Sunday, 31 March 2013

Early Evangelicalism: A Reader on

Early Evangelicalism: A Reader is now available for pre-order on The official launch date is early September, and it will be available in hardback for $99 and paperback for $35.

I'm thrilled that the paperback will be affordable. The entire book will be over 400 pages and include forty-six images, sixty-two introductions, and excerpts from male and female transatlantic authors of varying race (white, black, native American) throughout North America, Scotland, England, Wales, and parts of the Netherlands and Germany. I hope to view the art work for the book, including the cover image, in the next few days.

Here is the production information that is provided on

Evangelicalism has played a prominent role in western religion since the dawn of modernity. Coinciding with the emergence of the Enlightenment in America and Europe, evangelicalism flourished during the transatlantic revivals of the eighteenth century. In addition to adopting Protestantism's core beliefs of justification by faith, scripture alone, and the priesthood of believers, early evangelicals emphasized conversion and cross-cultural missions to a greater extent than Christians of previous generations.

Most people today associate early evangelicalism with only a few of its leaders. Yet this was a religious movement that involved more people than simply Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. Early evangelicals were Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Moravians, and Presbyterians and could be found in America, Canada, Great Britain, and Western Europe. They published hymns, historical works, poems, political pamphlets, revival accounts, sermons, and theological treatises. They recorded their conversion experiences and kept diaries and journals that chronicled their spiritual development. Early Evangelicalism: A Reader is an anthology that introduces a host of important religious figures. After brief biographical sketches of each author, this book offers over sixty excerpts from a wide range of well-known and lesser-known Protestant Christians, representing a variety of denominations, geographical locations, and underrepresented groups in order to produce the most comprehensive sourcebook of its kind.

I hope that those of you out there teaching courses in the history of Christianity, American and European religious history, and the history of evangelicalism will consider using the book as a textbook for your classes.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

"Religious History" March Madness

The folks over at the Junto blog are having fun organizing a March Madness bracket for early American history. I wish that the Religion in American History blog had also joined the festivities by providing a religious history March Madness bracket. Perhaps The Democratization of American Christianity and America's God would have fared better.

For what it's worth, below are my 64 picks for a "religious history" bracket. I make no apologies for my obvious skewed interests:

  1. Sydney Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People
  2. Debby Applegate, The Most Famous Man in America
  3. Susan Wise Bauer, The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America
  4. Chris Beneke, Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism
  5. David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s
  6. Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People
  7. Vincent Carretta, Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage
  8. Ava Chamberlain, The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder, and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards
  9. Bruce Kuklick, Churchmen and Philosophers: From Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey
  10. Randall Balmer, A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies
  11. Patricia Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America
  12. Catherine Brekus, Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America
  13. Callum Brown, The Death of Christian Britain
  14. Alister Chapman, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement
  15. Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservativism
  16. Norman Fiering, Jonathan Edwards's Moral Thought in Its British Context
  17. Linford Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America
  18. Sylvia Frey and Betty Wood, Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830
  19. Bruce Gordon, Calvin
  20. Marie Griffith, Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity
  21. Christopher Grasso, A Speaking Aristocracy: Transforming Public Discourse in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut
  22. John Grigg, The Lives of David Brainerd: The Making of an American Evangelical Icon
  23. Allen Guelzo, Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate
  24. Paul Gutjahr, Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy
  25. David Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England
  26. Barry Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America 
  27. Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity
  28. Paul Harvey, Freedom's Coming Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era
  29. David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit
  30. Christine Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt
  31. Bruce Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition
  32. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War
  33. Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South
  34. Thomas Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America
  35. Thomas Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution
  36. David Kling, A Field of Divine Wonders
  37. Frank Lambert, Inventing the "Great Awakening"
  38. Tim Larsen, Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England
  39. Michael Lindsay, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite
  40. George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture
  41. George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life 
  42. Henry May, The Enlightenment in America
  43. Edmund Morgan, The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles
  44. Steven Nadler, Spinoza: A Life
  45. Richard Newman, Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers
  46. Mark Noll, America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
  47. Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys 
  48. Amanda Porterfield, Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation
  49. Leigh Schmidt, Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period
  50. John Sensbach, Rebecca's Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World
  51. Richard Sher, Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment
  52. Anne Stott, Hannah More: The First Victorian
  53. Harry Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism
  54. Harry Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England
  55. Charles Habrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety 
  56. David Swartz, The Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservativism
  57. Peter Theusen, Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine
  58. John Turner, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America
  59. John Tyson, Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley
  60. Mark Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America
  61. Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostalism and American Culture
  62. W. R. Ward, The Protestant Evangelical Awakening
  63. John Wigger, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists
  64. John Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular  Christianity in AmericaDaniel Williams, God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Confessing History Conversation

