That Was The Week That Was


• I enjoyed learning more about one Baptist hero (Will D. Campbell) from one of my Baptist heroes (G.W. Carlson).

• Are the humanities actually in crisis? Some historical perspective on how many students major in history, philosophy, literature, and languages — and how many students take basic courses in those fields.

• Just how financially sustainable are Christian colleges like my employer?

…There and Everywhere

Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia• My mom’s father has lived on the same farm in western Wisconsin throughout his 90+ years of life, and it’s been in the family even longer than that. But it’s unlikely that it will remain with the Petersons once he’s gone. So I found it especially moving to read Brian Gumm’s post on his parents moving from the city to their family’s farm in Iowa, but I think anyone could appreciate the words they prayed on that occasion.

• Why is C.S. Lewis so popular among evangelicals? Anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann didn’t emphasize Lewis the apologist (Mere Christianity) but Lewis the author of children’s literature: “…the text for which Lewis is best known is his ‘Chronicles of Narnia.’ And what ‘Narnia’ offers is not theological simplicity, but complexity. The God represented in these books is not quite real (it’s fiction) and yet more real than the books pretend (that’s not a lion, it’s God). That complexity may help people to hang on to faith in a secular society, when they need a God who is in some ways insulated from human doubt about religion.”

• Jamie Smith was speaking particularly of the Reformed tradition, but his essay on “Kuyperian naturalism” contains a more general warning for Christians, and especially social justice evangelicals: “What begins as a Gospel-motivated concern for justice can turn into a naturalized fixation on justice in which God never appears. And when that happens, ‘justice’ becomes something else altogether—an idol, a way to effectively naturalize the gospel, flattening it to a social amelioration project in which the particularity of Jesus as the revelation of God becomes strangely absent.”

• An op-ed reframing the challenges facing higher education in terms of digitization, disintermediation, and unbundling ended with this exhortation: “If a college’s true product is a transformed student, then the main effect of the next decade should be to redouble every school’s commitment to that cause. The explicit goal of residential liberal arts colleges will again be to increase what a student knows and change who she is.”

• One source of the increasing “humanities in crisis” rhetoric was The Heart of the Matter, a report from a special commission of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Count Stanley Fish unimpressed: “…I predict that this report — laden with bland commonplaces and recommendations that could bear fruit only in a Utopia — will be dutifully noted by pious commentators and then live a quiet life on the shelf for which it was destined.”

• Which group is more likely to read books and use libraries: Americans younger than 30, or older? (H/T Tim Krueger)

Marines memorial in Belleau Wood
The U.S. Marines memorial at Belleau Wood, France

Happy 5th Birthday to one of my favorite history blogs — and an inspiration for this one: John Fea’s The Way of Improvement Leads Home!

Confessing History (co-edited by John) continued to receive attention — here’s an in-depth review from the U.S. Intellectual History blog, with John’s response.

• Historian Christopher Capozzola introduced the Americans who fought in World War I; they first began to land in France 96 years ago this month.

• The story behind The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara’s historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg that “shifted the accepted historical interpretations and even changed the park’s landscape.”

• A review of a “beautiful new coffee-table book devoted to the radiantly strange world of privately pressed vanity records” made between 1958 and 1992? It’s more up the alley of my friend Sam, but I actually found Hua Hsu’s question intriguing: “What can we learn from incredibly obscure things?”

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