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Over Thanksgiving weekend in 1973, a diverse group of more than fifty North American-based evangelical academics, publishers, and church leaders—both young mavericks and more senior statesmen—gathered at the Downtown Chicago YMCA to discuss the need for greater evangelical social concern. The impetus for the conference had occurred earlier in the spring at the first Calvin College conference on politics organized, in part, by Professor Paul Henry who taught political science there from 1970 until 1978, when he left to serve in the Michigan House and Senate, then the United States House of Representatives from 1984 until his untimely death in 1993.

Henry and others, including Ron Sider, David Moberg, Rufus Jones, and Jim Wallis, decided to invite a group of evangelicals to the weekend conference to discuss the possibility of kickstarting a national movement where justice would be a seamless part of praxis for evangelical Christians. The result of that weekend was the Chicago Declaration of Social Concern, an approximately five-hundred-word statement whose opening sentence affirms that “God lays total claim upon the lives of his people.”1 That phrase harkens back to Abraham Kuyper’s famous words from his 1880 inauguration speech at the Free University of Amsterdam, where he said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine.” Kuyper’s echo in the declaration is no coincidence as one of the original signatories to The Chicago Declaration was Richard Mouw, then professor of philosophy at Calvin, who is world-renown for his expertise in Kuyper, the resulting neo-Calvinism movement, and its contribution to political philosophy.

He was also friends with Paul Henry, who he helped recruit to Calvin. Coming full circle, this past year, Richard Mouw gave the Paul Henry Lecture at Calvin University (which he helped Henry to launch) whose speakers address the interplay of Christianity and politics. In his lecture, entitled “The Christian Use of Political Power,” which we are pleased to publish in this issue, Mouw discusses the personal and political legacy of Henry, especially his involvement in the Declaration. He then goes on to discuss John Calvin’s positive view towards Christian engagement in politics and the need for evangelicals to embrace a “public selfhood” where the concept of neighbors includes those whom we may never see face to face. Toward the end of his lecture, he writes,

In order for our involvement in politics to be taken as good faith activity, we must gain the trust of our fellow citizens who right now do not think well of evangelicals in politics. This means demonstrating our commitment to human flourishing—to shalom—in other spheres of human interaction: the education of children, the arts, business practices, civic organizations, the world of entertainment, standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

Mouw’s lecture brings together the personal and professional: his friendship with Paul Henry, his involvement with the Declaration, the influence of Calvinism in Christian political thought, ever-reforming evangelicalism, civility, and the continuing need to repent while addressing topics of racism, sexism, poverty, and militarism, brought to the fore that Thanksgiving weekend fifty years earlier.

Reporting on the Declaration, Chicago Sun-Times religion writer Roy Larson wrote, “Someday American church historians may write that the most significant church-related event of 1973 took place last week at the YMCA hotel on S. Wabash.”2 But what exactly was its significance and legacy? In our next article, “Reflecting on the 1973 Chicago Declaration: Legacies and Challenges for Christian Higher Education Today,” Wheaton professors Laura Meitzner Yoder, Amy Reynolds, and James Huff, Jr., draw on primary source material located in the college’s archives to explore the Declaration’s impact. They are more sanguine about its legacy than impact, writing,

We have seen that the 1973 Declaration was a product of a particular historical moment when a small group of evangelical Christians anticipated the emergence of a national movement, one that recognized the reality and need to repent from both individual and structural sins, and to affirm the indivisibility of evangelism and social concern in gospel witness. That the widespread movement Sider and his colleagues had envisioned did not emerge among the next generation of United States evangelicals does not minimize the significance of The Chicago Declaration. Perhaps its history and legacy are best understood as a story of struggle, one that tempers the “triumphalistic narratives” pervasive in many evangelical communities.3

Not surprisingly, they find their students tend to think about personal and interpersonal actions as the best ways to participate in and embody the love of neighbor, focusing on specific people rather than the “public selfhood” called for by Mouw. Yet also echoing Calvin’s concept of general revelation, they end on a hopeful note, continuing to cultivate within themselves, with students, and their faith communities, an “intentional willingness and capacity to learn from people who are different from us.” It is remarkable, they reflect at the end of the article, that such a declaration could be agreed upon over a three-day weekend. Perhaps the legacy doesn’t reside only in the document itself but in the hopefulness demonstrated by a diverse group of Christians who, in short order, came to a consensus on the necessary actions needed to practice an embodied faith in the time and place they found themselves.

The ending of our third article also takes place in the 70s but its story begins much earlier. Todd P. Steen, Granger Professor of Economics at Hope College and managing editor of Christian Scholar’s Review, in his article, “The History of The Gordon Review: Faith Integration’s ‘First’ Journalrecounts the 1955-1970 history of The Gordon Review, the forerunner to this journal. As Steen notes, The Gordon Review was the first journal to focus on the “integration of faith and learning.” While some funding came from Gordon College, its founding editor, Gordon philosophy professor Lloyd F. Dean, sought to publish a journal whose ethos was not tied directly to Gordon nor dogmatic in its outlook with the hope that its writers and readers would react to the articles with tolerance and Christian unity. By the mid-1960s, authors were as likely to have positions at non-evangelical and public schools as those whose institutions would soon join the new Christian College Consortium. But the second decade of the journal also brought more scrutiny and concern by Gordon’s board with greater oversight of content by the administration of Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School. By 1970, editor and Gordon philosophy professor George Brushaber shifted the publication to the multi-school collaboration that would soon become Christian Scholar’s Review while serving as its first editor.

