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Of this religious dimension Homrighausen wrote in "My boyhood religion was a matter of dread at the thought of God's judgment.

Christian Anthropology

Religion was related to things solemn-to death, to heaven and hell. The moral law hung like a sword of Damocles over my defenseless head. God was an all-seeing judge, his church the place to which I had to come, and his minister the spy and vicar of God" ["Calm after the Storm, ]. But though his boyhood religious experience was "solemn" in relation to the faith of his family, he himself nevertheless exuded an exuberance, joy, and warmth that attended him his whole life. By all accounts he seems to have been almost universally liked throughout his lifetime. By his own account, after almost succumbing to a childhood disease he recovered to "live to the fullest extent of each day the sun rose, in gratitude to God.

Thus did Homrighausen recall the expansive "world" that emerged for him upon his move to Plymouth, Wisconsin to attend Mission House College, now known as Lakeland College, in This Reformed school, modeled after German institutions, had a history of training ministers and missionaries and later developed into an academic college and seminary in line with the Mercerburg theology and practice. Mercerburg theology addressed and sought to correct the anti-intellectualism of the German pious tradition, and its impact on Mission House had been profound.

Homrighausen received a classical education in the best tradition of German idealism complemented by the Mercerburg concern for piety and the formative power of ecclesial practices. He flourished in this stimulating environment, and his ethno-religious convictions became infused with an independence of mind which broadened his horizons, even while they retained their basic hold on his vision of the religious life.

Homrighausen began to develop at Mission House what Arnold Lovell, who wrote the major dissertation on his theology of Christian education, called a "mediating" stance. As we shall see, Homrighausen spent his whole life mediating German and American culture, intellectual concerns and piety, orthodox theology and modernity, education and evangelism, deep conviction and expansive open-mindedness, the truth of the Gospel and a sense of the cultural conditioned-ness of all thinking, theological integrity and the realities of everyday living, etc.

This mediating sensibility of his would find an immediate test for Homrighausen upon his matriculation at Princeton Theological Seminary in , a school in the throes of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. A Volatile Year at Princeton Theological Seminary: Following two years in seminary at Mission House, Homrighausen came to Princeton Theological Seminary in , where he entered as a new senior with three other young men.

He also entered as one of the few married students, having taken Ruth W. Strassburger, a teacher, as his wife on September 17, , only a week before coming to Princeton. At the time of his coming to the seminary, the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy had virtually divided the faculty, trustees, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, as well as the student body. Everyone was choosing sides. Lovell calls this year "pivotal" in the life of Homrighausen, who "indwelt" the conflict deeply and sought a way to bring a sense of coherence to his own developing theological understanding.

Free will in theology

Homrighausen admitted in a later interview that he tended to lean toward the "Modernist" side after his Princeton experience, noting in particular the impact on his thinking of Shailer Matthews of the University of Chicago, who later was to become one of his teachers. Yet he also noted the impact of the Princeton faculty on his life, praising them for their erudition, honorable commitment, scholarly creativity, and piety.

In particular, while at Princeton Homrighausen, under the influence of George Johnson [who represented the "new" progressive theology at Princeton over and against G. Machen, the noted defender of the "old" orthodoxy] began to develop an understanding of the dynamic nature of the human experience of faith as a lived attitude or "stance" developed in relation to the world.

He appreciated the intellectual power of this liberal understanding of lived faith as an alternative to the objectified, doctrinaire, and "detached" theological systems the conservatives defended. Significantly, Homrighausen also began to read and discuss Karl Barth with Dr.

Johnson during this formative period. Barth became a "primary source" out of which Homrighausen would later fashion his own form of dialectical theology as a way beyond the liberal and fundamentalist impasse. Homrighausen was both a scholar and a pastor, never one without the other.

But scholarship seems to have been his initial passion, for upon his ordination to the ministry of the Reformed Church of the United States in Freeport, Illinois, in , he by his own admission went "reluctantly into a pastorate. But during these pastoral tenures he also continued to pursue his academic interests, entering the Univ. Dubuque allowed Homrighausen great freedom to study at several schools in the Chicago area, a major center of the liberal project in theology which flourished during that time. While at Dubuque, he became aware of the "personalist" school under the teaching of G.

Fiske, who continued to inspire Homrighausen to consider the field of religious education as a discipline worthy of academic pursuit.

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However, Fiske prompted his young charge to move into religious education "indirectly" through Church History. Citing the Harvard philosopher George F. Moore, Fiske argued that one must first know what religion one wants to teach before one teaches it. This insight would grow to become a fundamental conviction for Homrighausen and guide his later intellectual transition from religious to Christian education.

Yet while still at Dubuque, Homrighausen continued to develop a strong sense of the historical conditioned-ness of all thinking and of the evolutionary nature of historical experience, both personal and social, consistent with liberalism. Coe, and others.

Homrighausen also continued to develop his strong sense of the dynamic nature of the Church's historical and social existence and, as a corollary, a functional rather than speculative understanding of the nature of doctrine. In fact, he would develop his own version of the "new history" that was being discovered at the time, which focused not on isolated persons and ideas but upon the historical movement of social processes which shaped persons and ideas. In his thesis for Dubuque, he would argue that theological education itself must move to a more dynamic understanding and pedagogy for approaching Church history.

