Overgrown

Overgrown

  When James Blake debuted on the independent music scene in 2011 with his self-titled first LP, his appeal lay not only in his musicianship and songwriting abilities, but in his unique, genre-defying sound. Fusing dubstep with serious classical piano chops, jazz chords, and soulful vocals, Blake’s music is strikingly unique, yet surprisingly cohesive. Pair all of this with charming interpersonal awkwardness and a British accent, and you have an instant commercial success. While it … [Read more...]

Why Priests?

whypriests

  The first priest that Garry Wills takes aim at isn’t a man in a clerical collar. It’s Christ. A significant proportion of the book is spent disputing Jesus’s lineage as a priest in the order of Melchizedek (as laid out in the Letter to the Hebrews), but Wills isn’t trying to strip Jesus of titles. He means to recast Jesus in a role he respects more—not a priest, but a Jewish prophet. Quoth Wills: Jesus was a radical Jewish prophet. And like many Jewish prophets, he was … [Read more...]

The Real Paradox of Individualism

Rural Community

  In contemporary American political discourse, there are two poles of authority and power: the individual and the state. Their relationship is inverse and antagonistic; as one waxes, the other wanes. Thus, our world is split conceptually between the realm of state authority and the realm of individual autonomy, and politics is the working-out of the boundary between the two. Politicians may pay lip service to concepts such as “family” and “community,” but ultimately the … [Read more...]

Politics and Faith: Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich at Union Seminary in New York

PoliticsandFaith

Christianity, as a faith rooted necessarily in history, has been shaped by theologians battered to and fro by the happenings of their world. Augustine wrote his City of God as the barbarians massed at the walls of his city; Jonathan Edwards penned his landmark Freedom of the Will from his home in Stockbridge that doubled as a barricade against French and Indian assaults; and Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich developed theological systems in the midst of 20th century global upheaval unlike any … [Read more...]

Out with the Old

abri

Edith Schaeffer died this past Holy Saturday at her home in Gryon, Switzerland at the age of 98. She was a retired missionary, writer, and speaker who, along with her husband Francis, founded the residential study center L’Abri in 1955 in the small Swiss village of Huemoz. Over the next 30 years, the two would work to radically alter the shape of American evangelicalism and American Christianity more broadly. As others have noted, the Schaeffers were themselves fundamentalists when they … [Read more...]

The Theology of Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

  Editor’s Note: Massive Spoilers. Read at your own risk. Breaking Bad is one of the most ethically complicated dramas on television today. The series explores themes of sin, guilt, forgiveness, and damantion through the transformation of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. Calling the series’s thematic landscape a philosophy fails to fully appreciate its religious dimensions; in this essay, I will sketch a few tenets of what we might call the … [Read more...]

Cancer and Divine Transcendence

cancer_cells1

  When your phone goes off in class, your biggest concern is usually the teacher’s reaction. But in that moment, I could not have cared less what my professor was thinking. For staring me in the face was the worst text I had ever received. One of my best friends from home had just gotten word from his oncologist that, less than a year after it had been defeated the first time, his leukemia was back with a vengeance. After reading his message—“Here we go again...”—I … [Read more...]

Reforming Desire

Heaven

  I recently heard a priest make the following statement in a homily on the virtue of faith: “As a teenager, I thought that Heaven was essentially a mass that never ended. The very idea of sitting through a never-ending series of church hymns repulsed me. Nevertheless, I wanted to want this because I believed I should.” Putting aside the idea of Heaven as a never-ending series of church hymns, a few immensely important questions arise from this glimpse into a very common Christian … [Read more...]

Eros Beyond Sex

Eros

When we encounter the word eros—the Greek noun to which the adjective “erotic” corresponds—we probably assume that eros is essentially sexual love. Yet in making this assumption, we hit far wide of the mark established in the thought of the Greek philosophers and continued in the Christian tradition. What, then, is eros? Is it a purely physical love, or a love that consumes both mind and body? How does eros relate to sexuality? The traditional answers to these questions may … [Read more...]

The Economy of Desire

economy

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer admonishes Christians who have bought into the theology of “cheap grace.” Bonhoeffer describes cheap grace as “the grace we bestow upon ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.” In Bonhoeffer’s view, the heresy of cheap grace is founded on a false separation between faith and obedience: “...we must never forget the indissoluble … [Read more...]