Best 5 Books on the Puritans

I recently reviewed Michael Winship’s Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill, and thought I would use the occasion to offer a list of 5 all-time great books on the Puritans in America. The Puritans have attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, so there are lots of excellent books not included [Read More...]

THE CHURCH VANISHES

I am a member of the Episcopal Church, USA (hereafter TEC). I am increasingly worried that in a few years, I might be THE member of the Episcopal Church, USA, the last of my kind. As Rod Dreher, Ross Douthat and others have pointed out, the church has just issued a summary of its attendance [Read More...]

THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE

I recently described the problem of finding useful novels that could be used to teach on American religion, and particularly evangelicalism. As I remarked, some books are wonderful as sources, but they are anything but friendly to evangelical Christianity. As a case in point,  I cite Harold Frederic’s The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896), which [Read More...]

Lives of Reinvention

Malcolm_X_Life_of_Reinvention

Summer is an all-too-short season for making time to read items that have languished on the “to-read” list for too long. This year, I’ve found time for two books on my list (by the ingenious method of assigning them to my students): S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon and Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A [Read More...]

American History and the American Church: A Proposal

I spent the weekend in the beautiful beach town of Ocean City, NJ where I was the guest of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church.  I spoke in all three Sunday morning services (including an 8am communion service on the boardwalk!) and gave a public lecture on how liberal arts education, especially the study of history, [Read More...]

“Ask Jesus into Your Heart”: A History of the Sinner’s Prayer

Many an evangelical pastor has concluded a sermon by asking non-Christians to “ask [or receive, or invite] Jesus into their heart,” or to pray some version of what some call the “sinner’s prayer.” But some evangelicals, including Baptist pastor David Platt of Birmingham, Alabama, have begun to criticize the sinner’s prayer as unbiblical and superstitious. Surely, [Read More...]

SAINTS AND SYRIANS

I have been giving a lot of thought to a recent news story that, to me, epitomizes the difficulties of Christian political activism – anywhere, any time. Here’s the background. Syria is in the middle of a brutal civil war, as revolutionaries attempt to overthrow the Ba’thist regime of President Asad. Although corrupt and repressive, [Read More...]

TEACHING TRUTH WITH FICTION

Not for the first time, a conversation with Tommy Kidd has set me thinking. Whenever I teach a course on virtually any topic, I use non-textbook materials including memoirs, autobiographies, and/or fiction as a basis for discussion. (See for instance a course I taught for many years at Penn State on Modern Christianity, with the [Read More...]

MISSIONS AND DEMOCRACY

We don’t normally look for major pieces about the history of Christian missions in the prestigious American Political Science Review, so it’s worth pointing out a fascinating piece in the most recent issue. Sociologist Robert Woodberry has an article there on “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” tracing the impact of Protestant evangelistic efforts on [Read More...]

The Top Five Forgotten Founders

When Americans speak of the “Founding Fathers,” they usually have a group of about six men in mind: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, and John Adams, for sure, and maybe Alexander Hamilton or Samuel Adams. These Founders are endlessly fascinating, but if all we do is focus on this short list, we get [Read More...]


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