Monday, 21 November 2011

Fall 2012 LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecturers at UTC

We already have the Fall 2012 speakers lined up for the LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The Fall 2012 theme will relate to religion and politics in light of it being a presidential election year. Here are the lecturers:

D.G. Hart, Thursday, September 27, 2012 on his new book, From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservativism (Eerdmans, 2011)

John Fea, Tuesday, October 9, 2012 on his new book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction (Westminster John Knox, 2011)

Amanda Porterfield, Thursday, November 8, 2012 on her upcoming book, Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation (University of Chicago, 2011)

The lectures are free and open to the public. Further information will be posted on the philosophy and religion website

Enlightened Evangelicalism: Finalist for the 2011 Scottish History Book of the Year

Enlightened Evangelicalism: The Life and Thought of John Erskine (Oxford, 2011) is a finalist for the 2011 Scottish History Book of the Year Award from the Saltire Society. Here's hoping!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Revolution in Photography

Disclaimer: this post has very little to do with religious history.

Ok, that being said, for those of you who love taking pics of historic sites (or anything in general) there's a new camera out there which is a must have. Check out this article at the Atlantic and then look at these pics on Lytro's website which you can manipulate by clicking (or touching, for you ipad users) on different parts of the photo you want to focus on.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bebbington at UTC

Last Monday, November 7 at noon, Bebbington gave the first lecture of the year in the LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecture Series on Christian history and thought at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga entitled, "The King James Bible in Britain from the Late 18th Century." The lecture was attended by a crowd in excess of an estimated 140 people. Since the Raccoon Mountain Room at UTC only has only about 120 seats, several people had to stand at the back of the room.

David argued that the KJ Bible, although written in 1611, did not find a welcome home in Britain until around the end of the eighteenth century. He stated that it was viewed as a "relic of barbarism" by many early and mid eighteenth-century critics. However, at the end of the eighteenth century, and especially into the nineteenth century, public opinion of the KJ Bible began to rise. Bebbington suggested that this appreciation stemmed from four factors: delight in past works for their own sake, British national sentiment and anti-Catholicism, the patronage of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and a redefinition of the KJ Bible as the accepted "Authorized Version." By the end of the 1890s, Bebbington claimed, the "Authorized Version" became the standard Bible in Britain and was firmly embedded in the culture.

The lecture itself offered a number of captivating quotations from the early modern era to the present, including statements by Christopher Hitchens and supporting evidence from Youtube videos (I didn't know Bebbington knew about Youtube). Overall, Bebbington gave an outstanding lecture on a topic intended to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. One of the highlights for me occurred after the lecture when one of my students told me that as a result of what she heard, she was now considering changing her major from English studies to religion. If the other lectures in the Martin Distinguished Lecture series are half as good as this one, I will be elated.

Jonathan Yeager

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

New Books

A warm congrats to David Ceri Jones and Andrew Atherstone for their edited volume Engaging with Martin Lloyd-Jones: The Life and Legacy of 'the Doctor' (2011). See here for the contents page.

Alister Chapman also deserves a warm congratulations for his new book Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement.

(Shameless plug) Congrats to myself and George Kalantzis as well for our edited book Evangelicals and the Early Church: Recovery, Reform, Renewal (2012).


"This unusually interesting volume combines bracing historical engagement with rare theological wisdom. Its chapters carefully explore why, how, under what conditions, and how much contemporary evangelicals should try to appropriate guidance from the first Christian centuries. A particularly helpful feature is the paired chapters that promote the best kind of respectful give and take on contested or difficult questions. The book is a gem of edifying insight."
-Mark Noll
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

"Here is a collection of essays that invites the reader to wrestle along with the authors over the query why evangelicals have not embraced more fully the early church as part of their theological and ecclesiastical legacy. It is certainly a question of importance. The appropriation of the early church by essentially free-church segments of contemporary Christianity remains at the experimental stage however much momentum it has gained over the last twenty years. Of varying degrees valuable insights are offered in this book with which pastoral and academic leadership needs to grapple for the future of evangelicalism."
-D. H. Williams
Professor of Patristics and Historical Theology, Baylor University

Andy Tooley

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Not So Legendary David Brainerd

John A. Grigg's book, The Lives of David Brainerd: The Making of an American Icon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), is a remarkable biography of David Brainerd, attempting to separate fact from fiction in the story of this legendary missionary.

