Friday, November 22, 2013

L.D. Burnett on "Secular Academic Homiletics"

L.D. Burnett is one of the more thoughtful and dedicated writers in the history blogosphere today.  I have no idea how she manages to work on her dissertation in intellectual history at the University of Texas at Dallas and still write such compelling posts at the U.S. Intellectual History blog, but I enjoy reading what she writes. 

In her recent post, entitled "Secular Academic Homilitecs 101," Burnett reports on Washington University's inaugural Danforth Distinguished Lecture.  The lecturer was noted Berkeley historian David Hollinger and the topic was his current project on evangelical missionaries.  Jon Butler, Darren Dochuk, and Molly Worthen responded to Hollinger's lecture and Hollinger offered a rejoinder.

You can read all about the lecture here, but I particularly enjoyed Burnett's description of Molly Worthen's comments:

There was nothing static about conservative American evangelical missions in Molly Worthen’s telling – nothing static about the evangelicals, and nothing static about how Worthen brought them to life.  Instead of delivering her remarks from her seat at the table, Worthen took the podium.  And then she took the room.  Her argument about the vitality and complexity of evangelical thinking about missiology was not only clear in her prose but mimetically instantiated in her delivery.  Molly Worthen didn’t just give a talk; she preached it, in the fullest and best sense of the word.  Everyone in that room, from the distinguished historians at the front to the junior scholars at the back, saw and heard in Worthen’s contribution a pitch-perfect match between style and substance, argument and audience.  She has studied Billy Graham, but she clearly could have schooled him too.  Like both Butler and Dochuk, Worthen brought a smart, strong challenge to Hollinger’s argument, and she delivered with clarity and confidence that gave listeners every confidence that she knew exactly what she was talking about.  That had to be a hard act to follow.

This is the same Molly Worthen I experienced only a few days earlier in Chattanooga and it is the same L.D. Burnett I have been reading for several years now.  Excellent.