Review sites protect us from the hotel that serves rubbery scrambled eggs as its “free hot breakfast,” from the physician who hacks off the wrong limb, and from the college professor who expects students to read assigned texts. We live in an internet culture saturated with review sites. Yelp, tripadvisor, angie’s list, amazon. But for the things [Read More…]

The Future of American Evangelicalism

Nearly twenty years ago, Christian Smith assessed American evangelicalism as “embattled but thriving.” Nowadays, just “embattled” seems more apt for the preeminent impulse in the *history of American religion (*at least for much of that history). From the rise of the “Nones” to the collapse of the Religious Right to declines in church membership, the [Read More…]

Changes at the Bench

The Anxious Bench began its life as a blog some four years ago. Since then, we’ve published more than a thousand posts on a wide variety of themes pertaining to the global history of Christianity. As is the case with many group blogs, on occasion individuals have departed and new contributors have taken a seat on the [Read More…]

A Punch in the Gut

Rupert Neudeck died earlier this week at the age of seventy-seven. Mostly unknown in the United States, Neudeck was among Europe’s most radical and provocative humanitarians of the last half-century. Neudeck attracted public attention in 1979 when he, his wife Christel, and several high-profile supporters chartered the freighter Cap Anamur in a privately funded effort [Read More…]

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…]