The first three chapters of the book is a critical analysis of Brainerd's life in light of some of the claims made by Jonathan Edwards in his initial biography. From Grigg's account, we learn that Brainerd grew up in a relatively wealthy family in Haddam, Connecticut, a town about thirty miles northeast of New Haven. Shortly after having a conversion experience, Brainerd matriculated at Yale College at the start of the Great Awakening. In the aftermath of visits by George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent, Yale students were whipped into a spiritual frenzy. Tennent's Danger of an Unconverted Ministry (1740) convinced radicals to question the spiritual state of the local clergy, and form separate churches if need be. It is within this context that Grigg seeks to set the record straight concerning Brainerd's expulsion from Yale College. According to Edwards's account, Brainerd was expelled for the singular comment that Yale's tutor Chauncey Whittelsey had "no more grace" than a chair. The school's rector Thomas Clap had warned students that those who persisted in denouncing a member of the faculty and staff at Yale as unconverted or a hypocrite would be expelled. The statement that Brainerd was overheard as saying at the conclusion of a chapel service had cost him a college degree. Different than Edwards's work, Grigg points to Brainerd as a consistent rebel at the school, as opposed to a student who had been punished for an isolated incident.

Grigg also demonstrates that Brainerd most likely did not become a missionary to Native Americans because he had no other options after he was expelled. Brainerd apparently had at least two pastorates offered to him by churches at Easthampton and East Haddam, but ultimately turned down these requests. Edwards wrote that Brainerd chose to be a missionary because he was "determined to forsake all the outward comforts" of life. Grigg, however, convincingly argues that as a missionary to the Indians Brainerd would have had much more flexibility and independence than as a traditional pastor to a white congregation. Sponsored by the Scottish Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, Brainerd served briefly as a missionary to the Native Americans at Kaunameek, between Albany and Stockbridge, and then for three years to the Indians at the Forks of the Delaware River valley. Throughout his narrative, Grigg provides a detailed contextual picture of Native American history in colonial America as well as the European emigration of the Scotch-Irish, German Lutherans, Quakers, and Huguenots.

Brainerd felt compelled to preach to the Indians of the Susquehanna River valley, but did not have much success. His greatest success came when he ministered to the Delaware Indians at Crossweeksung, New Jersey. Without denying Brainerd his opinion that God had aided his efforts, Grigg shows that a number of circumstances assisted him inadvertently in his attempt to evangelize the Crossweeksung Indians. For starters, they were isolated from other Native American communities, making them more susceptible to European culture and Christianity. Furthermore, Brainerd benefited from the fact that the women of the village, who Grigg points out were the spiritual guardians for a tribe, accepted the foreigner's message. These women travelled for miles to gather the men to return to the village to hear Brainerd's sermon the next day. Brainerd also benefited from the fact that the men killed some deer nearby, which allowed the community to remain in the area to hear the white man's message. The revival in New Jersey, recorded in Brainerd's published journal, continued to grow and even drew in local European settlers.

Grigg does not fear killing sacred cows. He questions the tradition of Brainerd's romance with Jerusha Edwards and, in a later chapter, denies that the missionary had a close relationship with Jonathan Edwards until the final five months of his life. Rather, Jonathan Edwards is forced to write to the people closest to Brainerd--his brother John, Jedidiah Mills, Gilbert Tennent, Ebenezer Pemberton, Esther Sherman, Jonathan Dickinson, and Aaron Burr--in order to learn about the subject of his biography.

