Harline Way Below

Be Nice to Missionaries

There are many good reasons to read Craig Harline's Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary.First of all, it offers solid proof that at least some historians have a wicked sense of humor and can employ it in writing. This is helpful when discussing an estimated 6,700 encounters with people who reject your message.Second, and this might be helpful for Anxious Bench readers, Harline gives you a glimpse into … [Read More...]

American-Sniper-Movie-Poster

American Sniper, Blue Bible

Spoiler Alert: In the post below, I disclose some of the details of the plot of American Sniper (2014).  Most people already know how the story turns out, but for those few who may not, I offer this alert.When I went to see American Sniper (2014) last week, the showing was sold out and the theater was packed.  I have watched movies under such crowded conditions in the past and generally find them uncomfortable.  Full movie theaters simply do not have the requisite "empty space."  Once the pre … [Read More...]

Baptist Student Union and the Vietnam War

Today’s guest post is by Nathan A. Finn, who serves as associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also directs the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality. You can follow him on Twitter​.In the 1960s an … [Read More...]

Mani the Prophet

There is an excellent new contribution to the literature on the Manichaean religion: Iain Gardner, Jason BeDuhn and Paul Dilley, Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings: Studies on the Chester Beatty Kephalaia Codex (Brill 2015). Yesterday, I described the rediscovered ancient texts on which this … [Read More...]

Mani and the Persian Kings

I have been reading an excellent new scholarly book on the Manichaean religion: Iain Gardner, Jason BeDuhn and Paul Dilley, Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings: Studies on the Chester Beatty Kephalaia Codex (Brill 2015). This post is not intended as a serious academic review, but rather as a … [Read More...]

Enter Adam

In the mid-first century AD, St. Paul wrote some hugely influential words about Adam, the Fall, and original sin. As I have argued, these ideas seem  at variance with earlier Biblical traditions and Jewish thought, in which Adam’s story made little impact. Around Paul’s time, though, that saga was at … [Read More...]

The Kirtland Temple

Every year tens of thousands of people visit the Kirtland Temple, dedicated in 1836 by what was then the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The vast majority of those visitors are members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they come in part to see where Joseph Smith and … [Read More...]

Divided by Reason: Molly Worthen on Evangelicalism

For good reason, Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason has enjoyed a lot of attention (Slate, Christian Century, National Review, Religion and American History blog, The Nation). It is a wonderfully provocative and ambitious book with a panorama of fascinating and diverse characters. As I point out in m … [Read More...]

The Church and Robert Nisbet’s Quest for Community

I recently read Robert Nisbet's classic work The Quest for Community (1953), a challenging and far-sighted book that attributes much of modernity's unease to the collapse of the mediating institutions - village, church, and family - that traditionally stood between the individual and the state. It … [Read More...]

Moors, Saracens, and Turks: Islam and Europe’s Deep History

Several years ago I was being interviewed by a journalist from Switzerland when the topic came to Islam in Europe. The interviewer identified herself as a fastidiously progressive and secular person, and insisted that she held nothing against Islam as a religion. Nonetheless, “when I see a mosque i … [Read More...]

The Slain God

I have been enjoying the latest book by Timothy Larsen, The Slain God: Anthropologists and the Christian Faith (Oxford University Press, 2014).At first sight, such a study of the rise of an academic discipline might seem like an odd topic for a scholar who has established such a splendid … [Read More...]

In Search of the Fall

The two centuries or so before Jesus’s time were a wildly productive era in terms of Jewish thought. It is in this time for instance that we find the full development of such ideas as Satan and angels, the afterlife and the apocalypse. I have been pursuing one concept in particular that would have e … [Read More...]

Evangelical Anti-abolitionists

Even in slaveholding states, many white Americans were uneasy about the morality of black slavery in the decades that preceded the Civil War. However, there were two things such Americans disliked far more than slavery: black people and abolitionists.According to Luke Harlow's recently published … [Read More...]

The Unintended Consequences of Evangelical Cooperation

Last year, Crossway announced the publication of David Wells’ God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World, promoting this new book as “a remedy for evangelicalism’s superficial theology.”  Merits of the book aside--and I am sure there are many--claiming a remedy for evangelica … [Read More...]

Is Islam Inherently Violent?

The horrific attack on the staff of Paris's Charlie Hedbo has renewed questions about Muslims and the besetting problem of Islamic jihadism and violence. Is Islam inherently violent, and is Islam itself to blame for such crimes?As delicious as anger and venom can be at times like this (and we … [Read More...]

Determined

In his parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus spoke of the Devil sowing evil in the world, so that good and evil grew up together until the Judgment. Such texts seem to provide solid support for doctrines of predestination, which are difficult to find in the Old Testament except through intense … [Read More...]

The Bounty of Keston

For anyone interested in Christian history, Baylor University’s archives have rich holdings on all sorts of important topics. In this post, though, I want to focus on one astonishingly rich archive that clamors to be better known. This is the Keston Collection, a stunning collection of sources on E … [Read More...]

Creating Satan

In the last centuries before the Christian Era, the Devil enjoyed an impressive rise both in his professional status and his assigned areas of responsibility.From being a minor official at the Heavenly Court, he rose to become a fully-fledged adversary of God, almost an anti-God, and like the … [Read More...]

Why Mormons Love Margaret Barker

Several years ago, a Latter-day Saint friend encouraged me to read British Methodist theologian Margaret Barker's books. Now I understand why.A cautionary note. Barker has a large corpus of books to her credit, including The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God and The Great High Priest: … [Read More...]

Religious History at the AHA

I wasn’t able to attend the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City this year. But blogs and twitter have allowed me to track some of the conversation in the area of religious history, my area of research specialty. There were dozens and dozens of panels, but here are s … [Read More...]


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