Here We Raise Our Ebenezer: Conciliar Post After One Year
In honor of Conciliar Post’s one year anniversary, we asked the editorial team to reflect on the past year. You can read Managing Editor Jacob Prahlow’s reflections in his post “How Now Shall We Speak?“. Here is what some other members of the Conciliar Post team had to say:
Fleeting as days are, it is a bit strange to find that three hundred and sixty-five of them can feel both long and short. I remember the excitement and anticipation I felt when asked to join the team of writers launching Conciliar Post. Here was a vision cast before us of creating a place where ideas could be discussed from various church traditions, knitting together the Body of Christ, rather than fracturing it, as so often happens. We talked of a place where we could hammer out ideas without thwacking individuals or making erroneous generalisations about other denominations.
I’m not sold on the idea that one can create community—I think one has to choose to be involved in whatever community they find themselves in—but I have seen a community form around Round Table discussions, comments on articles, and real-life discussions amongst various authors. I see these things breathing life into those who spend time at Conciliar Post.
The last year has been a sort of pile of stones to raise a memorial in my life. The ‘stones of help’ have come in variegated forms: learning to engage other viewpoints with grace; writing when I felt like there was nothing in me; seeking to pin down the thoughts flittering through my heart, making them coherent; being more creative than I felt like I could be; learning more about the English language and grammar structure; and loving people as much as I love Truth. It is a wide variety of practical things to learn, much like the variety I find in the individuals with whom I write and discuss beliefs. Differences in people, ideas, and skills can be good. After all, Truth covers a wide spectrum—from theology and philosophy to the arts, sciences, economics, and the way we invest our time.
I am grateful for the encouragement and honing my writing has received from the Conciliar Post community in the last twelvemonth. I am strengthened in my faith and in my love for others through the conversations we have here. And I am challenged to live the things I believe iconically—through the bread and wine of the Eucharist feeding my soul, to realising that every day is a sort of new birth into this world. Will I choose to love and reflect Jesus each day? When I see that others can and do, it gives me courage to ask that I might do the same. When I see that others fail and are given mercy rather than punishment, it gives me hope that I might be raised up to life and love again. It reminds me that though we don’t always agree about Scripture or the nature of God, we know that we all need a Saviour and that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Perhaps one of the most valuable insights I have gained in my first year of editing for Conciliar Post is an understanding of truly how diverse the Christian faith, especially in America, truly is in their belief and practices. One would expect that a Methodist-turned-Lutheran-turned Catholic who studied theology at Lutheran and Catholic institutions would be well aware of theological diversity. Intellectually, I was aware; personally, I was not. The gap between my former brand of LCMS Lutheranism and Catholicism spans not very far: a few issues regarding evolution, the infallibility of the papacy, and narratives of Church history. In my studies, I was so submerged in the theological currents of the late patristics and the late Middle Ages that I had almost a blind eye to 21st century American Christianity.
Conciliar Post quickly remedied that blindness. I edited for and read authors from all denominations. Calvinism quickly became not an archaic set of documents to be analyzed, but a group of people with genuine convictions, firm faith, and a deep love for God’s Word. I marveled at the wonderful presence of Eastern Orthodoxy, even stronger and more faithful in America than I had imagined. Through Conciliar Post, I encountered authors and people from numerous denominations. Yet despite differences in our names and some distinctions in belief and practice, I realized that we were really not that disparate in our faith. There are more similarities between Catholics and Calvinists, Orthodox and Methodist, Lutheran and Pentecostal, than the objective study of Christian theology can lead us to believe. At the heart of it, even if we differ on the veneration of Mary, the primacy of Scripture, or the role of women in the church, we still all worship the Holy Trinity and believe God has revealed Himself to us through the Holy Scripture and the salvific death of Christ on the cross.
As some of you probably have heard, it is a recommended practice to regularly take time to pause and reflect on life: where you have been and whether you are headed in the direction you’d like to be heading. A practice that’s good enough for life probably has some applicability to a blog. Having spent a year working on Conciliar Post, it’s worth taking a moment and giving it this grand review.
While there is probably more that could be said, I’d like to highlight two specific facts that have jumped out to me during my reflections regarding the blog. On a personal note, I know that this past year has challenged me to be a bit more dogmatic in my theological stances. Ironic, yes. True, also yes. The fact is, dialogue doesn’t happen unless everyone is willing to talk. By nature, I tend to shy away from disagreements unless there is no possible way to avoid them coming up. Watching my fellow authors wrestle through various issues has been a challenge to “get some skin in the game.” It’ll hurt being shown that I’m wrong (or, at least am not right for the right reasons), but that is far preferable to continuing with errant understandings of God’s Word.
On more of a group note, it has been interesting to notice what kinds of discussions frequent this site. Specifically, we have noticed a trend where our Orthodox and Roman Catholic authors tend to be more likely to write about specific points of dogma, as compared to our Protestant authors. There are some exceptions, and next year this time the trend could shift. After all, the numbers are static while people are dynamic. At the same time, I think it is an interesting fact to consider, mainly as a rather unscientific look at the state of the Church today. I at least wonder whether the lower percentage of dogmatically Protestant posts indicates that many evangelical protestants do not find it as important to be familiar with the dogmatic points of their theology nor to pass this understanding along to others. At the same time, I also find it as a challenge to keep digging into my theology, in part to be able to contribute more to the discussions taking place here at Conciliar Post.
In the end though, the important thing is not which voices are being heard more clearly, nor is it how nice the people are to whom those voices belong. No, the important thing is to be drawn closer to Christ and by beholding him to be changed further into his image. To the degree that our articles drive us and our readers back to the Scriptures, we are aiding in this goal. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that for myself, this is one front where all seems well.