Why Should Episcopalians Bother with Systematic Theology?

Rublev’s Trinity with cover

The Episcopal Church and systematic theology are divided.1 They have been for a long time, and there are reasons for this on both sides. The problem I’m going to focus on in this post is a belief that abstract theological statements—about the Trinity, for example, or what it means to say Jesus Christ is very God and very Man—are irrelevant to Christian life. I’ve heard this belief expressed in myriad ways. In church, it’s not uncommon to hear things like “it doesn’t matter whether your believe Jesus is divine, only that you follow his teachings.” This is a ‘life not doctrine’ approach. In seminary, it’s not uncommon to hear the question “when am I ever going to use this? It’s of no use for pastoral ministry.” This is a theory/practice distinction. Continue reading “Why Should Episcopalians Bother with Systematic Theology?”


An Amateur’s Guide to Reading Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein in 1950.

If you’ve met me, you probably know I enjoy reading, writing, and talking about Ludwig Wittgenstein. It’s one of those strange things where a system of thought and the personality behind it combine such that reading him becomes a matter of compulsion. Strangely enough, however, I’ve only ever had one week of reading for one class where Wittgenstein was a set reading. He’s a name that lurks in the background, popping up in introductions, in comparative studies, in his unspoken influence on recent thinkers, or in the explicit rejection of what he’s supposed to represent. But he himself rarely appears on syllabi outside of introductory surveys. Continue reading “An Amateur’s Guide to Reading Wittgenstein”

Seeking Wisdom in the Spaces of Schism (Living Church essay)

The uniquely appropriate picture used by living Church, source here.

I was lucky enough to come second in The Living Church’s Student Essays in Christian Wisdom Competition. They’ve just posted my entry on the Covenant blog, which you can find here. It deals with how we can look at points of schism as providing resources for navigating the fracturing or relationship—in this case, Richard Hooker and S.T. Coleridge’s accounts of reason. Hope it’s enjoyable, and here’s the first paragraph! (p.s. For any reading who considered entering, it’s well worth doing so next year.) Continue reading “Seeking Wisdom in the Spaces of Schism (Living Church essay)”

Why Do I Wear a Cross?


I bought the cross I wear on a retreat to Holy Cross Monastery in April, 2014. It was a spontaneous decision made while browsing through their bookstore. A heavy rainfall eroded the glue holding the beams together about two months later, so I patched it up using superglue and a bit of red thread a housemate of mine had to hand. I’ve worn it almost every day since. Continue reading “Why Do I Wear a Cross?”

Abiding in Love and the Price of Glory: Building Community in Light of Charlottesville

Shancia and me, being entirely reverent during the liturgy.

Last week, my beloved friend (and fellow former Hildan) Shancia Jarrett and I had the opportunity to preach a sermon together as part of the orientation for this year’s incoming YDS class. I cannot say how joyful an experience it was to compose and preach a sermon with another voice—to know that I was preaching words which weren’t just my own, and to experience preaching with company. Here’s the text. Continue reading “Abiding in Love and the Price of Glory: Building Community in Light of Charlottesville”

Divine Rule and White Supremacy

Counter-demonstrations in Charlottesville. Source: NBC

I was fortunate enough to participate in the Graduate Colloquium hosted by the Centre for Barth Studies this week. Each person gave a 20-30 minute presentation on a selected portion of Church Dogmatics, Volume 3:3, followed by 40-30 minutes discussion. The presentations were amazing, and showed just how many diverse and brilliant lines of thought can be developed through to exploration of Barth’s work. The opportunity to listen to and engage in discussion with the community that had gathered was a true gift—not least because it showed how much there is yet to be learnt. In any case, given the current events in Charlottesville, I figured I might as well post the presentation I gave (as well as some of the lines of interrogation that emerged in the discussion afterwards). I hope it’s worth reading.

Continue reading “Divine Rule and White Supremacy”

How is Biblical Literalism a Secular Phenomenon?

Mosaic from the Papal Basilica of San Paulo Florida le Mura, used as the cover to Agamben’s Kingdom and the Glory.

This post is also published on the Oriel Theology blog.

A good while ago, I put together a post arguing for the secular nature of Biblical Literalism. I’m still fond of the post, and I stand by the argument. But one thing it lacks is an definition of what it means to be secular, beyond a crude presumption that secular phenomena originate outside of thought proceeding from God’s nature.

In any case, I just finished working through Giorgio Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory. Right at the start of the text he gives an account of secularization which I think makes sense of how Biblical Literalism is a secular phenomenon, apart from my initial presumption. So, here’s a quick post describing that account and that making sense, followed by a few other thoughts. (To be clear, I’m thinking throughout of Biblical Literalism as I have encountered it in person, not as it may or may not have been worked out in the academy.) Continue reading “How is Biblical Literalism a Secular Phenomenon?”