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


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 (], 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


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...]

The Monte Verde Principle

I have been discussing fringe or marginal theories that run contrary to the scholarly consensus in a given field, and why we need to be very careful about rejecting that mainstream opinion. Just because an idea seems bold or iconoclastic does not make it right. You may at this point be thinking that I am [Read More...]

Tom Brady and Joseph Smith, Lies and Liars

“And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar,” informs Lawrence Wright in his best-selling Going Clear. In an epilogue, Wright compares Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to the founding prophet of Mormonism. As evidence, Wright points to Smith’s denial of polygamy and his claim that scrolls of Egyptian papyrus contained the writings of the biblical [Read More...]