Category: Historical Topics


Robert Nelson on Lutheranism and Nordic Social Democracy

The Nordic states are known for their high levels of socio-economic equality, good governance, and high levels of social trust. While some scholars have attributed this to their unique brand of secular social democracy, Prof. Robert Nelson (U of Maryland) argues that Nordic social democracy has deep roots in the “Lutheran ethic.” We discuss how the Lutheran ethic is different than the Calvinist ethic (as seen by Max Weber), how contemporary social democratic thought in Nordic countries has similar elements to Lutheranism, and what is in store for social democracy.

Check out our other podcasts related to the Protestant Reformation this year!

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James Hudnut-Beumler on the History of Church Financing in the US

While pastors often don’t want to talk about the subject of church funding, it is an established fact that religious groups need finances to survive and thrive. Prof. James Hudnut-Beumler (Vanderbilt University) discusses the importance of thinking about church funding and takes us on a tour of how church financing has changed in the United States over the past two and a half centuries. We cover topics such as pew rentals, competition from benevolence groups, and automatic debiting. Technological and social changes have affected how religious organizations collect revenue and, in turn, has shaped our religious landscape in interesting ways.

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Rodney Stark on Myths of the Reformation

Many misconceptions surround the Protestant Reformation, from it being the birth of capitalism to it prompting Europe’s secularization. Noted sociologist of religion Rodney Stark (Baylor ISR) joins us to discuss these myths and more. With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation just about a month away, this is a great opportunity to refresh on some interesting talking points to engage your friends, family, and colleagues.

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Louis Markos on the Poetry of Heaven & Hell (Encore Presentation)

We’re still on summer break, so please enjoy this favorite interview of mine (and a few other folks). Prof. Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University explains how images of heaven and hell have changed over the ages, makes a case why Christians should pay attention to pagan writers, and covers territory from Plato to C.S. Lewis.

We are working on some updates on the audio portion of the website and hope to return with fresh episodes soon. Stay tuned.

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Donald Kraybill on The Amish (Encore Presentation)

As we take a short summertime break, we bring back a superb interview by Donald Kraybill regarding the theology and lifestyle of the Amish and Old Order Mennonites.

For more great episodes, search our voluminous archives. Find topics to share with your friends.

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Rob Sorensen on Martin Luther’s Life

With the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his “95 Theses” to the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral approaching, we take a pause to examine the early life of Martin Luther with Rob Sorensen, a PhD candidate at Faulkner University and author of a book on Luther’s life. Our attention is devoted mostly to Luther’s formative years leading up to his defiant act in 1517, but there are reflections on his life following excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

Check out our other episodes in the Protestant Reformation Series by visiting our archives.

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Thomas Kidd on Benjamin Franklin’s Faith

Contemporary imagery often paints Benjamin Franklin as a Deist who saw little importance for an active religious faith. However, Franklin’s personal views of Christianity, as well as his shared public views, were much deeper and nuanced than many scholars will admit. Prof. Thomas Kidd (Baylor University) discusses Ben Franklin’s religious journey from growing up in a house with deeply Calvinist parents and siblings, through his rebellious teen years, a friendship with the fames preacher George Whitefield, and finally to a mature view of Christianity that emphasized the role of Providence and a virtuous citizenry.

Explore our archives for more episodes related to the Founding Era of the United States.

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Andrew Chesnut on Santa Muerte

The cult of Santa Muerte is one of the fastest growing religious movements in the Western Hemisphere, yet little scholarly attention has been paid to it. Prof. Andrew Chesnut of Virginia Commonwealth University discusses what this folk saint is, how it emerged historically and recently, and how devotions are practiced.

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Robert D. Rubin on Judicial Review & the Religious Right

Prior to the 1980s, the incipient Religious Right was skeptical of the US judicial system given a variety of decisions that went against their interests. Dr. Robert Daniel Rubin examines how Southern Christians came to embrace judicial review using two crucial court cases involving education in Mobile, Alabama, and Judge Brevard Hand who decided them. This discussion is both a microcosm of social and political change brewing in the South in the 1980s, but also a reflection of broader trends developing in American society.

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Cara Lea Burnidge on Religion and Woodrow Wilson

To what extent did President Woodrow Wilson’s southern Presbyterian upbringing play in shaping his political attitudes and American foreign policy? Prof. Cara Burnidge (U of Northern Iowa) addresses this question in a fascinating discussion that tracks the former Princeton University president through a period of dynamic religious and political change in American history. A strong Calvinist influence combines with the burgeoning thought of the social gospel movement in the late 19th century and leads to a vision for a “new world order.”

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