On March 16 and 17, 2012, the Raven Foundation partnered with the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College on a conference that explored the questions of Biblical interpretation that led to the Civil War and how they continue to impact American culture today. The conference included lectures, dramatic readings, Q&A, and small group discussion. Posted here are the keynote lectures recorded in Blanchard Hall at Wheaton College by the Media Technology Team. Enjoy these thoughtful reflections on and the recommended reading list from the conference.

Conference Presenters: Back row (left to right): Suzanne Ross, Keith Ross, Luke Harlow, Laura Rominger Porter. Front row (left to right): Mark Noll, Tracy McKenzie (Not pictured is Vincent Bacote)

“And the War Came”: Moral Reflection and the Causes of the Conflict

Tracy McKenzie, Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Wheaton College

A dramatic reading of a letter from Major Sullivan Ballou. Read by Letitia Guillaud.

Major Ballou, of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, wrote to his wife one week before the first major battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run, in which he was mortally wounded. She received the letter after his death.

Q&A with moderated by Vincent Bacote, CACE

Listen to the audio.


“Both Pray to the Same God”, a look at Divine Providence

Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, Notre Dame University

Dramatic readings of excerpts from two Civil War-era sermons:

Welcome to the ransomed, or, Duties of the colored inhabitants of the District of Columbia

Daniel A. Payne, African Methodist Episcopal Church, District of Columbia.

Read by Glenn Harston.

God’s Providence in War

Rev. J.W. Tucker, Methodist Minister, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Read by R.J. Coleman

Q&A with moderated by Vincent Bacote, CACE

Listen to the audio.


Religion, Race, and the Significance of Civil War-Era Kentucky

Luke Harlow, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Oakland University


The Problem of ‘Sin’ in the Civil War-Era Upper South

Laura Rominger Porter, Ph. D. candidate in history, Notre Dame University


Q&A with moderated by Vincent Bacote, CACE

Listen to the audio.


Speaker Bios

Photo used by permission of William Koechling

Mark Noll was a member of the Wheaton College history department for twenty-seven years before becoming the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.  His books include The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2006) and America’s God:  From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (Oxford University Press, 2002).  With Luke Harlow he edited Religion and American Politics:  From the Colonial Period to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007).  His articles on the religion of Abraham Lincoln have appeared in the Journal of Presbyterian History and the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Patton Dodd of Patheos recently conducted this interview of Mark Noll.


Tracy McKenzie taught for twenty-two years at the University of Washington, where he held the Donald Logan Chair in American History, was a fellow in the UW Teaching Academy, and a recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award.  In 2010 he joined the faculty of Wheaton College, where he serves as professor and chair of the Department of History.  A specialist in the history of the American Civil War, he is the author, most recently, of Lincolnites and Rebels: A Divided Town in the American Civil War, the 2007 recipient of the Fletcher Pratt Literary Award for best non-fiction work on the Civil War.


Luke Harlow (Ph.D., Rice University) is Assistant Professor of History at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He is co-editor, with Mark Noll, of Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007). He has published scholarly articles on slavery, emancipation, and the Civil War era in Slavery and AbolitionOhio Valley History, and the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (forthcoming), and he serves as co-editor of the Journal of Southern Religion. He is completing a book manuscript, Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830–1880, under contract with Cambridge University Press.


Laura Rominger Porter is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Notre Dame. Her research examines links between evangelical church discipline, civil jurisprudence, and the politics of moral regulation in the nineteenth-century upper South, and how these interconnections related to theological debates over church jurisdiction and prerogative in the slaveholding states. Her dissertation, Church, State, and Moral Regulation in the Upper South, 1830-1880, demonstrates how evangelical churches and civil courts at first cooperated, and later diverged, on matters of moral regulation in the nineteenth-century upper South, and connects this differentiation of church and state functions to the subsequent political mobilization of white southern evangelicals for moral legislation.