Essay / Art

Thanks, Franky. Addicted to Mediocrity, Thirty Years Later

Does it make sense to thank someone for something they may have disowned? A lot has happened since Frank Schaeffer published Addicted to Mediocrity thirty years ago. He was going by the more diminutive “Franky” then, signifying, maybe, how staunchly he stood in his dad’s

Essay / Culture

Excerpts & Essays: The Great Books Reader

Here’s a 656-page grand tour of some of the greatest moments in Western civilization: The Great Books Reader, edited by John Mark Reynolds. I highly recommend it. Then again, since I contributed to it, work with or for many of the contributors, and already like

Essay / Literature

The Battle of Roncesvalles: History and Legend

Today, August 15, marks the 1,233rd anniversary of the Battle of Roncesvalles, a pitch battle fought by a contingent of Charlemagne’s army led by Roland, the  prefect of the Breton March, against a Basque attack on the Roncesvalles pass while Roland’s men were on the

Essay / Literature

Paul: "The Veiled Energy of Metaphor and Allusion"

Richard Hays (from his 2001 intro to the 2nd ed. of Faith of Jesus Christ) gives some great advice on how to read Paul: “Paul, the missionary preacher, is at least as much a poet as he is a theologian.” And Hays doesn’t just mean

Essay / Literature

Don Quixote’s Last Laugh

One of the most frustrating things about being a professor in a Great Books program is that there are so many books that can, and indeed should, be in any possible curriculum, but given the constraints related to time and space that we have to

Essay / Education

Read for Craft, Stay Happy, Try to Help: Tips on Writing

Andrew Faris over at Someone Tell Me The Story recently posted a short interview he did with me on the subject of writing. Along the way I ranted about the current state of theological writing, recommended a few resources, and said ridiculous things like “ignore

Essay / Education

Frederick Douglass Learns to Read

I’ve just finished reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Our seniors read it in the Torrey Honors Institute as part of a semester of books on America. Douglass’ is one of hundreds of slave narratives, narratives which played a

Essay / Literature

War is Swell: Crispin’s Day

Okay, war is not really swell. But today (October 25) is the anniversary of two battles that live on in our memory because of the martial virtues conspicuously displayed in them. These battles conjured poetry from two of the greatest poets in the history of

Essay / Literature

California's Bestseller, and Its Author

What’s the most popular and influential book in the history of California? An 1884 romance called Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson. It’s a longish book that follows the misfortunes of a beautiful young orphan who is half Scottish and half native American. She is raised

Essay / Literature

Literally, Plato

“This is intended to be a literal translation,” says Allan Bloom in the preface to his 1968 edition of Plato’s Republic. And it is, famously, or infamously, literal. Bloom puts his head down and digs out as word-for-word a translation as he can. What drove

Essay / Literature

Tragedy of King Saul

Reading the story of Israel’s first king this week, it occurred to me that this story in 1 Samuel has all the makings of a classic tragedy: his early promise, his fatal flaws, his downfall, the lament sung over him by David his successor. It’s