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The Spiritual Vision of Frank Buchman

By Philip Boobbyer

Publication Year: 2013

The Spiritual Vision of Frank Buchman is an in-depth look at the life, influence, and ideology of one of the most original figures in twentieth century religion. Frank Buchman (1878–1961), the man behind the Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament movements, had foundations as a Lutheran pastor, evangelist, and active member of the American Student Christian Movement. His beliefs evolved as a response to the emergence of global society leading him to develop a world philosophy that could speak to different religions and cultural traditions. His contributions to conflict resolution between nations and his promotion of inter-faith dialogue solidified his influence. While his teachings elicited support across faiths, there were also many who doubted its place in Christian tradition, and he was often accused of being pro-communist, anti-imperial, and a Nazi sympathizer. Philip Boobbyer’s book is the first scholarly treatment of Buchman’s work, theology, and ideology, and an addition to a growing corpus of scholarly literature on the Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament movements. Boobbyer shows how Buchman’s life reflects broader processes in twentieth century religion and politics and how his work exemplifies the ways in which religious thinkers and groups sought to make themselves relevant to the ideological conflicts of modernity without sacrificing their core beliefs.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I have long been interested in Frank Buchman and the movement he founded, known successively as the Oxford Group, Moral Re-Armament, and more recently Initiatives of Change. The reasons for this are partly academic. Buchman’s outreach into ecclesiastical, political, and industrial circles was remarkable, ...

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pp. 1-8

“The world is slow to realise that the spiritual is more powerful than the material,” declared the American religious leader Frank Buchman in November 1938. He was talking on the BBC, with the growing polarization of Europe on his mind, and wanted to alert his listeners to the power of what he called “valid religious experience” to generate personal and social change. ...

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1. Origins

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pp. 9-32

Frank Nathaniel Daniel Buchman was born on June 30, 1878, in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, to a Pennsylvania Dutch family that had roots in eastern Switzerland. His father, Franklin, owned a general store on Main Street, Pennsburg, before buying a small hotel by the railway, the Buchman House Hotel. ...

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2. Guidance

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pp. 33-55

Henry Wright frequently compared prayer to a “triangle,” involving God, the Christian worker, and the person being prayed for, and Buchman often used this analogy during his missionary journeys in Asia.1 The idea seems partly to have been that instead of people praying that God would help their neighbors, they should pray that God would use them to help their neighbors.2 ...

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3. Personal Work

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pp. 56-82

Buchman was always enthusiastic about the subject of “personal work,” or “life-changing,” as he sometimes called it. It was here that the fourth of the absolute standards, love, came into focus for him. Personal work was meant to be the outcome of a real love for people, he believed. ...

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4. Theological Questions

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pp. 83-105

As Buchman’s approach to personal work indicated, he was eager to avoid approaching people with preconceived ideas. F. B. Meyer once said that Christianity was “not a creed, but a life.”1 Buchman’s view was similar. He saw his work in terms of “the propagation of life, rather than the propagation of a plan.”2 ...

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5. Strategy and Organization

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pp. 106-131

In OG and MRA spirituality, the quiet time was partly intended to provide a reflective space in which people could try to look at the needs of others and the world from the Holy Spirit’s perspective. It was thought that the Holy Spirit had a strategy or plan for humankind that people could try to cooperate with. ...

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6. Politics and Ideology

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pp. 132-158

If MRA was intended to be vehicle for changing the world, it was also an idea— although there was sometimes a confusion of the two concepts in MRA publicity.1 It grew out of a desire on Buchman’s part to articulate a vision for the world. This had been present in his mind at least from the mid-1930s onward. ...

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pp. 159-166

While Buchman was very adaptable, there was a core set of insights that informed his vision and that actually changed little. Writing in the late 1950s, one of his supporters, Basil Yates, suggested that the underlying architecture of his thought consisted of three elements: the moral underpinnings of faith, obedience to the Holy Spirit, ...


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pp. 167-198


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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780271060972
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271059792
Print-ISBN-10: 0271059796

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 10
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 844940952
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Spiritual Vision of Frank Buchman

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Subject Headings

  • Buchman, Frank Nathan Daniel, 1878-1961.
  • Moral re-armament.
  • Moral Re-armament (Organization).
  • Holy Spirit.
  • Social change -- Religious aspects.
  • Religious awakening.
  • Religion and politics.
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