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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Created for Creativity

Steven R. Guthrie

Late last September, a week or so before the conference that gave rise to this essay, I was lying in bed, desperately wanting to sleep. Instead, I was wide awake with anxiety—thinking about the talk I was to give, how quickly it was coming up, and how very far it was from being written. As I lay there, I offered up a sleepy prayer that went something like: “Oh God, please give me words and ideas for this presentation!” Those who heard the talk I ended up giving can judge whether or not God answered that prayer in particular! A much more interesting question, however, is how we should think about such prayers in general: whether God indeed answers them, and, if so, how. The theme of the conference at which I was speaking was: “Created for Creativity.”  Read More

Look at Your Fish

Jason Crawford

Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) was a Swiss naturalist who made a career for many years at Harvard and whose name still pops up all over the place: on various structures and streets around Cambridge, MA; on natural formations in Arizona, California, outer space, and the deep geological past; in the given name of at least one eminent scientist, the American ornithologist Louis Agassiz Fuentes; and in the scientific classifications of various species, such as Gopherus agassizii, the desert tortoise. Agassiz was a pioneering investigator of the fossil record, the ice age, and the taxonomy of animal life... Read More

Petroglyphs, Unpublished Poetry,
and the Urge to Leave a Mark

Michael Kramer


I had become just a little enraptured by petroglyphs, those scratchings etched into rock whether deeply or just scarring the varnish rock acquires when exposed to the elements over a period of time. I had seen them on walls and boulders on travels with my family. I had, of course, studied them in conjunction with archaeology and anthropology, two disciplines closely aligned to my stock in trade of history and literature. But my first trip to Sedona with my wife began to intensify all that. We were staying in a lovely timeshare built to resemble the Hopi pueblos famous east and north of that Arizona destination. Native American ruins and remnants dot the landscape in the Verde Valley... Read More

Searching for Jerusalem:
Christian Scholarship in Theory and in Practice

Jennifer L. Miller


As an undergraduate at Valparaiso University, I was drawn to the ways in which the campus embraced academic scholarship and Christian faith together, as complementary elements in a person’s life, rather than as opposing forces. A hymn frequently sung at convocation and commencement refers to the campus as both “Athens and Jerusalem,” a center of both intellectual and spiritual wisdom. The university’s motto “In luce tua videmus lucem”—“In Thy Light, We See Light”—is a wonderful expression of how faith enhances scholarship.  But Valpo does more than just talk about faith and scholarship. Many of my professors modeled how rigorous academic inquiry could be rooted in Christian belief with their own scholarship and their interactions with students... Read More

Also In This Issue


In Their Own Language:
Toward a Receptive Ecumenism in
Christian Higher Education

Richard Ray

What does it mean to be a Christian college? The answer to this question, as it turns out, depends on whom you ask. For some, a college is Christian only if it reflects in a deep, organic way the commitments of its founding denomination. To others, this commitment might render such a college a living embodiment of error, a place that promotes heresy in one form or another. Are these two ends of the continuum irreconcilable? Can professors teach, can students learn, and can each grow in faith on a college campus where an ecology of spiritual gift and reception provides the dominant ethos?... Read More

Protestants, Catholics, and Christian-Muslim Dialogue
on the Church-Related Campus

Anthony Minnema

Recent events at Liberty University and Wheaton College have raised concerns about Islamophobia at church-related colleges and universities. First, Liberty University’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr. encouraged students to obtain concealed-carry permits after the San Bernardino shootings, arguing that “if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in, and kill them.” Second, Wheaton College placed Professor Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave for comments on Facebook in which she stated that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Although Wheaton initiated proceedings to terminate Hawkins’ tenure for failing to uphold the college’s statement of faith, both parties have since come to a confidential agreement that resulted in Hawkins’ resignation from the college... Read More

Broken Bell:
Some Thoughts on Parenting and Poetry

Kjerstin Anne Kauffman

I have three young children. For me, the question “why write?” carries urgency. Why spend precious hours and strenuous mental effort over imperfect poems while battling hormones, leaking breast milk, and desperately in need of sleep? On the other hand, why have another child, and then another, when the timing might not be convenient, when, given the drive to write, there would be more solitude, more time for thought without them?

The urge to mother and the urge to write poems coexist in me. There are philosophical reasons for doing both, to be sure: I act according to my own set of premises about sexuality, creativity, and the good life. More than that, though, these urges are fundamentally connected for me, each dealing with the mystery of life at its source, each making me vulnerable to the suffering of others, and each exposing me to my own moral contradiction, which is a form of pain... Read More

Also In This Issue


Christianity Is a Spirituality

Thomas Cathcart

Before there were Christian “beliefs,” there was Christian spirituality. Before the council of bishops at Nicea decided that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, there was Christian spirituality. Before the Council of Chalcedon decided that Jesus Christ has two natures, divine and human, there was Christian spirituality. Indeed, before the title “Son of God” was ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth, there was Christian spirituality. On that first Easter, the extraordinary experiences of Jesus’s followers were spiritual experiences. Apart from how any of them chose to put it into words, the experience itself was a spiritual “shaking of the foundations,” not an empirical observation or a metaphysical theory...  Read More

The 1998 North-Central Iowa
Spring Break Blizzard Tour

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

One way to describe the tour is like this: almost everything went wrong, almost nothing went right. If we had been seeking a sign from the Lord as to whether this Christian rock band was, in fact, His calling on our lives, we would have observed that the events of these three days created an eight-foot snow bank that featured an ALL CAPS, bold-faced, underlined, italicized, red NO spray painted against the white pile. But we weren’t looking for any kind of sign, at least I wasn’t. The offer of the tour was the sign. While other college students in Minnesota and across the country plotted balmy debauchery and revelry, the four of us in Incarnate Son (Mike, Matt, Jen, and me) were going on tour. For the Lord! We weren’t traveling just anywhere to win the lost; we were booked to play two shows in North-Central Iowa towns of 4,000 and 2,000 people, respectively. What better spring-break destination than these sub-tropical hot spots in mid-March?... Read More

