The dual-career couple

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“In almost half the two-parent households in the United States (compared with 31% in 1970), both parents work full-time. Still, companies struggle to anticipate and mitigate the effects on their talent pipelines…. The crux of the problem is that companies tend to have fixed paths to leadership roles, with set tours of duty and long-held ideas about what ambition looks like. That creates rigid barriers for employees—and recruitment and retention challenges for their employers, many of whom are failing to consider the whole person when mapping out high potentials’ career trajectories. To reap the benefits of their investments in human capital, organizations must adopt new strategies for managing and developing talent.”

Jennifer Petriglieri, “Talent Management and the Dual-Career Couple,” Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018 (pp.106–113)




[2] Hodge’s Cultural Context

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Posts in the Series

  1. “Slaveholder Religion?”
  2. “Hodge’s Cultural Contexts”


In my last post, I laid out my thesis concerning Charles Hodge and 19th Century slavery. It is, in brief, that Hodge is popularly misconstrued as pro-slavery. My research has led me to characterize Hodge as a third way between abolitionists and pro-slavery Southerners. He accepted slavery as a temporary economic arrangement but favored gradual emancipation. Obviously, as Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out in Letter from Birmingham City Jail, it’s easy to say “wait” when you’re a person who enjoys power and privilege. 

Hodge’s Mission

Hodge felt a duty to biblically shape the thought of both the church and the nation on the pressing issue of slavery. His conviction that the church may speak only on the basis of biblical warrant led him to occupy a mediating position between the abolitionists and those defending slavery. This mediating position has made interpreting Hodge a challenge.

At the same time, it is important to note that Hodge was not simply a disinterested bystander; this despite his claim of employing a disinterested theological method.[1]Allen Guelzo has noted that slaveholding was every bit as much a part of Hodge’s milieu as the ideas of Francis Bacon and James McCosh.[2 ]In order for Hodge to condemn slaveholding he would virtually have to condemn his “entire milieu.”[3]Princeton, for example, had one of the highest ratios of “whites” to “slaves,” an indication both of New Jersey’s “relaxed” attitude to slavery and of its affluence.[4]Hodge himself owned two slaves although our knowledge of their life as part of the Hodge household is limited.[5]

Interpreters vary in their assessment of Hodge’s position. Larry Tise, for example, numbers Hodge among those clergy offering “a defense of slavery which argued in favor of the indefinite perpetuation of slavery.”[6]He also describes Hodge’s contributions to The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review as “perhaps the most important and instructive contributions toward the formation of a national proslavery ideology of any nineteenth-century American.”[7]

Andrew Hoffecker, on the other hand, understands Hodge to occupy a mediating position between the two dominant schools of thought.[8]Allen Guelzo sees Hodge as generally conciliatory with the South out of a dread of division, among other things, but marked by several critical “anti-slavery moments.”[9]

Hodge’s Foundational Commitments

In assessing Hodge’s views on slavery it is important to bear in mind the, sometimes competing, priorities that undergirded his approach. These include: (1) the Presbyterian Church’s fidelity to Scripture; (2) the unity of the Presbyterian church; (3) the abolition of slavery; (4) the preservation of the Union; and, (5) the welfare of Princeton Theological Seminary. The first three are easily evinced in Hodges writing, but it is only by moving beyond his published works that one gets a glimpse of Hodge as guardian of Princeton Seminary.[10]

Fidelity to Scripture

Hodge’s principle concern was that the Presbyterian church be thoroughly shaped and informed by the witness of Holy Scripture. His goal was, “to ascertain the scriptural rule of judgment and conduct in relation to [slavery].”[11]Hodge abandoned biblical literalism and, according to Noll, acknowledged that the several parts of Scripture dealing with the issue of slavery must be read in their cultural context.[12]Thus, Hodge was able to affirm slavery as permissible, but effectively (if not actually) exclude the practice as expressed in Southern slave laws.[13]The evolution of Southern views on slavery concerned him so greatly that by the mid-1850s Hodge had come to view Southern clerical proslavery arguments as essentially “a new set of doctrines.”[14]

The unity of church and nation

In addition, Hodge cared deeply both for the unity of the Presbyterian church and the union of the states. He did not wish to see American Presbyterianism torn asunder over the issue of slavery. Nor did he wish to see the union divided although he practically acknowledged that legislation concerning slavery was a state (not a federal) question.

In this, he compared slavery to despotism and argued that Northerners could no more demand Southern emancipation than Americans could demand the overthrow of the Russian nobility.[15]The states were, according to Hodge’s view, virtually individual countries with respect to slavery.[16]

The abolition of slavery

Perhaps ironically, Hodge averred in several places that the abolition of slavery was something he desired.[17]Yet that desire was balanced with his desire for societal stability and the maintenance of order in the church and the world. The gradual improvement of the condition of slaves would, in Hodge’s view, produce their eventual manumission.[18]

In somewhat paternalistic tones, Hodge argued that if whites could attempt, “to instruct, to civilize, to evangelize the slaves, to make them as good as we can, as intelligent, moral, and religious,” surely the result would be peace.[19] While this surely sounds condescending to modern ears, the fear of black violence was a significant rationale for the indefinite perpetuation of slavery in the American South.

