Published July 14, 2015

Professors co-author book

With students in mind, Dan Ott, Hannah Schell write about religious history
  • Hannah Schell and Daniel Ott
Hannah Schell and Dan Ott, professors in Monmouth College’s department of philosophy and religious studies, have co-authored “Christian Thought in America: A Brief History.”   An overview of the history of Christian beliefs and ideas in America, from the Puritans and other colonials to the beginning of the 21st century, the 340-page paperback was released earlier this month by Fortress Press. Moving chronologically, each chapter addresses a historical segment, focusing on key movements and figures and tracing general trends and developments.   “This is a book written with students in mind,” said Schell, who began teaching at Monmouth in 2001. “We imagine it being used by undergraduates and seminary students. It might also be of interest to community or church study groups. It is written to be an introduction to Christian thought in America, and our hope is that readers would then want to follow up and learn more about some of the figures of movements that we discuss briefly.”   While many books take a church history approach and focus on the development of different denominations, this book is distinctive in that it emphasizes intellectual and theological developments, rather than structures, say the authors.   “It is modeled on a book by the late William Placher called ‘History of Christian Thought: A Brief Introduction,’ which is a beloved and much-used text and one that we have used for many years in Monmouth’s ‘History of Christian Thought’ course,” said Schell. “Our focus is on the comparatively brief and relatively recent portion of that history in the context of the United States.”   Ott and Schell had several goals in mind, which they spell out in the first chapter. They emphasize particular individual historical actors, whom they call “the dynamic cast of characters,” as well as the diversity, vibrancy and history of Christian thought in America.   “In other words,” said Ott in explaining the history point, “we approach the topic chronologically and tell a story that unfolds with some lines of continuity but also some elements of discontinuity as movements died out and as times changed.”   Schell completed her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2000, and also her master’s degree there. She did her undergraduate work at Oberlin College. Ott, who is married to Monmouth College’s chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, came to Monmouth in 2011. He received his Ph.D. in 2006 from Claremont Graduate University and his M.Div. degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Ott also holds a bachelor’s degree in music from West Virginia University.      
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