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Into All the World

John Stott once defined evangelicals as Gospel people and Bible people. No one has embodied these traits more fully than William Carey (1761–1834), an iconic figure among Baptists and evangelicals. A shoemaker by trade, Carey is often dubbed the “father of modern missions.” Today, when the missionary movement has lost much of its focus within wide sectors of the Church, Carey has some important lessons to impart. Continue Reading »

Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard

Michael Landon, the hugely popular television star of BonanzaLittle House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven, died in 1991 at age fifty-four. Landon’s last act—if you will—was widely hailed as his best: He publicly announced his diagnosis with terminal pancreatic cancer, appeared on the Tonight Show to openly discuss his pending death with Johnny Carson (almost unprecedented back then), and gave several interviews announcing his determination to hang on until the end. He told Life, “If I’m gonna die, death’s gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me.” Continue Reading »

The Problem of Self Loathing at Evangelical Colleges

When I was an undergraduate at an evangelical college in the Pacific Northwest, I encountered a unique imperative, “Down with the Pinecone Curtain!” For my classmates who resonated with this battle cry, the towering evergreens on campus were a metaphor for the college’s cultural isolation. While the Pinecone Curtain wasn’t exactly the Berlin Wall, my classmates’ discontent was real nonetheless. They were dissatisfied with the school’s evangelical identity, if not with evangelicalism itself. Continue Reading »

Religion and Family Around the Globe

All the attention devoted to the first Roman Catholic Synod on the Family, which wraps up this week at the Vatican, is but one sign that the ties binding hearth and altar to one another can still be the subject of considerable concern. That’s in part because the fortunes of the family in the West have largely ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of religious faith over the centuries, as scholars like Peter Berger, Robert Wuthnow, and Mary Eberstadt have noted. Continue Reading »

Neither Prudence Nor Courage

While campaigning for the Republican nomination in the Iowa senatorial race, Joni Ernst had called for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency. When she was called on this claim in a general election debate, Ernst’s response was a mess that both praised the federal Clean Water Act and seemed to call for state-based environmental regulation. Conservative journalist Byron York observed that Ernst was “definitely not in control of the question.” Perhaps it might be better to say that Ernst was willing to be neither an Abraham Lincoln nor a Charles Sumner. Continue Reading »

Retirement Home Christianity

When, back in the mid-1980s, I told a retired Calvin College colleague that I was moving to Fuller Seminary, he responded: “I hope you will make a case there for more appropriate sermons preached at retirement communities!” He went on to explain: “Last week at the weekly worship service sponsored by our community, a visiting preacher warned us against a modalist conception of the Trinity, while also urging us to avoid tri-theism. But that was not as bad as the week before, when a seminarian—addressing a congregation where at least a dozen of us were sitting in wheelchairs—exhorted us to stand up for Christ in an increasingly secular society!” Continue Reading »

“He Wept Tears of Blood”

Avery odd thing happens in Book 16 of the Iliad when Zeus decides that Sarpedon must die. Sarpedon was one of the greatest of the Trojan warriors. He also happened to be the son of Zeus—though this does not render him immortal. As Sarpedon and Patroklos are about to fight, Zeus laments to Hera: Continue Reading »

Their Decadence and Ours

The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw movements calling themselves “decadent” in both England and France, and from the modern reader’s perspective there is very little that separates Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons, on one hand, and Joris-Karl Huysmans and Villiers de L’Isle Adam on the other. They wrote in the same exquisitely mannered prose, embraced the same cult of artifice and ornament, took as their anti-heroes the same dissolute aristocrats bemoaning the same prevailing philistinism. At the end of Villiers’ play Axël, the hero withdraws from the world with the parting cry, “As for living, the servants will do that for us.” That is a line Walter Pater would have applauded from his box, if he could have bestirred himself to do something so vigorous. Continue Reading »

The Myth of the Apophatic Areopagite

When most theologians hear the phrase “absolutely ineffable,” they nod approvingly and reach for their Dionysius. I cringe and reach for the Bible. Every theologian can admit that the Bible’s descriptions of God need to be contextualized, qualified, and grounded in a properly Christian metaphysics, but for many theologians today, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite delivers us from the problem of anthropomorphism altogether. Especially for those influenced by postmodernism or postfoundationalism, everything Dionysius says about God—and he says plenty—adds up to one great (and absolutely good) negation. (Dionysius wrote in the early sixth century and used a pseudonym based on the Athenian convert Paul mentions in Acts 17:34.) Continue Reading »

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