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 »

The Eruption of Pentecost

From First Thoughts

This Sunday marks the day when churches commemorate the descent of the Spirit. This feast of fiery tongues and intoxicating presence has haunted the Christian imagination. Symbolizing the divine breath that filled the first humans with life, the rushing mighty wind overwhelms the senses, reminding believers that “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things. . .Because the Holy Spirit over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” Continue Reading »

The Problem of Constructive Protestantism

From First Thoughts

It has been almost eighty years since the publication of H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Kingdom of God in America and we are still talking about what Niebuhr called the problem of constructive Protestantism. This problem lurks behind the recent talk about the future of Protestantism unleashed by Peter Leithart’s initial volley. Continue Reading »