This episode is a conversation with Dr. Jeremy Treat of Reality LA. We discuss the NBA (1:33), integrating the Kingdom and the cross in atonement theories (5:20), a definition the gospel (11:23), how atonement theories relate to one another (14:07), the implications of living out the gospel (20:49), pastoring in the pandemic (26:38), and more. Buy Jeremy’s books.
This episode is a conversation with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P. of the Angelicum. We discuss the continuity and discontinuity between Scripture and Nicaea (3:17), the relationship between ontology/theology and economy (10:30), omnipresence and incarnation (20:00), simplicity and persons (29:21), personal distinctions and eternal relations (35:56), filioque and spiration (43:02), and more.
This episode is a conversation with Dr. Matthew Bennett of Cedarville University. We discuss what we can learn from Islamic culture (3:52), the history of Muhammad and Islam origins (7:58), Jesus in the Qur’an (15:18), the role of the Bible in the Qur’an (21:00), truths and myths about jihad and violent Islamic groups (21:48), Christianity’s truth vs. Islam (28:36), tips for Christian missions and evangelism to Muslims (33:48), and more. Buy Matt’s books.
This episode is repost of my conversation with Dr. Carmen Imes of Talbot School of Theology. We discuss the Institute for Biblical Research (2:05), YHWH and Sinai (3:00), God’s covenants and the Great Commission (16:43), Gentile inclusion and the “spirit” of the Law (24:58), and practical implications for bearing God’s name (34:50). Buy Carmen’s books.
This episode is a conversation with Dr. John Meade of Phoenix Seminary. We discuss early biblical canon lists (1:06), the Old and New Testaments and “other writings” in the lists (7:00), the canon up to the Reformation (18:11), the unity and diversity of “authoritative” books (25:42), why we can trust our Bible (40:54), Origen the text critic (45:10), and more. Buy John’s books and check out the Text & Canon Institute.
This episode is a conversation with Dr. Kyle Strobel of Talbot School of Theology. We discuss the fall of leaders (2:37), a brief Jonathan Edwards troll session (7:40), what is missing in books on prayer (8:58), what we need to unlearn about prayer (12:37), true confession in prayer (22:39), unanswered prayers (29:33), reality vs. fantasy (34:12), and more. Buy Kyle’s books.
Here’s a prayer for New Year’s Day from James Hinton, an eighteenth-century Baptist minister who compiled one of the few prayer books in Baptist history (Thanks to Michael Haykin for sharing this work with me).
Oh thou who inhabitest eternity! By thee was infant time created, and every rolling year speaks of thy goodness. Help us to regard this new year as a new creation, and ourselves as not less indebted to thee for life continued, than for life begun. To thee we commend ourselves for this new period of our being, and for all the time that we may yet be spared. However seemingly firm, in thee alone we live, and move, and have our being. Though surrounded with affectionate and zealous friends, they can do little for us, unless directed by thee who art the Friend of all. However richly furnished in other respects, without thy blessing our stores are nothing. Even our goodness, unsupported by thee, will prove like the morning cloud and the early dew. Our principal hopes, if thou dost not maintain and prosper them, will not only fail, but pierce us through with many sorrows. Forsake us not, O thou, our only effectual helper, our only sure confidence. In thy perpetual presence, in thine unchanging favour, may this year be as those which are past, and more abundant in good. May it more abound with the noblest improvement, be more fruitful of the highest Christian excellence, more full of thankful rejoicing in God. Enable us to commit ourselves to thee, without anxiety with respect to the darkness, in which the events of the year, and our interest in them, are involved . Thou seest its whole progress, and thou wilt provide. Before its close, our days may be past, and our purposes broken off, even the thoughts of our hearts; yet let not this solemn event, harass our thoughts or prevent our enjoying thy numerous favours. If for any of us the decree is issued, – this year thou shalt die ; – though we hear it not, let the execution of the order find us in some measure prepared. May our end, whenever it comes, be safe; and our last days not only calm, but joyful and blessed.
