Todd M. Brenneman
Todd M. Brenneman is an assistant professor of Christian history at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, and author of Homespun Gospel: The Triumph of Sentimentality in American Evangelicalism.
This past spring semester, I taught the book of Revelation at Faulkner University. Though I teach history at this Christian school in Alabama, this course wasn't primarily about historical interpretations of the text or American apocalyptic movements. It was a biblical exposition of a fascinating piece of literature. Americans have been fascinated with Revelation for a long time.
“Is there a back door out of hell?” I asked the students seated across the table from me. The question hung there for a minute as they considered it. If they said yes, what would that mean about how they had always thought about hell? If they said no, what would that mean about how they had always thought about God? In fall 2014, I had the opportunity to teach Contemporary Religious Thought.
Recently Victoria Osteen, wife of pastor Joel Osteen, made some comments that concerned many Christians. Apparently, she stated that worship was not for God but for the worshiper, that when people obey God, they should do it for themselves (although she later revised some of these comments). For many evangelicals, the Osteens are on the periphery of Christianity.
When I am not involved in matters religious or scholarly, one of my favorite escapes is science fiction and fantasy literature or media. My favorite series is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. The series focuses on the actions of four friends, pushed by circumstances from their little village into the larger world. They discover along the way that they are meant to play central roles in the coming Last Battle of the Ages.
The movie Heaven Is for Real—based on the book by the same name—tells the story of minister Todd Burpo and his four-year-old son Colton. The main plot revolves around Colton’s near-death experience and his claims that while undergoing surgery he visited heaven and sat on Jesus’ lap. Burpo struggles to define what happened to Colton for himself as well as for the community of faith to which he ministers.
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