Jonathan Sheehan

Professor
2014-2015
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Jonathan Sheehan (History) is a historian of early modern Europe. His current book project, The Heterodoxy of Christianity: Sacrifice, Theology, and Sacred History, offers both a new history of early modern Christianity and a new genealogy of the modern human sciences. Sheehan argues that the troubles produced by the simultaneously central and inimical relationship of sacrifice to Christianity came to a head in the early modern period, when Protestants and Catholics fought viciously over Christian theology and worship. From the Eucharist to the mass to the atonement, the entire sacrificial apparatus of the Church was subject to scathing examination. These polemics and controversies inserted a wedge between “Christianity as it was” and “Christianity as it should be,” a wedge between past and future that opened up spaces for new forms of sacred and secular knowledge. As the heat of religious war cooled, polemic theology was disaggregated, and out of its pieces a new organization of knowledge was created, centered around a distinction between a properly sacred discipline (theology) and the properly secular ones.