay on Conciliar Post. It laid out what I consider to be the first principles of theological reasoning, but it also noted that—like all of us—I am still “on the way.” I stand behind these principles: the centrality of Christ, the contingency of created order, the need for grace, and the soul’s ascent to God. I also stand behind the fact that
Just two weeks ago, the US was the site of horrific terror. Two people were murdered in what appears to be a racially motivated shooting in Kentucky; members of a synagogue in Pittsburgh were the victims of what may be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history; pipe bombs were mailed to prominent critics of Donald Trump. These acts of violence are not blips on the radar and they did not happen in a vacuum.
On Nakedness and Shame Human beings show an almost universal desire to conceal certain parts of their body from the gaze of others, especially persons of the opposite sex. We react instantaneously and spontaneously to try and hide our nakedness. But why do we respond in such a way, and why do we feel shame if we are exposed to the gaze of others? Jean-Paul Sartre and Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II)
There is an inherent order to creation that becomes apparent when we slow down, set aside results-driven frameworks, and simply observe. For instance, a student of mine recently shared that the Iroquois people claimed to have been taught maple syrup extraction “by the squirrel.” While many dismissed this story as useless babble, a 1992 study observed red squirrels systematically tapping maple syrup via “chisel-like grooves.” It represents a profound failure of imagination that we tend
Sin is a complicated subject. Not only do theologians disagree as to what sin actually is, but Christians seem to be confused as to what is actually “sinful” anymore. Homosexuality, for instance, seems to be the hot topic in our time. However, I believe most of our confusion today stems from the forgotten reality that sin is, and always has been, a subjective experience for man; so it is this aspect of sin that I wish
The beautiful is that which is pleasing when apprehended… – Thomas Aquinas In 1970, looking out over the world, still picking up the carnage of its two world wars, and looking back over his own life, ravaged by the brutality of the USSR, Alexander Solzhenitsyn mused upon the ‘enigmatic remark’ of Dostoevsky’s idiot: “beauty will save the world.” “What sort of a statement is that?” Solzhenitsyn asks, “when in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save
I was recently perusing the latest edition of JAAR (Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 86 ) and was reminded of why I have been, shall I say, pessimistic about the current practice of so-called academic theology. Still, all is not without hope. And this recent article—a cause for such hope in my estimation— has put me in mind to write my own few lines about the subject of theology and the academy.
Christian liturgy involves cycles of repetition. We have recurring liturgical calendars, weekly gatherings of worship, the Eucharist, and the recitation of important prayers. The repetitive nature of Christian worship is, in my experience, one of its greatest strengths. It is through such liturgical repetition that we engage in disciplined spiritual formation, remind ourselves of the gospel, and actively engage in historic practices of the Church. But what is happening when we engage in these repetitive
A friend and I recently conversed about possible positive appropriations of “open theism.”1 While initially ill-at-ease with the label, I soon began to understand why this movement has been so influential. In an effort to learn more, I read chapter three of The Openness of God (a seminal text for open theism). What follows is my critique. Metaphysics and Personhood Throughout this chapter, Pinnock goes out of his way to situate “metaphysics” in opposition to
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
Introduction Early in The Dark Knight, Alfred describes the Joker in perhaps the most memorable lines of the film: Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn. The Joker is characterized as someone who is beyond reason: crazy, deranged, out of his mind. His ostensibly pointless acts of violence and mayhem appear to reinforce this assessment.
Signs. Wonders. Inbreakings of the divine into the mundane. Transcendence foisting itself upon the natural order of things. Is this what Christians are talking about when we describe miracles? People often think of miracles and magic as synonymous. From this standpoint, miracles rupture the fabric of reality—poking holes in a static backdrop of predictable causes and effects. But reality is not as static or predictable as we assume. In his book Historical Consciousness, John Lukacs
When Calvinists argue against the conceptual validity of libertarian freedom, they undermine their own theology of God. First, let’s clear up some terminology. Libertarian freedom, according to Robert Kane, has two main components: “We believe we have free will when (a) it is ‘up to us’ what we choose from an array of alternative possibilities and (b) the origin or source of our choices and actions is in us and not in anyone or anything
“…as long as we have a body and our soul is fused with such an evil we shall never adequately attain what we desire.” – Plato (Phaedo, 66b) I often wonder what it means that God gave us bodies made of bones, flesh, and water— with fingers, for example, to pop open sodas for sipping on some hot summer day—or with eyes to wander into the gaze of others—strangers, enemies, lovers—
This is the second part of a series based on notes from a lecture delivered by Rowan Williams at Saint Louis University on 7 March, 2017. Part One can be found here. Part One: Historical Perspective If we look at the way language about Jesus Christ develops from the earliest days onwards, what we see is a gradual clarification—not just of what is said about Christ, but of what is said about God. In the early