Remembering Donald Dayton

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Theologian and church historian Donald W. Dayton has died.

While I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School pursuing an M.A. in American church history, I read a lot of Dayton. As a young evangelical, I was passionate about exploring the roots of the movement that I embraced as a sixteen-year-old kid. I read Dayton’s Discovering an Evangelical Heritage as well as his unpublished essays that circulated among evangelical scholars and graduate students.

One of those unpublished pieces was a paper Dayton read in January 1988 at the Wesleyan/Holiness Study Project First Fellows Seminar at Asbury Theological Seminary. It was titled, “An Analysis of the Self-Understanding of American Evangelicalism With a Critique of its Correlated Historiography.” The paper criticized what Dayton believed was a Reformed bias in evangelical historiography.

At the time I encountered Dayton’s work in the early 1990s, Reformed historians such as George Marsden and Mark Noll were at the height of their scholarly game. Their books and articles were shaping our understanding of American evangelicalism in profound ways. Dayton did not have the funding Marsden and Noll enjoyed. He did not publish his work in places that would have been respected by the larger academy. But he was relentless. He insisted that modern evangelicalism was a Protestant movement with roots in the Pietist, Wesleyan, and Holiness traditions. Evangelicals, he argued, were abolitionists, feminists, reformers, and defenders of social justice. While Marsden and Noll wrote about Jonathan Edwards, revolutionary-era Calvinists, Old and New School Presbyterians, common sense realism, Princeton theologians, and J. Gresham Machem, Dayton called attention to Jonathan Blanchard, Charles Finney, Theodore Weld, the Tappan brothers, Phoebe Palmer, and A.B. Simpson. Much of his work provided a historical foundation for the Evangelical Left.

To be fair, Marsden’s work on fundamentalism and evangelicalism did take into consideration the revivalist tradition. His books covered D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and the Keswick Movement. (I seem to remember hearing or reading a story somewhere about Dayton giving Marsden a bag of books on Holiness and Wesleyan church history as he was writing either Fundamentalism and American Culture or his history of Fuller Theological Seminary, Reforming Fundamentalism). But I always thought Dayton’s work did not get the attention it deserved. While Marsden and others privileged a Reformed interpretive lens, Dayton tried to imagine what the story might look like if told through a Pietist/Wesleyan/Holiness lens. Dayton believed that this lens offered a clearer vision of the subject at hand.

Much of this debate is covered in Doug Sweeney‘s 1991 Church History essay, “The Essential Evangelicalism Dialectic: The Historiography of the Early Neo-Evangelical Movement and the Observer-Participant Dilemma” (now republished in this book) and in a 1993 issue of the Christian Scholars Review. At the time of Sweeney’s essay (which drew heavily on his own Trinity Evangelical Divinity School M.A. thesis–Sweeney was a few years ahead of me at TEDS), I was corresponding with Dayton about my thesis on separatist fundamentalism. At the moment, I do not have access to that correspondence (no time to find a box of correspondence in the basement for a blog post), but I was able to dig up a July 14, 1991 handwritten letter on Northern Baptist Theological Seminary stationary:

John,

I just got your letter of June 23. I’m in the Orient most of the summer, but was back for a couple of days, before [I’m] off again ’til about Aug. 8. Hence this hurried, informal response.

You have permission to quote my paper. I’ve enclosed a copy plus a couple other articles along the same line. I plan to finish  in Aug. or Sept. a major statement in critique of George’s history of Fuller. I’ll try to remember to send you a copy.

I’ve mixed feelings about Doug Sweeney’s published essay. I liked the thesis better. I wonder if [Carl] McIntire is as “Reformed” as you indicate. Certain features (revivalism, premillennialism, no-smoking, drinking, etc.) would not be as classically Reformed, would they? 

I’ll be back August 8 or so–and would be glad to get together sometime.

Don Dayton

A few notes on this letter:

  • I asked Dayton for permission to quote from the aforementioned “An Analysis of the Self-Understanding of American Evangelicalism….”
  • Dayton’s response to George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism eventually appeared as “The Search for Historical Evangelicalism: George Marsden’s History of Fuller Seminary as a Case Study,” Christian Scholars Review, 23 (1993).
  • Presbyterian fundamentalist Carl McIntire played an important role in my M.A. thesis. Dayton was trying to get me to see him as a more complex theological figure.
  • Dayton never elaborated on why he liked Doug Sweeney’s Trinity M.A. thesis more than his Church History article.

