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The CCCS Podcast

No. 10, October 28, 2013

Lewis Smedes, "The Evangelicals and the Social Question"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Brian Alford

A lot has changed since the day when evangelical Protestants were faulted for being other-worldly, detached from politics and social issues. Today they seem to be one of the most publicly active groups in America. One of the most important figures in leading this change was Carl Henry. A founder the National Association of Evangelicals, of Fuller Theological Seminary, and later of Christianity Today, Henry was something of an archbishop, if not a pope, in the new evangelicalism that arose across the 1950s and ‘60s, and he made it clear that Christian social engagement was a biblical command.

Yet the social engagement that Henry called for was quite partial and inadequate. That, at least, is the charge Lewis Smedes leveled in his article “Evangelicals and the Social Question,” which appeared in the Reformed Journal in February 1966.

"Risen Indeed" (13:56, 13.4 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 9, October 28, 2013

Roy M. Anker, Review of Tender Mercies

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter Read by Emily Diener

The Reformed Journal started reviewing films in the mid-1960s, just when the churches where most of its readers attended lifted their long-standing disapproval of the movies—and just as Hollywood began a revolution that made American cinema more stark, more real, and more controversial in both the subjects it handled and the ways it handled them.

Roy Anker, a professor of English at Calvin College, soon emerged as the Journal’s leading film reviewer, a role he continues to play today in other venues. His treatment of Tender Mercies, the 1983 co-production of leading man Robert Duvall and screenwriter Horton Foote, perfectly captures what the author, and the magazine, hoped to accomplish in their film criticism.

"Risen Indeed" (12:47, 12.3 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 8, October 28, 2013

Lawrence Dorr, "Risen Indeed!"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter Read by Emily Diener

Life everlasting in another world—it’s a key point, maybe the ultimate promise, of the Christian faith. But what’s that world like? How might we glimpse it? Maybe only by riveting our attention to the real in this world. That is the conclusion argued by Lionel Basney in “Fire on My Mind,” an essay the Reformed Journal published in January 1985.

"Risen Indeed" (19:47, 19 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 7, October 25, 2013

Lionel Basney, "Fire on my Mind"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter Read by Emily Diener

Life everlasting in another world—it’s a key point, maybe the ultimate promise, of the Christian faith. But what’s that world like? How might we glimpse it? Maybe only by riveting our attention to the real in this world. That is the conclusion argued by Lionel Basney in “Fire on My Mind,” an essay the Reformed Journal published in January 1985.

"Fire on my Mind" (10:52, 10.5 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 6, April 26, 2013

Virginia Stem Owens, "Where in the World?"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Emily Diener

The modern environmental movement, which took wing in the 1970s, poses hard questions about our use and misuse of natural resources. But a deeper problem might lurk, says essayist Virginia Stem Owens, in that very label “environmental.” It signals a detachment of human beings from their place, from any concrete locale in the world, and consequently an isolation of each of us from each other, from ourselves, ultimately from God.

In this trenchant essay, “Where in the World,” which appeared in the September 1983 issue of the Reformed Journal, Owens makes us feel this syndrome up close by telling the story of her trip to—of all things—a conference of Christian scholars at a Christian college. On the matter at hand, she shows, the faith has made no difference at all. In the lunch cafeteria, her companions, “like two ducks diving, submerge their heads in private prayer for about five seconds. I hold my breath until they come up again….” Far more real are the weeds and litter outside the faceless, nameless hotel where the conference-goers retreat for the night.

"Where in the World?" (11:34, 11.1 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 5, March 8, 2013

Roy M. Anker, "Getting God's Joke [On Frederick Buechner]"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Brian Alford

Religion and literature have always been close cousins, so we can learn much about the one by looking at the other. One of the best practitioners of that craft over the past generation has been Frederick Buechner, a novelist, literary critic, and Presbyterian minister.

