Guest / Limited Access /

Historian of religion Timothy L. Smith, a pioneer for evangelicals in secular universities, died January 20 following extended illnesses in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 72.

"He had an enormous impact as a role model," says Grant Wacker, professor of religious history at Duke University Divinity School. "He was the first evangelical historian in the U.S. to make it in the secular research university."

A writer who published seminal pieces in nearly every historical journal, Smith won acclaim for his 1957 book Revivalism and Social Reform. Smith's book, which tied historical revival movements to social action at a time when few evangelical churches made the association, received the Brewer prize from the American Society of Church History. Smith also penned a history of the Nazarene church, Called Unto Holiness, which he considered his most outstanding accomplishment.

A professor of history and education at Johns Hopkins University for 25 years, Smith also was a leading authority on the history of European immigration to the United States and the history of American education.

"He wanted to appreciate the big ideas held by little people," says Joel Carpenter, provost of Calvin College and a former student of Smith's. "He had uncommon respect for common people."

Before his days at Johns Hopkins, where he also served as director of the program in American Religious History,

Smith taught at the University of Minnesota, East Texas State College, and Eastern Nazarene College. An ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, he pastored churches in Massachusetts, Maine, and Colorado.

"You would be hard-pressed to find a school in the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities that Smith did not speak at," says Carpenter. "Who ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
The Dilemmas of a Pro-Life Pastor
How churches should handle the delicate issue of abortion when nearly one-fifth of women who get abortions are sitting in our pews.
TrendingWhy Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Regardless of court fight’s final outcome, fewer persecuted Christians will make it to America under president’s plan.
Editor's PickChallenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Challenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Black Southern Baptists weigh in on the issues around removing Sho Baraka’s album.
Christianity Today
Obituary: Historian Smith, 72, Dies
hide thisApril 7 April 7

In the Magazine

April 7, 1997

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.