Christian Nurture: A Comparison Of Horace Bushnell And Lawrence O. Richards -- By: Perry G. Downs

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 03:2 (Fall 1982)
Article: Christian Nurture: A Comparison Of Horace Bushnell And Lawrence O. Richards
Author: Perry G. Downs


Christian Nurture: A Comparison Of
Horace Bushnell And Lawrence O. Richards

Perry G. Downs

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The effect of Horace Bushnell’s Christian Nurture upon the theory and practice of Christian education cannot be overstated. Even though he died over a century ago, he is still considered to be a dominant force in the theory of Christian nurture, and his book is regarded as the single most important work to be read by serious students of religious education.1 However, the theological bases of his writings have been questioned by conservatives ever since they were first published. Bushnell has always been a theological enigma, first to his contemporaries, and currently to evangelical writers. But the impact of his theory of nurture is felt by the conservatives and the more liberal Christian educators alike.

Currently the most prolific conservative theoretician in Christian education is Lawrence O. Richards. Beginning with the publication of Creative Bible Teaching in 1971, Richards has produced seven major textbooks2 and over thirty lesser books related to his theory of Christian education. While the theological basis of his thinking has not been questioned, it is evident that his theory is remarkably similar to the theory advocated by Bushnell. In what ways are Bushnell and Richards similar, and why has Bushnell been rejected by the conservatives, while Richards has not? In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to examine each theorist separately, and then to compare these findings to determine the answers.

Horace Bushnell

Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) published Christian Nurture in its final form in 1861. The basic concepts of the book had been published in several forms previously and as such had been the object of theological debate and no small controversy among the churches of New England.

Bushnell was born in the village of Bantam, Connecticut on April 14, 1802.

His father, a farmer, was a Methodist, and his mother an Episcopalian. Their church membership was in the Congregational church in New Preston, Connecticut, and it was there, in 1821, that Bushnell made his profession of Christian faith.

In 1823 Bushnell entered Yale College and was graduated in 1827. After brief experiences as a teacher in Norwich, Connecticut and as a journalist in New York City, he returned to Yale to study law.

During his time at Yale, Bushnell developed deep intellectual doubts regarding his Christian faith. However, when in 1831 re...

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