Skip to main content Accessibility help

Poems, Propositions, and Dogma: The Controversy over Religious Language and the Demise of Theology in American Learning

  • D. G. Hart (a1)


One of the ironies in the annals of nineteenth-century American Protestantism is the impact that Horace Bushnell's famed address “Dogma and Spirit” had upon the theological scene. In his remarks before the Porter Rhetorical Society at Andover Seminary in September 1848, the Congregationalist minister from Hartford established his reputation as one of the more controversial, if not gifted, theologians in New England. Bushnell offered a vision of Christianity that he hoped would eliminate the theological bickering that, as he saw it, had plagued the church throughout its history. To be sure, many in Andover's audience would not have been surprised if Bushnell's quirky views on the Trinity and the Atonement drew fire from New England Calvinists. But few would have predicted that this reconciliatory address would provoke one of the era's more noteworthy debates, a lengthy one-and-a-half-year, 250-page quarrel between America's two most prominent Calvinist theologians, Princeton Seminary's Charles Hodge and Andover's Edwards A. Park.



Hide All

1. Bushnell, , “Dogma and Spirit,” in God in Christ (Hartford, 1849), pp. 277356. The contest between Hodge and Park ran as follows under these imaginative titles: Park, , “The Theology of the Intellect and that of the Feelings,” Bibliotheca Sacra (hereafter cited as BS) 7 (1850): 533569;Hodge, , “The Theology of the Intellect and that of the Feelings,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (hereafter cited as BRPR) 22 (1850): 642674;Park, , “Remarks on the Princeton Review,” BS 8 (1851): 135180;Hodge, , “Prof. Park's Remarks on the Princeton Review,” BRPR 23 (1851): 306347;Park, , “Unity and Diversities of Belief even on Imputed and Involuntary Sin: with Comments on a Second Article in the Princeton Review,” BS 8 (1851): 594647;Hodge, , “Prof. Park and the Princeton Review,” BRPR 23 (1851): 674695;Park, , “New England Theology,” BS 9 (1852): 170220.

2. Foster, Frank Hugh, The Life of Edwards Amasa Park (New York, 1936), p. 155.Hodge, , “The Theology of the Intellect and that of the Feelings, Article III,” in Essays and Reviews, ed. Nash, Arnold S. (New York, 1856), pp. 626627.Park, , “The New England Theology,” p. 219.

3. For contemporary accounts, see Lord, David N., “Review of Prof. Park's Theologies of the Intellect and of the Feelings,” Theological and Literary Journal 3 (1850): 177234;Wallace, David A., The Theology of New England (Boston, 1856);“Orthodoxy in New England,” Southern Presbyterian Review 7 (1853): 5260; “New England Theology,” Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register (1852): 349360;Ellis, George E., “The New Theology,” Christian Examiner 27 (1857): 321369;Stebbins, Rufus P., “The Andover and Princeton Theologies,” Christian Examiner (1852): 309335;Thayer, Christoper Tappan, “Heresy in Andover Seminary,” Christian Examiner 20 (1853): 8087. For the implications of the debate, see Kuklick, Bruce, Churchmen and Philosophers: From Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey (New Haven, 1985), pp. 203215;Douglas, Ann, The Feminization of American Culture (New York, 1978), pp. 143196;Perry, Lewis, Intellectual Life in America: A History (New York, 1984), pp. 229235;Marsden, George M., “Everyone One's Own Interpreter? The Bible, Science, and Authority in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” in The Bible in America, ed. Hatch, Nathan O. and Noll, Mark A. (New York, 1982), pp. 79100; and Hart, D. G., “Divided Between Heart and Mind: The Critical Period for Protestant Thought in America,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 38 (1987): 254270.

4. “Dogma and Spirit,” pp. 291–293, 300–310, 325–327; Smith, Henry B., “The Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” in Faith and Philosophy, ed. Prentiss, George L. (New York, 1877), pp. 348.

