Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professors of Religion

2022 Distinguished Visiting Professor

Dr. R. Kirby Godsey: “Romancing the Unknown”


Lecture 1: The Fabric of the Unknown


Lecture 2: The Myth of God


Lecture 3: Amazing Grace




About the visiting professorship

Dr. and Mrs. Harry Vaughan Smith made a liberal gift to Mercer University in 1990 to establish a distinguished visiting professorship and lecture series in the Christianity Department. The gift bears witness to the life-long commitment the late Harry Vaughan Smith had to Mercer University that began when he enrolled as a freshman in 1920.

A 1924 graduate of Mercer, Harry Vaughan Smith served as pastor of several prominent churches in Georgia before becoming Alumni Secretary and Assistant to the President at Mercer in 1946, a post he held until 1955. From 1955 until 1970 he distinguished himself as Executive-Director of the Georgia Baptist Foundation. In all his years of service, Dr. Smith was a faithful worker on behalf of all Georgia Baptist causes, but always he maintained a special interest in Mercer University and the cause of Christian higher education.

Past Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professors

2020: Peter Phan

Christian Theology in Migration

  • God the Primordial Migrant
  • Jesus the Paradigmatic Migrant
  • The Holy Spirit, the Power of Migration, in the Church as a Community of Migrants

2019: Stephanie Paulsell

Lost in the Mystery of God: Spiritual Practices

  • Lost in the Mystery of God
  • The Soul’s Journey
  • On Pilgrimage

2018: Catherine Keller

Political Theology of the Earth

  • The Political:  Sovereign Exception or Collective Inception
  • The Earth: Climate of Closure, Matter of Disclosure
  • The Theology: Kairos of Endless Entanglement

2017: Brad R. Braxton

The Beloved Community in a Pluralistic World

  • Lifting the Veil: The Apostle Paul and Racial Reconciliation
  • A Blueprint for the Beloved Community: Vocation, Values, and Voice
  • Street Corner Religion: Public Theology for a Pluralistic World

2016: Charles Marsh

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: New Perspectives of His Life, Thought and Promise

  • “I Heard the Gospel Preached in the Negro Churches of America”: Bonhoeffer’s Spiritual Awakening
  • Theological Storm Troopers on the March: Bonhoeffer’s Protest Against the Nazis’ Twisted Cross
  • “Are We Still of Any Use?”: Bonhoeffer’s Final Questions and the Christian Witness in the 21st Century

2015: Amy-Jill Levine

Hearing the Parables Through Jewish Ears

  • Dangers on the Road to Jericho: How the Good Samaritan Goes Wrong
  • Finding the Lost: Where Prodigal Readers Go Astray
  • Assessing Our Values: What Contributions Pearls, Yeast, Pharisees, and Tax Collectors Make

2014: Carol A. Newsom

A Thousand Years of Feminist Biblical Interpretation

  • The Quest for Dignity and Autonomy: Medieval and Renaissance Women Interpreters
  • The Bible and the Right to Preach: Women and the Word in Protestant Christianity
  • Radical Outsiders and Ambivalent Insiders: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Woman’s Bible

2013: Miroslav Volf

Faith and Globalization

  • Faiths in a Globalized World
  • Religious Exclusivism and Political Pluralism
  • Globalization and Reconciliation

2012: Diana Butler Bass

Christianity After Religion

  • Millennial Disappointment: The Great Religious Recession
  • The Longing for Experience: Being Spiritual and Religious
  • Patterns and Prospects of Awakening

2011: Walter B. Shurden

Thin-Slicing the Life of Faith

  • The Flight of the Dove: Giving In to Being Loved
  • The Ascent of the Mountain: Giving Up to the Demands of Love
  • The Descent Into the Valley: Giving Back Because of Love

2010: Pui Lan Kwok

Christianity in the 21st Century

  • Postcolonialism and World Christianity
  • The Bible and Sexuality: Does the Church Have Anything Good to Say About Sex?
  • Obama, American Empire, and Prophetic Christianity

2009: Marcus Borg

Rethinking the Big Questions: God, Jesus, and the Christian Life

  • Thinking about God Again
  • Thinking about Jesus Again
  • Thinking about the Christian Life Again

