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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31 Aug 2020

DOROTHY AND JACK | Book Review

One reads history, either because of a fascination with prior events, or to learn something of human nature. In Gina Dalfonzo’s latest book, Dorothy and Jack, both readings are richly rewarded. It is a book which adds insight into the lives of both Dorothy Sayers and C.S. Lewis—examining the importance of friendship and providing a call to reconsider male and female friendships in the life of the church. The reader engages these questions as Dorothy

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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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21 Aug 2020

Ruth: The Model Minority?

The story of Ruth is well known in Western culture even outside of Christian circles. Ruth’s pledge of loyalty—“Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die there will I be buried.”1—is eloquent and memorable for its passion and fierce loyalty. I have been familiar with this story for some time, but recently re-read it

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A large suburban house with professional landscaping
19 Aug 2020

The Pandemic and the Experience of Vanity

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,     vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil     at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes,     but the earth remains forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-4 NRSV) A month or two ago, I was speaking with a friend about the extra personal time I gain working at home.

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17 Aug 2020

Infinities upon Infinity: Reflections on Borges’ Library of Babel

The Myth of Babel The Library of Babel is one of those seminal texts to which I must return regularly if I am to feel fully alive. Alongside works like Annie Dillard’s novella Holy the Form, this is art that is best read out loud and pondered, cherished—even venerated. For it informs us deeply of our distinctively human condition. It rips back the veil and exposes our woefully inadequate, time-bound conceptions of God (and God’s

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