Nine years later, we resumed our correspondence while I was a post-doc in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso University.  I wrote Dayton after a Monday afternoon colloquium devoted to a discussion of Alan Wolfe’s October 2000 Atlantic cover-story titled “Opening the Evangelical Mind.” I was interested in how the road to evangelical “openness” (to use Wolfe’s term) ran through Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper and the broader Reformed tradition. At the time of Wolfe’s piece, the discussion among evangelical academics (especially among historians) had shifted from the debate over the theological roots of fundamentalism/evangelicalism to the state of evangelical thinking and the implications of Mark Noll’s 1994 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

Noll, Marsden (his 1997 book The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship was part of the discussion), and others advocating for a renewal of the evangelical mind were building their case on the assertion that American evangelicalism–at least in its 19th and 20th-century manifestations– was a a largely anti-intellectual movement. American evangelicalism, Noll argued, had been so focused on personal piety, activism, evangelism, and acts of social justice that it ignored or downplayed Christian thinking. To me it seemed that in order for these Reformed evangelical historians to make a case for the revival of an evangelical mind, they needed to embrace Dayton’s historiography.

In an October 2000 e-mail, I asked Dayton if he thought the 19th-century Pietist/Wesleyan/Holiness tradition had become the bogeyman for what Wolfe described in The Atlantic as the “opening of the evangelical mind.” I wondered if the current Reformed push for a renewed intellectual life among evangelicals meant that Dayton had won the historiographical battle. In other words, evangelical thinking was necessary in 1994 because 19th-century evangelicalism was defined by the people, ideas, and actions that Dayton had always put at the center of his story. Evangelicalism was more about Finney, Palmer, and Weld than it was about Edwards (and his theological descendants), Warfield, and Machen and this is why renewed Christian thinking was now necessary.

Here is Dayton’s response to my e-mail, sent from his Drew University e-mail account:

I was intrigued by your note and wished I could have been present for your discussion. I tried to call last night and left a message on your voice mail. I may try again. I just saw the Wolfe article as I passed through the airport over the weekend and just read it late last night.

As you probably know, I resist the word evangelical not only because it usually carried the “reformed” connotations but because it fails to convey the historical and sociological reality of what seems to me is really going on.

For me it is noteworthy that we have had pentecostal seminaries only for a couple of decades and holiness seminaries only a generation before that (Asbury took off after WW II, followed by the Nazarenes, Anderson, Western Evangelical, etc.). Part of the issue is whether to see the evangelical seminaries in that line and revealing a similar dynamic of constituencies moving into the middle class (like Pentecostals) and needing a seminary. This is clearly true for Trinity (carried by the Evangelical Free Church–and holiness-like founder [Rev. Frederick] Fransen), and I would argue Gordon (rooted in the ministry of holiness Baptist A.J. Gordon, a major figure in the development of “faith healing”), and even for Fuller, as I argued in my dialogue with Marsden in Christian Scholars Review. If this is true, it seems odd to me to compare the emergence of these very young traditions of theology and intellectual activity with Reformed and Lutheran [which have] half a millennium of university theological tradition. I don’t even know how to dialogue with people like Wolfe who don’t seem to me to see what is going on.

Nor do I know how to enter a discussion with people like Mark Noll (his SCANDAL book). It seems very odd to me to stand in a college that was founded by the Wesleyan Church in the Holiness Movement (ala Jonathan Blanchard), to claim that it is the best available, and then blame the holiness movement for the fact that it is not better. [Noll was at Wheaton College at the time]. The holiness folk founded a majority of the Christian College Coalition schools–especially the better ones (Wheaton, Seattle Pacific, Azusa, Houghton, Gordon–both branches, etc.)  Mark [Noll], Rich Mouw and others were raised in baptistic fundamentalism, went to holiness schools and then grafted themselves into the Reformed tradition (Princeton Theological Seminary for Mark,  CRC & Kuyper for Rich) to do their intellectual work. I understand this; my own theological formation is essentially Barthian and I teach Calvin regularly. But I do object to reading these personal pilgrimages back into the history and confusing genealogy with teleology (Marsden on Fuller or the usual interpretations of the history of Wheaton, emphasizing Blanchard’s Presbyterianism and ignoring the fact that it is “Oberlin Perfectionism” that is at issue).

