The Good Place
At the beginning of The Good Place, Eleanor Shellstrop finds herself in the afterlife. She’s welcomed by the mysterious Michael, who explains her demise and proceeds to show her around the Good Place while answering her many questions about what’s happening and who was right about the whole heaven and hell thing. And while the show goes on for four excellent seasons, it never really leaves this moment behind, the moment of wonder about what
Lord, help me . . . save me from the world outside of me, trying to crush me and push me into its mold. But Lord, I have swallowed the world and it is inside of me. Save me, too, from the world within. . . . The world that burns, that eviscerates, that kills like an ever-spreading cancer. Save me from being eaten alive, emaciated, and gutted. Save me from being drowned by the
The Insufficient Eternity of the Good Place
Welcome! Everything is fine. That’s what the wall in front of you says the moment after you die. Or, at least, that’s what The Good Place suggests that the wall in front of you says immediately after the moment of your death. Appearing on NBC from 2016 to 2020, The Good Place is a fantasy comedy series that traces the journeys of four “Good Place” residents (along with their celestial architect friend and his AI
The Situation If there’s one thing we don’t like thinking about, it’s death. Yet there is nothing more important, nothing that more defines who we are and how we act, than our approach to death and our understanding of its significance. “Look to the end,” Thucydides and Herodotus remind us, to determine the utility and worthiness of a human life. “Persevere to end,” the martyrs and saints remind us, to gain the crown of life
Suffering Subverted: Good Friday, Easter, and Divine Impassibility
Opportunities for meditation on the nature of God’s being often present themselves in surprising places. For example, on Holy Wednesday, I was in a Zoom class at my progressive, mainline Protestant seminary. The class was discussing accessibility for disabled people in the Church. In the course of this discussion a classmate of mine posited the idea that, because God is “super able,” our theology can easily tend to exclude people with disabilities. He then followed
What Does Healthy Theological Dissent Look Like?
Over the last couple of months, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the work of Catholic theologian Paul Griffiths (an erstwhile professor at Duke Divinity School). His most recent book, Christian Flesh, is probably the most extensive reflection I’ve read on precisely what it means to be an incarnate being—and more particularly, a baptized incarnate being. And Decreation: The Last Things of All Creatures is a sweeping work of speculative eschatology that considers the ultimate destiny of
Purgatory and the Playboy: Remembering Hugh Hefner
Purgatory and the Playboy: Remembering Hugh Hefner Two weeks ago today, Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91. Almost immediately, writers rallied to denounce (or acclaim) the fraudulent idea of his “legacy.” What he left behind him can be called a legacy only in the same sense as the aftermath of a disaster. My hope is that his life’s work, like that of the Marquis de Sade, will fade to the point that while
Round Table: Hell and Universalism
If “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and “desires that all be saved” (2 Tim 2:4), how are Christians to make sense of hell? Is hell undoubtedly eternal (as passages like Matt 25:41 suggest), or is it possible that God’s Love will eventually conquer even the staunchest of resisting wills? What is the role of doctrine about hell in living the Christian life, in training new Christians, or in proclaiming the Gospel? Today our
Anselm’s Ontological Argument for Universalism?
For my monthly contribution, I want to engage in an interesting thought experiment. Let me start off with the caveat that I am not, at this moment, a Universalist. In the upcoming November Round Table on Hell and universalism, I will described myself as a “Hopefulist” in the sense that I desperately want it to be true that God eventually saves everyone in the end, but I cannot definitively prove that this is the case.
The Hell of Being Unseen
“Walking in the desert one day I found the skull of a dead man lying on the ground. As I was moving it with my stick, the skull spoke to me. I said to it, ‘Who are you? ‘ The skull replied, ‘I was a high priest of the idols and of the pagans who dwelt in this place; but you are Macarius, the Spirit-hearer. Whenever you take pity on those who are in torment,
Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part V (Statement of Agreement)
Thank you for persevering with us to the end of this conversation. This is the final and fifth part of a dialogue between Michael (LCMS Lutheran) and Benjamin (Roman Catholic) on the subjects of faith and works, sin and holiness, and salvation. To get caught up, read Michael’s opening statement, along with parts II, III, and IV. In this last part, we have decided to revisit the major points of the topics we have discussed,
Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part IV (Salvation)
“What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? It all comes down to this. In the end, this is the primary question upon which Lutherans and Catholics are (perceived to be?) in disagreement. In this final “question-and-answer” section of the dialogue between Michael (Lutheran) and Benjamin (Catholic), we address various concerns that arise over salvation. To get caught up, read Michael’s opening statement, along with parts II, III. As always, we hope that others
Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part III (Sin and Holiness)
In Part I of this exchange between myself (Catholic) and Michael (Lutheran), Michael outlined Lutheran views on grace and faith. Parts II, III, and IV are “question-and-answer” sessions where Michael and I debate the exact implications of his statements from Part I. We hope that others will find the information helpful, and that our dialogue can serve as a model for inquiry into the issues that, sadly, divide Christians across denominations. Whether or not we
An Open Discussion of Difficult Theological Issues
Theology is no good if done in isolation. God is a community of Persons; so are we. As followers of Christ, we are called to engage with the content of our Tradition(s), in order to better understand why we believe the timeless truths that have been handed down in Scripture. Conciliar Post is an apt forum for just this sort of activity. As an author on this website, I do not claim to hold a
Round Table: After Death
Living in a fallen world such as we do, death unfortunately remains a fact of life. We have all experienced the loss of loved ones, all struggled with the spectre of death. But what happens when people die? Do they go to heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Limbo? Furthermore, do all dogs really go to heaven, or is that merely the childhood fantasy relegated to the dumpster of bad theology? This month’s Round Table discussion reflects on
Prayer for the Dead: Spooky or Saintly?
Souls, Death, and Things In-Between Another Halloween has come and gone. If you are like me, then you probably see All Hallows’ Eve as a time to ponder humanity’s cross-cultural fascination with morbidity. Why do so many adorn their homes with images of the ghoulish and ghastly, from crisscrossing cobwebs to uncanny cauldrons filled with potent potions? Why do we watch scary movies, perk up our ears at stories of the paranormal, and attend (or
The Skeletons in God’s Closet | Book Review
If you’re an even somewhat aware follower of Jesus in today’s post-Christian culture, then you’ve all but certainly encountered bizarre caricatures of God and Christianity hurled like spears at the faith by critics and detractors. Well-known English actor Stephen Fry recently went on a tirade against God in a now-viral television interview. Ricky Gervais’ 2009 comedy The Invention of Lying interprets religious belief as an emotional panacea, an outlandish lie we tell each other and
Brutality or Beatitude?
“So this is where we are. Ashes, ashes, all fall down. How could I have forgotten? Didn’t I see the heavens wiped shut just yesterday, on the road walking? Didn’t I fall from the dark of the stars to these senselit and noisome days? The great ridged granite millstone of time is illusion, for only the good is real; the great ridged granite millstone of space is illusion, for God is spirit and worlds his
Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?
1 Timothy 2:1–4: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:8–9: “But do not ignore
Taking the Name “Christian”
Luke 16:19-31 As I read the Gospel for this week I noticed that in the title, “The rich man and Lazarus,” the rich man has no name. Names are so important. One of the very first things we do when we meet someone is to ask their name. Names are much more than letters that have been strung together. Ben. . .David. . .Mary. . . John. Names indicate who we are. So, for the