That Was The Week That Was


We’re on Facebook! It’s a fun format — a chance to share links even before Saturdays, plus books I’m reading or teaching. I might do a bit of microblogging there on items that don’t seem to require 500-1500 words of commentary here. And we get spontaneous conversations like the one yesterday afternoon about Christianity Today: is it the evangelical People?

• Following up on last week’s open letter about the crisis in Christian higher education… I shared a bit about the impact of cuts on Bethel, then started a three-part series of responses to comments on the original letter: part 1 asking whether Christian colleges are responsible for distancing themselves from denominations; part 2 asking if schools like Bethel and Calvin have simply been unreliable stewards of the monies given them.

• About what is the Bible “abundantly clear“? My favorite answer to the question came from an aunt in Wisconsin in Facebook: that “we are called to love as He loves us.” That and learning that our visitation pastor is as familiar with John Howard Yoder as he is with the Heidelberg Catechism.

…There and Everywhere

• The Christian higher ed letter continued to gain some traction: you can now find it at the online version of the Bethel student newspaper, The Clarion; and on Tuesday I recorded an hour-long interview for the Research on Religion podcast, to be posted next weekend.

• Another noteworthy item in the world of Christian higher education: the dismissal of the president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities after less than a year in office. Hope to have more details for you next week…

• A few days after cuts were announced at Bethel, we gathered as a faculty to hear from our provost. But first, the biblical scholar who’s our current faculty senate president led us in a time of lament, noting how unfamiliar that kind of worship is for American evangelicals. Soong-Chan Rah made a similar point this week at God’s Politics, but took that observation a step further: “How we worship reveals what we prioritize. The American church avoids lament. Consequently the underlying narrative of suffering that requires lament is lost in lieu of a triumphalistic, victorious narrative. We forget the necessity of lament over suffering and pain. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. Absence makes the heart forget. The absence of lament in the liturgy of the American church results in the loss of memory.”

• Another useful critique of contemporary evangelicalism in this country: “In an evangelical Christian climate obsessed with change, cultural trends, and trying to stay up-to-date and relevant, it’s easy to undervalue the elderly.”

Devin Manzullo-ThomasLike Devin Manzullo-Thomas, I’d love to see a conversation about the contemporary relevance of Pietism between two denominations historically shaped by it: his Brethren in Christ Church and my Evangelical Covenant Church. (And read more from Devin about his new role as director of the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies.)

• My post on the Bible being “abundantly clear” went back to a recent Mark Driscoll piece arguing against Christian pacifism. Responses from Greg Boyd and Scot McKnight.

• Among other facts that you might want to know about religion around the world… Christians make up a majority in 157 countries, and four regions (North America, Latin America-Caribbean, Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa).

• Sam Harris again proved himself capable of offending people of any religion.

• Thinking about writing your spiritual memoir? Here’s some advice from Carolyn Weber, author of Surprised by Oxford (subject of a series earlier in the life of this blog).

• Chris Armstrong is still going strong with posts previewing his forthcoming book on C.S. Lewis and the Middle Ages. For example: “One barrier that still stands in the way of broader acceptance of tradition among free-church Protestants is the misunderstanding of the Reformation that says that medieval Christians treated tradition as a source of authority separate from Scripture. The notion would have been ludicrous to medievals.”

Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?• Reflecting on a common theme of the plenary addresses at this year’s Lilly Fellows Program National Conference gave John Fea a chance to revisit a key question in his Why Study History?: “Do historians fulfill their missions at church-related schools by promoting study abroad trips, encounters with poverty, or teaching classes devoted to those aspects of history that have a social justice theme?  Or does the discipline of history in and of itself provide the empathy necessary to develop a ‘fellow feeling’ for those who are different than us?”

Thomas Kidd’s answer to the question that makes up the title of John’s previous book: “Not all America’s Founders were devout Christians, but America was founded with Christian principles in mind. Among the most vital of those ideals – one that could bridge the gap between evangelicals and deists – was an expansive concept of religious liberty.”

Russell Moore’s good advice to evangelical culture warriors: be “winsome, kind and empathetic” and avoid being “mascots for any political faction.”

• Ta-Nehesi Coates is one of my favorite bloggers and Tony Judt’s Postwar is one of my favorite books on European history, so it’s been pretty great reading the former reflect on the latter. For example, Tuesday’s post offered these two insights: “…in the case of great atrocities, the pursuit of justice is often foreclosed by our want of stamina” and “Attendant to all of this was something that any student of white supremacy in America will recognize—a strong propensity toward national amnesia.”

• This morning I put in some much-needed time working on my paper for next month’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Over at The Anxious Bench the convener of my panel, Miles Mullin, offered a quick introduction to the ETS and its history.

• Philip Jenkins’ post on blog comments that go beyond the pale made me glad that while I don’t tend to get a ton of comments here, 99% of them are civil.

• Heather Cox Richardson argued that blogging and tweeting make historians better writers.

William Pannapacker
William Pannapacker – Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University

• Wish I could have heard William Pannapacker’s talk on digital humanities at Messiah College — I’ve been starting to explore the possibilities of a DH program at Bethel, but I’m as intrigued by the notion of integrating it into the gen ed curriculum.

• Alan Jacobs’ description of his underwhelming experience of a new Harvard MOOC on poetry prompted Robinson Meyer to ask just how new this technology is: “Instead of seeing MOOCs as a break with 30 years of history, we might imagine them as another iteration in a process of innovation decades long.” (Which undercuts the typical defense of the MOOC advocate: “This is only the beginning.”)

• One week ago in this space I observed that “there seem to be precious few critics of using digital media to ‘flip’ education.” Not so fast

• “If you could design your ideal college from scratch,what would it look like?” asked John Tierney. A lot like one liberal arts school in Vermont, apparently.

• As a first-born child, I offer this link tentatively…

• I hope my children respond to my favorite sport the way Jordan Elleberg’s son did: “If baseball is antique, boring, and doomed, why does my kid like it so much? One reason: It’s a kid’s game.”

Christy Mathewson
Christy Mathewson (1880-1925) – Library of Congress

• At the same time, it’s also the thinking man’s game. Its player-laureate: Christy Mathewson.

• I share at least one thing in common with the creator of Breaking Bad: formative childhood experiences in libraries.

• Solely on the merits of Dylan, Prince, and The Replacements, I’d like to argue that Minnesota should rank higher than #10 for contributions by states to popular music. (One other observation on this list: while California probably earns #2 simply because of L.A.’s centrality to the business, check out the massive disparity between homegrown talent and the quality of the groups that formed there. Unlike #1 New York…)

• How would my home state fare if we ranked the most famous books set in each of the Fifty Nifty? Depends what you think of Sinclair Lewis, I guess. (Then a Southern reply on behalf of that region.)

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