Cosmos in the Chaos: Philip Schaff's Interpretation of Nineteenth-Century American Religionby Stephen R. Graham (review)
- The Catholic Historical Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 82, Number 4, October 1996
- pp. 740-741
- View Citation
- Additional Information
740BOOK REVIEWS of the sisters who taught in these schools throughout the years, a good bibUography , and a brief index. CompUers of the book achieve a neat mix of factual data and anecdotal history . They Came to Teach includes one entire section devoted to "Profiles": sketches ofrepresentative sisters whose careers Ulustrate the broad range of activities in which religious communities were engaged. Written Ui large letters over every page are two words: dedication and sacrifice. Statistics do not always capture the spirit which empowered these reUgious teachers, but thetf individual stories and the abundant photographs which accompany them do. The book itselfis organized chronologicaUy, but its forward movement is broken by the expansion ofspecific topics. The result is some inevitable repetition. Nevertheless, The Came to Teach is fun to leaf through, valuable to research, and—for many CathoUcs—nostalgic to peruse. Sister Mary Richard Boo, O.S.B. College ofSt. Scholastica Duluth, Minnesota Cosmos in the Chaos: Philip Schaff's Interpretation of Nineteenth-Century American Religion. By Stephen R. Graham. (Grand Rapids: WiUiam B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1995. Pp. xxv, 266. $22.00 paperback.) The 1880's was a banner decade for the founding of scholarly societies. The Society of BibUcal Literature saw the Ught of day in 1880, the American Historical Association a few years later in 1884, and the American Society of Church History Ui yet four more years, 1888. Americans had been busy making history; perhaps it was now time to contemplate history. Pragmatic America was being puUed and tugged toward historical awareness. One American, no native he but naturaUzed, was a member of all tiiree of these societies, and one of them was founded Ui his own study Ui New York City (the SBL) whUe another was his own creation (the ASCH). I refer, of course, to PhUip Schaff, who in his own words gives his personal thumb-naU sketch—"a Swiss by birth, a German by education , and an American by choice." Since the centennial celebration of the ASCH at least four books have appeared honoring the name of and exploring the mind of PhUip Schaff. Stephen Graham's exceUent volume is the most recent of these Festschriften. It takes its place alongside the other volumes about Schaff as the most complete exploration of his views and vision of nineteenthcentury American reUgion. Everything of importance Ln the field of reUgious studies in the nineteenth century is reflected in the Ufe and career of PhUip Schaff. He was the epitome of the American Christian scholar as weU as a prophet of ecumenicity. Schaff strongly hoped that the unfinished Reformation would be completed in an age of "evangelical cathoUcism" Ui the United States, his own vision of an ecumeni- BOOK REVIEWS741 cal movement. In this book Graham gives special attention to such themes as reUgious freedom, church and state, and the American nation. He deftly traces Schaffs thoughts on these topics Ui a way that informs our own understanding of these contemporary reUgious issues. Graham carefuUy explores the full Americanization of Schaff and his growing accommodation to America's dominant evangeUcal Protestantism Ui the context ofhis ecumenical dreams. Graham also shows that to more than the twentieth-century ecumenical movement, his life was prelude. His major dream was, however, of post-Protestant, postCatholic , and post-American universal cosmos—a worthy dream ofwhich to remind oneself as weU as others. Graham's title is appropriate—cosmos in the chaos and, I would add, beyond the chaos. One of Schaffs students wrote Ui his private class notebook, "I came to know what Ufe and history mean." Graham's presentation of Schaff has certainly captured the meaning of this student's remark. What reUgious Ufe and history meant to Schaff Ui the United States comes alive in this book. Graham presents Schaffs ideaUsm, historic awareness, hope, sensitivity to humankind and nature, and dream of world unity. In Philip Schaffs last pubUc speech in late 1893 he urged brave visions and acts: "Before the reunion of Christendom can be accompUshed , we must expect providential events, new Pentecosts, new reformations —as great as any that have gone on before. The twentieth century has marvelous smprises in store for the church and the...