06 Oct 2021

From Essence to Existence: Pondering the Glimpse of Being

And the question which has always been raised, in times of old and still in our day, and always embarrasses us, is ‘what is being?’ – Aristotle I’ve noted previously that our common sense approach to reality leads to a kind of intuition of “being” as that highest of all unities. Everything that is is, as Parmenides put it. Saying it this way, however, is liable to misunderstanding. “Being” is not simply what we come

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04 Oct 2021

The Hungry Heart of Eden

Perhaps one of the most overlooked passages in Scripture for Christian formation is the story of Creation. We are shaped so much and so obviously by the Fall, and the matrix of serpent-apple-temptation-nakedness resonates with our imaginations in such visceral ways, that it nearly seems genetic. As we consider, however, God’s first acts of creative goodness in Eden, we are invited to look upon a lost world, a world that will never return. That prelude

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29 Sep 2021

In Praise of the Holy Angels

When I was in college, my priest gave a sermon for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels which I still remember. “Angels are like living thoughts flowing from the mind of God,” he said, “and the mind of God sustains and fills all things.” He went on to remind the congregation that the existence of angels is assumed by Jesus throughout the Gospels, and that it seems that God has placed human beings

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22 Sep 2021

The Sabbath Can’t Be Secular

In his new history of Christian politics, The Two Cities, Andrew Willard Jones discerns that modern people, including Christians, erroneously divide the world up into distinct religious and secular realms. The former sits “totally outside of history” and the latter refers to what is “in time,” which is to say, devoid of the timeless, eternal, and supernatural. The religious realm intervenes in the secular only extraordinarily. Absent a miraculous event that defies the status quo,

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08 Sep 2021

A Glimpse of Being

As a concept, being is both the most universal and the most abstract of all. Its extension is the richest, its comprehension the most poor. – Étienne Gilson It is the same with this object of thought, this primordial reality we call being. We have not looked it in the face. We think it something far simpler than it is. We have not yet troubled to unveil its true countenance. – Jacques Maritain In two

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25 Aug 2021

The Birth of Mystery

The morning my second daughter, Eliana Susan, was delivered by caesarean section, I spoke the Nicene Creed over her. This act of devotion was unplanned on my part. Once the nurse had swaddled Ellie and handed her to me, my mind flooded with such relief and joy that the words bubbled up unbidden. “I’m going to tell you a mystery,” I said, as Ellie peered up at me from beneath her pink knit cap, “We

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23 Aug 2021

Another One Bites the Dust (Part 2)

This post is part of series exploring God’s Story: God’s Story (Part 1) The next chapter of God’s Story is one that’s been riffed on in countless ways over the generations: the story of how humanity ate forbidden fruit. Some portrayals are better or more memorable than others, but whatever the specific flavor of the story, the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is part of our cultural consciousness. We’ve got

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16 Aug 2021

The Bleak Gospel of Jordan Peterson

On paper, I am someone who should be a tremendous fan of Jordan Peterson. Like Peterson, I care greatly about the centrality of symbolism and narrative in human lives, particularly as bulwarks of meaningfulness in an increasingly chaotic world. Like Peterson, I reject the view that history is little more than a chronicle of illegitimate oppression. Like Peterson, I think the pop-cultural touchstones that move us most strongly are those that tap into universal structures

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13 Aug 2021

Duty and Reciprocity in the Pandemic

I have spent a good amount of my Covid pandemic days imbedded in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England election sermons, as well as older American case law regarding the state police power vis-á-vis past public health crises. The two seemingly disconnected inquiries have actually cohered quite well. This exercise has kept me, for the most part, from joining the hot take fray on pandemic-related topics. It has not, however, totally kept me from glancing up

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06 Aug 2021

Godforsakenness and Redemption PT. 2: The Cry of Solidarity

“Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani?” by Ann Kim Oil Stick on canvas, 1998, 50″ x 70″ link In my previous article I examined the linkages between crucifixion and lynching made by theologian James Cone, and his argument that Christ’s crucifixion opens up the possibility of redemption despite atrocities like lynching that were designed to demonize and devastate the very humanity of Black people. In this article I move beyond Cone and investigate an experience I refer

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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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