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What is the Epistle to Diognetus and Why Should I Read It?

What is the Epistle to Diognetus?

The Epistle to Diognetus is an ancient (probably 2nd or 3rd century) letter written by an anonymous Christian to someone in the Roman Empire who has questions about Christianity.

Why is now a good time to study this anonymous Christian letter?

Regardless of what outcome you expected or hoped for in the 2016 Election, you likely noticed the same thing I did along the way: we Christians need to think better about how our faith should drive our interaction in a pluralistic society. Put in biblical language: how should Christians today be in the world but not of the world. The Epistle to Diognetus was written, in part, to answer this very question.

Throughout Diognetus we see glimpses of an early Christian community living within the Roman Empire in a way that is inspiring and worthy of emulation.

(You can read more about how I read this letter with my Senior Theology class at Coram Deo Academy in the days following the election.)

Why study an ancient text (vs. modern)?

It is easy to assume that all modern industries and cultural spheres are operating at the “state of the art.” We often assume that the way we do things now is the best they have ever been done.

In some areas, this is likely true. Automobiles are safer, more reliable, and more efficient than ever before. Space exploration is beginning to bridge the gap between science and science fiction. But is everything at the state of the art? What about education? What about our ability to think well and speak clearly about things that really matter? What about Christian political theology?

We are studying an ancient text because some problems are so big they require the wisdom of those who have come before us.

Why study an extra-biblical text (vs. something from the Bible)?

We can never really exhaust the beauty and relevancy of the Christian Scriptures. So why would we spend a semester studying an ancient Christian epistle and not a New Testament epistle?

New Testament epistles were written to a specific audience for a specific purpose, and we simply do not have a New Testament epistle whose purpose matches that of the Epistle to Diognetus.

The Epistle to Diognetus relies heavily upon and only makes sense in light of the Christian Scriptures. Most weeks we will actually read a passage of Diognetus along side a passage of Scripture.

For Next Week: Read, and annotate, the opening chapter of Diognetus.

Click here to download the Handout and reading for next week here, or view below.


All Saints’ Day and Classical Education

One of the greatest encouragements of All Saints’ day is that an unfathomable majority of the Saints are never named as such.

Different Christian Traditions have various official and unofficial ways of canonizing or otherwise recognizing the faithful departed whose lives of holiness have made a profound impact on the Body of Christ. Some of these Saints even have Feast Days on the Church Calendar to recognize their life and work. But a vast majority of the People of God throughout the ages who have lived quiet and holy lives are not recognized with a Feast Day.

This is part of the point of All Saints’ Day: to recognize the unrecognized Saints throughout history, in an attempt to encourage every Christian to be an unrecognized Saint.

This is a daunting vocation: become a saint. It should stir within each of us a sense of impossibility.

But perhaps the first—and final—step to living a holy life worthy of the title “Saint” is a recognition of how impossible that task truly is. It is also hard to imagine a Saint that does not spend serious time each day in prayer and the reading of Scripture. But I think there is another significant step to becoming a Saint, one that St. Paul teaches us in his epistle to the Corinthians: imitate people who imitate Christ.

Classical education, at its best, introduces students and their teachers to many such people. Some of these people are flesh-and-blood figures in history, and others are mere fiction. In his wisdom, God has allowed us to learn faithful endurance from both St. Monica of Hippo, the mother of St. Augustine, as well as Samwise Gamgee, the friend of Frodo.

when you choose an incompetent sleazebag

If religion and science are correct — or if it is even probable that they are correct — when they claim that the being inside a pregnant womb is human, the government has the constitutional right and the moral responsibility to intervene.

And when you choose an incompetent sleazebag as your party’s presidential nominee, it turns out you forfeit the opportunity for that case to be made on national television.

Better luck next time, GOP. But hopefully there won’t be a next time for the GOP.

On using Email as Email

You may have noticed a delay in my response-time for emails lately. This is because I started using email as its namesake suggests it should be used: as an electronic mailbox.

As technology advanced in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the smartphone transitioned from an executive novelty to the norm, very few of us—including myself—stopped to ask whether this was actually a good thing. We can access email 24-hours a day on our phones, but should we? Are humans the type of beings who are able to flourish when we are never truly disconnected from our work? I would suggest that we are not. I know with certainty that I am not.

My tendency, over time, became to use email as a slower version of instant messaging. I had email access on my phone and on my computer, and each of these devices notified me the instant a new message arrived. I then replied as soon as I possibly could, often feeling as though my work was not finished until I responded to every new email that arrived. This, as you can imagine, led to a sense of never feeling like I was “off-duty.” I am not alone in feeling exhausted by the “always-on” approach to email.1

All of this means that I am now using email as an electronic mailbox. Like my actual mailbox, I may check it occasionally throughout the day if I am expecting important information. Otherwise, I will likely only check it once or twice. This means that I no longer have email or internet access on my phone. (Pro-tip: you cannot really disconnect from email after-hours if you have any possible way of accessing it on your phone. iOS 10 allows you to delete the native Mail app and disable the App Store and disable Safari. I could not break my email-checking habit without making it impossible annoyingly difficult to check email on my device. You might need to do this as well.)

If you need to contact me immediately, you should probably give me a call. If you do not have my phone number, then I am probably not the person that is best equipped to handle your emergency.

