The End of Religious Freedom?

Smith Freedom

What is religious freedom? Is it the freedom to worship or otherwise interact with God, gods, or other things and entities as one sees fit? Is it freedom of conscience in terms of the supernatural? If religious freedom also involves the right to live out one’s religion in the public sphere, how far does that [Read More...]

Religious Marketplace, Religious Fragmentation

Moore - Selling God

I am a big fan of religious disestablishment.  I appreciate the tireless advocacy (and agitation) of my Baptist forbears for freedom of conscience in matters of religion.  Over the decades, men such as Thomas Helwys, John Clarke, John Leland, Isaac Backus and the signers of historic Baptist confessions like the First London Confession (1644), The [Read More...]

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

[This week's post comes from my Patheos archives.] 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 a version of what some call the “sinner’s prayer.” But some evangelicals, including Baptist pastor David Platt of Birmingham, Alabama, have in recent years [Read More...]



I posted about the art of mission, the ways in which Euro-American Christians visualized the missionary efforts under way in Africa and Asia. Those pictures give a fine insight into the ideology of mission, helping us understand what believers in that age thought they were trying to accomplish. We find some superb examples of that [Read More...]



Visual art can be a terrific source for the history of religion, and that is especially true when we look at Christian missions through the centuries. Those visuals don’t just reflect our idea of a topic, they do much to shape it. For many people today, the word “missionary” is faintly ludicrous, and conjures up [Read More...]

American Pseudobibles (and the Book of Mormon)


Americans during the Revolutionary era and the Early Republic lived in a world suffused with the Hebrew scriptures. That reality, already charted by many historians (including Mark Noll, who once termed the Old Testament (“the common coinage of the realm”), is only the backdrop to Eran Shalev’s remarkable American Zion: The Old Testament as a [Read More...]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Holiness Edition


Jay Beaman, a sociologist at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, likes to do historical experiments. After extensive research he sends emails to members of, telling them that he has found a relative of theirs who claimed religious objection on their World War I draft card. These relatives were members of holiness and Pentecostal [Read More...]

Tocqueville’s Uncanny Vision

Last week I had the privilege of leading my History of American Thought class at Baylor through Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. This is one of the most intriguing, and in some cases most chilling, analyses of the American republic ever written. Composed by the visiting French aristocrat in the 1830s, Democracy in America [Read More...]



I recently posted about the sizable and often under-appreciated presence of Welsh people in America. As with many immigrant groups, the relationship between home country and new land was complex and remarkably long-lived. Generally, people did not just up and move to America, immediately losing all interest in their older countries. For one thing, it [Read More...]



March 1 marks St. David’s Day, the great national celebration for Welsh people throughout the world. Through the years, I have worked extensively on different aspects of Welsh history, including the Welsh in America. That American heritage is in fact very substantial, especially in the religious arena, although few Americans seem to appreciate it. The [Read More...]