2008: Tony Campolo

A Sociological Deconstruction of American Christianity

  • Durkheim and Marx Considered and Critiqued
  • Being Christian in a Post-Modern Society
  • Becoming Red Letter Christians

2007: Renita J. Weems

Prophets, Preachers, and Finding Your Purpose: Lessons from the Book of Jeremiah

  • Jeremiah 1:1-10: Your Purpose in Life Is to Figure Out Your Purpose in Life
  • Jeremiah 7: Politics, Prayer, and Prophets in Times of National Crises
  • Jeremiah 9:17-21: Weeping, Wailing, and Recovering Women’s Voices

2006: Bill J. Leonard

Signs of the Times: Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective

  • Spirituality in America: Catholics, Evangelicals, Buddhists and Serpent Handlers
  • The Church: Joel Osteen, Mega-Churches, and the Non-Denominationalizing of America
  • Drinking the Golden Calf and Other Strange Bible Stories: Revisiting the Ancient Text

2005: William E. Hull

Best-Selling Christianity: Jesus Christ as Superstar

  • The Da Vinci Code: Dan Brown on Women in the Life of Jesus
  • Beyond Belief:  Dan Brown on Jesus Outside the New Testament
  • The Passion of the Christ: Mel Gibson on the Death of Jesus

2004: Katie Geneva Cannon

Traversals and Reversals in Contemporary Christian Ethics

  • Untying Ethical Tongues: Social Teachings in Black Sacred Rhetoric
  • Unshackling Ethical Truths: A Womanist Critique of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
  • Unearthing Ethical Treasurers: The Intrusive Markers of Social Class

2003: Walter Wink

Jesus and the Spiral of Violence

  • The Myth of Redemptive Violence
  • Jesus’ Answer to Violence
  • Nonviolence for the Violent

2002: James Forbes

The Spiritual Renewal of the Nation

  • The Case for Prophetic Patriotism
  • The Recruitment of Human Race Activists
  • Spiritual Courage for Justice, Peace, and Compassion

2001: Luke Timothy Johnson

Lessons from the Past: Patristic Interpretation of the New Testament

  • Listening to Voices Strange Yet Familiar: The Interpretation of the Bible Before the Reformation
  • Scripture and the Freedom of the Mind: Origen of Alexandria
  • Scripture and the Constraints of Charity: Augustine of Hippo

2000: Martin Marty

American Religion at the Turn of the Century

  • The American Past as a Foreign Country Religiously
  • The Familiar Country That Is the American Present: Today’s Faiths
  • The Nation on the Horizon of the Future: Religion Tomorrow

1999: Barbara Brown Taylor

The Luminous Web: Addressing the Gap Between Science and Religion

  • Origins: The Evolution of Praise
  • Community: The Myth of Sovereignty
  • Awe: The Limits of Knowledge

1998: Paul Duke

The Poetic and the Worship of God

  • The Poetry of Awe
  • The Poetry of Lament
  • The Poetry of Vocation

1997: James Dunn

A Faculty for Freedom

  • Freedom’s Roots: Presuppositions
  • Freedom’s Tracks: Reports
  • Freedom’s Future: Challenge

1996: Fred Craddock

Jesus and the Life of Prayer

  • Jesus as a Person of Prayer
  • Jesus as a Teacher of Prayer
  • Jesus as Leader of a Community of Prayer

1995: Ralph Wood

Flannery O’Connor and the Southern Race Question

  • The Place of Blackness in “The Artificial Nigger”
  • The Racial Legacy of Her Letters
  • Black and White Reconciliation in “Judgement Day”

1994: Elizabeth Achtemeier

Making Sense of the Scriptures

  • The Basic Theme
  • The Theme Worked Out
  • Fulfillment and Future

1993: Walter Brueggemann

A Counter-Life in a Counter-World

  • Remembering Against Amnesia
  • Hoping Against Despair
  • Covenanting Against Commodity

1992: Walter Harrelson

The Old Testament as Literature

  • The Literature of the Old Testament
  • The Old Testament – as Literature
  • How the Christian Claims the Old Testament as Scripture