The Christian Studies Blog


"Revolt of the Masses" First Things Lecture invitation

Posted by Dr. Keith Stanglin on August 23, 2017 at 9:30 AM


I am pleased to announce the third annual Austin Graduate School of Theology – First Things Lecture, to be held in Austin, Texas, on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 7 p.m.  This year’s speaker will be Patrick Deneen.  Deneen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and holds the David A. Potenziani Chair of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame. 

Deneen will be speaking on “The War of All against All: The New Aristocracy and the Revolt of the Masses.”  He writes, “In his 1995 book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, Christopher Lasch described the rise of a new meritocratic class that no longer displayed qualities of loyal citizenship necessary for a vibrant and healthy democracy.  Roughly two decades later, in recent events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, we are witnessing the ‘revolt of the masses’ toward this elite class, and a further erosion of democracy.  Are there any prospects for civic friendship and democratic renewal, or does the new uncivil Cold war between the elite and masses spell the demise of the American experiment in democratic self-government?  What role does the declining influence, presence, and adherence to Christian faith play in this national divide, and can its renewal transcend the limits of the two sides in effecting reconciliation and healing?”

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Topics: About Austin Grad, On-Topic Today, Politics

Politics, the Professor (or Preacher, or Pastor), and the Person in the Pew

Posted by Dr. Jeff Peterson on July 13, 2017 at 9:30 AM

This paper was presented at the Christian Scholars’ Conference on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, in a session on 8 June 2017 on the topic “Bridging the Divide: Addressing the Gap between the Church and the Academy,” convened by Brandon Pierce of the Church of Christ in Stamford, Connecticut, and Paul Watson of the Cole Mill Road Church of Christ in Durham, North Carolina.  I am grateful for the invitation to present the paper and for the encouraging response of conference attendees, including those of differing political persuasions.

My reflections today mainly concern one narrow aspect of the gap between church and academy, but I beg your indulgence for one general comment on the session theme. The lesson I think I most needed to learn upon departing graduate school for a teaching position in a church-affiliated institution was that wisdom is more valuable than knowledge (in part because it’s more rare); and even inarticulate wisdom merits more notice and respect than superficial cleverness, of which there is no shortage in most institutions of higher education. I suspect that’s also true in ministry staffs, though I have only slight experience of the latter. In one of his sermons, Austin Farrer wrote, “I have been taught to use my tongue and my pen; it is not much.” Everyone who has completed a degree in theology would do well to inscribe that sentence on our hearts.

That said, I appreciate the interest shown in the topic I proposed, though I remain unsure whether one should be indulged to speak at a conference like this about his hobby. (I used to offer as a justification for following politics that it saves time compared with other hobbies, since in politics the Super Bowl only comes every four years. Recently I’ve been led to reconsider whether that justification still holds.) I’ve done a fair bit of reading on the subject, beginning with the works of William F. Buckley, Jr., about age 14, owing to my grandmother’s viewing of his TV program “Firing Line,” but by no means do I suggest that my remarks should be received as the reflections of a scholar of politics. I offer them rather as the opinions of a participant-observer in the life of a school associated with Churches of Christ with students drawn from a number of communions, as well several congregations with which I’m familiar.

A member of one of those churches who has also been a student in my New Testament classes called a couple of weeks ago, when I had begun to worry that the concern animating this paper might be overblown. She expressed some alarm about political opinions a fellow church member had posted to Facebook and the conversation between the two of them that ensued. The first rule of political discussion on Facebook is, of course, “Don’t discuss politics on Facebook,” but I’m pleased to report that in this case the minister of the congregation that both parties attend weighed in after a bit to commend them for the civility with which they were discussing their differences. My caller, however, went on say that the exchange had led her to question whether to remain in that congregation or to seek another, as it was her impression that a significant number of members held the same political opinions as those that had troubled her.

That’s the general sort of situation I propose we consider today.

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Topics: Politics, On-Topic Today, Relationships

How Idolatry Might Creep in During Your 4th of July

Posted by Dr. Stan Reid on June 29, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Many of us, as American citizens, will enjoy the festivities of the 4th of July. This national celebration of liberty and independence was foreseen by one of the founding fathers, John Adams. Much of what he anticipated for the national holiday came to pass and continues to be observed in communities across the country.

In two previous blog posts about the 4th of July (first one here and second here), I mused about the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Based on what I have witnessed in some church worship services, I drew on a concern expressed well by Richard Lischer. He lobbied for the removal of the American flag from the church chancel because it was a symbol of civil religion. “I patiently explained,” Lischer said, “that I had nothing against patriotism but that it was a short step from ‘God and country’ to ‘God equals country.’”

I now think that there is a more important concern for Christians and churches than the danger of allowing nationalism to invade the sacred space of the church’s worship and practices of faith. Is a time coming when the government will attempt to legislate what are acceptable and unacceptable Christian beliefs and practices? Efforts by social activists would appear to be aiming for this.

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Topics: On-Topic Today, Teaching Moment, Politics

3 Challenges of the Church after "Gay Marriage" Law

Posted by Dr. Jim Reynolds on June 27, 2017 at 9:30 AM

In order to  set out the challenge of kingdom living  at this time consider the following:

The kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ the Lord right in on top of the kingdoms of this world. We live in the tension of the “now and the not yet” of the kingdom of God. This means the  U. S. Constitution  is not our  Bible; the pledge of allegiance does not replace or even rival the confession “Jesus is Lord;” the U.S.  is not  the  light-filled church community sitting on the hill; the Declaration of Independence is not our call to discipleship; we do not live to pursue happiness, but to pursue the kingdom. The Bill of Rights has no  authority  over the Sermon on the Mount.  The  U.S Supreme Court judges are not my ultimate  judge- Jesus is! The 14th amendment’s rights to equal  protection and due process  do not replace  “all things are legal but not all things are helpful.”  

This Kingdom moment with the legalization and celebrating of "gay marriage" in the Obergefell et. al. vs. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case in 2015 calls for considerable discernment within the church as to our competing allegiances in the time of the “now and not yet.” From the very beginning of the church’s  life under King Jesus, there have been three connected, yet distinct issues in church:

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Topics: Politics, On-Topic Today, Relationships

A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

Posted by Dr. Jeff Peterson on June 6, 2017 at 9:30 AM

In the months leading up to its March 14 release and since, Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation has attracted considerable attention. The book takes its title from the reference to Benedict of Nursia (author of the Benedictine Rule about AD 540, and thereby “founder of Western monasticism”) in the rather somber conclusion to Alisdair MacIntyre’s famous (for an academic book) After Virtue, originally written in 1980 (quotation from the third edition, p. 263):

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Topics: On-Topic Today, Politics

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