June 28, 2012

“We’re all adolescents now,” suggests the subtitle of Thomas Bergler’s essay in this month’s issue of Christianity Today. “The Juvenilization of American Christianity” is a distillation of Bergler’s book of the same title. It’s a thoughtful critique of a major trend within American evangelicalism (and, as he suggests, American Christianity more broadly) since the Second World War. In short, American evangelicals responded to the specter of a young generation “lost” to Christianity by radically stripping down and refashioning their message…. Read more

June 27, 2012

I just got hold of Eamon Duffy’s latest book Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations (Just published in Britain, and due out in the US in August). Duffy is a wonderful historian whose 1992 book The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 was a staggering evocation of the religious life of Pre-Reformation England, and a grim account of how this was all swept away from the 1530s onwards. While generations of Protestants… Read more

June 26, 2012

This week my Baylor colleague Barry Hankins and I published a USA Today editorial, “Southern Baptists Cleanse Past,” commending the SBC’s election of its first African American president, Fred Luter. From the column: America remains torn by racial problems – and Sunday morning is still America’s most divided hour – but even the most cynical observer must admit we’re making progress. Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention – founded in 1845 to defend slavery – elected its first black leader, New Orleans… Read more

June 25, 2012

In a recent posting, I discussed the impact of overseas missions on the theology and practice of home churches, and suggested that this was a vast and understudied topic. The theme also gives me an excuse to explore some Christian writings that I consider to be truly important, but which today are gravely under-known and under-appreciated, namely the plays of Charles Williams. Williams himself is celebrated as a close friend of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and… Read more

June 22, 2012

You may remember from earlier posts that I was eagerly anticipating R. I. Moore’s book The War on Heresy, which I have now finally read and reviewed for Church History. The review won’t be out till next year but here is a quick summary of my impressions. The whole story raises critical issues for Christian history. According to the standard narrative, Dualist heresies spread rapidly in Western Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, under the influence of the Bulgarian… Read more

June 21, 2012

 Cleaning out my office this week, I came across Time magazine’s February 2005 list of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.” Here’s the list, in the order of appearance (though Time didn’t rank it): Rick Warren James Dobson Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Dianne Knippers Michael Gerson Richard John Neuhaus (a curious choice, I thought then and now) T.D. Jakes Billy and Franklin Graham Joyce Meyer Rick Santorum (a slightly less curious choice than Neuhaus after the 2012 primaries)… Read more

June 19, 2012

Evangelicals are overwhelmingly indicating support for Mitt Romney in public opinion polls, and writers such as Jonathan Merritt are asking whether this indicates a sea change in evangelicals’ views of Mormonism. Patheos blogger Scot McKnight briefly commented that this support for Romney reveals that for evangelicals, “politics too often matters more” than the particulars of faith. I don’t see it that way. I think that for many evangelicals, there are settings (i.e. church) in which theology largely trumps politics, and… Read more

June 18, 2012

As Christianity has grown around the world over the past century, it has been fascinating to watch the complex and often unexpected interplays between the older and newer churches. In South Africa, for instance, the mighty Zion Christian Church (several million strong, and mainly Zulu) takes its name not from Mount Zion, but from Zion City in Illinois, the former seat of a healing movement led by Scottish evangelist John Alexander Dowie. Sometimes Western churches had their impact, but in… Read more

June 15, 2012

Since this blog is on Patheos’s “Evangelical Channel,” I thought we should devote at least one post to discussing what “evangelical” means today. For their thumbnail definition of evangelicalism, many scholars rely on David Bebbington’s “quadrilateral” of conversionism, biblicism, crucicentrism, and activism. There are at least two problems with Bebbington’s very useful definition. First, the terms are so capacious that many Christians few would regard as “evangelicals” could claim them. Second, when I use Bebbington’s quadrilateral to explain evangelicalism to… Read more

June 14, 2012

There are probably good reasons why the New York Times keeps on publishing, but I can’t think of any. A case in point. This week, the paper ran an op-ed by one David Mason under the title “I’m a Mormon, Not a Christian.” The piece makes a point that is controversial but not necessarily eccentric, namely that at least some Mormons feel no need to claim Christian status, and are happy to see themselves as members of a different faith… Read more

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