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Harry Emerson Fosdick

6 August 2010

Harry Emerson Fosdick’s story starts out rather sad. He was educated at Union Theological Seminary at the turn of the century, which was then becoming–as it is now–a bastion of liberal theology. In 1922, he delivered his famous sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”, defending the liberal/modernist standpoint which was receiving huge criticism by the fundamentalists of his day. (It appears that little has changed in the 90 years between then and now.) For this sermon, amongst others, he was tried for heresy by the Presbyterian Church and would have been censured, if he had not resigned. He went on to serve and greatly expand the Riverside Church in New York–whose chief philanthropist was John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Here are some of my favorite quotes of his:

Every human life involves an unfathomable mystery, for man is the riddle of the universe, and the riddle of man in his endowment with personal capacities.

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.

Christians are supposed not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it.

Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world – making the most of one’s best.

Life asks not merely what you can do; it asks how much can you endure and not be spoiled.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lee Thomas permalink
    6 August 2010 22:00

    You won’t see this comment for a few days, I expect. (I’m thrilled thinking about the fun you Young Ones must be having in N’ville!)
    Fosdick’s contributions will endure forever, including his prophetic witness during WWII–not least the hymn, “God of grace and God of glory.”
    Be happy, be safe; Love to you all.

  2. 6 August 2010 22:58

    Thank you for remembering Harry Emerson Fosdick. Back in the early 1970’s when I was in college and my own Baptist denomination was being pulled, stretched, and challenged by the “liberal/fundamentalist” debate, Rev. Fosdick’s words (and his hymn, “God of Grace and God of GLory”) became an inspiration to me. I became more liberal as the fundamentalist in my denomination (SBC) took over. Today I am a happy liberal who treasures the legacy of Fosdick and others like him.

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