There are some interesting exchanges going on over at the Religion in American History blog, regarding the edited volume, Confessing History. Take a look here.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Weekend of March Madness and Editing

My wife and kids are on spring break, having left for Florida a few days ago. At home by myself, I have been meticulously going through the copyedited files for Early Evangelicalism: A Reader that I received from OUP (67 files to go through by early April!) and watching some of the incredible March Madness games.

I was disappointed that Iowa State didn't beat Ohio State (Michigan's main rival), and saddened by the Butler loss (I use to live near Indianapolis). But I am thrilled that Michigan (my home state), Michigan State, Indiana and especially FGCU advanced. My wife attended FGCU for graduate school, and my parents and in-laws continue to live in the Fort Myers area. It will be exciting to see if FGCU can beat Florida next weekend.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Graduate School and the Academic Job Market

Today, I chaired a session at UTC entitled, "Graduate School, the Academic Job Market, and the Life of Young Professors." I organized a panel consisting of two professors in each of the following humanities disciplines: history, English studies, religion, and philosophy.

Here are the highlights of the session:

Points of Agreement
  • Teaching full-time at a university is rewarding.
  • Being a professor is well worth all the financial and personal struggles, if you land a tenure-track job.
  • Despite all that you do to build up a strong cv, there is an element of luck/providence in securing a full-time faculty position.
  • You should have a solid backup plan in case you cannot find full-time employment as a professor.
  • To be a strong candidate for faculty employment, you should have at least some peer-reviewed journal articles and ideally a book (or book contract).

Points of Disagreement
  • Not everyone had a favorable experience at graduate school. While some panelists had a great time reading interesting books and enjoying the culture of the city in which they lived, others felt lonely, overwhelmed, and uninspired by their courses, advisers, and reading list.
  • More than half of the panelists felt strongly that you should not go to graduate school if you are married; almost everyone (but me) said that you should not go to graduate school if you have children.
  • About half the panelists said that there is value in a graduate school education that does not lead to full-time employment as a professor. The other half argued that it was a waste of time and money to go to graduate school (in the humanities) without the intent of becoming a professor.
  • The panelists were split on whether you should go to graduate school if you are not offered free tuition and/or a stipend.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Following the Glory Cloud to Bethel Church

One of my students recently finished a wonderful honors thesis on Bethel Church in Redding, California. My student traveled to California last summer to conduct interviews with some of the leaders of the church and to observe the worship services at Bethel. She then analyzed the organizational structure of the church, showing that under the leadership of Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton, Bethel has instituted several structures, including a School for Supernatural Ministry, "the glory cloud," "healing rooms," "Sozo," and "Treasure Hunts" in order to foster continual spiritual revival and prevent the church from religious laxity. Our hope is that she will be able to publish this original thesis.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Is Paul Tillich Too Hard to Teach?

After yesterday's session in my course on "Modern Christian Thought," I wondered if Paul Tillich's theology is too difficult to teach to undergraduates. Called the "apostle to the intellectuals," Tillich sought to postulate essential truths of Christianity in the modern world.

