Saturday, 28 April 2012

Which Textbook is the Best for American Religious History?

Now that I am officially on break, I need to prepare for my two upcoming courses in the fall, one of which is "Religion in American Life." This is basically a course on American religious history. The description in the catalog reads: "Attention to distinctly American phenomena, with the intention of assessing the present role and status of religion; consideration of such topics as separation of church and state, revivalism, the influence of immigration, sects, and cults."

I have narrowed it down to the following textbooks, but which one should I use?

Sydney Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People
Jon Butler, Grant Wacker, Randall Balmer, Religion in American Life: A Short History
John Corrigan, Religion in America
Edwin Gaustad and Leigh Schmidt, The Religious History of America
Charles H. Lippy, Introducing American Religion


Howell Harris: Evangelical Enthusiast

Normally, I bristle when reading a book that labels an evangelical as an "enthusiast," but I have to agree with Geraint Tudur's assessment in Howell Harris: From Conversion to Separation, 1735-1750. This is an interesting biography of the early years of a key leader in the Welsh revival.

Tudur informs his readers that Harris left a huge collection of extant manuscripts, including letters and a diary that covers 1735 to 1773 (284 volumes of his diary alone!). But because of the difficulty of reading his handwriting, and the fact that the initial years of the diary are written in Latin, there has been little effort to publish a scholarly edition of his writings. Tudur deserves credit for what must have been painstaking work transcribing his manuscripts in order to pen such a biography.

Harris was born in Trevecka on January 23, 1714. He was the youngest of three boys. Tudur states that his parents were "devout Anglicans, genuinely concerned about the education and spiritual welfare of their children" (14). According to Harris's own account, he started wrestling with his internal spiritual state as early as 1731. Although meditating and praying, he continued in a sinful state, never feeling any ultimate relief. Palm Sunday 1735 seems to be the beginning of his conversion experience. On that day, the Anglican vicar of Talgarth, Pryce Davies, admonished his parishioners not to come to the communion table unless they were worthy. Torn by these words, Harris determined to change his life for the better so that the following Sunday he could partake of communion in a worthy manner. He pursued reconciliation with a neighbor whom he had a standing grievance with, and visited the sick. Harris did in fact take communion for the first time the following Sunday. But his initial success of piety faded as the days went by so that soon he lapsed into some of his old vices.

Harris took up reading The Whole Duty of Man, an Anglican book on godly living, and later Bryan Duppa's Holy Rules and Helps to Devotion (London, 1675). He also committed himself to fasting and praying often, and living a more ascetic lifestyle by denying many of the pleasures of life. He gained some encouragement from his efforts, but, as Tudur claims, "he had progressed no further than an outward, superficial change, and that his religion was rooted in mere conformity to a few rules seen in a book" (17). Harris struggled around this time with thoughts that bordered on atheism. In order to gain control over his wayward mind, he read Lewis Bayly's The Practice of Piety (1610), which taught him that those who believed in Jesus Christ would be forgiven of their sins. Finally, Harris gained some assurance that he had found Christ on a personal level. He saw Christ's death on the cross and was convinced that Jesus had died for him. Soon after this somewhat ecstatic experience, however, he was again overwhelmed by worries that he had not received the grace of God. I'll spare more of these kind of details in the book, only to say that Harris continued to fret over whether he truly received salvation for much of the 1730s and 1740s.

In the mid-1730s Harris began hosting religious meetings similar to English Methodist classes. Tudur writes, "Motivated by a desire to express his gratitude to God, he could not desist; his awareness of God's love spurred him on, not only to read to others but also to sell his possessions in order to give to the poor" (20). Pryce Davies, however, did not appreciate what he took to be a radical trying to usurp his authority and lead impressionable parishioners away from the Established Church. Meanwhile, Dissenters like the Baptists William Herbert and Phillip Morgan tried convincing Harris to leave the Anglican Church and join them. In order to decide what he should do, Harris looked for "an infallible sign" from God, believing that the Lord told him to remain an Anglican and forge ahead with his religious societies. Tudur explains that Harris looked for all kinds of signs when making even daily decisions. "A cock crowing out of time was an omen of Harris's own death, while the chattering of magpies signified the coming of trials and battles" (24). This type of "enthusiasm" would prove to be a major obstacle later in his life when he concluded that God was telling him that it was fine if he maintained an intimate relationship with a married women despite the advice of Methodist colleagues and to the chagrin of his wife.

