December 11, 2012

Sunday was the 200th birthday of James Henley Thornwell, the South Carolina Presbyterian pastor and professor whom Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese called the antebellum South’s “most formidable theologian.” Thornwell was a great champion of what he called the “regulated freedom” of antebellum slave society. Historian George Bancroft once described Thornwell as “the most learned of the learned,” the epitome of the antebellum southern gentleman theologian. He graduated from South Carolina College at nineteen, and studied briefly at Harvard Divinity… Read more

December 10, 2012

 “Dad, we can just Google it” is the reply I often hear from my children when I’m stumped by questions they ask.  Recourse to this high-tech oracle did not avail itself to me as a kid, so this reality represents yet another novum for parenting in our hyper-digital age. As most of us have discovered, Google can ace the simple questions—which team won the BCS championship in 2010?—but it hasn’t quite mastered the complex ones—what is truth, goodness, beauty?  In… Read more

December 9, 2012

A few things online that caught my attention this week: Presidential houses Serendipity and used bookstores John Turner’s book of the year Charlotte Allen reviews Adam English, The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus. A Noah’s Ark theme park David Reynolds reviews John Stauffer and Zoe Todd, The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry Raid. Read the rest here. Read more

December 7, 2012

Advent is one of my favorite times in the church year. For many reasons, I particularly relish the “O Antiphons,” which belong precisely to this season. They are so very rich in the lessons they teach, with implications for Christmas, of course, but also for the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, and (surprisingly perhaps) for the apocalypse and the Last Judgment. You could actually present a fairly complete course in Christian theology just from these short verses! Even… Read more

December 6, 2012

‘Tis the season for list-making. My co-bloggers have given you their five favorite religious biographies and seven best books read this year, respectively. Let’s face it. There are a lot of great books about American religion rolling off the presses each year. Making lists of good books is easy work. It’s harder to pick the book of the year. I, however, am ready for such boldness. It’s not a work of history, but the best book on American religion published… Read more

December 5, 2012

In the wake of Thomas Kidd’s post on his five most compelling religious biographies, I thought I would offer an end-of-the year reading list of my own.  Here are some of the best books (in no particular order) I read this year in the field of American religious history: John Smolenski, Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania. This is now the definitive work on the Quaker founding of Pennsylvania.  It is a fine piece of… Read more

December 4, 2012

People love biographies, and I am regularly asked to recommend good ones during the lead-up to Christmas. One of the most frustrating things about the bookselling business is that there is no necessary correlation between the prominent placement of books at the bookstore, or the review of them in newspapers and magazines, and the enduring quality of those books. True, bestselling books are often very well written (lively prose is the specialty of the trade press), but from a historical… Read more

December 3, 2012

I have been struck in recent years by how many evangelicals have sought to reconnect with liturgical practice. Often, they follow the Ancient Future movement, under the influence of the late Robert Webber and his copious publications. In State College, PA, for instance, one of the most flourishing Baptist churches offers a liturgy-focused service. Some thoughtful Waco Baptists of my acquaintance wryly describe themselves as possessing a Bapto-Catholic slant. Recently, the Chicago Tribune reviewed Chris Haw’s new book From Willow… Read more

December 2, 2012

A few things online that caught my attention this week: The Humanities Indicators “Dancing in the Dark” in Oakland Cracking the Roger Williams code Sean Wilentz’s history of Columbia Records Historical thinking and historical films Florida historians vs. Florida’s governor Mapping American writers Read more here Read more

November 30, 2012

I want to share an enthusiasm about one of the best available sources for the state of Christianity worldwide. I have already described my admiration for religious commentator John Allen. Although his main emphasis is Roman Catholicism, he is a wonderful source on global religious trends generally, as they affect Christians of all traditions. You can follow Allen’s work through the newspaper National Catholic Reporter, which is not particularly where my own political views lie. However, subscribing to their email… Read more

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