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...]

Wandering Over the Plains of the Nephites

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In my last post, on the Book of Mormon, I asked a question: Does the Book contain a statement or idea about the New World that Joseph Smith could not have known at the time, but which has subsequently been validated by archaeological or historical research? I mention this point because the apologist literature includes [Read More...]

Mormons and New World History

Recently, I have been posting on fringe and mainstream ideas in scholarship, and have identified a number of working principles. Today I am going to illustrate these themes through one particular religious text, namely the Book of Mormon. This story also has lessons for mainstream Christians, who to varying degrees also have to face the [Read More...]

The Monte Verde Principle

I have been discussing fringe or marginal theories that run contrary to the scholarly consensus in a given field, and why we need to be very careful about rejecting that mainstream opinion. Just because an idea seems bold or iconoclastic does not make it right. You may at this point be thinking that I am [Read More...]

Outliers and Iconoclasts

I have been writing about mainstream and fringe scholarship, and defending the sometimes unpopular idea of mainstream orthodoxy, or the scholarly consensus. Blogging on any religious topic invites wacky comments and responses. As one example of many, I had a commenter not long ago who asserted that most of what Christians believed about their origins [Read More...]

I Want to Believe

Last year, Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson published an impressively dreadful book called The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’s Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. The Lost Gospel made much of an ancient novel called Joseph and Aseneth, claiming (on no vaguely convincing grounds) that the characters in it were coded or [Read More...]

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

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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...]


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