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R. Ward Holder

Ph.D., 1998, Boston College, Theology
M.Div., 1988, Princeton Theological Seminary, Church History
B.A., 1985, Cornell College, Music

Courses

  • Religions of the West
  • Catholic and Protestant Theology
  • Religion in America
  • Reformation Theology
  • Protestant Theology
  • Biblical Theology

Research Interests

My research concentrates on four areas.  I work on the history of Christian doctrine in the early modern period -roughly the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. Secondly, I study the history of the interpretation of scripture. Thirdly, my work has more and more been drawn into the realm traditionally called political theology. I find the intersection of Christian thought and the organization of communal life not only captivating, but also crucial for human thriving. Finally, I work on understanding the thought of the French reformer of Geneva, John Calvin.  Visit my research page for more information on my research projects.

My research examines the history of the Christian church in the early modern period -roughly the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. I have been fascinated by several things about this period.  First, this is the period of the Reformations - the time of one of the greatest upheavals in the history of Christianity. The changing theories of the meaning of scripture, the way that believers thought about the Church, and the manners that believers sought salvation provide a timeless attraction for me. Further, the cluster of figures captivates my interest - Martin Luther, Charles V, John Calvin, Henry VIII, Thomas More, and Elizabeth I - such a constellation of powerful minds and wills who have left an indelible stamp on the history of Christianity and on the world's stage.

Secondly, I study the interpretation of scripture. Gerhard Ebeling suggested that the history of the interpretation of the Bible could stand as a representation of the entire history of the Church. While that claim might be too grand, it does capture important truths. Examining the ways that people have looked at the scriptures gives a window into their minds. For instance, why does the interpretation of a single passage change between the time of Augustine of Hippo, who died in 430 CE, and Martin Luther, who died in 1546? Sometimes, the question is the opposite - why do two figures separated by a thousand years agree? Further, the issues around the interpretation of scripture offer up several interesting questions. Who is able to interpret the scriptures? Can laypeople interpret, can women interpret, can groups interpret? Further, what is the authority to interpret the scriptures? When a man or woman claims that "The Bible says...", what power does that claim hold over Christians? I find these questions endlessly enticing.

Thirdly, my work has more and more been drawn into the realm traditionally called political theology. I find the intersection of Christian thought and the organization of communal life not only captivating, but also crucial for human thriving. Any number of portrayals of what "Christians" believe are available in the media, from both political analysts as well as from politicians themselves. But frequently, these pictures come fraught with baggage that seeks to coopt the Christian into a human kingdom or group. That denies the lordship of Christ over all aspects of human life. Working to understand this dynamic, and to explore how far Christian believers can be involved in particular political realms, has occupied an increasing share of my own thought.

Finally, I work on the thought of the French reformer of Geneva, John Calvin. I have examined his interpretation of scripture, especially the Pauline epistles. I have considered his ideals of the pastoral task, and how he used Paul's pastoral advice and Paul's own example as a remedy for the pastorate of the sixteenth century. At present, I am investigating how Calvin used the Christian tradition in his own theology, both to critique his own thought and to correct the theology of his contemporaries.

Contact Information

Prof. R. Ward Holder
R. Ward Holder

Professor
Department of Theology
Saint Anselm College
Box # 1762
100 Saint Anselm Drive
Manchester, NH 03102

(603) 641-7265

Office:
Bradley House

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