James Hinton, The New Guide to Prayer, or Complete Order of Family Devotion, 1824
This episode is a conversation with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P. of the Angelicum. We discuss his journey from Atlanta, GA to Rome (1:35), the life of a Dominican friar (5:45), basic guardrails for the doctrine of incarnation (9:50), avoiding problems of the Son “subtracting” or “adding” in the incarnation (14:17), could Christ have sinned? (19:50), the relationship between Christ’s divine and human knowledge (25:28), Christ’s beatific vision and “self-awareness” (31:47), the Holy Spirit’s role in Christ’s human life (41:46), Aquinas among the Protestants (45:54), favorite Protestant theologians (52:04), and more.
Last year, I started a tradition of compiling a few of my favorite things from the year ending. Books, music, and film have been my constant companions for as long as I can remember. So here are my superlatives from 2021.
I am a slow and deliberate and fairly selective reader. I rarely read books that are hot off the presses. There are so many great books that I haven’t read that I usually wait to see which books stand up to the scrutiny of time before making the commitment to read them. I try to prioritize the classics I haven’t read, or haven’t read in too long (for example, this year I did some remedial work in Pseudo-Dionysius, Bernard of Clarivaux, and Bonaventure). So I almost never read enough books published in the current year to have a favorite. This year was no different. My favorite book from 2021 was actually published in 2017. Thomas Joseph White, a Dominican Thomistic scholar of the first rank, has written a truly magisterial treatment of this central Christian doctrine (I noticed it made Brandon’s best of list too). White’s book covers a remarkably wide range of issues on the person and work of Christ: everything from dyothelitism and the satisfaction theory of the atonement to the descent into hell and the nature of the resurrection body. I don’t quite agree on every point (his critique of the Calvinist doctrine of penal substitution distorts some things) but White’s treatment is consistently erudite and fair. Almost he persuadest me to believe Thomas’s view on the knowledge of the human nature of Christ (that Christ possessed the beatific vision and perfect knowledge in his higher soul). Overall, this book is a remarkable achievement in defense of classic Christology and an ontological understanding of Christ as true God and true man.
Honorable Mention: Dracula, by Bram Stoker, a classic in the horror genre I only recently read for the first time.
I believe this was officially a 2020 film but only had wide release in early 2021. It tells the story of a Korean immigrant family trying to build a farm and adjust to life in 1980s rural Arkansas. Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted, Minari is small story with massive implications for the human predicament. Some of the turns are wrenching, but the resolution is positively feel-good . Don’t miss the religious overtones: the religious fanatic, the exorcisms, the idol of money, the importance of church/community, the inclusion of the other, the costs of love, the gifts of grace (the minari plant that gives the film its title grows without effort). Also, the main character is named Jacob and he builds a well! Another subtext: the emotional strains of manhood in bleak economic circumstances, a theme that is noticeably muted in much popular art. (As I write this, there are a couple movies I have yet to see that are much anticipated: P. T. Anderson’s Licorice Pizza and Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley).
Honorable mention: Dune: Part One, directed by Denis Villeneuve
I have always enjoyed The Killers (and lead singer Brandon Flowers’ solo work as well) but this album marks a decisive step forward for the band, in my estimation. The polished pop rock anthems are traded in for mostly subtle and somber acoustic reflections on the depths of human pain. I don’t want to share too much because the album needs to be experienced not over-analyzed, but suffice it to say the album is about life in rural Utah (where Flowers lived for a period as a child) and especially the aftermath of the opioid epidemic (overdoses, suicide, and the shattered dreams of youth). Musically, it has echoes of R.E.M. and fairly obvious homages to Bruce Springsteen. The latter comparison is most apt because Flowers is able to accomplish for his native West what the Boss did for the working class in his native New Jersey. Religious themes are threaded throughout. So this isn’t just an album about pain; it’s also about wrestling through doubt and despair to find meaning and hope, symbolized in the opening track’s “West Hills” (a theme pregnant with biblical allusions).
Honorable Mention: I Don’t Live Here Anymore, by The War on Drugs