A Seed of Life: The Legacy of Hugo Curran

Joel Kurz


I reveled in his presence as a child. His lips, surrounded by amber-stained silver hairs, often parted with the undulating rhythms of his rhymes. His were inviting words, replete with imaged echoes. To look into his eyes was to see a mystic’s intensity and restraint, to see that he was a man both quiet and ecstatic, one mindful of his vision and ever bearing witness. I knew him simply as Uncle Hugo, even though he was more of a grandfather and bore no blood relation. Born to an accomplished forester and his wife in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September of 1913, he was named Hugh McCollum Curran, Jr. When he was fifteen, his father took a position with the Philippine Bureau of Forestry and moved the family to the island of Luzon.  Read More

A Short History of Hair

Gary Fincke

Near the end of May 1965, with just a week of final exams left in my sophomore year of college, I spent a Saturday afternoon bleaching my hair. I had help—my roommate and another fraternity brother who claimed he knew just how much hydrogen peroxide would make us blond. After a few beers, I believed him. My brown hair had grown past my collar, a length that drew suspicion even on campus. My roommate’s light-brown hair was clipped short; the other guy still slicked his black hair back like Elvis. The three of us soaked our hair and, satisfied that we were about to be transformed, we went outside to lie in the sun, drink beer, and wait for blondness to arrive. We checked every half hour, looking in the bathroom’s mirrors...  Read More

Also In This Issue
Peter Kerry Powers
Josh Langhoff

Not Just Whistling "Dixie":
The Civil War’s Legacy in Ron Rash’s
The World Made Straight

Martha Greene Eads


Appalachian poet and fiction-writer Ron Rash is emerging as an international literary superstar. Irish novelist Edna O’Brien’s back-cover endorsement of his 2014 short story collection Nothing Gold Can Stay declares, “Like his great predecessors, Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and especially Eudora Welty, Ron Rash’s stories are rooted in the American South and from that place and those people, he writes marvelously rich and compelling vignettes of life as he has seen and imagined it.” In her assessment of Burning Bright (2010), an earlier volume of Rash short stories, Irish Times reviewer Eileen Battersby proclaims, “Magnificent is suddenly too small a word.”...  Read More

Still a Work in Progress:
Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman

Fredrick Barton


The late Civil Rights activist and author Will D. Campbell, the only white man to participate in Martin Luther King Jr.’s founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), liked to tell about how white people, particularly prosperous white people, reacted to his message of racial equality and inclusiveness. In the late 1940s, when he was at Yale Divinity School, but still interacting with the people in his home region of rural Mississippi, and in the early 1950s, when he pastored a Baptist church in small-town Taylor, Louisiana, Campbell’s white associates and parishioners found his attitudes about race “endearing” and “charming.” They found it “cute” that Campbell cared so much about “darkies.” By the mid-1950s and throughout the 1960s, however...  Read More

Stories for a Post-Christian Age:
Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens

David K. Weber

book cover  

“What is man?” to ask an old question in an old way. Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a new answer to the old question. The first thing to say about this book is that it is not as boring as the title suggests. The book began as a university course that promised students an explanation of everything, “from the Stone Age to the age of capitalism and genetic engineering” (Harari, “Syllabus...”). Given the large swath of history and ideas it covers, the book is necessarily a catalogue of very interesting oversimplifications. Its aim is to help us envision a new kind of wisdom because, “The very future of life on Earth depends on the ideas and behavior of our species” (“Syllabus...”)...
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For Such a Time as This

Lorraine S. Brugh

In ways writ both small and large, the landscape of North American worship renewal has just passed an important milestone. The year 2013 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, whose reforms opened the way to renovations and innovations in Roman Catholic worship. Primary among those reforms was the translation of the mass into the languages of the people who worshiped...  Read More

Also In This Issue


Surviving Ferguson
Hope in the Midst of Everyday Horrors

Harold K. Bush


W.E.B. Du Bois was more than fed up with the common phenomenon in America that had become known as lynching. He didn’t just detest the practice; he honestly wondered if it represented an evil that might destroy the nation itself. For decades, scores of young men had been subjected to mob violence, most often black victims of white mobs. But it was one particular case that brought Du Bois’s imagination to a full boil: the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas in May of that year. It was a gory affair, attended by thousands of curious Texans, many of them with their families....  Read More

Pigs Is Equal

Gayle Boss


Last summer, I signed up for “A Day on the Farm,” a group tour of a large Indiana swine breeding operation. Then I came home and re-read Charlotte’s Web. Something about the pigs I looked at that day—no, I mean something in the way a particular pig looked at me—made me remember the story’s singular pig, Wilbur. It had been at least a decade since I’d read the book to my children, four since I’d read it as a child myself. I didn’t remember that the story opens not with the pig, but with a bold eight-year-old girl, Fern Arable, who throws herself at her father as he is on his way to apply an ax to a newborn runt pig... Read More

Augustine, Genesis, and Natural Science

Jarrett Carty


In 1869, Andrew Dickson White, then president of newly founded Cornell University, gave a lecture entitled “The Battle-Fields Of Science” in the great hall of New York’s Cooper Union  He argued that science had been constantly engaged in a great war with religion, particularly Christianity, and that the progress of scientific truths was constantly and invariably impeded by the interests of Christian clerics. Many years later after a long career as an academic and a diplomat, his History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom (1896) expanded the argument into a popular indictment of Christianity as a force of scientific ignorance and intellectual repression.... Read More

Also In This Issue
Geoffrey C. Bowden
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