It is the failure to understand “evangelicalism” historically that leads to such strange claims as those of [Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary theologian] David Wells that there is an intellectual “decline” in “evangelicalism” since Edwards that has not been recovered. But here again we are comparing apples and oranges–Yale and Princeton with “new” schools founded in the 19th and 20th centuries that have NO historical or theological continuities except as products of the latter engraft themselves into the theological traditions of other cycles of theological tradition to enter the intellectual world to achieve a sort of intellectual respectability that involved the betrayal of both their class interests and their theological traditions in which they were reared and/or educated! 

Whatever one thinks about this letter, it was classic Donald Dayton. He was less concerned about defending the theological convictions of the Pietist-Wesleyan-Holiness tradition than he was about getting the history correct. He did not hesitate to call out other scholars for their supposed ambition. This latter claim was the reason why so many Christian academics saw Dayton as a real pain in the ass (and I say this as compliment). The debate continues.

Here is a reflection on Dayton’s life from his former Drew University student Christian Collins Winn:

On May 2, the theological world lost one of its most unique voices, the Wesleyan Methodist Church lost one of its most ardent sons, and hundreds of students and colleagues lost one of their fiercest friends.

Donald (“Don”) W. Dayton was by all accounts brilliant, a voracious reader and lover of books, and one of the foremost interpreters of American religious history. Very few scholars produce work that shapes their generation, even fewer break genuinely new ground that has the potential to shape generations to come. Dayton’s work rose to this level of significance. As a scholar, his contributions in both the historiography of evangelicalism and in the historiography and theological interpretation of the Holiness Movement and Pentecostalism have fundamentally altered our interpretation of American religious history.

Not without controversy—in keeping with the nature of any truly groundbreaking perspective—Dayton had a striking genius for reading against the grain of accepted scholarship, unlocking alternative construals and opening up new pathways for interpretation and appropriation often taken up by later scholars. Many of his early proposals were rejected by established scholars, only later to be embraced; others continue to wait for the academy to catch up. Don also made major contributions through his extensive ecumenical work, where he advocated for marginal voices and traditions to be taken seriously and given a seat at the table. Moreover, his influence can be discerned in the lives and ongoing scholarship of the hundreds of students whom he mentored with his hallmark generosity and loving patience.

Read the rest here.

Rest in peace, Don.

John Wesley and the Life of the Mind

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“I am an evangelical Christian, so it was nice to hear a lecture about evangelicalism that was not related to contemporary politics.”

This was our intern Annie Thorn‘s response to Bruce Hindmarsh’s lecture “John Wesley, Early Evangelicalism, and Science.” Hindmarsh, the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology and Professor of the History of Christianity at Regent College in Vancouver, delivered this lecture on Tuesday night at Messiah College.  Hindmarsh is the author of three books published by Oxford University Press: John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition (1996),  The Evangelical Conversion Narrative (2005), and The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism (2018).  He is the past-president of the American Society of Church History.

Hindmarsh, whose lecture drew upon his 2018 book on early evangelicalism, argued that the rise of evangelicalism coincided historically with the reception of modern science in mainstream eighteenth-century culture.  The new science was generally embraced by evangelicals as a source of what Hindmarsh describes as “wonder, love, and praise.”  Few did more to popularize the new science than John Wesley.

According to Hindmarsh, Wesley accepted the findings of the new science, but he “nested” these new ideas in the “glory of God.” In other words, there was no tension between the two. Wesley was not an anti-intellectual. He wrote a host of books and pamphlets on science. His contemplation of the created order, and his advancement of society’s understanding of the new science, aroused the same kind of “doxology and praise” that stemmed from his conversion experience, that moment in Wesley’s life when his “heart was strangely warmed.”

I left the lecture with several thoughts.

