Christian Modernism

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Time Period
1870  - 1930
Description
In the mid-19th century, the United States underwent massive intellectual changes. Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) challenged literal interpretations of the Bible and various developing academic disciplines (e.g., biblical studies and history) introduced more relativistic interpretations of truth.

In response, many Christians adopted modernism, or liberalism, as a solution to reconcile Christianity to the modern social world. Highlighted by the works of Horace Bushnell, Christian modernists emphasized feelings and the experience of God over strict obedience to biblical law. Moreover, they welcomed doctrinal revisions based on developments in science and biblical understandings. By the early 20th century, modernists became prevalent in many mainstream Protestant denominations, particularly Presbyterianism.

The liberal and relative worldviews of modernists outraged many orthodox believers, who later became associated with the fundamentalist movement. Tensions with fundamentalists, along with the disenchantment of human progress following World War I and the Great Depression, ultimately weakened the movement by the 1930s.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Social Movements and Religion
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Social Movements and Religion in American History
Biographies
Fosdick, Harry Emerson
Events
Trial of Charles Augustus Briggs
Christianity and Liberalism Published
Publication of Shailer Mathews's The Faith of Modernism
Northern Baptist Convention
Harry Emerson Fosdick Preaches "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?"
Auburn Affirmation
Photographs

Religion and Evolution advertisement from Crisis Magazine- Wikimedia Commons- Jabez Thomas Sunderland (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Horace Bushnell portrait- Internet Archive- from My Four Religious Teachers by H. Clay Trumbull

Walter Rauschenbusch sitting- Wikimedia Commons

God's Two Books, title page- Internet Archive
Book/Journal Source(s)
Reid, Daniel, Robert Linder, Bruce Shelley, and Harry Stout, 1990. Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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