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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Against the Integrated Life

Peter Meilaender

Despite my sympathy for much of Rod Dreher’s argument in The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, I find myself, in reading his book, constantly surpressing slight twinges of misgiving. Read More

Marriage: A Travel Guide

Michael Kramer

One year, the chair of theology at the high school where I taught asked me to talk with his seniors about marriage. I scared the be-jeebers out of him with my proposed title: “The Importance of Pre-marital Intercourse.” I never got to give the talk. I never got to explain that intercourse in that inflammatory title refers to conversation. Read More

Joyce Carol Oates and the Springs of Belief

David Heddendorf

What raises “the search for identity” in Oates’s novels above the level of cliché—what makes it downright subversive in our age of fashionable atheism and survey-response “nones”—is Oates’s refusal to deny her characters a spiritual dimension. They think about the state of their souls—or at least, as in American Appetites (1989), they debate the existence and nature of the soul, even while professing a brittle materialism. Read More

The Return of the Tyrants and the Price of Democracy

H. David Baer

In the past, the great threats to democracy came from rival political ideologies—communism, fascism, Nazism. Today, however, the threat lacks strong ideological definition. The mini-dictators who would destroy democracy resemble not so much the totalitarians of the twentieth century, but rather the self-aggrandizing tyrants of ancient Greece. Read More

The Man from Mars Who Wants to Know

Daniel Silliman

Tom Wolfe died in May at the age of eighty-eight. With the news comes memorials to his prose and power with words. His style is hailed, rightly enough. But when I think back to why Wolfe mattered to me—mattered so, so much to my writing—it actually wasn’t the excess of style. I learned something different. Read More

“When They Question You, Speak Boldly”:
Revisiting the Music of Julius Eastman

Josh Langhoff

Eastman’s music resonates now even more than it did during his lifetime. Before minimalism entered the mainstream, he saw beyond it, making the style's repetitive patterns a home for other musical and programmatic ideas. And what ideas! Read More

Steal Away to Jesus

Martha Greene Eads

I thank my Lord for that great-hearted hostess, who opened her home to wet and dirty strangers, who gave them her best and bore more loss than she had planned. Read More

Also In This Issue
John M Ballenger
Devon Miller-Duggan
Lynn Domina
Evan Gurney
Michael Schmidtke
Nicholas J. Molbert

The Unknowable More:
Contemplation, Creativity, and Education

Stephanie Paulsell

In the spring of 2016, the South African artist William Kentridge created a frieze of Roman history on a portion of the embankment wall that runs along the Tiber. Containing some eighty images, many of them more than thirty feet tall, the frieze stretches for a third of a mile along the river. Read More

Why Mission Matters Today

Susan VanZanten

The year 2017 was not a good year by any reckoning. The earth, our island home, has suffered high winds, earthquakes, mudslides, flooding, record heat spells, and wildfires. Ten hurricanes in ten weeks swept across Central and North America. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States. Read More

Dante in the Woods:
The Potential of the Para-University

Christopher S. Noble

I am a scholar in the woods. My classroom, nestled fourteen miles south of a main entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the High Sierra Humanities Program of Azusa Pacific University. My curriculum is composed of “core texts”—Dante, Augustine, Confucius, Teresa of Avila, William James, Dostoevsky, Zora Neale Hurston—even though no one in higher education today seems able to agree about what precisely those texts form the core of. Read More

"Use Nothing Only Once":
Believing Again with Roger Lundin, Emily Dickinson,
and Ron Rash

Martha Greene Eads

Roger read carefully, respectfully, and even lovingly the poetry, novels, essays, and letters of nineteenth-century women and men whose Christian faith often wore thin under the pressure of scientific advances, new streams of philosophy, and the everyday horrors of life.Read More

Also In This Issue
David L. Parkyn
Anthony Easton
Matthew Porto
Rachael Button
Tania Runyan
Cameron Alexander Lawrence
Marjorie Maddox

From Faith and Learning to Love and Understanding

Mark R. Schwehn

At the end of his celebrated work, A River Runs Through It, the post-Protestant writer Norman Maclean includes the following bit of dialogue between himself and his pastor father as the two of them struggle with grief and bewilderment in the aftermath of the death of Norman’s younger brother, Paul: Read More

Our Sentimental Poet? Mary Oliver in an Age of Excess

Debra Dean Murphy

Sentimentality is a charge leveled easily and often in these cynical times. We accuse poets, preachers, even politicians of what Oscar Wilde called 'the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.' But what is it exactly? Read More

I'll Sing On:
Treasure Hunts, Dead Composers, and Eternity

Jim Clemens

Not long after the great Y2K scare, I come across a small, early American tunebook on eBay. I’ve spent countless hours searching for additions to my small hoard of antique tunebooks and hymnals, but this one is new to me: The Christian Melodist, compiled and arranged by Deerin Farrer (never heard of him) and printed by William Williams (ditto) of Utica, New York, in 1828. It contains, so the title page shouts in all caps, “A GREAT VARIETY OF SACRED SONGS AND HYMNS, OF APPROVED EXCELLENCE. Approved excellence. How can I ignore that? Read More

