The Byzantine Dark Ages

In my last post, I urged the use of the unpopular term “Dark Age” as a valid historical and archaeological concept. Specifically, I suggested that it should refer to eras of “systematic societal collapse and cultural impoverishment, reflected in collapsing population levels, and acute declines in urbanization, technology, literacy, productivity and communications.” This is in [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…]

The Limits of a Narrow Evangelical Advocacy

Today’s guest post comes from David Bronkema, Associate Professor of International Development at Eastern University near Philadelphia. He is author of “Foster Just and Sustainable Economic Development,” in Glen Stassen, ed, Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War and co-author of the just-released Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures. *** [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…]

Bringing Back the Dark Ages

I am about to say something really contentious and controversial: Dark Ages happen, and I believe in them. And I actually have some new evidence to support that shocking conclusion. Oddly, this seemingly abstruse topic is in the news right now. The agency English Heritage just published a timeline showing the era 410-1066 as 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…]

Silenced Women–Modern Lessons from an Ancient Murder

In the second century A.D., the pregnant wife of a prosperous Greek politician died from a vicious assault. Appia Annia Regilla Atilia Caudicia Tertulla, or Regilla, was born into an affluent Roman family in 125 A.D.; she married the Greek politician Herodes Atticus, also from an affluent family, around 140 (when she was 15); and [Read More…]

“Ask Jesus into Your Heart”: A History of the Sinner’s Prayer

[This week’s post comes from my Patheos archives.] Many an evangelical pastor has concluded a sermon by asking non-Christians to “ask [or receive, or invite] Jesus into their heart,” or to pray a version of what some call the “sinner’s prayer.” But some evangelicals, including Baptist pastor David Platt (president of the SBC’s International Mission [Read More…]

The Enoch Seminar

One of the most exciting areas today in Biblical scholarship (broadly defined) is the Enoch Seminar. Founded in 2001, it originally focused on the literature associated with the patriarch Enoch, but has since branched out massively, almost to become a field in its own right. The changing limits of that field are fascinating, both for [Read More…]

Why THE WITCH is One of the Greatest Historical Films Ever Made

I am several months late on this topic, but bear with me. Robert Eggers’s film The Witch is now available on DVD, and I finally got the chance to see it. It is one of the truly great horror films, no argument, but it is also an astonishing piece of historical reconstruction. The Witch is [Read More…]