Halloween: More Christian than Pagan

This is from my archives at the Anxious Bench, originally published Oct 31, 2015. Although I have previewed it this year with my recent 2016 posts  Burning Witches in Medieval Europe? and The Modern Roots of Pagan Halloween , this post stands as I originally wrote it. We, of course, will carve pumpkins again very soon (next [Read More…]

Of Pastors and Power: Mark Driscoll and the Avignon Papacy

  I made the mistake recently of reading Mark Driscoll’s 2008 Crossway book On Church Leadership. For those of you who have forgotten, or just blocked it, Mark Driscoll was the former pastor of the Mars Hill megachurch. He resigned deep in scandal in 2014, but has recovered somewhat and started a new church in Scottsdale, [Read More…]

The Gender Inclusive Bible Debate (Medieval Style)

I remember this so well. It was 1997–the year I graduated from college, the year I got married, and the year I started graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was also the year that the world learned about Zondervan’s gender-neutral edition of the NIV (which eventually became known as [Read More…]

Gender and the Trinity: A Medieval Perspective

Very recently, on June 16, Christianity Today published the article Gender and the Trinity: From Proxy to Civil War. Author Caleb Lindgren writes that the current debate over the nature of the Trinity is especially significant because it involves like-minded theologians dividing over a core Christian belief: the nature of the Trinity. Is Jesus, the second [Read More…]

Banning the Bible: Did It Really Happen in the Medieval World?

Yes, it did. But not the way you were taught in Sunday School. Let me explain. Last week I stood under the Tudor arch of St. Bartholomew the Great in London (unfortunately still marred by scaffolding). If it had been the 16th century, I would have looked out over an open grassy field just outside the [Read More…]

The English Bible before the Reformation

Literally steps from where the Great Fire of London began in 1666, at Thomas Farriner’s bakehouse on Pudding Lane, stands the small church of St. Magnus the Martyr. It was the second church destroyed by the fire and the most expensive church to be restored under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren. Unfortunately its pricey [Read More…]

Did Medieval Christians Accommodate Paganism?

The Roman Pantheon is awesome. And I mean “awesome” in the sense that my good-English-professor-friend would approve: it evokes feelings of awe and wonder. I caught my first glimpse of this 2000 year-old building after stepping from a stone-paved street into the Piazza della Rotonda. We were on our way back from the Roman Forum and, [Read More…]

The Modern Roots of “Pagan” Easter

In the late nineteenth century, a Cambridge scholar sat at his desk and wove a brilliant story about comparative religious practices. “ALL over Europe,” he argued, “the peasants have been accustomed from time immemorial to kindle bonfires on certain days of the year, and to dance round or leap over them. Customs of this kind [Read More…]

The Christian History of “Pagan” Easter

I bought Easter candy for my students. It was a mistake. Although the students made a valiant effort to eat as much as possible, they left a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (a particular weakness of mine) in the candy basket. Needless to say, they didn’t last long. Reese’s eggs are just one of many [Read More…]

The Thin Blue Line

A thin blue line runs through the nave of Durham Cathedral in England. Made from marble and marked with a center cross, it stretches twenty-five feet across the westernmost part of the nave. Medieval legend proclaims the line as a physical barrier protecting the sacred space of the clergy from the polluting presence of women. [Read More…]