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New Issue of The Cresset

The Cresset: A Review of Literature, the Arts, and Public Affairs

Vol. LXXXII, No. 5

Trinity cover

On the Cover: Corey Hagelberg (1983-). Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Steel, 2016.  Woodcut on mulberry paper, AP, 34 × 20 inches (image), 39 1/2 × 25 1/2 inches (paper). Gift of the artist. Brauer Museum of Art, 2017.11.001.

Welcome Back!

The latest issue of the Cresset was published over the summer and features writing from  Valpo’s Agnes Howard, James Old, George Heider, and many other contributors. All content is on our website and listed below.

If you are not currently receiving a print copy but would like to, please let me know. And if you are interested in writing for the Cresset, please be in touch! Our guidelines are here.

Happy reading, and best wishes for the fall semester.

Heather Grennan Gary


All in the Family: Making Over Motherhood for Mutual Flourishing
Agnes R. Howard

The Glory of the Stars: Thoughts on Dreading the New Heaven and the New Earth
Kelsey Lahr

Winesburg and the Whys of Life
Joel Kurz

A Dorothy for the Twenty-First Century: Stranger ThingsThe Wizard of Oz, and Contemporary Dreams of Home
Jennifer L. Miller

How to Hold on Loosely and Know When to Let Go
Thomas C. Willadsen


Dissertation on the Art of Flying
Chris Harold

B. R. Strahan

I’ve Made Plans to Sail
Joshua Alan Sturgill

On Being Asked What Would Jesus Do in IKEA
Matthew Landrum

Any Tree, Incredibly
Jacob Walhout

I May Not Look Anxious
Tania Runyan

Pond Dream
J. T. Ledbetter

Night Holds Its Breath
Kathleen Gunton


In Luce Tua
On the Poets


Mark Lomax II’s 400: An Afrikan Epic

Josh Langhoff

Sara MacDonald and Barry Craig’s The Coen Brothers and the Comedy of Democracy

James Paul Old


In Memoriam, Alma Mater
George C. Heider

All in the Cards
Rebekah Curtis

The Cresset, a journal of commentary on literature, the arts, and public affairs, explores ideas and trends in contemporary culture from a perspective grounded in the Lutheran tradition of scholarship, freedom, and faith while informed by the wisdom of the broader Christian community.It is published by Valparaiso University five times per year.

Posted by Joseph S. Goss

From the Colloquium

This semester, the Postdoctoral Fellows’ weekly colloquium has been led by Senior Fellows Thomas A. (Tal) Howard and Agnes Howard, while Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass are revising their book Leading Lives That Matter at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, MN. The discussion led by Tal and Agnes has been lively, and also challenging. As we reflect on current trends in higher education, and the callings to which we respond, we see a need for disciplined work and the importance of continual re-evaluation of our places in and the purpose of the academy.

How are we called and to what ends? This is the question that led off the semester. Two famous pilgrims spurred our discussion: Jonah and Dante. These two figures are helpful for “compare and contrast”: to whom do we relate? Do we ever feel tempted to ignore or resist the call? What “dark woods” must we pass through in order to achieve what we are called to do? And what counts as a successful response to the call? Some of these questions, illuminated by Jonah and Dante, also were addressed in the Fellows’ ensuing narration of some of the “awakenings” encountered in their own scholarly, teacherly, writerly, and artistic journeys.

Two important, foundational texts for the Lilly Fellows Program then came to the fore: Max Weber’s “Science as a Vocation” (Wissenschaft als Beruf) and Mark Schwehn’s Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America. The latter, of course, provides much of the intellectual capital for the LFP itself. As we read Schwehn’s response to Weber, we consider the nature of our work as Christian scholars—the “Christian-ness” of our scholarship—and its relation to the overall ethos of the modern university. To what extent must we adapt to the institution? What exactly do we seek to achieve through the distinctiveness of our Christian academic work?

The tension between secular and religious academic concerns remained in view through the discussion of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s “Tertullian’s Enduring Question”—What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? Or, put another way, what obligations do Christian academics have to non-Christian scholarship and texts? Which ones should we read, and how should we honor them? The question rises in importance as the disciplines themselves generate ever more scholarly material, not all of which is sympathetic to Christian thought and practice. Wolsterstorff’s pedagogy enjoins care and respect even for authors outside our traditions.

Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture provided further challenges to the Christian academic. Arguing for the importance of festival, even in academia, Pieper stresses that academics should not fall victim to the idea of “total work,” according to which intellectual work becomes subservient to the market. The quest for employment, and tenure, place imperatives on academic work. Pieper’s work reminds us not to leave aside leisurely, contemplative work that takes place outside the economic realm.

