The Critical Theology of Theodore Parker

By John Edward Dirks | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

THE RELIGIOUS ELEMENT IN HUMAN NATURE

PARKER'S INTEREST in critical problems in the field of dogmatics did not constitute the whole of his theological studies. Nor did his opposition to orthodox views end with his historical study of the Bible. The formulation of a philosophy of religion that would adequately interpret the nature of religious knowledge was a concern central to his theological scholarship. His views on the relation of religion to human nature were initially expressed during a controversy among New England transcendentalists and theologians that was most intense between 1839 and 1845.

Emerson set off the controversy when, on Sunday evening, July 15, 1838, he delivered his "Divinity School Address" to members of the faculty, alumni, and theological students. He had already become known to a wide circle of his contemporaries. His "first authentic utterance,"1 the booklet on Nature, was already being regarded by many as the "most complete presentation of transcendentalism."2 The address of 1838 was directly continuous with his earlier expressions of transcendentalist doctrine. He continued to assume that the role of reason is of highest Sig

____________________
1
Edwin D. Mead, The Influence of Emerson ( Boston, 1903), p. 12.
2
Kenneth W. Cameron, Emerson the Essayist ( Raleigh, N.C., 1945), I,200.

-66-

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The Critical Theology of Theodore Parker
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Biblical Criticism and Criticaltheology 33
  • Chapter 3 - The Religious Element in Human Nature 66
  • Chapter 4 - The Theology of Absolute Religion 111
  • Chapter 5 - Conclusion 130
  • Appendix 137
  • Bibliography 161
  • Index 165
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