In 1917, after being graduated from theological seminary, I was denied ordination to the Christian ministry.

It was the culmination of that old story of going to college with a set of theological concepts, most of them casually held and so vaguely comprehended that they could not be put into words and then finding new knowledge colliding with fixed ideas. In college I encountered a liberal teacher of the Bible who cleared up most of my “intellectual” difficulties and so impressed me with his clarity of approach and his engaging personality that I was completely won over to the liberal theological point of view. In fact, I regard his influence as having been decisive in leading me into the ministry.

The seminary I chose was, of course—considering my college experience—a liberal one. The general result of my seminary training was that I accepted without question what in those days was called the “modernist position.” It seemed to me to make sense, to spell out religious problems in a way I could understand, and I was filled with the conviction that men as fine as my seminary teachers certainly could not harbor theological concepts at variance with revealed religion.

The spring of my senior year, I appeared before a presbytery to ask for licensure. I would request ordination later from another presbytery, provided a church somewhere in the country would call me; and I had hopes.

The German critics had been having their way in theological circles throughout the world for some generations, and as an end result—so far as I was concerned—I came out of the seminary with the conviction that the Bible was a collection of books, traditions and strands of history put together over the centuries by well-meaning but decidedly fallible men ...

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