March 11, 2019

(Note: I am currently working on a small-grant application for a new course entitled “Christianity and Other Faiths: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Engagements.” This is a work in progress but the grant narrative is below. I invite feedback.) Title and Description of Course “Christianity and Other Faiths: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Engagements.” This new course will be introduced in Valparaiso University’s four-year interdisciplinary honors college (cross-listed in theology and history) to coincide with the release of two of my forthcoming books: The… Read more

March 8, 2019

When I teach my survey of what my university clumsily terms “Religions of the West,” students learn about categories such as revelation, scripture, ritual, and patterns of authority. The course focuses on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Along the way, we discuss several expressions of these traditions over time and place, and at the end of the semester, I typically spend one or two days and introduce a brief unit on Mormonism. I do so for several reasons. For starters, I… Read more

March 8, 2019

Recently I talked about Charles Babbage as a pioneer of modern computing, and as someone whose brilliant scientific ventures were explicitly designed to support belief in the existence of God, His power, wisdom and goodness. This is only one of many examples we might look at to refute the idea of religion, and specifically Christianity, being anti-science and anti-progress. One excellent book on this theme is Daniel J. Cohen, Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith (Johns Hopkins University… Read more

March 7, 2019

In the upper Midwest, Lent is not simply a season for fasting—it’s a season for fish fries. While they’re supposed to be solemn days of self-denial and sacrifice, Lenten Fridays have provided the opportunity for people to gather together for festive events that offer a delicious diversion from the dreariness of the late winter months. In many cities, local newspapers publish the times and places of all the fish fries in the area, and beginning at mid-afternoon, an ambitious (devout?)… Read more

March 6, 2019

In 1976, Elisabeth Elliot published her landmark book Let Me Be A Woman: Notes to My Daughter on the Meaning of Womanhood. If you remember, Elisabeth Elliot’s first husband Jim was one of five missionaries speared to death in Ecuador in 1956. Let Me Be A Woman was a gift to her daughter, Valerie–Elliot’s only child who was 10 months old when Jim Elliot died. In Let Me Be A Woman, Elliot draws a clear line in the sand. Women are different from men,… Read more

March 5, 2019

In 1973 anthropologist Stanley Diamond published a series of essays meant “as a modest antidote to the alienation, guilt, anxiety and fear to which human beings are condemned in modern imperial civilization.” Calling his book In Search of the Primitive, Diamond contended that The longing for a primitive mode of existence is no mere fantasy or sentimental whim; it is consonant with fundamental human needs, the fulfillment of which (although in different form) is a precondition for our survival… The… Read more

March 4, 2019

This coming week, we will enter the season of Lent. Thinking about the history of this time tells us a lot about the church’s changing attitudes to those very Biblical ideas of fasting and penance. To understand where this time came from, it’s helpful – oddly – to look first at Muslim practice. Muslims today have a month-long-season called Ramadan that looks quite ferocious to most Christians. Between the hours of dawn and dusk, Muslims can eat or drink absolutely… Read more

March 1, 2019

I wrote recently about the silly contemporary myth that portrays religion, and particularly Christianity, as implacably opposed to science and progress. In contrast, I emphasized the tradition of seeking “the Wisdom of God manifested in the works of Creation,” a phrase associated with the seventeenth century natural scientist John Ray. The legend of Christian obscurantism and ignorance is thoroughly disproved by an abundance of counter-examples, but some of the available correctives are so powerfully convincing that they startle. It is… Read more

February 27, 2019

Recently historians have been debating each other. Actually, this has been going on for quite some time. Max Boot observes the following in a Post op-ed: 1) History majors are declining; 2) Many Americans do not know when the War of 1812 began; 3) Americans elected Donald Trump, who does not know there was a War of 1812; 4) Historians bear some blame for these things because they have abandoned political and military history and because they fail to speak… Read more

February 27, 2019

In the nineteenth century, our white ancestors took Kanza land. What do we do about that now? Read more

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