That Was The Week That Was

For the 200th time in the life of this blog… enjoy some of what was making news and inspiring commentary last week:


• The good news is that my son and I survived. The bad news is that the Minnesota Vikings suffered yet another soul-crushing loss, this time at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks (and the foot of their own kicker).

• Will England get its own national anthem?

Cover of The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education• Don’t expect to see a lot more about Wheaton College here at the blog this month. I need to move on — and perhaps we all need to stop treating one school like the “gold standard” of Christian higher education.

• If you’re looking for a different way of conceiving that model of education, may I humbly suggest you read our book, which got a nice review in Christian Scholar’s Review.

• Mark Pattie and I tried to define Pietism in the latest episode of The Pietist Schoolman Podcast.

• And I looked ahead to some speaking gigs, in which I’ll try to speak knowledgeably about everything from World War I to youth ministry.

• The latter is going to be a stretch, but the former’s in my wheelhouse… To wit: my essay on commemoration for Books & Culture.

…There and Everywhere

• While I won’t be saying a lot more about Wheaton, other people aren’t quite as ready to move on… Wheaton’s student newspaper returned with an open letter: “Despite our varied perspectives, we have agreed on this: The way that our campus has allowed itself to become divided on this issue has misrepresented Christ and made Christians appear less loving and more hostile. This distresses us. As we’ve become more polarized on the issue, we’ve started to look less like followers of Christ because Christ taught us to live together in peace.”

• A different perspective from Christianity Today, which asked Egyptian Christians what they thought of the case.

• Tripp Hudgins thought that faith statements like Wheaton’s are “woefully inadequate to the task of addressing the complexities of the social, political, and religious pluralism of the United States in the twenty-first century.”

• David Gushee stepped back a bit from the specifics of the #DocHawk case to warn that “academic freedom is always at risk. It is especially at risk in doctrinal — or one might say doctrinaire — environments.” (And, that “Doctrine-based universities can lean left or lean right.”)

The oldest building at the Gettysburg Seminary, built about thirty years before the famous Civil War battle
One of the two schools — the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg — was at the center of one of the most important events in American history – Wikimedia

• The “open letter” genre is getting a bit overdone of late, but one that I appreciated was directed to Brian McLaren by an Illinois pastor who appreciated McLaren’s ideal of “generous orthodoxy” but worried that “In some of the churches that I admire, who have moved to an ‘open and affirming’ position [on issues related to sexuality], there is no generous orthodoxy, only a new orthodoxy.” (H/T Steve Wiens)

• I’ve wondered for a long time how the country’s largest Lutheran denomination can continue to sustain eight seminaries while it experiences significant membership decline. Two of them decided to close and reopen in 2017 as a single new institution.

• What does the first word actually mean in “spiritual, but not religious”?

• Randall Stephens unpacked the historical roots of an evangelical persecution complex, arguing that a “sense of being beleaguered and embattled has been basic to many modern white southern notions of religious liberty.”

MLK Memorial
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington – National Parks Service

• As we come again to the national holiday commemorating him, perhaps it’s time to stop asking “What would MLK do?

• Historians usually swear off prognostication, but at least one member of the guild believes that “We can use the historical method… to train our attention toward the future.” In effect, that thinking about the future “is actually the historical method, in reverse.”

• Whether that’s true or not, I do think that historians have important roles to play in a society. So I’m looking forward to listening to John Fea’s interview on that subject with James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association.

• Not surprising but still shocking, a new study suggests that student teaching evaluations are “so bad that they’re actually better at gauging students’ gender bias and grade expectations than they are at measuring teaching effectiveness.”

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