American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism

By Abzug, Robert H. | Journal of the Early Republic, December 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism


Abzug, Robert H., Journal of the Early Republic


American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism. By Dean Grodzins. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp. xiii, 631. Illustrated. Cloth, $39.95.)

As Peter Berger once reminded us, the root word for heresy is haerisis, which literally means "choice." (Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural [1969], 45). He notes: "Every religious community in the pluralistic situation becomes a 'heresy,' with all the social and psychological tenuousness that the term suggests." Berger was speaking of the modern world in general and especially of the twentieth century, but his insight seems even appropriate to the United States in its infancy. Heresy has been, in principle, the coin of the American religious realm since the approval of the Constitution and has brought a steady flow of creativity as well as an unprecedented inflation of choice to United States religion. These days, it is in the realm of politics or intellectual life that heretics delight in slamming positions or methodologies. As for the American topography of faith, it has become so crowded with heresies that one hardly ever uses the word to distinguish one turn from another.

All the more reason, then, to find a certain poignancy in the title of Dean Grodzins's deeply researched, elegantly written, and altogether convincing portrait of Theodore Parker (1810-1860). The antebellum era encompassed the first great creative moments of heretical challenge to established and recently disestablished orthodoxies and often retained in its religious battles at least the aroma of apocalypse and martyrdom. Theodore Parker, the once famous Transcendentalist colleague of Emerson and Thoreau and minister to Boston's abolitionist community, was a warrior among warriors, a passionate believer who sought to rekindle the power of liberal faith in what he viewed as a moribund Unitarian community. For some decades lost on historians' long list of American reformers, good for a quote or caricature but dependent for continued existence on Henry Steele Commager's lively but dated Theodore Parker (1936), this complicated soul has finally found his consummate biographer. American Heretic, the first of two volumes, takes Parker from birth to 1845, the year before he founded Boston's "Free Church" and decisively entered into the political controversies of the day.

At the center of this era was Parker's dark and complicated journey of the soul, one that drew him to the ministry and transformed him from a Biblically-based Unitarian to an almost frighteningly creative Transcendentalist religious virtuoso. he began at Harvard's Divinity School in April 1834 and, following some of his teachers, soon began to imbibe early historical approaches to the Old Testament and prophecy. he also found models of inner religious commitment in Henry Ware Jr. and William Ellery Channing, whose moderate abolitionism also shaped Parker' s social vision. Yet it was the religious radicalism of Transcendentalism that brought him from apprenticeship to the full blossoming of his intellectual and religious powers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.