During my last couple of years in college, I became increasingly interested in American religious history. It seemed like a reasonable fit: I was intent on attending seminary and preparing for pastoral ministry, but was also a history major who loved studying the past. The more I read, the more I became particularly interested in a couple of areas: American evangelicalism and Baptist history. These interests ultimately came together in my 2007 dissertation, “The Development of Baptist Fundamentalism in the South, 1940-1980.” I hope to rework the dissertation into a monograph one day.
When I began pondering doctoral studies in church history, I was particularly encouraged by an April 2001 article Tim Stafford wrote for Christianity Today titled “Whatever Happened to Christian History?” Stafford introduced me to some of the leading debates among self-confessed evangelical historians. He also recounted the professional journeys of historians such as Mark Noll, George Marsden, and Harry Stout, scholars whose works I was already beginning to read. The article helped to cement my desire to become a church historian.
I was recently reminded of Stafford’s article when I saw it referenced in the latest issue of Fides et Historia, the journal published by the Conference on Faith and History. I’m truly thankful that a decade after first reading the article I’m serving as a “professional” church historian. I’m also glad I’m writing about the very topics I became interested in almost a dozen years ago (though I don’t write as much as I hope to in the future). I’d encourage you to read Stafford’s thoughtful article.