First, like Annie, I was glad to hear again about evangelicals, like Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, who were intellectuals. If you read this blog regularly, you know I have been re-reading Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectual in American Life.  In his chapter on evangelicalism, Hofstadter argues that New England Puritans were people of the mind, but the project integrating faith and learning all but disappeared with the revivalism of the First Great Awakening.  (Edwards, Hofstadter argues, was the exception here).  Hindmarsh is one of several scholars of evangelicalism who has challenged this idea. (Although I am not sure Hofstadter is completely wrong.  I am inclined to think of Edwards and Wesley as outliers).

As I listened to Hindmarsh in the context of my fresh reading of Hofstadter, I realized again that much of the motivation behind the work of the previous generation of evangelical historians–George Marsden and Mark Noll come immediately to mind–was to challenge Hofstadter’s portrayal of evangelicalism as anti-intellectual. Marsden, Noll, and others authors showed us that evangelicals did care about thinking. They also showed us with their lives and work that “evangelical intellectual” is not an oxymoron.

Hindmarsh’s lecture, and my post-lecture conversation with Annie, made me think about Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll argues that the anti-intellectual populism of present-day evangelicalism was more of a 19th and 20th-century phenomenon than an 18th-century one.  Modern day evangelicals can find serious thinkers in their history.  Noll showed that it is possible to explain the evangelical move toward anti-intellectualism as a rejection of the intellectual pursuits of evangelicals like Edwards and Wesley.

Second, it was good to listen to a scholar talk about the 18th-century. I told Bruce that his lecture made me long for the days when I used to spend most of my time doing early American history. Indeed, it’s a lot safer there. 🙂 I hope to return to this world once this whole Trump thing dies down!

Third, I left with a question about Messiah College, the school where I teach.  Messiah is rooted in the Anabaptist, Wesleyan, and Pietist traditions of the Christian faith. Of these three traditions, Anabaptism seems to be the one that gets the most attention.  I think this is because Anabaptism’s commitment to peace and social justice often fits well with the progressive mindset of many academics.  But if there are Anabaptist and Pietist intellectual traditions, they often get overshadowed by a kind of activism (Anabaptism) and experiential religion (Pietism) that does not always draw heavily on the life of the mind. (This, I might add, is changing–especially on the Pietism front). But Hindmarsh made me wonder if Wesleyanism, at least as articulated by Wesley himself, might help us with the heavy intellectual lifting necessary for a Christian college to sustain a robust life of the mind.  I will continue to ponder this.

Evangelical = “One who believes the Good News about Jesus Christ”

2ELCA17

Herbert Chilstrom

This definition of evangelicalism does not come from David Bebbington, but from Herbert Chilstrom, the first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

As Chris Gehrz shows us in his recent piece at The Anxious Bench, the word “evangelical” has a long history:

Chilstrom’s spiritual forebears ultimately seized the term not only from their “Romish” antagonists, but from other Protestants. “The newly self-identified Lutherans,” writes Diarmaid MacCulloch of late 16th century Germany, “took over the once-general Protestant label ‘Evangelical’ to describe their Churches, just as the non-Lutherans were monopolizing the name ‘Reformed.’”

It was such Lutheran churches that Philipp Spener hoped to reform in 1675, when he lamented the spiritual deadness of “our Evangelical church, which according to its outward confession embraces the precious and pure gospel, brought clearly to light once again during the previous century through that blessed instrument of God, Dr. Luther, and in which alone we must therefore recognize that the true church is visible…”

This leads Gehrz to wonder whether American evangelicals have “kidnapped” the term:

In a sense, Chilstrom is absolutely right. Even many of those participating in last week’s “evangelical consultation” at Wheaton College — the “evangelical Harvard” — fear that their cherished word has been taken over by a particularly noxious political movement. “When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical,” complained convener Doug Birdsall of the Lausanne Movement, “people don’t say evangelism or the gospel. There’s a grotesque caricature of what it means to be an evangelical.” What Fuller Seminary president Mark Labberton calls the “crisis of evangelicalism” has been “caused by the way a toxic evangelicalism has engaged with these issues in such a way as to turn the gospel into Good News that is fake.”