After attending the LFP’s National Conference at Hope College, the Fellows engaged with a young writer’s existential angst as described in Flannery O’Connor’s “The Enduring Chill.” Her main character, Asbury, presents as unworthy of our sympathy, in his childishness, snobbishness, and inability to engage in true communion with others. The group wrestled with diagnosing Asbury’s true illness, and whether or not his form of suffering was redemptive, and even, sometimes, characteristic of academic work, with its ups and downs, misunderstandings, and failure of imagination. But the other characters provide examples of pedagogical insight, and we are left, at the end of the story, wondering if this young writer has learned something important about himself, and might even begin to live differently.

Asbury’s existential crisis is personal, but the “crisis of the humanities” is institutional. Articles by Justin Stover, Ross Douthat, and James Turner provided an entry into this broader issue. The group analyzed several controversial claims about the humanities, including whether or not there really is a crisis, such that humanities disciplines may be endangered, or at least diminishing in their cultural impact. Is the argument about instrumentalism, or technology, or class divisions? Is there a purpose to the humanities—and is such a thing necessary? Moreover, if there is a crisis, can we defend the humanities from attack? This session brought us face to face with important institutional questions.

Many important questions in academia also arise from the importance placed on “scholarship.” Susan VanZanten, Dean of Christ College at Valparaiso University, led the group in a discussion of parts of her work Joining the Mission: A Guide for (Mostly) New College Faculty. One main concern of new faculty (including our Fellows) is the way in which scholarship is defined and valued. Among other things, Joining the Mission argues for the validity of Ernest Boyer’s 1997 definition and division of scholarship into four categories: the scholarship of discovery; of integration; of application; and of teaching. VanZanten suggests that new faculty need to understand their institutions’ priorities and work within them, but maintain a sense of calling by reflecting often on what brought them to the academy in the first place. Moreover, VanZanten reminds her readers that Sabbatarian practice is essential for staying healthy in a place where it all-too-often happens that faculty simply work too much. Scholarship has, in different places, several different, valuable varieties, which can help us not feel overly constrained by the scholarly imperatives. However, young faculty need to remember life outside of scholarship, too.

Future sessions this semester will take the group into new territory, with a discussion of the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, led by Orthodox theologian Prof. Nicholas Denysenko and Prof. Tal Howard; a discussion of new academic work on boredom, led by Prof. Kevin Gary, of Valparaiso University; and a screening and discussion of Joseph Ceder’s satiric film Footnote (2011).

Posted by Joseph Goss 

The Cresset, Vol. LXXXII, No. 1

The Cresset: A Review of Literature, the Arts, and Public Affairs

Greetings from Linwood House!

Need an antidote to the anger, fear, and polarization gripping our country and our world? The Cresset has you covered! Check out the latest issue online. Contributors include Valpo faculty member Nicholas Denysenko and alumni Josh LanghoffCharles Andrews, and Kurt Krueger.

If you are not currently receiving a print copy and would like to, please contact us at And if you are interested in contributing to the Cresset, take a look at the guidelines and please be in touch. I’m glad to answer any questions or discuss ideas.

Happy reading,

Heather Grennan Gary



Essays & Columns


Engaging My Opponent:
Spiritual Healing for Broken Public Discourse

Nicholas Denysenko

“Can Two Walk Together Unless They Be Agreed?”:
Traditions, Vocations, and Christian Universities in the
Twenty-First Century

Caroline J. Simon

Gary Fincke

“A Distinguished Composition of SIgnificant Dimension”:
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Reminds Listeners that the Pulitzer Prize for Music Can Go to Exciting and Unexpected Works

Josh Langhoff

Hope and History: Three Views
Peter Dula

The Night the Beatles Came to Church
Kurt Krueger

Addicted Selves
Joel Kurz

Making a Difference
Thomas C. Willadsen




One Time
B.P. Miller

Dove Sta Memoria
Matthew Porto

Responsive Reading of the Sadduceean Creed
David Wright

Desert Parable
Jen Stewart Fueston

Michael Schmidtke

Christopher Lee Miles

How I Saturday in the Suburbs
Bill Stadick

The Night the Pastor’s Wife Loses Her Salvation
Jill Bergkamp

John Fry




Tania Runyan’s What Will Soon Take Place

Reviewed by Nathaniel Lee Hansen

Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

Reviewed by Charles Andrews




In Luce Tua

On the Poets


From the Colloquium, Graduate Fellows Edition

Since 2006, the Lilly Fellows Program  has published a “From the Colloquium” column about four times per year. The idea behind this column is to share some of the common readings from the colloquia of the Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows Program and the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program. These works can be of great value for mentoring programs or faculty development projects at different campuses (or to add to your own reading lists).

Common readings and group discussion have been central to the Lilly Fellows Program’s (LFP) fellowship programs from their start twenty-nine years ago. First with the Lilly Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship program at Valparaiso University starting in 1992 and then with the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program in 2008, Fellows have encountered readings intended to engage Christian thought and practice as they intersect the tasks of teaching and scholarship that make up the work we do in the academy. The readings address these issues on both the personal and institutional level, examining our individual practices as scholars as well as those of our academic institutions (with, of course, a special emphasis on those institutions of higher learning that connect to a church-related mission).

