The years 1790 to 1870 are an extraordinarily rich period in Western culture. They encompass the latter years of the Enlightenment and the various critical responses to it, including writers associated with the counter-Enlightenment, the early German romantic circle in Berlin, and the flourishing of German philosophical Idealism and French traditionalism, all offering distinctive critiques of Enlightenment reason, liberalism, and individualism. Later there emerged both left- and right-wing movements of neo-Hegelianism, followed after 1860 by a variety of schools of neo-Kantian philosophy that flourished in Europe. What is significant for our purposes here is that all of these philosophical currents provoked religious and theological responses. Some are now recognized as classic critiques of Western theistic religion (see Chapters 16, 17, 22). Others proved to be impressive speculative revisions of religion, often based on principles quite independent of the theological traditions (see Chapter 17).
A third response to these new challenges, and the one described in this chapter, generally was more conservative, maintaining an allegiance to a historic religious tradition. These writers often put modern critical philosophy itself (e.g., Hume, Kant, and Hegel) in the service of their more traditional apologetic. It is, therefore, important to distinguish these writers both from the radical critics of religion and the writers who were engaged in the speculative revision and defense of religion as a generic aspect of human life. By contrast, the third group of writers was concerned to defend a positive (i.e., historical) revelation and religious tradition. At the same time, they often sought to develop traditional forms of belief so as to show their continuing meaning and relevance, as well as their compatibility with developments in philosophy, science, and historical research.