In this first of a three-volume, comprehensive series, Gary Dorrien mixes theological analysis with historical and biographical detail to present the first comprehensive interpretation of American theological liberalism. Arguing that the indigenous roots of American liberal theology existed before the rise of Darwinism, Dorrien maintains that this tradition took shape in tIn this first of a three-volume, comprehensive series, Gary Dorrien mixes theological analysis with historical and biographical detail to present the first comprehensive interpretation of American theological liberalism. Arguing that the indigenous roots of American liberal theology existed before the rise of Darwinism, Dorrien maintains that this tradition took shape in the nineteenth century and was motivated by a desire to map a progressive "third way" between authority-based orthodoxies and atheistic rationalism. Dorrien characterizes American liberal theology by its openness to historical criticism and evolutionary theory, its commitment to the authority of individual reason and experience, its conception of Christianity as an ethical way of life, and its commitment to make Christianity credible and socially relevant to modern people....
|Title||:||The Making of American Liberal Theology 1805-1900|
|Number of Pages||:||528 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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The Making of American Liberal Theology 1805-1900 Reviews
This is the first in a three-volume series that maps out how American Theology, founded in Puritanism, given over to evangelism, took the transition to Liberal Protestantism (and greater Pluralism). Dorrien mixes theological analysis with historical and biographical detail to chronicle the history of a "third way" between authority-based orthodoxies (traditional Christianity) and atheistic rationalism. It reads in many ways like a mini-biographies overlaid with themes pointing toward Liberal Protestantism. He emphasizes the pulpit as method, or in other words, working through an idea while being responsive to the reactions and excitement of the audience rather than just sermonizing in one direction. He points out that Liberal Protestant-minded teachers were the first to really envision a Christina civilization rather than just a Christian community among a larger, corrupt, depraved civilization. It was an ambitious jump he traces in which Christians felt like they could apply their principles to inform culture, economics, and politics to a Christian ( read ideal ) end.Moves from Orthodoxy to Liberal Protestantism:-literalism of the Bible to historical criticism/interpretation explaining the Bible-substitutionary Atonement to a metaphor of God's mercy/sacrifice-God as a transcendent other to God as immanent and in-dwelling in Christians-Dogma and second-hand religion to experiencing God firsthand in life-infallibility of the Bible emphasized to Jesus' characteristics and emulating them emphasizedWhereas some people (such as Hutchinson) have argued that liberal Protestant Americans were modernists first trying to accommodate Christianity, Dorrien offers a counternarrative that the liberal Protestants were sincere Christians trying to protect/defend their religion from the decay of orthodoxy. (For example: they dismissed the doctrine of the trinity as a creation of the third century--not in the Bible). They felt like they were going back to (becoming closer) to Jesus than the orthodoxy strands of Christianity (whom they viewed as having moved too far away). Liberal Protestantism focuses on being adaptable (pro-evolution and anti-dogmatism), focusing on personal experience, anti-institutional (at the beginning at least), optimistic about humanity, the immanence of God (He's inside us), focused on this world, opposed to Calvinism, and focused on the life of Jesus as the ultimate pattern for Christians. The supernatural is not rejected as much as the creedal readings of the Bible are). The legacy of this movement might be the "I'm spiritual but not religious" saying/trend in America.
This is the first volume of a three volume history of American liberal theology written from a largely sympathetic perspective. It is well-written and is a good introduction to liberal thought as it developed in the nineteenth century. Take aways:Though liberal theology existed in the form of Unitarianism in the early days of the republic, Unitarian influence was curtailed by being ejected from the Congregational churches and segregated in its own denomination. This combined with revivals in the early nineteenth century prevented antebellum America from embracing liberalism. Liberalism gained in influence after the Civil War by taking over existing denominations and denominational institutions. Liberals were able to do this by disguising their liberalism until they were in positions of power and by winning the tolerance of some evangelical Christians within the denomination. Liberals succeeded most quickly in denominations that eschewed creeds. The early liberals were often personally pious and were concerned that atheism would triumph if Christianity did not adapt to become more palatable to the zeitgeist. Personal piety and good intentions does not necessarily result true Christian belief. Fundamental to liberalism was the idea that human reason is the standard by which divine revelation is measured. If the Trinity does not appear reasonable, then it must be rejected; if eternal punishment or penal substitutionary atonement does not seem moral, then it must be rejected. This was often combined with a racist view of culture and a Whiggish interpretation of history: modern white culture was the standard of reason and morality by which Scripture was measured.
As someone identifying more with the more orthodox wing of Dorrien's history, I can still acknowledge good scholarship when I see it. The biographical and intellectual sketches of Bushnell, Gladden, Henry Ward Beecher, and Charles Briggs in here are some of the best and most helpful I've read. Dorrien also excellently traces the influences from German criticism and theology into the American seen. It is clear Dorrien sympathizes with his subjects, but he limits the explicit endorsements to the intro and conclusion. In between we are treated to deep and comprehensive recountings of the Transcendentalism split, Bushnell's theology, heresy trials and the rise of the Social Gospel movement. Where Dorrien sees heroic "mediation" between orthodoxy and atheism, I tend to see the seeds of rampant accommodationism. Perhaps Briggs's late life regrets over Union Theological Seminary's too-liberal-for-him turn (ironically initially inspired by him) crystallizes my feelings. As a note, I coupled this with James Turner's Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America, which gives a declensionist rather than triumphalist take on the same theological trends. Anyway, I look forward to volume II.
Changed how I think about religion, both personally and academically. It amazed me to read such poignant accounts of people who held to their convictions of truth against overwhelming opposition from proponents of orthodoxy and tradition. One of the most challenging books I've ever read, but still (and partially as a result of its difficulty) one of the most rewarding.
or Gura, American Transcendentalism
It would probably benefit me to read a solid, sympathetic history of liberal theology sometime.