Dr. Fred Spearman, pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, gave out as the title of a recent sermon, “The Shift in the Harvard Accent.” Unfortunately for us, we have neither heard nor read the sermon. But the theme set us affectionately reminiscing. We had a saying, in the forties, that the formula for success in politics was to go to Harvard and turn to the left. But Harvard has shifted so much that the formula for theological success may become, “Go to Harvard and turn to the right,” or, more accurately, “the neo-right.”
In the forties, and earlier, Harvard Divinity School was a bastion of orthodox liberalism. There was no truck with this new-fangled Barthianism, except to dispose of it. It was not simply that Harvard was brooking no dialecticism, it wanted nothing to do with any theology. My former teacher and friend, Dr. Julius S. Bixler, remains to this day (though not at Harvard), an “unreconstructed liberal.” He also remains in my mind the unreconstructed image of the true liberal: genial, kindly, tolerant to the point of indifferent, urbane, learned, intellectual, refined, cultured, amused. There he was—blandly puffing on his pipe, while guest lecturer, Reinhold Niebuhr, railed against liberalism in the interests of original sin. The two men were good friends (out of the arena). Getting back to the point—Dr. Bixler was professor of theology. He may have taught a course in theology; but, if so, we never heard of it. He lectured on systematics like Karl Barth lectured on natural theology—to show that the subject had no right to exist.
The late Robert H. Pfeiffer had just come fully into his own with the publication of his famous Introduction. ...1
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