Once a year, we focus on the readings that the three active cohorts of Lilly Graduate Fellows discuss. These Fellows are in their first three years of Graduate school. Each semester, the Lilly Graduate Fellow cohorts select readings that cluster around a particular theme. Here are some of those readings.

Members of the Eighth Cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, who began graduate work in fall, 2015, addressed the topic, “Scholarship as a Christian Vocation” in fall, 2017, and the topic, “Scholarship, Secularization, and vocation as a Calling,” in spring, 2018. The Mentors for the Eighth Cohort are Patrick Byrne of Boston College and Susan VanZanten of Valparaiso University. To grapple with the fall topic, the cohort read: Paul Griffiths’ commentary on The Song of Songs, selections from The Secularization of the Academy edited by George Marsden and Bradley Longfield, Marsden’s The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, Bernard Lonergan, “Sacralization and Secularization,” Michael Hamilton, “The Elusive Idea of Christian Scholarship, Charles Taylor’s essay “A Catholic Modernity” and Rosemary Luling Haughton’s “Transcendence and the Bewilderment of Being Moder,” both in James Heft, ed. A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor’s Marianist Award Lecture, Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” James V. Schal’s “What is a Lecture?” and short selection from his On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs, G.K. Chesterton’s “Introductioon to the Book of Job,” and musical selections:  Gabriel Fauré, Requiem, VI: “Libera me, Domine”; Johannes Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, VI: “Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt”; and Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection”, V: Finale, “Aufersteh’n.”  In the spring, the cohort read selections from William Placher’s Callings—a work often used by the Fellows—Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz, Patrick J. DeNeen’s “Against Great Books,” selections from Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness, Selections from Emmanuel Falque’ “The Metamorphosis of Finitude,” Peter Coviello and Jared Hickman, “Introduction: After the Postsecular,” Khaled Furani, “Is There a Postsecular,” and Douglas Koskela’s Calling and Clarity. At their final conference, they discussed Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead.

The members of the Ninth Cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, who completed the second year of their fellowship and who began their graduate studies in the fall of 2016, have been mentored by Douglas Henry of Baylor University and Gretchen J. Van Duke of The University of Scranton. The themes for the year was “Strangers and Sojourners: Learning, Telling, Teaching, and Reaching for Truth.” Rather than a single “spine text” and accompanying articles, the cohort focused on three works: Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness, Paul J. Griffiths’ Intellectual Appetite, and Thomas Merton’s The Seven Story. Griffith’s work in Intellectual Appetite—essentially an interrogation of intellectual pursuit from a Christian theological lens—has long stimulated intense debate among graduate fellows. Though many disagree with his arguments, they nevertheless offer, to many of us, an important opportunity to examine some of the most central claims about the “creation of knowledge”—an ideal at the heart of the academic enterprise. At their summer conference, the Cohort examined the theme, “Marked By the Sign of the Cross: Living Blessed Lives in the Midst of Faith and Doubt” by reading biblical texts on the story of Abraham and Sarah and the complex person of Peter, along with some Psalms illustrating the wide range of biblical accounts of hardship and uncertainty. They also discussed C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Immaculée Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell, and they screened the film Of Gods and Men. They also discussed Ron Hansen’s Exiles, Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal, and the poetry of Denise Levertov.

The members of the Tenth Cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, who began graduate school and the program in fall 2017, read and discussed materials focused, in the fall, on the theme “Hospitality” and in the spring on the theme, “Intellection and Affection OR Keeping the Body and Soul Together in Graduate School.”  The Tenth Cohort’s mentors are Lisa DeBoer of Westmont College and John Ware of Xavier University of Louisiana. For the theme of “Hospitality,” the Tenth Cohort read Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me, Amy Oden’s And You Welcomed Me, Christine Pohl’s Making Room, John Witvliet and Martin Tel, Eds., Psalms for All Seasons, The Rule of Benedict, Augustine’s Confessions, Sayings of the Desert Fathers (trans. Benedicta Ward), and they viewed the film, Of Gods and Men. To address the spring’s theme, they read James Elkin’s Pictures and Tears, which examines the role of emotion in scholarship, Tom Stoppard’s play, Arcadia, Simone Weil’s Waiting for God, and TaNehisi Coats’ Between the World and Me. For their annual summer conference, cohort members read and discussed George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

Posted by Joe Creech





Summer Reading from Lilly Network Writers

The Cresset: A Review of Literature, the Arts, and Public Affairs

Vol. LXXXI, No. 4

Dear Lilly Network friends,

The latest issue of the Cresset is on its way to you this week, with many articles of interest. While you’re waiting, take a look online at pieces from LFP-connected authors Stephanie Paulsell, Susan VanZanten,Christopher S. Noble, Marti Eads, Jennifer Miller, and Joe Creech. The full contents are below and at our website.

Happy reading,
Heather Grennan Gary
THE REFUGEES by P. Solomon Raj

P. Solomon Raj (b. 1921). The Refugees, undated.
Used with permission from the Brauer Museum of Art.
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