History Feed

95 Theses

Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses: With Introduction, Commentary, and Study GuideMartin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses: With Introduction, Commentary, and Study Guide by Timothy J Wengert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Timothy Wengert's translation is easy and engaging to read, and his introductions and commentary are informative and helpful. A good refresher as the 500th anniversary of the theses approaches.

My favourite segment was from Luther's 1518 sermon on indulgences, which reveals Luther's fun, fiery pen:

Although some now want to call me a heretic, nevertheless I consider such blathering not big deal, especially since the only ones doing this are some darkened minds, who have never even smelled a Bible, who have never read a Christian teacher, and who do not even understand their own teachers but instead remain stuck with their shaky and close-minded opinions. For if they had understood them, they would have known that they should not defame anyone without a hearing and without refuting them. Still, may God give them and us a right understanding! Amen.

I really enjoy the "who have never even smelled a Bible."

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History of religious liberty

This essay argues that it was not philosophical ideas that gave rise to religious liberty but the changing nature of the political state which made society open to toleration.

A point from the conclusion:

Finally, the history of how religious freedom came to be is a reminder that commitment to liberal values alone is not enough for liberalism to flourish. It requires a suitable political and economic foundation.


A New Gospel for Women

A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian FeminismA New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism by Kristin Kolbes Dumez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A revelation that Katharine Bushnell, an evangelical feminist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century developed a complete theological reconstruction and new interpretation of the Bible that anticipated developments of the 1970's sometimes as often as 80 years before. Dumez is trying to recover this forgotten figure and use her as a resource to help 21st century Christian women in the global church to draw simultaneously upon Christian faith from an evangelical hermeneutic and the feminist reconstruction of the faith.

This is a clearly written, well researched book, about a fascinating figure and an entire movement in American political and religious life of which I knew very little.

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A fascinating look at history

This essay opens with a fascinating description of ancient Mesopotamian civilization and then reflect on the meaning of the past and the future for us.

Living as they did among 2,000-year-old ruins and inscriptions, educated ancient Mesopotamians recognised that, even if their kingdom thrived for a millennium, it too would someday suffer the same fate. Mesopotamia weathered not one, but two dark ages in its tens of centuries of literate history. Surrounded by these cautionary tales from the distant past, Mesopotamian scribes instinctively dispatched messages to their unborn descendants: Voyager Records hurled toward a future they knew they would never see.


The Birth of the Modern

The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 by Paul Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Epic, magisterial, even overwhelming. Difficult for me to imagine that one intellect could so beautifully filter so much information through a well-told story. I've read two other of Johnson's histories (one on Christianity and one on America) and admired them both, particularly for their fresh insights into familiar terrain. But the sheer scope and volume of this book is difficult to comprehend.

There are times when it bogs down in too much detail--I remember skimming past the developments in divorce custom and law. But there are also moments of revelation--he gives one of the best discussions I've ever read of Immanuel Kant.

His great skill is tying together diverse developments--in politics, music, literature, technology, philosophy, printing, etc. and coherently drawing out their themes and influences. Great figures stride across these pages--Jackson, Wellington, Chateaubriand, Wordsworth, etc.--but also ordinary folks revealed in their letters and diaries.

Quite simply, the book amazes me.

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I Am Abraham Lincoln

I am Abraham LincolnI am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this book at the Lincoln Memorial so ordered a copy for my son when I returned home. I read it yesterday and cried while reading it, moved by its story of compassion, kindness, and justice.

When I ordered I discovered that it is one of an entire series, and so I ordered two more and will probably order even more of them.

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Japanese & Boystown

I enjoyed learning this chapter of Omaha's history in this morning's paper.  Father Flanagan of Boystown helped hundreds of Japanese leave internment camps and come live on the farm here in Omaha.  Flanagan objected to the internment.  

“I see no disaster threatening us because of any particular race, creed or color,” Flanagan said around this time. “But I do see danger for all in an ideology which discriminates against anyone politically or economically because he or she was born into the ‘wrong’ race, has skin of the ‘wrong’ color or worships at the ‘wrong’ altar.”

Another example of Flanagan's Christian perspective:

Flanagan wrote to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover about Okura’s case: “Either these people are guilty of subversive activities ... or they are not. If not — they are trying to be decent American citizens.”

Okura eventually was allowed to go to Boys Town and helped more than 200 more detainees leave the internment camps.