The Best of 2014: My Favorite Posts of the Year

Happy New Year’s Eve! Yesterday, blogmeister Tommy Kidd graciously posted the top posts from each of the individual contributors who blog under his guidance here at the Anxious Bench.  In keeping with the spirit of the season, I have compiled my own list. First, although my Great Aunt Iris might have shared “The Religion of [Read More...]

The Curse of Memory

The recent furor over shootings of civilians by police has inspired a lot of discussion about eyewitness testimony and the nature of memory, and the question of just how reliable memory can be. If you read the grand jury testimony in the Ferguson, Missouri, case, a number of witnesses reported things that simply did not [Read More...]

The Sicilian’s Tale

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Not many people read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow any more, but some of his poems do have unexpected treats. Longfellow himself was a distinctly rational believer, a faithful Unitarian. Some of his poems, though, had a wider religious message, and his Christmas Bells has been much recorded in modern times. Someone could write a good book [Read More...]

The Christmas Truce and the Meaning of Peace in “No Man’s Land”

I’m pleased to feature a guest post from Bradley Strait, a senior history major at Asbury University. This is based in part on a paper he wrote for the class “Seminar on War, Peace, and Faith.” *** One hundred-years ago, almost to the day, in 1914, a Christmas story emerged out of the trenches. As [Read More...]

George Whitefield’s Christmas, 1739

As we observed George Whitefield’s 300th birthday last week, here’s a post on his 1739 Christmas travels and preaching, from the Anxious Bench archive: In December 1739, George Whitefield was completing a treacherous overland trip from Maryland to South Carolina, and he stopped for Christmas in New Bern (“Newborn”), a relatively new parish in North [Read More...]

Sons of Light and Sons of Seth

I discussed Dylan M. Burns’s book Apocalypse of the Alien God, an account of the influential early Gnostic sect called Sethians. Burns’s arguments resonated because of work I have been doing recently on the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and the influence of the sectarian Judaism we know from Qumran and the Dead Sea [Read More...]

Teaching American Religious History

15 weeks for the history and present of religion in the United States. “American Religious History” or “Religion in America” is a bread-and-butter course for me (and for several of my co-bloggers, and probably for some readers). I’ve taught it perhaps five or six times, in both a history department and a religious studies department. [Read More...]

Give the Gift of Spiritual Formation and Neuroscience for Christmas

I admit it.  I like to go Christmas shopping.  I really enjoy finding a special gift for someone else.  Some years, my Christmas shopping goes exceedingly well.  But, like many others in academia, end-of-the-semester festivities such as writing exams, grading essays, marking papers, entering grades, etc. too often derail my plans for shopping and other [Read More...]

Happy 300th Birthday George Whitefield!

The day is finally here – the 300th birthday of George Whitefield, the greatest evangelist of the eighteenth century, and the best known person in colonial America prior to the Revolution. I have been waiting for this day for a long time, but I started getting serious about writing a Whitefield biography in time for [Read More...]

Seth and the Alien God

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The origins of Gnosticism are normally discussed in terms of debates within Christianity. However, one richly informative conflict occurred beyond the familiar realm of church history. One of the great minds of Late Antiquity was the Egyptian-born philosopher Plotinus, the leading figure of Neoplatonism, and a younger contemporary of Origen. Around the year 263, in [Read More...]


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