That Was the Week That Was


  • The beginning of a new series working through Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s new book, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia. The introduction noted the inherent tension between doing history and doing historiography. The first set of stories came from two African Christians responding differently to the “new” imperialism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • The continuation of my series on the “usable past” for Christian colleges started to consider why most Pietist colleges do little more than nod to their origins, if that.
  • My four favorite sounds, courtesy of one 19th century composer, two toddlers, four Liverpudlians, and several hundred dissimilar Christians.
  • The fascinating story of a small town in Michigan celebrating 145 years of racially integrated life. And my brief encounter with that town.
  • And the week kicked off with a labor-themed installment of “This Week in History” — plus, for no apparent reason: Alexander Graham Bell, thrill seeker!


  • One of my favorite filmmakers is Errol Morris (his Fog of War is a staple of my Cold War class), and he’s revealed himself to be a pretty interesting writer as well, producing a series of columns for the New York Times (in my Recommended Links list) that have spun off as a new book on photography, Believing is Seeing. The Times reviewthis past Sunday was itself fascinating, explain how Morris is really interested “in figuring out where the truth — in both senses — lies” and unpacking a disagreement he had with Susan Sontag over this photo from the Crimean War.

    Roger Fenton photo from Crimean War
    Roger Fenton, "The valley of the shadow of death" (1855) - Library of Congress
  • Roger Olson on why he won’t give up on “evangelical”; Kyle Roberts on why evangelicals still have something to learn from postmodernism.
  • As a Pietist I’m convinced both of the importance of the “new birth” and that I don’t know John Wesley nearly as well as I should. Fred Sanders speaks to both convictions in an essay on Wesley’s understanding of justification, regeneration, and sanctification.
  • Last week I did something that I don’t normally like to do: offer a critique of someone I both (a) respect and (b) don’t know personally. (Specifically, I responded to Jamie Smith’s use of the word “pietism.”) That left me worried about the response, which came this past Tuesday…. And it was simply wonderful. Jamie was gracious enough not only to read my post, but to share a comment at this blog and write a brief response on his own blog. Orwell, Road to Wigan PierIt was enough to renew my trust in the academy’s ability to sustain the kind of charitable, reasoned conversations that produce better scholarship all around, rather than the vitriolic, hateful interchanges that poison discourse seemingly everywhere in Western society.
  • Earlier he took to the same blog to write, “Any day is a good day to read [George] Orwell, but perhaps today is especially appropriate.” That day being Labor Day and the Orwell then quoted being The Road to Wigan Pier, I’ll say amen.

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