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

December 13, 2018

Historians are an insecure lot and all the more so with recent developments. First came the glamorous Harvard University historian, Jill Lepore’s verdict that historians had lost an audience with the public, which was easy for her to say since she is a staff writer for The New Yorker. (How many historians can that magazine publish and do they ever take submissions from faculty at Illinois Post-Industrial State University?) Then came news that history majors have declined, an apparent indication… Read more

December 10, 2018

Roman Catholics recently (Dec. 5 8) celebrated or observed (or marked) The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which as this article explains is about the conception not of Jesus but of Mary. Protestants, at least in this part of the world, recently had a fellowship meal after which they sang lots of Advent and Christmas carols. High church folks, don’t get upset. Be happy Reformed Protestants are even acknowledging Christmas because they didn’t used to until retailers made it “the… Read more

December 7, 2018

Some dispute that Martin Luther ever said that he would rather be ruled by a wise Muslim than a foolish Christian, but apocryphal or not, it suggests an important insight in Luther’s theology that has implications for the way that Christians understand and live in the modern world. In the non-Lutheran part of the Protestant world, the desire to integrate faith and learning or to have a Christian worldview view of the world about all areas of earthly existence may… Read more

December 6, 2018

Take for instance the recent review essay in the New York Times of books on American Judaism in which the author, Gal Beckerman, writes this way about the United States even after the killing of 11 Jews on October 28 at a Pittsburgh synagogue: They were victims, in America, a country that has never seen even a hint of a pogrom. In their pain and worry, individual Jews had a rare chance to feel themselves part of a larger community… Read more

December 3, 2018

I keep seeing posts or tweets that suggest or even insist that Christianity is 100% behind social justice. This is an odd way for people to think who worship an innocent man (sinless even) executed by Roman authorities on the most shameful of all instruments of punishment that ancients can devise. In other words, the crucifixion was an enormous instance of injustice, social, political, theological, racial (possibly even economic). What prevents Jesus from qualifying on some metrics of intersectionality is… Read more

November 29, 2018

A good friend and great colleague in the study of U.S. history, Leo Ribuffo, has died. Details and obituaries have yet to surface. He was older and sometimes frail, so the news of his demise was not a surprise even if its suddenness shocked. I have known Leo since he identified himself as the reader of my then manuscript, an intellectual biography of J. Gresham Machen. Ever since, I have known Leo to be unpredictable and insightful in his judgments,… Read more

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