January 21, 2019

Over the weekend one of the prominent New York neo-conservative intellectuals, the sociologist, Nathan Glazer died. He was 95. He was a mensch. He is also one of the most likable subjects in the fascinating documentary about the neo-cons, Arguing the World, a film that features Glazer, Irving Kristol, Daniel Howe, and Daniel Bell. One of his famous essays, “The Limits of Social Policy,” came out almost 50 years ago. It still captures some of the basic dynamics of our… Read more

January 16, 2019

I, just like John Fea, thought the Bruce Springsteen Broadway show was terrific, and I am not all that big a Boss fan. John saw the show in person. Hillsdale doesn’t pay as well as Messiah so I had to wait for it on Netflix. But it was a highlight of between-semester viewing. It showed what a great lyricist Springsteen is. I wonder if the E Street Band went for too big a sound, one that competed with the song’s… Read more

January 11, 2019

How’s that for click-bait? But if you thought today’s universities was filled either with secularist lefties or party-going sporting-event spectators, you haven’t been reading. First, from the authors of a new book about religion on campuses: Public and nonsectarian private universities are some of the most religiously diverse places in America. Since the ’60s, they have witnessed an increase in the sheer variety of religious activity, reflecting the rise of campus evangelicalism, the revitalization of Jewish student life, a surge… Read more

January 10, 2019

By now the debate about evangelicalism has petered out. (For background, see these posts.) But something remains to be said, at least from that quarter of the Protestant world where church membership matters more than a burning in your bosom. That something has to do with church membership, the ministry of pastors (and other officers), and the standards that set one denomination apart from another. John Fea concluded that all the historical evidence and the seasoned judgments of other historians… Read more

January 7, 2019

Why is it that when many Christians talk about the systemic nature of social injustice, they don’t think about theodicy — or the problem of how a good God can allow such enormities to exist and continue? Seldom do I see the prophets of social justice turn skeptical about divine benevolence the way Voltaire did after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 when 100,000 people died. Nor does there seem to be much on the order Viktor Frankl’s reflection on the… Read more

January 4, 2019

Emma Green has a piece on a shift among evangelical philanthropists for which many should give thanks (and maybe give some credit to President Trump). The president is so lacking in dignity and character, that wealthy evangelicals are moving their money out of politics into “charitable causes”: The history of evangelical giving is best understood in terms of waves of institution building, said Andy Crouch, a former executive editor of Christianity Today. The first came after World War II, when… Read more

December 28, 2018

Not too long ago, a number of evangelical historians raised questions about how to reach a wider audience, readers and listeners, larger than students in the classroom or peers in a particular niche of academic history. The reflections went under the banner of “the distribution problem.” It started with a post by Raully Donahue about why no evangelical historian could muster a following on the order of C.S. Lewis’ (truth be told, that may be like asking why anyone who… Read more

December 19, 2018

In part one I generally took Tommie Kidd’s side on the question of who gets to decide which historical subjects qualify as evangelical. The dust-up on Twitter between the Baylor University historian and Jonathan Merritt, a journalist who writes for the Atlantic and other outlets, started when Kidd called the African-American poet, Phillis Wheatley, an evangelical. Merritt thought that was weird. My initial take was that it was odd for a journalist not to show a tad more deference to… Read more

December 18, 2018

John Fea has the details of an exchange on Twitter between Tommie Kidd and Jonathan Merritt on bragging rights for expertise on evangelicalism. It started when Kidd wrote a piece that Joshua Little tweeted on the African-American poet, Phillis Wheatley, as an evangelical. Merritt responded by calling it “weird” to label Wheatley an evangelical. And from there it descended to who has given the most brain cells to the subject of evangelicalism. Merritt tweeted with the sort of bravado others… Read more

December 14, 2018

After reading Rusty Reno’s relatively recent laments about sanctity among Roman Catholic clergy (and the culture than enables it), I couldn’t help but remember the old argument for mainline Protestants converting to Rome. The mainline communions had abandoned traditional morality about marriage, sex, and family life — with perhaps women’s ordination thrown in if the convert were that kind of Protestant. At least, the argument went, Rome had sturdy views on sex and marriage and a tradition of maintaining such… Read more

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