The welfare of Princeton Seminary

In the first half of the century, according to David Torbett, Hodge viewed “the defenders of slavery [as posing] less of a threat than those who opposed slavery in the wrong way.”[20]

Abolitionism threatened the health of the seminary, for several reasons.

First, approximately one-third of Princeton Seminary students came from slaveholding states and, presumably, did not favor abolition.[21]

Second, as an institution of the General Assembly, the seminary served and represented the entire country and not simply the North.

Third, the seminary was strongly associated with the Old School—as noted above—and was careful to avoid giving offense to a constituency whose primary view of slavery was that of gradual emancipation.[22]

As the century progressed, however, it became clear to Hodge that the South would be forced to defend slavery by quitting the union.[23]This precipitated a change in Hodge’s approach that will be explored in our next post.


[1]Mark Noll, “Charles Hodge a Expositor of the Spiritual Life,” in John W. Stewart and James H. Moorhead, eds. Charles Hodge Revisited: A Critical Appraisal of His Life and Work. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 197.

[2]Guelzo, “Charles Hodge’s Antislavery Moment,” 308.

[3]Ibid. Guelzo notes that among the Northern states, New Jersey was one of the most gradualist in its approach to emancipation. A bill establishing the gradual emancipation of slaves was passed in 1804. It required that children of slaves born after July 4, 1804 would be freed at majority. There were still slaves in bondage—under the title “apprentices”—as late as 1850.

[4]Ibid., 303.

[5]Ibid., 308.

[6]Larry Tise, Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701-1840. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 363-4, emphasis mine.

[7]Tise, 278. Tise goes on to note that Hodge was alone among clergy in that he had two essays included in the proslavery compendium, Cotton is King and Proslavery Arguments. He fails to note, however, that this volume contains a version of Hodge’s essay “Slavery” that is redacted to remove comments the editor construed as critical of American slavery.

[8]Hoffecker, 168.

[9]Guelzo, “Charles Hodge’s Anti-Slavery Moment,” 319.

[10]Ibid., 314-5.

 [11]Hoffecker, 169.

[12]Mark Noll, “The Bible and Slavery,” in Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds., Religion and the American Civil War(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 60.

[13]Hodge, “Slavery,” 303.

[14]Hodge, “Diversity of Species in the Human Race,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 34/3 (July 1862): 437.

[15]Hodge, “Slavery,” 271.


[17]For example: “We have little apprehension that any one can so far mistake our object, or the purport of our remarks, as to suppose that we regard slavery as a desirable institution, or that we approve the slave laws of the southern states.” Hodge, “Slavery,” 302.

[18]James H. Moorhead, Princeton Seminary in American Religion and Culture. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 162.


 [20]David Torbett, Theology and Slavery: Charles Hodge and Horace Bushnell. (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2006), 94.

 [21]Moorhead, Princeton Seminary,155-6; Guelzo, “Charles Hodge’s Antislavery Moment,” 302, 308.

[22]Hoffecker, 168.

 [23]Torbett, 95.





Slaveholder Religion?

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Several recent books have argued that (American) evangelical Christianity is “slaveholder religion.” That is to say, it is a form of Christianity that developed in a way that accommodated the peculiar institution of American chattel slavery.

This assertion is used not just to critique our evangelical past, but to impugn evangelical theological method as fundamentalist and necessarily complicit in contemporary racial social ills. There is a some truth to this claim. The great evangelicals of the 19th Century lived in a context in which slavery was a given. This is also, of course, true of the Jesus and the Apostles (although biblical slavery was rather different than its American counterpart.

As an reformed evangelical and one committed to the infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Bible I take a personal interest in attempts to suggest that evangelical theological method is deficient. Further, as someone with an scholarly interest in the period, I find that some recent books fail to account for the diversity of views held not just by 19th Century Christians generally, but 19th Century Presbyterians more specifically.  Recognizing the diversity of views helps us, at the very least, to avoid the sort of reductionist approach that levels all 19th Century Christians into proponents of slavery.


In 2016 I undertook a study of the writings of Charles Hodge on the topic of slavery. Hodge, a giant among 19th Century Protestants, is popularly misconstrued as pro-slavery. My research has led me to characterize Hodge as a third way between abolitionists and pro-slavery Southerners. He accepted slavery as a temporary economic arrangement but favored gradual emancipation.

Who was Charles Hodge?