And yet… even if Birdsall and Labberton could somehow bring evangelicals back to the Evangel in such a way that they renounce the culture warring of the Religious Right, wouldn’t Chilstrom still feel like his term had been kidnapped? Wouldn’t any leader of an avowedly “Evangelical” mainline church want to contest the notion that other Protestants — but not him — have a high view of Scripture, recognize the centrality of the Cross, seek conversion, and practice evangelism and social action?

Read his entire piece here.

A Pietist Response to a Negative Book Review on Pietism

Pietist Option 1

I was intrigued today by Bethel University historian Chris Gehrz‘s response to Union University’s Nathan Finn’s review of his book The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity (co-authored with Mark Pattie).  The review appeared at The Gospel Coalition website.

Finn writes:

Closer to home, the Pietist ethos that Gehrz and Pattie champion, while it has much to appreciate, has introduced into evangelicalism a fuzziness toward (and sometimes outright rejection of) biblical inerrancy, an openness to inclusivism and sometimes universalism, an egalitarian view of gender roles, an openness toward progressive views of gender identity and human sexuality, a rejection of penal substitutionary atonement, and Open Theism.

This raises the question of whether the Pietist Option at least implicitly opens the door to tired dichotomies—between the “red letters” and “black letters” of Scripture, between Jesus and Paul, between the kernel of the gospel and the husk of doctrine—that have fueled theological revisionism and moral declension among so many contemporary evangelicals.

Ouch!

And here is a taste of Gehrz’s response at his blog The Pietist Schoolman:

Well, maybe. I’m not a universalist, and my Pietist forebears were going to the ends of the earth to make disciples of Jesus Christ at a time when some Calvinists were debating the continued relevance of the Great Commission. But I do hold to an egalitarian view of gender roles — not because of any fuzziness, but out of a clarity that comes from fresh engagement with Scripture. (Not that this is unique to Pietists: in her current Anxious Bench series, Finn’s fellow Baptist Beth Allison Barr is arguing that complementarians have fundamentally misunderstood Paul’s epistles.)…

Even though Finn identifies more with the Reformed trajectory (I think you’d find plenty of Baptists on both wings), I appreciate that he gives our book a fair hearing. He summarized the “option” accurately, found our tone winsome, and even “nodded a fair amount as I considered the authors’ call to a more radical discipleship and holistic mission.” While he celebrates the Puritans and other “renewal movements that cultivated many of the same instincts as the Pietists, but in ways more deeply rooted in a robust doctrinal vision,” Finn nonetheless encourages Gospel Coalition readers “to learn more about Pietist movements. When we aren’t at our healthiest, we can drift into the sort of spiritual lethargy that first inspired men like Spener, Francke, and Zinzendorf.”

(By the same token, I’ve noted before that two Gospel Coalition favorites — Tim Keller and John Piper — have each written positively about aspects of what they define as “pietism.”)

You can’t ask much more from a reviewer than to be fair-minded and thoughtful, appreciative when they agree and critical when they don’t. So thanks to Nathan Finn for the review, and to TGC for publishing it.

Read Gehrz’s entire response here.

A true pietist response, Chris.  Thank you.  If I was accused of everything Finn accused me of simply because I thought pietism was a stream of the Christian church that needs to be revisited in today’s day and age,  I would be pretty ticked-off.

 

The Pietist Option

Pietist Option 1

I was going to title this post, “Forget the Benedict Option, Embrace the Pietist Option!” But then I realized that by exhorting you to ignore Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” I was not acting in a manner befitting a Pietist. (Sorry, I am a work in progress!)

Yesterday I got two books in the mail: Joanna Bourke’s 2006 tome Fear: A Cultural History and Chris Gehrz’s and Mark Pattie’s The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity.  One book is (as the title suggests) about fear. The other book is about hope. I have been reading Bourke today, but have had Gehrz and Pattie nearby so I have something to turn to if I get overly depressed.

