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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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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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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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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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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20 Jul 2020

Why the Historian Is Indispensable to Christianity

If the average Christian were asked to identify the essential roles in Christianity and pre-Christian Judaism, he or she would probably name the pastor, the apostle, the prophet, the priest, and perhaps also the king. Depending on the person’s denominational affiliation, he or she might mention the pope or the musician or the nun. Few members of any denomination, I think, would mention the historian—a figure lamentably seen by many as merely providing additional support

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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 May 2020

The Turbulent Life of Canada’s First Methodist Missionary

At some point in the early 1750s, travelling preachers visited the small Irish village of Drummersnave (now Drumsna), in County Leitrim. They were affiliated with an organized religious movement called Methodism, which at that point was not a denomination but rather a society that primarily sought religious renewal within the Church of England. It was characterized by strong preaching, often carried out by itinerants; the encouragement of personal piety and surrender to God; and involvement

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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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Image of a plaque about John Wesley from Savannah, GA
17 Feb 2020

John Wesley and Small Groups

As one raised in the United Methodist Church, I was always familiar with the radical ministry of John Wesley, hearing stories in Sunday sermons or learning the history of the Methodist revival in confirmation class. In my final year at the Candler School of Theology, I had the privilege of exploring Wesley’s life and thought in more detail in a course entitled: “John Wesley’s Theology and 18th Century Epistemology.” For my final assignment in the

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06 Jan 2020

On Hierarchy

Away from my family on study retreat, I went to St. Isidore’s for the Sunday English language mass. While looking up toward the dome before the service, I caught sight of the four Evangelists, in Baroque attitudes of dramatic inspiration, pages under their poised fingers, living creatures over their shoulders. I prayed something like the following: Lord, you pour forth power and wisdom and goodness without cease According to your own mode, which is limitless,

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21 Oct 2019

Don’t Kick the KJV

Over the last few years, there’s been a spate of critiques in the evangelical world (most noticeably, in my assessment, from the broadly Reformed camp) of the continuing use by Christians of the King James Version—the venerable biblical translation that the West has known and loved since its first publication. Perhaps the best example of this line of criticism is Mark Ward’s book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible—a comprehensive polemic

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06 Sep 2019

The Wise Bedouin

“The sands have shifted! The sands have shifted!” Walid shouted as he hurriedly drew back the curtain of the buryuut hajar. “It will be well to change our course, Alim, everything looks different. What I once knew, I know no more. We cannot know where we are; we cannot know where we are going. The storms, the harmattan winds; the landscape is utterly different. How are we to navigate?” Abdul-Alim followed Walid out to survey.

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03 Aug 2019

The School of Churchmen

Back in April (2019), David Doherty gave three reasons to study church history. His case was, in brief, that church history teaches us how to live well, inspires us to do so, and is ultimately an act of love for the Church. I wholeheartedly affirm David’s reasons. I would add at the outset that the confidence provided by the discipline is especially desirable.  R.G. Collingwood, the polymathic philosopher of history, and himself a committed Anglican,

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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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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 Apr 2019

3 Reasons to Study Church History

For many Christians, especially, I think, within Protestantism, Church history is a foggy and mysterious realm somewhere beyond the borders of normal thought, beyond the more familiar lands of biblical interpretation and spiritual discipline. Occasionally, one of its more conspicuous citizens (St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, and a few others) makes an appearance in familiar territory, but in general the land and its inhabitants seem far away and shrouded in darkness. Many evidently prefer

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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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22 Feb 2019

Wisdom of Syrach in Matthew’s Gospel

As I approach the end of a four-year project to translate the New Testament from Greek, I have saved the Gospel of Matthew for last. What has struck me most while translating it is how often Jesus taught from Wisdom of Sirach in the first half of this Gospel. I worship, fellowship, and serve in a Restoration Movement congregation (a movement which comes from within Protestantism), therefore I have no denominational bias in favor of

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06 Feb 2019

An Introduction to Saints

A point of confusion and, sometimes, contention within the Christian religion is the role of saints in the life of the Church. In some branches of Christianity, such as Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, saints occupy an important place, as is evidenced, among other things, by the names of their churches—St. Luke, St. George, St. Cuthbert, and so on. In some other traditions, particularly within evangelicalism and fundamentalism, the word “saint” is used rarely and with

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