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Christian and historian Schlossberg dies at age 84

Herbert Schlossberg Lee Love/Genesis

Christian and historian Schlossberg dies at age 84

Christian historian Herbert Schlossberg, who chronicled the relationship between Western history and religion, died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He was 84.

“Herb lived a long and very satisfied life,” his wife, Terry, wrote from Virginia. “He accomplished what he set out to do, and more.”

What did Schlossberg set out to do? He wanted a long and happy marriage, and he had one. He prized family and loved his three children and nine grandchildren. He wanted an education and received one at Bethel College, the University of Missouri, American University, and the University of Minnesota, where he completed his doctorate in European intellectual history.

Early in his career, Schlossberg worked as a CIA analyst and a college dean, but during his last four decades he returned to intellectual history, writing a book about American ideas and social trends, Idols for Destruction. Schlossberg also co-authored two books with me about the importance of developing a Christian worldview and expanding Christian compassion internationally.

One hundred publishers rejected Idols for Destruction, which chapter by chapter scrutinized the idols many of us worship while hardly realizing it: Idols of history, humanity, money, nature, power, and religion. Finally, Thomas Nelson published it in 1983, and Crossway has republished it in an edition still in print and available on Kindle. Conservatives at Fortune liked its criticism of “the messianic state” and asked me to review it, which I did. A books editor turned down the review, considering it “too religious.”

Yet most of history, Schlossberg saw, came down (or up) to religion. In a WORLD Magazine interview three years ago, he critiqued the idolatry that led to today’s sexual revolution, “legalized theft” by governments, and other severe problems, but he refused to give up on America. He wrote two scholarly books about Victorian England and how Christians had helped to transform a country seemingly headed for imminent destruction—since they succeeded, 21st century Americans can too.

Schlossberg was smart without being stuffy and warm without being treacly. He set out to warn and inspire us. Will we heed his wisdom, which reflected God’s?

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.


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