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Showing posts from February, 2016

The Crusades

The Crusades are often considered as a "black stain in the history of the Catholic Church," all about "power and popes," and remain our "memory of a long European onslaught."  Yet, there are many misconceptions regarding this time in history.  The prevailing thesis, at least given by Edward Gibbons is that the Crusades were primarily due to the concept of "surplus sons"  These surplus sons were "members of noble families who would not inherit and whom the heirs found it increasingly difficult to provide with even modest incomes" (Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity, 215).  Rather than promote this theory, Stark gives us the truth that Crusades were possible only because this period was one of great economic growth, putting more resources in the hands of the ruling elite in Western Europe (221).  Further, it wasn't the surplus sons who went but the heads of upper-class households who had the wealth to raise money for the knig…

The Rising

The Rising by Ryan D’Agostino
How does a person continue on living life after tragedy?  How do we understand senseless violence on our own front door?  These questions pervade the terrain of Ryan D’Agostino’s new book entitled The Rising: Murder, Heartbreak, and the Power of Human Resilience in an American Town.  Ryan, the editor in chief of Popular Mechanics magazine has latched to this true story of murder, heartbreak, and resilience with a moving narrative that captures all the ups and downs of such a catastrophic event.
The Rising focuses on the story of Dr. William Petit and his family, a family living in suburban Connecticut.  The narrative centers on July 23rd, 2007 when armed men came into their house, almost bludgeoned Dr. Petit to death, raped his younger daughter, killed all the girls in his family, including his wife, and torched the house in flames.  The perpetrators wanted cash and decided that a doctor and his nurse wife would be a promising pair with much in their wallet…

The Monstrous Growth of Christianity in Rome in the Early Centuries

Philip Jenkins, Mark Noll, and Rodney Stark have chronicled the amazing and exponential growth of Christianity in the first few centuries.  One chart from Rodney Stark's book, The Triumph of Christianity (163) gives an indication of the growth of Christians in Rome from the time after Jesus' death to 300 A.D.  Here is the chart:

Year                Number         Milestone    % of Rome's Population
100                 700                1,000          0.15
150                 3,600              -                   0.8
200                 19,000            20,000         4.2
250                 78,000            -                   17.3
300                 298,000          -                   66.2

Just in 50 years, from 250 to 300, Christianity increased in the percentage of Rome's population by roughly 49 percent.  What gave way to Christianity's monstrous growth.  For one, Christianity began claiming adherents in the port cities, reaching people where trade route…

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy J. Snyder
Timothy J. Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University and no stranger to writing on the Holocaust has written an excellent new book on the Holocaust entitled Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.  Snyder opens his book by focusing on the fountainhead of Hitler’s views, his concept nature and his worldview.  Politics and power were but empty stereotypes that were left for the author to fill them with meaning.  Snyder writes, “Reason was replaced by references, argumentation by incantations…The totalistic idea of life as struggle placed all power to interpret any event in the mind of its author (Introduction).”  Science, for Hitler, was not about increasing advancements for the benefit of the common man, “rather it was a completed revelation of the law of racial struggle.”  There were no questions that would lead the scientist to further discoveries because this would be disastrous for Hitler, for wi…

Black & Reformed

Black and Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience by Anthony J. Carter
In this new second edition of the book, On Being Black and Reformed, Pastor Anthony J. Carter of East Point Church in Georgia has wedded two significant themes in his book; namely a Reformed view of theology and life and the experience of being African-American.  He answers the question that many have been thinking early on, do we need a black theology we a resounding yes for various reasons (25).  One, the alternative to a sound, biblical black theological perspective is an unbiblical one.  A large number of African-American believers follows the truth claims of Christ, the Scriptures, and God and yet feel that the vast swath of Christian theology has ignored their contextual place in history alongside their circumstances.  With a vicious past of racism, degradation, and failing to listen to the African-American voice, the Christian church at large needs to hear these brother…