“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 »

Why Ecumenism is Necessary

From First Thoughts

Recent global events have highlighted the ongoing challenge of ethnic and tribal divisions. Americans have also been reminded by events in Ferguson that divisions along race and ethnic lines are just down the street. These ongoing divisions forcefully highlight the need for greater efforts at ecumenism. Continue Reading »

Ars moriendi

From First Thoughts

Despite the lower mortality rates and longer life spans of the postmodern condition, the reality of death still looms large. Globalization and the new networks of social media keep death before the mind of a global public on a daily basis. The Gothic in literature and the arts pours forth at a . . . . Continue Reading »

On Memory and Reconciliation

From First Thoughts

The pope’s apology to Pentecostals during his visit to the church pastored by Giovanni Traettino speaks to the importance of memory. As Augustine recounts in his Confessions, the memory is a vast storehouse of many chambers filled with countless images. Continue Reading »

The Taboric Light

From First Thoughts

On most Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox liturgical calendars today marks the Feast of the Transfiguration. For conservative evangelicals, the transfiguration has apologetic weight since it points toward the deity of Christ. As important as this aspect of the transfiguration might be, however, it’s greater significance resides elsewhere. Standing between Jesus’ baptism and ascension, Christian tradition interprets this event both in its iconography and doxology as a revelation of Christ’s divinity, a foretaste of the eschaton, and a pledge of the perfectibility of the human person. Continue Reading »