The founders of both The Gordon Review and Christian Scholar’s Review were audacious in their vision to launch world-class peer-reviewed journals, which allowed for the community of Christian scholars to have a place to showcase their work rather than have a diffuse impact across different areas of study. Fifty years on, Christian scholars continue to work through the tensions of identity, scholarly community, excellence in scholarship, and openness to pursue new ideas. I found the history portrayed in Steen’s work to be both aspirational and exasperating. It is worth the read to situate oneself in this ongoing story.

Our fourth article takes us 180 degrees away from the search for God’s truth to conspiracy theories and rumormongering. Nicholas DiFonzo, associate professor of psychology at Roberts Wesleyan University, and Jeffrey S. Black, professor of psychology at Cairn University in their piece, “Trustful Waiting and Enemy Loving Responses to Uncertainty and Vulnerability: Christian Psychology Soul Care in an Age of Conspiracy Rumors,” help us understand why some Christians, who as a body are committed to truth, goodness, charity, and hope, get sucked into such baneful beliefs and behavior. The authors unpack the allure of conspiracy theories and why Christians who hold to a distant, angry, condemning, and revengeful view of God are more prone to trust no one, including God. Instead, they emphasize that those who have a biblical existential understanding of God as trustworthy, loving, near, and generous respond to uncertainty with trustful waiting. DiFonzo and Black, providing background scholarship based on a unique view of Christian psychology, help us untangle why dear brothers and sisters in Christ not just believe but angrily participate in conspiracy discourses. It’s a fascinating read for the time we find ourselves in.

Back in August 2022, Michael Zigarelli, professor of leadership and strategy at Messiah University, wrote one of the most popular blogs for the Christian Scholar’s Review website on near-death experiences (NDEs) as an apologetic for the Christian faith. With over 7,000 reads stretched across each month since its publication, his blog post demonstrates a deep interest in the topic. Zigarelli expands on this material in our final article entitled “Near-Death Experiences and the Emerging Implications for Christian Theology,” going deeper into the evidence for NDEs that appear to be more than just fabulists’ memories. He then explicates what these autobiographies might mean for how we understand the central tenets of our Christian faith. Even skeptics of NDEs will find the summaries and categorization of the evidence refreshingly to the point without popular press flourishes.

In Books

With U.S. state primaries already upon us, we offer a timely book review essay on the roots and modern directions of political conservatism and liberalism. In his piece entitled “Three Visions for America: Liberalism, Another Liberalism, and Anglo-American Conservatism,” Michael N. Jacobs, associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, reviews,

Matthew Continetti, The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2022).

Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022).

Yoram Hazony, Conservatism: A Rediscovery (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 2022).

As Jacobs writes,

Continetti calls the Right to return to the classically liberal principles that he identifies with America’s founding. Fukuyama encourages the Right to embrace liberal principles properly understood, which includes scrapping neoliberalism, embracing demographic and social change, and rejecting identity politics (at the least identity politics of the Right). And Hazony prompts the Right to rediscover the Anglo-American conservatism associated with America’s founding.

Jacobs concludes his review with a brief theological reflection on these contending perspectives. This would be an excellent essay if you are looking for a short and to-the-point reflection for your students on the foundations of our major political orientations, their 21st-century evolutions, and how, as Christians, we might engage with them.

Christians love a great reversal, especially when God favors the last rather than the first, the least rather than the greatest, and bars those knocking at the door from entering in. Two recent books do the same for the nature of humanity, finding strengths in human weaknesses. In our second review essay, Jim Vermilya, assistant vice president for academic affairs and associate professor of theology at Indiana Wesleyan University, reviews two 2022 bestsellers in his essay entitled “Embracing Finitude at Every Stage of Life.

Arthur C. Brooks, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life (New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2022).

Kelly M. Kapic, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2022).

Both books emphasize the benefits of recognizing our limitations, with Brooks writing about the energy–wisdom continuum of aging while Kapic focuses on how our limitations are part of God’s design for us. As Vermilya writes in this review, older adults in the second half of their lives will be more drawn to Brooks’s book, while young adults are likely to benefit more from Kapic’s—perhaps to help them circumvent some of the time required to acquire the wisdom that they are indeed limited creatures.

Other reviews for this issue:

Robert Benne, Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion Emeritus, Roanoke College and professor of Christian ethics, Institute of Lutheran Studies, Brookings, South Dakota, reviews Perry L. Glanzer, Theodore F. Cockle, and Jessica Martin, Christian Higher Education: An Empirical Guide (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2023).

Hannah Richardson, assistant professor of art, film, and media at Taylor University, reviews Elissa Yukiko, Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2023).

Henry T. Edmondson III, Carl Vinson Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia College, reviews Kevin Hood Gary, Why Boredom Matters: Education, Leisure, and the Quest for a Meaningful Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Peter Kerry Powers, dean of the School of Humanities at Messiah University, reviews Jeffrey Bilbro, Jessica Hooten Wilson, and David Henreckson, eds., The Liberating Arts: Why We Need Liberal Arts Education (Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2023).

Thank you, Steve Oldham, for your excellent curation of the Book Review Selections.


  1. Ronald J. Sider, ed., The Chicago Declaration (Carol Stream IL: Creation House, 1974).
  2. Cited by David R. Swartz, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 181.
  3. See Soong-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2015), 58.

Margaret Diddams

Dr. Diddams is an Industrial / Organizational Psychologist and Editor of Christian Scholar's Review.