Saturday, 27 April 2013

New Strategy: Online Quizzes

I'm working on a new strategy of incorporating online quizzes in my fall courses. I've used these type of assignments before, but only sporadically, and for larger classes of around 100 students. My new strategy is to integrate online quizzes for all my courses of twenty students or more, for at least a portion of the total grade.

There are a number of advantages to using online quizzes. First, you can design online quizzes to be automatically graded upon completion, and go directly to the gradebook on Blackboard. You can also set time limits for quizzes, and utilize different types of questions, such as true/false and multiple choice. You can allow students to see the correct answers to the questions that they miss (and with an explanation for those answers), or you can choose not to reveal the correct answers.

Another advantage is that students have more flexibility when taking online quizzes. I noticed in one of my courses this past semester that as many as one-fourth of the students were completing assignments between midnight and 5:00am. It might have been the case that several of these people had jobs that required them to work until late in the evening, or perhaps they were procrastinators. One of the benefits of an online quiz is that students can complete it at a time that is most convenient to them. Furthermore, with such flexibility, the professor does not need to entertain the usual excuses for not completing these kind of assignments. If they had all week to take a quiz, for instance, they will not be able to cite a twenty-four-hour illness as the reason they couldn't attend class to take the quiz.

The quizzes that I am setting up for the fall will be open book, timed, and in increments of ten questions that are either multiple choice or true/false. My intent is that the questions will be hard enough that a student can't guess at them and do well, but not too difficult so that a person who does the reading can't ace them. To deter groups from taking the quizzes at the same time, I am setting up a test bank with multiple questions for each quiz. This means that no two quizzes will be alike, and that the questions and order will differ for each person taking a quiz. Students enrolled in my fall courses will be required to take a quizz over the required reading before they come to class.  My hope is that students will come to each class having done the reading and ready to discuss the material. This past semester I discovered that the threat of pop quizzes did not work as well as I had planned. While some students consistently did the weekly reading, many tried to guess at when I would give a pop quiz, and, based on their estimates, decided whether or not they would read the required material that I had assigned.

I need to be fair and say that there is at least one major disadvantage to using online quizzes: the professor must do all the reading before the start of the course in order to write the questions for the quizzes. So, for the past week or so I went through Jonathan Edwards: A Life, A Jonathan Edwards Reader, and Jonathan Edwards, Religious Tradition, and American Culture, putting together banks of quiz questions. Next week I will begin the process of writing quiz questions for my second course on "Religion in American Culture." The good news is that once you write the questions and store them on Blackboard, you can save your courses and import and export these if you teach that particular class again.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

"What is it that you actually do?"

Are you a PhD student or recent graduate? Do you wonder what value your research has in the academy and beyond?

Cambridge PhDcasts is a new project that is working in conjunction with the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities. Each week a PhD student will talk with John Gallagher about the work that he or she does and why it matters. The PhDcasts are available as videos or podcasts and are about one half hour in length.

For more information, check out Cambridge PhDcasts.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ed Blum Scheduled to Speak at UTC

Ed Blum, co-author of the Color of Christ and Associate Professor of History at San Diego State University, is scheduled to give a lecture on race and religion at UTC on Thursday, September 19 at 5:30pm. His talk will be part of the LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecture Series.

It has been fun organizing this lecture series at UTC. So far, we have hosted the following speakers:

David Bebbington: "The King James Bible in Britain from the Late 18th Century" (11/7/2011)
Bruce Gordon: "Scripture and Church: Calvin, Servetus and Castellio" (1/19/2012
Gerald McDermott: "Jonathan Edwards, the Great Awakening, and the Future of Global Christianity" (2/14/2012)
Thomas Kidd: "Patrick Henry, the Great Awakening, and the Rise of Religious Liberty in Revolutionary Virginia" (2/15/2012)
Catherine Brekus: "Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America" (2/16/2012)
Grant Wacker: "Billy Graham and the Shaping of Modern America" (3/1/2012)
D. G. Hart: "What Makes the Religious Right Different from Political Islam?" (9/27/2012)
John Fea: "Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?" (10/9/2012)
Amanda Porterfield: "Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation" (11/8/2012)
Philip Jenkins, "The Coming of Global Christianity" (2/20/2013)

