Earthly Passions and Celestial Parts

“How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul dismissed skeptics of the bodily resurrection as fools, but the topic remained thorny among Christians for centuries. What was the difference between what Paul termed “celestial bodies” and “bodies terrestrial?” Paul made some clear [Read More…]

Calvin, Calvinism, and the Institutes

“The whole of sacred doctrine consists of two parts,” wrote John Calvin at the outset of his 1536 Institutes of the Christian Religion, “knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Likewise, in his expanded 1559 edition of the Institutes, Calvin repeated that human wisdom “consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of [Read More…]

The Rise of “Abrahamic Religions”

Most semesters, I teach a course my university titled “Religions of the West.” Given my own background of research and writing, I at first considered pretending that the “West” meant the “American West” and having my students discuss Native American spirituality, Spanish missions, and Mormonism. Alas, “Religions of the West” meant the broader histories of [Read More…]

The Puritan Way of Seeing Christ

Several years ago, my co-blogger Philip Jenkins penned a thoughtful post on Protestant iconoclasm, its centrality to the Reformation, and its resemblance to Muslim iconoclasm. The “stripping of the altars,” to borrow Eamon Duffy’s phrase, was — per Jenkins — “one of the greatest catastrophes that ever befell Europe.” No argument here. Still, in Deborah [Read More…]

Guns at Church

Sunday was a dangerous time. When people left their homes and went to church, it provided an opportunity for trouble makers to commit crimes and to foment rebellion. That was the thinking of the Carolina assembly in August of 1739, when it passed what was called the Security Act. The bill required all white men [Read More…]

What’s in a Name?

While he tends his father-in-law’s sheep, as recorded in the Book of Exodus, Moses sees “the angel of the LORD … in a flame of fire out of a bush,” which burns but is not consumed. When Moses looks at the Bush, God calls to him, orders him to remove his shoes, announces himself as [Read More…]

When the Mormon Jesus Was Married

It is a staple of anti-Mormon literature (and evangelical countercult literature more generally) that the Mormon Jesus is not the Christian Jesus. One subject that repeatedly surfaces in such arguments is that nineteenth-century Mormon leaders believed that Jesus married, married more than once, and had children. As the film The God Makers explains, “Mormon apostle Orson Pratt [Read More…]

Was Nebuchadnezzar a Werewolf?

“Nebuchadnezzar’s malady was not unlike a lycanthropy,” wrote Cotton Mather in his Biblia Americana. The Book of Daniel informs that the king of Babylon and conqueror of Jerusalem lived as a beast. He grew claws and feather-like hair. How? God smote him. Was this a disease of the mind? Mather noted passages in the gospels [Read More…]

American Colonial History

In today’s post I am talking with fellow Anxious Bench blogger, Baylor University historian, and prolific author Thomas Kidd about his new book, American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths. His previous books include biographies of George Whitefield and Patrick Henry and a history of the Great Awakening. JT: You write that two major themes organize American [Read More…]

Stephen H. Webb

Two weeks ago, prolific American theologian Stephen H. Webb died. For a beautiful tribute, see this essay. I knew Stephen because we read and reviewed each other’s books. About five years ago or so, I was sitting in the Dallas airport waiting for a flight to a conference. Whenever I’m going to a conference, I [Read More…]


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