In my last post, I urged the use of the unpopular term “Dark Age” as a valid historical and archaeological concept. Specifically, I suggested that it should refer to eras of “systematic societal collapse and cultural impoverishment, reflected in collapsing population levels, and acute declines in urbanization, technology, literacy, productivity and communications.” This is in my mind presently as I have been reading about the Dark Age concept in an unfamiliar setting, namely the Byzantine world of the Eastern Mediterranean…. Read more

Nearly twenty years ago, Christian Smith assessed American evangelicalism as “embattled but thriving.” Nowadays, just “embattled” seems more apt for the preeminent impulse in the *history of American religion (*at least for much of that history). From the rise of the “Nones” to the collapse of the Religious Right to declines in church membership, the strength of American evangelicalism is on the wane. Not so fast, say contributors to The Future of American Evangelicalism. The title alone makes me breathe… Read more

Today’s guest post comes from David Bronkema, Associate Professor of International Development at Eastern University near Philadelphia. He is author of “Foster Just and Sustainable Economic Development,” in Glen Stassen, ed, Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War and co-author of the just-released Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures. *** At the book launch in Chicago last Friday of Advocating for Justice, former Ethiopian refugee Mawi Asgedom held up the book, opened it up to… Read more

The Anxious Bench began its life as a blog some four years ago. Since then, we’ve published more than a thousand posts on a wide variety of themes pertaining to the global history of Christianity. As is the case with many group blogs, on occasion individuals have departed and new contributors have taken a seat on the bench. John Fea, one of our original writers, now concentrates on his own indispensable blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. This week, one of our other… Read more

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 choices.   The 1694 address was pronounced after a period of tumult, from the change of Massachusetts’ charter to the upheaval of witchcraft accusations and executions… Read more

I am about to say something really contentious and controversial: Dark Ages happen, and I believe in them. And I actually have some new evidence to support that shocking conclusion. Oddly, this seemingly abstruse topic is in the news right now. The agency English Heritage just published a timeline showing the era 410-1066 as the Dark Ages in Britain, which generated a controversy among historians. Both sides agreed that the long time span was ridiculous, but they differed on whether… Read more

Rupert Neudeck died earlier this week at the age of seventy-seven. Mostly unknown in the United States, Neudeck was among Europe’s most radical and provocative humanitarians of the last half-century. Neudeck attracted public attention in 1979 when he, his wife Christel, and several high-profile supporters chartered the freighter Cap Anamur in a privately funded effort to rescue Vietnamese refugees at sea. Ignoring criticism and obstruction from both western governments and leftist activists who opposed the refugees’ flight, Cap Anamur saved… Read more

In the second century A.D., the pregnant wife of a prosperous Greek politician died from a vicious assault. Appia Annia Regilla Atilia Caudicia Tertulla, or Regilla, was born into an affluent Roman family in 125 A.D.; she married the Greek politician Herodes Atticus, also from an affluent family, around 140 (when she was 15); and 20 years later, when she was 8-months pregnant with their 6th child, she died from a brutal beating which included a fatal kick to her stomach…. Read more

[This week’s post comes from my Patheos archives.] Many an evangelical pastor has concluded a sermon by asking non-Christians to “ask [or receive, or invite] Jesus into their heart,” or to pray a version of what some call the “sinner’s prayer.” But some evangelicals, including Baptist pastor David Platt (president of the SBC’s International Mission Board), have in recent years criticized the sinner’s prayer as unbiblical and superstitious. Surely, Platt argued in a controversial March 2012 sermon, there must be more… Read more

One of the most exciting areas today in Biblical scholarship (broadly defined) is the Enoch Seminar. Founded in 2001, it originally focused on the literature associated with the patriarch Enoch, but has since branched out massively, almost to become a field in its own right. The changing limits of that field are fascinating, both for their present state and their emerging dimensions. The main Seminar meetings occur regularly in a variety of international settings, and are strictly intended for credentialed… Read more

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