Fire in the Cathedral

In the Middle Ages, it wasn’t the building of stone, glass, and wood that mattered. It was the worship offered therein, which is why, when cathedrals caught fire—as they regularly did—medieval Christians took it as an opportunity to develop the skills they needed in order to rebuild. Nobody prior to the mid-twelfth century had built anything like the currently standing cathedrals at Paris or Chartres. Nobody knew how to make such beautiful glass before medieval glaziers learned the secret of the reds, greens, and blues. If the craftsmen of the Middle Ages could figure out how to make glass and carve stone, surely modern Christians can do so again. They have the medieval exemplars on which to model their work. All they need is the will to praise God. —Rachel Fulton Brown, “Fire in the Cathedral,” First Things, April 17, 2019 For further reflections on the importance of the Lady and her Son, go here

De historia Christiana

My departmental colleague Amy Stanley worries that I am using the classroom as “a place for the conversion of students to Christian religious faith”—as if that were something diabolical! She needn’t worry. I understand the difference between preaching and teaching. Preaching is what my colleagues do! (They do, they know it. That is why they are so mad at me: I have called their bluff.) I, on the other hand, teach. Because that is what Christians do.

What does it mean to teach history as a Christian? I take my instruction from Augustine of Hippo, who knew a thing or two about teaching as well as about Christ.

First and foremost, Christians recognize the inadequacy of language for conveying even the simplest thoughts. In Augustine’s words, explaining to his friend Deogratias why teaching is so frustrating: For I am covetous of something better, the possession of which I frequently enjoy within me before I commence to body it forth in intelligible words: and then when my capacities of ex…

On Being a Christian in the Academy

Rachel Fulton Brown is an Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Chicago where she works on the history of Christianity with a focus on devotion to the Virgin Mary, a subject about which she has written two books. We talk about how she became a medievalist, how this led to her conversion to Catholicism, the experience of being a conservative and a Catholic in 21st-century academe, and why she teaches The Lord of the Rings. My host John Tangney with the Intellectual Diversity Podcast asks difficult questions! Listen here.

For a full list of my podcasts and videos, go here.

Religion 101: “You Shall Be As Gods”

“One of my readers who is preparing for a dissertation defense in history writes with a request. He is a practicing Christian and has been told that he needs to “think like a historian instead of a theologian.” In his words:
This has been a difficult transition as I have studied practical theology since the mid-1990s. I need to be able to communicate my thoughts and ideas to non-Christian professors—some of whom are antagonistic to Christianity—in a manner that they believe is academic. In one of your writings you stated: “As I see it, this is the challenge I face writing as a Christian to a scholarly audience: how to frame what I see through the lens of faith in a way that makes what I see at the very least thinkable, even as I appreciate that many will not be persuaded that what I see is true. This is no easy task, thus the years that it has taken to develop the methodology that I have since publishing my first book in 2002.” I desire to communicate that the methodology I use allows…

Talking with Atheists 101

Want to know how to debate an atheist? Start with JOY!

“On Atheism, Political Correctness, SJWs, and Modernity.” Red Pill Religion with Max Kolbe and Joshua Brister. Listen here

Study tip: Have a pen handy! We mention a lot of books!

For a complete list of my podcasts and videos, go here.

Meet the Father of Lies

Read on here.

The 14 Words

This is not the post I had planned to write today, the first day I have had to blog properly since January, but tragedy intervened in Christchurch, so I will save my meditations on the meaning of race and gender as status markers in egalitarian democracy for another day.

Today we are praying for the dead.

Forty-nine people were killed in New Zealand as they gathered together for Friday prayers, forty-one at Masjid Al Noor Mosque, seven at Linwood Masjid Mosque, and one who died later in hospital.

The dead include children.

The shooter—may his time in purgatory be excruciating—has provided the internet with a “manifesto” on his “reasoning” for the attack, which has prompted the usual—one might almost say—scripted responseswe have come to expect.

Friends on Facebook—well, one friend in particular—have drawn attention to the manifesto’s use of the “14 words” typically cited as evidence that one is in the presence of Evil, a.k.a. “right wing extremism.”