I read The Pietist Option in manuscript and was encouraged by it.  When InterVarsity Press asked me to endorse it, I immediately said yes!  Here is what appears on the back cover:

Pietist Option 2

Not all the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home will be interested in this new book.  I know many of you are not religious or people of faith.  If you fall into this category, I want to encourage you to read The Pietist Option anyway.  Gehrz (a Yale-trained historian) and Pattie (a Christian pastor) offer a way of thinking about Christianity that you might find appealing. Other readers of this blog come from Christian traditions that do not give primary attention to Pietism.  Fair enough.  But I still think you should read the book.  All Christian traditions could use a dose of something akin to Pietism.

I was reading some of The Pietist Option to my sixteen-year-old daughter last night.  (I managed to get her attention between Snapchats, texts, and AP U.S. history homework). Here are a few of the snippets I read to her:

“If we’re seeking after renewal, it’s got to start with you and me confessing how we’ve failed to love God and to love our neighbors.”

“The Pietist option calls Christians back to the motivations and actions of the Servant who stooped to wash his disciples feet.”

“Our world needs a new narrative to unite us in spirit and mission, to provide us a hopeful pathway to pursue together.”

She did not tell me to stop, so I guess that is a good sign. 🙂

 

Lilly Fellows Program Book Awards Announced

The LFP Book Award “honors an original or imaginative work from any academic discipline that best exemplifies the central ideas and principles animating the Lilly Fellows Program.  These include faith and learning in the Christian intellectual tradition, the vocation of teaching and scholarship, and the history, theory or practice of the university as the site of religious inquiry and culture.  

This year’s winner is Karen Eifler and Tom Landy, Becoming Beholders; Cultivating Sacramental Imagination and Actions in College.

One of the two finalists is Chris Gehrz, The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons.  I was honored to write a blurb on the back over of this book. Here is what I wrote:

I have been reading Chris Gehrz’s blog “The Pietist Schoolman” for several years and have been cheering him on as he makes a compelling and humble case for the compatibility of Pietism, the intellectual life and Christian higher education.  Now Christ has gathered his academic brothers and sisters in the faith to continue the conversation.  If you thought that “pietist higher education” was an oxymoron, these essays will force you to think again.

Congratulations Chris!

The second finalist is Roger Lundin, Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief.

Chris Gerhz provides a nice wrap-up here.

Chris Gehrz Holds Forth on the "Pietist Vision of Higher Education"

Chris Gehrz is all over the Internet these days.  Whether he is wandering the Bethel University campus with his trusty microphone as the host of Past and Presence, announcing Bethel’s new job search for an “Ancient-Digital” historian, or talking about the relationship between piety and higher education, his musings are always thoughtful and on the mark.

For example, check out Chris on the Christian Humanist podcast with Nathan Gilmour.  Chris and Nathan discuss Chris’s newly edited volume, The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons.  I listened to it this afternoon and was deeply impressed with how Chris, a trained diplomatic historian with a Ph.D from Yale, is able talk so freely about matters pertaining to theology and academic life.  There is a reason they call this guy “The Pietist Schoolman

Listen here.

New in the Mail: "The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education"

I just received my copy today.  Here is my blurb on the back of the book: 

I have been reading Chris Gehrz’s blog, “The Pietist Schoolman” for several years and have been cheering him on as he makes a compelling and humble case for the compatibility of Pietism, the intellectual life and Christian higher education.  Now Chris has gathered his academic brothers and sisters in the faith to continue the conversation.  If you thought that “pietist higher education” was an oxymoron, these essays will force you to think again.

John Fea, Messiah College, author of Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past


Learning About Pietism

Over at The Pietist Schoolman, Chris Gehrz has put together an impressive bibliography of the best books on the history of pietism.  Anyone interested in the history of this movement should check it out and start reading!  Here is a small taste:

I still think Dale Brown’s Understanding Pietism is the place to start (originally published in the late 1970s, but then revised in the mid-Nineties), though a newer, inexpensive supplement emphasizing Pietist ethics is Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom’s Angels, Worms, and Bogeys. (Pricier, but also relatively concise is Harry Yeide, Jr., Studies in Classical Pietism.) Or if you’re not yet sure you want to actually spend money on this, but want a place to start: the 1986 issue of Christian History magazine on Pietism is (as of yesterday) available as full-text, with articles by scholars like Don Durnbaugh, John Weborg, Gary Sattler, and Ernest Stoeffler and excerpts from Pietist writings and hymns.