In the summer of 1737, he met Daniel Rowland. The two worked tirelessly promoting the Welsh revival from the time of their first meeting in 1737 until 1750 when they parted company. In March 1739, Harris met George Whitefield in Cardiff. Harris then accompanied Whitefield to Bristol and London where he was introduced to other evangelical Methodists and joined the Fetter Lane Society. While in London, Harris became acquainted with the Moravians and their doctrine of "stillness," which advocated complete passivity when receiving divine grace. Returning to Wales, Harris felt encouraged to organize his societies in a more detailed manner, with strict governing rules. While at first only "exhorting" at meetings on his interpretation of books that he had read, Harris soon abandoned this practice and started preaching "extempore" on passages of scripture. Due to his charismatic personality, organizing ability, and powerful preaching, his societies grew dramatically. Whereas in 1737 he led some sixteen societies, by 1742 he estimated that some seventy-eight meetings were under his control. In order to create a more cohesive structure, he invited like-minded clergymen and laymen to join him in order to promote Welsh Methodism. But the initial collegial spirit would not last long since both Harris and Rowland were equally power-hungry and stubborn.

By March 1741 there were signs of a looming showdown between Harris and Rowland, who began to scuffle over theological points involving God's covenant with humanity and assurance of salvation. A temporary lull in the debate occurred when Whitefield assumed the position of Moderator of the newly-formed Association of Welsh Methodists in January 1743. But differences between Harris and Rowland continued throughout the 1740s. Adding to the problems, Harris's theology in the 1740s showed signs that he had adopted certain Moravian teachings on the wounds of Christ. Although disavowing conformity to Moravian theology, he nonetheless openly preached about the "Blood" of Jesus several times in his sermons. Harris furthermore struggled to give a clear and orthodox view of the Trinity. Besides theological matters, Rowland became irritated with Harris and his frequent visits to England for weeks and months at a time. To make matters worse, Harris held his societies in an iron grip whereby he exercised severe discipline and seemed quick to excommunicate anyone who dared question his authority.

The final issue that broke up Rowland and Harris had to do with the latter's controversial relationship with Sidney Griffith, an elite member of Welsh society who happened to be married. Harris first met her on a preaching tour in October 1748. From that point on, he was reluctant to let Griffith out of his sight. She toured with him for weeks at a time, stayed up late conversing with him, and was welcomed by him into his home for long periods of time, despite the protests of his wife and Methodist colleagues. The more criticism he received from friends and family, the more Harris determined to be with Griffith. Harris came to the conclusion that she possessed the gift of prophecy, and was essential for his own spiritual growth. This unhealthy relationship led to the formal separation between Rowland and Harris in 1750. Retreating to Trevecka with a minority of followers, Harris remained in relative isolation for a number of years until he reconciled with Rowland in 1762. By this time, Griffith had long passed away (she died in 1752), and Rowland needed Harris's help with a revival that was taking place at Llangeitho.

Harris's life is fascinating by any standards, but especially considering that he was a leading figure in the Welsh revival. His spiritual highs and lows, scandals, and erratic behavior trumps many of the more sane accounts of other eighteenth-century evangelicals. But such passion also had its strengths. Harris was instrumental in multiplying Methodist societies in Wales, thanks to his magnetic personality and fervent preaching. How different his life would have been had he been grounded more solidly on theological matters, been open to chastisement on improper behavior, and able to work well with others with strong personalities.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Mover and Shaker?

Today, I received an email from an editor at Chatter Magazine, Chattanooga's culture and entertainment magazine, that I will be featured in the upcoming June edition on "20 Under 40."
In the email, the editor described this segment as "profiles of 20 young 'movers and shakers' in the Chattanooga area." I will be giving a 45-minute interview and a photo shoot, part of which will appear in the June edition.

I am not sure that I am a "mover and shaker" in the Chattanooga community, but I am certainly excited and honored to be a part of this piece.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

James K.A. Smith at Lee University

Yesterday, I attended a lecture by James K.A. Smith at nearby Lee University. Smith, a philosophy professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI spoke on "Educating the Imagination: From Information to Formation."

I couldn't believe how big Lee University is--the chair of the history department told me that there are some 4,500 students there. That number has doubled in the past ten years or so, apparently because of the vision and strategy of the college's president, who has kept tuition rates very low (by comparison to other CCCU schools).

