I recently discovered a new word that will be really useful for me in writing about Christian history. It describes an important and enduring category or type of belief that I have long known about, and in various historical eras, but for which I have never really had the ideal term. I was recently in conversation with the excellent and widely published scholar of religion, Linda Woodhead, who is based at Lancaster, in north-west England. In correspondence, she mentioned an… Read more

Me Too. And Why This is a Christian Problem.

Female “purity” was highly prized in Victorian Christianity, but a sexual double standard let men off the hook. Read more

Romans 8:31, Chris Tomlin, And The Faith Of A Medieval Woman

“Water You turned into wine; Opened the eyes of the blind; There’s no one like you; None like you; Into the darkness You shine; Out of the ashes we rise; There’s No one like you; None like you” In 2010 Chris Tomlin recorded these opening lyrics to “Our God” at a Passion Conference. He couldn’t get the words of the song out of his head–especially the chorus “And if our God is for us, who could ever stop us?”–so he named… Read more

Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians

With the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses at hand, Chris looks back to the wisdom of pre-Reformation Christianity. Read more

From Wessex to the Exodus

Sometimes, scholarship from one era of history can throw quite unexpected light on a totally different time and place. Oddly, early medieval history can actually tell us something about Biblical events that happened a millennium or more previously. I have been reading Richard Elliott Friedman’s truly impressive new book The Exodus, in order to review it for Christian Century. Because of that forthcoming review, I won’t say much about the book here, but here is its main argument. Friedman argues… Read more

And Today’s Mystery Hymn Is ….

My church recently sang one of my favorite hymns, a hugely popular standard piece known and loved across the English-speaking world. It regularly shows up among the most popular three or four hymns in Christian use. Listening to it again, I thought of the larger poem from which the words were taken, a sprawling piece that ranges over Sanskrit scripture, Hindu ecstatic experience, Greek orgies, Orientalist racial stereotypes, dervishes, dusky maidens, anti-Catholic digs, nineteenth century church polemics, anti-clericalism, hashish, and… Read more

Scripture ex materia

Each semester, I teach an introductory course on what my department not very accurately terms “Religions of the West”: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Especially as a historian of Christianity in the United States, the subject matter is a bit of a challenge for me. In a recent post, my co-blogger Philip Jenkins quite correctly observed that many Religious Studies textbooks “reflect a strong prejudice towards the textual.” They “commonly place too much emphasis on texts and scriptures, rather than the… Read more

My Grandma and Colin Kaepernick

Reflections on my grandma and Colin Kaepernick’s encounter with civil religion Read more

Sola Fide: The Reformation Board Game

Chris and his young son test out a new Reformation board game, with amusing results. Read more

On Mark Lilla’s The Shipwrecked Mind

A book review of mine on Mark Lilla’s The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction (New York Review of Books) appeared a while back in the journal Commonweal. I thought Anxious Bench readers might also have an interest. Herewith: The problem with being a public intellectual, the late Jean Bethke Elshtain once quipped, is that over time one tends to become more “public” and less “intellectual.” Fortunately, this does not apply fully to Mark Lilla. Unfortunately, to a degree it does…. Read more

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