Here you will find work that addresses a broader, non-academic audience. You can read essays about dragons, the imagination, performing Beethoven, and the rigors of the Christian life; you can listen to podcasts about beauty, the imagination, dragons, or blockbuster movies; you can watch public lectures on beauty, wonder, and art; or you can be encouraged by a series of Advent reflections or a chapel sermon. Whatever you choose, I hope you find much material for reflection.

Essays

All You Have to do is die: the power of abiding in death”

When we come to see the true horror of our sin, we may, in despair, feel that not even a God who rose from the dead could save us. This essay explores the truth that only such a God could save us.

Only the Lover Sings: Meditations on the Woman at the Well in Story and Song. Matthew Clark et al.

“A Dragon in the hand is worth two in the bush”

This short essay considers the value of fantasy literature for children and recommends several series to prescribe to young readers.

Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children. Leslie Bustard et al., eds. (Baltimore, MD: Square Halo Press, 2022).


“Imagination. mystery. wonder”

A brief reflection on the necessity of imagination, mystery, and wonder for a mature heart, and how we must cultivate this in our children.

Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children. Leslie Bustard et al., eds. (Baltimore, MD: Square Halo Press, 2022).

“Advent and apocalypse”

Advent is a season of expectant waiting in the Christian calendar. The hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a haunting and powerful embodiment of this. In this short essay, I reflect on the meaning of this hymn, and how it focuses our longing.

Deus Ex Musica Blog (November 27, 2021).

“Who is the author of the dragon? invention, imagination, and realization in cultivating divine ideas”

In this piece, I consider God’s relation to the products of human imagination, arguing that all human invention is discovery of treasures intentionally hidden in creation by the mind of the Creator.

The Cultivating Journal (volume 18, September 2021).

“On Playing beethoven in times of sorrow”

Here I reflect on my experience playing Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (“Eroica”), particularly the 2nd movement, during times of sorrow in my life. It is a rare chance to step inside the head of the principal horn of an orchestra during performance. For me, that means a theological reflection on grief, sin, and hope.

Society for Christian Scholarship in Music Newsletter (volume 15, August 2021).

“Figuring Hope – Imagination and the Horizon of Christian Longing”

Written during Lent in 2021, I here reflect on the crucial role imagination plays in nurturing hope in the soul in a world that often presents us with a temptation to despair.

Transpositions: Theology, Imagination and the Arts (April 16, 2021).

“Dwelling in Advent Darkness: Wonder in Relation to Mercy and Justice”

In this piece, written for Advent 2020, I reflect upon the relation of justice to mercy, and the role of wonder in relation to each. I am arguing for the courage to sit with God’s judgment (rather than flee from it) until we come to that place where we can see that God’s judgment is also mercy.

The Cultivating Journal (volume 15, December 2020).

“Beauty in the Darkness: a surprising encounter with god’s omnipresence”

Our lives are beset by darkness: darkness that is forced upon us, and darkness that we inflict on ourselves. The scandal of this darkness is that we not only find beauty in it, but at times even find it beautiful. In this piece, I argue that this is because as we flee from the presence of God into the darkness, we discover just what the omnipotence of God really means.

Credo Magazine (September, 2020).

“(Don’t) Take and Eat: The Eucharist and Spiritual Reception”

I wrote this article for the Living Church at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, when churches around the world were closed due to government orders for citizens to remain at home. In it I reflect on the practice of spiritual communion: to receive the Eucharist even when one is not able to receive the elements.

Covenant, the blog of the Living Church Foundation (April 2, 2020)

“Abandonment, Hope, and Glory: Reflections on Psalm 22”

Psalm 22, of David, is a heart-wrenching cry for help. The Psalmist sees himself beset on all sides by enemies and mockers. It underwent a powerful transformation at the crucifixion, when Christ took its opening words into his own mouth in what has come to be known as the cry of dereliction: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).

In this exhibit I explore this connection further by reflecting on three works of art that serve to offer an imaginative entry into Christ’s experience on the cross and what his quoting of this Psalm might mean when the full context of the Psalm is restored.

Visual Commentary on Scripture

“Why Does Beauty Arouse Joy Even Among Suffering?”

This short, technical piece for the Church Life Journal gathers up some stray thoughts I had after I finished the manuscript for The Father of Lights. In it I reflect on the relation of beauty to the fruit of the Spirit, which appear as a gifted response to the divine offer of self one encounters in the experience of beauty.

