Five Thoughts on Evangelical History

Nathan Finn (an occasional Anxious Bench guest blogger) recently published a review essay in Themelios on the state of “evangelical history after George Marsden.” In it, he introduces the Marsden generation of scholarship and then comments on recent books by Steven Miller, Matthew Sutton, and Molly Worthen. My first thought when reading the essay is [Read More...]

Race and American Christianity

Jesus and I were the only white people in the room. After my freshman year of college, I spent the summer on an uncompensated internship in the Washington, DC, area. (The experience gave me a lasting desire to be compensated for work performed). The internship did come with one perk — free housing in a [Read More...]

Publishing without Perishing

Several of my co-bloggers have commented on aspects of dissertation writing and academic publishing. Perhaps for some gifted individuals, books come forth with ease. For most of us, however, they are laborious endeavors, filled with stretches of angst and exhaustion. What follows are a few thoughts on how to minimize publishing stress and how to [Read More...]

Seer Stones and Prophetic Authority

Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made national and international news by releasing photographs of a seer stone used by Joseph Smith during the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. For some contemporary Latter-day Saints and for some outside critics of the church, the fact that Joseph Smith used a [Read More...]

The Ransom of the Soul

Brown Ransom

What causes changes in the way Christians understand God, salvation, or the afterlife? Peter Brown reminds us that as much as historians seek to understand and explain change over time, it is no easy task. In The Ransom of the Soul, his most recent topic is how and why Christian understandings of the afterlife (and [Read More...]

The Disappearance of Heaven

When I was in college, both my InterVarsity chapter and my local Baptist church (for clarification, I was never a baptized Baptist) liked to sing “This World Is Not My Home,” at a rapid clip with tambourine. I cannot imagine this anthem had much broad popularity beyond these local settings at the time, but it’s [Read More...]

Under God — since When?

Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate American Invented Christian America has received considerable attention since its release earlier this year. Deservedly so. I recently reviewed the book for Christianity Today and agree with some of the cautionary notes our Philip Jenkins sounded several months back. Philip suggests that reviewers’ excessively exuberant praise for [Read More...]

Early Christian and Medieval Heavens

In Giotto's Last Judgment (1306), not all of the saints gaze toward Jesus Christ. Some look at each other. Still, heaven is strictly hierarchical and static.

Two weeks ago, I began a discussion of Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang’s Heaven: A History, in which they trace two millennia of Christian ideas about the afterlife. To what extent does human community persist in heaven? Does the hereafter, moreover, take place on earth or in heaven? Last time, I discussed M&L’s discussion of [Read More...]

The Quick Triumph of Same-Sex Marriage

From the 2013 Anxious Bench archives… About a decade ago, the historian David Chappell wrote a thoughtful book about religion and the civil rights movement, titled A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Among other ideas, Chappell presents the argument that the supporters of civil rights, ultimately, had religion on [Read More...]

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...]


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