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Book Explains Conflicts in the American Evangelical Church

Molly Worthen

Molly Worthen

Apostles of Reason cover

Molly Worthen (BA 2003, PhD 2011, Religious Studies), assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently published her second book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (Oxford 2013).

Worthen explains in the book that evangelicalism is a diverse community ranging from pacifist Mennonites to tongues-speaking Pentecostals. They may share faith in Christ, but they have often disagreed about almost everything else, including the consequences of theology for politics.

Worthen traces the efforts of evangelical scholars and activists to rehabilitate the intellectual reputation of their faith and engage mainstream society by founding new schools and magazines, by transforming their approach to missions, and by selectively borrowing from secular liberal culture in order to win that culture for Christ. She argues that evangelicals have never had a single authority to guide them or settle the question of what the Bible means. In the years after World War II, a small group of theologians and evangelists popularized a “Christian worldview” based on the conviction that the Bible is wholly inerrant, as trustworthy as a science textbook.

But not all evangelical activists believed that a Christian worldview required conservative politics. The culture wars of the late 20th century emerged not only from the struggle between religious conservatives and secular liberals, but also from the civil war within evangelicalism itself – a battle over how to uphold the conflicting commands of both faith and reason in order to lead the nation back onto the path of righteousness.

Mark Noll, author of America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln and professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, says “Apostles of Reason brings a new level of sophistication, as well as sparkling prose, to the study of modern American evangelicals. A combination of empathetic understanding and critical acumen makes this an unusually humane, as well as unusually insightful, book.”

Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, writes that “Molly Worthen’s account of the evangelical imagination across the past 70 years is both sympathetic and critical. She captures the diversity of American evangelicals, their hopes and anxieties, and the nuances of their strategies for cultural influence.”

“Ambitious in its analytical breadth, at once incisive and playful in presentation, and utterly convincing, Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason is first-rate in every sense. This is a path-breaking book about a quintessentially modern movement,” says Washington University Professor Darren Dochuk, author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt.

Worthen is also the author of The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). As a freshman, she found herself fascinated by Hill, who is the Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strategy at Yale and a former diplomat who shaped American foreign policy in his 40-year career as an adviser to Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and others. The book is both the biography of a political insider and the story of how its author evolved as she wrote it. Worthen is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Slate, Christianity Today, and other publications.

Her dissertation, titled “Unlike a Mighty Army: Anxiety and Authority in American Evangelicalism,” advised by Jon Butler, Beverly Gage, and Harry Stout, won the Theron Rockwell Field Prize at the May 2011 Commencement. After a year teaching at the University of Toronto, she and her husband Michael Morgan (PhD 2010, History) came to Chapel Hill in 2012, where Worthen teaches classes on global Christianity and North American politics and culture, and Morgan teaches the history of international relations and human rights. “We miss the friends, colleagues, and pizza in New Haven, but we don’t miss the snow!” Worthen said.


Historical Tensions Reflected in Dostoevsky’s Writing Style

Kate Holland

The Novel in the Age of Disintegration: Dostoevsky and the Problem of Genre in the 1870s, by Kate Holland (PhD 2004, Slavic Languages and Literatures), was recently published by Northwestern University Press. In the book, Holland analyzes three novels — Demons (1872), The Adolescent (1875), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), and a journal, A Writer’s Diary (1881). She argues that all four are shaped by conflicting approaches to literary form: one that embraces fragmentation and the other that demands formal unity. These emerge out of Dostoevsky’s antithetical views about the era in which he lived and wrote, she says. On the one hand, he accepted Russian modernity and its accompanying social and spiritual disintegration. One the other, he sought to deny it, to replace the frightening sense of historical rupture with a vision of national salvation and reintegration. Holland analyzes Dostoevsky’s struggle to adapt his novels to the reality of his era, while maintaining a utopian vision of Russia’s mission.

Before joining the faculty of the University of Toronto in 2009 as an assistant professor of Russian literature, Holland was an assistant professor at Yale. Her research focuses on the relationship between Russian literary works of the second half of the 19th century and the complex historical period in which they were produced. She is particularly interested in the period following the “Great Reforms” of the 1860s and how the Russian novel changed during that era. She has published articles and book chapters on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Herzen and Saltykov-Shchedrin. She is currently working on a second book, Literary Tradition, Print Culture, and the Evolution of the Russian Family Novel in the 1870s.

Holland earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge. At Yale she wrote a dissertation titled “The Novel in the Age of Disintegration: A Genre Study of Dostoevsky’s works, 1873-1881,” advised by Robert Louis Jackson. While a graduate student, she organized two national conferences through the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and was an active member of the Graduate School community. As an assistant professor, she served as the Director of Graduate Studies for two years. Holland now lives in Toronto with her husband, Ivan Fernandez Pelaez, also a former assistant professor at Yale, who now teaches Spanish at the University of Toronto, and their two sons, Daniel, 2, and Marco, who was born in February.


Research Reveals How Heresy Influenced Ecclasiastical Leadership

Carlos R. Galvão-Sobrinho

Carlos R. Galvão-Sobrinho at the museum of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Doctrine and Power: Theological Controversy and Christian Leadership in the Later Roman Empire

Carlos R. Galvão-Sobrinho (PhD 1999, History), associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has published Doctrine and Power: Theological Controversy and Christian Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (University of California Press).

During the 4th century, theological controversy divided Christian communities throughout the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. Not only was the truth about God at stake, but also the authority of church leaders, whose legitimacy depended on their claims to represent that truth. In this book, Galvão-Sobrinho argues that out of these disputes was born a new style of church leadership, one in which the power of the episcopal office was greatly increased. Church leaders asserted their orthodoxy and legitimacy, mobilizing their congregations and engaging in actions that projected their power in the public arena. These developments were largely the work of prelates of the first half of the 4th century, but the style of command they inaugurated became the basis for a model of ecclesiastical leadership throughout late antiquity.

According to H.A. Drake, author of Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance, “Carlos Galvão-Sobrinho has taken the story of Arianism out of the stately tomes of theologians and into the streets of Alexandria. Here he finds that the search for greater precision and the new phenomenon of a Christian emperor do not sufficiently explain the devastating impact of this heresy on Christian unity. Instead, he exposes internal dynamics that spurned consensus and demonized opposition. The means by which extremists polarized the issue and eliminated middle ground will be sadly familiar to all students of the political process.”

Before coming to Yale, Galvão-Sobrinho earned an MD degree from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. He entered medical school when he was 15 years old and had no opportunity to study the humanities until after he completed his degree. 

“The decision to go back to school to study history had a lot to do with sheer intellectual curiosity and the fact that I always enjoyed history, but had never before had a chance to study it,” he says. His research interests include the history of medicine, the social history of Rome, and late antiquity. Galvão-Sobrinho was awarded the Rome Prize fellowship in 2005 and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. His oldest daughter, Carolina, graduated from Yale College in 2005, and his youngest, Rachel, is a freshman at Yale.