Kenneth Scott Latourette A Trail Blazer A Critical Evaluation of Latourette’s Theory of Religious History -- By: John D. Hannah

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 02:1 (Spring 1981)
Article: Kenneth Scott Latourette A Trail Blazer A Critical Evaluation of Latourette’s Theory of Religious History
Author: John D. Hannah


Kenneth Scott Latourette
A Trail Blazer
A Critical Evaluation of Latourette’s Theory of Religious History

John D. Hannah

1

The books of Kenneth Scott Latourette, the famous Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, are widely used in the study of church history and missions in a variety of Christian institutions. This article seeks to delineate and critically evaluate the view of Christian history set forth by him. It argues that Latourettes view of history represents a serious departure ftom the testimony of the Scriptures which has not gone undetected by historians and theologians, with the result that his interpretation of history should be used with caution. The wellspring of the great scholars views are found in the progressivistic spirit of his age and personality, as well as the eschatological assumptions of a pietistically informed religious Liberalism.

* * *

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience
rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper
day and night repeated—so:
Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges—
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

When Rudyard Kipling composed “The Explorer” from which the above is taken, he had in mind some hardy pioneer

tracking hidden valleys and virgin wilds, mapping uncharted territories. What would be his reaction today to learn that a dweller in ivory towers, an academician—and a church historian, at that—had borrowed his language (in a slightly altered form) to entitle an autobiography? Other than lodging a legitimate complaint over the alteration of his actual words (from “behind” to “beyond the ranges”), the sometime poet might be well pleased when he found out more about this particular historian. For Kenneth Scott Latourette had a career in many respects truly extraordinary, and his personal narrative amply demonstrates that his life has been largely lived as a response to a call to go “beyond the ranges.”

The impact of Latourette is readily demonstrable in Christian institutions of higher learning because his texts continue to inform and shape the emerging generation as they have the past. What, however, is most arresting is that required texts are often assigned in college courses without a recognition of the author’s concept or definition of the subject. Unfortunately teachers of history are so zealous to provide vehicles for the conveyance of information that there is too frequently a neglect by teachers to scrutinize carefully the presuppositions that u...

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