This year has forced us to wrestle with the legacy of a system of race-based slavery in the United States. What better time than now to read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), a novel with huge influence in turning public opinion in antebellum America toward abolition—and possibly even influencing Lincoln’s drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century in the US. And though it would still take a civil war to end slavery here, the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was undeniable.
When I began listening to an audio version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I expected to find a taste of how nineteenth-century Americans thought about slavery and how this book depicted the tragic slave experience. And I did find that. What I did not expect to find was a commendation of Christianity and an exhibition of true Christian living in the face of tremendous trials and temptations. Stowe doesn’t let Christians off the hook entirely, for she relates the failings of many such Christians. But she also presents a moving picture of how Jesus can transform a man.
When I opened the Amazon app on my phone recently, I ran
across this headline: “All you need to get holiday ready.”
Reading over that statement, my mind immediately moves to
the food, the gifts, the decorations, the home prep. And of course, Amazon has
asserted itself as a provider of all these things. I have benefited from
Amazon’s fast delivery system. I’m a Prime user. And I even have an affiliate
account set up with Amazon, linking to their website from this blog, which is a
good place to point readers to for a resource I discuss here (even as it can potentially
provide some affiliate fees for me). So the benefits of Amazon are not lost on
I do worry about its size and increasing power. And part of
the reason is that its philosophy of life conflicts with that given us by
Christ. In the Age of Amazon, we are hard pressed to escape the philosophy it
offers us—a world in which we can have so much at our fingertips, from
entertainment to unending possessions. And in this we are to find happiness (at
least, most of the people I see on Amazon’s website look happy).
And that brings me back to the holiday headline. Something
subtle lurks in this statement. “Holiday ready” for Amazon revolves around the
material world: I can be holiday ready if I buy enough material items.
Fourth-century Christianity is perhaps best remembered for the Trinitarian controversies that flared with the rise of Arius early on and continued until the Council of Constantinople in 381. In the East, some of the key figures involved in that controversy were the Cappadocian Fathers—Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa. Lesser known is the life of Saint Macrina (ca. 327–379), the eldest sister of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, yet her faith influenced her brothers in profound ways. And her brother Gregory memorialized her in an account of her life, The Life of Saint Macrina, which offers readers today a portrait of female piety in the early church.
We’re two historians and graduates of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School who are interested in Christianity, theology, and history. We embrace an evangelical identity and value scholarly endeavors to deepen our understanding of the world in which we live.
In this blog, we hope to reflect aloud on the Christian past to help others think clearly about those who have preceded us and how they have shaped our world today. We believe that engaging the past offers beneficial perspective for the present and the future.
We invite you to join us in exploring church history.
~ David P. Barshinger and Hoon J. Lee
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Jonathan Edwards and Scripture
Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms
About the Blog
At Exploring Church History, I seek to reflect on Christian history and its intersection with theology, Scripture, and culture. The views expressed here are mine, not those of any institution.