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Paul Lim

Associate Professor of the History of Christianity
On leave Fall 2023  

On leave Spring, Fall 2023

Paul C.H. Lim is an award-winning historian of Reformation- and post-Reformation Europe.  His Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2012), won the 2013 Roland H. Bainton Prize as the best book in history by the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference.  He has published two other books in that area: The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (Cambridge, 2008); and In Pursuit of Purity, Unity, and Liberty: Richard Baxter’s Puritan Ecclesiology in Context (Brill, 2004).

Lim earned his Ph.D. in ecclesiastical history from Cambridge University with further training in Latin, archival research and history of biblical exegesis from Université de Genève.

His teaching and research foci include: (1) Christology, Enlightenment and modernity; (2) identity of Jesus—theological, cultural, political—in contemporary global Christianity; (3) God and human suffering in Christian traditions; (4) “Losing My Religion?” Disenchantment, Evangelicalism and Its Discontents; (5) an ethnographic account and historical narrative of Korean American Protestant identities.

The Forgotten God? Christology in Enlightenment England is his current book project, as well as a sequel to his anti/trinitarian reflections from Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England. It traces key debates on the ontic and economic identity of Jesus, particularly the onslaught of challenges on the deity of Christ. Key story-tellers of this theological narrative are the Quakers (Elizabeth Bathurst, George Keith), clandestine anti-trinitarian Anglican clergy (Stephen Nye), a Vice Chancellor of Oxford University in the 1650s (John Owen), a radical whose allegorical interpretations of Jesus’ miracles led to his loss of professorship at Cambridge (Thomas Woolston), and an Irish intellectual gadfly whose denial of mystery as a theological category and espousal of “Jewish Christianity” proved to be prescient (John Toland). The hoped-for consequence of this inquiry in intellectual history is to remedy the tendency to neglect theological, especially christological, issues when considering the narratives of Enlightenment, whether in France, Germany, or in this instance, England. In so doing, Lim offers a much more contested and nuanced agonistic narrative of the “triumph” of Enlightenment modernity, which was—at least seen from the perspectives of those living in it—far less inevitable and much more volatile, overlapping, and, frankly, truer to the messiness of lived religion and printed theologies.

In Reformation, Rites, Rights, and Race, Lim offers an interrelated and complex narrative of the emergence of modern notions of rights and racialized identities and politics. By bringing various interlocutors together in one place such as Luther, the Anabaptists, Calvin and the Reformed traditions, Elizabethan nonconformists, Thomas Hobbes, and Morgan Godwyn, the resulting account will explore the race the Protestant Reformation revisited the questions of sacramental rites, individual and institutional rights, and the emerging contestations surrounding the protean notion of “race” in the early modern world. Furthermore, this book project will interrogate and challenge the notion of secular modernity as, per se, an intellectual “faith commitment,” which fails to bear under careful historical scrutiny. Instead, Lim seeks to weave a narrative that includes and focuses on theological debates as constitutive of the intellectual core of the rise of modernity.

Professor Lim has served as a Visiting Professor of History of Christianity and Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School in Spring 2023. He has also served as a distinguished visiting faculty at Yonsei University’s College of Theology in Seoul, Korea during Summer 2019. He has delivered invited lectures and talks in diverse spaces, ranging from the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville to Harvard University, Oxford University, Princeton University; from an underground seminary in Vietnam to St. Andrews (Scotland), Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College.