Thomas Jefferson Versus Some Historians: Frank Cogliano Responds to Arthur Sherr

April 21st, 2014

By Frank Cogliano

In “Thomas Jefferson Versus the Historians” Arthur Scherr challenges the view that Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state was permeable and that the Sage of Monticello was a devout Christian. The view of a Christian Jefferson who accepted a blurring of the boundary between church and state, supported fast days and attended church services in public buildings, has gained traction in recent years particularly among those who advocate for a “Christian Founding” of the American Republic. If Jefferson, so long portrayed as deistic skeptic who believed a wall should separate church and state, the president who excised miracles from the New Testament, can be shown to be a devout Christian, then there can be no question that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and (by implication) should be a Christian nation today.

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Jefferson Versus the Historians, or Barton Versus the Historians? Thomas Kidd Responds to Arthur Sherr

April 14th, 2014

By Thomas Kidd

The topic of Thomas Jefferson’s faith generates an extreme range of opinions. These run from Christian pop history writer David Barton’s insistence that, until late in life, Jefferson was an orthodox Christian, to Arthur Scherr’s contention in his Church History piece that Jefferson lived and died as an “Epicurean deistic pagan,” a pantheist, or perhaps even an atheist.

Barton’s The Jefferson Lies strained credulity by its selective use of evidence, leading Thomas Nelson publishers to pull the book from circulation in 2012. Scherr’s article respects standard historical practices in its use of evidence, and his analysis highlights many important aspects of Jefferson’s faith (or lack thereof). But as with other polemical views on Jefferson’s beliefs, Scherr’s thesis – that Jefferson considered himself no kind of Christian, not even a radically liberal one – outruns the nuances of the evidence.

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Thomas Jefferson and the Historians – John Ragosta Responds to Arthur Sherr

April 8th, 2014

By John Ragosta

Asked for a comment on Arthur Scherr’s analysis of Thomas Jefferson, Christianity, morality, and an afterlife, I am a bit ambivalent.

Scherr is deeply concerned with misinformation from the “religious right” suggesting that Thomas Jefferson was not really devoted to a strict separation of church and state or that he was a devout Christian (and the possible implications of such misinformation to constitutional debate and policy – although he studiously ignores those issues).

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Gearing Up for Our First International Conference

April 1st, 2014

By Shaun Horton

The ASCH’s first joint international conference with the Ecclesiastical History Society begins this Thursday. There will not be an official live blog this time, but there is an online conference program for those who, like me, prefer mobile phones to printed paper. Scan the QR code to the right to see it on your phone or tablet. (If you need a bar code scanner, try searching your app store for “Redlaser.”) There is also some last minute conference information on Constant Contact, which will be incorporated into the online program soon.

It is not too late to register for a lower rate than you will pay at the registration desk. Register on to register in dollars. If you prefer pounds, you can register through the EHS site. also has information on the conference hotel for anyone who still needs to book a room.

Finally, we would love to hear from anyone who winds up blogging about the conference. Just drop us a line. You might even try live blogging some of the events. (We use Coveritlive, but 24LiveBlog provides a nice, free alternative.) The trick is to listen carefully, and stop when your hands get tingly.

Blogging can be a great way to engage, reflect upon, and develop some of the ideas that get batted around during the panels and conversations over the course of several days. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it.

Collection Care for Small Libraries

March 19th, 2014

By Emily Suzanne Clark

This post is a quick heads-up about a research planning project being overseen by the American Theological Library Association (ATLA), the Catholic Library Association (CLA), and the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). The project is called “In Good Faith: Collection Care, Preservation, and Access in Small Theological and Religious Studies Libraries,” The research planning project centers on the creation and analysis of a preservation survey for small theological and religious studies libraries, archives, and cultural institutions. The point of the survey is to collect information from the librarians and archivists at small religious studies and theological libraries in order to get a sense of collection care and preservation needs that are unique to these smaller institutions. This way, the ATLA, CLA, and AJL can plan classes, seminars, and programs specially geared towards these smaller libraries’ needs. The rich materials found in these smaller institutions are so important to the kind of work we as scholars can do and sometimes unknown to us.

The survey is available now and will be until April 12, and please pass it on to to your favorite small library or archive. Though the advisory group has been working on a definition of a small library, it is being conceived somewhat broadly. So if you’re not sure if your favorite small religious studies or theological library fits the definition, send it on anyway.

Here is more information about the survey.

Church History – March 2014

March 8th, 2014

The Spring issue of Church History is out on Cambridge Journals Online. In this issue:

Arthur Scherr provides a thorough rebuttal to historical portrayals of Thomas Jefferson as a Christian.


Caroline Schroeder challenges conventional categories of monasticism with a look at women’s monasticism in early Christian Egypt.


Howard Louthan explores Erasmus’s relationship with the Polish Kingdom, and his portrayal of Poland as a model for Christendom.


John Stuart looks at the influence of imperialism and ecumenism on Anglo-American missionaries’ conceptions of “religious liberty” in Egypt.


And Keith Stanglin traces the rise and fall of Biblical perspicuity in 17th century theology.


Check out the full issue at Cambridge Journals Online

Four Ways to Complicate (and Update) the Way We Teach the Enlightenment

March 3rd, 2014

By Jennifer Powell McNutt

The story of the Enlightenment and how it intersected with Christianity has taken a new direction in scholarship. What was once a simplistic historical narrative of the rise of reason and the fall of Christianity has grown more and more complex over the years. New figures, new primary sources, and new angles have been highlighted that offer a more
nuanced landscape with which the church historian can engage.

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Using Social Networks to Coordinate Conference Plans

February 13th, 2014

by Shaun Horton

With the deadline for ASCH Winter Meeting submissions only one month away (and only two days left for joint proposals with the AHA), it is never too early to coordinate panel proposals and travel plans. It’s no secret that the ASCH strongly prefers session proposals to paper proposals.

This is where social media comes in handy. Aside from posting on H-Net, you can use Twitter feeds and hashtags like ASCH2015 or AHA2015 to make public calls for potential fellow panelists. But if you want a way to reach fellow Society members more directly (besides good old fashioned email), there is another option: closed (or private) network groups.

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Everything Is Due Monday (An ASCH-EHS Update)

January 18th, 2014

The final deadline for proposals for the Society’s joint international conference in Oxford is only two days away. The ASCH and Ecclesiastical History Society have accepted 65 proposals already, but they will take submissions until Monday, January 20, at 12 PM London time. The CFP, guidelines, and submission forms are available through the CFP link in the right side of this page (under Conferences), or on the Society’s Conferences & Meetings page.

The Society has travel funding available for some presenters. If you are an ASCH member, you can apply for a travel stipend by downloading this form (graduate students download this form instead), filling it out, and emailing it to, along with a copy of your CV.

If your proposal has already been accepted, January 20 is also the deadline to register for the conference (which you can do here).

ASCH Annual Meeting Live Blog

January 2nd, 2014

Click here to follow our Live Blog for the ASCH Annual Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, displaying tweets, conference events, and updates as they happen.

You can find our conference program, maps, and local restaurants here, or scan the QR code below.

ASCH 2014 Program