Stephen H. Webb

Two weeks ago, prolific American theologian Stephen H. Webb died. For a beautiful tribute, see this essay. I knew Stephen because we read and reviewed each other’s books. About five years ago or so, I was sitting in the Dallas airport waiting for a flight to a conference. Whenever I’m going to a conference, I [Read More…]

The Modern Roots of “Pagan” Easter

In the late nineteenth century, a Cambridge scholar sat at his desk and wove a brilliant story about comparative religious practices. “ALL over Europe,” he argued, “the peasants have been accustomed from time immemorial to kindle bonfires on certain days of the year, and to dance round or leap over them. Customs of this kind [Read More…]

The Bible: Mass Distribution and Massive Ignorance?

Over at the Weekly Standard I reviewed John Fea’s excellent new history of the American Bible Society (ABS). At the end of the review, I reflected on the dilemma of mass Bible ownership versus declining Bible “engagement.” As the ABS observes its 200th birthday, it has become more clearly aligned with a broadly defined evangelicalism than [Read More…]

Numbering the Old Testament: 22, 24 , 39, or more?

Over the past couple of years my work has often brought me back to the writings of Josephus, and I just wanted to describe one Biblical-related problem that arises there. I claim little originality in what I am writing here, but am rather stating and summarizing a long-running debate. (Jewish readers, please avert your eyes: [Read More…]

The King’s Son Enters Jerusalem

I have been working on European history in the later nineteenth century, and specifically the role of religious and apocalyptic ideas in shaping real-world politics in in that supposedly modern and technological age. I’ll be doing several posts on that topic in coming weeks, but let me just introduce the theme here. What I have [Read More…]

The End of American Evangelicalism

One of the big surprises of 2016 is the extent of evangelical support for Donald Trump. As I mentioned several weeks ago, judging by historical precedents, evangelicals might well have divided their support among a number of candidates who spoke persuasively about their Christian faith, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and the now-defunct Ben Carson, [Read More…]

The Eating Exercise

In Desiring the Kingdom James K.A. Smith contends that humans are imaginative, desiring, loving, affective creatures more than automatons driven by cognitive, intellectual perceptions. He writes, “We feel our way around our world more than we think our way through it.” As such, our imaginations need to be converted and enacted through “intentional practices that [Read More…]

Should You Apply to Graduate School?

Late spring is a good time for potential applicants to start thinking about applying to graduate school. Most application deadlines come between about November 15 and January 15, for admission the following fall. Here’s my post from the Anxious Bench archives about choosing the best programs for you – and whether you should apply to [Read More…]

Volcanic Faith

I have been discussing the effects of global changes in weather and climate on the history of religions. Sometimes, those developments can be related to long-term climatic developments, such as the Little Ice Age, but in other instances, we see the impact of transient catastrophes. A growing number of books have traced the impact of [Read More…]

American Protestantism and Madness

Nearly twenty years ago, I visited a psychiatric unit near the city of Cebu in the Philippines. It consisted of two small sex-segregated wings, each holding perhaps two dozen patients. For my young adult eyes, it was a house of horrors. I had seen slums. I had seen young children scavenging at a filthy dump. [Read More…]


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