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) taught at Princeton Theological Seminary for more than 50 years. For 46 of those years he served as editor of the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, a journal of significant national influence in matters of theology and culture. Many regard Hodge as the most significant American theologian of the 19th Century. During his lifetime, Hodge was a cardinal proponent of an Old School Presbyterianism marked by strict subscription to the Westminster Standards and a high view of Scripture.

Slavery was the defining social issue in 19thcentury America. As America’s preeminent public theologian, Charles Hodge’s relationship to the “peculiar institution” slavery is critical in assessing his contribution to 19thcentury American religious history.

A Third Way

In these posts, I will explore Hodge’s relationship to the institution of slavery. I will show that Hodge occupied a mediating position: understanding slavery as a temporary arrangement and favoring gradual emancipation.

Against New England abolitionists like Horace Bushnell and the conservative Unitarian William Channing, Hodge argued that slavery was not inherently sinful—it was one means of ordering society amongst several in use across the globe. As a result of this assessment, he repudiated abolitionist calls for immediate emancipation of slaves and church discipline against slaveholders.

In his definitive writings on the subject, Hodge clearly indicated a desire for the gradual abolition of slavery. He envisioned this being achieved through the influence of the Christian gospel on slaveholder and slave alike. And he expressed significant distaste for the Southern laws that curtailed the innate rights of slaves who—while they were personal property—remained human beings created in the image of God and part of a single species of humanity.[1]Prior to the start of the Civil War, Hodge became more critical of the actual practice of slavery as it existed in the Southern United States. Yet at the same time he had a Whiggish resistance to any radicalism that might damage the union.[2]He was, in other words, disposed rather more towards “cooperation than confrontation.”[3]

Despite its intellectual vigor, Hodge’s defense of slavery appears to be a defense of an abstraction—an institution that, in reality, did not exist in the United States. Some interpreters claim that Hodge’s narrow definition of slavery allowed him the flexibility to both critique and defend slavery—that his concept of slavery was “the thinnest and most useless of abstractions” that permitted him to engage in partisanship in defense of the Union by occupying the ground between the Northern abolitionists and the Southern proslavery clergy.[4]As a result of this mediating position, Hoffecker shows that Hodge was in the crossfire from both proslavery and abolitionist Presbyterians.[5]

In my next post I will look at the cultural context in which Hodge lived. 


[1]Hodge argued that slavery is fundamentally an “economic relation,” thus akin to something like involuntary employment. The slaveholder has a legal right to “use the [slave] as man, but not as a brute or a thing.” Charles Hodge, “Slavery,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 8/2 (April 1836): 300, 304-5.

[2]Allen C. Guelzo, “Charles Hodge’s Antislavery Moment” in John W. Stewart and James H. Moorhead, eds. Charles Hodge Revisited: A Critical Appraisal of His Life and Work. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 304.


[4]Ibid., 317, 323. Guelzo uses the metaphor of an accordion to describe the way in which Hodge selectively reduced or elongated the moral distance between theoretical slavery and slavery as practiced in the South.

[5]Hoffecker, Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2011),168.

The decline of attractional church

Read in 2 minsYou remember peak oil, right? For those who don’t it is “the hypothetical point in time when the global production of oil reaches its maximum rate, after which production will gradually decline” (via: Wikipedia). According to Tim Challies we may have reached the peak of the attractional church model with Ed Young’s sermon series “Wrastlin'”:
In case you’re not familiar with the term “attractional,” here’s Tim Challies offering a definition:

“The attractional church is, according to Jared Wilson, a “ministry paradigm that has embraced consumerism, pragmatism, and moralism as its operational values.” It assumes that the greatest and highest purpose of the church service is to evangelize unbelievers rather than to encourage and disciple believers. It assumes we are responsible to do whatever it takes to get people through the doors of the church. It assumes that we shouldn’t do or say anything within a service that may make unbelievers uncomfortable. It assumes that growing numbers are a necessary indication of God’s favor.”

The attractional model has been the dominant paradigm in American church for several decades now. And it was successful in filling seats. It turns out to be less successful at making disciples. The problem? Boice’s law: “what you win them with is what you win them to.”  In my experience precious few churches successfully make the beauty of the gospel the thing that “wins” people. I love these eight characteristics of a gospel-centered church offered by Challies:
  1. Trust not just in authority of Scripture but sufficiency of Scripture
  2. Sermons that emphasize “It is finished!” over “Get to work!”. Jesus is the star, not a bit player
  3. Meaningful membership encompassing whole-life discipleship, pastoral care, and church discipline
  4. Emphasis on members as missionaries & emphasizing “go and tell” over “come and see”
  5. A total trust in the gospel to be the power of transformation that no amount of inspiration can be
  6. Regular commitment to the Lord’s Supper
  7. Reliance on robustness of the gospel to apply to the believer, justification & sanctification
  8. Church as community of saints, not merely a worship service or resource center for programs
As Biblical Christianity runs afoul of our culture’s values we’ll necessarily see the decline of attractional church. Good riddance.