An Open Letter to the ESV Translation Committee

I’m not a biblical translator, or even a biblical scholar. I’m a historian. As a historian, I was intrigued when I heard the news that “the Permanent Text of the ESV Bible” had been released. (The English Standard Version, for those not in the know, is an “essentially literal” translation of the Revised Standard Version.) [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…]

Birth Advice from Leo Tolstoy

Popular notions about baby-making, religious or not, often have been peculiar.  The soon-to-be-in-theaters Warner Brothers’ film, Storks (“In the beginning…storks delivered babies”) underscores this afresh.  Unlike the stork story, some of these notions do better than others in appraising the life-sustaining, life-changing, life-giving work women do in nine months’ worth of bearing with.   Tolstoy [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…]

Will the EU Go the Way of Yugoslavia?

The Brexit vote, the attacks in Nice, and the attempted coup in Turkey have a made it a rocky period for Europe. The example of Brexit and the Nice attacks (which brings to 242 French deaths by terrorism this year), in particular, betoken the further destabilization of the European Union and raise questions about its [Read More…]

The Crisis of Corporate Evangelicalism (Part 2 – Defining Evangelicalism)

  [You can read Part 1 here if you missed it.] Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: what do I mean by the term evangelical? There are as many definitions as there are pundits trying to explain Donald Trump. And you can expect a new batch soon, now that Pew has reported 78% of [Read More…]

“What Men Foolishly Bring on Themselves”: Why You Should Vote for Someone Good

Samuel Willard (1640-1707), minister at Boston’s Third Church—“Old South”–offered a heady dose of Puritan political thought in his classic election sermon, “The Character of a Good Ruler.”  A conventional part of Massachusetts government from the colonial period into the late nineteenth century, election sermons aimed to remind elected and electorate alike of the gravity of political [Read More…]

For This I Went To College!

Commencement-address season is upon us, bringing glad tidings about the power of grads—especially young women–to change the world. We live in a time of great global advocacy for girls’ education, purported to be a game-changer on many grounds. The education of young women is praised for lowering birthrates, for improving health, for advancing peace (girls’ [Read More…]

A Trade Good for Body and Soul: School and Career Choice for New England Puritans

These are days of decision. This span of weeks in April and May can be fraught ones for families with children of a certain age, when colleges await commitments from those who hope to start next fall, and as the clock winds down for students four years or so on the other side, about to [Read More…]

On Theology and Wild Boar

This post will not be about Easter bunnies, but it will be about animals. In the Christian tradition, animals possess a rich symbolic significance. Ask most Christians whether they would prefer being a goat or sheep in the eyes of the Lord and you will quickly baa-baa. From Genesis through Revelation, animals are regularly invoked [Read More…]