Modern Intellectual History

Review Essays

READING LIBERAL THEOLOGY

J. DAVID HOEVELERa1

a1 Department of History, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Email: jdh2@uwm.edu

Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805–1900 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001)

Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity, 1900–1950 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003)

Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Crisis, Irony, and Postmodernity, 1950–2005 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006)

Gary Dorrien has presented to all who have an interest in religion, and religious ideas especially, a magnificent piece of scholarship. These three volumes on liberal theology in the United States have value in the massive amount of writings they bring under study and into the mainstream of American intellectual history. To that extent they address a historiographical gap; conservative thinking in the long evangelical tradition down to the contemporary “religious right” has received greater attention. Liberal theology, as Dorrien treats it, interconnects with a wide range of ideas—in philosophy, science, and history most importantly, and other topical maters like feminism and race. This trilogy should attract the attention of intellectual historians not only for its rich content but also for the suggestions it has for this discipline itself; that is, for practicing intellectual history and recognizing some of the contrasting approaches to its subject matter.

(Online publication July 28 2011)