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Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 | 1 comment

What Hulu Can’t Do

What Hulu Can’t Do

  Let me begin by casting off any pretense of judgment towards a Saturday afternoon spent watching Gilmore Girls while the sun shines gloriously outside. One of my “incentives” for reaching a days reading or writing goal often involves a couch, two cuddly dogs and the most recent episodes of Once Upon a Time, I must admit. But, I also admit that a day of binge watching on Netflix does not compare to the times when I spend an entire day immersed in a novel, bottomless cup of coffee in-hand. There is something the pages of a book offer that the television screen cannot. What I propose here is not revolutionary, in fact, it may seem quite obvious to some: consider this a reminder of our imaginative capabilities to indwell fantastic worlds. In The Act of Reading, Wolfgang Iser discusses a particular kind of imaging that occurs in reading. Its particularity resides in the fact that when we read narrative fiction we imagine worlds that are independent of any...

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Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 | 0 comments

How Can Christian Academia be Christian?

How Can Christian Academia be Christian?

I want today to explore further the question Lance raised earlier this week—“What is the task of [academic] theology in the Church?” The relationship between Christianity and academia is a strange one. Most of Western academia has its roots within the Church. Much of it is also hostile to the Church, and a lot of Western Christianity’s most vibrant sectors are marked by a streak of anti-intellectualism. It should be no surprise, writing as I do for a site devoted to theology and philosophy and possessing a masters degree, that I vehemently disagree both with Christian anti-intellectualism and with its counterpart that thinks there’s something inherently intellectually suspect about Christianity. At the same time, I do believe there is a real tension, and it’s something that the Christian academy needs to think hard about addressing. The tension does not lie along the spectrum of intellectual vs. anti-intellectual, but stands instead between academia’s tendency towards elitism and Christian theology’s inherent populism.[1] Lance hinted at this tension in his post. As he pointed out, academic theology...

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Posted by on Aug 25, 2015 | 0 comments

What is the Task of Theology in the Church?

What is the Task of Theology in the Church?

Something that seems rarely discussed in the classroom is how theology actually changes the faith of people who do not spend time and money pursuing theological education. I have had a lot of conversations with strangers regarding faith, but I have never nailed down just what theology can do for everyone not interested in being a theologian. Some answers are fairly obvious. Orthodox theology can respond to paradigms different than that of Christianity. Whether it is a certain branding of atheism or secularism, theologians are often conversation partners with the milieus of culture. Just as obvious is theology’s ability to interact with other religious beliefs, and of course, Christian heresy as well. But if theology is primarily for the church, what kind of work is it doing? How does it bolster the faith of those who do not read academic works, study scripture, or immerse themselves in these conversations? What is theology actually doing? My first thought was that orthodox theology somehow sheds light on the complexity and nuances...

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Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 | 3 comments

Is ‘Suffering’ Still the Greatest Objection to Christianity?

Is ‘Suffering’ Still the Greatest Objection to Christianity?

I want to suggest that over the last few decades there has been a slow decline in objections to Christianity taking the form: “How could an all-powerful, loving God allow so much evil and suffering in the world?” The question itself comes from a modernist culture which had a very high view of human intellect, and very little room for mystery (i.e. anything that is beyond human comprehension). What has replaced it, in my experience, is a view which takes the form: “Religion is too dogmatic and constraining; it tells everyone what they should and shouldn’t believe/do, obstructing the freedom and diversity of true spirituality.” In a postmodern culture, where what’s-true-for-me is not necessarily what’s-true-for-you, the real problem is with anything that makes absolute truth claims affecting both of us. The odd thing is that these two objections are almost the opposite of each other. In the past Christianity was chided for not having enough answers. Now it is chided for having too many answers. Previously the failing of...

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Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 | 4 comments

The Liturgy of Political Discourse

The Liturgy of Political Discourse

The Big Lebowski is one of my and my friend Tyler’s favorite films. It takes very little provocation to get us to watch it, and I’ve even had viewings as close together as a week apart. A film that’s been seen so much reaches a place of comfortable familiarity–one begins to laugh even before the jokes land, and it’s perfectly possible to finish lines (if you want to be that annoying guy). There is something like this that happens in the morass of American political discourse, though it rarely involves laughter. As one grows older, one is bound to notice that American political discourse falls into patterns. That pattern may shift as certain ideologies ebb and flow, but by and large it’s so familiar one feels one really could finish the lines before they’re said. This is particular noticeable as we get nearer to the next American presidential race and political debate begins to move from constant background buzz to the foreground of American life (even for those of us not currently living on...

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Posted by on May 25, 2015 | 2 comments

Romantic Idolatry: A Call for an Imagination for Singleness

Romantic Idolatry: A Call for an Imagination for Singleness

  The Church has a relationship problem. Sometime during my undergraduate years, studying Medieval philosophers who were perhaps a bit too much influenced by Neoplatonism in their denigration of the body, I looked around at my friends, Christian and non-Christian, and realized something was wrong. The thing was, between these two groups of friends there was no real discernible difference in their attitudes towards romance (beyond when they’d sleep with their significant other… or at least, when they’d admit to doing it). In both cases, romance was seen as a life cap-stone, a path to personal fulfillment, the source of love. If certain Patristic and Medieval thinkers had imbibed a little bit too many anti-material sentiments, my friends and I had taken in its near opposite almost whole-cloth.  It’s hard to imagine St. Paul, with his declaration that it is better to remain unmarried, or Jesus who praised those who would become eunuchs for the Kingdom, condoning such sentiments. Which is not to say that I think romance is bad,...

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