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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Engaging My Opponent: Spiritual Healing for Broken Public Discourse

Nicholas Denysenko

During the seven years that I studied and worked in Washington, DC, I became familiar with a notorious term: “The Beltway.” If you have ever attempted to drive in or around DC, you have probably been on the Beltway at some point. Read More

“Can Two Walk Together Unless They Be Agreed?” Traditions, Vocations, and Christian Universities in the Twenty-First Century"

Caroline J. Simon

We who teach at Christian liberal arts institutions tend to underestimate their peculiarity. This disadvantages us when addressing the question of institutional vocation, the particular calling of Christian liberal arts colleges and universities. Read More


Gary Fincke

Far more than one early morning Facebook post pleads, “Send thoughts and prayers,” and because so many readers are alone or anxious or accept the power of such comfort, dozens of comments begin “dear God” and “prayers sent,” phrases as familiar as passing traffic, they are erased by a gibberish of wind and starlings awakening, every teeming tree chattering what sounds, at dawn, like an invisible babble of relief. Read More

“A Distinguished Composition of Significant Dimension”: Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. Reminds Listeners that the Pulitzer Prize for Music Can Go to Exciting and Unexpected Works

Josh Langhoff

When rapper Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in April, heads exploded. Not only was his album DAMN. the first hip-hop work to win the award; of the seventy-one previous Prizes, sixty-eight had gone to classical composers, and the other three to jazz artists—Wynton Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, and Henry Threadgill—who sometimes used techniques from European classical traditions. DAMN. seemed a world away from this milieu.Read More

Hope and History: Three Views

Peter Dula

Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t make the political critique of Christian hope, he makes what I think of as a psychological critique. In contrast to the false hopes and blind faiths of white, black, and Christian Dreams, Coates offers questioning. Read More

The Night the Beatles Came to Church

Kurt Krueger

I remember the night the Beatles came to the basement of my father’s church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was February 9, 1964, and I was a high school sophomore. Read More

Addicted Selves

Joel Kurz

It was a late Sunday afternoon in autumn, gray and heavy instead of bright and beautiful. I had hit the road after finishing parish duties and was traveling several hours south to visit my mother. Feeling drained and rather out-of-sorts, I decided to make a quick stop at a vintage audio store just in case a long-sought-after CD was waiting for me in the bargain bin. Read More

Making a Difference

Thomas C. Willadsen

I did not recognize the name on the phone message. The chaplain at the county jail called because an inmate wanted to talk to the manager of the local Presbyterian Church franchise location; that would be me. I called back. Read More

Also In This Issue
B.P. Miller
Matthew Porto
Jen Stewart Fueston
Michael Schmidtke
Christopher Lee Miles
John Fry


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