After earning a PhD at the University of Breslau in 1910 for his thesis on Schelling, he served as a chaplain during WWI. He returned from the battlefields to discover that his wife had an affair with his best friend that resulted in the birth of a child. Divorcing his first wife, he remarried and went on to teach at the Universities of Berlin, Marburg, and Frankfurt. His book, The Socialist Decision (1933), however, caused controversy within the Nazis regime, and so to escape persecution, he fled to America in the same year to teach at Union Theological Seminary.

During his twenty-three years at Union, Tillich established a name for himself through his sermons and publications such as his Systematic Theology (volume one was completed in 1951) and The Courage to Be (1952), which reflected on various aspects of contemporary culture. His fame led to an appointment at Harvard  as University Professor in 1955. He finished his career as Nuveen Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, beginning at 1962. His importance as a leading thinker can be seen in his appearance on the cover of Time on March 16, 1959, and the fact that he was showered with twelve honorary doctorates from major universities in America and Europe. Despite the acclaim that he received as a theologian, however, Tillich was plagued throughout his life with doubts about his own salvation, greatly fearing death. He was a man of paradoxes. While promoting socialism, he reportedly lived an extravagant and promiscuous lifestyle, and although teaching theology, he rarely attended church.

Trying to summarize Tillich's theology is incredibly difficult. He tediously worked towards making a bridge between contemporary culture and Christian doctrines. But in order to accomplish his goal, he offered an extraordinarily intricate theological system that was built on innovative concepts such as his "Method of Correlation" and God as "Ground of Being." Adding to the difficulty in grasping his terminology, he advocated a symbolic understanding of Christianity that focused on existential ontology. Tillich believed that ontology was useful to theology in the questions that could be raised about God from a philosophical standpoint. As individuals became curious about their status as human beings in relationship to God, they realize that they are finite. To find meaning in the world, one is pointed toward the supreme "ground of being,"  which holds all of life together.

According to Tillich, we can discover "the Word of God," or divine revelation, not by studying propositional truths, but in events and experiences that take place through different media, such  as nature, history, individuals, and speech. While some have claimed that Tillich was a pantheist, who claimed that God is in everything, it probably more accurate to describe him as a panentheist, who believed that everything is in God. The difference is that the latter emphasizes the prominence of God rather than material substances. Also, by advocating panentheism, Tillich could maintain his dual emphasis on God's transcendence (as infinitely transcending the world) and immanence (the world is a part of God).

Tillich taught that God should not be understood as an independent being that is separate from the universe. Instead, he postulated that God is the unconditional element that is experienced with the universe. He said that humans come to terms with this unconditional element when we witness beauty in art or music, for instance. It is "unconditional" in that while we can recognize the presence of God at times, we cannot know for certain the way that the mind interprets God independent of our experiences of ordinary events that take place in life. According to Tillich, when we experience this unconditional element, we often try to interpret this element by calling it "God." But when we do this, we are inadvertently placing limitations upon the element within our mind. In this way, we as finite human beings are limiting God to categories of our experience that are constrained by time and space. Tillich argues that God is both immanent and transcendent in that God is present in our mind, but cannot be entirely grasped. The importance of religion for Tillich then is in its value in helping us to find a deeper meaning in life.

Traditional stories in the Bible about the fall of Adam and Eve, and even Jesus, therefore should be interpreted symbolically. It is not necessary to believe in a literal Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Rather, this story in Genesis is about the predicament of humanity in not finding meaning in life. Humans long for a "new being" who can help us find purposeful existence instead of despairing of our current state. Tillich positions Christ as this "new being" who symbolically guides to authentic living. For Tillich, it doesn't matter if a literal Jesus Christ walked the earth, died on a cross, or rose again. Instead, the value of Jesus for believers is how he provides an example for us on how to come to terms with our own existential reality.

Going forward, I'll have to rethink how to bring in Tillich's theology in my course on "Modern Christian Thought." While he is incredibly important as a modern thinker, he is arguably the most difficult person to teach. 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Books Published by Bebbington's Students

This is a great advertisement for David Bebbington. Below are his Phd students from Stirling who have gone on to publish their dissertations, and sometimes other books.

