Top Five Books on Benjamin Franklin

What are the best books on the ever-fascinating founder Benjamin Franklin? As I have been writing a religious biography of Franklin for Yale University Press, I have been getting to know the vast literature on Franklin. Here are my suggestions for where to start. 1) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. A no-brainer, as this eminently readable [Read More…]

Ben Franklin, Anti-Catholicism, and the Founding of the University of Pennsylvania

Historians have generally cast the founding of the University of Pennsylvania (or the College of Philadelphia) in 1755 as a step toward secular education in America. While the early college met in the great evangelist George Whitefield’s preaching building, Ben Franklin was the brains behind the school. As I noted in an an earlier post, [Read More…]

Woodrow Wilson, Race, and the Depravity of Human Nature

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Barry Hankins, professor of history at Baylor University. His religious biography Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President will be published by Oxford University Press in June. Students at Princeton have joined students at Mizzou in clamoring to remove their president. The difference is that the president the Princeton students want [Read More…]

Donald Trump and Monitoring Muslims

UPDATE: The topic of this post has taken on added urgency in light of the San Bernardino shootings of Dec. 2. It is ever more important to be vigilant, and to protect religious liberty. I have made my views of Donald Trump well known – he’s dangerous and inane, and normally does not stick to [Read More…]

This Thanksgiving, Stop Idolizing the Pilgrims

A couple of years ago at Christianity Today, I reviewed Robert Tracy McKenzie’s excellent book The First Thanksgiving. Here’s a sample: In 1623, Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford proclaimed the first Thanksgiving. “The great Father,” he declared, “has given us this year an abundant harvest…and granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.” [Read More…]

Islam: Inherently Violent?

The jihadist attacks in Paris have grieved and frightened the world again with the reality of Muslims committing violence in the name of Islam. Again we face the question – is Islam inherently violent? Are Muslims required to commit violence as a religious obligation?  There is no doubt that unsettling numbers of Muslims would not [Read More…]

The Origin of “In God We Trust”

The national motto “In God We Trust” has a complicated and contested history. Even though the phrase first appeared on American coins during the Civil War, it was only officially adopted as the national motto in 1956, during the Cold War era. Where did the phrase come from before the Civil War? There seems little [Read More…]

The Most Evangelical Founding Father?

In spite of some Christian revisionist attempts to cast them all as evangelical believers, the Founding Fathers’ faiths ran the gamut from traditional Christianity to outright skepticism. I wrote my biography of Patrick Henry because I was interested in how Henry, a traditional Anglican, sorted out the challenges raised by the Revolution, slavery, and other [Read More…]

Choosing a Book or Dissertation Topic

John Turner recently had a fabulous post on “Publishing without Perishing” which is full of excellent suggestions on how to survive writing your first book or your dissertation. There’s much fodder there for discussion, but today I want to consider the issue of selecting a dissertation topic. Of course, my perspective is shaped by my [Read More…]

Donald Trump and the Coming Christian Political Realignment

As Donald Trump has maintained strong leads in primary states like South Carolina, some observers like Matt Lewis have begun to speculate about what it would be like if this guy actually became president. I still believe (and fervently hope, for the sake of the republic) that Trump has no chance of becoming president, but [Read More…]


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