What Scholars Do

I have been discussing the historical credentials of the Book of Mormon, in order to illustrate the differences between mainstream and fringe scholarship. Briefly, the history that the book supplies of the pre-Columbian Americas is wholly fictitious, and should never be treated as literal historical truth. We are free to discuss its merits as spiritual [Read More...]

Five Reasons Carter Wasn’t So Bad

Carter has been maligned for being a weak, ineffective, micromanaging president. Randall Balmer begs to differ. To be sure, Carter had his weaknesses (and in his biography Redeemer, Balmer acknowledges them, including a sordid account of race-baiting during his gubernatorial campaign of 1970). But he points out that Carter’s presidency was sabotaged by events quite [Read More...]

Baptists in America: A History

Next Monday marks the formal release date for my new book (with Barry Hankins) Baptists in America: A History. Why should you consider buying a copy, or using it in a college course, or in your adult Sunday School class? Here are four reasons: 1) Baptists in America offers a fresh approach to the history of Baptists [Read More...]

Buddhists, Christians, and Godly Prosperity

The Buddhist magazine Tricycle sometimes offers really fine writing, and the past Spring issue included an outstanding example that raises all sorts of questions and parallels for historians of Christianity. The piece in question was “The Buddha’s Footprint,” by Johan Elverskog of SMU (subscription needed for full access). It’s a substantial article, and not surprisingly [Read More...]

Ordinary Faith and Extraordinary History

As a historical source on the ancient Americas, the Book of Mormon is worthless. That observation, though, has not the slightest impact on the existence or growth of the LDS church, nor should it. Just why that is the case tells us much about the relationship between the claims of any faith and the reasons [Read More...]

Evangelical Oats

Quaker_Oats_advertisement_1905

Reuben Torrey and Henry Crowell are the two key figures in Timothy Gloege’s outstanding Guaranteed Pure. In his book, Gloege develops a rich analogy between the rise of corporate advertising and the rise of American fundamentalism. Crowell grew up in a Presbyterian family, then was taken with Dwight Moody’s revival encouragement to “dream great things [Read More...]

A Time of Commencement: Religious Liberty

William Raspberry By Knight Foundation (William Raspberry  Uploaded by Gobonobo) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As the end of May approaches, most colleges and universities in the United States have already conferred degrees upon their graduates.  A long and arduous day punctuates the final exercises, which display the accomplishments of the graduates to their friends and families.  Part and parcel of that process is the commencement address, which few in [Read More...]

Why Weren’t Baptists More Enthusiastic Patriots?

Today’s post comes from chapter 3 of my new book Baptists in America: A History (Oxford University Press), co-authored with my friend and Baylor colleague Barry Hankins. Baptist pastor James Manning of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote to English Baptist leader John Ryland in November 1776, apprising him of trouble in the American colonies. Two winters before, Providence’s [Read More...]

Wandering Over the Plains of the Nephites

Mound_Builder_City

In my last post, on the Book of Mormon, I asked a question: Does the Book contain a statement or idea about the New World that Joseph Smith could not have known at the time, but which has subsequently been validated by archaeological or historical research? I mention this point because the apologist literature includes [Read More...]

Mormons and New World History

Recently, I have been posting on fringe and mainstream ideas in scholarship, and have identified a number of working principles. Today I am going to illustrate these themes through one particular religious text, namely the Book of Mormon. This story also has lessons for mainstream Christians, who to varying degrees also have to face the [Read More...]


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