The End of Our Exploring

 “We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers,” Rachel Held Evans explained in her viral blog post “Why Millenials Are Leaving the Church.” Matthew Lee Anderson offers a response of sorts to Evan’s crie de coeur in his latest book, The End of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Unfortunately, it’s one unlikely to satisfy people like Evans. As a former atheist who became a Christian in college largely though the process of intellectual i … [Read more...]

The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat

 Politics, meet the water’s edge. One sense of the old phrase “politics stops at the water’s edge” is that it’s one thing for foreign affairs to impact politics and it is another thing entirely for political considerations to dictate strategy. The foolishness of politics-as-strategy is the central theme of Vali Nasr’s The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat. Formerly special advisor to the late Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan … [Read more...]

The Juvenilization of American Christianity

 This book review originally appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Fare Forward. There is ample evidence that American churches are failing to spiritually train mature Christians. Surveys reveal that Christians in America are just as likely as their non-Christian peers to engage in premarital sex, give a meager 3 percent of their income to charity, and are perceived by nonbelievers as more judgmental than loving. The prevailing theology among American Christians might best be … [Read more...]

The Unsettling Emergence of Marilynne Robinson as Environmentalist

Marilynne Robinson's three novels are gentle, compassionate, wonderful in the strict sense, and haunting. However, none of these adjectives describe Mother Country, her 1989 tirade against nuclear pollution and English civilization. You can imagine her writing the novels – Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home – from a desk by the bright east window in a quiet house. But Robinson herself provides the image for Mother Country: “the unsettling emergence of lady novelist as petroleuse.” (What a chanteuse i … [Read more...]

Why Priests?

 The first priest that Garry Wills takes aim at isn’t a man in a clerical collar. It’s Christ.A significant proportion of the book is spent disputing Jesus’s lineage as a priest in the order of Melchizedek (as laid out in the Letter to the Hebrews), but Wills isn’t trying to strip Jesus of titles. He means to recast Jesus in a role he respects more—not a priest, but a Jewish prophet. Quoth Wills: Jesus was a radical Jewish prophet. And like many Jewish prophets, he was against the J … [Read more...]

Politics and Faith: Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich at Union Seminary in New York

Christianity, as a faith rooted necessarily in history, has been shaped by theologians battered to and fro by the happenings of their world. Augustine wrote his City of God as the barbarians massed at the walls of his city; Jonathan Edwards penned his landmark Freedom of the Will from his home in Stockbridge that doubled as a barricade against French and Indian assaults; and Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich developed theological systems in the midst of 20th century global upheaval unlike any … [Read more...]