Shocked by Grace:
Flannery O'Connor's Prophetic Politics of Love

James Paul Old

A volume that offers itself as a “political companion” to the author Flannery O’Connor faces a substantial challenge, since O’Connor is not generally thought of as a political author. Read More

Also In This Issue
David K. Weber
Thomas Albert Howard
Bethany Bowman
Lynn Domina
Jeff Newberry
Anne Babson
Timothy E. G. Bartel

What Does the Reformation Mean for Us?
A Roundtable Discussion

Brian T. Johnson | Ronald K. Rittgers | Alissa Kretzmann | David King | Nura Esther Zaki | David Rojas Martinez | Katie Benjamin | Amelia Schroeder | Thomas Albert Howard

The evening of October 31, 2017—exactly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg—eight panelists at Valparaiso University engaged in a public ritual in which they remembered identity and shared personal narratives.They answered the question, “What does the Reformation mean for us?” Read More

Listen Up! Our Post-Reformation Approach to Music and Scripture

Josh Langhoff

By teaching the church how to listen to the Word, the Reformation began a centuries-long process of teaching the Western world how to read and listen to everything else. (When we say a certain book or passage “strikes a chord,” we realize how closely reading and listening are linked.) Read More

Northern Exposure: Russia's Influence on the Modern West

H. David Baer

Today, several of history’s reprising themes have converged to produce a new kind of Republican Party, one with a contingent that sympathizes with Russia. This turn of events, while startling, is not wholly without precedent, as those familiar with modern European history can see. Read More

The Word and the World

Tiffany Eberle Kreiner

When chemotherapy meant whole weeks during which nothing would be possible but drinking red Kool-Aid (no Gatorade or Ensure in those days!) and throwing it back up again, then One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish might help. (If you read it hard enough, long enough, again-and-again enough, it almost becomes like prayer.) Read More

The Tree Killers

Rebekah Curtis

My husband waits patiently as I pull on my boots. He puts down the hatchet and the spray bottle to help me get the baby situated in the sling carrier. I put on my hat, and the baby pulls it off. “Let’s be realistic,” I say, and my husband shrugs as I toss the hat back into the house. “Hope you like ticks,” he says, pulling the door shut behind us. We start up the hill. We are going to kill trees. Read More

Also In This Issue
Kim Suttell
Anya Silver
Sergio A. Ortiz
William Woolfitt
Jonathan Diaz
Bryan Dietrich
Luci Shaw

Homecoming at Middle Age

David C. Yamada

For many years after my 1981 graduation from Valparaiso University, I regarded my student days as spanning one of the duller stretches of U.S. history. As a late Baby Boomer, I had missed out on the Sixties experience, and the decade that followed seemed comparatively tame and banal. The overall state of politics and public affairs fueled much of that impression, but so too did popular culture (Captain & Tennille, anyone?) and the everyday experience of campus life. Read More

Can Christianity Save the Humanities?

Douglas Jacobsen & Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen

In 1995, the book How the Irish Saved Civilization became a best-seller by boldly claiming that Western civilization was preserved from utter destruction when the Roman Empire collapsed only through the holy resolve of heroic monks like Saint Columba and his co-laborers in Ireland. Historians have questioned the grandiosity of the book’s claim, but the book’s provocative title provides an apt metaphor for the potential relationship that exists between Christianity and the humanities in contemporary American higher education. In a time when the values of the humanities are being questioned, might Christianity offer a way to “save” the humanities from academic oblivion? Read More

The Polyvalent Potentiality of Vocation in Net-Zero Construction

Stewart Herman

As a youngster, I waited impatiently—and in vain—for my pastor to preach about the material world, the world I inhabited. He addressed the domain of the spirit, while I was fascinated by cars and model airplanes. I wanted to build, to make something. At about that time, H. Richard Niebuhr popularized (for theologians) the term “man the maker,” identifying the urge to create as a powerful human drive. I recall during my early adolescence standing at the crude workbench in our basement, racking my brain for an idea of something to build, and frustrated by my lack of skill. Perhaps Jesus with his years as a “tekton” could have imparted a suggestion, but not likely. The Jesus I heard about was far too busy with the more spiritual callings of healing and preaching—activities superior and irrelevant to my fascination with the material world. Read More

Four Things an Alien Civilization Would Learn about the West If All They Watched Was HBO's Westworld

Christina Bieber Lake

The original film Westworld is a campy delight. Produced in 1973, it can’t help its Cheez-Whiz feel. But the story, written by Michael Crichton, has a gold-mine of a premise that was just begging for an upgrade. It was no surprise that Jonathan Nolan teamed up with HBO to produce a new series by the same name. And it is fun, fun, fun. Read More

The Funny Thing about Idols

David Heddendorf

“Devices” we call them, the cunningly wrought objects we’re never without. Cradled lovingly, reached for unconsciously, clung to with a deep and mostly unacknowledged need, they’re at once our symbols of self-absorption and, increasingly, the locus of our public life. They disrupt our communion with God, family, friends. They steal our time. They lead us into temptation. Long before our children text and drive, or discover what sexting is, or succumb to cyberbullies, we leave them to their devices—like any Canaanite offering sons and daughters to Molech. Read More

Also In This Issue
Bill Stadick
Barbara Crooker
Chelsea Wagenaar