Category Archives: history

A Snaphot of Christianized Nationalism in the U.S., 1916

While there’s no precise analogy between our time and 1916, this newspaper clipping certainly holds some eerily familiar echoes:

From The Devils Lake World and Inter-Ocean, a newspaper in Devils Lake, N.D., June 29, 1916: nationalism It seems strange to sing patriotic songs in a sanctuary built for worshiping God.

But the issue then as now is not so much replacing one thing for another as conflating two unlike things.


100 years ago today, Philadelphia newspaper reported big numbers for Presbyterians


This from an item in the Quick News column of Evening Public Ledger newspaper in Philadelphia on July 26, 1915.

The membership boom in the Presbyterian Church in the United State occurred during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 1915.


Footnote digressions: Anglican John Locke versus Puritan Oliver Cromwell

One of my favorite literature profs at N.C. State used to announce, “Footnote digression,” before heading into background info tangentially related to his lecture.

The following is meant to provide some background and context to previous posts about the relationship between Anglicanism and Puritanism. The facts and interpretations are presented for your evaluation, without my added opinion. Except I boldfaced some lines.

According to evangelical and scholar Greg Forster, writing for First Things in 2012:

“Cromwell ruled 1653-1658; Locke’s first known writings on government, the aforementioned Two Tracts, were written after Cromwell’s death, and weren’t circulated outside Oxford that we know of until their rediscovery in the 20th century. Moreover, Locke was a strong royalist partisan during his time at Oxford in large part due to his detestation of Cromwell and the republicans, whom he viewed as turbulent religious fanatics. I think it would be difficult to find a ruler whose ‘policy’ was more hostile to Locke’s ‘principles’ than Cromwell; it’s not much of a stretch to say Locke supported the rebellion against James II largely because he saw James as a Catholic version of Cromwell – a man willing to tear apart the fabric of society out of loyalty to a narrow-minded religious enthusiasm….

“Locke advocated religious toleration but not a separation of the state from the church. He supported the state-run, tax-funded Anglican church; he argued that those who dissented should be free to practice their own religions in their own churches, but not that the state should not run a church.”

The late Richard John Neuhaus, (also) writing in his journal, First Things:

“While one can agree about the element of nobility in the grandly flawed experiments of Calvin in Geneva, Cromwell in England, and the Puritans in this country, the particular nature of their common failure needs careful attention. (The mixed success of Kuyperianism in the Netherlands, it might be noted, was due in large part to Kuyper’s respect for the place of “common grace” and reason in the ordering of society, precisely the element of Kuyper that strict theonomists repudiate.) The question is whether the flaw in these earlier experiments was in the intention or in the execution. Theonomists urge us to work harder and think more clearly so that we can do it right the next time. Other Christians insist it should not be done at all.

Boldface and hyperlinks within the quotations were added.

Other posts about Anglicans and Puritans:

Richard Hooker versus the Puritans and the Separatists

Anglicanism and ‘Biblical Anglicans’ as the one-third Anglicans

Anglicanism, Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker in the context of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition

Christianity’s Hell: Born in paganism, raised in Judaism

Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Nortre Dame, writes in The Daily Beast:

“Chronologically speaking, hell didn’t always feature in conceptual maps of the afterlife. In the Hebrew Bible there are frequent references to Sheol, a place of shadows located physically beneath us. This is where everyone goes when they die, because people are buried in the ground. Upon occasion, Sheol opens its jaws and swallows people—a phenomenon we probably know as earthquakes, but which can in part explain why death is described as swallowing people up. Without a doubt, Sheol is a generally dismal place where people are separated from God, but it isn’t reserved for the especially wicked.

“In Judaism, the idea of post-mortem judgment, reward, and punishment seems to have gathered strength in the second century BCE. During this period Israel was again a conquered land, ruled by a succession of oppressive Greek empires. Along with high taxation and cultural colonialism, Alexander the Great and his successors brought the ideas of post-mortem punishment in the underworld to the Holy Land. There were many other potential religious groups envisioning post-mortem destruction, but the Greeks appear to have been the most influential. Think Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill, Tantalus being cursed with eternal thirst, and Prometheus having his liver eaten on a daily basis. For beleaguered and oppressed Jews, the idea that the injustices levied on them in the present would be rectified in the afterlife held a lot of appeal. And that kind of justice involved punishing their tormentors as well as rewarding the righteous.”

Read Moss’s entire article here.

Also see Emil Brunner on fear, The Judgment, and the Kingdom of Heaven.

WSJ: ‘5 Things to Know About Egypt’s Coptic Christians’

A clear, brief explainer:

Saint Mark’s Clock, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy

Saint Mark's Clock, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy -- travel photograph

Saint Mark’s Clock, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy; photographed October 2014

Anglicanism, Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker in the context of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition

Histories, like texts, are matters of interpretation, and some interpretations are more credible and authoritative than others.

For this post, I’ll rely on the interpretation of William C. Placher, who at the time of writing the below excerpts was professor of philosophy and religion at Wabash College.

Here’s Placher on Thomas Cranmer, who was appointed to Archbishop of Canterbury (leader of the Church of England) in 1532:

His interests lay less in systematic theology than in church history, especially the history of liturgy, and in writing the Book of Common Prayer he produced the foundation of much English religion and one of the glories of English prose.

In Cranmer we should see a big piece of what makes Anglicanism distinct: historical liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer, at least according to Placher, in his book A History of Christian Theology (The Westminster Press, 1983).

Now, Placher on Hooker:

In the late 1500s Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity set out a “middle way” between the extremes of Catholicism and Calvinism, a thoughtful and moderate theology that rejected the authority of popes for that of Scripture alone but drew heavily on Christian writers of the first several centuries in interpreting the faith. Such scholarly attention to the early church has been characteristic of English theology ever since, and the theological compromises developed by Hooker and other produced a degree of peace. Some questions of liturgy and church organization, however, could not be compromised — one either had bishops or did not, knelt to pray or remained standing, and so on — and these issues therefore became the center of English theological debate.

In such controversies the Puritan party desired to purify the church — purify it of theological vagueness, moral laxity, elaborate liturgy, and bishops. The English Puritans often claimed to follow Calvin, but Calvin had acknowledged the legitimacy of a number of different forms of church organization and liturgical style.

Placher suggests the Puritans were not seeking the “middle way” of Cranmer and Hooker. He also suggests that the Puritans, as self-proclaimed followers of John Calvin, were not really on the same page as Calvin.

At the same time, as Placher sees it, Hooker was not interested in either “extremes” of Catholicism or Calvinism, suggesting neither the Church of England nor Anglicanism are properly Calvinist or Puritan in essence (nor are they Roman Catholic).

As in his assessment of Cranmer, Placher also identifies in Hooker a concern with early church traditions that pre-date the canonization of the Bible as the Puritan knew it.

For more context related to Anglicanism, Scripture, Reason, and Tradition, please also see:

Anglicanism and ‘Biblical Anglicans’ as the ‘one-third Anglicans’

‘Biblical Anglicans’ as the ‘one-third Anglicans’

Must-read: Stanley Fish on Terry Eagleton’s book, ‘Reason, Faith, and Revolution’