Managers, Therapists, and Saving Democracy

From First Thoughts

Lurking in the shadows of Marsden’s argument is a running twentieth-century debate over the culture created by what Lasch called “bourgeois society.” With its Marxist sheen dulled, much of this debate has ceased to be about class divisions (although it retains that edge in certain thinkers) and more so about mentalités—mindsets or common outlooks—that comprise the beliefs inhabiting the social imaginary. Continue Reading »

Pentecostalism and the Question of Culture

From First Thoughts

In a recent article for Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer offers some sociological analysis as to why Pentecostals continue to experience growth despite trends of decline or stagnation among many forms of Christianity. His three reasons coalesce around the distinctive Pentecostal doctrine of a baptism . . . . Continue Reading »

Pope Francis, Catholic Charismatics, and the Church

From First Thoughts

On Friday of last week Pope Francis addressed the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Communities (CFCC) and Fellowship at its sixteenth annual international conference in Rome. The focus on the new evangelization gave the Holy Father the opportunity to speak of a dual theme that is proving to be central to his papacy—that is, unity in diversity, and unity in mission. Continue Reading »

Conquering Christ

From First Thoughts

The martyrdom of Christians throughout history, and particularly in the Middle East today, is a living example of what Gustaf Aulén called Christus victor—an ancient understanding of the atonement which points to the basic model of the work of Christ as a warrior overcoming sin, death, and the demonic. 
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Shailer Mathews, With Us Still

From First Thoughts

In 1918, Shailer Mathews, the late dean of Chicago Divinity delivered a series of lectures at the University of North Carolina entitled “Religion and Patriotism.” With the Great War as backdrop, the great culture warrior for the social gospel utilized his understanding of historicism as a method to discuss how religion and patriotism should be rightly understood in a genuine democracy. Along the way, Mathews attempted to indict the religion of German nationalism and what he considered the religious right of his day. Both, ultimately, subscribed to the same vision of God as sovereign ruler rather than loving father, and it was this vision that supplied the rationale behind autocratic rule, whether that rule came in the form of an inerrant scripture, an infallible pope, or an all-encompassing state. Continue Reading »

“Options” for Cultural Engagement

From First Thoughts

For Evangelicals, debates about Christian cultural engagement largely occur within Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and culture” rubric, which calls into question most forms of institutional Christianity on the one hand and pietistic Christianity on the other hand. There are serious problems with Niebuhr’s formulation, which is why the current debate about the Benedict or Dominican options offers an interesting alternative in its appeal to religious orders as a lens for cultural engagement. Continue Reading »

Two Holidays, Two Reformations

From First Thoughts

While the broader culture celebrates Halloween at the end of this month, many Protestants will focus on Reformation Day while two days later Catholics will utter prayers as part of All Souls’ Day. It is a fitting historical tribute (or irony) that All Souls’ Day and Reformation Day occur within two days of one another with All Saints’ Day sandwiched in between. It is as though the two great reform movements of western Christianity stand as bookends to the patristic heritage. The observance of these three days reminds Christians of a common patristic heritage and the way reformation and renewal can both reshape and fracture that heritage. Continue Reading »

Women and the Culture of Evangelicalism

From First Thoughts

Last Friday the Gender Parity Project released the results of its study of the role of women among evangelical non-profit organizations. Most of the men surveyed affirmed an egalitarian stance toward women in leadership positions, but the study also found that women have barely broken the twenty percent barrier in terms of board and paid leadership positions. Such findings should not surprise. Women play complicated roles in Evangelicalism, all worked out within the framework of Protestantism’s emphasis on maximizing lay participation. Continue Reading »