28 Jul 2021

Learning from the Latter-Day Saints, Part II

In the first part of this article, I attempted to show how Latter-Day Saints relate to doctrine in a robustly positive sense, seeing it not as mere “head knowledge” or a burdensome inheritance from the past, but as a path for life. This pragmatic approach to doctrine is commonplace within the Latter-Day Saint community, so much so that one can almost be forgiven for thinking that the tradition is bereft of, or at least uninterested

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14 Jul 2021

Learning from the Latter-Day Saints, Part I

A few years ago, I was working on a sermon, listening absent-mindedly to hymns on a list generated by YouTube. Deep in my writing, I suddenly became aware that the music floating through the background of my mind was filled with strange and unfamiliar words: If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye And then continue onward with that same speed to fly, Do you think that you could ever, through

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05 Jul 2021

Saving Stormtroopers

As a child of the 1980s, Star Wars loomed large in my psyche. I built the models. I played with the toys. I named my pet goldfish Luke. But most of all, I watched the original trilogy of films – over and over and over again. By the time The Force Awakens came to theaters, my imaginal world was no longer populated by X-Wings and AT-ATs, but I dutifully purchased my ticket. I wasn’t expecting

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09 Dec 2020

Tell Me the Same Old Story

I once received an e-mail from a former parishioner. Catherine had been a star student in my youth group, and she was now enrolled in a fine Roman Catholic liberal arts college. I was delighted to hear from her, but alas, she wasn’t writing to catch up. She was having a crisis of faith, and she needed to talk. Her letter painted a candid picture of how her faith had run aground. She had taken

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04 Nov 2020

Divisiveness on Conciliar Post

We live in a divisive time. As I write these words, the outcome of America’s presidential election is uncertain (and may remain so for some time). Regardless of the result, it will leave many unsatisfied and will further foment tension. Now is a fitting time to remind ourselves that, at Conciliar Post, our mission is to facilitate meaningful dialogue across Christian traditions. This is becoming more and more difficult. The reality is that our own

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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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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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Image of a Bible on a shelf.
13 Dec 2019

The Bible Project

About three years ago I was scrolling through my YouTube recommendations feed, looking for new and interesting videos. Since I regularly view biblical and theological content, my feed often contains helpful resources (along with videos on college football or live music). As I scrolled, one particular video thumbnail caught my attention. The thumbnail contained an aesthetically pleasing animated image of Job. I clicked on the video and had my first exposure to The Bible Project.

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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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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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28 Sep 2018

The Discipline and Art of Lectionary Preaching

At the heart of vocational Christian ministry is the responsibility to faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Christ crucified and to administer the Sacraments of the Church. In the Anglican tradition, we depict this solemn duty at ordinations by presenting the ordinand with a copy of the Bible alongside a paten and chalice. In a liturgical settings, one tool used to more effectively preach the Gospel is the lectionary. A lectionary is a cycle of readings

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06 Aug 2018

The Mystery of the Gospel

In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:5-6 NRSV). Ephesians 3 opens with a brief description of Paul’s commission as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul begins by calling himself a

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22 Nov 2017

The Eucharist: A Brief Apologetical Discursus on John 6

This piece is less of a precise exposition, and more of a contribution to several ongoing conversations on this subject with those I love; particularly my father, who along with my mother first demonstrated to me the priestly, prophetic, and kingly role of Christians. Our Eucharistic Lord This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. It puts me in mind of His words to St. Faustina Kowalska, explaining to us what kind of king

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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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30 Oct 2017

Having the Goodwill of All the People

Praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:47 NRSV). This is the final article in a series of reflections on the early church as portrayed in Acts 2:41-47. The previous articles in this series are available in the author’s archives. Acts 2:41-47 paints a compelling and attractive portrait of the early Christian church. Founded on the

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02 Oct 2017

Spending Time Together in the Temple

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple… (Acts 2:46a NRSV). This article is a continuation of a series of articles on Acts 2:41-47. The previous articles in this series can be found in the author’s archives. I teach classes on the Bible, world religions, and humanities at several community colleges in my area. Each semester I notice that students seem genuinely surprised when they learn about the Jewish roots of

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23 Aug 2017

How to Tell If a Sermon is Good

Every week, millions of people around the world situate themselves in moderately uncomfortable seating and listen to someone talk at them for an extended period of time. I am, of course, referring to Christians who attend church services and listen to sermons. But how can we tell if a sermon is good? This article suggests three sets of questions for reflecting on this question.

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11 Jul 2017

Reflections on a Mega Church Experience

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Bethel Church in Redding, California. For those unfamiliar with this church, Bethel was founded in 1952 by Robert Doherty and grew steadily from the 1960s to the early 1990s. Following the call of current senior pastor Bill Johnson in 1996, Bethel underwent a time of divisiveness followed by a period of tremendous growth. Currently, Bethel has approximately 9,000 weekly attendees—easily categorizing it as a mega church—and

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10 Jul 2017

Devoted to Fellowship

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42 NRSV).” (This is the second article in a series on Acts 2:41-47. The first article can be found here.) The verses immediately following Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2 offer an important look into the practices and structures of the first Christian church. Many of these early practices continue to be the bedrock of Christian worship

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