Timothy Larsen (Class of 1997):  
Friends of Religious Equality: The Politics of the English Nonconformists in Mid-Victorian Britain (Boydell Press, 1999): Tim's PhD Dissertation

Christabel Pankhurst: Fundamentalism and Feminism in Coalition (Boydell Press, 2002)

Modern Christianity and Cultural Aspirations, edited by David Bebbington and Timothy Larsen (Bloomsbury Academic, 2003)

Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, edited by Timothy Larsen (IVP, 2003)

Contested Christianity: The Political and Social Contexts of Victorian Theology (Baylor University Press, 2004)

For Christ in Canada: A History of Tyndale Seminary, 1976-2001, by Timothy Larsen and Jon Vickery (Tyndale University College, 2004)

Reading Romans Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to Karl Barth, edited by Jeffrey Greenman and Timothy Larsen (Brazos Press, 2005)

Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England (Oxford University Press, 2006)

The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology, edited by Timothy Larsen and Daniel Treier (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Sermon on the Mount Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II, edited by Jeffrey Greenman and Timothy Larsen (Brazos Press, 2007)

Women, Ministry and the Gospel: Exploring New Paradigms, edited by Mark Husbands and Timothy Larsen (IVP, 2007)
Product Details
A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians (Oxford University Press, 2011)

The Decalogue Through the Centuries: From the Hebrew Scriptures to Benedict XVI, edited by Jeffrey Greenman and Timothy Larsen (Westminster John Knox, 2012)

Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture, edited by Keith Johnson and Timothy Larsen (IVP, 2013)

Brian Talbot (Class of 1999)

The Search for Common Identity: The Origins of the Baptist Union of Scotland, 1800-1870 (Paternoster, 2003): Brian's PhD Dissertation

Neil T. R. Dickson (Class of  2000)

Brethren in Scotland, 1838-2000 (Paternoster, 2003): Neil's PhD Dissertation

The Growth of the Brethren Movement: National and International Experiences: Essays in Honor of Harold H. Rowdon, edited by Neil T. R. Dickson and Tim Grass (Wipf & Stock, 2006)

Kenneth S. Jeffrey (Class of 2000)

When the Lord Walked the Land: The 1858-62 Revival in the North East of Scotland (Paternoster, 2003): Kenneth's PhD Dissertation

Patricia Meldrum (Class of 2004)

Conscience and Compromise: Forgotten Evangelicals of Nineteenth-Century Scotland (Paternoster, 2006): Patricia's PhD Dissertation

John D'Elia (Class of 2005)

A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America (Oxford University Press, 2008): John's PhD Dissertation

Larry Eskridge (Class of 2005)

More Money, More Ministry: Money and Evangelicals in in Recent North American History (Eerdmans, 2000)

God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford University Press, 2013): Larry's PhD Dissertation

John Maiden (Class of 2007)

National Religion and the Prayer Book Controversy, 1927-1928 (Boydell Press, 2009): John's PhD Dissertation

Jonathan Yeager (Class of 2009)

Enlightened Evangelicalism: The Life and Thought of John Erskine (Oxford University Press, 2011): My PhD Dissertation

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Ethical Sublime of Hugo's Les Miserables

Last night I listened to Patricia Ward, Professor Emerita of French and Comparative Literature, speak on "The Ethical Sublime of Hugo's Les Miserables" at Theology on Tap, a ministry of  the Mission Chattanooga.

These talks at Theology on Tap are very interesting and well attended by twenty- and thirty-year-olds in the Chattanooga community. After purchasing coffee or beer, people attending the lecture listen to the speaker for about forty-five minutes followed by a break and then a time of question and answer. I was impressed that the Mission spends very little on advertising (using mostly social media) and yet attracts around one hundred young people to come and listen to an academic lecture.

