The Biblical Heavens

Heaven History

What do you think of when you think of heaven? Is your first thought God and Jesus, or is it your loved ones (spouse, parents, children, and pets)? Over the past few years, I’ve dipped into Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang’s endlessly fascinating Heaven: A History, and I recently had the chance to read it [Read More...]

Child Preachers, Then and Now

Utley

The New York Times recently published a fascinating report on Brazilian Pentecostal “child preachers,” which it suggests is a major phenomenon. Without corroboration, Samantha Shapiro quotes a pastor who “estimates there are thousands” of evangelists and healers ages five to eighteen. This is the sort of journalism of the weird and unusual that is one [Read More...]

The King James Bible and American Religious History

After various children’s bibles, I first read the Good News Bible. Since the Bible turned out to be more interesting than most sermons and choral anthems, I am pretty certain I got through most of it in church services as a boy. Who wouldn’t find the narratives of Genesis both shocking and riveting! I then [Read More...]

Public Penance

John Doyle, 1839 Lithograph

There does seem to be a basic societal need for penance. In previous days, penance meant various forms of public punishment and humiliation. Today, only politicians and celebrities perform public penance, which usually means some sort of groveling apology for the cameras, a time in the wilderness, and then a public reemergence usually coupled with [Read More...]

Evangelical Oats

Quaker_Oats_advertisement_1905

Reuben Torrey and Henry Crowell are the two key figures in Timothy Gloege’s outstanding Guaranteed Pure. In his book, Gloege develops a rich analogy between the rise of corporate advertising and the rise of American fundamentalism. Crowell grew up in a Presbyterian family, then was taken with Dwight Moody’s revival encouragement to “dream great things [Read More...]

Tom Brady and Joseph Smith, Lies and Liars

“And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar,” informs Lawrence Wright in his best-selling Going Clear. In an epilogue, Wright compares Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to the founding prophet of Mormonism. As evidence, Wright points to Smith’s denial of polygamy and his claim that scrolls of Egyptian papyrus contained the writings of the biblical [Read More...]

Corporate Evangelicalism

Recently, Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God has generated considerable attention for its claims about the way that the 1930s and post-WWII alliance between politically conservative businessmen and evangelicals created modern ideas about “Christian America.” According to the book’s self-description, Kruse “reveals how the unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin [Read More...]

Alexander Hamilton’s “Christian Constitutional Society”

den hartog

Today’s guest post comes from Jonathan Den Hartog, associate professor of history at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. The University of Virginia Press recently released his Politics & Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation. Den Hartog’s book illustrates that intense political conflicts over the relationship between Christianity [Read More...]

Wolf Hall’s Prophetess

Barton

Having transitioned from Downton Abbey to Wolf Hall, PBS’s Masterpiece Theater has entered onto terrain far more religious and historically treacherous. George Weigel recently commented on the anti-Catholicism that he alleges permeates the thought and writing of Hillary Mantel’s novel that serves as the basis for the television series. I haven’t read the novels, but [Read More...]

The Mormon Bonhoeffer

20th-century Martyrs, Westminster Abbey

In the 1970s, Latter-day Saint leaders began to quote C.S. Lewis in the semi-annual General Conference talks. Earlier this month, Mormon Apostle D. Todd Cristofferson made a rather striking reference to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a discussion of marriage. Cristofferson quoted at length from a May 19, 1943 sermon that Bonhoeffer wrote while [Read More...]


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