Author: David Grubbs

Christian Humanist Profiles 213: Tolkien’s Modern Reading

In the popular imagination, J.R.R. Tolkien was a man born for another time, a medieval anachronism—like his friend C.S. Lewis, a self-proclaimed dinosaur. There’s some truth in that: he was a medievalist perfectly at home in the literatures of many dead languages and long-ago cultures. But that didn’t mean he was disengaged from the events…

Christian Humanist Profiles 211: When Did Eve Sin?

In Adam’s fall, we sinned all! So declares the New England Primer. Yet its woodcut for that couplet shows the serpent offering the forbidden fruit to Eve, not Adam. What are we to make of the Woman’s temptation and the maddeningly terse narrative describing it? Centuries of commentary have focused tightly on small details, hearing…

Christian Humanist Profiles 206: The Theology of Benedict XVI

On April 16, 1927, Joseph Ratzinger was born in a little village in Bavaria, Germany’s southernmost state. Raised in a Catholic family in traditionally Catholic Bavaria, it isn’t surprising that he and his elder brother George went to seminary and were ordained as priests. What is remarkable is Father Ratzinger’s trajectory from priesthood to academia,…

Christian Humanist Profiles 203: Theology in the Democracy of the Dead

In the context of Christian theology, what is Tradition? And what is it for? Is it a unified, monolithic body of doctrines, from which we deviate at our peril? Is it a quarry of texts, open to be mined by any and all for juicy quotations? Instead of these images, Matt Jenson offers us the…

Christian Humanist Profiles 202: Baptists and the Catholic Tradition

While Baptists may profess the unity of God’s Church, we are also Dissenters from way back, ready to die on the hill of our unshakeable convictions. Still, the vision of the Church’s future is the ascent of Mount Zion, as pilgrims of every tribe and tongue converge, the song on their lips, “How good it…

Christian Humanist Profiles 201: Baptists and the Christian Tradition

Baptists have an odd relationship with the Christian tradition. Some of their most distinctive beliefs and practices seem difficult to square with the views of other Christian communions past and present. Of course, for some Baptists, this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. They’ll happily don the title of Nonconformist, declaring “No creed but Christ!”…

Christian Humanist Profiles 175: The Story of Creeds and Confessions

Throughout her long history, Christ’s Church has been united and divided by words. For that reason, our creeds and confessions often have mixed reputations: they are the pure apostolic tradition; they are ephemera of a political moment; they are hammers against heretics; they are manifestos for schism. These reputations reflect the complex relationship that our…

Christian Humanist Profiles 174: The Monkhood of All Believers

What is a monk? The word evokes the image of a man robed and cowled, tonsured in the West, bearded in the East. It recalls the architecture of the monastery, the chanting of the Daily Office, the monastic rules and vows. Defined thus, monasticism is for the disciplined and committed few. In fact, in many…

Christian Humanist Profiles 173: Scripture and the English Poetic Imagination

There’s a lot of poetry in the Bible. Anyone who flips through its pages can see how many have that telltale jagged edge of printed verse. But it’s not only proportion: the weightiest moments, the loftiest sayings of scripture are poetic, especially the voice of God, whether through the Word of the prophets or the…

Christian Humanist Profiles 170: The Meaning of Protestant Theology

Ask what principle Martin Luther put at the center of his Protestant Reformation theology, and you’ll get several good answers: justification by faith alone; the primacy of scriptural authority over ecclesial authority; the theology of the cross. Philip Cary offers another answer to that question, one that is distint from yet fundamentally connected to those…

Christian Humanist Profiles 168: Quest for the Historical Apostles

After His resurrection, Jesus called His eleven remaining disciples and gave them a mission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19) With this Great Commission, the…

Christian Humanist Profiles 167: Introducing Medieval Interpretation

Perhaps no era of biblical interpretation is less appreciated than the Middle Ages. After all, weren’t the medievals at best just perpetuators of patristic readings, and at worst the most unbounded and fantastic of allegorists? If the scholars of the Middle Ages are recovered these days, it is usually for their mystically- or philosophically-inflected theologies,…

Christian Humanist Profiles 155: Faith Formation in a Secular Age

Every year in the US, more young people leave the churches in which they were raised, sometimes abandoning religious faith altogether and becoming what the pollsters call “Nones.” Even within these churches, those young folk who stay identify less and less with the historic confessions, opting for a subjective piety of being good and feeling…