I look forward to the lectures in the fall and spring of the 2013-2014 academic year!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Faculty Job

Indiana University, Department of Religious Studies

American Religion

INDIANA UNIVERSITY, Bloomington, Department of Religious Studies invites applications for a visiting lecturer in American Religion. Ph.D. or equivalent required. Area of specialization open. The successful applicant must be prepared to teach introductory and upper level courses on American religion, including a two semester survey history of American religion. Deadline for applications: Monday, May 15, 2013. Applicants should send a cover letter, C.V., and a dossier with at least three letters of recommendation to: Winnifred Sullivan, Department of Religious Studies, Sycamore Hall 230, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-2601. Women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. Indiana University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Indiana University, Department of Religious Studies

Modern Religious Thought

INDIANA UNIVERSITY, Bloomington, Department of Religious Studies invites applications for a visiting assistant or associate professor in Modern Religious Thought. Ph.D. or equivalent required. Area of specialization might include: philosophy of religion; religion and cultural criticism; European religious thought since the enlightenment; interpretation of religions; modern and post modern assessments of religion; theoretical approaches to the study of religion. The successful applicant must be prepared to teach a large introduction to religion course as well as seminar-style upper-level courses. Deadline for applications: Monday, May 15, 2013. Applicants should send a cover letter, C.V., and a dossier with at least three letters of recommendation to: Winnifred Sullivan, Department of Religious Studies, Sycamore Hall 230, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-2601. Women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. Indiana University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

More Advice on Book Reviews from John Stackhouse

In his latest post--"Why You Should Review--and You Shouldn't"--Regent College professor John Stackhouse provides some warnings to those wanting to write book reviews.

Here is a taste:

So why shouldn’t you review a book? Because it might cost you, and dearly.

It’s a small world after all, and most authors don’t forget negative reviews. Worse, some authors don’t forget any reviews that are anything other than glowing. And you cannot predict with certainty what author will respond in what way... Worse, for every magisterial author who refuses to let a less-than-stellar review interrupt an ongoing friendship, there might be another well-known author, who purported to be a friend, yet who walked around a professional conference with me for an hour telling everyone who stopped to commend him on his new book that “Well, he didn’t like it!” with a jerked thumb in my direction, since I had given it a “B+” sort of review, and that clearly wasn’t good enough. I did indeed like it, but I didn’t like everything about it. I said so and—ah! that was the mistake. Only flattery, laid on thick and sweet, would do.

...For you likely will never know, as I don’t, what speaking engagements were never offered, fellowships not awarded, scholarly collaborations not extended, and jobs not mentioned because So-and-So couldn’t handle a non-wonderful review of his or her work. Alas, you run a serious risk for offering honest appraisal of work that is other than fabulous or foul. Not everyone will hold it against you, thank God. But you cannot, it seems to me, confidently predict who will.
So do we therefore stop reviewing unless we have no professional aspirations? Or unless we either totally love a book or are glad to distance ourselves from it and its author? Yes. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last decade or so.

Notable New Titles

There are some notable new books scheduled to be published before the end of 2013, including Darryl Hart's Calvinism: A History, Larry Eskridge's God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America, Brian Stanley's The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Billy Graham and John Stott, and Molly Worthen's Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. I've ordered my copies and can't wait to read these new titles!


Friday, 19 April 2013

Faculty Job

Gustavus Adolphus College invites applications for a part-time position of Visiting Instructor/Assistant Professor of Christian Tradition in the Department of Religion to begin September 1, 2013.