Church Life Journal (August 22, 2018)

Podcasts

Mars Hill Audio
Volume 151

Junius Johnson warns that the pursuit of beauty is both perilous and unavoidable in his book  The Father of Lights: A Theology of Beauty. The desire for beauty points to the desire for God. For unbelievers, that desire for beauty, Johnson says, is “the person’s heart witnessing against them,” because beauty is particularly capable of destroying modern defenses against God. Nonetheless, humans must be wary because we are experts in twisting good into evil, “mistaking the intermediary for the ultimate.” Johnson articulates Bonaventure’s idea of “contuition” as a way to rightly align recognition of the beautiful and recognition of God. He also brings in the concept of analogy, explaining how creation is a language God invented to speak about Himself and that, therefore, “things belong to a vocabulary of the divine.”

The Sacramentalists
July 19, 2021

I talk with hosts Fr. Wesley and Fr. Creighton about the imagination and how important it is to theology and the Christian life.

The conversation is grounded in my research towards the development of a theology of the imagination and my teaching of the course “The Wisdom of Possibility: The Practice of Thinking through the Imagination.”

Believe to See
Episode 96

Why are dragons everywhere in world literature, and why do we still find them so fascinating? Dr. Junius Johnson joins the table to explain. He’s both an Anselm Fellow and a multi-talented scholar—and he happens to be teaching a new online course all about dragons.

Luminous: Conversations on Sacred Arts
February 26, 2021

A conversation with Peter Bouteneff, director of the Institute of the Sacred Arts at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, about beauty. The conversation, ranging widely over a variety of arts, explores more deeply topics covered in The Father of Lights.

Forma
July, 2019

I talk with Heidi White about how and why Christians can enjoy big-budget blockbuster films and franchises. Covering particular film franchises and universal points of discussion and evaluation, Heidi and I discuss how (and how not) to go to the movies this summer.

Believe to See
Episode 51

In the afterglow of Marvel’s Avengers saga, I stopped by the Anselm Society’s Believe to See podcast to talk about the moral landscape of the films, and their enduring legacy.


Lectures

Wonder: A Quotidian Necessity

Beimfohr-Neuss Lecture
Cornell University
October 3, 2019

The duties of managing work, home and relationships present a tyranny of daily tasks whose urgency is grounded in their practical necessity: these are the things without which we cannot live life at all or well. Given the time demands placed on us by these responsibilities, time spent developing the imagination and cultivating our sense of wonder is often at best seen as a luxury we can ill afford, and at worst as dangerously distracting flights of fancy. And yet, can we really believe that we can live life well without the space to breathe that only imagination can provide? Properly understood, imagination and wonder are not luxuries, but necessary equipment for living whose value is neither only fanciful or only practical.

Creating in the ruins: sacred theatre outside the church: a performance in five movements

Your Imagination Redeemed Conference, Colorado Springs, CO
Keynote Address
April 27, 2019

Beauty is captured in our liturgy and worshiped personally in Christ, but it is also extravagant, refusing to be bound by the walls of the sanctuary. But this omnipresence of beauty outside the sacred space is grounded in the trinitarian fountain of beauty, and forms the most compelling point of contact for demonstrating to the world the beauty of holiness. In an authentic Christian life, art and witness coincide to form a summons the world can rarely ignore.

Bringing Art Back into church

Your Imagination Redeemed Conference, Colorado Springs, CO
Panel with Hans Boersma, John Skillen, and Brian Brown
April 26, 2019

What does it mean to create art for church worship? In this panel discussion from the Imagination Redeemed 2019 conference, I join Hans Boersma, John Skillen, and Brian Brown to discuss sacred art: what it is, how we lost it, and how we can bring beauty back into our sanctuaries.

The Eyes of Faith: Beauty and the Vision of god

C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Conference
Plenary Address
July 9, 2016

In this lecture, following up on the lecture given to the Anselm Society (below), I explore the conditions that allow us to see more beauty in the world, namely the sanctification of our lives that issues in the possession of eyes of faith.

what if god’s not invisible: finding the creator in an ugly world

Anselm Society, Colorado Springs
Public Lecture
October 3, 2015

We’ve all been moved by something beautiful, be it the majestic glory of a snow-capped mountain or the homey chords of a country song. And most of us have been told that beauty can point us to God. But this often clashes with how we’re used to approaching God, where we’ve taught ourselves that beyond our daily bread, it is only the invisible and spiritual that matter.

How would God have us think about beauty? We often find God in unexpected places, but are there places we should expect to find Him? Can we balance the earthly beauty that moves us and the God of beauty that made it?

In this conversation, I explore why beauty moves and inspires us, and how we were made to encounter God more deeply through it.

Sermons

Adventus Christi: Reflections on advent music

Based on a series of events that combined musical performance and lecture (originally given at in New Haven, CT in Advent 2012 & 2013), this playlist was compiled for Deus Ex Musica in Advent 2020.

illumination through the life of the believer

Wheaton College Chapel, Wheaton, IL
November 19, 2010

A sermon delivered in chapel a Wheaton college on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the school. In this sermon I explore the notion of illumination, and how it references the glory of God that transforms our lives and then goes on to shine into all the dark places around us.