Category: Protestantism


Steven Pfaff on the World of 1517

What did Europe look like economically, politically, and religiously on the eve of the Protestant Reformation? What broad historical trends facilitated the success Martin Luther’s schismatic break from the Catholic Church where others in the past had failed? Prof. Steve Pfaff (Sociology, University of Washington) discusses the factors spurring on the Protestant Reformation, sharing some of the most up-to-date research on how social movements spread.

The second in our series devoted to the people and events of the Protestant Reformation. Great for classroom use.

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Marion Goldman on Martin Luther and Spiritual Virtuosity

With the quincentennial anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (dated from October 31, 1517), we begin an occasional series looking at the events and people that made up this historic event. We start with Prof. Marion Goldman (sociology, University of Oregon) who argues that Martin Luther had the characteristic of a “spiritual virtuoso” and that this factor was critical to the split that transpired between the Catholic Church and Protestants. Spiritual virtuosos are individuals who are concerned with personal sanctification, are reluctant leaders, but do acknowledge their role in inspiring social movements. Our conversation also covers other similar individuals such as leaders of the Abolitionist Movement and Steve Jobs of Apple fame.

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John Fea on the American Bible Society

Happy bicentennial to the American Bible Society, celebrating its 200th year in operation on May 11, 2016. To celebrate, we invite historian John Fea (Messiah College) to discuss the history of the ABS and his recent book “The Bible Cause.” We track the changes to this quintessential American institution over time, emphasizing how it reflected and shaped our society over the past two centuries.

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Phillip Sinitiere on the Osteens & Lakewood Church

Joel Osteen has risen to fame and popularity over the past decade and a half, and not without much criticism for his spiritual message and preaching style. Prof. Phillip Sinitiere examines the founding and growth of Lakewood Church, dating back to John Osteen, to put the Osteen phenomenon into a broader context. We examine the history of the Osteens, the institutional development and innovativeness of Lakewood Church, as well as the development of the prosperity gospel and what it all entails. The story that emerges is more nuanced than either supporters or detractors paint.

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Warren Bird on Church Leadership Teams

What makes for an effective leadership team? Using insights from business analysis, Dr. Warren Bird of the Leadership Network discusses a study conducted in over 200 churches that filtered out the various characteristics of groups that led to success. Our conversation also discusses the recent Pew Forum report on the declining presence of Christianity in the United States and finishes up with how church leadership should address a potentially new religious environment in America.

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Oliver Crisp on Calvin and Reformed Theology

Who was John Calvin, how have people interpreted his theology throughout the ages, and is it really as narrow as many believe it to be? These questions and more are answered as Research on Religion dips into the world of historical theology with Prof. Oliver Crisp of Fuller Theological Seminary. With a delightful English accent, Dr. Crisp explains a lot of words that Tony cannot pronounce and argues that Reformed theology is a great deal more diverse that it is typically portrayed. Prof. Crisp also makes a strong case for why the study of deep theology is important.

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Tracy McKenzie on the First Thanksgiving

Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, Prof. Tracy McKenzie (Wheaton College) takes us on a tour of the world of the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth. We discover who they were, how they worshipped and the interesting (not commonly known) history of The “First” Thanksgiving. More than just a “grade school” understanding of this American tradition, Prof. McKenzie challenges Christians to engage in a deeper understanding of their own history. This interview will make for great conversational tidbits around the dinner table!

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Robert Delahunty on Alexis de Tocqueville and Religion

Prof. Robert Delahunty (University of St. Thomas) discusses the life and thought of Alexis de Tocqueville, particularly as it pertains to his views on religion and democracy. We discuss Tocqueville’s personal religious history and how this influenced his thought, as well as the observations he made with respect to the role of religion in a newly-formed democratic nation. Prof. Delahunty explores Tocqueville’s thoughts on church-state relations and the role of civil religion in comparison with Niccolo Machiavelli, and we reflect upon what Tocqueville’s observations recorded in America’s Jacksonian Era tell us about the role of religion in the U.S. today.

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Thom S. Rainer on Baptist Conventions & Church Health

Have you ever wondered what goes on at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting? Dr. Thom S. Rainer, prodigous author and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, gives us some background on the SBC’s convention and what issues were raised in during the June 2013 meeting, including mental health and chartering the Boy Scouts. We also discuss various trends affecting America’s religious landscape, including the growth in large churches at the possible expense of smaller congregations and the faith of the Millenials (individuals born between 1980 and 2000). Dr. Rainer also talks about what leads to church stagnation, what it takes to turn those churches around, and a few not-so-obvious pointers on how to guarantee a vibrant church.

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Jonathan den Hartog on the Spiritual & Political Life of John Jay

With Independence Day quickly approaching, we once again take a look at the role of religion in shaping America’s Founding. Historian Jonathan den Hartog surveys the life, times, and influence of John Jay, one of the “forgotten Founding Fathers.” With a spiritual mix of French Prostantism and Anglicanism, we follow Jay through various phases of his life including his role during the struggle for independence, the tumultuous crafting of a new federal government, his time in public service, and his life in building civil society. Jay’s life provides a number of interesting insights that are still relevent for political and civic engagement today. Show off your impressive knowledge of this intriguing character at your Fourth of July celebration.

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