12 Jul 2017

Troublesome Trinitarianism

Note: Any time one writes about Trinity-related issues, they’re treading into dangerous theological territory. Accordingly, where I’ve overlooked important distinctions or overstepped my bounds, I welcome correction from those more rigorously trained than me. The recent film adaptation of The Shack put debates about the doctrine of the Trinity back on the public radar. Longtime critics of author William Paul Young drew fresh ammunition from his new volume Lies We Believe About God, a nonfiction

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20 Jun 2017

Charles Taylor and “The Witch”

Last year, a curious little horror movie made something of a splash in the indie scene. The Witch: A New England Folktale follows an early American Puritan family’s descent into wilderness madness after their banishment from their community. As the story progresses, it becomes less and less clear whether the misfortunes that befall them are of their doing, or are the work of actual demonic forces. The Witch, with its surreal interludes and conclusion, was

John Ehrett 1
16 May 2017

Evangelical Apocalypse Anxiety

With Donald Trump in the White House, a right-leaning Supreme Court restored to full strength, majorities in both chambers of Congress, and an overwhelming advantage in statehouses across the country, American political power is firmly in the hands of Republicans. This “revenge of the Right” has left some sociologists wondering why, despite having gained such a decisive upper hand politically, so many American evangelicals perceive themselves as threatened. This isn’t a new question, and religious

John Ehrett 2
09 May 2017

Round Table: Angels and Demons

Christianity makes some bold claims: God created the universe. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Human existence does not end at physical death. These statements all point to an important component of the Christian worldview: that which we can see, touch, and measure—the physical world—is not all that is. Reality is composed of something beyond the natural, physical material that we see all around us. Once one accepts the reality of the non-natural, an important question

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04 May 2017

A Short Introduction to the Syrian Orthodox Church

Over the last few years, numerous reports have reached the West of Syrian Christians suffering at the hands of ISIS militants. While the overwhelming majority of American Christians correctly recognizes members of the Syrian church as fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, most would probably be hard-pressed to explain the unique richness of the Syrian Orthodox Christian tradition. The Syrian Orthodox Church is deeply rooted in early Christian history, and can readily trace the

John Ehrett 2
28 Apr 2017

The Dark Theology of Stephen King

Stephen King’s brand isn’t exactly synonymous with spirituality. He’s undoubtedly best known for his prominence as a writer of horror fiction—from “Carrie” and “Cujo” to “Pet Sematary” and “Desperation.” His books are drenched in macabre darkness, packed from start to finish with imagery that ranges from horrifyingly visceral to utterly surreal. I’ve been a King aficionado for the better part of a decade (and have written about this subject before). I continue to find myself

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20 Apr 2017

Fake News and the Church

Over the last few months, “fake news”—fraudulent journalism passed off as factual—has become one of the hottest topics in cultural debate. Though deceptive news stories are certainly nothing new, their power to reach massive audiences (thanks to social media) has only grown over time. In an era dominated by confirmation biases, fake news can rapidly lead to misperceptions of reality. In part, this is due to the fact that no one quite knows who to

John Ehrett 1
10 Apr 2017

World Christianity or Global Christianity?

As part of my ongoing quest to develop a more systematized theological background, I recently completed the coursework to earn a certificate in theology and ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary. Among my theologically conservative friends, I caught some flak for this choice: traditionally affiliated with the Presbyterian Church–USA (PCUSA), Princeton Seminary has long been accused of heterodox theological liberalism. Indeed, such institutional trends impelled then-professor J. Gresham Machen to found Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929.

John Ehrett 1
10 Mar 2017

Book Review: “The Benedict Option”

I. Introduction This article has been percolating for a very long time. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t reflect on how my faith intersects with the evolving American public sphere, and I’ve probably spent more time writing and rewriting this review than just about anything I’ve worked on in the last couple of years. Plainly, American Christianity stands at a cultural crossroads. And with the release of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for

John Ehrett 1
07 Mar 2017

What Mainline Protestants Can Teach Evangelicals

Growing up in Texas, I was steeped in evangelical culture from an early age. This was incidental more than intentional, given that my own Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod occupies a unique space in the American ecclesiastical landscape: it’s too theologically conservative for the traditional “mainline,” but too liturgical and traditional to fit neatly within American evangelicalism. Yet when you live in the land of the megachurch, you tend to assume that the rest of American Christianity—if

John Ehrett 1
23 Feb 2017

Why Protestants Should Care About the Church’s Historical Tradition

When arguments break out about the Constitution in public life, almost everyone has a natural tendency to grab a copy of the document, point to a passage that appears to support their views, and declare that the question is immediately settled. The Constitution’s Ninth Amendment—“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”—is a prime example of this: most liberal and conservative scholars

John Ehrett 1
09 Feb 2017

Who’s Afraid of Liberal Democracy?

