Archives for July 2013

The Religion of the 1950s

In American memory, the 1950s are often portrayed as a mundane, picturesque prelude to the chaotic, transformative decade that would follow.  Popular contemporary television portrayals of the decade such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963) helped create the stereotype of the 1950s as an idyllic period of domestic bliss, perpetuating it [Read More…]

Bible Wars and the Origins of the Term “Inerrancy”

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Andrew Wilson recently wrote a piece called “Why I Don’t Hate the Word ‘Inerrancy’.” He explains that when asked the street-level question, “Does the Bible contain mistakes?” I always answer, “When interpreted properly, no.” That first clause is important; after all, an awful lot of people in history have thought [Read More…]


I was discussing the theory that the oldest level of Egypt’s Christianity was very different from anything we would recognize as orthodoxy, and that the most prominent leaders were what we would call Gnostic. That theory can be advanced in extreme terms, so that basically there is no early orthodoxy. Even if we do not [Read More…]


I recently described the extraordinary position that Egypt held in early Christian history, when the country became the source of many ideas and institutions that would spread throughout the wider Christian world. Given that importance, it is really surprising that we know so very little about the early history of Egyptian Christianity, an ignorance that [Read More…]


It’s grim to watch recent developments in Egypt, as the nation’s Coptic Christians face growing threats. Not that Egypt’s long-suffering Muslim majority does not deserve full sympathy and respect, but the Copts stand in a very special place in the Christian story. So central are they, in fact, that I sometimes fantasize about writing a [Read More…]

Cold, Tired, and Single in Zion

One of my favorite things about spending several summers in Utah was enjoying an extra holiday on July 24th, commemorating the 1847 pioneer trek from the Missouri River to the Salt Lake Valley. For my family, Pioneer Day meant the Pioneer Day Classic road race in Provo, which loops around the Provo Temple (and, unlike [Read More…]

How to Roast a Saint

As the retirement gala for Ron Sider, the founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) for the last forty years, got underway last weekend, emcee Tony Campolo lamented the difficulty of the task at hand. “How do you roast a peace-loving, simple-living Mennonite?” he asked. There just isn’t a lot of material. A [Read More…]

The Strange Career of the Antimission Baptists

I recently wrote about “Calvinism and the Roots of the Missionary Movement,” in which I discussed the powerful (and to some, counter-intuitive) influence of Calvinism on early Baptist missionaries. There’s a flip-side to that story, which is the largely Calvinist antimission movement of the 1820s and 1830s. Baptists and other evangelicals founded a number of [Read More…]

Whither Luther?

Hilary Sherratt, an alumnae of Gordon College and a guest blogger for this post, was a participant on Professor Tal Howard’s recent trip to sites of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.  His own reflections on this trip appeared in an earlier blog, “The Incombustible Martin Luther.” Whither Martin Luther? Whither Christian Unity? – Ecumenical Purpose [Read More…]


Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is one of my favorite religious structures in the US, and it is also home to a fine piece of modern spiritual art. In 1988, the Episcopal Church elected its first woman bishop, Barbara Harris, who was consecrated the following year (Harris is also African–American). To celebrate the event, the [Read More…]