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…]

Which Old Testament?

I am presently writing something that draws heavily on the Old Testament sources. I am also struggling mightily with exactly how to refer to that book. Jews call it the Bible, while Christians speak of the Old Testament. Jews, naturally and reasonably, dislike the latter term because it suggests that their scriptures are outmoded or [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…]

How Evangelicals Turned from a Born-Again Christian to a Divorced Hollywood Actor

Many evangelicals became deeply disillusioned with Carter’s presidency. The sharp decline in ticket-splitting from 1976 to 1980—that is, voting for Carter at the top of the ticket and then for Republicans elsewhere on their ballots—suggested that support for Carter in 1976 was in fact an anomaly rooted in evangelical identity. What happened between 1976 and [Read More…]

Martin Luther King and the History of Religious Extremism

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” would make it on my list of must-reads for American cultural literacy. Written as he awaited release from a Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963, King explained why the non-violent protests couldn’t “wait” any longer, as some moderate white Christians asked him to do. “When you are harried [Read More…]