May 19, 2010

14CN: Adventist Scholar's Dissertation Honored

Adventist Scholar’s Dissertation Honored
Nicholas Miller receives award from University of Notre Dame

capNicholas Miller, an associate professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, has received the University of Notre Dame’s 2010 John Highbarger Memorial Dissertation Award for an “exceptional dissertation in history.” His dissertation is titled “The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestantism and the Separation of Church and State.” 

In its commendation, Miller’s dissertation committee at Notre Dame, located in nearby South Bend, Indiana, wrote:

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AWARD WINNER: Nicholas Miller, whose dissertation received a prestigious award at the University of Notre Dame.

“The intellectual ambition of this dissertation may be measured by comparing the geography and chronology of its argument to that, no less, of J.G.A. Pocock’s Machiavellian Moment. Pocock’s odyssey in the history of political thought begins in Renaissance Italy and travels through seventeenth-century England en route to James Madison’s late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century America; Miller starts his journey in reformation Germany proceeding also to the America of Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by way of Milton’s England.

“Traditional understandings of the genesis of the separation of church and state rest on assumptions about ‘Enlightenment’ and the republican ethos of citizenship. Miller does not seek to dislodge that interpretation but to augment and enrich it by recovering its cultural and discursive religious contexts—specifically the discourse of protestant dissent. From that perspective the separation of church and state can be read, most persuasively, as the triumph of a particular strand of protestant nonconformity—that which stretched back to the Puritan separatist and the Restoration sects, rather than to those, like Presbyterians, who sought to replace the ‘wrong’ church establishment with their own, ‘right’ one.
“‘The Religious Roots of the First Amendment’ contributes powerfully to the current trend among some historians to rescue the eighteenth-century clergyman and religious controversialist from the enormous condescension of posterity, and does so with intellectual confidence, careful scholarship and clarity of exposition and presentation.”
Miller, a noted religious liberty scholar, has contributed several articles to Adventist Review. 
                                       --With reporting from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and AR staff