That Was The Week That Was

I should note that the past week brought this blog its 100,000th view. Thanks to everyone for reading!

But more importantly:


• I joined several others in getting the word out that Books & Culture is facing its last issue if it doesn’t make its 2014 fundraising goal by the 9th. They’d made progress since I posted Wednesday night, but were still $75,000 short on Friday. If you haven’t already made a pledge, please prayerfully consider offering your support.

• I suggested ten blogs by Christian historians (or, I should have made more clear) about the history of Christianity that my readers should be reading.

• One of them then happened to interview the author of another.

• A second metaphor for the Christian liberal arts: teaching a college student is like building a cathedral.

• I took a break from my series on the Second World War before Pearl Harbor in order to research and write about the little-known poetry of that war.

• I’m done with my series on themes in the commemoration of WWII, but I did announce my new photoblog, on the commemoration of the two world wars and other modern conflicts. (My two posts there this week visited Belleau, France and Anoka, Minnesota.)

…There and Everywhere

Scholastic teaching at the University of Paris in 14th century
A scholastic philosopher lectures at the University of Paris in the 14th century – Wikimedia

• Thank you, Jamie Smith and the rest of the gang at Comment, for pushing back against something I see too often among younger Christians: “…if you’re really passionate about fostering the common good, then you should resist anti-institutionalism. Because institutions are ways to love our neighbours. Institutions are durable, concrete structures that—when functioning well—cultivate all of creation’s potential toward what God desires: shalom, peace, goodness, justice, flourishing, delight.”

• In listing my 10 blogs by Christian historians, I noted that my Bethel colleague Chris Armstrong tends either not to blog at all for a while, or to blog in spurts. Definitely the latter of late, with this week seeing a flurry of posts on medieval scholasticism. Most intriguing of the set was Friday’s, on how a seemingly elite intellectual movement influenced the common people of Europe: “Indeed, by emphasizing the importance of reason in theology, [the scholastics] were actually beginning a democratization of the faith that bore fruit in the Reformation. Think about it: their use of reason in theology made knowledge of God accessible, not merely to the cloistered monk with his constant Scripture reading and intense mystical exercises, but to anyone able and willing to think.”

• Another blogger from that list, Patrick Connelly, was kind enough to mention my “cathedral-building” post en route to introducing a 12th century scholar who, in relating meditation to reading, “points us to a vision of knowledge that transcends the mere accumulation of data” and “relates education to a deeper human need for consolation, which may give us pause before giving into reductionistic explanations of that very desire.”

• Now this gives me some hope for the future of civil discourse and higher education: conservative scholar Robert George writing (in First Thoughts!) about his friendship with not-conservative colleague Cornell West, and the educational vision they share: “Our message is that what ultimately matters is not success in the eyes of the world—wealth, status, prestige, power, and the like.  It is, rather, the purity of one’s soul; it is one’s integrity as a human being who, as a creature fashioned in the very image and likeness of God, is capable (with God’s help) of mastering one’s desires and appetites and living a life of authentic service to God and neighbor.”

• If you missed social psychologist Christena Cleveland’s series on black students at Christian colleges, check out her interview with The Christian Post.

Pilcrow• Let’s hope that the past year’s half-million student drop in college enrollment is just a “one-year correction” that augurs well for short-term economic recovery, since a long-term reverse would be bad news for many more than just those of us who work in higher education.

• The American Academy of Arts & Sciences released its annual Humanities Report Card. Given how our fields excel (we’re told, and claim) at cultivating critical thinking, I’m sure that any humanities major will be able to poke holes in it. But one fun fact that we’ll leave unexamined for now: in the first decade of the 21st century, humanities majors scored 9% higher than business majors on the GMAT.

• The author of a new book on the history of punctuation marks (seriously) offered an intriguing preview – briefly explaining the centuries-old origins of such symbols as the octothorpe (#), pilcrow (¶), and diple (>).

• Granted, I’m a World War I nerd, but I hope that the impending 100th anniversary of that war is accompanied by more and more projects like this excavation of a scale model battlefield built in England by German POWs in 1917.

• And I was happy to welcome a former teaching assistant back to Bethel as a faculty colleague, and to see another former TA write this piece on how Bible translation in Cameroon helps us understand the significance of Paul’s call for mutual submission in Ephesians 5.

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