The Fathers Refounded: Protestant Liberalism, Roman Catholic Modernism, and the Teaching of Ancient Christianity in Early Twentieth-Century America

The Fathers Refounded: Protestant Liberalism, Roman Catholic Modernism, and the Teaching of Ancient Christianity in Early Twentieth-Century America

The Fathers Refounded: Protestant Liberalism, Roman Catholic Modernism, and the Teaching of Ancient Christianity in Early Twentieth-Century America

The Fathers Refounded: Protestant Liberalism, Roman Catholic Modernism, and the Teaching of Ancient Christianity in Early Twentieth-Century America

Synopsis

In the early twentieth century, a new generation of liberal professors sought to prove Christianity's compatibility with contemporary currents in the study of philosophy, science, history, and democracy. These modernizing professors--Arthur Cushman McGiffert at Union Theological Seminary, George LaPiana at Harvard Divinity School, and Shirley Jackson Case at the University of Chicago Divinity School--hoped to equip their students with a revisionary version of early Christianity that was embedded in its social, historical, and intellectual settings. In The Fathers Refounded, Elizabeth A. Clark provides the first critical analysis of these figures' lives, scholarship, and lasting contributions to the study of Christianity.

The Fathers Refounded continues the exploration of Christian intellectual revision begun by Clark in Founding the Fathers: Early Church History and Protestant Professors in Nineteenth-Century America. Drawing on rigorous archival research, Clark takes the reader through the professors' published writings, their institutions, and even their classrooms--where McGiffert tailored nineteenth-century German Protestant theology to his modernist philosophies; where LaPiana, the first Catholic professor at Harvard Divinity School, devised his modernism against the tight constraints of contemporary Catholic theology; and where Case promoted reading Christianity through social-scientific aims and methods. Each, in his own way, extricated his subfield from denominationally and theologically oriented approaches and aligned it with secular historical methodologies. In so doing, this generation of scholars fundamentally altered the directions of Catholic Modernism and Protestant Liberalism and offered the promise of reconciling Christianity and modern intellectual and social culture.

Excerpt

We are in the midst of a theological revolution.

—Philip Schaffto A. C. McGiffert, 1892

Could Christianity be modernized? Should Christianity be modernized? in the early years of the twentieth century, Christian intellectuals who championed “modernization” faced a daunting task: centuries of Christian tradition would need to be rethought, its doctrines and creeds reformulated. the Higher Criticism of the Bible and theories of “development” in Christian history, in addition to scientific discoveries, new philosophical currents, and democratic visions, had rendered much of traditional Christian teaching and doctrine out of step with twentieth-century thought and practice. Nothing was exempt from critique: from doctrine to ethics to church structure, many aspects of historical Christianity, including the New Testament itself, were found lacking. How those traditions had been put in place, long ago, what had motivated them, and what purpose—if any—they had served, was up for discussion. It did, indeed, seem like a revolution … or less dramatically, a call for reform of major proportions.

The new generation of liberal professors at the leading American seminaries and divinity schools hoped to equip their students with a revisionary version of early Christianity in its social, historical, and intellectual settings. This was not a purely “academic” exercise. If Christianity were to have meaning for an increasingly educated American populace, it must be presented in a way that showed its compatibility with new currents in philosophy, sociology, biology, and history of religions, as well as suggest its contributions to improving world conditions. Such a presentation, however, required historians of Christianity to scrutinize past formulations and practices, and more, to propose new ones—some seemingly drastic.

The three professors who are the focus of this book—Arthur Cushman . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.