Prof. Daniel Alvarez, Florida International University
The last handout covered the period from 1800-1860. There I emphasized the rise of historical criticism and theological liberalism by reviewing the work and contribution of Schleiermacher, de Wette, Strauss, Baur, Wellhausen, the great successor to de Wette in the field of Old Testament studies, and Troeltsch (the bridge between 19th and 20th century developments). I also touched on the conservative reaction of Hengstenberg, who spearheaded the conservative movement in Germany from his appointment in 1827 as Professor of Old Testament at the University of Berlin (in fact, occupying the chair left vacant by de Wette in 1819) to his death in 1866. Before I proceed to discuss post-1860 developments in greater detail, it is necessary to deal with aspects of the conservative reaction to liberalism not only in Protestant Germany, America, and England, but in the world of Roman Catholicism as well.
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
America was (and remains) largely a conservative nation theologically as a result of successive waves of “revivals” that have kept it squarely in the Puritan world of thought and sensibilities since 1740, the year the first “Great Awakening” began under Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. In fact, one can best understand the American religious experience in terms of five of these awakenings (1740-41, 1800-1830 with Charles G. Finney, 1890-1910 with Dwight L. Moody, 1950-1960 with Billy Graham, with the fifth perhaps in the making since the 1980s). The Enlightenment was felt in America only at the end of the 18th century, during the revolutionary years, under the influence of Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, and Elihu Palmer, to name the most prominent names. However, the New England or Edwardean theology (from Jonathan Edwards) dominanted the colonies and then the young nation arguably for an entire century until the 1840s (Nathanael Emmons, the last of the Edwardeans, died in 1840) , and this theology was conservative, Calvinist, bible (i.e. the Bible as the inerrant word of God), and confessional (based on the great Protestant confessions of the 17th century, Lutheran and Calvinist). Whenever America has drifted too far from its Puritan roots, the awakenings have served to bring America back to the fold. The Enlightenment took hold only among the educated elite of New England and never among the masses of the people, a fact that continues to shape political and religious sensibilities until our day. Only when the Unitarian (followed by the more radical Transcendentalist) movement began to be felt in earnest after 1806, did Enlightenment influences, both philosophically and theologically (and of course politically), become part of the debate, and only then among the educated and the universities. The Unitarians, as the names implies, rejected the dogma of the trinity, the deity (Godhood) of Jesus of Nazareth, and insisted that the Bible be studied by the same rules that apply to any other book. Harvard went Unitarian early (1806-1811) but Unitarian sent their sons to Germany to study with the likes of Schleiermacher and de Wette. The “new wine” of the Germans was most effective with the Transcendentalists; Ralph Waldo Emerson (d. 1882) and Theodore Parker (d. 1860) in particular moved to the most critically advanced (Parker) and radical (Emerson) conceptions in America. Soon conservatives, aware of the linguistic, philosophical, and theological prowess of the Unitarians directly trained or influenced by German scholars, decided that to compete they themselves needed to send their young to Germany as well, but to study with the likes of Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Neander, who competed with the liberals on their terms. Charles Hodge, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary from the 1820s until his death in 1878, pursued studies at Berlin, but was naturally drawn to Hengstenberg and his circle. One can think of the Charles Hodge as the Hengstenberg of the United States, although Hodge is more oriented to the biblicism (Bible=inerrant Word of God) of 17th century orthodoxy (as classically represented by Francis Turretin in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, a work whose translation Hodge himself comissioned, and on which Hodge is clearly dependent—and from which he quotes liberally—in his Systematic Theology, published in the 1870s). Revivalism and the Princeton theology effectively delayed the acceptance of liberal and higher critical (historical-critical) views in the United States until the 1890s.
DEVELOPMENTS IN ENGLAND, GERMANY, AND THE CONTINENT
Although England had been at the forefront of theological radicalism and criticism since the 1660s and particularly during the first half of the 18th century, it went into a long period of hybernation from the 1750s until literally the 1860s. In the works of John Toland (Christianity not Mysterious, 1696), Matthew Tindal (Christianity as Old as Creation, 1730); and in the numerous works of Anthony Collins (Discourse on Free Thinking, 1724), Thomas Woolston (Discourses on the Miracles of our Savior, 1727-30), Thomas Morgan (The Moral Philosopher, 1738-40), and Thomas Chubb (A Discourse Concerning Reason, 1731), the Deist movement launched an all-out assault on traditional or orthodox Christianity. Miracles, the historicity of the Biblical narratives, Moses’ authorship of the Torah, the birth narratives of Jesus and his supernatural birth, were sharply criticized; contradictions and discrepancies pointed out, challenging the inerrancy of the Bible, often with sarcasm and bitter ridicule. But despite some brilliant insights and specific criticisms that anticipated the systematic work of German critics like de Wette, Strauss, and Baur, their criticisms were too piecemeal and lacked the comprehensive grasp of the issues that were to distinguish the work of the German critics of the 19th century. More importantly, the British Deists did not work with the original languages, and hence their work does not have the academic rigor of the German critics. Compared with the latter, their work has an amateurish, dilettante flavor that dramatically exposed its limitations and weaknesses.
