Beware The Crucible

The first time it happened I thought it was a fluke, a funny self-referential New England thing: a few years ago in my elder daughter’s high-school American lit class, she was assigned to read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in fresh fall, the part of the semester when texts should barely have crested the eighteenth century. We then were living north of Boston, in the same county as the Salem that gave popular name to the infamous witch trials, where most… Read more

How Many Christians?

I have been involved in a project on the early church, around the year 200 AD. My first basic question concerns the issue of numbers, and  the results offer some surprises. Just how many Christians were there in 200? Around 197, Tertullian’s Apology made extravagant claims for the scale of Christian numbers. He spoke of “the immense number of Christians … almost all the inhabitants of your various cities being followers of Christ.” His numerical claims for the overall number… Read more

Pumpkin Spice and the Melancholy of Autumn

This post originally appeared at Historical Horizons, but like pumpkin spice lattes, it keeps coming back.  It’s that time again. The air is turning crisp, the leaves are turning colors, and all thoughts turn to…pumpkin spice. (Actually, just like Christmas shopping starts earlier and earlier each year, pumpkin spice season seems to be inching forward each year as well; this year’s first sightings came as early as mid-August). This pumpkin spice craze has seemingly come out of nowhere in the last… Read more

An Ordinary Preaching Woman in a Texas Baptist Church, c. 1930

In a 2006 interview, Wayne Grudem argued that female leaders in the church (especially pastors) are disobeying God’s word and thus open to “the withdrawal of God’s hand of protection and blessing.”  As Grudem explained: “A woman who serves as a pastor, preaching to both men and women, is disobeying the word of God. There are always negative consequences to that.” Female leadership, Grudem argues, leads to an erosion of orthodoxy in churches–including misinterpretation of scripture and lack of trust… Read more

The Two Best Historical Dramas on TV

Why The Americans and Outlander may be the best historical dramas on the small or silver screen. Read more

The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World

My new book Crucible of Faith is out tomorrow, September 19. I summarized the main arguments in an earlier post, but let me here present the opening section. According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told the frightening parable of the Wheat and the Tares. This tells of a man sowing good seed in a field. In the night, an enemy sows tares (weeds) among the wheat, and the two kinds of plant grow up together. The farmer tells his servants not… Read more

Churches, Mosques and Temples: Who Came First?

One really divisive issue in European religion these days concerns the question of “Who came first?” and who is properly entitled to own great buildings and places of worship. This is a grave matter separating Muslims and Christians. The topic has been in the press recently, though, for less weighty reasons. The issue focuses on such great buildings as the mighty cathedral of Córdoba, in southern Spain, built on the site of a mosque, and incorporating large sections of that… Read more

Evangelicals on Campus

“From 1950 until the 1990s,” writes Andrew Finstuen in his contribution to Billy Graham: American Pilgrim, “Billy Graham visited colleges and universities as often as he could.” Indeed, Graham would take his evangelistic message and his charm offensive anywhere. Graham was not always welcome on campus. Professors, especially seminary professors, often loathed Graham and criticized him as a simpleton. Graham’s celebrity guaranteed full rooms, but students wanted to trip him up. By his own admission, moreover, Graham was no intellectual…. Read more

Empty Pews? Invite Some Immigrants to America!

Why Steve Bannon’s comments on immigration make some sense Read more

4 Steps to the Renewal of Evangelicalism

With evangelicals facing mounting evidence of decline, Chris suggests four steps for renewal, drawn from his forthcoming book, The Pietist Option. Read more

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