That Was The Week That Was


• Coming ca. November 2014 from InterVarsity PressWhole and Holy Persons: A Pietist Approach to Christian Higher Education, edited by The Pietist Schoolman.

• As part of my historical sketch of bans on alcohol and other “lifestyle” policies at evangelical colleges like Bethel University, I quoted one-time campus pastor Jim Spickelmier, whose life we celebrated this past Monday after he lost his battle with cancer. (Bethel posted its own article on Jim this past Thursday.)

• One Catholic professor’s case against MOOCs seemed like it could serve as a more broadly Christian critique of such online courses. (Coming here on Monday: a few of my own reflections on having taught online for the first time this past summer…)

…There and Everywhere

Tom Clancy in 1989
Tom Clancy at another Jesuit school, Boston College, in 1989 – Creative Commons (Gary Wayne Gilbert)

• I’m happy with my undergraduate alma mater, but for a long time my first choice was Georgetown University — though a surprisingly (in retrospect, disturbingly) important reason for that preference was that Georgetown was the alma mater of a fictional CIA analyst named Jack Ryan, hero of the original series of novels that made Tom Clancy a best-selling writer. I lost interest as the yarns grew increasingly far-fetched, but still mourned Clancy’s death this week. Just to mention two postmortems… Author D. B. Grady found Clancy most powerful in the way “that he gave us a glimpse into a post-9/11 world from the relative comfort of the 1990s.” Meanwhile, the editor of Sojourners magazine worried that Clancy’s enduring influence tempted military planners “to make real-world decisions based on the erroneous assumption that complex and risky operations can be pulled off cleanly and without a hitch by these super men and machines.”

• Thanks to the name choice of the current pope, yesterday’s feast day of St. Francis of Assisi seemed to generate even more commentary than usual. Shane Claiborne celebrated him, semi-anachronistically, as “one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the church, and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war.” Kandice Rawlings provided a survey of artistic representations of St. Francis. And National Catholic Reporter national correspondent Joshua McElwee followed Pope Francis to Assisi for the day.

• Chris Armstrong continues to point us to some medieval Christians of lesser celebrity than Francis. He’s currently in the middle of a series on medieval “heart religion” — most recently, a post on ontological arguer Anselm of Canterbury.

• Coincidentally, Anselm was #1 in Greg Peters’ list of four “Must-read Medieval Authors,” ahead of Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventure, and Julian of Norwich.

• One of the most important moments on our World War I trip last January was our stop at Paris‘ Armenian cathedral, a gathering point after 1915 for refugees of the genocide that killed something like one million people. Last week, leaders of that ancient but long-divided Christian tradition gathered in Armenia to confront “a new set of challenges: entrenched secularism at home, assimilation of followers in the large Armenian diaspora abroad and general disaffection with organized religion.”

• Next Tuesday I’m hoping to revive my series on “The Second World War Before Pearl Harbor,” drawing on Max Hastings’ coverage of the Blitzkrieg that overwhelmed Norway, the Low Countries, and France in 1940. Apparently, Hastings’ attention has turned to the outbreak of the First World War, the 100th anniversary of which is coming up next year. Here’s a cool clip of him exploring that history in the UK’s National Archives in Kew:

• As an evangelical who does not identify with the neo-Calvinist camp, I very much appreciated that Derek Radney would use a Gospel Coalition post to suggest three ways that criticism from neo-Anabaptists has reminded him that “the truly Reformed aren’t just reformed but always reforming. Finding a theological home is important, but we need to be a movement that listens to other Christians who may see things about us we’re not seeing, things that need to be altered or even confessed.” (I also found the tone of the comments quite encouraging…)

Graham, Reason for My Hope
Graham’s newest book comes out Oct. 15th, less than a month before his 95th birthday

• So in turn, I was happy to point our department blog’s readers towards TGC blogger Justin Taylor’s series asking church historians to nominate the best biographies.

• Religion writer Ken Garfield’s analysis of the fading legacy of Billy Graham prompted historian John Turner to ask just what Graham’s legacy is.

• Having already devoted an article this week to Christian colleges (the impetus for my aforementioned post on alcohol bans), the New York Times also reported on the phenomenon of public universities opening dorms that cater “to students who want a residential experience infused with religion.”

• While one recent graduate warned that the scope of some college application essay questions chiefly serve to teach would-be students to “Pretend to be something you are not,” Bard College made the news for replacing such essays and the other timeworn elements (SAT scores, high school GPA, teacher recommendations) with four 2500-word research papers.

Like John Fea, I’m strongly disinclined to bring my own political opinions into the history classroom, but I’ve seen the more “activist” approach also done well.

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