The critique arising out of the Enlightenment became more radical as it sought to relativize Christianity (and religion in general) and assimilate it to the mythologies of the ancients, as we find in Fontenelle’s History of the Oracles (1686) and Origin of the Fables (1690-99, published in 1724). Pierre Bayle’s Critical Historical Dictionary (1696-97, 5th edition, 1740), Baron D’Holbach, Helvetius, Condillac, la Mettrie, Voltaire , Buffon, N. A. Boulanger, Condorcet, (supported by David Hume’s Natural History of Religion and his devastating Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion ), and Charles François Dupuis’ Origins of all the Cults (1795), continued their assault on religion and Christianity from an empiricist (Locke and Hume) and materialist point of view (cf. Frank E. Manuel, The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods  and R. R. Palmer, Catholics and Unbelievers in 18th Century France , Peter Gay, The Enlightenment [2 volumes, 1969], and Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment ). The dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s (d. 1781) Theological Writings (edited by Chadwick, 1957) in particular, The Education of the Human Race, and Nathan the Wise, as well Hermann Samuel Reimarus’s (d. 1768) Wolfenbüttel Fragments, published by Lessing between 1774 and 1778, proved to be prophetic of things to come in the 19th century. Reimarus, influenced by the Pantheism and anti-supernaturalism of Spinoza (d. 1677), charged Christianity with fraud (body of Jesus was stolen by the disciples, who fabricated the story of the resurrection); and deception, when history itself proved that Christianity was based on a falsehood: the second coming of Christ was predicted to take place at the time of the apostles, not centuries or millennia later at some indefinite future. After this period of intense criticism, the torch is passed to Germany.
England in the second half of the 18th century is now in the grip of its own “Great Awakening,” led by John Wesley, his brothers, and a host of itinerant “Methodist” preachers that brought a reinvigorated “Pietism” back into the mainstream of British life and competed with Enlightenment ideas for the heart, if not the mind, of the nation. By the 1830s however, deep dissatisfaction with the Anglican (Church of England) Via Media (“middle way” between the extremes of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, articulated by the Elizabethan theologians such as John Jewel and Richard Hooker in the late 1500s) led some theologians at Oxford to question the very foundations of the English religious establishment. The most prominent critic of the Church was the priest John Henry Newman (d. 1890), who in “Tract 90” of Tracts for the Times (from which the movement derived its name, “Tractarians”) essentially assimilated to and interpreted the doctrines of the Anglican Church in terms most consistent with Catholic dogma, the beliefs of the Christian Church in the first five or six centuries (or, as Newman put it, the 39 Articles of the Church of England, the doctrinal standard of the Church since the time of Queen Elizabeth [d. 1604], can or should be read in the most Catholic of senses).
The publication of the tracts was suppressed by the university and Newman converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845, concluding a distinguished career as a Protestant (or at least, non-Catholic) theologian and church historian. In 1878 he was made Cardinal, a distinction that has since become almost part of his name. Newman felt that Roman Catholicism is the only effective antidote and corrective to liberalism (both theological and political) and the corrosive effects of the Enlightenment, a move in which he was followed in America by Orestes Brownson (d. 1876), a former Unitarian-Transcendentalist-Presbyterian-Agnostic who for similar reasons converted to Catholicism. Two prominent Catholic intellectuals in France, Joseph de Maistre (d. 1821) and (Félicité Robert de) Lamennais (d. 1854), articulated similar visions of a Western world united under the banner and authority of the Catholic Church and the Pope in particular as the only hope for the world (a position known in the literature as Ultramontanism, “beyond the alps,” toward Rome). Neo-Pietism in Germany under Hengstenberg, Revivalism and the Princeton theology in America, and a resurgent Roman Catholicism as the only hope against the forces of infidelity (historical criticism, the Enlightenment, political liberalism, democratic movements, separation of church and state, freedom of the press, religion, academic freedom) together provided a formidable front against everything that Schleiermacher, et al. had worked for since the turn of the century.