06 Nov 2020

The Books That Save Our Lives

Book lovers develop their own shorthand for the books that stand out from all the other books they have ever read. This compliment of compliments is unique to each bibliophile. For some it is “books I’ve read more than once.” For avid ebook readers (I have yet to actually meet one but I hear they exist) it may be “books worth owning in hardcopy.” Closely related is “Books I would pack and move across the

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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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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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26 Aug 2020

Work and Rest

This article was adapted from a sermon delivered at Rooftop Church (Saint Louis, MO) during a series on Faith and Work. As Americans, we’re obsessed with being busy. Even during a pandemic, we’re preoccupied with how much we’re getting done. Our culture fixates on and rewards efficiency and productivity, even at the expense of our own health and relationships. It’s even how we talk to one another. People always ask, “What are you doing this

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07 Aug 2020

What’s Worse Than the Devil You Know?

One of my favorite movie characters is Gus Portokalos, the patriarch in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Gus’s defining characteristic is his extreme devotion to his homeland, which is summed up in his famous line: “There are two kinds of people in this world: Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.” I love this joke because it perfectly encapsulates one of the essential characteristics of the human condition: we view the world as

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06 May 2020

Mere Christianity for Today

Or Reflections on the Realities of Big Tent Christianity “As Christians, we are seekers after truth, not merely its custodians.” Michael Bauman1 The Situation “Christianity is in trouble,” everyone seems to be saying, for a variety of reasons. The rise of the “nones.”2 Increased dissatisfaction with institutional religion.3 The forthcoming disintegration of American evangelicalism over politics.4 The growth of the “spiritual but not religious” worldview.5 The general failure of the American Church’s members to reach

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Bust of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
22 Jan 2020

Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace (The Cost of Discipleship, 43). The opening chapter of The Cost of Discipleship features Dietrich Bonhoeffer in some of his best form as a writer. His use of paradox, irony, hyperbole, exaggeration, and sarcasm makes this one of the wittiest criticisms of popular Christian theology ever written. It also can make it hard to understand and follow for the

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Indigo bunting in a field at sunset
14 Oct 2019

Trusting in God

“Some who think they trust in God actually sin against hope because they do not use the will and the judgment He has given them. Of what use is it for me to hope in grace if I dare not make the act of will that corresponds with grace? How do I profit by abandoning myself passively to His will if I lack the strength of will to obey His commands? Therefore, if I trust

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A brick building with the word "work" on the side.
20 Sep 2019

The Work of Faith

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NRSV). Paul’s second missionary journey began as an excursion to revisit churches planted throughout Asia Minor on his first missionary journey (Acts 15:36). Along the way, the Spirit of God gave Paul

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24 Jun 2019

The Importance of Hospitality

The book of 3 John is both one of the shortest books in the Bible and one of the most unique. Being short, the letter is easy to read straight through, and one can easily grasp the basic themes. Being addressed directly to “the beloved Gaius,” the book is unique in that it is a personal letter (3 Jn 1). In the opening, the author, John, identifies himself as “the elder” (Gk. presbuteros). In the

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14 Dec 2018

The Splendor of Light

If I may approach the subject of sacred music without diving into the worship wars, a recent time of personal devotion reminded me of one of the aspects of worship music I particularly appreciate. That is, songs which tickle my brain, allowing me to continue pondering God’s nature after the music has stopped, the service is over, and I am back into the grind of the everyday week. One such song is the hymn Immortal

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19 Sep 2018

Between Defiance and Despair

I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room. —Blaise Pascal Quietude. Calm. Collected. Consistency. These are not the buzzwords of our culture of revolution. If they make it on to the radar, it is as unwanted intruders. To use one’s voice is a virtue; to remain silent, a vice. To be calm is thought to be apathetic at best,

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13 Aug 2018

Activism Without Pelagianism?

I read Wesley Walker’s recent article “Activism as Pelagianism” with great interest. While I largely agree with the conclusion he draws—that the Church’s first duty is the proclamation of the Word and administration of the Sacraments—I’m not altogether convinced that churches face an either/or choice. That is to say, I’m not sure the responsibilities associated with Word and Sacrament need be juxtaposed against active engagement with the challenges of contemporary life. In particular, I submit

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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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19 Jun 2018

Four Years of Conciliar Post

Friends, This past weekend, Conciliar Post celebrated its fourth year of promoting dialogue across Christian traditions. In an era of increased incivility, tribalism, and negativity, the Conciliar Post community remains committed to thoughtful and charitable dialogue, even—especially—when it comes to controversial issues. During the past year, our writers have tackled such issues as divine immutability and impassibility, the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, Trump and false prophecy, barrenness, post-secularism, doubt, the Passion, the growth

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06 Jun 2018

Struggling to Discern God’s Will

Our lives are often guided by the questions we ask. Great inventors are driven by the impulse to build a better world. Explorers ask what lies beyond the edges of their map. Great philosophers question and question until they find a satisfactory answer. The curiosity of children leads them to wonder “why?” without end. A question that has dominated my own life is, “How do I know what God’s will is?” I’ve asked this question—in

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04 Apr 2018

Is Doubt A Good Thing?

Considered generally, doubt is beneficial to human beings. While we all begin life in a state of ignorance—relying upon the care and concern of others to survive—too many of us eventually enter a state of arrogance. Neither position is desirable, but these are the two ends of the spectrum of knowledge spectrum toward which we gravitate. Christians who see pride as the root of all sin are inclined to value doubt when it counteracts pride.

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02 Apr 2018

Round Table: Can We Be Certain Of Our Salvation?

Throughout church history, the question, “Can we be certain of our salvation?,” has troubled many believers. This question naturally arises because different Christian traditions have divergent teachings on the nature of salvation itself. How one is saved and whether or not this salvation can be subsequently lost are the subject of much discussion between believers. One noteworthy response to these questions from church history was the development of the so-called “Protestant work ethic.” This idea

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13 Nov 2017

Protestant State of the Union (Part I)

On October 31, 2017, Protestants around the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The occasion created an opportunity to reflect on the many notable contributions of the Protestant Reformation to world history. The many benefits of the Reformation are undeniable–literacy, religious freedom, individual rights, the value of the human conscience, vernacular worship, the five solas, and many others.1 This year, as Protestants celebrate their heritage, I propose that we also stop for

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