Who Were the First Protestants? Reflections on the “500th Anniversary”

Who Were the First Protestants? Reflections on the “500th Anniversary”This year—2017—many Protestant Christians around the world will be celebrating what they think is the 500th anniversary of the birth of Protestantism. Many consider October 31 “Reformation Day” and celebrate it as the annual anniversary of the birth of Protestantism because it was on that day in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the cathedral church door in Wittenberg, Saxony.Well, any historian worth he … [Read more...]

Must Science and Religion Conflict?

Must Science and Religion Conflict?Please be patient as I clarify the question. (I have learned the hard way, mostly through blogging, that terms mean different things to different people and I cannot assume a universal, let alone uniform, meaning of any word.) Must modern science and Christian theism be viewed as enemies?Now, why the question? It’s really a very old question and has been very much discussed at least since the days of Galileo. Perhaps one pinnacle of the debate about the … [Read more...]

Is Evangelicalism America’s New “Religious Establishment?”

Is Evangelicalism America's New "Religious Establishment?"This past weekend I've attended and participated in the annual meeting of the American Society of Church Historians. I served on two panels. One was composed of the editors and some authors of a book I reviewed here earlier: The Future of Evangelicalism in America edited by Candy Gunther Brown and Mark Silk (Columbia University Press, 2016). I contributed the chapter "The Emerging Divide in Evangelical Theology." All the other authors … [Read more...]

The “Disappearing Middle” in American Political and Religious Life

The “Disappearing Middle” in American Political and Religious LifeNow, to head off objections—of course I know there still IS a “middle” in American political and religious life. My point here will be that it is not as strong or populated as it once was—during my lifetime.It seems to me, and many of my conversation partners agree, that gradually during the last several decades Americans have become increasingly polarized in their political and religious opinions.This process has ruine … [Read more...]

Must a Christian Forgive Unconditionally?

Must a Christian Forgive Unconditionally?Believe it or not, I have found this to be one of the most controverted subjects among Christian ethicists. Must a Christian forgive unconditionally? Or may he or she hold back forgiveness until there is repentance shown? I have struggled with this question much.Some years ago well-known and highly regarded Christian ethicist Lewis Smedes, author of at least one book about forgiveness, gave lectures at the seminary where I teach. I had the … [Read more...]

A Quick Course in Rational Thought (and Persuasive Argument): “Thought 101”

Rational Thought (and Persuasive Argument) 101If there is one thing I have learned from blogging it is that many otherwise intelligent people struggle and fail at thinking rationally. I’m sure I do as well (but hopefully not often). Thinking rationally and sticking to it is difficult; it takes a great deal of effort.Over my many years of interacting with people about ideas I have often heard them refer to something called “Buddhist logic.” They claim that basic rules of logic are “West … [Read more...]

On Learning Our Lessons from History

On Learning Our Lessons from HistoryEveryone has heard some version of philosopher George Santayana’s famous saying that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. The study of history is crucial to knowing what might happen in the future.Please bear with me as I add my own footnotes to Santayana’s maxim: “Whatever has happened in history could happen again.” Now, of course, the past is unrepeatable in the literal sense. An event of the past can never happen … [Read more...]