How a Dissertation Becomes a Book

The first book of most academic historians is a strange creature: a dissertation that has become a book. How and when should newly minted Ph.D.’s transform those dissertations into books? It is one of the most important and — often — most perplexing moments in an academic career. This is the first in a series [Read More…]

Summer Reading List of American Protestant History

Interested in the history of American Protestantism? A few summer reading suggestions… [Read more…]

The Future of American Evangelicalism

Nearly twenty years ago, Christian Smith assessed American evangelicalism as “embattled but thriving.” Nowadays, just “embattled” seems more apt for the preeminent impulse in the *history of American religion (*at least for much of that history). From the rise of the “Nones” to the collapse of the Religious Right to declines in church membership, the [Read More…]

Earthly Passions and Celestial Parts

“How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul dismissed skeptics of the bodily resurrection as fools, but the topic remained thorny among Christians for centuries. What was the difference between what Paul termed “celestial bodies” and “bodies terrestrial?” Paul made some clear [Read More…]

The Rise of “Abrahamic Religions”

Most semesters, I teach a course my university titled “Religions of the West.” Given my own background of research and writing, I at first considered pretending that the “West” meant the “American West” and having my students discuss Native American spirituality, Spanish missions, and Mormonism. Alas, “Religions of the West” meant the broader histories of [Read More…]

The Puritan Way of Seeing Christ

Several years ago, my co-blogger Philip Jenkins penned a thoughtful post on Protestant iconoclasm, its centrality to the Reformation, and its resemblance to Muslim iconoclasm. The “stripping of the altars,” to borrow Eamon Duffy’s phrase, was — per Jenkins — “one of the greatest catastrophes that ever befell Europe.” No argument here. Still, in Deborah [Read More…]

When the Mormon Jesus Was Married

It is a staple of anti-Mormon literature (and evangelical countercult literature more generally) that the Mormon Jesus is not the Christian Jesus. One subject that repeatedly surfaces in such arguments is that nineteenth-century Mormon leaders believed that Jesus married, married more than once, and had children. As the film The God Makers explains, “Mormon apostle Orson Pratt [Read More…]

Was Nebuchadnezzar a Werewolf?

“Nebuchadnezzar’s malady was not unlike a lycanthropy,” wrote Cotton Mather in his Biblia Americana. The Book of Daniel informs that the king of Babylon and conqueror of Jerusalem lived as a beast. He grew claws and feather-like hair. How? God smote him. Was this a disease of the mind? Mather noted passages in the gospels [Read More…]

American Colonial History

In today’s post I am talking with fellow Anxious Bench blogger, Baylor University historian, and prolific author Thomas Kidd about his new book, American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths. His previous books include biographies of George Whitefield and Patrick Henry and a history of the Great Awakening. JT: You write that two major themes organize American [Read More…]

Stephen H. Webb

Two weeks ago, prolific American theologian Stephen H. Webb died. For a beautiful tribute, see this essay. I knew Stephen because we read and reviewed each other’s books. About five years ago or so, I was sitting in the Dallas airport waiting for a flight to a conference. Whenever I’m going to a conference, I [Read More…]


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