Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages

Although they were infrequent affairs, formal debates between Christians and Jews sometimes took place in the Middle Ages—even if the deck was often stacked against the Jews. For a research project, I have been reading about two of these: the Paris Disputation of 1240 and the Barcelona Disputation of 1263. The former took place at [Read More…]

Christian Colleges Meet Trump’s America

I received much feedback from a piece I wrote for Inside Higher Ed. So, permit me the liberty of reprinting it for Anxious Bench readers. The original appeared here. It has been widely hypothesized that the type of identity politics nurtured on elite secular campuses helped produce the backlash that swept Donald Trump into office [Read More…]

When did “Interreligious Dialogue” begin?

It is hard to find today a major city that does not have an “interfaith” or “interreligious” council or a university that does not sponsor some sort of “dialogue” among world religions. But when and where did “interreligious dialogue” begin? Most scholars would point to Chicago in 1893 when the first “Parliament of the World’s [Read More…]

The Most Influential Theologian You’ve Never Heard of

Who is Josef Kleutgen (1811-1883)?  The name is not a household name, except in my household!  I’ve recently completed a book manuscript—The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age—and Kleutgen figures quite prominently in it.  He was arguably the ablest student of Thomas Aquinas in the [Read More…]

Education: What is It?

For a “think tank” of sorts, I find myself writing a white paper on education (yep, the whole shebang) and its current aspirations and ailments. It’s a tough assignment, for how does one make sense of such a large category. Here’s my first swipe at defining “institutional parameters.” I welcome feedback! I. Institutional Parameters “Education” [Read More…]

Election Day Reading Material from The Anxious Bench

Whether you want to read more about the 2016 election – or find something to distract you today… Here are some of our most popular posts from the summer and fall. [Read more…]

Counting Down to the Reformation at 500

There’s an African proverb, I am told, that goes like this: “If I don’t beat my own drum, who will?” In this spirit, permit me to make known to Anxious-Bench readers two publications of mine. The first is recently out; the second will be out in a matter of weeks. It has been a delight [Read More…]

Trump and Modern Ethical Theory

We are still many weeks away from early November and I’m already wondering if there is anything left to say about this election, which the Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse memorably described as a “dumpster fire.” (I confess that I didn’t know that this was a phrase until I looked it up and learned that it [Read More…]

Secularization or Religious Pluralism?

What is the “big story” that scholars should tell about the relationship of religion to the modern world? For many decades, social scientists believed that modernization led ineluctably to secularization. Modern goods such as science, democracy, technology, social mobility, and the free market meant that, sooner or later, religion was destined to swoon and irreligion [Read More…]

India Today and Hindu Nationalism

After traveling in the United States, G. K. Chesterton famously described America as “a nation with the soul of the a church.” Something akin to this could be said of India, but to church one must quickly add Buddhist stupa, Jain mandir, Sikh gurdwara, Parsi dar-e mihr, Muslim mosque, and, not least, Hindu temple. Indeed, [Read More…]