We Meet

From Web Exclusives

Desmond Tutu once said that what holds Anglicans together is the fact that “we meet.” From 2000 to 2009, meetings among Anglicans burgeoned, as attempts were made to hold together churches divided on sexuality, the Bible, and ecclesial order. There were strategy meetings, protest meetings, . . . . Continue Reading »

Baptist Catholics

From the August/September 2015 Print Edition

Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists
by curtis w. freeman
baylor, 478 pages, $49.95
When I’m in a gloomy mood, sometimes I’d like to be a Baptist. Instead of all the venal bishops, political synods, and ignorant commissions, I’d have some controllable integrity to my church life: a good congregational polity with the folks in the pews in charge, Bible reading and preaching at the center, no-apologies evangelism and church planting, a limit on the intrusion of self-important experts and their crazy ideas, no liturgy to mess up, and (unlike their Pentecostal brethren with their shamanistic temptations) good old-fashioned fundamentalist biblical rationalism that makes it easy for most people to smell a pastoral rat in their midst when they have one. There would still be problems, of course, which is where Curtis ­Freeman’s vision comes in. Freeman’s book is a manifesto, detailed and learned, but also engagingly vigorous, for a special way of being “Baptist.” Not the narrow and culturally colonized Baptists of most of America, but a Baptist life that is more attuned to the realities of the “larger Church.” Freeman’s Baptists, following the ecclesial moniker of the late theologian James McClendon, are “Other Baptists.” McClendon looms over ­Freeman’s vision, and his influential work embodies ­Freeman’s own melding of intra-Baptist dissidence with a radical ecumenical embrace. Freeman wants Baptists to see themselves aright as gifts to the larger Church catholic, and he wants other Christians to respect them as such. Continue Reading »

Sin’s Nature

From the November 2014 Print Edition

Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything
?by robert r. reilly?
ignatius, 250 pages, $22.95
Robert Reilly provides a relentlessly unsparing examination of the ways in which a radically new, and certainly destructive, understanding of human life and morality has been legitimated under the banner of gay rights. He marshals evidence of what is now becoming well known to those who are willing to listen: that the medical and educational communities have shifted their views on homosexuality on the basis of personal desire and political bullying rather than careful investigation, reflection, and open debate. In outlining the judicial decisions leading to same-sex marriage, Reilly demonstrates how the invocation of privacy law to protect gay sex ­quickly obscured the moral dignity of persons, especially children. He also offers a caustic look at the California decision overturning ­Proposition 8, where a gay federal judge took up all the arguments that had been ­littering the legal scene and shuffled them into a self-serving mess. As ­illustration, it goes to the heart of the revolution Reilly is describing. It alone is worth the price of the book. Continue Reading »

What Women Bishops Mean For Christian Unity

From Web Exclusives

On July 14, 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to permit women to be consecrated as bishops in their church. It followed a long, and sometimes bitter debate, and a vote in 2012 that barely fell short of the required two-thirds majority among lay representatives. Part of the decision—debated as to its enforceability—guarantees parochial opponents access to male priests and bishops. Continue Reading »

Romantic Religion

From the June/July 2014 Print Edition

Before religious philosopher Louis Dupré began his long tenure at Yale, he wrote on Marx. Then came his religious phenomenology and study of mysticism. More recently, he has worked on a long survey of Western religious thought. Behind this varied scholarly output is the haunting concern of how to apprehend God in the midst of all the intellectual forces that obscure his presence.The Quest of the Absolute is the third volume in a series Dupré began in 1993 with Passage to Modernity, a study of ideas of “nature and culture” from the High Middle Ages to the Baroque era. He followed this in 2005 with The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture, by this point displaying the wide-ranging intellectual grasp and comparative focus of someone like Ernst Cassirer. With the present volume, Dupré brings his story into the nineteenth century and ­Romanticism.Across the breadth of this grand survey, the question of where God lurks within the intellectual constructs of philosophers, theologians, and poets drives the analysis. Dupré is not interested in the issue of what God is doing with us but rather with the ways in which we continually ­re-perceive God in new cultural eras, with all the possible ­discoveries—and distortions—this may involve. Continue Reading »

Anglicanism on Its Knees

From the May 2014 Print Edition

The Anglican Communion has nearly eighty-five million members spread around the globe. Until the mid-twentieth century, these were concentrated among the Anglo-American immigrant churches associated with the British Empire. But by the 1960s, this concentration began a dramatic shift towards Africa and, more recently, Southeast Asia. Derived from the steady and sacrificial work of missionaries in the century before, and then the even more remarkable work of indigenous evangelization and church-building, Anglican membership exploded in places like Nigeria, East Africa, and Singapore (which is a leader in missionary work in Asia today). Such demographic change brings with it inevitable cultural confrontations within the Communion.But theological differences are even more decisive. Of the four Christian commitments that David Bebbington famously identified with Evangelicalism—biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism—all but the last seem to have disappeared from Western Anglicanism. But the first three are the heartbeat of the rest of the Communion.Recent struggles over sexuality are but expressions of this deeper theological imbalance, where Scripture, divine sacrifice, and transformed discipleship are at stake. The moral significance of all this, however, is just coming into view, as the Anglican Communion has almost reached its existential crossroads. After thirteen years of turmoil, I’d give it another two for the verdict. One set of opposing choices member churches have before them—same-sex marriage or support for the punitive imprisonment of gays—demonstrates how the extremes have now brazenly unveiled themselves. The coming year will lay the groundwork for how these choices are made. Given the extreme directions in which things have moved, some Anglicans like me are uncertain what future for faithful witness remains. It is there, I am sure, but what will it be? Perhaps other ­Christians can help us here; certainly they can provide warnings. Continue Reading »

Primacy of Witness

From the Aug/Sept 2013 Print Edition

The greatest cultural”and ecclesial”challenge we have to confront is the loss of a palpable sense that God’s life makes all the difference in the world to our social and political decisions. Many things have made this witness more and more difficult in our era, and they touch the . . . . Continue Reading »

From the May First Things: “Unmythical Martyrs”

From Web Exclusives

The tedium of repeated déj vu in this sad little volume did at least send me back to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. It is as if a publisher came to Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, with a proposal for a quick buck, relying on the political twitter of the times: “You’re an expert: Reframe Gibbon’s notorious chapter on the Romans and the Christians with some contemporary scholarship and cultural fillips, and we can put out a nifty pamphlet that’ll sell.” … Continue Reading »

Unmythical Martyrs

From the May 2013 Print Edition

The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom  by Candida Moss  HarperOne, 320 pages, $25.99 The tedium of repeated déjà vu in this sad little volume did at least send me back to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. It is as if a publisher came to . . . . Continue Reading »