Writings of the Church Fathers
01 Aug 2017

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

Introduction Commonly known as “The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus,” the authorship and origins of this early Christian writing remain debated. The name Mathetes (§11) is not really a name at all, but comes from the Greek term for disciple (μαθητής). Diognetus (§1), the letter’s recipient, appears to have been a fairly common name in the ancient Roman world, and the specific addressee of this letter is unknown. Some debate exists over the possibility of

Jacob Prahlow 1
18 Jul 2017

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

Jacob Prahlow 1
11 Jul 2017

Reflections on a Mega Church Experience

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Bethel Church in Redding, California. For those unfamiliar with this church, Bethel was founded in 1952 by Robert Doherty and grew steadily from the 1960s to the early 1990s. Following the call of current senior pastor Bill Johnson in 1996, Bethel underwent a time of divisiveness followed by a period of tremendous growth. Currently, Bethel has approximately 9,000 weekly attendees—easily categorizing it as a mega church—and

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06 Jun 2017

Random Thoughts from a Western Adventure

My family recently returned from an excursion in the wild western part of our great nation, where we were summoned for my brother’s wedding. Going for drives—especially long ones—is something that I rather enjoy, even with a 9-month old in tow (though I should note that she is quite generous with her patience at being locked in her car seat for extended periods of time). Thus, we decided to extend our wedding trip and spend

Jacob Prahlow 1
23 May 2017

Bible Translations, Not Inspired

Debates over Which Bible Occasionally, I will run into someone who holds an especially high view of a certain version or translation of the Bible. Sometimes, this perspective follows denominational lines: Roman Catholics have the Douay-Rheims, Reformed churches laud the Holman Christian Standard Bibles (recently updated as the Christian Standard Bible), Dispensationalists fervently search their Scofield Reference Bibles, and Fundamentalists hold to the King James Version. Even when not holding rigidly to one particular version

Jacob Prahlow 1
25 Apr 2017

Some Early Morning Reflections on the Complexity of Life

As I sit by my daughter’s bed at 2am – teething, I’ve been told, will eventually pass – a number of thoughts traverse my tired mind. Most are muddled. What day is it? Did the Cubs win yesterday? What is the meaning of life? But I keep returning to one thought in particular: life is so complex. Doing some self-psychologizing, I came to realize a couple of things about this thought. Firstly, it’s not truly

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11 Apr 2017

How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages

As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Just last week, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens. The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to

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28 Mar 2017

A Proposal for Approaching Theology Historically

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to present a paper at a regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. There is nothing quite like the amassed scholarship of these conferences, the gathering of minds eager to pursue knowledge and discuss the finer points of theology, biblical interpretation, and Christian praxis. Of course, it would not truly be a meeting of evangelicals (evangelicals gathered at a Southern Baptist seminary, to wit) without some disagreement over

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14 Mar 2017

An Argument for Prima Scriptura

One of the great privileges of being a part of the Conciliar Post community is the opportunity to have meaningful conversations about substantive theological issues while remaining charitable toward our interlocutors. Not that we are the only website that promotes this type of dialogue. But in an era of increased incivility and rhetorical debauchery, it is a welcome relief to have a conversation rather than a shouting match. In this post, I hope to contribute

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28 Feb 2017

A Brief History of Communion (Part II)

This article continues the overview of the history of communion begun here. This post considers the history of communion from the medieval period until today. The Medieval Church During the medieval period, the Church began to use a common liturgy for Eucharistic celebration, with prescribed texts and traditions for services and practice. Some differences emerged between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, differences which were formalized following the Great Schism of 1054 CE.1 In

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16 Feb 2017

Round Table: The Purpose of the Local Church

Living in a post-Christian culture appears to be taking its toll on the local church. We no longer reside in small towns where people work together through the week and walk to church together on Sundays. We get in our separate cars from our separate neighbourhoods and homes, convene for an hour or two, and go home. Does this hour of the week change who we are? Does it connect us with the body of Christ?

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14 Feb 2017

A Brief History of Communion (Part I)

Christians of all sorts partake of some form of communion. Known by different names—the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, Holy Communion, Breaking of Bread, Mass—and taken at different frequencies—daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly—this practice involving bread and wine stands as a testament to both Christian unity as well as divisions. What do contemporary Christians believe about the Lord’s Supper? To begin answering this question, we must first look at the history of communion, beginning today with what the

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31 Jan 2017

The Bible in Thirty Chapters

What If… The Bible is a pretty large book. Although we might not immediately think of it as such, how many other 2,128-page1 books do you have laying around your home? Or which reader has four different versions of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare on their bookshelf? The Bible is unique, not only for its contents, but also for its construction and history. Though rightly regarded as the most important book you could ever

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17 Jan 2017

On Baptism (Part II)

This post continues my reflections on baptism, focusing on the covenantal and sacramental aspects of Christian baptism. Covenantal Theology Those beginning an exploration of historic baptismal theology will almost immediately run into the concept of covenantal theology. As commonly defined, a covenant is a formal agreement made between God and humans, typically one that only God is capable of upholding in its entirety. Christians of various stripes will interpret covenants and their implications differently, but,

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05 Jan 2017

On Baptism (Part I)

Baptism has been on my mind lately, not only because there are some intriguing conversations taking place in the blogging world about baptism and American Christianity, but also because a member of my family is being baptized soon. In this two-part article, I offer some reflections on baptism, beginning in this post with the Bible and history and wrapping up with some musings on covenant and sacrament in the next. Baptism in the Acts of

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09 Sep 2016

On the Misuse of Christian Tradition: A Response

The proper relationship between the authority of Christian Scripture and authority of Christian Tradition avails itself to no easy answers. From a historical viewpoint, much of the early development of both remains hotly debated. From a theological perspective, centuries (and sometimes millennia) old debates continue to shape thinking and lead toward answers long before any explicit consideration of this relationship comes into focus. Yet there seem to be boundaries—a “highway of orthodoxy” if you will—which

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19 Feb 2016

The Sermon on the Mount and Christian Ethics

Questions of an ethical nature dominate headlines, classrooms, and pulpits across the world. In an era where formulations of morality often spring from what “feels right” rather than any sort of foundational principles, many commentators have rightly noted the necessity of carefully considered ethics.1 For contemporary Christians, ethical thought remains clouded by ongoing disagreements about from where our moral systems arise and how authoritative those sources are in a technologically advanced world of complexity and

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22 Jan 2016

Of Tribalism and Churches (Part II)

In my last post I outlined some of the contextual and doctrinal considerations surrounding my ongoing wrestling with tribalism and baptism. In today’s post, I attempt to apply these principles to my “on the ground” situation. All Things to All People? Saint Paul speaks of becoming all things to all people. Less helpful, at least for my purposes, is how far he expects us to go in order to meet people where they are. Building

Jacob Prahlow 1
08 Jan 2016

Of Tribalism and Churches (Part I)

Recently I have been thinking about the topic of tribalism. By tribalism I mean adapting one’s behavior and thinking to accord with the group of people with which we are associated. I have been thinking a lot about this issue not because I am thinking about becoming a St. Louis Cardinals fan (my fellow Cubs fans will be happy to hear). Rather I have been thinking about tribalism in the context of baptism and the

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Different Christmas Traditions
25 Dec 2015

Christmas Traditions | Round Table

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, filled with family, food, and festivities. While almost all Christians agree that Christmas is an especially important time of year for the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, not all Christians concur on how to best celebrate the nativity of the Lord. This month’s Round Table reflects on how different traditions celebrate Christmas. As you read this Round Table, we encourage you to reflect not only on what you do

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