5. On science in antebellum America, see Veysey, Laurence R., The Emergence of the American University (Chicago, 1965), pp. 133138;Hovenkamp, Herbert, Science and Religion in America, 1800–1860 (Philadelphia, 1978), pp. 1938;Turner, James, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America (Baltimore, 1985), pp. 179187;Bozeman, Theodore Dwight, Protestants in an Age of Science (Chapel Hill, 1977);Greene, John C., American Science in the Age of Jefferson (Ames, Iowa, 1984); and Daniels, George H., American Science in the Age of Jackson (New York, 1968). On American universities and graduate schools, see Veysey, , Emergence of the American University; Oleson, Alexandra and Brown, Sanford C. eds., The Pursuit of Knowledge in the Early American Republic (Baltimore, 1976);Oleson, Alexandra and Voss, John, eds., The Organization of Knowledge in Modern America, 1860–1920 (Baltimore, 1979), esp. John Higham, “The Matrix of Specialization,” and Veysey, Laurence R., “The Pluralized Worlds of the Humanities,” pp. 318, 51106; and Kuklick, , Churchmen, pp. 195202. On the decline of theology, see Kuklick, Churchmen, chapters 13 and 14; Turner, Without God, chap. 6; and Smith, James Ward, “Religion and Science in American Philosophy,” in The Shaping of American Religion, ed. Smith, James Ward and Jamison, A. Leland (Princeton, 1961), pp. 402442.Kuklick, Bruce, The Rise of American Philosophy, Cambridge Massachusetts: 1860–1930 (New Haven, 1977), argues that the Harvard Pragmatists' philosophy of science was compatible with religion. For another perspective, see Smith, “Religion and Science.”

6. “Preliminary Dissertation on the Nature of Language as Related to Thought and Spirit,” in God in Christ, pp. 114, 92; and “Dogma and Spirit,” p. 280.

7. For Bushnell's theory of language, see “Preliminary Dissertation,” pp. 70–92; “Dogma and Spirit,” pp. 321–327; Crosby, Donald A., Horace Bushnell's Theory of Language (The Hague, 1975); Kirschenmann, Frederick, “Horace Bushnell: Cells or Crustacea?” in Reinterpretation in American Church History, ed. Brauer, Jerald C. (Chicago, 1968), pp. 6789;Durfee, Harold A., “Language and Religion: Horace Bushnell and Rowland G. Hazard,” American Quarterly 5 (1953): 2648;Fiedelson, Charles, Symbolism in American Literature (Chicago, 1972), pp. 151157;Cross, Barbara, Horace Bushnell: Minister to a Changing America (Chicago, 1958), pp. 93115;Hutchison, William R., The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Cambridge, 1976), pp. 4348;Gura, Philip F., The Wisdom of Words (Middletown, Conn., 1981), pp. 5871;Turner, , Without God, pp. 157163, 187199;Hovenkamp, , Science and Religion, pp. 4956; and Kuklick, , Churchmen, pp. 165169.

8. “Dogma and Spirit,” p. 306. For the influence of German Idealism on Bushnell, see Bushnell, , “Christian Comprehensiveness,” New Englander 6 (1848): 81103;Cross, , Horace Bushnell, pp. 2130;Kuklick, , Churchmen, pp. 161169;Smith, H. Shelton, ed., Horace Bushnell (New York, 1965), pp. 2529; and Ahlstrom, Sydney E., “Theology in America: A Historical Survey,” in Shaping of American Religion, pp. 280283. For Bushnell's own studies, see Christ in Theology (Hartford, 1851); Nature and the Supernatural (New York, 1858); and The Vicarious Sacrifice (New York, 1866).

9. Smith, , “Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” pp. 2628;Hodge, , “God in Christ,” Essays and Reviews, pp. 453471; and Park, , “Theology of the Intellect,” pp. 546550. Hodge's response was a review of God in Christ which included with “Dogma and Spirit” addresses on the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and the Atonement.

10. On biblical Criticism in antebellum America, see Brown, Jerry Wayne, The Rise of Biblical Criticism in America, 1800–1870: The New England Scholars (Middletown, Conn., 1969);Moorehead, James H., “Joseph Addison Alexander: Common Sense, Romanticism, and Biblical Criticism at Princeton,” Journal of Presbyterian History 54 (1978): 5165. On theological method, see Bozeman, , Protestants in an Age of Science;Gura, , Wisdom, pp. 1531; and Marsden, “Everyone One's Own Interpreter?”

11. “God in Christ,” pp. 440–445. On Princeton's notion of Scripture, see Hodge, Charles, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1975), pp. 119;Marsden, George M., Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870–1925 (New York, 1980), pp. 109118;Sandeen, Ernest, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism (Chicago, 1970), pp. 114131; and Mouw, Richard J., “The Bible in Twentieth-Century Protestantism: A Preliminary Taxonomy,” in Bible in America, pp. 142144.

12. “The Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” pp. 20, 18. See also “The Idea of Christian Theology as a System,” in Faith and Philosophy, pp. 125–166. On Smith's Christocentrism, see Muller, Richard A., “Henry Boynton Smith: Christocentric Theologian,” Journal of Presbyterian History 61 (1983): 429444; and Stoever, William K. B., “Henry Boynton Smith and the German Theology of History,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 24 (1968): 6989.

13. “Preliminary Dissertation,” pp. 69–79; and “Dogma and Spirit,” pp. 308, 326–327.