Buechner’s 1977 book Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale was reviewed in the December 1978 issue of the Reformed Journal by Roy Anker, professor of English at Calvin College. Buechner meant his book for preachers, Anker says, but we can all profit from its lessons. First, Scripture resonates so deeply with us because it so much of it proceeds by way of powerful stories—the tragedies, comedies, and fairy tales of Buechner’s subtitle. Second, looking at the Bible this way does not reduce its truth but restores the real truth that our religiosity has a way of reducing to pale moralisms. Too much preaching, Anker says, “never gets around to the messy facts of what it is like to live in a human skin, which is the place the gospel comes to.” Buechner’s gift in this book, by contrast, is to render for us “the moment, shape, and texture of grace,” the encounter with an “unexpected and shadowy Agent who heals and makes anew.”

"Getting God's Joke" (8:23, 8 MB) mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 4, February 22, 2013

Henry Zylstra, "Thoughts for Teachers"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Brian Alford

Should education be immediately practical or should it step back some and engage the big questions, like what makes for a good life, or a just society? This is a debate you can hear on every college campus in America today. But it was just as pressing a question in the 1950s, when the international threats and economic boom of the Cold War were casting the aims and means of American education under a harsh new light. Christian education, too. The following essay answers that question with a quiet but forceful case for classic liberal arts education, for a definite Christian purpose.

“Thoughts for Teachers” appeared in the Reformed Journal in September 1954 and captures the method as well as the message of the magazine in its early days. The author of the piece, Henry Zylstra, was one of the Journal’s founding editors and played a leading role at Calvin College from its English department until his untimely death in 1956. Zylstra was a man of much reading. Listen to him glide here from one author to another: Thomas Macaulay, Arthur Koestler, W. H. Auden, and the now-forgotten Frederick Pottle. All to reaffirm the classic stance of Calvin College: Education can never be neutral or value-free; every human effort serves some ultimately religious commitment. Therefore it is the first part of faithfulness to lead students to consider the fundamental things so as to discern the way of the Lord among them. But the best way to do that is to read deeply in all manner of human searching and experience.

"Thoughts for Teachers" (11:03, 10.6 MB) mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 3, February 11, 2013

Richard J. Mouw, "Graham and Hope"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Brian Alford

When did evangelical Christianity marry Hollywood? Maybe with Aimee Semple MacPherson in the 1920s. Maybe with all those biblical epics by Cecil B. DeMille. Whenever, the results can be hazardous for the faith. It gets worse when the religion of American nationalism comes along in the mix, as it so often does.

That’s the target of Richard Mouw’s satire in this piece, which first appeared in the Reformed Journal in September 1970. Note the date—just a few months earlier, American forces expanded the already hotly debated Vietnam War by invading Cambodia. That triggered an explosion of protest on college campuses across America, culminating, that May of 1970, in students being gunned down at Kent State and Jackson State Universities.

How did American evangelicals respond? The next 4th of July their most famous leader, Billy Graham, joined up with fading Hollywood star Bob Hope at a rally to “honor America.” This reflex celebration, this salute to civil religion, had increasingly become a target of Reformed Journal writers across the 1960s. Some of them distanced themselves from evangelicalism as a result. Not so Richard Mouw. A professor of philosophy at Calvin College when he wrote this piece, Mouw later moved to Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the foremost evangelical institutions in the country. Today he serves as president there. This reflection, then, is a loyalist’s protest, cloaking tough love in hard-edged humor.

"Graham and Hope" (4:40, 5.4 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 2, January 25, 2013

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., "Like a Shot to the Heart"

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Emily Diener

Why are some preachers so memorable and others not? Why do some sermons seem to come with your name on them and keep on echoing deep in your soul? These are the questions that Neil Plantinga ponders in this prize-winning essay, “Like a Shot to the Heart,” which appeared in the January 1988 issue of the Reformed Journal.

"Like a Shot to the Heart" (11 minutes, 10 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal


No. 1, January 11, 2013

Rod Jellema, "There Were These Shepherds, Abiding...."

Introduction by James D. Bratt, PhD
Chapter read by Emily Diener

We all remember Sunday School Christmas pageants—flapping around in front of church in our bathrobes or crude angel wings; the stilted dialogue; the empty straw box where Baby Jesus was supposed to lie. In this piece, which appeared in the January 1974 issue of the Reformed Journal, Rod Jellema recalls the whole scene with uncommon brilliance.

"There Were These Shepherds, Abiding..." (8 minutes, 7.5 MB)mp3

Learn more about The Reformed Journal

 

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