Liberal democracy has fallen on hard times: across the Western world, nationalism is on the rise. (By “liberal democracy” I refer not to the left-right political spectrum, but to a political structure built on participatory democracy, coupled with entrenched individual rights protections and a generally free-market economic system.) From America and England to Hungary and Russia, the liberal-democratic vision of an “interconnected global community” appears to be wavering in the face of widespread cultural blowback.

John Ehrett 0
27 Jan 2017

The Inevitable Flagellation of Russell Moore

Though not a Southern Baptist (or Calvinist) myself, I’ve long admired the work done by Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Moore’s ministry has coupled rigorous theology (and an unwillingness to yield to ideological pressures) with willingness to advance a holistic Christian message across traditional partisan lines. Under his leadership, the ERLC has weighed in on criminal justice reform, racial reconciliation, immigration, and respect for Muslims’ religious

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10 Jan 2017

How America Turned Its President Into a God

Gallons of e-ink have already been spilled over the 2016 presidential election outcome, and barrels more will undoubtedly be required by journalists and scholars in future decades. Until President-elect Donald Trump actually takes office, I have few concrete thoughts about the nation’s future trajectory. One element of the 2016 campaign, however, seems to have been underexplored in the flood of post-election hot takes: over the last ten years or so, some Americans have developed a

John Ehrett 1
04 Jan 2017

Why Millennial College Students Should Study Theology

Full disclosure: this is not another complaint essay about “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings” or anything of that sort. I think that ground has been thoroughly trodden by others. Instead, I intend to take a rather more theoretical tack. I recently took a free course in “Securing Digital Democracy” designed by the University of Michigan and offered through the online Coursera platform. While the course content was excellent, I wasn’t impressed by the platform’s design: a

John Ehrett 1
29 Nov 2016

Against the Tradinistas: Faith, Capitalism, and Culture

I. Cultural Impoverishment A few weeks ago, I visited Montpelier, Vermont for the first time. As state capitals go, the city is positively tiny, with a resident population around 8,000—and it’s one of the most picturesque small towns I’ve ever seen. The state capitol building sits adjacent to the local courthouse, and the Montpelier city hall is just one block away. Walking down the drizzly main street, I passed an Episcopal church, a Lovecraft-themed bookstore,

John Ehrett 1
22 Nov 2016

A Few Thoughts on Transhumanism

In the furor and frenzy of the recent presidential election, you almost certainly didn’t hear about third-party candidate Zoltan Istvan, spokesman for the “Transhumanist Party.” Istvan’s quixotic campaign—characterized by its relentless fixation on technological progress as the road to eventual human apotheosis—was almost completely dead on arrival, but the questions he and others have raised have been percolating within culture for some time. A recent episode of the cyber-dystopian anthology TV series Black Mirror also

John Ehrett 3
01 Nov 2016

Zoos and the Reenchantment of Existence

I am an irrepressible zoo aficionado. During the past two summers, I lived in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., just two blocks from the National Zoo run by the Smithsonian Institution. Almost every morning, I’d see to it that my daily run detoured through the zoo, past elephants and sloth bears and pandas and clouded leopards (luckily for me, the gates generally opened early). For me, visiting zoos (and aquariums) is one way

John Ehrett 2
11 Oct 2016

What Andy Stanley Should’ve Said About the Bible

If you’ve been following the evangelical press lately, you’ve probably encountered the latest brouhaha over biblical inerrancy. As part of a sermon series entitled Who Needs God?, well-known pastor Andy Stanley took aim at the idea that appeals to biblical authority could be the foundation for a successful apologetic approach. In other words, Stanley is saying that it doesn’t work to tell people that “the Bible says so” about a particular topic, and assume that

John Ehrett 1
29 Sep 2016

Loving My (Anonymous, Online) Neighbors

I recently wrapped up a major academic research project exploring how online communities comprised of anonymous members—in particular, the notoriously noxious League of Legends gaming world—attempt to police digital harassment. Most games have some sort of complaint or moderation function that triggers disciplinary action in the event of severe verbal abuse (in the case of League of Legends, disciplinary reports trigger a “judicial” review process by other players, who generally do a good job of

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