The organizer of these talks, Cole Hamilton, a graduate of Covenant College, has utilized many of the local academics in the area, including Wilfred McClay of UTC and TOT's next lecturer, Daryl Charles of Bryan College, who will be speaking on the topic of Just War on April 2.

Faculty Job

Augustana College, Rock Island, IL

Conrad J. Bergendoff visiting Fellow; Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Christian traditions

Religion -Augustana College invites applications for the Conrad J. Bergendoff visiting Fellow in Religion for the 2013-2014 academic year. Desired areas of expertise: Hebrew Bible, Judaism, and Christian traditions. Teaching expectations: seven classes spread over three terms, at least five of which must be in Christian traditions (chosen from among RELG 201: American Christianities, RELG 203: Christian Ethics, RELG 205: Christian Origins, RELG 207, Christian Scriptures, and RELG 209: Christian Theology or a newly-created course such as Judaism and Christianity) as part of the sophomore-level Christian traditions offerings. Preference will be given to candidates who have recently completed a Ph.D. or Th.D. program. The Bergendoff Fellow will be expected to participate in programs designed to help new faculty develop their pedagogical skills. She or he will also be expected to make at least one on-campus presentation of scholarly work. Term of appointment: one year with the possibility of renewable for a second year, contingent on staffing needs, demonstrated excellence in the classroom and funding. Health insurance, professional meeting allowance and other benefits provided. Bergendoff Fellows who secure tenure-track appointments at another college or university may request release from contract.
Details about Augustana, our expectation of the faculty, the selection process and the Quad Cities all are available at the Faculty Search website:
Send a letter of application, curriculum vita, copies of undergraduate and graduate transcripts, and three letters of recommendation to search #121-13 RE/Berg Fellow Search Committee, C/O Margaret Farrar, Associate Dean, Augustana College, 639-38th Street, Rock Island, Illinois 61201 or by email submission to: Questions may be directed to the department chair, Dan Lee at . Review of applications will begin April 5, 2013.

Monday, 11 March 2013

J.C. Can Save America

There are lots of good images in David Swartz's Moral Minority: The Evangelical left in an Age of Conservatisim, but I think this is my favorite (showing Jimmy Carter as Jesus):

Friday, 8 March 2013

Spring Break!

Next week is Spring Break, and I look forward to having some time off from my teaching responsibilities. Having recently submitted an article that I had been working on for the past few months, I intend to use next week to catch up on my reading. In particular, I hope to finish some of the books that have been sitting dormant on my shelves.

Some of the books that I intend to tackle include, Christina Lupton's Knowing Books: The Consciousness of Mediation in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Phillis Whitman Hunter's Purchasing Identity in the Atlantic World: Massachusetts Merchants, 1670-1780, Hugh Amory's Bibliography and the Book Trades: Studies in the Print Culture of Early New England (edited by David Hall), and volume 26 of the Works of Jonathan Edwards: Catalogues of Books.

Lately, I have been captivated by David Swartz's Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservativism. Although I purchased this book in January at the AHA conference book exhibit, I haven't had the time to begin reading it. Yesterday, I started the process--reading the first one hundred pages--and could hardly put it down.

I am not all that interested in political history, however, this book, as well as Darren Dochuk's From Bible Belt to Sunbelt may make me a convert yet! In many ways, Swartz's book feeds off of Dochuk's work on the influence of "plain-folk" religion and grassroots politics. But Swartz's monograph is more of a case study of various influential evangelicals in the political Left. He begins by analyzing Carl Henry as a transitional figure for the evangelical Left, followed by chapters on the socially-conscious John Alexander, Jim Wallis, and Senator Mark Hatfield. This is a fascinating book that should be read by anyone interested in fundamentalism and evangelical culture in the twentieth century. Swartz's book reminds us that not all evangelicals in the latter half of the twentieth century supported the Religious Right.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Faculty Job

Texas Christian University

Lecturer in Religion (World Religions)

TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY, Department of Religion, invites applications for a one-year lecturer appointment in Religion for the academic year 2013-2014, renewable for up to three years total. The 4/4 load involves teaching introductory courses in religion, especially world religions and includes the possibility of one upper-level course a year. Ph. D. and a minimum one-year teaching experience required. The department ( is committed to excellence in undergraduate teaching and scholarship. Initial applications, which must be made to, include a letter indicating qualifications for the position and a curriculum vitae. Consideration of candidates will begin March 25 and continue until the position is filled. Texas Christian University is an AA/EEO employer.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tough Times at Bryan College

These are tough times for Christian colleges. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but very few CCCU schools have advertised jobs in the humanities. This may be a sign of bad things to come for Christian liberal arts schools. A case in point is Bryan College in nearby Dayton, TN.

Bryan College has less than 1,000 students, and is apparently struggling in the current economy. The school is reducing its athletic scholarships, downsizing its faculty, and cutting the salaries of some employees (see full details here). Because the college is tuition-driven, enrollment is the engine that powers the ship. A recent decrease in student enrollment has sent the administration scrambling to make changes, which unfortunately will also mean that some faculty's contracts will not be renewed. Sadly, it looks as though the college will also cut the Bryan Institute for Critical Thought and Practice and presumably its staff.

Bryan College has already been rocked by a scandal involving one of its biblical studies faculty members. David Morgan was arrested as part of a sting operation in which he allegedly was going to meet an underage teenager for sex. Morgan, who was married at the time of the arrest last year, and an Old Testament professor, was allowed to resign "in order to pursue other opportunities," as the school reported. But when the editor of the Triangle (the school paper), Alex Green, dug deeper into the story, he discovered what he believed to be a coverup of Morgan's alleged offense by Bryan College's administration.

The school's editor was not allowed to print the story, but leaked the story anyway by distributing handouts of Morgan's alleged crime. This story received national attention, especially in the wake of the Penn State sexual scandal. In the end, the president of Bryan College apologized for not being forthright about the situation, Morgan no longer works for BC, and the editor of the school paper was not disciplined for defying the administration's wishes in keeping the story quiet. It would be interesting to find out if this scandal has caused the recent drop in enrollment.

Rudolf Bultmann: Hero or Villain?

Today, in my course on "Modern Christian Thought," I lectured on Rudolf Bultmann. I tried to explain how on the one hand his theology was similar to Karl Barth's in that both emphasized the transcendence of God and the confrontation of divine revelation in the form of the kerygma (the authentic message of the gospel). But on the other hand, Bultmann sounded like a liberal Protestant in his claim that the Bible was permeated by mythologies. Bultmann, nevertheless took great pains to distance himself from liberal Protestants like Adolf von Harnack, who said that we must strip away the "husk" of Hellenistic influences and mythologies that disguises the gospel. Instead, Bultmann suggested that we must "demythologize" the Bible.

Bultmann believed that if we try to remove the foreign influences in the Bible, we could damage the kerygma, the true message of the New Testament. We must therefore leave the Bible in its current form, recognizing the presence of mythologies in the New Testament writings, but reinterpreting these elements so that the "Christ of Faith" (rather than the historical facts of Jesus) can speak to us.

Applying the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger, Bultmann argued that having a personal confrontation with the living Christ produces authentic faith. The existential meaning in the Bible, rather than the historical interpretation, is the only way to realize a transcendent God. Transcendence meant for Bultmann that God appears to us at an existential moment in which we must decide by faith to believe in him. If we accept this gift of divine grace, we become authentic Christians. Bultmann insisted that we cannot speak of God objectively, in the sense of a series of propositional truths about his nature. Rather, we can only know God by an individual response of faith that comes to us in the form of the kerygma.

It was interesting to open up discussion on Bultmann's theology, trying to decide whether his theology was helpful or harmful for Christianity. Some people saw him as a villain who undermined traditional doctrines, while others sympathized with Bultmann's attempt to modernize Christianity while still preserving its power.

