The Dangers of Isolation

Isolation is dangerous.

Webster defines isolation as “to set apart from others; quarantine; insulate.” While brief periods of isolation may not be dangerous, isolation has become a way of life for many. Despite easier, less-expensive, and more accessible interaction with other people, contemporary humans may be the most isolated in history. I will leave others to explain the precise mechanisms and explanations for this reality; here, I want to dwell for a moment on the forms of isolation that pervade our world. Continue reading

Ephrem’s Symbolic Transformation

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syriac Christianity.

TransformationIn his dissertation on Ephrem, Jeff Wickes argues that Ephrem’s symbolic universe constructs a symbolic self through the scriptural world of his hymns (Wickes, 3). In light of an earlier chapter, this is clarified to mean that Ephrem co-identified the scriptural and symbolic selves (Ibid., 3). Overall, Wickes’s presentation of how Ephrem assimilated biblical terminology in order to create a scriptural self for his audience is convincing, especially when read with the perspectives of Alford and Krueger. Yet there seems to be something missing from this presentation of the scriptural self, namely, the concrete manner in which the transformation of the believer through identification with Ephrem’s symbolic universe was to occur. This essay reflects upon the question of whether or not Ephrem’s scriptural universe required concrete expression, or remained a primarily abstract symbolic universe. Continue reading

Church Search Update (May 2015)

Little White ChurchI have been meaning to write this post for some time now, at least since early December of last year and certainly since mid-January of this year. As many readers know, my wife (Hayley) and I have been undergoing a Church Search for nearly two years now. This post is intended to a) provide anyone interested in some of the background of this search greater context into what this process looks like for us, and b) to give a general update on the search itself. Continue reading

Agobard and the Holy Spirit: Efficacious Procession

Icon of the Holy Trinity (Rubilev)

Icon of the Holy Trinity (Rubilev)

Belief in the Trinity makes Christianity stand out. This is true for a number of reasons, including the importance that this doctrine places on faith (how else can you explain how one is three and three are one?), trust in the Christians of the past (most contemporary Christians do not excavate the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the early Church for themselves), and for the importance of relationship in the Christian tradition (the Trinity affirms the necessity of love and companionship, especially among those created in the image of God[1]). Yet the exceptionality of this belief also makes it fraught with potential misunderstandings, misapplications, and outright heretical appropriations. Continue reading

Book Review: Believe (Frazee)

Believe (NIV)The Bible is a complex book, full of countless stories, prophecies, and genres of writing, each of which (ostensibly) applies to the Christian life in some way. It is no easy task, however, to read the entire Bible and grasp how each portion relates to the others or how 21st century Christians should engage the scriptures in their complexity. To assist those journeying towards God through a close reading of the Bible comes Believe: Living the Story of the Bible to Become Like Jesus (Zondervan: 2014) edited by Randy Frazee. Continue reading

Endo’s Silence

Silence, EndoInsights from historical fiction are often intended to make readers pause for careful consideration, especially so with Shasaka Endo’s Silence, the account of a Christians amidst the persecutions of 16th century Japan. Central to this narrative is Endo’s portrayal of the conflict between Eastern and Western civilizations, especially as that conflict impacted Christianity. The narrative traces the journey of Portuguese Jesuit Sebastian Rodrigues to Macao and then Japan, his interactions with Japanese Christians, his confrontation with the apostate Christovao Ferreira, and his eventual capitulation to the tactics of the magistrate Inoue, developing a number of theological concerns along the way. In this essay, we examine several of these, including Rodrigues’ relationship with Kichijiro, Endo’s use of the term “silence,” the co-opting of the Biblical narrative, and the conflict between East and West as demonstrated through the “swamp of Japan.” Through engagement with these considerations, I argue that central to Endo’s perspective is the centrality of a Christian love that seeks to transcend the cultural boundaries of East and West. Continue reading

The Long Loneliness

Dorothy Day PosterDorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness, offers numerous insights into the life story of one of the 20th century’s greatest American Catholics and the experiences and thinking behind her journalistic and social work. While Day stood outside the traditional bounds of American Catholicism, her commitment to journalistic excellence and learning, social poverty, and a re-thought Christian message made her one of the most influential religious figures in 20th century American Christianity. The Long Loneliness recounts Day’s story as many autobiographies do, with numerous references to the broader scope of human existence and relationships formed therein, demonstrating that Day’s commitment to social action stemmed from her broad range of experiences and desire to affirm the message of Jesus Christ within the context of 20th century America. Continue reading

Book Review: Just Jesus (Wink)

Just Jesus

Just Jesus

“How does my autobiography affect my interpretation of Scripture? How has my theology come out of my experiences?”

These are the driving questions of Walter Wink’s memoirs, Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human (Image: New York, 2014). Penned as his reflections upon life and theology during his fatal struggle with dementia, Just Jesus reads something like a collection of reflections by a modern Christian saint, structurally and, at least at times, theologically as well. Compiled with the help of Wink’s wife June and Steven Berry, this work provides numerous insights into the life and thought of one of the most influential American Christian theologians of the 20th century. Continue reading

Luther on Secular Authority

Martin Luther
Martin Luther

No one even somewhat familiar with the life and work of Martin Luther would deny either that he wrote massive amounts of material over the course of his life or that he was extremely vitriolic and opinionated in some of these writings. For all of Luther’s famous reformation ideals and his seemingly deep pastoral intentions, for many scholars, Luther’s greatest legacy remains his darkest, namely the Lutheran heritage of Christian antinomianism and hatred for Jews that he bequeathed the German people. While few draw clear lines of connection between Luther and Hitler’s Third Reich, almost no serious scholar denies that some form of connection between the two most famous German men in Western history. Luther’s themes of Christian antinomianism and hatred for the Jewish people come across most clearly in On Secular Authority and On the Jews and Their Lies, respectively.  Throughout both of these writings, Luther speaks with characteristic zest and rhetorical flair, demonstrating his opinionated stance on both the relationship between sacred and secular authorities as well as the Jewish people. Determining an overarching theme to both of these works remains difficult, though one finds an interesting contrast between the uses of scriptural references in these two works. Overall, Luther’s main argument in On Secular Authority and On the Jews and Their Lies appears to be the clear superiority of Christ and His Church to any competing claims of authority, either on the secular level or among another religious group such as the Jewish people. Continue reading