19 Jan 2021

I, Thou, and the Need for We: An Incarnational Reading of Martin Buber

According to Jewish philosopher and mystic Martin Buber (1878-1965), there are two modes of relationality: I-it and I-thou. In the I-it framework, the other is viewed as an “it” to be acted upon. This third-person way of relating naively presumes that one enjoys intellectual mastery over the other, and is rooted in an imperious epistemology that believes it can “list” the qualities which comprise the other. The result is a form of relational utilitarianism, where

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15 Jan 2021

Viking Lessons on Cultural Decline

To distract myself from the chaotic and, frankly, embarrassing display in our nation’s capital during the first full week of the new year (desecrating the week of the Epiphany), I caught up on History Channel’s Vikings. If I’m being perfectly honest, it was also to distract me from studying for the bar exam…. In its sixth and final season, it did not disappoint, even though the fifth season lagged a bit. Disclaimer: this is not

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13 Jan 2021

Just Justice

This article is adapted from a message delivered at Arise Community Church in Fenton, MO.   What comes to mind when you hear the word justice? Probably a lot of things, because justice has been a hot button issue in recent months. You can hardly get on social media, watch the news, read something, or make a TikTok without being confronted by conversations about justice in one form or another. But what is justice? What

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11 Jan 2021

Goals and Motivations for Presenting Sin in Church History

During the past several months, I have had the privilege to take part in weekly small group discussions, sponsored by a local ecumenical organization, on Christian responses to racial injustices in the United States. The curriculum, designed by Latasha Morrison, leads participants through several liturgical phases, a few early steps of which are acknowledgment, lament, and confession. These steps, particularly acknowledgment, with its emphasis on knowing the history of racial prejudice, have forced me to

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08 Jan 2021

A Year of Revelation

It is (nearly) universally acknowledged that 2020 was, to put it technically, a dumpster fire. A global pandemic, economic turmoil, political chaos, isolation from loved ones, and massive loss of life across the globe combined to make 2020 one of the most difficult years to live through, both literally and metaphorically. In this short reflection I would like to focus, though, on what we can take away from this year. To be clear, this is

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06 Jan 2021

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – IV: The Apostle Paul

Seale then this bill of my Divorce to All, On whom those fainter beames of love did fall; Marry those loves, which in youth scattered bee On fame, Wit, Hopes (false mistresses) to thee.         –  John Donne   Over the last few posts (first, second, and third) I’ve been tracing a trajectory concerning the classical question of ethics. I have not, in this tracing, attempted to argue a historical development so much

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04 Jan 2021

Breath of the Soul: Sustenance for Daily Strength

  Close your eyes, inhale slowly, deeply . . . hold that for a heartbeat then exhale. Steadily. Repeat this three times—eyes closed with breaths full and controlled. A conscious breath can both calm and invigorate. It is essential for daily rest and action.    Oxygen In the material world, breathing requires physiological cohesion and internalizing that which is external to the body: oxygen. Among its many functions, breathing allows the body to oxidize available

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23 Dec 2020

Merry Christmas

C.S. Lewis once wrote that the Feast of the Incarnation is the “grand miracle” of the Christian faith, the central chapter on which the whole Biblical plot turns. Christmas, says Lewis, is not a means to an end. It’s not merely a way of getting us to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Christmas has unique revelatory power. Christmas discloses the heart of God. The sadness and fear we have experienced this year can do nothing

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20 Dec 2020

Advent Devotionals – Week Four

Saturday, December 19th and Sunday, December 20th Monday, December 21st Tuesday, December 22nd Wednesday, December 23rd Thursday, December 24th

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13 Dec 2020

Advent Devotionals – Week Three

Saturday, December 12th and Sunday, December 13th Monday, December 14th Tuesday, December 15th Wednesday, December 16th Thursday, December 17th Friday, December 18th  

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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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07 Dec 2020

Book Review: “American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time”

New theologies are on the rise in contemporary America. As seemingly far back as 2015, Columbia University professor John McWhorter described the emerging concept of “antiracism” as “a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so.” In 2017, journalist Andrew Sullivan wondered openly, “Is Intersectionality a Religion?” And earlier this year, Tara Isabella Burton argued

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29 Nov 2020

Advent Devotionals – Week One

Advent is about anticipation. As a young child might anxiously await the riches of opening presents on Christmas morning, so the Church awaits the coming of the Lord, which it understands to be the riches of God’s grace breaking forth into human history to save us. Each year, in the prayers, Scripture readings, and liturgy of Advent, the Church invites all of us to wait patiently and journey faithfully together through dark and uncertain times

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23 Nov 2020

Surprises in the History of Early Pentecostalism in Brazil

I remember, several years ago, learning for the first time about the demographic shifts in world Christianity that took place over the course of the 20th century. Pie charts from the Pew Research Forum compared the “Regional Distribution of Christians” in 1910 with the distribution a century later in 2010.[1] The 1910 chart showed about 96% of the world’s Christians to be located in Europe or the Americas, while the 2010 chart showed significant Christian

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20 Nov 2020

Infinite Human Desire: The Afterlife of The Good Place as Affirmation of Christian Hope

Image: The Good Place promotional material, Fair Use. Since I’m usually around a year behind popular culture (if not more), I only recently watched the final season of The Good Place. I’ll go ahead and show my hand immediately—I love the show and equally loved the final season. Often described by Marc Evan Jackson—the actor who plays Shawn on the show and the host of The Good Place The Podcast—as the smartest, while simultaneously dumbest,

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18 Nov 2020

Happiness, Death, Anxiety, Resurrection – Part III: Ecclesiastes

In my first and second posts in this brief series, I raised the classical question of ethics and walked through at least part of Plato’s and Aristotle’s answers. While gleaning much from them, I argued that neither help us much in our encounter with death. I need to be clear on this point. I am not critiquing them for not giving a full or adequate account of the afterlife. Although I suppose an argument like

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13 Nov 2020

Double Polarity: Baptism, Eschatology, and the Christian Life

One of the principal debates between Catholics and Protestants in the Reformation pertained to the issue of whether Christ’s righteousness is imputed or imparted to the Christian. The Protestant doctrine of imputation occurs within a legal framework: sinful humanity cannot meet the demand of God’s perfect righteousness. In becoming Incarnate and dying on the cross, Jesus does what humans could not do by satisfying that demand. Imputation, then, is the “legal (or forensic) crediting of

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11 Nov 2020

Why We Need Centering Prayer

Just two years ago, Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. died at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA. Prior to his passing, he had lived at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Snowmass, CO, where he left a rich legacy of contemplative teaching and interfaith dialogue. Although his death was not widely reported, Fr. Keating’s passing marked the temporal close of a unique monastic ministry, one reflective of both the energy of post-Vatican II Catholicism and the meditative turn

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09 Nov 2020

Book Review: “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self”

The acclaimed novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace begins perhaps his most famous essay, This Is Water, with a memorable question: how would one fish describe to another the meaning of water? To a fish, water is so ubiquitous, so constitutive of everyday experience, that the question would be almost unintelligible. What, after all, would “not-water” even be? To a fish, water is the absolute horizon of what is realistically conceivable; it is, in the

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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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