The Pros and Cons of Graduate School

The upcoming session for prospective graduate students is already creating a buzz among some of the humanities faculty at UTC. One professor recently emailed me this rather humorous link, which tries to discourage students from trying to become professors. Check out the article that he sent me entitled, "Open Letter to My Students: No, You Cannot Be a Professor."

Monday, 4 March 2013

Understanding Latitudinarianism

Today, in my course on "The Faiths of the Founding Fathers," I lectured on the shift in theological beliefs that occurred in the seventeenth-century Anglican Church. My lecture was based on material found in C. F. Allison's The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter, Roland Stromberg's Religious Liberalism in Eighteenth-Century England, C. R. Cragg's From Puritanism to the Age of Reason: A Study of Changes in Religious Thought within the Church of England, 1660 to 1700, Knud Haakonssen's edited volume, Enlightenment and Religion in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Alister McGrath's Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification: Volume II: From 1500 to the Present Day, and Isabel Rivers's Reason, Grace, and Sentiment: A Study of the Language of Religion and Ethics in England, 1660-1780.

In my lecture, I sought to explain the following terms: Puritanism, Dissent, Latitudinarianism, the Cambridge Platonists, Arminianism, Arianism, Deism, and Socinianism. We had already talked quite a bit about Puritanism, Dissent, Deism, and Arminianism. My primary objective for today was to focus on Latitudinarianism. I argued that when deciphering the faiths of the Founding Fathers with Anglican roots, it is essential to understand that term. George Washington's faith, for example, becomes less murky if one knows what Latitudinarians believed.

I went very slowly today in describing how many of the Caroline Divines viewed justification as both an event and a process that included regeneration and sanctification. In this way, faith in a believer becomes the formal cause of justification, rather than Christ's imputed righteousness (what many of the Puritans argued). If you understand that there was a change in theological beliefs in England after the restoration of Charles II, which promoted justification as a process that depended on a person's contribution of faith, it easy to see why morality became so important in the latter half of the seventeenth century and into the next century.

The pejorative term "Latitudinarianism," has been used to describe those divines who sought to promote Christianity in its simplest form, so that it could be believed by rational people and utilized for benevolent purposes. Latitudinarian Anglicans like Bishop John Tillotson wanted to preach sermons that an average parishioner could understand, as opposed to the metaphysical and speculative message that they perceived came from Puritan pulpits. Latitudinarian ministers accused the Puritans as obscuring the plain meaning of true Christianity with their complex terms and doctrines. They particularly did not like the Calvinistic notions of irresistible grace and imputed righteousness because there appeared to be no human responsibility in these doctrines. Rather, the Latitudinarians argued that Christianity should be based on morality (with the ultimate goal of happiness), and filtered through the sieve of natural reason.

I hope to spend more time on Wednesday discussing some of these terms and beliefs, as they relate to Founding Fathers like Washington and Edmund Randolph.

In the Spirit of Stackhouse

When I attended Regent College as a graduate student, I remembered attending John Stackhouse's sessions for prospective PhD students. In the spirit of Stackhouse, I have put together a session at UTC for students considering graduate school. Below is our ad.

Graduate School, The Academic Job Market,
& The Life of Young Professors

If you re you considering graduate school in English studies, history, philosophy, or religion, consider the following questions:

What is graduate school “really like”?

What does it take to write a thesis (for an MA) or a dissertation (for a PhD)?

What is the current job market like for academic positions? What does an individual need to do to secure a faculty job in academia?

What is it like to be a young professor, teaching at a university? What does an average day, week, month, and year look like?

These questions and more will be answered on Thursday, March 21, from 3:00pm to 4pm in Holt 307.

The Panelists:

            Brian Ribeiro (Philosophy)
            Talia Welsh (Philosophy)                                         
            Steve Eskildsen (Religion)
            Jonathan Yeager (Religion)
            Michael Thompson (History)
Catharine Franklin (History)
            Bryan Hampton (English)
Andrew McCarthy (English)