Bob Dylan’s Mormon Influences

Bob Dylan has a lot in common with Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. Don’t take my word on that: Listen to the man himself. He made the comparison in a 2012 interview with Mikal Gilmore that was published by Rolling Stone, one I discussed last week. Continue Reading »

The Folly of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Advocates of a mass amnesty for 11 million illegal aliens, under the banner of “comprehensive immigration reform,” seldom fail to mention “church leaders” and “faith groups” as part of their “coalition.” One might think that the complex issues of how many and which aliens should be permitted to immigrate and how we should deter unlawful immigration by the millions who will not qualify comes down to a simple moral question: What would Jesus do? Continue Reading »

A Crash Course in Q

Let’s keep Christianity weird.” So said the Southern Baptists’ official face to the nation, Russell Moore, as he closed an address on “prophetic minorities” before a thousand pastors, artists, social entrepreneurs, and assorted others at latest edition of Q. “What is Q?” you might ask like a local woman did to me as I snapped a picture of the ten-foot-tall reclaimed wood logo that stood outside a historic hall in the shadow of the Tennessee capitol building. Telling her dryly that it was a gathering of hipster Christians only seemed to add to her confusion. (I overheard someone else try to explain it as a bit like TED for evangelicals, which apparently left his native inquisitor as perplexed as mine.) Even the basics can be cloudy—every participant I asked assumed the “Q” stood for “question” but no one really knew for sure, and Q’s website holds no direct answer. Continue Reading »

The Hebrew Republic

Scholars have long recognized that the Bible supplied what Mark Noll has called the “common coinage of the realm” in early America. Eran Shalev of Haifa University thinks that historians have not gone far enough. They have failed to grasp just how, and how deeply, the Bible formed the American imagination. Shalev argues in American Zion that early America was not simply a biblical republic. It was, quite self-consciously, a Hebrew republic. Continue Reading »

Moving Mulberry Trees

Increase our faith!” the disciples demanded of the Lord (Luke 17:5-10).“If,” the Lord reasonably replied, “you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”Huh? Mulberry tree? What happened to that faith-can-move-mountains thing? Well, the mountain is in St. Matthew’s report, and Matthew has Optimist Club optimism that faith, leveraged on a mustard seed, can move a mountain. Continue Reading »

Humanae Vitae: What If?

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna has long been a vocal supporter of Humanae Vitae’s teaching on the morally appropriate means of family planning. So it was noteworthy that Cardinal Caffarra recently conceded that, while Humanae Vitae’s conclusions were true, its presentation of those truths left something to be desired. As the cardinal put it, “No one today would dispute that, at the time it was published, Humanae Vitae rested on the foundations of a fragile anthropology, and that there was a certain ‘biologism’ in its argumentation.” Continue Reading »

The Uncertain Future of Protestantism

Last Tuesday, leading representatives of different models of conservative American Protestantism gathered at Biola University to discuss and debate the “Future of Protestantism.” Peter Leithart, an ecumenically-oriented apostle of “Reformational catholicism” faced down Fred Sanders of Biola, a spokesman for the “unwashed masses of low-church evangelicals” and Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary, an unapologetic representative of Calvinistic confessionalism. Those hoping for a hard-hitting debate, or a quick and full resolution of the questions, were bound to be disappointed: the three interlocutors were much too patient, irenic, and thoughtful for that. No, it was a conversation, and like almost all good conversations, inconclusive, an invitation to further conversation. Continue Reading »