Chapter four marks the end of the life of David Brainerd, according to John Grigg. Now begins the second half of the book in which Grigg assesses the various interpretations of Brainerd in the years following his death. First in the dock is Edwards's Life of Brainerd (1749). Grigg states that Edwards crafted his biography in such a way that would justify his theology in Religious Affections (1746) that true religion consists of actions more than words. Grigg describes Edwards working on the Life of Brainerd throughout 1748 and 1749 in the midst of his own personal struggles with his congregation at Northampton. Grigg has Edwards hounding his congregants to read the Life of Brainerd with the hope that they would recognize their own spiritual deficiencies and look to Brainerd as a model of godly behavior. Grigg writes, "Rather than responding by repentance, however, the townspeople decided to rid themselves of the messenger" (144). Throughout the editing process, Edwards removes any hint of enthusiasm in his subject as well as personal shortcomings, such as Brainerd's critical comments towards Yale's administration. Nevertheless, Grigg affirms the validity of Edwards's account, saying that "the essential message... was true to its subject (136). In the end, Edwards presents a thoroughgoing Calvinist missionary who renounces worldliness by ministering to Indians.

In chapter five, Grigg seeks to understand the reason for John Wesley's admiration of Brainerd. Wesley edition of Brainerd's life was published in 1768 as An Extract of the Life of the Late Rev. David Brainerd, Missionary to the Indians. Grigg submits that Wesley published his account of Brainerd's life in order to inspire his itinerant Methodist preachers to live a life of self-sacrifice. In the midst of the controversies involving the sexual exploits of Methodist itinerate preachers and rogue enthusiasts, Grigg writes, "Wesley turned to Brainerd as an example of the life he expected from Methodist ministers" (154). Grigg further speculates that Wesley was drawn to Brainerd because of similarities that he had with the missionary. Both men itinerated as preachers, virtually had no permanent home, and were unjustly persecuted. But unlike Edwards's Calvinistic Native American missionary, Wesley's Brainerd is a model to the theologically Arminian Methodists.

The final chapter delineates Brainerd's influence in the nineteenth and twentieth century, particularly among missionaries. Within the chapter are numerous examples and quotations of mostly men who saw Brainerd in almost unrealistic terms as the ideal selfless missionary to emulate.

Grigg's monograph is well researched and thorough throughout. Because it is well written and offers many compelling arguments, I had a difficult time putting the book down. The Lives of David Brainerd will no doubt serve as the definitive source for scholars seeking to understand the life and legacy of an American icon.

Jonathan Yeager

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Lectures on Christian History and Thought at UTC

As part of my duties as Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I am in charge of inviting speakers to give public lectures. This academic year's Christian History and Thought lectures, sponsored by the Martin Distinguished Professorship in Religious Studies, features a number of well known scholars, including David Bebbington. Here is the schedule:

Monday, November 7, 2011 at noon: David Bebbington on "The King James Bible in Britain from the Late 18th Century"

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 7pm: Bruce Gordon from Yale Divinity School on his new biography of John Calvin

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 7pm: Gerald McDermott from Roanoke College on his new theological book on Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 7pm: Thomas Kidd from Baylor University on his new biography on Patrick Henry

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 7pm: Catherine Brekus of the University of Chicago Divinity School on her upcoming biography of the 18th-c. diarist Sarah Osborn

Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 7pm: Grant Wacker of Duke Divinity School on his forthcoming biography of Billy Graham

All lectures are free and open to the public. If you are in the area, I invite you to attend.

More information about the lectures, as well as the venues and parking can be found at:

Recent Bebbington Lecture at Baylor

David Bebbington, a Fellow of Baylor's Institute for the Study of Religion and visiting professor at Baylor for the Fall of 2011, recently gave a paper on "The Revival that Founded Baylor: Baptist Faith in the Frontier Texas" on October 20, 2011. Thanks to the ISR for providing a video of this lecture.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Jon Yeager named Visiting Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

A hearty congrats to Jon Yeager on his appointment as a Visiting Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga!