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

Hope, History, and the American Church After Obergefell

It’s a truth universally recognized by anyone who has ever talked about the BenOp that a person who expresses concern about the church’s future is in want of a person to quote Tertullian at them.

Sorry, is that cheeky? Here’s the quote and we’ll get to why it grates on my ear so in a moment: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” (UPDATE: An astute reader informs me that the more accurate translation from Tertullian is “the Christians’ blood is seed.”) Continue reading

Blame Jacques Derrida for Donald Trump.

I’m pleased to run this guest piece by S.D. Kelly, particularly given the direction the Trump campaign has gone in the past week.

A dozen years after his death, the ideas promoted by the historian and philosopher Jacques Derrida still wield a powerful influence. This holds true even for people who have never heard of Derrida. In fact, it might even be especially true for people who have never heard of Derrida. During his superstar academic career, Derrida wrote thousands of pages and lectured to thousands of students, dismantling the constructs of a very logocentric world through the philosophical and critical approach of deconstructionism. Continue reading

Boycotts and the End of Neighborliness

It’s happening again: Someone did something bad and now other people are threatening not to do business with them. But in this case the target for the boycott is not Starbucks or Chick-fil-a or JC Penney or Forever 21; it’s Georgia. The state, like Indiana and Arkansas before it, has passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that, like the laws passed by Indiana and Arkansas before it, is basically identical to the Federal bill signed into law over 20 years ago by a Democratic president whose wife now brands herself as a champion for gay rights. Continue reading

An Interview with Laura Dunn, Director of “The Seer”

Tomorrow I hope to publish a brief review of Laura Dunn’s new film “The Seer.” It’s a unique film and a hard one to pin down because while it is a portrait of Wendell Berry, Berry himself is never actually filmed for it. We only get archival photos of him and recordings of interviews with him. That said, what we do get is a unique film that does a marvelous job of helping viewers see what Berry sees when he looks at the world. And that is no small achievement. More tomorrow. For now, here’s the interview:

How did you first discover Berry’s writing?

I don’t remember, it was high school I think. I’d been interested in environmental issues for a long time, I’d been around agriculture for a long time (because of my mom’s job). It was mostly the non-fiction work that I started reading. When I was working on my feature “The Unforeseen,” which is very much a sibling to “The Seer”, I used a Wendell poem for that film and I met Wendell in that process and asked him to record his poem for the film. When I toured that film I was surprised at how few people knew who Wendell Berry was. When I finished I just imagined another film about his work. I thought to make a film that would in some way honor his work and his spirit and draw more attention to his work. Continue reading