Smith is a good lecturer, and I found his talk to be very stimulating, although his thesis did not seem new to me. He restated the argument that he wrote in Desiring the Kingdom: that people are inadvertently influenced by the "liturgies" around them. The mall, for instance, influences are thoughts without saying anything. Smith says that the message there is: you need to buy our goods in order to be happy. Similar messages abound on the radio and television. The solution, says Smith, is to reorient ourselves by practicing repetitive godly liturgy through worship. By worship, he does not mean simply music, but basically any practice that reforms our "sentimental" selves to be in-tune with God. Smith is adamant that we are not influenced by rational arguments, but by the "affections," that appeal to our deepest desires on a subconscious level.

What I found interesting, and a point that I raised in the question and answer time, is that Smith's argument about our influences is almost exactly what Jonathan Edwards stated in Freedom of the Will (1754). Edwards said that our affections (it is also interesting that Smith used Edwards's term) our moved by our strongest desires. Although we would like to think that we are "free" to choose among several choices, we are assuredly going to make decisions on the basis of what appeals to us the most. We may know what we should do, but we will only act on decisions that stem from our strongest desires. Edwards's point is that we are not really free, in the sense of being able to make impartial choices. Though technically able to make a number of choices, we will ultimately choose to do what we want to do.

As I understand Edwards's argument, the solution seems to me to surround oneself with godly influences, whether that means reading more scripture, prayer, church, etc. If we are immersed in godly influences, it would seem plausible that we will be more apt to want to do what is good.
The key, however, is to want to surround oneself with godly influences. Such a desire for purity cannot be faked or forced--if such a desire is going to last it must be a genuine decision to want to change our daily routine. If Edwards is right about our motives--and I have become convinced lately that he is--then  it is only through grace that we will want to change our habits. Wanting to change for the better typically comes after a person realizes that he or she is a sinner and does not have the ability to do good over any sustained period of time. The sinner becomes sick of the sin and wants to change. But who can help the person who can't help himself or herself? The answer can only be the grace of God. Through grace God sees our predicament and offers help. This help comes in the form of a desire to change. God gives us the Spirit, who directs us to what parts of our routines we must alter in order to foster holiness.

I think that most of what I have said is consistent with what Edwards wrote in Freedom of the Will. Where disagreements will emerge has to do with whether we can actually change the influences around us, or whether it is in fact God who has orchestrated the situation in order to influence us. In other words, do we have the ability to manage our surroundings (the Arminian perspective), or is it God who has arranged all of the causes and secondary effects to lead us to the point of repentance. As a Calvinist, Edwards said that God has arranged the circumstances so that we are led to make certain choices. Although we may think that we have freedom in our choices, God has made the situation so that we simply act on the basis of what he has set in motion.

Now, back to Smith. Again, I think that Smith has simply restated Edwards's argument about how we our influenced and make choices. Where I tend to disagree with Smith is on the solution to the problem. I believe that Smith is correct that we should seek out godly "liturgies" of worship to reorient our affections. But it seems to me that there is a simpler answer than what he has proposed. As I read scripture, taking into account Edwards's argument, I am struck by how much of the Bible affirms what Edwards has said. Romans 8:5, for instance, states: "Those who live according to the sinful nature, have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit, have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." The solution to the problem of overcoming our sinful desires (aka ungodly influences) is to be filled with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says: "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."Thus, the way that we can change our affections is to live by the Spirit, which includes the liturgies that Smith recommends. But at its core, the solution is a life that is full of the Spirit. If we seek out "what the Spirit desires," godly affections will follow. The major question that I wrestle with is: can we change our surroundings, or is it entirely the work of God, who has orchestrated so that we are simply doing what he has already determined?

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Last Wednesday, in my "Religion in Southern Culture" class, we finished reading Paul Harvey's Freedom's Coming. In the book, Harvey explains that the phrase "Freedom's Coming" was interpreted differently by southerners in postbellum America. For some, it meant the hope of racial equality, but for others it meant the restoration of the South to its gloried state prior to the Civil War.

For me, "freedom's coming" has an entirely different meaning. Tomorrow (Friday, April 20) is the last day of class for the spring semester at UTC. Since I am not giving any exams, Friday will mark the conclusion of my first year of teaching at UTC and the beginning of a long, and much needed, break. Sometimes bemoaning the fact that I make the equivalent of an assistant manager at a convenient store, I must admit that one of the perks of being a professor is the extensive break between the spring and fall semester.

I do have some projects that I want to complete, and so it will not be all fun and games. I need to read a pile of books (see my list on the left-hand side of the blog) on religion and politics and American religious history in order to write lectures for my two upcoming fall courses on those subjects. I also have some book reviews to write (one for the Journal of Religion, for instance, on Alister Chapman's Godly Ambition and another on Vincent Carretta's Phyllis Wheatley), and there is more work to be done on the seemingly endless anthology that I have been chipping away at for the last year.

