Category Religion

Mark Noll and the potential contributions of Christian scholarship

Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), a book that scandalized the evangelical mind by noting that it wasn’t much in evidence (Noll then scandalized some further when he announced in 2006 that he was leaving Wheaton College after 27 years on the faculty for Notre Dame), was in a sense sequeled in 2011 […]

Interpreting ossuary boxes

Roughly seven years ago the discovery of a 2000-year old bone box (or, ossuary) which is engraved with the words James, Son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, was announced, setting in motion a media, scholarly, and now judicial frenzy.  There is not much doubt that the 20-inch long box is about the right age to […]

Interpreting the nativity accounts

A book written last year by Marcus Borg (the professor of religion at Oregon State) and John Dominic Crossan (whose work on the “historical Jesus” has long been controversial), The First Christmas:  What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth (New York:  Harper Collins, 2007) starts with a premise likely to be rejected by most […]

Christianity: Undergoing a Great Emergence?

Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor of the religion section of Publisher’s Weekly, a position created when the market for spiritual books exploded in the late 1980’s (she started in the early 1990’s).  From that vantage point, and given her own theological predispositions, she has had a unique perspective on the unfolding debates within Christendom […]

Retrieving the historical David

The question of whether the biblical David actually existed and the extent to which he ruled over a minor tribe or a major kingdom may seem tangential to those who connect to him mainly as a mythic figure or by religious faith – the boy who killed Goliath, the young shepherd who loved Jonathan and […]

On Gregorian chant

The relationship of the arts to Christianity yielded liturgical practices in the Middle Ages that survive to this day and which reflect the whole range of aesthetic practice, from the use of vestment colors to the development of more elaborate architectural schemes (including extraordinary stained glass depictions aimed to spiritually and physically elevate the eye […]

Hermann Hesse and joy/suffering

Garrison Keillor’s daily Writer’s Almanac on NPR yesterday mentioned the birthday of the Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse.  Born in 1877 and the author of Der Steppenwolf (1927) and Siddhartha (1922), he won the prize in 1946.  Hesse’s life was characterized by a recurrence of depression, but he is also remembered for his renunciation of […]

How conversion works

The Christian tradition offers many accounts for how conversion, the acceptance of a life-changing and radical alteration of worldview, takes place.  One is the story of Saul on the Damascus road (pictured above), instantly blinded into transformation, as “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3).  Conversion in this sense is the aha […]

The limits of loyalty

When James Carville called Bill Richardson a “Judas” figure for finally deciding to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, he reopened a centuries old argument over the purpose and limits of loyalty.  Carville’s argument was that Richardson “owed” the Clintons for their years of providing important career-advancing opportunities.  Bill Clinton is supposedly especially exorcised […]

Comprehending radical doubt

In Mark’s gospel a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus for healing.  The father implores Jesus for help:  “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  “’If you can’?” Jesus replies – it is difficult to say whether this is a rebuke or not – “Everything is possible for him […]

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