Guests on Volume 74: Russell Moore, on the struggles at Baylor University, “soul competency,” and the Baptist culture of autonomy; W. Bradford Wilcox, on the characteristics of “soft patriarchy” in evangelical families; Joseph E. Davis, on sexual abuse, how it is explained, and how a sense of identity is thereby formed; Barrett Fisher, on the remarkable achievement of film producer Ismail Merchant; Jeanne Murray Walker and Darryl Tippens, on overcoming the neglect of literature that highlights the spiritual dimension of human experience; and Paul Walker, on the life and music of English organist and composer Thomas Tallis, 1505-1585.
Professor of theology Russell Moore describes how two doctrines have evolved in Southern Baptist theology and discusses Baylor University’s efforts to strengthen its commitment to Christian scholarship. In some Southern Baptist circles, “soul competency” and “priesthood of the believer” have come to mean that members of the church cannot be held accountable for what they believe about, or how they practice, the faith. These doctrines have not always denoted such individualism. Late in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth, Moore explains, Southern Baptists sought to embrace the modern world and in so doing adopted tenets of liberal Protestant theology. These tenets encouraged individualism in the church, which is manifest still when members of the church reject the work of others trying to uphold an orthodox Baptist doctrine, states Moore.
Professor W. Bradford Wilcox, author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, addresses why many in contemporary society are suspicious of the authoritative structure of evangelical Protestant families. They assume, he explains, that structures of authority necessarily lead to the abuse of women and children; but in active evangelical families (as opposed to nominal ones), such is not the case. The data Wilcox gathered for his book demonstrate that the families in question have fewer instances of domestic abuse and more instances of hugging and praising their children than other families. Wilcox notes where the stereotype, to which his evidence is contrary, comes from. He also describes what many in sociology think will become of the family as an institution as society becomes increasingly egalitarian.
In his book Accounts of Innocence: Sexual Abuse, Trauma, and the Self, professor Joseph Davis studies the stories adults tell about surviving sexual abuse as children in order to determine what motivates people to tell stories about being victims. His conclusion, he states, is that people tell the stories in order to purge their “true” selves, leave behind the self that has been damaged, and move on with life unburdened. Accounts of such trauma began to permeate society in the 1960s; since then the nature of the accounts has changed, notes Davis. They now tend to be uniform—implying that all people respond the same way to abuse—and to revel in “displays of pathology.” Absent from the tales are both unique descriptions of how people dealt with abuse, and mention of the growth, strength, and healing that victims of sexual abuse can experience.
Professor Barrett Fisher discusses the films of producer and director Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. While some critics dismiss their films as insubstantial because of their opulence and popularity, asserting that they belong to the “Laura Ashley school of filmmaking,” not all critics would agree with that characterization. Fisher is in the latter camp and states why the films ought not be so easily dismissed. He sites Merchant and Ivory’s commitment, from the beginning of their 44-year run together, to multiculturalism; their intricate portrayal of various cultures, complete with their dedication to shooting on location in order to better capture a culture; and their insistence on producing well-written and well-acted works. Merchant and Ivory began their filmmaking career together with films shot and set in India, and eventually became famous for their productions of great works of literature such as Howard’s End and Room with a View.
Professors Jeanne Murray Walker and Darryl Tippens discuss the disappearance of references to the sacred from the canon of literature taught in colleges and universities. They, together with professor Steven Weathers, are the editors of Shadow and Light: Literature and the Life of Faith, a selection of readings not included in other anthologies. Walker and Tippens state that it is important to introduce students to stories, novels, and poems about spiritual quests and the transcendent. They note the challenges of training minds unused to reading allegories or metaphors. They also describe students’ reactions to allegory once they know how to read it, and their hunger for the portrayals literature provides of spiritual quests.
Professor and music director Paul Walker discusses the talents of English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). Tallis, who was employed under four successive monarchs, inherited a choral tradition with “long roots” but lived during a time when the requirements for music used in the church were changing. Both the Reformation and the revival of humanism on the Continent encouraged musicians to write short anthems with English texts that moved people emotionally as well as intellectually. Tallis, who was capable of composing complicated pieces with page-long melismas (as in his Gaude gloriosa), responded to the changing requirements with finesse, producing works with clear structure and straightforward texts. Walker describes two of Tallis’s songs that are considered standards of English anthem writing, “If ye love me,” and “Hear the voice and prayer.”
Composer Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) is a seminal figure in the history of English music states organist and musicologist Paul Walker. The Protestant Reformation was establishing itself in England during Tallis’s tenure and with it came demands for music different from the traditional. Anthems there had been Medieval in style and written in languages other than English for large, Gothic spaces. In order to comply with both appeals for change from the monarchs he worked under and the spirit of the Reformation, Tallis considered the works of European composers. For years before he came of age they had been writing works for small spaces, in the language of those who would be singing and hearing the songs, and crafted to the text the music was to convey; Tallis adopted and adapted their techniques and thus ushered in a new age for the English choral tradition.