At the time of this interview, Marcus was a student at WSC. He graduated in 2004 is currently completing Ph.D work at St. Louis University
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Why did you choose WSC?
There were a number of factors that influenced my choice for graduate work. During my undergraduate days at UCLA, Michael Horton’s books, the White Horse Inn, and Modern Reformation magazine had me seeking out a Reformed church. The pastor of the church that I joined, Lee Irons (WSC grad), really taught me the Reformed faith from the scriptures and confessions. The great respect that I had (and still have) for Lee and Dr. Horton translated into a high regard for WSC in my mind.
Another crucial factor in my decision was that I wanted to study church history from professors that I could trust were not attempting to undermine my faith. While at UCLA I witnessed a number of Christian friends grow intellectually and spiritually disillusioned after taking some courses on early Christianity from professors who clearly desired to break conservative Christian students from their “naive dogma.” These students simply did not have a solid theological and historical foundation that could withstand such an assault. I knew that before I pursued PhD work I needed to be equipped in this regard. WSC provided me with this firm foundation – both academically and in my personal faith.
What have you been doing since graduating WSC?
Upon graduation I spent a year as the business manager of White Horse Media (the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation). It was a great honor to work for these entities that played such a pivotal role in my spiritual journey. I was accepted to the history department of Saint Louis University (SLU) and offered full funding to pursue a PhD in American history. In late summer 2005, my wife, Mandi (who worked at WSC while I was a student), and I moved to St. Louis, where we bought an old house built in 1892 in a historic neighborhood near downtown. Mandi is a financial coordinator in SLU’s School of Public Health and is working towards getting her MBA in the evenings.
Tell us about your work at Saint Louis University.
My MA thesis at WSC sparked my broader interest in the relationship between American antebellum social reform activity and religious thought. I chose SLU primarily because I had the opportunity to work with one of the foremost scholars of American antebellum reform movements and religious thought, Lewis Perry. I finished my coursework and passed my comprehensive exams at the end of 2007, which means that I am transitioning into dissertation mode. In addition to taking classes, I have worked as a research assistant for professors and have served as a teaching assistant for a large world history undergraduate course. My experiences working with undergraduates have given me a great passion for teaching.
What have you learned about doing history since leaving WSC?
One of the reasons I wanted to get my PhD in a history department instead of a theology or religious studies department is that I wanted to improve my knowledge of non-religious (e.g. social, political, economic) historical factors. My PhD work has convinced me of the importance that historians of religious history have a full knowledge of and appreciation for all aspects of history. Church historians rightly criticize “secular” or social historians who misunderstand or fail to appreciate the significance of theology in church history; but I’m afraid that many church historians err in failing to understand or appreciate non-theological and non-ecclesiastical factors in that affected church history. This has partly resulted in church historians only producing work for members of their religious tradition (which has its place, to be sure), while failing to interact meaningfully with the broader community of historical scholarship. I have seen scholars on both sides simply dismiss the work of the other side because it does not appreciate certain religious, social, political, or economic factors. This has caused me to appreciate the work of scholars such as Mark Noll and George Marsden, who refuse to write about American religious history as if it developed in a vacuum. It is the work of these scholars after which I try to pattern my scholarship. While it takes considerably more amount of time and work to perform this kind of religious history, I think it results in scholarship that is profitable for the edification of the church and interaction with the academy.