I’m back from The Uses of “religion” in 19th Century Studies International Conference at Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library! I have to say that this was one of the most thrilling and fulfilling academic conference I’ve ever participated in. The atmosphere was welcoming and convivial. The hosts were warm and generous and treated us both like VIPs and at the same time like old friends. There was a real and lively scholarly exchange of ideas. I found the presentations fascinating, and learned a lot. The disciplines represented included religious studies, theology, philosophy, history, and especially Victorian literature–which was not an area with which I have a lot of familiarity, so I learned a lot. If you’re into 19th century studies and missed this conference, you really missed out. Hopefully this was only the first of many such conferences. For more on the conference including its schedule and other relevant info, you can go here to the main conference website. They also have put up a Digital Exhibit of the presenters, presentations, and materials from the library itself, which you can also access here. If you click on a presenter’s name it will take you to a page that includes a photo of the presenter, some information about the presenter, a brief summary of their presentation, and then some materials from the library that they thought related in some way to the content of the presentation. The page for my presentation is here. They video recorded the presentations, so some of the videos of the actual presentations will be available in the near future, so you’ll want to check back.
I have completed (more or less) my paper for the upcoming conference at Baylor. To spill the beans a little early, it appears that, in the works I examined prior to his excommunication in 1908, Loisy uses “religion” in a fairly unexceptional way, the way most of us use it today. There are some exceptions to this, but in general, his use of “religion” is that of a generic category, which includes such instantiations as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. What is significant, is the broader history of this term; “religion” has not always been used this way. The work of scholars like Talal Asad (e.g., Genealogies of Religion), William Cavanaugh (e.g., The Myth of Religious Violence), and Ernst Feil (especially his 4 volume Religio) are important contributions to the history of the development of the understanding of religion. More to come.
Well, I’m getting ready for my upcoming conference presentation on Loisy’s use of “religion.” The paper is entitled, “Religion and Empire: Loisy’s Use of ‘Religion’ Prior to his Correspondence with Cumont,” and it will be one of the presentations at The Uses of Religion in 19th Century Studies international conference at the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University in Texas. Here’s the complete list of panel and presentations. Here’s the conference schedule. The paper is not in its final form yet, but its coming along. I’m limiting my discussion to his pre-1908 works. Danny Praet and Annelies Lannoy have shown how Loisy’s work in the history of religion after 1908 was influenced by his correspondence with the Belgian scholar Franz Cumont. My paper will take a look at his use of the concept of “religion” prior to this time, and thus prior to his excommunication. It’s exciting reading, and it relates to his work on biblical interpretation and ancient Near Eastern studies, since most of his uses of the concept of “religion” prior to 1908 occurred in the context of his work on the Bible. Stay tuned for more to come.
My new book, Three Skeptics and the Bible: La Peyrère, Hobbes, Spinoza, and the Reception of Modern Biblical Criticism, is now available to purchase from Amazon.com! Here are the reviews from the back cover:
From Edwin M. Yamauchi, Professor of History Emeritus, Miami University: “No other analysis has pursued the historical roots of biblical criticism in the sixteenth century so brilliantly as Jeffrey L. Morrow’s Three Skeptics and the Bible. He persuasively argues that the Thirty Years War affected La Peyrere, Hobbes, and Spinoza to develop methods of analyzing Scriptures to promote their political agendas. Morrow’s erudite and persuasive study exposes the fallacy of regarding biblical criticism as an ‘objective’ approach to the Bible.”
From William L. Portier, Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton: “In Three Skeptics and the Bible, Morrow digs deeply into the seventeenth-century works of Isaac La Peyrere, Thomas Hobbes, and Baruch Spinoza. He lays bare the tangled early modern political roots of contemporary historical approaches to the Bible. Anyone who cares about retrieving liturgical and spiritual-theological approaches to the Bible, without sacrificing the considerable contributions of historical criticism, will welcome this timely and painstakingly documented book.”
From Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry, Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary: “Recently I heard someone ask an eminent biblical scholar why he was willing to give up the ‘objectivity’ of historical-critical scholarship for the ‘subjectivity’ of theological interpretation. Answering that he was not in fact willing to give up either mode of exegesis, the biblical scholar pointed out that neither mode enjoys a purely scientific ‘objectivity.’ Professor Morrow’s erudite and readable study of politics and exegesis in the seventeenth century makes this crucial point clear once and for all, particularly in his masterful retrieval of Isaac La Peyrere, whose significance might otherwise remain unknown. This book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to employ historical-critical scholarship today in a historically contextualized way–as the method itself demands.”
From Scott W. Hahn, Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Co-author, Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture: “Dr. Jeffrey Morrow has taken up the task that should have been inevitable: the historical criticism of historical criticism. His book is thorough, fair, dispassionate intellectual history of three key seventeenth-century figures. The culmination of long years of research–tested by publication–this book demonstrates that the roots of biblical criticism are not in religiously neutral empirical science, but in a particular agenda that is essentially theo-political.”
My new book, Three Skeptics and the Bible, is coming out soon! It’s a collection of essays I’ve written over the past several years, dealing with the biblical interpretation of Isaac La Peyrère, Thomas Hobbes, and Baruch Spinoza. I’ll post more on this when it becomes available on Amazon. It’s being published by Pickwick from Wipf & Stock, and is my first scholarly volume. At the side is the image they sent me of the cover. I’m still plugging away on my sabbatical projects, and hope to post more on those before my sabbatical is over. More to come in the not-too-distant future.