Scholars at Baylor Symposium to Examine Religion's Fate in Modern Times

Sept. 28, 2009

The fate of religion in modern thought and culture will be examined by more than 130 scholars from many disciplines at an October symposium sponsored by Baylor University's Institute for Faith and Learning.

The third annual symposium -- Secularization and Revival: The Fate of Religion in Modern Intellectual History -- will be held on Thursday, Oct. 8, through Saturday, Oct. 10. Sessions will be in the Cashion Academic Center of the Hankamer School of Business and the Bill Daniel Student Center.

"The story about modernity's challenges to religious faith--and also the perseverance and revival of religion in response to those challenges--is important to tell, and our symposium seeks to contribute to that narrative," said Dr. Darin H. Davis, director of Baylor's Institute for Faith and Learning and an assistant professor of philosophy.

"Reflecting about these matters is important not only to take account of our intellectual and cultural inheritance, but also to realize how modern assumptions about the proper role and place of religion profoundly shape the present," he said.

From a historical standpoint, religion has stood firm through the ages, despite naysayers, said Dr. Thomas Kidd, associate professor of history and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion's Program of Historical Studies of Religion at Baylor and primary faculty collaborator for the symposium.

"There was the traditional notion that religion would decline over time as people became more rational and enlightened, but it's turned out that's not happening," Kidd said.

An exception is in Western Europe, but "in the United States, Latin America, Africa and southeast Asia, there's been an enormous revival of Islam and Christianity," Kidd said.

The movement is reminiscent of other periods of history, such as the Great Awakening of the 18th century, Kidd said. He is the author of The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America.

Symposium speakers will include:

--David Bebbington, professor of history at University of Stirling and distinguished visiting professor of history at Baylor University. His research interests are in the history of politics, religion, ideas, and society in Britain from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and in the history of the global Evangelical movement. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (1989); and, more recently, The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody (2005). He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

--José Casanova, senior fellow of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and professor of sociology at Georgetown University. He has published works in a broad range of subjects, including religion and globalization, migration and religious pluralism, transnational religions, and sociological theory. His acclaimed work, Public Religions in the Modern World (1994), has been translated into five languages, including Arabic and Indonesian. Prior to his arrival at Georgetown, he taught at the New School for Social Research from 1987 to 2007.

--William Cavanaugh, professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota). With interests in political theology, social ethics, and ecclesiology, he is the author of four books and numerous articles. His first book, Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (1998), was nominated for the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion by the American Academy of Religion. His most recent work is The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (2009).

--Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She has served on the board of trustees at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, held the Maguire Chair in Ethics at the Library of Congress, and is currently a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, chair of the Council on Civil Society, and serves on the boards of the National Humanities Center and the National Endowment for Democracy. Her books include Augustine and the Limits of Politics (1996), Just War against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (2003), and Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (2008), the 2006 Gifford Lectures.

--Paul Fiddes, is professor of systematic theology at the University of Oxford and principal emeritus and director of research and professorial research fellow at Regent's Park College. An ordained Baptist minister, he is recognized as one of the leading scholars of theology and literature writing today. His books include The Creative Suffering of God (1988) and The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature, Challenges in Contemporary Theology (2000). In addition to his scholarly work, he is active in ecumenical dialogue between Baptist and Anglicans, currently serving as the Ecumenical Representative on the Synod of the Church of England.

--Barry Harvey is professor of theology in the Honors College at Baylor University, where he has taught since 1988. With interests in liturgical theology, systematic and philosophical theology, theological ethics, contemporary philosophy and social theory, he is the author of Another City: An Ecclesiological Primer for a Post-Christian World (1999) and Can These Bones Live?: A Catholic Baptist Engagement with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Social Theory (2008).

--Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion, where he co-directs the Initiative on Historical Studies of Religion, and also the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. A prolific scholar, he is the author of some 120 book chapters and scholarly articles and twenty-two books, including, The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity (2002), Decade of Nightmares: The End of the 1960s and the Making of Eighties America (2006), God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis (2007), and The Lost History of Christianity (2008).

--Susan Juster is associate dean for social sciences in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and professor of history at the University of Michigan. A specialist in early American history and in women, religion, and evangelical culture in Britain and America, she is the author of Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics and Evangelicalism in Revolutionary New England (1994), A Mighty Baptism: Race, Gender and the Creation of American Protestantism (1996), and Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution (2003).

George Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught from 1992 until his retirement in 2008. His research interests have centered on the history of the interaction between Christianity and American culture, American evangelicalism, and the role of Christianity in Christian higher education. His books include Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (1980), The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (1994), and Jonathan Edwards: A Life (2003).

--C. John Sommerville is professor emeritus of English history at the University of Florida. He is the author of numerous books, including The Secularization of Early Modern England: From Religious Culture to Religious Faith (1992), The Decline of the Secular University (2006), and most recently, Religion in the National Agenda: What We Mean by Religious, Spiritual, Secular (2009). He also been a member of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University and senior fellow at Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions.

--Rodney Stark is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion and Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. He is the founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and has served as president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. A prolific scholar, three of his books have been honored with Distinguished Book Awards from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the American Sociological Association. In 1996 his work The Rise of Christianity was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Most recently he has published Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief (2008) and God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades (2009).

--Frank Turner is the director of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and John Hay Whitney Professor of History at Yale University. A specialist in British and European intellectual history, he has written and edited a dozen books. His acclaimed book John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion (2002) was long-listed for the British Academy Book Prize in 2003. Turner served as Yale University's provost from 1988-1992.

Baylor faculty, staff and students may attend all conference activities, except meals, for free. For others, registration is $150; $100 for students.

Sessions will be held in Bill Daniel Student Center and Cashion Academic Center. For schedule and locations, or to register, visit or call (254) 710-4805.

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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