You can find good chapters on German Pietism embedded in larger narratives or collections, which helpfully puts the movement in context. My favorite is “Pietists Seek to Renew Lutheran Theology,” in Roger Olson’s hefty, but brilliantly readable historical theology text, The Story of Christian Theology. From the Covenant Church, John Weborg contributed “Pietism: Theology in Service of Living toward God” to The Variety of American Evangelicalism, eds. Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston. 

At risk of engaging in rank self-promotion, I do think that our 2011 collection of essays, The Pietist Impulse in Christianity (eds. Christian Collins Winn, G. William Carlson, Eric Holst, and myself) is a good place to start if you’re not afraid to dig into some scholarly work on a wide variety of aspects of Pietism (broadly defined). If you want a preview… after the book came out I wrote a series of posts summarizing each section of the book. (And if you have lots of money to spend and want to sample the current scholarship on Pietism studies, you couldn’t do much better than Pietism in Germany and North America 1680-1820, eds. Jonathan Strom et al.)

Burkholder on Pietism, Intellectual Life, and "Confessing History"

Jared Burkholder of Grace College is thinking about the ways that Christian faith might inform the life of academic communities.  It looks like he is trying to provide an alternative vision to the Reformed or “Kuyperian” approach to higher education that has dominated much of the discussion of this question in Christian colleges and universities.  In the process, he references our book Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation.

Here is a taste of what he has to say:

Implicit in many of the essays in Confessing History is a critique of one of the most dominant conversations that exists among many CCCU schools. This conversation revolves around the Kuyperian model, which has been simplified into a program for the “integration of faith and learning” along with a strong emphasis on competing World Views. Done well, this Reformed approach has great potential for sophisticated avenues of scholarship, and has undergirded the academic prowess of places such as Calvin College. 

However, the worldview approach has been appropriated by those, at a more popular level, who would imbue it with a political agenda (e.g. James Dobson). Others use the worldview model as a means of promoting narrow versions of Christian faith under an umbrella of “biblical integration.” In this context, employing a Christian worldview becomes an exercise in triumphalism, rather than a truly integrated approach. I’m not suggesting that the language of integration or worldview should be abandoned simply because some of our colleagues or those in the Christian Right practice it poorly. Nor am I suggesting that a Pietist approach should replace the Reformed methodology altogether. But I am suggesting that pietist virtues can offer something of an antidote to the triumphalist tendency that is inherent in the Reformed model, at least as it is practiced by some we might call “soft” Reconstructionists…

I would also recommend Burkholder co-edited book, The Activist Impulse: Exploring the Intersection of Anabaptism and Evangelicalism (2011).

Chris Gehrz on "Confessing History" : Part One

Chris Gerhz, the chair of the History Department at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers a thoughtful reflection on our Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation at his blog The Pietist Schoolman.

In this post, Gehrz focuses on Eric Miller’s opening chapter and promises some future posts on the volume as he and his students work through it as part of the Bethel History Department’s senior seminar.

Gehrz confesses that he is relatively new to the language of “integration of faith and learning” and wonders how this rather Reformed concept fits with his own pietist leanings.  He wonders what a pietist view of faith and learning, particularly in the field of history, might look like.  (I know that the intersection of pietism and learning has been a major part of Gehrz’s work).

I am glad that our volume is speaking to non-Reformed Christian historians like Gehrz.  This was our intention.  We wanted to expand the conversation by bringing historians with non-Reformed theological voices into the mix.

Here is a taste of Gehrz’s review of Confessing History:

But what if one tries to root higher education in, say, the Pietist tradition, which prizes experience, feeling, and praxis over belief and seeks the conversion of the whole person — heart and hands, as well as head? What if you come to conclude that the vocation of professor has much in common with that of pastor? What if your vision of the ideal Christian learning community is more like the ecclesiola in ecclesia than Henry James’ image of pluralistic intellectual discourse as being like a hotel, with disciplines and perspectives occupying separate rooms but sharing a corridor (invoked by Marsden — Outrageous Idea, pp. 45-46 — as a “congenial” image for the kind of Christian scholarship he has in mind)?

