I told a friend that I was planning to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and he said, “There are no books. They should call it the ‘Billy Graham Experience.’” He was right. The experience is both tackier and more interesting than I'd imagined. The schmaltz has been well documented, like the mechanized talking cow that tells visitors how cold young Billy’s hands were before sunrise on the dairy farm where he grew up. Fortunately, the physical artifacts of Graham’s life have an eloquence that the cheesiness can’t quite spoil.
I remember once defending the doctrine of divine immutability to a renowned New Testament scholar at an academic conference. I was a graduate student at the time, and had not yet decided that I would work on Augustine’s biblical exegesis for my dissertation.
I got this problem. There’s this guy I want to be better friends with. We’ve been out with other people for drinks, talked at professional events and had a few laughs. But when I ask him out on a man-date (strictly defined: lunch or drinks after work) he’s always busy. Should I take a hint or try some other approach?
At the annual banquet of the University of Chicago Divinity School, first-year student Rebecca Anderson knocks ’em dead with a stand-up comedy routine. But then she should: she was previously a stand-up comic. “When I tell people here I grew up in a fundamentalist family, they treat me like I just got out of a POW camp. 'Oh my God,' they say, 'Are you OK?'"
“You can’t understand Africa without understanding religion,” said Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest from Uganda. As he led a tour of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, it was soon clear what he meant. Slogans such as “Jesus cares” and “Try Jesus” adorn taxicabs. Ads for a Catholic bank named Centenary print the letter T as a cross.
Perhaps the validity of a theological proposal can’t be properly assessed until it has been kitchified. William P. Young’s novel The Shack, a runaway success—it’s been on top of the New York Times best-seller list and has sold 2 million copies—features a particular vision of the Trinity.
Karl Barth famously attacked apologetics—the attempt to offer a persuasive account of Christian belief on mutually agreed-upon grounds of reason—as a misguided task, part of the failure of theological liberalism. When you focus on making sense to those outside the faith, Barth warned, you end up adopting their worldview.
"You pays your money and you takes your choice.” Several generations of students at Duke Divinity School have heard James “Mickey” Efird use those carnivalesque words to conclude debates over the meaning of a biblical passage.
One of the teenagers killed in Colorado’s Columbine High School shootings in 1999 was Cassie Bernall. Soon after her murder, reports emerged about how one of the shooters had found Bernall under a table, pointed a gun at her head and asked, “Do you believe in God?” She said yes and was promptly shot.Within weeks of that event I heard a sermon at an Episcopal church praising Bernall’s witness and urging Christians to imitate her faithfulness. Prognosticators predicted another Great Awakening in American life sparked by Bernall’s martyrdom.
The biblical archaeologist at my seminary once donned Indiana Jones–inspired attire to publicize one of his discoveries. He claimed not to enjoy this publicity stunt. If so, he’s about the only movie-watching male who didn’t want to play at being Indy, the brainy, hip, unflappable professor of archaeology who could fight off Nazis with little more than a fedora and a bullwhip.
Rome is over. Not just the republic, but the TV show. Despite solid ratings and Golden Globe nominations, the popular cable series ended last year. HBO, the BBC and the Italian RAI had teamed up to offer two seasons of ten episodes each about ancient Rome. Now the series is available on DVD.
One of the world’s leading Reformed theologians, John Webster, has focused his study on the works of Eberhard Jüngel and Karl Barth (he edited the Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth) and on the theological interpretation of scripture (a commentary on Ephesians is forthcoming). He is working on his own multivolume systematic theology.
It takes a flow chart to keep straight all the Episcopal- Anglican divisions that have developed in the well-heeled suburbs of DuPage County, west of Chicago. Many assume that the key issue is homosexuality, but a closer look reveals that other factors are at work. For one thing, this story is about charismatic leaders coming and going, and about congregations growing in their presence or folding in their absence.