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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23 Jul 2021

Three Things that Need to Change About Church

My husband and I went through a phase where we spent too much time watching Kitchen Nightmares, the reality show where celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey tries to turn around failing restaurants. In one episode, Gordon asks the owner of a sad and shrinking diner, “What do you think is the biggest problem with your restaurant?” “No customers” the owner replies. When he pressed her about why the restaurant didn’t have more customers she said “Because

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21 Jul 2021

God’s Story (Part 1)

Human beings love stories. Good stories. Bad stories. Funny stories. Sad stories. Fanciful stories. Stories about real life. We just can’t get enough of them. We have whole sectors of our lives devoted to telling and remembering and sharing stories. The movies we watch, the books we read, the social media that we share, the time we spend with family and friends—they all revolve around stories. Every part of human life revolves around stories. The

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19 Jul 2021

The Ambivalent Earth

“Re-enchantment of the world” is one of those phrases that tends to frequently show up within certain aesthetically inclined Christian circles. However, unlike other buzzword-y concepts that often make appearances in conversations along these lines (“human flourishing”?), this one is at least somewhat easier to nail down. Charles Taylor, one of the leading exponents of the theme, wrote in 2008: [T]he boundary between agents and forces is fuzzy in the enchanted world; and the boundary

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16 Jul 2021

Church and Conscience

American Christianity, in certain intellectual quadrants at least, is undergoing a reassessment of established conceptions of church and state. The Gelasian analogy (from Duo Sunt) of church and state, now carried on by contemporary integralists but also by many more before them, is that of soul and body. The former represents the spiritual power and the latter the temporal. This is a proper analogy that, in various forms, was invoked by the magisterial reformers (like

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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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12 Jul 2021

Orthodox Pastoral Care and Psychotherapy

If there is any subject bound to divide members within the Orthodox Church today, it is the relationship between Orthodoxy and psychotherapy. Indeed, a line could be drawn down the middle of any Church nave with members on each side intent on coming to blows. One side is bound to consist of ROCOR1 priests and laity, enthusiastic converts, and the boomer faithful; on the other stand dual vocation priest-therapists, intellectuals, and younger, seasoned faithful. Each

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09 Jul 2021

Godforsakenness and Redemption Pt. 1: The Lynched Savior

Julius Bloch, Lynching link to image In this series I examine atonement, specifically the cross and Christ’s cry of dereliction, in conversation with the historical reality of the lynching of thousands of Black people in America during the 19th and into the 20th (and arguably 21st) century. In this article I examine the relationship between the cross and the lynching tree made by James Cone in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and

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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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02 Jul 2021

The Power of the Enemy or the Hands of a Friend?

It seems to me at this stage of my life that one of the harder parts of maturing in faith is coming to grips with the fact that all of scripture, all of our experience in Christ, all the core beliefs and convictions of the Christian gospel, all the ancient writings and creedal magnificence and great teachings and profound ideas of all the saints—all of this put together—is still not enough to answer some of

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23 Jun 2021

Of Rob Bell and Dolphins

Former preacher and megachurch pastor, Rob Bell, is impressed by dolphins. In a recent interview with Lewis Howes, Rob waxed philosophical about the natural ability of dolphins to just be dolphins, to bypass the frazzled attention spans and psychological reflexivity which characterize so much of human life as we know it. “Most of the time when I surf,” Rob explained, “there are dolphins. Like this morning. And a dolphin goes by, ‘I’m a dolphin.’ It’s

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21 Jun 2021

How Not to Write About Stephen King’s “Theology”

As a longtime fan of Stephen King’s sprawling stories—which, contrary to popular belief, run the gamut from horror epics to mainstream dramas like The Shawshank Redemption—I’ve often noticed that the specter of the sacred is never far from view in his tales. Whether religion is engaged critically—as in the hypocrisy of a fundamentalist minister—or sympathetically, as in the martyrdom of a prisoner who may be Jesus Christ, its presence looms large in the lives of

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18 Jun 2021

The Feminist Case Against “Inclusive Language” Liturgy: Part II

I was once involved in preparing the liturgy for an ordination service in an Episcopal diocese. During the planning process, the rector mentioned to me that he had been planning to use the “inclusive language” liturgies approved for trial use by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and asked for my thoughts. I gently voiced my opposition which generally followed the argument I make in this article.  He and I went back and forth

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16 Jun 2021

Calvin and Theonomy

I recently wrote a critique of Theonomy over at Mere Orthodoxy. Lots of feedback came my way, some constructive, most not. What seems to have been lost on many readers is that, first and foremost, my critique was aimed at the critics. I want to take Theonomy seriously and my criticisms to push them to better explication of their ideas. Finding the majority of recent criticisms of Theonomy either unfair or unthoughtful—when it comes to

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14 Jun 2021

Is God Patient? (Part 3)

An introduction to this series can be found here, and Part 2, exploring the Hebrew terms, can be found here.   The Greek Definitions of Patience—Endurance as Salvation: makrǒthumia/makrǒthumōs  Found fifteen times in the New Testament, fourteen in the first form and once in the second form (Acts 26:3), this word refers to forbearance or fortitude, to be longsuffering, or to endure.  How is God enduring? Linked alongside the Hebrew word, ârêk, the Apostle Paul

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04 Jun 2021

The Handmaid’s Tale and Human Dignity

“Cows don’t get married.” This line comes from the second season of the Handmaid’s Tale, which, to put it mildly, is a very difficult show to watch, for a variety of reasons. [1] It is said in the context of a concentration camp where “unwomen” – women deemed worthless by the tyrannical government, Gilead – are condemned to die a slow death while working to clean up radiation poisoning. Janine, formerly a waitress and sexual

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02 Jun 2021

Keep Scholasticism in the Schools

He was in Logick a great Critick Profoundly skill’d in Analytick. He could distinguish, and divide A Hair ’twixt South and South-west side: On either which he would dispute, Confute, change hands, and still confute. – Samuel Butler The title of this post is purposefully ambiguous. I could mean by it that contemporary academic theology—theology done in universities, seminaries, divinity schools—suffers from a neglect of scholastic theology, as it was developed and practiced in the

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01 Jun 2021

Methodist Circuit Riders in Old Ontario

Several times I have wondered what it would be like for aliens to learn about jazz through textbooks. If they knew anything about music theory, they could probably comprehend the basic characteristics as well as common elements like the Mixolydian mode and the triplet rhythm on the ride cymbal. With some historical study, they also might be able to understand, if only vaguely, the origins of jazz and its place in cultures around the world.

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26 May 2021

In Praise of the Holy Spirit

A rushing wind, rattling through a home Tongues of fire blazing in the empty air Living water bubbling up to revive the thirsty The form of a dove hovering over the River Jordan A man or a woman testifying to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Each of these images is a Scriptural rendering – a verbal icon if you will – of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Each is

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24 May 2021

What Re-Enchantment Really Means

Out of all the Christmas presents I’ve received over the years, none so far can hold a candle to what showed up under the tree when I was ten: a thick paperback set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I’d been raised on (and loved) C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and Tolkien’s intricate cosmos felt just like that, but more. Here was a sprawling world with its own languages and

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