26 Nov 2020

Religion is Downstream of Technology, Part II

The Dynamic Age (roughly spanning from the final decade of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century) was one of man’s liberation. Liberation from the outdated mores and the old superstitions, from agrarian life, from backwardness, and even from nature itself. Liberation came (or was promised to come) through mastery—mastery of the self and environment (and history). As part I attempted to show, this trend of the Dynamic Age, which radically changed

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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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20 Nov 2020

Infinite Human Desire: The Afterlife of The Good Place as Affirmation of Christian Hope

Image: The Good Place promotional material, Fair Use. Since I’m usually around a year behind popular culture (if not more), I only recently watched the final season of The Good Place. I’ll go ahead and show my hand immediately—I love the show and equally loved the final season. Often described by Marc Evan Jackson—the actor who plays Shawn on the show and the host of The Good Place The Podcast—as the smartest, while simultaneously dumbest,

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13 Nov 2020

Double Polarity: Baptism, Eschatology, and the Christian Life

One of the principal debates between Catholics and Protestants in the Reformation pertained to the issue of whether Christ’s righteousness is imputed or imparted to the Christian. The Protestant doctrine of imputation occurs within a legal framework: sinful humanity cannot meet the demand of God’s perfect righteousness. In becoming Incarnate and dying on the cross, Jesus does what humans could not do by satisfying that demand. Imputation, then, is the “legal (or forensic) crediting of

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11 Nov 2020

Why We Need Centering Prayer

Just two years ago, Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. died at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA. Prior to his passing, he had lived at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Snowmass, CO, where he left a rich legacy of contemplative teaching and interfaith dialogue. Although his death was not widely reported, Fr. Keating’s passing marked the temporal close of a unique monastic ministry, one reflective of both the energy of post-Vatican II Catholicism and the meditative turn

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09 Nov 2020

Book Review: “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self”

The acclaimed novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace begins perhaps his most famous essay, This Is Water, with a memorable question: how would one fish describe to another the meaning of water? To a fish, water is so ubiquitous, so constitutive of everyday experience, that the question would be almost unintelligible. What, after all, would “not-water” even be? To a fish, water is the absolute horizon of what is realistically conceivable; it is, in the

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02 Nov 2020

Religion is Downstream of Technology, Part 1

It is often said, and usually attributed to Andrew Breitbart—though he certainly wasn’t the first to say it—that politics is downstream of culture, and that culture is downstream of religion. But a brief look at the dynamic changes of the period spanning from the late 18th century to the early 20th century (sometimes referred to as the “Dynamic Age”) suggests that, in fact, religion (or at least, religious form and expression) is downstream of technology,

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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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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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17 Oct 2020

Pensées, Reality, and le Coeur (Part Two)

In Part One of this Pascalian reflection, we considered Pascal’s first step in the path of the spiritual quest. At nearly every point of his Pensées, Pascal goads his readers to pay close attention to the movements of the soul in response to the wonders of the created world. There, he insists, you will find flickers of light, glimmers of reality breaking through the darkness. Those sparks, however, are the beginning, and not the end.

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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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12 Oct 2020

Out of Libertarianism

It doesn’t take much political acumen to see that the sun of libertarianism is setting. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the gears of globalization and exposed the weaknesses of supply chains outsourced to foreign states. Every day, the nightly news recounts the latest politically-charged interventions by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon, and the backlash from both Democrats and Republicans alike. (A swarm of antitrust hawks is circling overhead.) The culture wars

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26 Sep 2020

Book Review: Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley

Esau McCaulley, Reading while Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2020. 208 pp. Paperback $18.00. The Rev. Canon Dr. Esau McCaulley’s new book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope offers timely contributions to the current discourse on several contemporary issues. Yet its greatest contribution lies in both articulating and modeling the hermeneutics of the Black Church. McCaulley serves as a priest in the Anglican

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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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16 Sep 2020

Pensées and a Course in Reality (Part One)

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal measures the relative space of a collection of small sculptures. Small. A few inches at most. And though there are 264 of them, they could all be put in an average-sized box and stored away on a shelf somewhere. De Waal recognizes, however, that these wee pieces, called netsuke, take up considerably more space than their actual size. Paraphrasing Lord Digory, they’re bigger on the inside

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14 Sep 2020

Dogma as an “Instrument of Freedom”

Flannery O’Connor once wrote “for me dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of restriction. It preserves mystery for the human mind” (The Habit of Being 92). O’Conner proclaims that dogma, that often maligned and mistreated word, is in fact an essential aspect of human freedom. How often do we hear that ‘dogmatization’ is wrong, limiting, restrictive, and contrary to our creativity, freedom, and personhood? Dogma has

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11 Sep 2020

Ruth as Hero: Responding to David Justice’s ‘Ruth: Model Minority’

The book of Ruth is the Bible’s only bucolic idyll and, as the great Hebrew scholar Robert Alter says, “one of the few truly successful stories in any literature that concentrates almost exclusively on good people.” It is, he concludes, “one of literature’s most touching stories with a happy ending” (vol. 3, 621, 624). Yet, despite its apparent superficiality, the book is deep, complex, and difficult. The most jarring moment is when Naomi advises her

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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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