And as I near the end of my first decade as a college professor — and come up for tenure renewal and begin to contemplate seeking promotion to full professor — I have to confess that I find myself less and less concerned about the larger academy and its expectations and more interested in how education can serve the purposes of Christ and help to renew his disciples and his Church. I suspect that echoes of Confessing History will show up in several of my tenure and promotion essays, as I try to work through how teaching, service, and scholarship play out “beneath the eye and at the hand of the God of Christian faith.”

A Busy Saturday Morning at the AHA

I got up early this morning and took the AHA shuttle bus over to the Downtown Marriott to attend a breakfast sponsored by the Conference on Faith and History.  This is my favorite part of the conference because I get to see a lot of old friends and colleagues all in one place.  This morning I got to talk a bit with Mark Noll about the popularity of David Barton, learned about John Turner’s forthcoming biography of Brigham Young, and confirmed a rumor that John Wigger was working on a book about the son of televangelist Jim Bakker, 

I had to leave the breakfast early because I was chairing and commenting on AHA session #109: “Religious Networks, Alliances, and Friendship in the Early Modern Atlantic World.”  Here are some snippets from my remarks:

What is a friend?  The word “friendship” or “friend” could mean many things in the early modern Atlantic world.  For example, in the eighteenth0century Anglo-American context, friendship was an important means of fostering moral improvement.  Personal affection and sympathy between friends created a bond that contributed to the development of moral improvement.  Personal affection and sympathy between friends created a bond that contributed to the development of personal and social virtue.  In the Enlightenment culture of the age, friendship served a civilizing function.  For some, it was linked to faculty psychology.  A true friend bridled his or her passions in order to avoid emotions like jealousy or anger that might make personal relationships difficult.  For other, friendship stemmed from the culture of sensibility and sympathy.  It was often characterized by passion, love, and even reomantic feelings–the kind of stuff one might find in sentimental novels like Lawrence Sterne’s Letters from Yorick to Eliza.

But even as this civilizing and Enlightenment idea of friendship informed by the New Moral Philosophy and the culture of sensibility made headway in the early modern world, a more spiritual form of friendship continues to persist.  Friendship, as Janet Lindman’s paper argues, was often understood in terms of Christian fellowship, a kinship among believers ordained by God for the promotion of spiritual growth…

But these papers suggest that there were even more ways in which friendship could be understood in this era.  All three papers expand the meaning of friendship in the early modern Atlantic world and force us to think deeply about friendship as a new frontier in the study of religious history.  It is clear from the presentations this morning that friendship forged denominational and ethnic identities.  It could be “broaden” and “narrow” (to use Lindman’s words) religious boundaries.  The term friend could also be applied to the members of a religious society or acquaintances encountered during travel.  It might even be applicable to family members who participated in sacramental rituals…

The three presenters are at work on three very interesting projects.  Rose Beiler is writing a book about transatlantic communication networks.  Her paper focused on the way that Quakers and Halle pietists understood friendship.

Ed Tebbenhoff is working on a social history of the Dutch in eighteenth-century Schenectady, New York.  His paper was a fascinating analysis of the practice of baptism and godparenthood among the Dutch Reformed

Finally, Janet Lindman is working on a large project on friendship in early America.  Her paper discussed the spiritual kinship between Baptists and Methodists in the early 19th century.

I suggested, among many other things, that the study of friendship is an exciting new frontier in the study of early modern religious history.  The Q&A turned out to be very lively and I learned a great deal from these fine papers.

New Blog: The Hermeneutic Circle

Actually, it is an old blog that Jared Burkholder, a professor of history at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, is reviving. 

Jared is a fine young scholar of early American pietism and is currently at work on a book, based on his dissertation at the University of Iowa, on Moravian religious life in the 18th-century mid-Atlantic.  His recent piece on Moravian-Presbyterian encounters during the Great Awakening is excellent.  He has also edited a collection, set to appear sometime next year under the title The Activist Impulse, on the relationship between evangelicalism and Anabaptism in American history. 

I have been trying to get him to write a book about the fascinating convergence between evangelicalism and the Chautauqua movement at Winona Lake, Indiana, the home of Billy Sunday (and Grace College).  Stay tuned.

If you get a chance, check out The Hermeneutic Circle.