We seek candidates who have an earned doctorate or who have achieved ABD status, but will consider candidates currently enrolled in a terminal degree program. We encourage candidates to describe their experience with a variety of teaching methods. Primary responsibilities will include three sections of an introductory course that meets the College's graduation requirement for a course substantially (but not limited to) in the Christian tradition. The ideal candidate will be able to teach Religion in America, but Introduction to Christian Thought, Introduction to Bible, and Faith, Religion, and Culture will also be considered. See the college catalog for course descriptions: The ability to include global and international perspectives in the course is also desirable. The classes have already been scheduled for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

To apply, send letter of application, curriculum vitae, statement of teaching philosophy, transcripts (photocopies acceptable), and three letters of professional recommendation to:

Dr. Garrett Paul
c/o Janine Genelin
Gustavus Adolphus College
800 W College Ave
Saint Peter, MN 56082-1498

Application information is also available at: For more details, contact Dr. Garrett Paul at 507-933-7471 or Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Gustavus Adolphus College is a coeducational, private, Lutheran (ELCA), residential, national liberal arts college of 2500 students.

Last Day of Class

Today is the last day of class for the spring semester and the academic year. It has been a good semester and I have enjoyed teaching my two courses this semester on "Modern Christian Thought" and "The Faiths of the Founding Fathers."

For the latter course, I am happy with my choices of Frank Lambert's The Founding Fathers and Place of Religion in America, Matthew Harris's and Thomas Kidd's The Founding Fathers and the Debate Over Religion in Revolutionary America, Steven Waldman's Founding Faith, and Daniel Dreisbach's, Mark David Hall's, and Jeffry Morrison's The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life as the required textbooks.

For a course on the Founding Fathers and religion, I think that the Dreisbach, Hall, and Morrison book is essential as it helps students to understand that there were several important Founding Fathers and Mothers besides Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington. Most of the essays are well written, concise, and informative. Overall, I am happy with Waldman's Founding Faith, but I am convinced that there is still room for improvement on the subject of the best-known Founding Fathers and religion. If I ever teach this course again, I would consider having all the students read biographies on Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington and then write a paper on a "Forgotten Founder."

With four months of break ahead of me, I plan on fine-tuning my fall courses on "Jonathan Edwards's Life, Thought, and Legacy in American Religious Culture" and "Religion in American Life," and working on some journal articles as well as my next book project.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Theodicy and Bart Ehrman

Today, in my Modern Christian Thought class, I showed the opening argument from Bart Ehrman's debate with Dinesh D'Souza at Gordon College. Ehrman discusses his spiritual pilgrimage from his early days as an evangelical Christian, while attending Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, to his later acceptance of Agnosticism. In the clip that I showed, Ehrman explains that he turned away from Christianity after thinking about how there could be an all-powerful, all-loving God who allows suffering in the world.

Ehrman briefly argues that the biblical authors contradict one another on the topic of suffering, sometimes saying that it is the result of sin while at other times claiming that suffering takes place for no apparent reason. Ehrman further reasons that if humans have free will (and thus God cannot force them to do anything), and if free will exists in heaven (which is supposedly a place without suffering) then it is possible that God could have created a world without any pain. If it is true that God could have created a world without suffering, then the Judeo-Christian God of the OT and NT must not exist since injustices and devastating natural disasters occur all the time.

The students and I pondered some of the questions related to the theodicy after watching the video clip. What I found interesting about Ehrman is that he denies that suffering can be redemptive. He believes that if it is possible that suffering cannot take place, it should not take place. That is to say, there is no value for suffering; hardships serve no higher purpose.

Anyone who is a parent knows that this is unsound reasoning. No good and loving parent would allow his or her child to go undisciplined (I'm not speaking of physical abuse). And as parents know, children who learn the value of discipline, live healthier lives. If I gave my children everything that they wanted, they could potentially grow up to be spoiled adults and unproductive members of society.

On a more personal basis, I believe that suffering can be redemptive. Of course experiencing pain is no fun, especially during the time of difficulty, but in retrospect I can see how the benefits of some of the challenges that I experienced added value to my life. By arguing that God must act a certain way in order to be the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, Ehrman assumes that he knows what holds ultimate value, in this life and potentially the next. This view strikes me as not only arrogant but incredibly naive. I certainly am not willing to say that I know how the world should operate, and how the God of the Bible should act. If I did, then I would be God.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Finish Line

The finish line is in sight. I am almost done with the spring semester, and look forward to a long summer break. But before I cross the finish line, I will be doing a lot of grading.

