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Evangelical Engagement with Modernism   The church, as well as the world, has entered on the era of the laity. Christianity is girding itself for the conquest of the world. Her call for leaders and workers of all sorts is louder and more engaging than ever before. The world is white unto the harvest and the reapers include not only preachers andevangelistsbutmissionaryteachers,missionaryphysicians,settlement workers,pastors’assistants,secretariesof YoungMen’sandYoungWomen’s Christian Associations, trained Sunday school organizers, and lay workers generally. —Macalester College Bulletin, April 1915 with this description, the1915MacalesterCollegeBulletincharacterizedthe mission of the Bible Training Department. Its central theme is the role of the churchintheworld;thetimeisripeforChristianity.Buthowwillthisconquest be achieved? Not just through the work of clergy but, more important, through the work of laity. And here was where the Christian college, and Macalester in particular, found its central mission in the early decades of the twentieth century: the training of lay Christians who would become the advanced guard in this battle. Simultaneouslyinvokingmetaphorsof colonizingmilitancyandbenevolent aid, the paragraph seems a jumble of mixed, even opposite, ideologies: on one hand, militant evangelizing, the mission of traditional evangelicalism, focused on conversion, and on the other, the settlement houses of the Social Gospel, an expression of liberal Protestantism, focused on ethical behavior and the  | nature & revelation improvement of social conditions. Though historians of religion in the late twentieth century would view these Christian doctrines as fully separate from one another, even paradoxical, the preceding description, along with many other components of Macalester’s curriculum, attest to the ways in which these elements—conservative and liberal—functioned together during this period. Theblendingof seeminglyparadoxicalunderstandingsof Christianityillustrates the college’s determination to redefine evangelicalism itself by renegotiating its role in the world. The early decades of the twentieth century, during which this renegotiation effort took place, were a time in which scientific, technological, social, and cultural changes challenged traditional ways of thinking and transformed everything from work, to leisure, to education, to religious belief and practice. Wehavealreadyseenhowthestudentsandleadershipof thecollegenegotiated challenges to mores and lifestyle. They also found themselves struggling to establish a consistent worldview on which to define their collegiate and religious mission in a rapidly changing world. While a few Christian colleges embraced the theological and social liberalism they perceived in modernism, many, like Macalester,hungback,takingameasuredview,determinedtoretainsomething of the traditional evangelicalism of the previous generation. Timeaftertimethroughtheearlytwentiethcentury,Macalesterfounditself searching for a middle ground between the conservative and liberal religious views, adopting some of the scientific advances and humanism of modernism, while attempting to update and thereby keep relevant key elements of evangelicalism .1 Wecantracethesenegotiationsthroughseveralareas,allof whichrelate toeffortstounderstandorconstructarelevantroleforevangelicalismwithinthe world. This chapter will examine these efforts as they were expressed through changing approaches to religious education, continued embrace of missionary work and efforts to update it, understandings of the Bible and approaches to teachingit,therelationshipbetweenreligionandscience,anddebatesoverroles of peace and conflict leading to World War I. The Evangelical Conquest of the World FortheMacalestercommunity,thereligiousmissionof thecollegecouldnotbe separated from the college’s mission in the world itself. Although founded as a tinycollegeonthefrontier,theinstitutionwasneverisolatedfromtherestof the world.Itsearlyleadershadsignificantinternationalexperience,whichinvariably Evangelical Engagement with Modernism |  occurred within significant religious contexts or resulted in significant religious meaning. Edward Neill, as we have seen, served as U.S. consul to Ireland, where hisconnectionswiththeProtestantChurchof Irelandprovidedhimwithamodel for establishing a religious college within or associated with a public university. James Wallace, after completing his degree at Wooster University, spent eight monthsinGreecestudyingthelanguageof theNewTestamentandanothertwo months traveling in Europe and the British Isles. Several of the college’s early alumni, as we will see, also became engaged with international situations and activities. And several early alumni, as we will also see later, left Macalester for careers in evangelical missionary work that took them far beyond the borders of the United States. AparticularChristianunderstandingof theprogressivecharacterof human history informed the way that the Macalester community engaged with the world well into the twentieth century. This view traced its roots to nineteenthcentury postmillennialism, which held that it was incumbent on Christians (specifically Protestants) to work to improve public life and thereby prepare the world for the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God,eventstheyfoundprophesiedintheBible.Forevangelicalmissionaries abroad or in the United States (home missionaries) in the nineteenth century, including New School Presbyterians, this meant converting nonbelievers to Christianity through revivals and improving or reforming public life by acting against public sins. Protestants of a postmillennial bent were involved in such importantnineteenth-centuryreformmovementsasabolitionism,temperance, and antiprostitution. NotallPresbyterians,however,embracedthepostmillennialidea.Aswehave seen, earlier in the nineteenth century, Presbyterians had split into two groups: NewSchoolsupporters,whoacceptedpostmillennialismandembracedproselytizing ,andOldSchoolPresbyterians,whoretainedenoughof theearlyCalvinist viewof...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816673346
Related ISBN
9780816656264
MARC Record
OCLC
648711615
Pages
424
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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