That Was The Week That Was


• What kind of financial support do evangelical colleges and universities receive from their sponsoring denominations?

• Short answer: Data are sketchy, but… not as much as they used to. Case in point, Bethel University.

• Are these good measures for ranking colleges: The mid-career salaries of alumni? How meaningful they find their work?

• Happy to have helped put together an array of articles on the historical and contemporary relevance of Pietism.

• And I inflicted my love of a certain New England foodie’s media empire on an unsuspecting Internet.

…There and Everywhere

Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt• Part of Roger Olson’s response to a critique by Gerald McDermott: “Many of us postconservative evangelicals lean toward pietism; we believe transforming experience of God is closer to the heart, the center, the core of Christianity than doctrine. That is not to say, however, that experience is above Scripture in authority.”

• Greg Boyd has a new book out, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty. Get a taste via interviews by Jonathan Merritt and Rachel Held Evans.

• Responding to comments by sociologist John Schmalzbauer, historian John Fea solicited comments about the reach of his well-regarded book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, which was published by Westminster/John Know after leading evangelical houses turned it down. (Be sure to read the comments, including some from the two Johns mentioned above.)

• We got to the Edict of Milan and Council of Nicea yesterday in our Christianity and Western Culture class, with the central figure being the Roman emperor Constantine, whose legacy still inspires fierce debate among his fellow Christians.

• Hopefully all my readers are already reading Tracy McKenzie’s blog, but if not, I’ll keep right on recommending his posts: this week, two more in his series “On Thinking Christianly about the Past.” The one on Ecclesiastes and the Gettysburg Address was certainly thought-provoking, but my favorite line came from the end of the series’ second part: “…thinking Christianly about history may involve many things, but I think a salient feature of [sic] is a scrutiny of the past that prompts scrutiny of the heart.”

• In the third part of that series, Tracy delved into one of my favorite themes: how wars are commemorated. Which reminds me that I haven’t puffed my war commemoration photoblog, Memento belli, in a while: this morning’s post focused on a Vietnam veterans memorial not far from my house.

• Randall Stephens hinted at regional variation in the British commemoration of World War I.

Mark Twain (1871, by Matthew Brady)
Matthew Brady’s famous 1871 portrait of an unsmiling Mark Twain – Library of Congress

Attending the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington prompted Nicole Kirk to reflect, “When commemorations are only read about or considered from an armchair, they are often cleansed of the visceral. Space and place are always contested, open to multiple interpretations. Although I had walked that ground before with my son on our visits to DC, it was changed when I walked on it for the commemoration. Somehow, in that moment, my story became linked in a new way with the story of the civil rights movement.”

• Why didn’t people — even funny ones like Mark Twain — smile in 19th century photos?

• Why do historians pay so little attention to the histories of academic departments?

• Historian Paula Findlen returned from a spectacularly productive sabbatical, only to wonder, “…if I were going up for tenure or even promotion to full professor with this profile, my colleagues might wring their hands in utter consternation at my puzzling career choices. Virtually none of my output is refereed, nothing is monographic, and it appears scattered and diffuse. Speaking as a former department chair who has overseen many tenure and promotion cases and served on the university appointments and promotions committee, I am not alone in lamenting the ways in which we are trapped in obsessions with genre when reviewing the work of our colleagues and constrained, as a result, in the advice that we offer.” (Thanks again to my own institution’s P&T committee, for not being so constrained in reviewing my own odd record of scholarship when it recommended me for promotion last spring!)

• Until I saw this week’s news that Moody Bible Institute was permitting faculty to drink alcohol, I’d forgotten that it’s been something like five years since we made a similar change at Bethel. (Though, unlike Moody, we didn’t relax a ban on tobacco.)

• A Californian member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities asked for the resignation of a theology professor who came out as transgender.

• Meanwhile, CCCU schools are joining the rush to recruit students from China. But given the recent controversy involving Wellesley College and other cases like it, I hope their leaders are being cautious about entering too eagerly into partnerships with institutions in what’s still far from a free society.

• Rich Mouw and Jamie Smith are two of my favorite Reformed scholars, so I’m not surprised to have enjoyed reading the latter interview the former. Part two, on learning from Anabaptism, was even more interesting.

• Jay Case’s series explaining why higher education should not be run like a business continued, with a post on customer service.

Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker – Harvard University (photo by Henry Leutwyler)

• I’m sure we’re all flabbergasted that MOOCs have not turned out to be the game-changers that some overhyped advocates said they would be: “After a year in which almost every big-name university in the United States rushed to get in on massive open online courses, or MOOCs, the backlash is in full force. And no wonder: The idea of free online video lectures replacing traditional classrooms not only offends many educators’ core values, but it threatens their jobs. Worse, the early evidence suggests the model may not work very well…”

Gary Gutting answered Steven Pinker’s call for those of us in humanities to pay more attention to the science. Noting how philosophers, historians, and even some scholars in literary studies have drawn on science, he concludes, “There is, then good reason to think that the greater problem is scientists’ failure to attend to what’s going on in the humanities. Even Pinker himself, who is obviously well versed in many areas of the humanities, could have profited in this article from a deeper acquaintance with philosophy and its history.”

• I think that my office fits three of Nathan Gilmour’s four criteria for a non-sterile, inviting-to-students space. My doctoral diploma is up to high for most students to notice and ask about, but the two WWI battlefield models and my life-sized cardboard cut-out of Homer Simpsons generally do the trick in its stead.

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