This weekend I have been doing nothing but grading, mostly research papers for my two courses, but also some senior theses that I am either supervising or part of the faculty committee on that topic. Although many of the papers have been disappointing, especially when I pleaded with those enrolled in my classes on many occasions not to string together secondary-source quotations, to avoid switching tenses, and to be sure to include plenty of evidence in the form of primary-source quotations and specific details and examples, I have been pleasantly surprised that some of the students wrote some excellent essays.

One student wrote a dynamite comparison paper of Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams. This person managed to construct a very interesting and insightful thesis, particularly related to Franklin's form of religion, in which he suggested that Franklin's faith changed over time from deism into something similar to modern Protestant liberalism. Another student, under my supervision, wrote an incredible senior thesis on Mary Daly's contribution to feminism.

As I glanced up from grading occasionally to watch some of the Masters tournament, I was reminded of how golf is like teaching. You may hit several bad shots (at least I do when I play golf), but it only takes one good stroke to keep you playing the game. In the same way, while bad papers can be discouraging to read, especially when you spend a lot of time talking about how to write essays, it only takes one good paper by a student to encourage you as a teacher.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Regent College Summer Courses

Vancouver, B.C., Canada is a wonderful place, especially in the spring and summer. If you can spare a week or two to audit or take for credit some of the amazing courses at Regent College, you won't regret it. Take a look at some of the upcoming courses:

May 13-24:

Hans Boersma: History of Christian Doctrine (THEO 608)
Douglas Moo: The Theology of Paul (BIBL 560)

May 27-31
Phil Long: The Book of Job: Encountering God in the Extremities of Life (BIBL 523)
Susan Phillips: Prayer and the Spiritual Life (SPIR 567)

June 3-14
Paul Williams and Paul Oslington: Christianity and the Political Economy of Capitalism (INDS 583)
Loren and Mary-Ruth Wilkinson: Food: Communion, Community, and Creation (INDS 535)

June 10-14
Gordon Smith: Spiritual Discernment (SPIR 619)

July 1-5
J. I. Packer: 2 Corinthians (BIBL 567)

July 1-12
Lynn Cohick: Philippians (BIBL 676)
Paul Helm: Augustine's Pilgrimage of Grace (SPIR/THEO 530)
Ralph Wood: J. R. R. Tolkien: Writer for Our Time or Terror (INDS 592)
Malcolm Guite: Faith, Hope, and Poetry (INDS 538)
Loren and Mary-Ruth Wilkinson: Technology, Wilderness, and Creation (INDS 525)

July 15-19
Andrew Walls: Six-Continent Christianity (HIST 533)

July 15-26
Chris Hall: Spirituality in the Life and Thought of the Church Fathers (HIST/SPIR 654)
Roger Lundin: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief (INDS 569)

July 22-26
Mary Noll: The Recent World History of Christianity (HIST 591)

July 29-August 2
Bruce Waltke: Light from the Dark Ages: An Exposition of Judges and Ruth (BIBL 615)
Scot McKnight: The Kingdom of God in the Teachings of Jesus (BIBL 514)
Jim Houston: Living Elders in a Dying Church (SPIR 525)
Soong-Chan Rah: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church (APPL 526)
William Romanowski: Hollywood Cinema and the Christian Imagination (INDS 512)

For the full list of summer courses at Regent College, click here.

Also, check out the following scheduled Public Lectures:

May 15: Iain Provan: "The Tea Party, the Taliban, and the Temptation of Power: Which Kind of Society is 'Biblical'?"

May 22: Douglas Moo: "All Things New: God's Program of New Creation"

May 29: Susan Phillips: "Spirituality of Cultivation: A Response to Disorders of Attention and Attachment"

June 5: Alister McGrath: "The Life and Impact of C.S. Lewis"

June 12: Gordon Smith: "Generation to Generation: Passing on the Faith to the Children of the Church"

July 1: Ralph Wood: "G.K. Chesterton and Christopher Hitchens: Old Convert vs. New Atheist"

July 3: Lynn Cohick: "Women of the Ancient World"

July 8: Paul Helm: "Theology: Only Words about Words?"

