Shea, William M. 1935- (William Michael Shea)
Shea, William M. 1935- (William Michael Shea)
Born November 11, 1935. Education: Graduated from the Columbia University, School of Philosophy, 1973.
Office—College of the Holy Cross, 1 College St., Worcester, MA 01610. E-mail—[email protected].
Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 1972-80; University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, 1980-91; Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO, 1991-2003; College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, director of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, 2003—. Woodrow Wilson Center at the Smithsonian, Washington, DC, resident fellow, 1986-87; Ecumenical Institute at St. John's University, Collegeville, NY, resident fellow, 1999.
The Naturalists and the Supernatural: Studies in Horizon and an American Philosophy of Religion, Mercer (Macon, GA), 1984.
(Editor, with Peter A. Huff) Knowledge and Belief in America: Enlightenment Traditions and Modern Religious Thought, Woodrow Wilson Center Press (Washington, DC), 1995.
(Editor, with Daniel Van Slyke) Trying Times: Essays on Catholic Higher Education in the 20th Century, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1999.
Contributor to numerous journals and periodicals.
Writer and educator William M. Shea was born November 11, 1935. He graduated from Columbia University's School of Philosophy in 1973. Over the course of his career, Shea has taught classes at a wide variety of institutions of higher learning, including the Catholic University of America, Saint Louis University, the College of the Holy Cross, and the Ecumenical Institute at St. John's University. He has contributed to numerous periodicals and journals, and is the author of several books, including The Naturalists and the Supernatural: Studies in Horizon and an American Philosophy of Religion and The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America. In addition, he served as the editor of Knowledge and Belief in America: Enlightenment Traditions and Modern Religious Thought, along with Peter A. Huff, and the editor of Trying Times: Essays on Catholic Higher Education in the 20th Century, along with Daniel Van Slyke.
Knowledge and Belief in America, for which Shea served as coeditor, addresses the question of just how Americans regard religion, and looks into the various ways that the role of religion has altered in recent years, particularly in relation to culture. The book is based on a conference on the topic that was held at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 1986. The contributions themselves vary, with very few actually addressing the issues beyond the academic circumstance, as most of the individuals participating came from that type of background. They do, however, consider the opposing viewpoints of the rationalist and religious background. In particular, the book provides an overall affirmation of Enlightenment ideas pertaining to religious beliefs. Various influential figures in history are used as examples of both the intellectual and the religious points of view, including Abraham Lincoln, Wallace Stevens, and T.S. Eliot, as well as a wealth of philosophers, such as James, Dewey, and Santayana. S.G.F. Spackman, writing for the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, noted that "while these general perspectives have a certain, if limited, range, the selection of ‘representative’ figures for further address simply retreats to the Protestant hegemony."
In The Lion and the Lamb, Shea looks at the history of the relationship between the Catholics and the Protestants. Traditionally, these two factions stood firmly apart, neither of them deigning to consider the other's point of view. However, in the mid-1990s, partially in an effort to stand unified against the Fundamentalists, Catholics and Protestants issued a notice announcing that they were more alike than they had previously indicated, and that there was, in reality, only one church that included Christ in its ceremonies. At the same time, the Pope issued a proclamation of his own, this one condemning fundamentalism as hazardous to one's health and one's soul, referring to the religion as potential "intellectual suicide." Shea looks into the history of each branch of the religion, showing their shared roots and the lack of truly decisive differences. He goes all the way back to the Reformation in order to get a grasp on the feud between them, and what differences have become more pronounced through the centuries. J.I. Packer, in a review for Books & Culture, remarked that "as history of ideas, which is Shea's field of strength, this book is a major achievement. It is centrally an overview of Catholic-Protestant polemic from the sixteenth century in Europe through four centuries of American history to today, seen through the lens of a deep and cogent understanding of human tribalism and the myths that tribes live by." Reviewing for Church History, Evelyn Savidge Sterne concluded that "the strengths of this book include its ability to strike a balanced tone in analyzing a debate that often has been shrill, its explication of thorny theological disputes, and its earnest attempt to use history to serve the present. Shea presents an original perspective by discussing the two groups side-by-side and extending the story to the present." William R. Glass, however, in his contribution to the Historian, felt that "with a little more attention to the cultural context, Shea might have contributed to explaining how an Evangelical Republican could appeal for the votes of traditionally Democratic Catholics."
Trying Times is the result of yet another conference, this one taking place in the 1996-97 academic year at Ohio State University. The book is comprised of nine essays and an introduction, and addresses various topics pertaining to education within the Catholic Church and its outlying educational system. Shea himself, in addition to serving as editor, contributed the final essay in the volume, one that looks at the way the Catholic Church undervalues scholarly endeavors, and uses a 1932 Jesuit study to emphasize his theory. Philip Gleason, writing for Church History, found Shea's conclusion to be "a weird note on which to end a book on the trials of Catholic higher education, and one that Dewey-ites are even more likely than Jesuits to find shocking."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, September 27, 2004, "Can We Talk?," p. 26.
Books & Culture, March 1, 2005, J.I. Packer, "Evangelicals & Catholics: The State of Play."
Catholic Historical Review, October 1, 2000, John L. Rury, review of Trying Times: Essays on Catholic Higher Education in the 20th Century, p. 709.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 2004, W.B. Bedford, review of The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America, p. 680.
Church History, March 1, 2002, Philip Gleason, review of Trying Times, p. 212; December 1, 2006, Evelyn Savidge Sterne, review of The Lion and the Lamb, p. 946.
Commonweal, spring, 1985, Mary Gerhart, review of The Naturalists and the Supernatural: Studies in Horizon and an American Philosophy of Religion, p. 185.
Historian, fall, 2005, William R. Glass, review of The Lion and the Lamb, p. 543.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April 1, 1997, S.G.F. Spackman, review of Knowledge and Belief in America: Enlightenment Traditions and Modern Religious Thought, p. 386.
Journal of Religion, October 1, 2005, Thomas S. Kidd, review of The Lion and the Lamb, p. 669.
National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 2004, "Book Traces the Uneasy History of Catholics and Evangelicals," p. 16.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2000, review of Trying Times, p. 133.
Theological Studies, September 1, 2005, Jeffrey Gros, review of The Lion and the Lamb, p. 680.
Theology Today, October 1, 2004, Richard John Neuhmas, review of The Lion and the Lamb, p. 428.
College of the Holy Cross Web site,http://www.holycross.edu/ (May 28, 2008), faculty profile.