Caitlyn Jenner, The Duggars, and The Culture of Gawking

The news cycles and Twitter trends of recent weeks have reminded us of just how degraded and inane American pop culture can be. Without commenting on the details of sex changes and molestation, I would recommend that Christians take this opportunity to reflect on the perennial question of the church’s relationship to culture. I understand [Read More...]

Academic Heresy and Atlantic Ice

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I have been writing about the nature of academic debate, and how scholars assess claims. In some cases, it’s not too difficult to dismiss arguments as bogus or pseudo-scholarship, but often we find controversial views that are removed from the general consensus, and yet they demand to be discussed and debated. Sometimes, ideas that initially [Read More...]

Public Penance

John Doyle, 1839 Lithograph

There does seem to be a basic societal need for penance. In previous days, penance meant various forms of public punishment and humiliation. Today, only politicians and celebrities perform public penance, which usually means some sort of groveling apology for the cameras, a time in the wilderness, and then a public reemergence usually coupled with [Read More...]

The Blind Spots of an American Evangelical

Collin Hansen’s new book Blind Spots has initiated a helpful conversation about what American evangelicals conventionally miss when their faith is defined by insular, America-intensive subcultures. I found especially instructive his interview with Gloria Furman about what she learned about blind spots as she has lived and ministered in Dubai. We’re inevitably shaped by the culture in [Read More...]

Myth-History and Real History

Over the past few weeks, I have been posting about the Book of Mormon, and you can check out those various items as you wish. Not surprisingly, my posts called forth a sizable number of comments and reactions, many quite intense, and a small number abusive and obscene. Here, though, I would like to react [Read More...]

What Scholars Do

I have been discussing the historical credentials of the Book of Mormon, in order to illustrate the differences between mainstream and fringe scholarship. Briefly, the history that the book supplies of the pre-Columbian Americas is wholly fictitious, and should never be treated as literal historical truth. We are free to discuss its merits as spiritual [Read More...]

Five Reasons Carter Wasn’t So Bad

Carter has been maligned for being a weak, ineffective, micromanaging president. Randall Balmer begs to differ. To be sure, Carter had his weaknesses (and in his biography Redeemer, Balmer acknowledges them, including a sordid account of race-baiting during his gubernatorial campaign of 1970). But he points out that Carter’s presidency was sabotaged by events quite [Read More...]

Baptists in America: A History

Next Monday marks the formal release date for my new book (with Barry Hankins) Baptists in America: A History. Why should you consider buying a copy, or using it in a college course, or in your adult Sunday School class? Here are four reasons: 1) Baptists in America offers a fresh approach to the history of Baptists [Read More...]

Buddhists, Christians, and Godly Prosperity

The Buddhist magazine Tricycle sometimes offers really fine writing, and the past Spring issue included an outstanding example that raises all sorts of questions and parallels for historians of Christianity. The piece in question was “The Buddha’s Footprint,” by Johan Elverskog of SMU (subscription needed for full access). It’s a substantial article, and not surprisingly [Read More...]

Ordinary Faith and Extraordinary History

As a historical source on the ancient Americas, the Book of Mormon is worthless. That observation, though, has not the slightest impact on the existence or growth of the LDS church, nor should it. Just why that is the case tells us much about the relationship between the claims of any faith and the reasons [Read More...]


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