If you are thinking, “I would love to do this, but my industry does not allow it,” then I would suggest two things:

(1) I thought the same thing; you are probably wrong, or

(2) You are right, but I imagine you can find a way to limit the “always-on” email mentality to regular work hours.


  1. See Fortune Magazine’s article “How Checking Email After Work Is Burning You Out” or read the results of one of studies it references: ”Anticipatory stress of after-hours email exhausting employees.”

Sermon: The Call of Abraham

Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX. September 18, 2016

Genesis 12:1-9

Sermon: Righlty Ordered Loves

Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX. June 26, 2016

1 Kings 19 | Luke 9

Sermon: An end that is a beginning

Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX. May 15, 2016 (Pentecost)

Acts 2:1-11 | John 20:19-23


Archbishop Justin’s Address to the General Synod

Thirdly, the future of the Communion requires sacrifice. The biggest sacrifice is that we cannot only work with those we like, and hang out with those whose views are also ours.  Groups of like-minded individuals meeting to support and encourage each other may be necessary, indeed often are very necessary, but they are never sufficient. Sufficiency is in loving those with whom we disagree. What may be necessary in the way of party politics, is not sufficient in what might be called the polity of the Church.

Watch or read the entire address here.

Sermon: From Law to Logos: The Sobering Beauty of Freedom in Christ

Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX

December 27, 2015 (First Sunday after Christmas)

On Syrian Refugees

This is not an uncomplicated situation. (Much like the previous sentence, which could have simply read “This is a complicated situation.”) There are refugees fleeing the violence of the Islamic State. There is a chance that among those refugees—as is true among the general population—there are those who wish to do harm to the enemies of the Islamic State. It seems as though all sides of this debate are in agreement that this is the case.

There are hopefully more than two options with two opposite outcomes to choose from here, but let’s say there aren’t. Let’s say that if we accept refugees from Syria, we will die at their hands, much sooner than we had previously expected to die. And let’s say that if we don’t accept refugees from Syria, we don’t die in a terrorist attack, and we live as long as we currently imagine we will live.

(For the record, these are both baseless assumptions, but they do present us with a tangible scenario to think through. Any of us could die on our way home from work this afternoon, and any of us could survive a nuclear terrorist attack.)

Even if our two choices are (1) deny refugees and live a long life or (2) accept refugees and die in a terrorist attack sooner than we think we should, does that change our answer?

Say we choose option one. We refuse refugees, and are therefore not killed in a terrorist attack. We live longer, but our lives are less human. We feel safer, but we love less. We die of natural causes at the end of a long life marked by something other than love for our neighbor, the stranger, and our enemy.

Say we choose option two. We accept the refugee and we are killed. What happens then? We face Jesus. And he says something like “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And we say something like “When where you a stranger, and when did we welcome you?” And he says something like “As you did unto one of the least of these, you did unto to me.”

I don’t really know what I think about all of this. Were I the one in charge of making the decision, I wish I could say that I am 100% certain of what I would do. But I do know what I want to think, and what by God’s grace I have decided to think, and how I have decided to pray.

Sovereign God, may we who are the Body of Christ, the Church, embrace and welcome the immigrant, the refugee, and all who seek shelter from any danger.

We lift our prayer to You,

People: Lord, hear us.

God of protection, whose Son fled violence from his own home with Joseph and Mary and sought refuge in a foreign land, hear the cries of all who suffer because of hatred, war, violence, greed, and famine. Help us to peacefully mend our divisions, that all you have created in this world may be whole.

We lift our prayer to You,

People: Lord, hear us.

God Who makes us One, we pray for our nation and all the nations of the world, that those who govern the people and have authority over them may consider each life to be of value and may serve the people of their nation with equity and fairness, dedicating themselves to peaceful resolution of conflict.

We lift our prayer to You,

People: Lord, hear us.

Gracious God, we pray for our newest neighbors, that those families who have sought refuge from the ravages of war and violence may find not only shelter and sustenance, but also a loving and supportive community in which to create a new beginning with dignity.

We lift our prayer to You,

People: Lord, hear us.

Loving God, there is no one that goes unnoticed in Your eyes. Take into Yourself all who suffer. May Christ the Wounded Healer relieve the pain of hunger of the refugee, heal the afflicted body, soothe the fears of the mind, bring peace to the soul, and be tender with the broken hearted, that those who have endured unspeakable trials may find themselves restored in Christ.

We lift our prayer to You,

People: Lord, hear us.

Eternal God, may you receive those who have died during times of war and violence into your loving and peaceful arms and may they find rest for their souls. Comfort those who mourn the loss of their friends and loved ones and give them relief from the painful memories they bear, giving assurance of eternal life.

We lift our prayer to You,

People: Lord, hear us.

Almighty and Loving God, you who have crossed the boundaries of Heaven and Earth to be with your people, visit those who must flee their homes because of violence and oppression and lead them to a land of safety.

We give thanks to you, Source of All Being, that you hear our intercessions on behalf of our refugee brothers and sisters. We thank you that love swallows fear, that in your compassion we learn to walk with those who suffer, that when we give of ourselves we receive far more, and that when we receive those who stand knocking at our doors, we receive Christ the Beloved One.

May all praise, glory and honor be to our God, the Most High.


If you are looking for a place to give, consider our dear friends at For the Nations Refugee Outreach.