Except that the “manifesto” never ci…

Mama to Momma

While Mary is misunderstood by many, she is a bridge for many others. Rachel, inspired by her historical studies, was in the latter camp. And during our time together, we got to dive into her conversion story and the marvelously rich history of Marian devotion that would be largely lost if not for work being done by such as Rachel.Listen here

For a complete list of my podcasts and videos, go here.

A Theory of Virtue

Before we can understand contemporary identity politics, we need to step back and develop a deeper and richer understanding of human motivation and behavior. We need, in other words, a better theory of the human soul. —Francis FukuyamaIf only there were a tradition of talking about the structure of the human soul...

Source: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Scivias, book III. Drawing by Rachel Fulton Brown, modeled on the Rupertsberg Codex images.

Reference: Rachel Fulton Brown, “Hildegard of Bingen’s Theology of Revelation,” in From Knowledge to Beatitude: St. Victor, Twelfth-Century Scholars and Beyond. Essays in Honor of Grover A. Zinn, Jr., eds. E. Ann Matter and Lesley Smith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013): 300-27.

My YouTube Channel

A little light went on in my head last night, and I realized I could make playlists of the videos in which I have appeared on YouTube!

Here is my channel: Fencing Bear at Prayer.

See Bear on Air for videos in which I have appeared as a guest.

See Three Kraters Symposium (My episodes) for videos in which I appear with my fellow Deplorables and our guests.

For a complete list of my appearances on YouTube, podcasts, and radio shows, go here.

“Wormwood, immortal Satan, Ahriman, alone”

Talking Poetry with Nate and Zaklog the Great: C.S. Lewis’s “Wormwood. Watch here!
Thou only art alternative to God, oh, dark And burning island among spirits, tenth hierarch, Wormwood, immortal Satan, Ahriman, alone Second to Him to whom no second else were known, Being essential fire, sprung of His fire, but bound Within the lightless furnace of thy Self, bricked round To range in the reverberated heat from seven Containing walls: hence power thou hast to rival heaven. Therefore, except the temperance of the eternal love Only thy absolute lust is worth the thinking of. All else is weak disguising of the wishful heart, All that seemed earth is Hell, or Heaven. God is: thou art: The rest, illusion. How should man live save as glass To let the white light without flame, the Father, pass Unstained: or else—opaque, molten to thy desire, Venus infernal starving in the strength of fire!  Lord, open not too often my weak eyes to this. —C. S. Lewis

Zaklog the Great reads “Wormwood” here.
For a…

“I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”

Why, the greatest fairy story ever told! Watch here!

Talking Tolkien with Tyler Hummel on The Fox Valley Film Critics, Episode 50

For a full list of my videos and podcasts, go here.

The Sworn Book of Professor Peterson

Peterson: I’m an odd sort of Christian, I suppose, for a variety of reasons.... There is an idea of the Eternal Soul, and it tends in Christianity to remain somewhat gendered, although there is an idea that it’s the Logos that is redemptive for males and females...and Logos is symbolically represented as masculine. I think that’s because the masculine spirit, so to speak, is freer in some sense than the female spirit, because it’s more tightly tied to the necessity of procreation and so forth. It’s something like that....  Societies have posited for a very long period of time that there’s something about human consciousness that transcends the limitations of the finite self. And you also mentioned the use of psychedelics, and obviously that was part of your experience of discovery. There’s a reasonable amount of evidence, and most of it was compiled by a man whose name, if I remember, was Wasson, who was an amateur mycologist, a student of mushrooms... R. Gordon Wasson. And he claimed…

Incense for the Emperor

It was just a small thing, the least of things, a thing hardly to be noticed.

Not to be marked as an enemy of the empire, all one had to do was throw a bit of incense on the brazier set before the statue of the emperor. What could be easier than to offer a bit of scented smoke and a dribble of wine to prove one’s loyalty to the ruler of the world? Especially when to refuse meant death.

The temptation must have been overwhelming—all it would cost was your immortal soul.

What it looks like to be up against the world.  All he had to do was take off his hat.  Was that so much to ask?

How to See God


Read the scriptures.

Go to Mass.

Worship the LORD Jesus Christ, the Son of God Most High.

(Image: Nicholas of Lyra, Postillae, ca. 1402 [Manchester, John Rylands Library, Latin MS 30])
For further reflections on seeing God as medieval Christians saw Him, go here.