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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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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04 Mar 2020

Evangelicals and Catholics Together…Have Gone Amnesic

The past month or so has seen the virtual world ablaze with comments about another high profile, evangelical-Catholic ecumenical…what shall I call it…‘incident.’ I am normally loathe to chime in on such occasions of internet natter. Only rarely do I judge them worthy of notice, rarer still do I find them worthy of attention. Perhaps rarest of all do I judge myself as having anything of worth to add. But the case of influential Protestant,

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28 May 2019

The Strange Case of American Lutherans and the “Sin of Unionism”

Over the last few years, following my grandparents’ decision to downsize and move into an assisted-living community, my family has been sorting through a treasure trove of documents to piece together our ancestors’ story. As we’ve explored the letters and records left behind by our forerunners, perhaps the most prominent theme that comes through is their deep commitment to their Lutheran faith. In fact, we think they originally fled Europe in search of religious freedom

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27 Jun 2018

Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken (Part 2)

In the first part of this two part series on Psalm 46, I suggested that there are three strata of imagery in the psalm. The ‘city of God’ is a lush garden, providing for those inside her walls sustenance and shelter, calm and quiet, against all the wilds of life outside her walls. The city of God is, furthermore, protected against the judgement of God. The purging of evil involves God’s de-creative acts; yet for

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07 May 2018

Why I’m Not Reformed (But Admire Them Anyway)

I have a complicated relationship with Reformed theology. Growing up, I first encountered Calvinist ideas in early high school. I was floored by the thought that anyone might really embrace a kind of theological “hard determinism,” in which anything could ultimately be causally attributed to God. It took only a little dot-connecting to see the implications: without free will, the Fall itself was an “act of God”… which, it seemed, would inevitably make God the

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20 Dec 2017

R.C. Sproul – A Former Protestant’s Gratitude

When I heard of R.C. Sproul’s death, my first impulse was to pray for his family and–since I am no longer Protestant but Catholic–for him. My second was to turn to my mother and say, “R.C. Sproul died two days ago.” Death has a strange, self-assured touch. Everything stops in its tracks, but the fact of it won’t register. Not truly a shock, it is more a suspension, a cessation of movement in the vicinity

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01 Nov 2017

Listening to Destitute Minds

I believe we suffer from a propensity to look at people with whom we disagree and say to ourselves, “That person can’t teach me anything. They are so wrong in how they think, so insufficient in their intellectual capacities, so distorted in their worldview, that I could not possibly see reality more clearly by interacting with this person.” Think of the political divide. Republicans decry working with “the other side” as a compromise of values.

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10 Apr 2017

World Christianity or Global Christianity?

As part of my ongoing quest to develop a more systematized theological background, I recently completed the coursework to earn a certificate in theology and ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary. Among my theologically conservative friends, I caught some flak for this choice: traditionally affiliated with the Presbyterian Church–USA (PCUSA), Princeton Seminary has long been accused of heterodox theological liberalism. Indeed, such institutional trends impelled then-professor J. Gresham Machen to found Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929.

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07 Mar 2017

What Mainline Protestants Can Teach Evangelicals

Growing up in Texas, I was steeped in evangelical culture from an early age. This was incidental more than intentional, given that my own Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod occupies a unique space in the American ecclesiastical landscape: it’s too theologically conservative for the traditional “mainline,” but too liturgical and traditional to fit neatly within American evangelicalism. Yet when you live in the land of the megachurch, you tend to assume that the rest of American Christianity—if

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21 Feb 2017

Seeking Church Unity, Part 2

The first half of this essay was previously posted here. Three Kinds of Unity Is the reconciliation of the major branches of Christianity even possible? And what can we do to make a difference? Catholics care the most about unity, and are willing to make practical accommodations for Christians from other backgrounds, such as allowing converts from other denominations like Anglicans to bring their own liturgical traditions in with them. Although they are a big

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26 Jan 2017

Christianity and Truth

“What is truth?” (John 18:38) Pilate’s question from the theological gospel of Saint John is perhaps one of the Scriptures’ most relevant for our time. What is truth? It is a despairing question we ask primarily when presented with a variety of possibilities which compete for the title of “truth,” and between which we find ourselves unable to decide with surety. This was certainly Pilate’s dilemma—presented with, on the one hand, the serenity and love

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15 Dec 2016

Seeking Church Unity, Part 1

A previous version of this post originally appeared on my own blog, Undivided Looking, where I mostly talk about physics and theology.  I have divided it into two halves for purposes of publication on Conciliar Post.  Note:  It is my custom when blogging to refer to all serious Christians by the title of “St.”, because I believe all Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit. My Own Testimony I suppose I may as well start

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21 Oct 2016

The End of Protestantism | Book Review

Peter Leithart’s latest work, The End of Protestantism, is a grand book. Grand both in the sense that it is imposing and important, but also in its scope. Leithart’s purposes in writing the book are no less than to pray publicly for the unity of the church, outline a biblical theology of God’s actions to unite and renew, affirm the changes of the Reformation, critique the historical outworking of American denominationalism, outline the shifting paradigms

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18 Oct 2016

Reflections on Unity

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or

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13 Sep 2016

Burned By “Strange Fire”

I’m certainly a bit late to the party, but in the wake of some of recent studies on global Christianity, I picked up John MacArthur’s controversial book Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. MacArthur—targeting everyone from African bishops to Southern prosperity preachers—takes aim at a broad swathe of religious doctrines and behaviors he identifies with the “Charismatic Movement” Naturally, plenty of ink has already been spilled on MacArthur’s theology

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08 Aug 2016

Why I Didn’t Convert to Eastern Orthodoxy

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!1”  A few years ago my wife and I went to a Greek festival hosted by a Greek Orthodox Church in downtown St. Louis. As we were walking around the building trying to decide which food looked most appetizing to us, we stumbled across a bookstore right inside the doors of the church.

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17 Jun 2016

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part V (Statement of Agreement)

Thank you for persevering with us to the end of this conversation. This is the final and fifth part of a dialogue between Michael (LCMS Lutheran) and Benjamin (Roman Catholic) on the subjects of faith and works, sin and holiness, and salvation. To get caught up, read Michael’s opening statement, along with parts II, III, and IV. In this last part, we have decided to revisit the major points of the topics we have discussed,

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20 May 2016

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part IV (Salvation)

“What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? It all comes down to this. In the end, this is the primary question upon which Lutherans and Catholics are (perceived to be?) in disagreement. In this final “question-and-answer” section of the dialogue between Michael (Lutheran) and Benjamin (Catholic), we address various concerns that arise over salvation. To get caught up, read Michael’s opening statement, along with parts II, III. As always, we hope that others

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