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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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The Unknowable More:
Contemplation, Creativity, and Education

Stephanie Paulsell

In the spring of 2016, the South African artist William Kentridge created a frieze of Roman history on a portion of the embankment wall that runs along the Tiber. Containing some eighty images, many of them more than thirty feet tall, the frieze stretches for a third of a mile along the river. Read More

Why Mission Matters Today

Susan VanZanten

The year 2017 was not a good year by any reckoning. The earth, our island home, has suffered high winds, earthquakes, mudslides, flooding, record heat spells, and wildfires. Ten hurricanes in ten weeks swept across Central and North America. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States. Read More

Dante in the Woods:
The Potential of the Para-University

Christopher S. Noble

I am a scholar in the woods. My classroom, nestled fourteen miles south of a main entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the High Sierra Humanities Program of Azusa Pacific University. My curriculum is composed of “core texts”—Dante, Augustine, Confucius, Teresa of Avila, William James, Dostoevsky, Zora Neale Hurston—even though no one in higher education today seems able to agree about what precisely those texts form the core of. Read More

"Use Nothing Only Once":
Believing Again with Roger Lundin, Emily Dickinson,
and Ron Rash

Martha Greene Eads

Roger read carefully, respectfully, and even lovingly the poetry, novels, essays, and letters of nineteenth-century women and men whose Christian faith often wore thin under the pressure of scientific advances, new streams of philosophy, and the everyday horrors of life.Read More

Also In This Issue
David L. Parkyn
Anthony Easton
Matthew Porto
Rachael Button
Tania Runyan
Cameron Alexander Lawrence
Marjorie Maddox


From Faith and Learning to Love and Understanding

Mark R. Schwehn

At the end of his celebrated work, A River Runs Through It, the post-Protestant writer Norman Maclean includes the following bit of dialogue between himself and his pastor father as the two of them struggle with grief and bewilderment in the aftermath of the death of Norman’s younger brother, Paul: Read More

Our Sentimental Poet? Mary Oliver in an Age of Excess

Debra Dean Murphy

Sentimentality is a charge leveled easily and often in these cynical times. We accuse poets, preachers, even politicians of what Oscar Wilde called 'the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.' But what is it exactly? Read More

I'll Sing On:
Treasure Hunts, Dead Composers, and Eternity

Jim Clemens

Not long after the great Y2K scare, I come across a small, early American tunebook on eBay. I’ve spent countless hours searching for additions to my small hoard of antique tunebooks and hymnals, but this one is new to me: The Christian Melodist, compiled and arranged by Deerin Farrer (never heard of him) and printed by William Williams (ditto) of Utica, New York, in 1828. It contains, so the title page shouts in all caps, “A GREAT VARIETY OF SACRED SONGS AND HYMNS, OF APPROVED EXCELLENCE. Approved excellence. How can I ignore that? Read More

Shocked by Grace:
Flannery O'Connor's Prophetic Politics of Love

James Paul Old

A volume that offers itself as a “political companion” to the author Flannery O’Connor faces a substantial challenge, since O’Connor is not generally thought of as a political author. Read More

Also In This Issue
David K. Weber
Thomas Albert Howard
Bethany Bowman
Lynn Domina
Anne Babson
Timothy E. G. Bartel


What Does the Reformation Mean for Us?
A Roundtable Discussion

Brian T. Johnson | Ronald K. Rittgers | Alissa Kretzmann | David King | Nura Esther Zaki | David Rojas Martinez | Katie Benjamin | Amelia Schroeder | Thomas Albert Howard

The evening of October 31, 2017—exactly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg—eight panelists at Valparaiso University engaged in a public ritual in which they remembered identity and shared personal narratives.They answered the question, “What does the Reformation mean for us?” Read More

Listen Up! Our Post-Reformation Approach to Music and Scripture

Josh Langhoff

By teaching the church how to listen to the Word, the Reformation began a centuries-long process of teaching the Western world how to read and listen to everything else. (When we say a certain book or passage “strikes a chord,” we realize how closely reading and listening are linked.) Read More

Northern Exposure: Russia's Influence on the Modern West

H. David Baer

Today, several of history’s reprising themes have converged to produce a new kind of Republican Party, one with a contingent that sympathizes with Russia. This turn of events, while startling, is not wholly without precedent, as those familiar with modern European history can see. Read More

The Word and the World

Tiffany Eberle Kreiner

When chemotherapy meant whole weeks during which nothing would be possible but drinking red Kool-Aid (no Gatorade or Ensure in those days!) and throwing it back up again, then One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish might help. (If you read it hard enough, long enough, again-and-again enough, it almost becomes like prayer.) Read More

The Tree Killers

Rebekah Curtis

My husband waits patiently as I pull on my boots. He puts down the hatchet and the spray bottle to help me get the baby situated in the sling carrier. I put on my hat, and the baby pulls it off. “Let’s be realistic,” I say, and my husband shrugs as I toss the hat back into the house. “Hope you like ticks,” he says, pulling the door shut behind us. We start up the hill. We are going to kill trees. Read More

Also In This Issue
Kim Suttell
Anya Silver
Sergio A. Ortiz
William Woolfitt
Jonathan Diaz
Bryan Dietrich
Luci Shaw


Homecoming at Middle Age

David C. Yamada

For many years after my 1981 graduation from Valparaiso University, I regarded my student days as spanning one of the duller stretches of U.S. history. As a late Baby Boomer, I had missed out on the Sixties experience, and the decade that followed seemed comparatively tame and banal. The overall state of politics and public affairs fueled much of that impression, but so too did popular culture (Captain & Tennille, anyone?) and the everyday experience of campus life. Read More

Can Christianity Save the Humanities?

