Rome, for Protestants

Most people today ooh-and-aah when they experience or envision a trip to Rome. It was not always so. Until the era of modern tourism, trips to Rome were rare, undertaken only by the wealthy. For devout Protestants, encountering Catholicism’s Eternal City could often induce more revulsion than admiration. Prior to Italian unification in the 1860s-1870s, [Read More...]

Show a Bishop some Hospitality

On Monday, April 20, Boston’s Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, visited Gordon College, where I teach. It was an instructive time for the entire college community. His talk was entitled “Our Common Concern for the Least among Us.” Recognizing abiding differences between Catholics and Protestants, he nonetheless enjoined all Christians to pursue what we might call [Read More...]

Wolf Hall’s Prophetess


Having transitioned from Downton Abbey to Wolf Hall, PBS’s Masterpiece Theater has entered onto terrain far more religious and historically treacherous. George Weigel recently commented on the anti-Catholicism that he alleges permeates the thought and writing of Hillary Mantel’s novel that serves as the basis for the television series. I haven’t read the novels, but [Read More...]

Secularization and Scotland’s Christian Heritage

One of the most immediate differences from America one notices in the U.K. is how secularized the society is (especially compared to Texas!). Polls in Scotland suggest that even nominal adherence to Christianity, and Christian orthodoxy, is in massive decline. Although opinion data is often difficult to interpret with precision, the overall pattern seems clear. [Read More...]

German Pietism


Most of us who think about the history of American evangelicalism are Anglo-centric. That is, if we think about the roots of American evangelicalism or about its subsequent development, we think about England (and perhaps Scotland and Wales) if we think outside of North America at all. Douglas Shantz, in An Introduction to German Pietism: [Read More...]

The Anabaptist Judith

One of Lucas Cranach's several renderings of Judith.

Things were not going well in Münster (in present-day northwestern Germany) as of June 1534. The previous year, local Anabaptists, their ranks swollen by arrivals from the Netherlands and elsewhere, seized full control of the city. In February, a prophet named Jan Matthias had taken charge, whereupon Catholics and most Lutherans were stripped of their [Read More...]

A Martin Luther Christmas


On the afternoon of December 25, 1530, Martin Luther preached a Christmas sermon. In the context of a still-chaotic Reformation, a combative Martin Luther railed against “papists,” “Junkers,” and “Turks” as he proclaimed the “joyful news” that the Christ child was the Lord and Savior. Luther was clearly embattled. In the wake of the 1529 [Read More...]

Martin Luther, Erich Honecker, and China’s Xi Jinping

Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on China’s new leader Xi Jinping’s efforts to shore up party loyalty by having government officials watch a new film about the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Produced by a retired Chinese major general, the six-part documentary points a finger at Mikhail Gorbachev, not the communist system [Read More...]


I have been thinking recently about parallels between the Reformation and the rise of contemporary Global Christianity. Next week, I am involved in a conference being held at Gordon College (November 14-16), on Protestantism? Reflections in Advance of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, 1517-2017. My paper bears the title “What hath Wittenberg to [Read More...]

Luther and the Word of God

Martin Luther did not want to preach in Wittenberg’s city church. The year was — most likely — 1513. Luther later commented that he “was chosen against my will to preach here.” He was afraid of what he considered a great responsibility. “I shall not live a quarter-year,” he feared. Germany is currently just more [Read More...]