14. “The Theology of the Intellect,” pp. 535–540, 545–551, 558–561. On Park's Convention Sermon, see Cecil,, Anthony C. Jr., The Theological Development of Edwards Amasa Park: Last of the “Consistent Calvinists” (Missoula, Mont., 1974), pp. 81154; and Foster, , Edwards Amasa Park, pp. 148171.

15. Hodge, , “The Theology of the Intellect and that of the Feelings, Article I,” in Essays and Reviews, p. 545. Some historians—Perry, , Intellectual Life, pp. 230233;Douglas, , Feminization, pp. 177178;Hovenkamp, , Science and Religion, p. 55—incorrectly place Park's sympathies with the theology of the feelings. He identified his “Consistent Calvinism” with the intellect and Hodge's Old Calvinism with the feelings. Thus his intent was to defend the use of reason in theology and to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of his modified Calvinism.

16. Hodge, , “Theology of the Intellect,” pp. 548549, and “God in Christ,” pp. 440–441; Smith, , “The Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” pp. 2930. For a similar criticism of Park, see Smith, , “The Theological System of Emmons,” in Faith and Philosophy, pp. 218219, 228229.

17. “God in Christ,” pp. 443–447; and “The Theology of the Intellect and that of the Feelings, Article II,” in Essays and Reviews, pp. 607–611.

18. Bushnell, , “Dogma and Spirit,” pp. 303310;Park, “Theology of the Intellect,” pp. 542545;Smith, , “The Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” pp. 3943;Hodge, , “Theology of the Intellect,” pp. 565569.

19. Park, , “New England Theology,” pp. 178184;Smith, , “Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” pp. 4243. On the effects of preaching upon theology, see Bushnell, , Twentieth Anniversary: A Commemorative Discourse Delivered in the North Church of Hartford, 05 22, 1853 (Hartford, 1853), pp. 1221;Calhoun, Daniel, The Intelligence of a People (Princeton, 1973), pp. 279291;Scott, Donald M., From Office to Profession: The New England Ministry, 1750–1850 (Philadelphia, 1978), pp. 112147; and Calhoun, Daniel H., Professional Lives in America: Structure and Aspiration, 1750–1850 (Cambridge, 1965), pp. 167177.

20. “Theology of the Intellect,” p. 609.

21. See Clarke's, An Outhne of Christian Theology (New York, 1898), pp. 157, and Brown's, Christian Theology in Outline (Edinburgh, 1910), pp. 154. For other conceptions of theology, see Warfield, Benjamin B., Brown, William Adams, and Smith, G. B., “The Task and Method of Systematic Theology,” American Journal of Theology 14 (1910): 170233. On the trends in American theology, see also Hutchison, , Modernist Impulse, pp. 76144;Ahlstrom, , “Theology in America,” pp. 285298;Kuklick, , Churchmen, pp. 216229;Horton, Walter M., “Systematic Theology,” in Protestant Thought in the Twentieth Century: Whence and Whither? ed. Nash, Arnold S. (New York, 1951), pp. 105111; and Smith, , “Religion and Science,” pp. 425436. See also Ahlstrom's reasons for including James, William and Royce, Josiah as representatives of theological study in the late nineteenth century in Sydney Ahlstrom, Theology in America: The Major Protestant Voices from Puritanism to Neo-Orthodoxy (New York, 1967), pp. 6374.

22. On Princeton's theology of Scripture, see Hodge, Charles, “Inspiration,” BRPR 29 (1857): 660687; and Warfield, Benjamin B., “The Real Problem of Inspiration,” in The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, ed. Craig, Samuel G. (Phillipsburg, N.J., 1948), pp. 169228. On the place of Scripture in Princeton's theology, see Noll's, Mark A.introduction to The Princeton Theology, 1812–1921, ed. Noll, Mark A. (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1983), pp. 2527, 4145;Marsden, , Fundamentalism, pp. 109118;Ahlstrom, , “Theology in America,” p. 263; and Sandeen, , Roots of Fundamentalism, pp. 114131.Strong, Augustus H., Systematic Theology, 7th ed. (New York, 1907), and Mullins, E. Y., The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression (Philadelphia, 1917), deserve mention as exceptions to the trends within academic theology. Yet the influence of idealistic philosophy often compelled Strong and Mullins to rely upon religious experience as the most certain source for knowledge of God. On Strong, see Wacker, Grant, Augustus H. Strong and the Dilemma of Historical Consciousness (Macon, Ga., 1985); on Mullins, see Ellis, William E., “A Man of the Books and a Man of the People,” E. Y. Mullins and the Crisis of Moderate Southern Baptist Leadership (Macon, Ga., 1985).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed