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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09 Oct 2020

Can I Get a Hero?

I know the internet needs another article about the changes in the television industry like I need another recipe for slow-cooker chicken chili, but hear me out. Like many cord-cutting millennials, my husband and I have spent the last three years making our way through the critically acclaimed “prestige TV” of the last decade. This loosely defined (and somewhat pretentious) term refers to the serious, cinematic, dark, and novelistic television. Many claim that The Sopranos

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01 Oct 2020

Free Speech Round Table: The Quiet Courage of Free Expression

Nobody likes free speech. This may seem incongruous or even controversial in a theological roundtable dedicated to weighing the relative merits and Christian response to issues of free speech, but I am convinced that it is true. Free speech guarantees that you will hear something you don’t like, or even that deeply offends and troubles you. You have to listen to mean people tell lies, sometimes about things you believe in. And despite this, I

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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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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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10 Jul 2020

First Reformed and the Impossibility of Grace

Note: this article contains spoilers. Paul Schrader’s 2017 film First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, is a brilliantly dark film that explores profound religious questions. The story centers on Rev. Ernst Toller, a divorced pastor of the waning congregation at First Reformed, a historic Dutch Reformed parish in Snowbridge, New York. From the outset, it is apparent the pastor is undergoing a crisis of faith, which we glimpse by way of excerpts from

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27 Jan 2020

Universal Salvation and the Loss of the Law

In my last article for Conciliar Post, I argued that teaching universal salvation from the pulpit—irrespective of whether one is convinced by the view—would likely have a negative effect on the spiritual well-being of most modern churchgoers. That would happen, I argued, because the logic of sin as harmful in itself to human flourishing has largely been forgotten. Over email following publication of that piece, a fellow CP contributor questioned whether, in making such an

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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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16 Aug 2019

Welcoming The Stranger

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. . . Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:13, 21, NIV). I was looking for a good devotional last year over Christmas and found a hidden gem in a used bookstore. It’s called You Are The Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, a compilation of Henri Nouwen’s writings by Gabrielle Earnshaw (Convergent Books, 2017). Nouwen has some timely words

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09 Jan 2019

Theological Education – Why?

Theology “Then and Now” More than four years ago, I published my first essay on Conciliar Post. It laid out what I consider to be the first principles of theological reasoning, but it also noted that—like all of us—I am still “on the way.” I stand behind these principles: the centrality of Christ, the contingency of created order, the need for grace, and the soul’s ascent to God. I also stand behind the fact that

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07 Jan 2019

Exile and Restoration

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness–on them light has shined.” Isa 9:2 NRSV The prophet Isaiah lived at an unusual point in the history of the Israelite people. His prophetic ministry overlapped the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 722 BCE and their subsequent siege of Jerusalem in the days of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19). The beginning chapters of the book

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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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15 Oct 2018

Who’s Afraid of the Enneagram?

Perhaps the hottest thing going in American evangelicalism is the enneagram (pron. “any-a-gram”). In the past five years, the personality typing system has exploded exponentially in popularity, as evidenced by church conferences, church retreats, popular podcasts, widely successful book sales, feature articles in magazines, and, anecdotally, many a dinner conversation with fellow evangelicals. The enneagram is a personality system of nine types, including the reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger, and peacemaker. To

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08 Oct 2018

The Grace of God’s Immutability

For the last month or so, I’ve had a hard time writing anything substantive. Much of what I’ve written over the last few years focuses on the need for deference to the wisdom and insights of the past. I haven’t really seen any other alternative to the shifting, turbulent, incoherent landscape of modern life—all of which often seems to collapse into a Nietzschean nightmare of raw power politics. Whether or not we choose to admit

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27 Aug 2018

How My Shirt Changed the Day

For the second time in a month, I had a conversation in the grocery checkout line that left me reeling. This time it began while unloading my produce and grinning at the two big-eyed, energetic young boys behind me. Their mom caught my eye and and she looked friendly as she inquired, “What is that?” The red cabbage in my hand? I thought. “I’m sorry, my produce?” She clarified, “I’ve seen that shirt on people

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21 Mar 2018

The Mystery of Honesty and Truth

“I hate going to Confession,” I told my father-confessor recently. “As long as you keep on going,” he responded. Then he added, “Of course you do. It’s not easy admitting to failure.” I grew up in a dysfunctional household where disapproval reigned. Expecting chastisement or even condemnation is a hard habit to unlearn. I’d been anxious enough about making my first Confession that I had postponed my Chrismation and entry into the Orthodox Church for

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19 Mar 2018

Troubles and the Life of Faith

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins (Psalm 25:16-18; NRSV). Preachers on television constantly promise their viewers lives of health, wealth, and welfare. If you are sick, you will be healed. If you are struggling financially, a material blessing is headed your way. If

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12 Jan 2018

Unmerited

Kindness flowing out in wine and chocolate chip cookies, in smiles and eyes, in words and hidden acts   Grace flowing down in water and wine and blood over dark soul nights, to unworthy us   Love flowing over from hearts and hands, eyes and lips in forgiveness again, and again—every time   Gifts ever flowing that we cannot earn, cannot repay, we humbly receive with open, empty hands   Full over flowing hands and

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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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