Evangelical Universities, Activism, and the Life of the Mind

From First Thoughts

I have made no secret of my disagreement with the historical and theological reasoning Mark Noll employed to lump together dispensationalists, holiness churches, and Pentecostals in his indictment of evangelicalism’s anti-intellectual impulse. Yet Noll and George Marsden, among others, have rightly pointed out how activism operates as a fundamental force within evangelical identity. This operation has both positive and negative consequences, one of which is, no doubt, a culture that devalues the characteristics necessary for the cultivation of the life of the mind. Continue Reading »

Wesleyans and the Reformation

From First Thoughts

It’s that time of year again, when Protestants begin to reflect on what the Reformation has meant and continues to mean. It is a contested legacy, the interpretation and appropriation of which depends upon historical trajectories and contemporary concerns. Within the evangelical world, the legacy of the Reformation unfolds in different ways depending on whether one identifies primarily with the confessional or the pietistic wing. Continue Reading »

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 »