Archives for June 2013

The NSA Controversy, the Founding Fathers, and the Fourth Amendment

My latest post for The Federalist Papers reflects on the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and requires that warrants be justified by “probable cause.” What was the historical context of the Fourth Amendment, and why were the Founders so concerned about what they called “general warrants”? More [Read More…]


Throughout their history, Christians have used the Old Testament as well as the New. But their Old Testament references often derived from a much wider body of texts that we know under that name. Apart from the canonical books, many other works circulated purporting to expand on the stories found in the Hebrew Bible, and [Read More…]


Any history of the New Testament text makes extensive use of the magnificent fourth century Greek Bibles, the “uncial codices.” We know the three greatest as Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus. These were splendid deluxe volumes intended for major churches, intended to be accessible to the Empire’s new Christian elites. They thus give an excellent idea [Read More…]


As I recently noted, the book of Judith is not part of the Hebrew Tanakh or of Protestant Bibles, but it is recognized as canonical in other churches, especially the Catholic and Orthodox. I do understand the reasons why Protestants made the decision they did to relegate the book to the Apocrypha, although its subsequent [Read More…]

A Model of Christian Charity

Nearly every semester, I have the occasion to ask at least one class of students to read John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon, “Christian Charity, a Modell Hereof.” Most of my students have rather negative impressions of Puritanism, which in their minds probably equals religious intolerance and the execution of teenaged witches. I don’t assign them Winthrop [Read More…]

The Spirit of (Personal) Development

I post today from Los Angeles, where I’m spending the week at World Vision International headquarters doing research for my next project. To prepare for my trip, I read Erica Bornstein’s The Spirit of Development: Protestant NGOs, Morality, and Economics in Zimbabwe (2005). The book explores the work and theology of two large Christian development [Read More…]

Graduate Course Readings in Early American Religion

This fall I am teaching a history graduate course at Baylor (doctoral and master’s students) on early American religion, and have recently submitted my book orders. What am I trying to do with this list of readings? Several goals overlap: first, I want to introduce students to some of the most important recent academic titles [Read More…]

The Incombustible Martin Luther

  I have just returned from Europe, where, among other things, I led a 10-day study trip in search of the origins of Protestantism in the former East Germany, now among the most secular places on earth as sociologists of religion reckon.  As one Lutheran pastor put it during the twilight of the Soviet Era, [Read More…]


Britain during the 1960s and 1970s suffered from a Prime Minister named Harold Wilson. Once, when Wilson was to read the lesson at Westminster Abbey, the clergy involved asked him which version of the Bible he would like to use – King James, Revised, which one? Flustered, Wilson supposedly replied that he would read from [Read More…]


I have recently been posting about Dualist versions of Christianity, and their incredibly long-lasting influence across Europe and the Middle East. But whatever happened to Dualism? The answer is mysterious, but might conceivably tell us something about the origins of the European Reformation. That disappearance was near-total. In the Christian world at least, Manichaeanism was [Read More…]