Protestant modernism and science
Thu, 27 Feb 97 08:04:00 -0500

Paul Arveson requested an historian to comment
on the history of liberalism and seminaries. Although
that figures in a back-burner project of mine about
Protestant modernism and science, it's still very much
back-burner and I don't want to try to detail the
history at this point. The comments about Marsdens'
books are appropriate; I would add one or two other
names: William Hutchison and Kenneth Cauthen.

However, I will venture to give my IMPRESSION of
the history, with the caveats above. It appears that
there were two stages (at least) of this story, the
first at the turn of the century when schools like
the Univ of Chicago Divinity School (a bastion of
liberalism, paid for by JD Rockefeller, whose
social Darwinism needed theological justification) were
the leaders in bringing liberalism across the Atlantic.

Phase two is the 1920s, when many seminaries from
certain denominations -- Baptist, Presbyterian, and
Methodist especially -- were rent by struggles that
(sorry, Paul) do seem to fit the warfare metaphor.
Evolution and higher criticism were the major bones
of contention. At least at the seminary level, there
does seem to have been little alternative to taking
sides; absolutely, I am convinced, there was no alternative
to taking sides on matters of science. IF there were
people in between Harry Rimmer and the evolutionary
theists, I haven't found 'em, and I've been looking hard.

I'll discuss this some at the ASA meeting this summer.

In a separate post, I want to comment on George Murphy's
remarks about ASA and obscurantism. I mention it here
because I will refer to this post in that one.


Ted Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840