The Late Prof. Heddendorf’s Book Republished with New Chapter by Prof. Vos
University Press of America has published a second edition of the late Russell Heddendorf’s book, Hidden Threads, with a new chapter written by Dr. Matt Vos, professor of sociology, and a new cover featuring “Red Field-Seeding,” painted by Professor of Art Jeff Morton.
Dr. Heddendorf passed away Christmas Eve, 2008. During his extensive career as a professor of sociology at Covenant, he came to know and work closely with Vos. “We really had this mentor/mentee relationship that was so important for me,” says Vos, noting that Heddendorf “gave me his academic gown when he retired, with the caveat that if any of his grandsons or granddaughters gets a PhD I have to give it back. So that was a kind of passing of a mantle.”
Part of carrying that mantle has been the project of republishing one of Heddendorf’s key works. Originally published in 1990, Hidden Threads is a study of the way scripture is woven into theories of sociology. “When we have these remarkable insights by sociologists who are maybe the farthest thing from Christians,” says Vos, “often we can find those things developed to some extent in scripture, years and years earlier.”
These insights are delivered in an effective fashion, starting with the background of each theory, and then the theory itself followed by a Christian critique. “Not the Christian critique, but that Christian critique,” notes Vos. It is in the Christian critique the hidden threads are revealed, such as the one connecting Genesis to Marx’s theory of alienation.
Vos’ new chapter applies the same method to works by postmodernists such as Baudrillard and Derrida, dealing with theories unaddressed in the original Hidden Threads. Despite the twenty-year gap between editions, Vos changed nothing outside the new chapter. “There’s a sense in which it doesn’t really go out of date,” he says of the original work. “It really fits nicely with what we’ve tried to do here at Covenant, with students working to integrate their faith with their discipline.”
In releasing this new edition, Vos hopes it will inspire students to read the primary texts of sociology for themselves, searching throughout for hidden threads of scripture. “The common idea is that scripture helps us understand the social world,” says Vos, “but what we find about the social world can help us understand the scriptures too.”