Christianity and Culture

Charles Finney: Greatest Evangelist of the Second Great Awakening

In addition to commentary on politics, government, and history, I want to offer what I hope will be insights into the larger culture of our society, always through the prism of a Biblical worldview.

Charles Finney was one of the most effective evangelists of the nineteenth century. His impact went beyond just tallying the number of converted people. Instead, his converts understood that being a Christian means taking the grace of God into the world. Redeemed people are the key to redeeming the culture of a society.

Finney introduced some new methods in his evangelistic endeavors. He created the “anxious seat,” which was a bench up front that people could come to after the service if they were “anxious” for their souls. This was the beginning of the altar call.

He also allowed women to pray in church publicly. That was a great source of controversy.

When he was asked to be the professor of theology at a new college in Ohio, Oberlin College, he told the trustees that he would not take the position unless they agreed to allow blacks to attend class along with the white students. They agreed, and Oberlin became the first college in America to have men, women, and blacks in the same classroom.

The one danger I see in some of Finney’s followers was a tendency to make their societal cause more important than the gospel. Theodore Dwight Weld, for instance, seemed (at least from my perspective) to put the abolition of slavery in the preeminent position, relegating the gospel to secondary status.

The question is this: Are Christians doing that today? Do you see any evidence of this? Are we generally balanced in our approach to changing society or do we put individual causes ahead of the primary mission, which is to lead people into reconciliation with God?

Reagan & Conservatism

I am busily developing a new course for SEU called “Ronald Reagan and Modern American Conservatism.” I hope to teach it next spring. It will be an ambitious project because there is so much to include. Originally, I had decided to do a course on Reagan only, but the more I thought about it, I realized I cannot treat him separately from the development of the conservative movement. Therefore, one of the books in the course will be George Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945. It will be a challenging book for some of the students, but well worth it if they persevere. I will also use Reagan’s personal memoir, An American Life. Students will then choose two more books from a list of possibilities I will give them and write critiques of both. Overall, they should come away from this course with a well-rounded view of how conservatives, and Reagan in particular, have affected policy and culture.

Reagan Addressing the American People on the Economy

Reagan Addressing the American People on the Economy

Welcome to History!

I will be offering thoughts regarding any period of history and the individuals who helped make history. In addition, I will include commentary on the historical profession. Below is one of my favorite historial figures, Whittaker Chambers. He is not well known to the general public, but was greatly influential as a founder of modern American conservatism. His book, Witness, is an autiobiography of monumental significance, both for its analysis and its writing style. I have used Witness in courses for 19 years; students, generally, are overwhelmed by its grace and power. This past year, for the first time, I was able to teach a full semester on Chambers and his writings, which also included a treatment of communist ideology, the historical background for the events in his life, and ultimate demise of communism in the USSR. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed teaching a class more.

Whittaker Chambers Gives Testimony about Alger Hiss

Whittaker Chambers Testifying against Alger Hiss