Some Post-Election Reflections

election-2016This was unexpected. For weeks, pundits were talking about the flexibility of polling (it looks like the major polls were ~3-4% points off) and the unknowability of the “Silent Trump vote” which came out en masse yesterday. This was yet another election where the experts were off in their predictions enough that it mattered in the end.

Social media matters. The idea that any press is good press undoubtedly assisted President Elect Trump during this election. Election-themed hashtags are here to stay. Additionally, our reliance on social media made it near-impossible to forget that yesterday was election day or who was running. Trump’s traditional “ground game” was non-existent in some places, but his social media furor helped alleviate those concerns. Our country is changing how we communicate and Trump did a solid job embracing that reality.

There are some intriguing parallels to the Obama 2008 election. Both Trump and Obama ran on outsider, change-centered platforms, a possible indication that the electorate really doesn’t really like either party just change. Both candidates offered rhetorically strong campaigns but did not rely much on rhetorical sophistication (“Make America Great Again” and “Hope and Change”). Obama and Trump have also “rewritten” the electoral map (insofar as you can rewrite anything that, by definition, changes constantly and very clearly every four years) in ways that pundits will be digesting and discussing for what will feel like endless election-cycles to come. Continue reading

Happy Fourth of July

Fourth-of-JulyHappy Birthday to the United States of America! As is my custom on this holiday, I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence (signed this day in 1776) and to reflect on the ideals of government found therein.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. Continue reading

Book Review: Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)

Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)Every so often a book comes along and truly rewrites the paradigms of a field. Some twenty-five years ago, David Noebel penned such a book, titled Understanding the Times. In this 900-page tome Noebel outlined the clash between competing worldviews – ways of viewing and interpreting the world – which were occurring throughout in the late 20th century. The original edition of UTT was one of the most popular and influential books ever on culture and worldviews from a Christian perspective, transforming how many people understand the battle of ideas taking place in our times. But the contours of major worldviews have changed since 1991 and the world has changed along with them. To address this new worldviews context, Jeff Myers, in conjunction with David Noebel, undertook a substantial revision of Noebel’s classic work, now called Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews (Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Ministries and Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015. 510pp.). Continue reading

Remembering 9/11

9-11-NeverForgetFourteen years ago today, my dad and I were late leaving for school. It was a day like any other. I had even neglected some morning chore, so dad was already sitting in his truck listening to “J.T. in the Morning”, the local morning talk show in South Bend, IN. As I climbed into the truck, dad told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know what the World Trade Center was and–since we were listening on the radio–I didn’t know what kind of plane was involved. I remember thinking that some small single-engine place had accidentally crashed into some building. Little did I know. Continue reading

Book Review: Richard John Neuhaus (Boyagoda)

Richard John Neuhaus - A Life in the Public Square, BoyagodaBiographies are intensely personal affairs, filled with the often mundane details purporting to tell the life story of some person of alleged importance. Occasionally, however, a figure of true influence will come along and change the world. In the American context, such figures have often been religious or political leaders, those two realms of discourse which seem to influence all others. Indeed, few can deny that Washington, Lincoln, King, and Graham do not continue to play important roles in shaping our context. Yet few characters of history have simultaneously transformed both religion and politics. One such person was the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, whose public advocacy—for both political left and right and for Christian faith in the public square—continues to influence our world. Continue reading

Book Review: Fields of Blood (Armstrong)

Fields of BloodFor many people living in the West, an assumption exists that religion is inherently violent. After all, they say, just look at the evidence: religion has caused wars, the Crusades, terrorism, religion has made people hate and kill others for nothing more than the ideas that were in their heads. According to this view, religions are not only necessarily violent, but they are responsible for much (if not all) of the violence in recorded human history. However, an explanation of the history of violence is not so simple, argues Karen Armstrong in her latest book Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. 512 pages). According to Armstrong, though violence is an unfortunate reality of human history, evil and warfare are not necessarily religious in nature nor does violence always arise from religion. In the impressive and exhaustive tome that is Fields of Blood, Armstrong traces the relationship between religion and the history of violence, arguing that “We cannot afford oversimplified assumptions about the nature of religion or its role in world.” Continue reading

Christologies in Conflict: Cyril and Nestorius

Rendition of the Council of Ephesus

Rendition of the Council of Ephesus

The Christological controversies of the early Church are some of the most interesting and historically confusing events within the Christian tradition. The four great Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries and the writings of Early Christian leaders, both orthodox and heterodox, provide scholars with a wealth of information concerning the controversies concerning early belief concerning the person of Jesus Christ. At the Council of Ephesus (of which there were actually two) in 431 AD, the theologies of Cyril of Alexandria and Nestorius of Constantinople squared off concerning the person of Christ, whether there were two distinct persons of Logos and man within the incarnate Christ, or if the persons were somehow joined in a union.[1] Continue reading

A (Free) College Education for Everyone?

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.
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Magdalen College, Oxford

You may have heard that last week President Obama announced an initiative to provide “free” community college education for qualifying students, tentatively defined as those maintaining a “C” average in school. As noted several months ago here at Conciliar Post, the status quo of the American education system needs reform, as the overall monetary and policy prioritization of K-12 education has done relatively little to effectively educate America’s youth and prepare them for their future vocations.1 Few deny that something needs to change in education, though conclusions as to just what that something is remain debated. The purposes of this article involve neither rehashing these concerns nor reacting to our President’s particular proposal—for actual details are scant at this point.2 Rather, this article considers the generalities of “free college education” for everyone, just one part of the greater “education question” that faces our nation. To these ends, I reflect on three questions concerning the cost, need, and implications of a program offering “free” community college education. Continue reading

Book Review: Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods (Ed. Fiensy and Strange)

Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Early Mishnaic PeriodsA longstanding problem for those attempting to study early Christianity involves the obscurity of the first centuries of the Common Era. Though nearly constantly reflected upon and studied since those years faded into the past, there remain numerous gaps in our understanding of the world and context of Jesus and his earliest followers. Unfortunately, this fact becomes especially noticeable when examining conceptions of how Second Temple Judaism and those living in Ancient Palestine impacted the subsequent shape of early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. To help address this gap and to introduce the recent textual and archaeological findings from this important period comes Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods: Life, Culture, and Society: Volume One (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), edited by David A. Fiensy and James Riley Strange. Continue reading

Luther’s Two Kingdoms: Links

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Over the past two weeks I’ve run a series on Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. While there are unquestionably portions of Luther’s ethic which are possibly problematic and have been interpreted poorly (see Nazi Germany), I do think the Two Kingdom’s can serve as a useful mode of thinking in today’s context, as I briefly noted over at Patheos Evangelical. I would love hearing any thoughts on the series and/or Luther’s value for today.

By way of review for this series, below are links to all of the articles from this recent series. Continue reading