Francis Schaeffer and Christian Intellectualism

In his recent essay on Christian intellectualism, Alan Jacobs dates the high point of the public Christian intellectual in America as being in the late 1940s. Citing the influence of thinkers like CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Reinhold Niebuhr, Jacobs argues that the movement began to fade in the 1950s and, by the 1960s, was largely a spent force. By that time Lewis, Auden, and Niebuhr were no longer as relevant in contemporary debates and the next generation had not yet emerged. By the time that generation of leaders did, Jacobs argues, the culture had moved past them and they had become more conversant in the intramural discussions happening in conservative religious circles rather than the broader cultural conversation. Continue reading

Recovering our Confidence: Four Theses on Social Conservatism (#4)

Note from Jake: This is the final post in Matt’s social conservatism series published in 2012 which we are re-publishing this week.

Post 1, Post 2, Post 3

One of my underlying themes through this week has been the current lack of confidence among mainstream social conservatism.  I’ll grant this is a somewhat surprising subcurrent:  after all, the religious right hasn’t exactly earned its street cred through timidity and reserve.  But I have always been haunted by that old verse, “in quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” as though the most authentic and honest sign of assuredness is the mocking silence in the face of those who oppose us. Continue reading

End the Hostilities Against Elites: Four Theses on Social Conservatism (#2)

Note from Jake: We are re-publishing Matt’s old series from the fall of 2012 on social conservatism:

Part 1

Thesis: For social conservatism to thrive, it needs to end its hostility toward elite institutions that are currently opposed to it.

Consider this bit by Rick Santorum from this year’s Values Voter Summit, which both stunned and saddened me: Continue reading

Soma and the Silencing of Evangelicalism After Trump

In his novel Silence Japanese writer Shusaku Endo tells the story of two Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan. After initial pioneering work by Francis Xavier in the 16th century, a small native Japanese church had begun to flourish in the mid-to-late 16th century, possibly growing as large as 100,000 people. Then the government took a hard anti-Christian turn, closed the island to foreigners, and began a harsh regime of persecution against the Japanese Christians.

At the center of this persecution were small icons called fumi-e, pictured above. During the torture, the government officials told the Christians that all they needed to do to end it is agree to trample on the fumi-e, which was understood to be a way of renouncing the faith. To make sure it took, it was common practice in much of Japan to require former Christians to step on a fumi-e once a year. (Silence spoilers below the jump.) Continue reading

The Predictable Rhetoric of Evangelicalism

It’s now been 12 days since the horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that saw 50 people killed and over 50 more injured. We did not publish anything on this event last week out of respect for the victims and because in the aftermath of such horror, silence is often the wisest response initially. That said, we’re now beginning to talk about it. We began with a post by Bernard Howard on gun control. Today we’re continuing with a reflection on the evangelical response to the shooting. Continue reading

“It’s Going to be an Issue.” Biola, Conscience, and the Culture War

“It’s going to be an issue.”

You may recall those five words that were spoken by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in the oral arguments phase of Obergefell v Hodges. Specifically, that sentence was Verrilli’s response to a question from Justice Alito about the tax-exempt status of private religious schools that continued to define marriage traditionally over and against the definition of the government. Justice Alito made a salient observation: If the Obama administration’s contention was that traditional marriage laws were analogous to racial segregation, wouldn’t schools that defined marriage traditionally be in the same category as those (such as Bob Jones University in the 1990s) who continued to enforce anti-segregation campus policies (and, thus, were ineligible for tax-exempt status)? Continue reading

Idylls of the Right

This guest post is by Matthew Mellema.

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfills himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The rise of Donald Trump has me thinking of Tennyson, and specifically of the last scene in “Idylls of the King.” Arthur, mortally wounded in a final battle against his son Mordred, reflects on his failed kingdom to Sir Bedivere, his only surviving knight. It reminds me of the Religious Right after Trump.

I have some expertise on the Religious Right. I worked at an evangelical ministry during the halcyon days of the Bush Administration. Early in college, I was that conservative firebrand who loved picking fights with liberals in econ class, and thought that Reagan’s gospel was a logical extension of Jesus’s.

A lot of that embarrasses me now, and I’ve been distancing myself from it for years. But I still have enough of a connection to feel like Sir Bedivere, alone among the ruins of Camelot. Like Arthur, the Religious Right sowed the seeds of its own destruction. But also like Arthur, there’s something tragic in its passing. Continue reading

Responding to Alan Jacobs on the Benedict Option

Alan Jacobs has some very good questions for critics of the Benedict Option, and at the risk of possibly digging myself into a deeper hole with yet another BenOp post I would like to offer some answers.

My only grounds for doing so are that I have lived in about 2½ different communities that I think could be considered “Benedict Option” (the ½ being my homeschool co-op, which I would say lacked the localism that attends most BenOp discussions).  

Here is Jacobs’ succinct description of why we need the Benedict Option followed by a conclusion, which I find quite helpful:

The dominant media of our technological society are powerful forces for socializing people into modes of thought and action that are often inconsistent with, if not absolutely hostile to, Christian faith and practice.

In America today, churches and other Christian institutions (schools at all levels, parachurch organizations with various missions) are comparatively very weak at socializing people, if for no other reason than that they have access to comparatively little mindspace.

Healthy Christian communities are made up of people who have been thoroughly grounded in, thoroughly socialized into, the the historic practices and beliefs of the Christian church.

From these three premises proponents of the Benedict Option draw a conclusion: If we are to form strong Christians, people with robust commitment to and robust understanding of the Christian life, then we need to shift the balance of ideological power towards Christian formation, and that means investing more of our time and attention than we have been spending on strengthening our Christian institutions.

Continue reading