The Seekers and the Sought

I have been writing about the English Non-Juror movement. About 1710, these dissident High Church figures were looking around for a major institution in which to ground themselves, and they tried to affiliate with the Orthodox Churches of the East. That effort came to nothing, but it did have an ironic aftermath. In the early [Read More...]

Under God

Don’t blame the book, blame the reviewer. Kevin M. Kruse has a new book called One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic Books, 2015). It’s a scholarly and well-researched work, on a significant topic. Kruse’s argument is that much of what we think of today as the fundamental institutions and ideologies [Read More...]

Envisioning Islam


A short post on an important topic. I have written a good deal on Eastern Christian communities, especially their interactions with early Islam. I am therefore delighted to see not just one but two new books on these matters by Michael Philip Penn. I have read neither as yet, but I know Penn to be [Read More...]

Somewhere, Beyond The Sea

As I described in my last post, the Non-Jurors were a High Church movement within the Church of England, who refused to take oaths to the new regime after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Their leaders were pious and thoughtful, with a deep interest in church history and liturgy, and a special focus in the [Read More...]


I recently reconnected with some old friends – well, very old really, about three centuries in fact. I have long been interested in those conservative European and North American believers who forsake Western denominations that they see as too liberal, and who place themselves under the authority of some African or Asian prelate. The best [Read More...]

Messiahs at Qumran

Messianic visions became central to Jewish thought during the second century BC, and the Dead Sea Scrolls produced abundant evidence of the power and diversity of those approaches. The Scrolls are usually associated with a Jewish sect tied to the Essenes and to Enochic traditions, which was deeply at odds with the Maccabean/Hasmonean ruling family. [Read More...]

Making the Messiah

The figure of the Messiah has been critical to both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Christians, by definition, are followers of the Messiah. In tracing the origin of this idea, though, we must draw a distinction between eschatological hopes of a glorious coming age, and the individual figure of the messiah, the Davidic king. In the [Read More...]

Messiahs by the Sackful

Some timely thoughts for Holy Week! In Jesus Christ Superstar, a mocking Pilate complains that “You Jews produce messiahs by the sackful!” Most popular histories take it for granted that Jewish thought was dominated by the eager expectation of a messiah, who would be an individual man, and the main debate concerned the nature of [Read More...]

The Deist Revolution

I echo pretty much everything my colleague Tommy Kidd wrote in his recent column What is Deism?, but I would add a footnote. Perhaps the most important contribution the Deists made to religious thought was in terms of understanding the Bible, and in sparking the movement that became known as higher criticism. So much “higher” [Read More...]

Making the Church of the East

Christianity spread in the Persian Empire during the second and third centuries, when it became a major force, especially in western regions. Looking today at some of those early centers is multiply depressing, as they are today in the process of witnessing that ancient tradition being uprooted. From the fifth century through the fourteenth, the [Read More...]