In a little more than a month, I will be traveling to Britain where I will be doing research in London, Bristol, and Edinburgh. And sometime in July I plan on loading up the family and touring the northeast where we will combine visiting historical sites with archival research. This should be a great summer!

Richard Allen: America's Persistent Evangelical Founding Father

I just finished Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers by Richard S. Newman. The book offers a captivating account of an important, but largely forgotten, black American evangelical leader.

Richard Allen (1760-1831) was a determined man. In fact, Newman argues that "Allen's most important trait was his rigid determination, some would say obstinacy" (7). Born into slavery on February 14, 1760, Allen's first owner, Benjamin Chew, was an affluent Philadelphia lawyer. Perhaps wanting to pay off some debts, Chew sold Allen in 1768 to the Delaware farmer Stokeley Sturgis. Although calling slavery "a bitter pill" in his posthumous autobiography, Allen did not disclose any significant details about his early life of bondage.

In 1777 he had a conversion experience when he heard a sermon by an itinerant preacher near the Sturgis farm. After his conversion, he joined a Methodist class meeting and began exhorting. Two years later in 1779, he made arrangements for the Methodist preacher Freeborn Garrettson to speak to Sturgis. Employing the biblical text of Daniel 5:27, Garrettson shamed Sturgis into an agreement in which Allen could pay for his freedom over the course of five years. In record time, the young man paid off his debt of $2,000 to Sturgis three and a half years early in 1783 after backbreaking work chopping wood and performing odd jobs. Changing his name from "Negro Richard" to "Richard Allen," the newly freed man began circuit preaching for the Methodists. He started preaching in Wilmington, Delaware in 1783 and then moved on to New Jersey. Between 1784 and 1785, he traveled to southeastern Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, and Kent County Delaware before permanently settling in Philadelphia in 1786.

While in Philadelphia, Allen ministered to black congregants at St. George's Episcopal Church. Later in 1792, he led a mass exodus from St. George's when white members tried forcing blacks to sit in the balcony of the church. From the savings he had accumulated from his successful chimney sweep business and other entrepreneurial ventures, Allen purchased a lot and former blacksmith shop, which became Bethel Church. The official opening was on July 29, 1794, with religious special guests such as Francis Asbury in attendance. Within a year, over one hundred people were attending, and by 1810 some 400 members claimed Bethel as their home church. As Bethel grew in prominence, Newman shows that white Methodist elders sought to seize control of the flourishing church. The articles of incorporation that Allen had ratified gave white Methodist elders certain powers over the black trustees. A legal war ensued and ultimately Allen and his congregation had to cough up the enormous sum of $9,600 in 1815 in order to keep the church from being sold. Shortly after gaining independence, Bethel forged an alliance with other Atlantic black congregations, forming the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, with Allen as its first bishop.

Throughout his narrative, Newman shows Allen as an outspoken advocate for African American rights. In his first pamphlet, "A Narrative of the Proceeding of the Black People During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia," Allen and his friend and coauthor Absalom Jones, defended the character of blacks in the aftermath of a Yellow Fever epidemic that ravished Philadelphia in 1793. Thousands of people (mostly wealthy white residents) fled the city, leaving the poor to fend for themselves. Believing blacks to be immune from the disease, the physician Benjamin Rush asked Allen and other African Americans to help care for the sick and dying. Seeing this as an opportunity to "help the cause of racial injustice," African Americans diligently tended to the disease-ridden people of Philadelphia, burying the dead, and burning infected clothes and linens in the process. Allen and Jones testified that they looked after some 800 people, which cost them personally 178.98 pounds in net expenses. The pamphlet, which chronicled some of the heroic efforts of individual black Americans,
was a response to the Philadelphia printer Mathew Carey's earlier piece in which he claimed that blacks had taken advantage of the situation by charging exorbitant fees for their labor.

Feeling discouraged at the treatment of African Americans, especially after his own encounter with white Methodist leaders over control of Bethel, Allen wondered if blacks wouldn't be better off somewhere other than the United States. Allen supported the colonization scheme of Paul Cuffee, a free black ship captain and Quaker who believed that true freedom awaited in Sierra Leone. When Africa failed to deliver the implied promise of freedom and prosperity to blacks, Allen shifted his support to populating Haiti, and then later Canada. Although becoming wealthy and prosperous in America, Allen was not sanguine about the prospects that other blacks could find the same measure of success in a land that had grown hostile toward people of African descent.

