Office: 230 Humanities Building
Harry and Hazel Chavanne Professor of Religion
Ph.D., Yale University, 1980
Undergraduate study with J.G.A. Pocock and Dietrich Gerhard. Graduate study with Jaroslav Pelikan, Hans Frei, Peter Gay, Steven Ozment, Jack Hexter, and Rudolf Vierhaus. Main theoretical influence from Reinhart Koselleck. Theological study with Fred Danker and Arthur Carl Piepkorn. In-house editorial work at Fortress Press (Philadelphia), including in-house technical editorial work on Christian Dogmatics, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (2 vols., 1984).
Areas of Teaching and Research European Protestantism, 1517 to the present, against its cultural backdrop; philosophies and theologies of history; religious and sociopolitical aspects of cultural pessimism, especially in relation to views of eschatology; general history of Christianity; “emergent” or “missional” contemporary
definitions of Christianity; issues of deep-rooted group and personal religious identity in
relation to the methodology and implicit task of the discipline of religious studies in the
context of the convergence of transnational capitalism and the post-ideological
triumph of so-called “managerial elites” and their obligatory re-definition of identity personal and communal in a minimalist direction; projections concerning the survival
Recent new work in writing and teaching deals with themes of protest and stock-taking in the face of social and economic change of intensely confusing kinds, comparing earlier European experience of decay with contemporary American experience and attempting to look simultaneously at elite and popular cultural material. The destiny of Protestantism and the hidden symbiosis between pessimistic popular culture (e.g., Fight Club) and the tradition of high culture pessimism are featured. An example here is the 2007 Rice Rockwell lecture entitled “Cultural Pessimism, Popular Culture, and the Search for Civic and Religious Identity in Contemporary America.” Attention goes toward multiple dimensions of determinism in views of the self; the decay and expiration of civic humanism in its religious connection in an atmosphere of total triumph of economic definitions of the self in society, politics, religion, and the academy; and popular culture’s “minority report” of pessimism as a kind of underground religious expression of the sense of human powerlessness reflecting the death of the classic humanist tradition established on the basis of Athens and Jerusalem and Rome at a time when official media have been claiming that it is still alive somewhere today.
Long-established interest in issues of sociology of knowledge and Begriffsgeschichte surfaces in dealing with themes such as the situation of the contemporary academy and the vicissitudes of stress on apocalyptic in the history of scriptural exegesis.
Recent emphases in teaching reflect the interests noted above—for example, the interconnection of religion, cultural criticism, apocalypticism, cultural pessimism, and their expression in contemporary popular culture; Christianity in the history of the West; religious aspects of Western civilization; Judaeo-Christian aspects of the problem of political legitimation; Christianity and the philosophy of history (Schopenhauer, Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Spengler, Jung, Waugh; Eliot, Baudrillard, Scruton), political theology as a problem in the history of antidemocratic ideologies; historiography and bibliography of church history; Reformation and post-Reformation Protestantism; Christianity and social history; general historical survey of the history of Western Christianity; democracy and economic development as religious issues in the history of the West; Christianity and the "New Age" in relation to contemporary science and dystopian and millennial visions.
“Americanism as Religion
or Varieties of Civil Religious Experience,” Americanisms: Discourses of Exception, Exclusion, Exchange,
ed. Michael Steppat. Co-authored with Glenn Shuck of Williams College. American Studies—A Monograph Series Edited on
behalf of the German Association for American Studies, vol. 173 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009).
Escape into the Future: Cultural Pessimism and its Religious Dimension in Contemporary American Popular Culture. Co-authored with Glenn Shuck of Williams College. Publisher: Baylor University Press (released, November, 2007). ISBN-10: 1-932792-52-X.
"Mosheim, Johann Lorenz von." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, ed. Alan Charles Kors (2002). Oxford University Press.
"Reimarus, Hermann Samuel." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, ed. Alan Charles Kors. (2002). Oxford University Press.
"Semler, Johann Salomo." Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, ed. Alan Charles Kors (2002). Oxford University Press.
“Nazis as Nature Mystics? A Review Essay on Robert A. Pois’s National Socialism and the Religion of Nature,” This World, no. 23 (fall, 1988).
“Political Theology and Secularization Theory in Germany, 1918-1939” Harvard Theological Review 80:3 (1987).
“Protestant Church Historians in the German Enlightenment,” Aufklärung und Geschichte, ed. H. E. Bödeker, G. G. Iggers, J. B. Knudsen, and P. H. Reill. Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte, no. 81 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986).
“The Idea of Theological Education at the University of Berlin: From Schleiermacher to Harnack,” Schools of Thought in the Christian Tradition, ed. P. Henry = Festschrift for Jaroslav Pelikan (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984).
The Struggle for Identity in the Clerical Estate, Studies in the History of Christian Thought, ed., Heiko A. Oberman, no. 33 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1984).
“Protestant Churchmen in the German Enlightenment - Mere Tools of Temporal Government?”, Lessing Yearbook 10: 149-189.