July 10: Malcolm Guite: "The Word Made Flesh: Christ and the Imagination"

July 15: John Stackhouse: "La Sagrada Familia, El Mundo Sagrado: The Wild Christian Architecture of Antoni Gaudi"

July 17: Roger Lundin: "Tell Me a Story: Modern Narratives and the Search for God"

July 22: Chris Hall: "Creedal Hermeneutics: How the Church Can Help Us Read the Bible"

July 24: David Smith: "Bonhoeffer, Practices, and Pedagogy"

July 31: Soong-Chan Rah: "Tears of Hope and Change: The Need for Lament in a Multicultural World"

Academic Publishing

Over at the Religion in American History blog, Randall Stephens offers some sound advice on academic publishing in his post, "Turning It into a Book."

There are several good books for prospective authors, but the one that I followed was Beth Luey's Handbook for Academic Authors. I simply bought the book and followed the step-by-step instructions for putting together proposals for academic publishers. This was the only source that I used, as it offers comprehensive advice on how to break into the academic publishing world. I sent out close to a dozen letters of interest and proposals, received four yeses, a few maybes, and the rest were nos.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Movie Premier: 42

Tonight, I will be going to the premier of the movie "42," the story of Jackie Robinson. Part of the movie was filmed in Chattanooga at historic Engle Stadium. I am grateful to my home group leader, who works for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, for inviting my wife and I.

The event starts at 7pm with a reception, followed by the movie premier at 9pm. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as there is a tremendous thunderstorm on its way to Chattanooga and scheduled to hit the city at the time of the reception. It is too bad that rain is on its way. Had the weather forecast been more favorable, the street in front of the movie theater was  going to be blocked off so that the reception could take place outside.

Sadly, I will miss tonight's annual C.S. Lewis lecture by D. Stephen Long on "Why Jesus is Not Ethical."I look forward to hearing about the lecture as well as Q & A afterward.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


One of the shows that I enjoyed watching while at the ASCH spring meeting in Portland was Portlandia. Here's a taste:

Monday, 8 April 2013

John Stackhouse on Writing Book Reviews

John Stackhouse has written some helpful comments about writing book reviews on his blog. Take a look.

"Religious History" Final Four

I'm now at the Detroit airport, having taken a four-hour flight from Portland that left at 11pm. As I wait for my flight to Chattanooga, I am thinking about which religious history books should be considered for the "Final Four." As there seems to be an unusually high number of viewers for my original post on a "Religious History March Madness," perhaps next year John Fea, the Anxious Bench bloggers, or the folks at the Religion and American History Blog will organize a bracket sequence as a test to determine the best books in religious history.

Although there are a lot of good books in religious history, my Final Four for American religious history would be:

Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity (although people have disputed Hatch's thesis, it has stood the test of time)

George Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture (another oldie, but goodie)

Mark Noll's America's God

and finally, to mix things up a bit, I would include a newcomer: Darren Dochuk's From Bible Belt to Sunbelt

These four books in some cases narrowly beat some of my "Elite Eight" contenders: John Wigger's American Saint, Tommy Kidd's The Great Awakening, George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards, and Christine Heyrman's Southern Cross.

Let me know if you agree or disagree with these choices.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Day 3 in Portland

Today is the last full day at the spring ASCH conference. I slept in and then attended the 10:45am-12:00pm session, "How the Bible Works: Scripture and the Body in Nineteenth-Century Religion," with panelists Matthew Bowman, Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, and Cristine Hutchinson-Jones, and Seth Dowland as the chair. In Bowman's paper, "The Word in the Streets: The Biblical Origins of Social Reform in New York, 1880-1900," he argued for the existence of what he called, "liberal evangelicals," which included Harry Emerson Fosdick. I'm not convinced by his argument for liberal evangelicals, but it was an interesting paper. Henrix-Komoto talked about "Christ in the 'Form of a Woman:' Gender, Race, and Joseph Smith's Rejection of Ecstatic Religious Practice," which highlighted the "rational" approach of Mormon men vs. the "emotionalism" of females. Finally, Hutchinston-Jones gave a very insightful paper on "Saving American Womanhood: Biblical Pronouncements in Anti-Catholic and Anti-Mormon Rhetoric in the Nineteenth Century," in which she made a case for the importance of Bibles in the homes of Protestants as a symbol of their Christianity.

After a brown-bag lunch moderated by the ASCH secretary Keith Francis on archival research, I made my way to the 1:45-3:30pm panel where I spoke on "A Pelican in the Wilderness: Charles Nisbet on Pennsylvania Frontier Life" alongside fellow panelists, David Powers, an independent scholar, who spoke on "Preaching on the 'Western' Frontier: What the People of Springfield, Massachusetts Heard in the 1640s," Keith Lyon, a recent PhD graduate from the UT-Knoxville, on "Sacredness and Sociability in God's Brush Arbor: Camp Meeting Culture, 1800-1860," and Keith Beebe of Whitworth University on "Setting the Record Straight: Evangelical Redactions of Religious Experience in Scotland's First Oral History Project." What I appreciated the most was Charlie Scalise's comments after we gave our presentations. Scalise offered a very thoughtful critique of each of our papers. It reminded me of being at a wedding in which the pastor gives a personal charge to the bride and groom.

I was planning on going to the final plenary session and banquet tonight, but I can't pass up watching Michigan play Syracuse. Here's hoping Michigan makes it to the championship game!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Day 2 in Portland

It is Day 2 at the ASCH spring meeting in Portland. I enjoyed the 11am-1:30pm session on "Religion and the American Presidency" with panelists, David Bains of Samford University, Seth Dowland of Pacific Lutheran University, and Brantley Gasaway of Bucknell University, chaired by Mary Beth Mathews of the University of Mary Washington. Bains spoke on "Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Civil War, and the Presbyterian Identity," Dowland on "Southern Baptist Apostate: Bill Clinton's Fight with the Religious Right," and Gasaway on "Personal Piety, Presidential Hypocrisy: The Progressive Evangelical Critiques of Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush." Much of what Gasaway spoke about paralleled the content discussed in David Swartz's The Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservativism. I was interested in learning that Gasaway is working on a book that expands on Swartz's book to include information on the evangelical left into the 1980s and 1990s. I look forward to reading his book when it is completed.

After the session, I had lunch with Bruce Hindmarsh, who is this year's president of the ASCH. Since I studied primarily theology at Regent College, I didn't get to know Bruce until after I began studying the history of evangelicalism. It is fun to talk with someone whose scholarly interest is also in the eighteenth century. He is currently working on a book on evangelical spiritual theology, under contract with InterVarsity Press.

In the afternoon, I did some grading and reading before attending the 5:45-6:45 roundtable discussion on "Rethinking the Study of Church History--A Presidential View," with past and current ASCH presidents Barbara Brown Zikmund, Charles Lippy, and Bruce Hindmarsh (chaired by Marianne Delaporte). This was an interesting session as the panelists and audience analyzed the role of the society as well as the changes in the ASCH over the last forty years. Zikmund pointed out, for instance, that women such as herself had been previously marginalized and/or patronized at the society in years past. And all the panelists agreed that the ASCH has broadened its scope beyond confessional boundaries that dominated the 1960s and 1970s.

Tomorrow, I give my paper on Charles Nisbet. I'm not yet sure how I can talk about him in fifteen minutes, but I'll give it a try.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Day 1 in Portland

Today is day one at the ASCH spring meeting in Portland, Oregon. I arrived last night and am already acclimated to the three-hour time change. This morning I rode the Street Car to downtown Portland, where I enjoyed an excellent breakfast at Cheryl's and then perused the history and religion sections at Powell's Books. The rainy weather, architecture, stores, and environmentally-conscious culture reminded me of Vancouver, B.C. What a great city!

In the afternoon, I watched a few episodes of Swamp People on the History Channel, before meeting two of my friends who attended graduate school with me at Regent College. I spent the next four hours enjoying the company of my friends and catching up. Unfortunately, I missed the plenary session at 7pm, but arrived back at the hotel just in time to participate in the reception at 8pm.

Wow! Pre-Order Early Evangelicalism: A Reader for $26

Wow! Early Evangelicalism: A Reader is currently available on for pre-order at $26. Take a look.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Portland Bound!

Tomorrow I head to Portland, Oregon for the Spring conference of the American Society of Church History (ASCH). On Saturday afternoon, I will be giving a paper at one of the sessions entitled, "A Pelican in the Wilderness: Charles Nisbet on Pennsylvania Frontier Life." If you attend the conference, please say hello.

In the Middle Ages, the pelican was a common Christian image used to symbolize Christ, who suffered on behalf of humanity. Taken from Psalm 102:6, the medieval pelican was depicted as piercing its own breast in order to feed its young. I argue that in the same way as the symbolic pelican who suffered for the sake of its young, Charles Nisbet positioned himself as a Christian martyr who endured the hardships of frontier life in Pennsylvania in order to educate the students at Dickinson College.

Below is the abstract for my presentation.

This paper is based on original research and analysis of over 150 manuscript letters written by the Scottish minister Charles Nisbet (1736–1804) who emigrated to America. In 1785 Nisbet traveled to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to become the first principal of Dickinson College, one of the nation’s earliest institutions. As an outspoken advocate for the American cause during the War of Independence, and a friend and colleague of John Witherspoon, Nisbet was the favorite choice for Benjamin Rush and the other trustees at Dickinson College. Rush had helped secure Witherspoon as the president of the College of New Jersey in 1768, and wanted to invite another orthodox Scottish Presbyterian minister to head this new educational venture at Carlisle. But unlike Witherspoon, Nisbet failed to appreciate America. Soon after his arrival in Pennsylvania, Nisbet’s relationship with Rush and the other trustees deteriorated. The new principal resented the absolute control of the trustees over the college, and quarreled with them for years about the late payments of his salary. Nisbet found America to be an overall distasteful place to live, especially for a man of letters living on the Pennsylvania frontier. The sweltering heat of the summers, the unmotivated students, and the uncultured atmosphere of Carlisle with its Francophile residents all contributed to his general contempt for a nation that he once admired. Ignored by the trustees and feeling like an exile (he referred to himself as a “pelican in the wilderness”), Nisbet used his letters to lash out at the sources of his frustrations. This alleviated some of the tensions of living in America while also irritating the trustees at Dickinson College. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Early Evangelicalism: A Reader Table of Contents

Below is the table of contents for Early Evangelicalism: A Reader.

1.      A Selection of Hymns by Isaac Watts
2.      Biography of a Moravian: The Life of Nicolas Lewis, Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf
3.      Justice for the Punishment of Sin: Jonathan Dickinson’s The Reasonableness of Christianity
4.      George Whitefield’s Signature Sermon: The Nature and Necessity of Our New Birth in Christ Jesus
5.      Calvinism under Fire: John Wesley’s Free Grace
6.      The Conversion of a Welshman: A Brief Account of the Life of Howell Harris
7.      A Selection of Hymns by Charles Wesley
8.      A Divisive Great Awakening Sermon: Gilbert Tennent’s The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry
9.      Revivals as a Means of Reform: Samuel Finley’s Christ Triumphing, and Satan Raging
10.  Diary of Doubts: The Diary of Hannah Heaton
11.  Racing to Hear Whitefield Preach: “The Spiritual Travels of Nathan Cole”
12.  Revival at Cambuslang, Scotland: William McCulloch’s The Glasgow-Weekly History
13.  Overcome by the Power of the Spirit: Sarah Pierpont Edwards’s “Uncommon Discoveries of the Divine Perfections and Glory”
14.  Revival at Kilsyth, Scotland: James Robe’s A Faithful Narrative of the Extraordinary Work of the Spirit of God, at Kilsyth
15.  Jonathan Edwards Assesses a Revival: Thomas Prince’s Christian History
16.  Piety over Worldly Pleasures: The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony
17.  Satan’s Strategies of Deception: Thomas Gillespie’s A Treatise on Temptation
18.  Spiritual Devotions for the Soul: Philip Doddridge’s The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul
19.  A Conversion Story: The Life of Mr. J. Cennick
20.  A Missionary among Native Americans: David Brainerd’s Mirabilia Dei inter Indicos
21.  A Selection of Hymns by Benjamin Ingham
22.  Summarizing God’s Law: Joseph Bellamy’s True Religion Delineated
23.  Revival in the Low Countries: Hugh Kennedy’s A Short Account of the Rise and Continuing Progress of a Remarkable Work of Grace in the United Netherlands
24.  Satirical Revenge: John Witherspoon’s Ecclesiastical Characteristics
25.  Natural vs. Moral Necessity in the Will: Jonathan Edwards’s Freedom of the Will 
26.  Open Letter to Commit Oneself to God: Sarah Prince Gill’s “To All My Young Acquaintance, into Whose Hands These Lines May Come”
27.  The Humiliation and Exaltation of the Cross: John Maclaurin’s “Glorying in the Cross of Christ” 
28.  Determining Divine Grace: Sarah Osborn’s The Nature, Certainty and Evidence of True Christianity
29.  Eloquent Calvinism: James Hervey’s Theron and Aspasio 
30.  Life as the Wife of a College President: The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr  
31.  Report on African American Religion in Virginia: Letters from the Rev. Samuel Davies
32.  Praising the Ineffable: Anne Steele’s Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional 
33.  Before Dartmouth College: Eleazar Wheelock’s A Plain and Faithful Narrative… of the Indian Charity-School at Lebanon, in Connecticut 
34.  The Difference between True and False Religion: Henry Venn’s The Complete Duty of Man
35.  Salvation at Sea: John Newton’s Authentic Narrative
36.  An Anglican Minister Describes Faith: William Romaine’s The Life of Faith
37.  Faith Restricted to the Mind: John Erskine’s The Nature of Christian Faith
38.  Advice to Women on Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience: Mary Fletcher’s Jesus, Altogether Lovely
39.  Defending the Doctrine of Christian Perfection: John William Fletcher’s First Check to Antinomianism
40.  A Selection of Hymns by William Williams
41.  Advice on Alcohol: Samson Occom’s Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul
42.  An Argument for the Separation of Church and State: Isaac Backus’s Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty
43.  A Selection of Poems by Phillis Wheatley
44.  Practical Disinterested Benevolence: Samuel Hopkins’s Dialogue, Concerning the Slavery of the Africans 
45.  Amazing Grace (How Sweet the Sound): John Newton’s “Faith’s Review and Expectation”
46.  A Baptist’s Beliefs: “A Confession of Faith Delivered by John Ryland Junior of Northampton at His Ordination to the Pastoral Care of the Church in College Lane”
47.  A Gospel Call to Sinners: Henry Alline’s Sermon Preached at Fort-Midway 
48.  The Duty to Respond to the Gospel Message: Andrew Fuller’s The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation 
49.  The Ideal Student: Charles Nisbet’s Address to the Students of Dickinson College  
50.  The Unlawfulness of Enslaving Humans: Thomas Clarkson’s Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species 
51.  An Appeal to the Higher Ranks of Society: Hannah More’s Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society
52.  Salvation Comes to a Sailor: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
53.  Journal of an American Methodist: An Extract from the Journal of Francis Asbury 
54.  Guidelines for American Methodists: Francis Asbury’s and Thomas Coke’s Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America 
55.  An Argument for Overseas Missionary Work: William Carey’s An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens 
56.  The Necessity of Evil: Samuel Hopkins’s System of Doctrines
57.  Godly Living in a New England Town: Timothy Dwight’s Greenfield Hill: A Poem, in Seven Parts  
58.  Debunking Racial Stereotypes: Richard Allen’s “Address to Those Who Keep Slaves, and Approve the Practice”
59.  An Anglican Evangelical’s Sermon: Charles Simeon’s Gospel Message 
60.  True and False Religion Exposed: William Wilberforce’s Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country 
61.  Godly Government during a Time of Crisis: Lemuel Haynes’s Influence of Civil Government on Religion
62.  A Conspiracy Theorists Theory: Jedidiah Morse’s Sermon, Delivered at the New North Church in Boston