I commend Newman for producing a very interesting biography of Richard Allen. I can't recall reading as many exclamation points in a monograph as I did in Newman's book. But then again, Newman had a lot to celebrate when describing the rags to riches story of a black evangelical who broke free from the shackles of slavery to become arguably the most important African American of his time.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

History Faculty Positions at UTC

The history department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is hiring full-time lecturers! Below is the ad that was posted on H-Net.

The History Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is seeking two (2) full-time Lecturers in American history for the 2012-2013 academic year. Both positions are one-year appointments and will begin in August 2012, pending final budgetary approval. Applicants should hold a Ph.D. in History. Applications from advanced ABD candidates will be considered. Previous college-level teaching experience is strongly preferred, but is not required.

The department seeks one candidate to teach upper-division courses on postbellum and late nineteenth-century America; the second candidate is desired to teach upper-division courses on twentieth-century America. Both successful applicants should possess the ability to design and offer an additional upper-level course or courses in a specialty field. Candidates also should be able to teach both of the department’s introductory American history surveys; the ability to teach World Civilization courses is desirable, but is not required. Teaching load will be 4/4.

Candidates should send electronically the a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, graduate transcripts, statement of teaching philosophy, sample syllabi (if available), copies of student evaluations (if available), and three letters of recommendation to In the subject line please indicate "American History Lecturer." The review of applications will begin the first week of April and continue until the positions are filled. Please direct inquires to

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action/title VI & IX Section 504/ ADA/ ADEA institution. Further information about the department is available at

Saturday, 14 April 2012

ECSSS Conference in Columbia, SC

For the past few days I have been at the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies annual conference in Columbia, SC. The conference was held at Columbia because the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina contains arguably the best collection of Scottish rare books and manuscripts in the United States (especially related to Robert Burns). In terms of numbers, the ECSSS is a fairly small society. I would estimate that only about 60 people attended this year's annual conference. This is good news because it is easy to get to know a number of people at the conference, including several of the world's leading Scottish studies scholars.

The conference opened last Thursday, April 12 with a plenary lecture on Sir John Dalrymple by David Shields, who has written multiple books on a variety of subjects ranging from eighteenth-century cuisine to intellectual history. Other notable sessions included the celebration of the much-anticipated second volume of the Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland: Enlightenment and Expansion 1707-1800. This is a behemoth of a book, consisting of 400 pages and countless essays on a range of topics related to the history of the book in Scotland. Finally, scholars interested in the history of the book in eighteenth-century Scotland have a significant reference manual. For only $240, you can purchase your own copy; otherwise you have to read it at a research library.

I gave a paper on John Erskine as a cultural mediator during the American Revolution. The other panelists were Roger Fechner (Adrian College), who talked about John Witherspoon's use of political satire during the American Revolution, and Jan Swearingen (Texas A&M), who spoke on Presbyterians and printers in early America. I also had the opportunity to chair a panel in which Ned Landsman (SUNY Stoney Brook) and Brad Christie (Erskine College) spoke. As always, Landsman delivered a fine paper (on the Scottish Secessionists), and Christie went over the University of South Carolina's extensive holdings on Presbyterian Secessionists (the Charles Weasmer Collection).

I am already looking forward to next year's ECSSS conference at the Sorbonne in Paris (July 2013)!

Friday, 6 April 2012

I Love Monographs!

Something strange happened to me when I went away to graduate school. I fell in love with monographs. As an undergraduate, I loathed reading more than one book for a course. It infuriated me to have to peruse any title longer than 200 pages, and especially those boring books that contained lots of footnotes and no pictures (as I say this, I realize how much I sound like many of my current undergraduate students). During my college days I was a business administration major with plans to become a stockbroker. I had no desire to retain information that did not relate to my future plans as a financial consultant. My outlook changed, however, in 2001.

After 911 and the stock market depression that followed, I began looking at the books on the shelves of my parents' library in order to answer some of my vexing theological questions. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson and Knowing God by J. I. Packer. Once I had read all the books of interest that my parents owned, I decided to take some graduate courses in theology since, at this point, I still had more questions than answers with regard to Christian doctrine. Eventually, I resigned from my position as Account Vice President at UBS Financial and moved my wife and newborn son to Vancouver, Canada, where I attended Regent College and completed two degrees in theology. But even then, I didn't exactly love reading monographs.

