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

Global Economies, Immigration, and Precarious Places

I’m pleased to publish this essay by Matthew Peterson.

In response to somewhat shrill claims by some Christian intellectuals that Christians ought to support mass migration, and oppose Brexit, Stephen Wolfe recently published an article at Mere Orthodoxy arguing that Christians can (and perhaps should) oppose immigration. Stephen draws from an impressive array of natural law sources to argue that the differentiation between foreigner and citizen is good, and a natural part of human life. This differentiation is integral in protecting the particularities in and through which communities are formed and given their deep particular character.

This position regarding the deep particularity of places is also argued, persuasively, in a piece by Alastair Roberts published by Mere Orthodoxy on Brexit, and the necessity of making peace between the cosmopolitans who tended to oppose Brexit and the locals who favored it. Alastair lays out the competing anthropologies on which hopes for mass immigration, and opposition to it, are based. According to a liberal anthropology, we are all interchangeable individuals, whose connection to our land, our parents, and our people, is merely accidental; on the other hand, according to a more Biblical anthropology, our person is always deeply embedded in the particularities of a people and a land. Continue reading

Are Religious Liberty Restrictions God’s Judgment on Racism?

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

– Amos 4:6

I did a number of medical school rotations in a Catholic hospital, which meant morning and evening prayers were offered over the hospital intercom every day. While “morning” prayer often came after I had already been at work for a few hours, it was still often a relief to have God’s mercy invoked on behalf of my patients and my colleagues. Continue reading

Reviewing Nancy Isenberg’s “White Trash”

This guest review is by Dr. Miles Smith.

In 2014 The King’s College professor Anthony Bradley wrote an article on the plight of poor whites for World Magazine. That Bradley, an African American, first raised the issue seems strange, but Bradley did not downplay or ignore the racial differences between poor whites and African Americans. His argument instead transcended race, pointing out the shared socioeconomic hardships experienced by poor rural whites and blacks in modern American society. More importantly, Bradley noticed, suburban and urban Evangelicals typically joined the broader culture in shaming working class rural whites for their poverty and their culture. Bradley noted that “urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people.”

Culturally pejorative terms for working class rural whites, “‘Rednecks,’ ‘crackers,’ “hoosiers,’ and ‘white trash’ are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians.” That these terms remain acceptable in respectable society speaks to the wholesale marginalization of rural working class whites. Continue reading

Misreading Tolkien and Misreading Scripture: Responding to O’Keefe and Reno

I am reading John J. O’Keefe and R. R. Reno’s Sanctified Vision for the independent study on hermeneutics and theological method I am doing this summer. I have found the book fairly helpful overall, and think the authors are right to commend the church Fathers as models for Biblical interpretation in many ways. The authors do good (albeit somewhat tendentious) work arguing for whole-Bible/“intensive reading” strategies and the validity of typology as part of theological method. When they come to allegory, though, their argument almost immediately goes off the rails with a deeply misguided interpretation of The Lord of the Rings. I offer a critique in two (brief) parts:

 

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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 Worldly Poetry of the Puritans

I’m pleased to have Stephen Wolfe back with us again today for this piece on Puritan poetry.

The common understanding of the Puritans, in both popular and academic circles, is that they were hostile to all art, despisers of human desire, and saw nothing redeemable or good in creation. According to this view, their religious fervor was more than world-denying; it was earth-denying; it was desire-denying; it was sense-denying; and it was beauty-denying.

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Reading with Big Eva

Growing up, I attended a church that had a very narrow conception of what basic Christian orthodoxy was. Though we never talked about things like the Apostle’s Creed, we would have agreed with most all of it except for “he descended into hell,” and we would’ve wanted to modify (or cross our fingers while saying) the bit about “the holy catholic church.”

That said, the list of essential doctrines that constituted “orthodoxy” went well beyond this—any sort of reformed or covenantal theology was probably heretical because it denied the rapture. Catholicism was heretical because of their teachings on justification and Mary amongst many other things. Orthodoxy was probably heretical but I’m not sure we even bothered to understand why—we just knew it was weird and looked like Rome so it was probably not a real church.

Even other dispensational Bible churches that did not share our understanding of the rapture and end times—or that did not talk about them often enough—were suspect.

I couldn’t help thinking about my time in that world while reading Tim Challies’ recent post about how to choose what books to read and what not to read.

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6 Theses on Online Writing and Civility

Civility is being debated in the blogosphere once again. The impetus for the latest discussion is the recent firing of Matt Bruenig, a lawyer and left-wing online writer who used to publish with the small left-wing think tank Demos. Bruenig was fired recently after making some rude comments toward two women on Twitter, one of whom is the director of a major left-wing think tank, a long-time Clinton ally, and quite possibly Hillary Clinton’s future chief of staff. Vox has a good summary of the story. Continue reading