We Need Freaks

From First Thoughts

When Flannery O’Connor called the south Christ-haunted, she was thinking not least of its freaks. The role of the freak takes on a theological tone in grotesque southern fiction because “it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some . . . . Continue Reading »

The Good Historian Resembles an Ogre

From Web Exclusives

On April 1st of this year, the great French medievalist Jacques Le Goff died at the age of ninety (1924-2014). There were obituaries in the newspapers of Britain and Europe, but not much in the American press. This is unfortunate. More than a mere historian, Le Goff was a strongly pro-European public intellectual whose historiography helped support the formation of the European Union. Continue Reading »

In Defense of Christian Perfectionism

From First Thoughts

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion & Democracy has responded to my take on the rise of Protestant perfectionism in the past several decades with a plea for help from Reformed Christians. I appreciate the response in part because I think it illustrates the challenge for Wesleyans to clarify . . . . Continue Reading »

On the Feast Day of St. Bonaventure

From First Thoughts

Today marks the feast day of St. Bonaventure, the seraphic doctor. Unlike Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure represents the synthesis of medieval Augustinian mysticism. For this reason, he can be particularly challenging to interpret. Reading him is worth the labor. In Bonaventure one glimpses the . . . . Continue Reading »

Diogenes and the Delphic Oracle

From First Thoughts

The first century orator Dio Chrysostom narrates a conversation between the famous Cynic Diogenes and a pilgrim on his way to visit the oracle at Delphi. Delayed in his journey because of a runaway slave, the pilgrim runs into Diogenes who then engages him in a lengthy discussion that focuses on the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Rise of Protestant Perfectionism

From First Thoughts

Today we are witnessing the re-emergence of a Protestant perfectionist vision of the Christian life. This vision has at least two forms, an Anabaptist understanding of the church as embodying a set of practices that realize the Kingdom of God and a Wesleyan optimism of grace in which the people of . . . . Continue Reading »

What Christians Agreed On

From First Thoughts

Elesha Coffman’s analysis of the rise of the Christian Century and mainline Protestantism is fascinating reading. Toward the end of the book, she recounts the reaction of the churchmen associated with the Christian Century to the emergence of Billy Graham—in particular, his . . . . Continue Reading »

How God Became America’s Father

From First Thoughts

Americans just recently celebrated the important role of fathers in the upbringing of children. No doubt more than one sermon drew comparisons between divine fatherhood and human fatherhood, even though doing so is fraught with challenges for the American Christian given the historical connection to . . . . Continue Reading »