Scotland was the place where I truly learned to appreciate books. My PhD director expected me to read 50-100 titles for each background essay that I wrote for him. On average, each of the several background essays took me one month to research. My goal was to get through at least one book each day. On a good day, I could scan through three monographs, but titles like Baron Duckham's A History of the Scottish Coal Industry, Vol. 1: 1700-1815 could easily take all day to complete. After two years of reading multiple monographs, day after day, something clicked. I now loved, and even hungered, to read academic titles. Sure, I cursed boring texts that I had to finish for my research, but on the whole I looked forward to waking up each day and crossing off books that were on my reading list.

Occasionally, I would read great scholarly works like The Enlightenment and the Book and Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment by Richard Sher or Daniel Walker Howe's What God Hath Wrought. Among American evangelical authors, I devoured Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of America and George Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture and Jonathan Edwards: A Life. I marveled at the creative writing talents of Bruce Hindmarsh and his John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition, the intellectual ability of Allen Guelzo and his Edwards on the Will, and the organization and succinctness of David Hempton's Methodism: Empire of the Spirit. Lately, I have been impressed with the books by John Wigger--his American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists in particular--as well as John Grigg's The Lives of David Brainerd, and Vincent Carretta's Phillis Wheatley. Now, I feel anxious if I go more than 24 hours without leafing through a few pages in a monograph. The good news is that there is no shortage of books to read. Yesterday, for instance, the mailman delivered the very promising The Long Farewell: Americans Mourn the Death of George Washington by Gerald Kahler. The problem is, of course, finding the time to work my way through my ever-expanding library.
While my apparent addiction may seem strange to some people--perhaps even nerdy--I am convinced that if people train themselves to read intelligent texts, and on a frequent basis, that a desire will follow. I am reminded of a sermon that my pastor gave a few weeks ago in which he encouraged the audience to spend time each day reading the Bible, arguing that by doing so sooner or later a person will hunger for God's Word. The same principle applies to reading in general: consistent training is necessary for anyone who wants to enrich his or her intellectual life. Forget Joel Osteen and pick up a monograph by a reputable author on a religious topic.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

History Faculty Position

Warner University in Central Florida has posted an open faculty position, teaching US and World History. See advertisement here.

Review Article in Baptist Quarterly

The April edition of Baptist Quarterly has a review article on Enlightened Evangelicalism by the retired Baptist minister and former president of the Baptist Historical Society, Roger Hayden. The article focuses on Erskine's connection with Andrew Fuller, John Collett Ryland, John Ryland Jr., and William Carey, noting new information in the book about these English Baptists that did not appear in 19th century biographical accounts.

The opening paragraph of the review comes with an interesting description of Erskine. Hayden writes:

Anyone who engages in a study of Evangelicalism will come across the Revd Dr John Erskine (1721-1803). He is like Halley's comet, showering the dark sky with bright light and then seemingly lost to sight, soon to re-appear, blazing across the Evangelical world. Erskine manufactures essential scatter-gun ammunition for the whole army of the Evangelical Revival.

Here are two additional quotations from the article that stuck out:

Baptist historians and all who are concerned to understand Evangelicalism, will find Yeager essential and inspiring reading, with many tracks and traces of Baptist concern that will richly reward further research.

...Yeager provides a superb biography which takes into account every aspect in the current resurgence of Evangelical studies.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Contemporary Religious Issues

Next fall I will be teaching a course entitled, "Contemporary Religious Issues." This is the catalog description: "Analysis of selected issues, such as church-state relations, fundamentalism, and debates over abortion, that are central to contemporary religious life. Primary attention to the American scene and some cross-cultural comparisons. Alternate years." As you can see, the person teaching this course has a range of topics from which to choose.

With this being an election year, I am toying with the idea of focusing on religion and politics. I have assembled a list of books to consider for the course, including:

Randall Balmer's God in the White House: A History: How Faith Shaped the Presidency From John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush
John Fea's Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction
Roger Gottlieb's A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future
D.G. Hart's From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism
Frank Lambert's Religion in American Politics: A Short Introduction
D.Michael Lindsay's Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite
Mark Noll's God and Race in American Politics: A Short History
Mark Noll's and Luke Harlow's Religion and American Politics
Gary Scott Smith's Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush
Daniel Williams's God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right

From reading the title of these book, you will notice that I am mostly interested in the relationship between evangelicalism and politics. If you have any further suggestions on books related to religion and politics that I should consider, please drop me a line.