Douglas Jacobsen & Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen

In 1995, the book How the Irish Saved Civilization became a best-seller by boldly claiming that Western civilization was preserved from utter destruction when the Roman Empire collapsed only through the holy resolve of heroic monks like Saint Columba and his co-laborers in Ireland. Historians have questioned the grandiosity of the book’s claim, but the book’s provocative title provides an apt metaphor for the potential relationship that exists between Christianity and the humanities in contemporary American higher education. In a time when the values of the humanities are being questioned, might Christianity offer a way to “save” the humanities from academic oblivion? Read More

The Polyvalent Potentiality of Vocation in Net-Zero Construction

Stewart Herman

As a youngster, I waited impatiently—and in vain—for my pastor to preach about the material world, the world I inhabited. He addressed the domain of the spirit, while I was fascinated by cars and model airplanes. I wanted to build, to make something. At about that time, H. Richard Niebuhr popularized (for theologians) the term “man the maker,” identifying the urge to create as a powerful human drive. I recall during my early adolescence standing at the crude workbench in our basement, racking my brain for an idea of something to build, and frustrated by my lack of skill. Perhaps Jesus with his years as a “tekton” could have imparted a suggestion, but not likely. The Jesus I heard about was far too busy with the more spiritual callings of healing and preaching—activities superior and irrelevant to my fascination with the material world. Read More

Four Things an Alien Civilization Would Learn about the West If All They Watched Was HBO's Westworld

Christina Bieber Lake

The original film Westworld is a campy delight. Produced in 1973, it can’t help its Cheez-Whiz feel. But the story, written by Michael Crichton, has a gold-mine of a premise that was just begging for an upgrade. It was no surprise that Jonathan Nolan teamed up with HBO to produce a new series by the same name. And it is fun, fun, fun. Read More

The Funny Thing about Idols

David Heddendorf

“Devices” we call them, the cunningly wrought objects we’re never without. Cradled lovingly, reached for unconsciously, clung to with a deep and mostly unacknowledged need, they’re at once our symbols of self-absorption and, increasingly, the locus of our public life. They disrupt our communion with God, family, friends. They steal our time. They lead us into temptation. Long before our children text and drive, or discover what sexting is, or succumb to cyberbullies, we leave them to their devices—like any Canaanite offering sons and daughters to Molech. Read More

Also In This Issue
Bill Stadick
Barbara Crooker
Chelsea Wagenaar


The Treasury of Valparaiso:
New Acquisitions in Context
at the Brauer Museum of Art

John Ruff

Here is one thing most people—even people at Valparaiso University—do not know: as unlikely as it is that a small Lutheran university in Northwest Indiana would have a basketball program as strong as Valpo’s, it is even more unlikely it would have a museum with a collection as rich and as deep as that which resides quietly and unobtrusively at the Brauer Museum of Art. Read More

An Order for Delivery:
How the Food and Birth Movements Connect,
and What One Can Learn from the Other

Agnes R. Howard

On a recent flight I sat behind a dad flying solo with three daughters, a comparative rarity from which it was hard to look away. The eldest in the window seat used earbuds to defend her personal space. The baby squirmed on the father’s lap. The middle child spent most of the flight watching construction of an elaborate cake on the Food Network, whisk attachment sending up billows of whipped cream, offset spatula spreading batter across the whole of the child’s small screen.  Read More

A New History Museum Tries to Get Religion

James B. LaGrand

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the latest history museum to be added to the Mall in Washington, D.C., is approaching its first birthday. It has already proved a massive success. It has drawn well over a million visitors and created a buzz about how to acquire the much-coveted advance online passes. Read More

Deaf in the Brain

Gary Fincke

When my father looked confused, his neighbor told him to put the car in neutral and steer while he pushed it into the street. My father didn’t move, but he let his neighbor open the car door and do as he pleased. In a minute the car was parked along the curb. “Bill,” his neighbor said, “look at all that gas on the ground. You’re lucky you didn’t blow yourself up. What did you run over?”  Read More

Al Spangler

Thomas C. Willadsen

Three years ago my passengers were in the Congo hiding from war’s crossfire. Now they are in my Prius on slippery Wisconsin roads, maybe not fearing for their lives, but certainly wondering, “How did we get here? And who is this guy driving the car?”  Read More

Also In This Issue
Jeanne Murray Walker
Andrew D. Miller
Julie Sumner
Julie L. Moore
Tiffany Eberle Kriner