Lovell points out that one of the key concerns for doing so was the issue of tolerance. As opposed to "attempting to force all Christians into a straitjacket of a uniformity of belief" which "does violence, not only to human nature, but to basic Christianity itself…we must learn to soften our judgments…..

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Homrighausen received a Th. The Impact of the Chicago School. Under the inspiration of great liberal minds in the Chicago School-S. Matthews, George A. Coe, A. Eustace Haydon, and William Clayton Bower-Homrighausen knew firsthand the fervor and optimism of the halcyon days of the burgeoning Religious Education Movement. He generally accepted the movement's emphasis upon linking the reconstructive dynamic of progressive educational processes to the power of socialization understood in immanent religious terms as the inevitable realization of the Democracy of God.

Thus did he describe himself as something of a liberal early during this period. In his own words, this immersion in liberalism meant that his own faith had been:. We must appreciate what is being said here in relation to his later development as a practical theologian. Important for our consideration of Elmer Homrighausen as one of the most influential Christian educators of the 20th century is that he never lost his appreciation for the dynamic nature of the progressive approach to religious education which he learned in Chicago.

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This deep understanding of the nature of human action would later bring depth to his efforts to link human action [education] and divine action [evangelism] in a coherent theoretical position. By the time Homrighausen became immersed in the doctoral program, another transition in his thinking had taken root, brought about in part through the influence of his Doktorfater, Dr. Grieder, as well as the ongoing challenge of being a pastor in a local congregation.

Exposed to the deep and rich veins of the Christian tradition and to the need for common people to hear Good News, faithfulness to the Gospel in the ever-changing context of history became the crucial struggle of his life. This concern for kerygmatic integrity put Homrighausen's commitment to liberalism under judgment, just as liberalism had judged static doctrinalism and found it wanting. He sought in the writing of his dissertation to become an apologist for the Christian faith, using his historical understanding of the early years of Christianity to make a "sympathetic" appeal to the contemporary Church infected by individualism, intellectualism, and materialism, etc. Christian faith testifies to its cultural context, he believed, it does not just converse with that context. It bears witness to modernity and does not just seek alliance with modernity. The Church always bears testimony to culture, even to the point of martyrdom. Lovell describes Homrighausen's "awakening" as follows:.

On the other hand, Homrighausen also saw in his study of Justin Martyr an openness to truth outside the Christian tradition. He was taken with Justin Martyr's commitment to Hellenistic paideia and to the need to bring this emphasis on culture into relation with the Gospel.

Furthermore, Homrighausen's continuing interest in religious education prompted him to address more seriously the relation of Christ to culture, or the relation of Christian conviction to toleration. Therefore, we might say that conviction of heart and toleration of mind were the paradoxical themes surrounding Homrighausen's emergence as a mediating scholar and pastor. Thus, this concern to see a reconciliation between Christ and culture in Justin helped shape his growing conviction that a relationship of evangelism and education must be re-established in religious education, but that it must be established from the side of theology.

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Homrighausen completed his dissertation and was awarded the Th. He continued further academic work at Butler University, submitting an abridged version of his dissertation to the faculty there for an M. He also continued academic pursuits throughout his pastoral career, seeking different ways to relate his academic and pastoral concerns. In addition to his pastoral duties and his own studies, he continued as a part-time lecturer in the Department of Church History in the School of Religion of Butler University until As we mentioned, Homrighausen's rise as a scholar took place during his tenure in two pastorates in the Midwest spanning 14 years.

This pastoral work became the living arena within which all of the major influences under discussion-Justin Martyr, Barth, the legacy of Mercerburg Theology, history, liberalism and religious education-coalesced against the backdrop of real-life confrontations with the social crises facing segregated America. Arriving at the church of his first call, the First English Reformed Church of Freeport, Illinois, he soon found out that the Ku Klux Klan had infiltrated the church and some of its leadership.

Facing this crisis head on, with compassion and conviction, he brought together for prayer and conversation the opposing sides who threatened to split the church. At the same time, he helped initiate community service projects directed against the exploitation and discrimination of the Negro in his community, arguing that "the honor of the church was at stake.

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In essence this healing service created a new beginning for the congregation. For Homrighausen, this service was "operational theology" [i. The healing power of mediating theology demonstrated here was central to Homrighausen's sacramental understanding of ministry [evident in the Mercerburg Theology of John Nevin with his emphasis on the Real Presence of Christ, the organic nature of the Church, the Lord's Supper as sacramental, the liturgical worship and catechetical instruction of the saints ordered around the Church Year, etc. Lovell argues that these characteristics of Mercerburg "form somewhat of a credo for Homrighausen offering a theological rubric that is central to his ongoing work in communicating the Christian faith" [].

While at Freeport, three additional interrelated influences shaped Homrighausen's theology: [1] The Oxford Movement under the leadership of Frank Buchman, [2] an expanding involvement with community life, both in and outside the church, and [3] his "reckoning" with the Barthians. Regarding the former, Homrighausen's exposure to the Oxford Movement, which began at Princeton in , and his awareness of Dr. Emil Brunner's involvement in the movement, caused him to ask whether or not the church had lost its "religion of the heart" to professionalism and bureaucracy.

He was taken with the simple faith of the movement's practitioners, and he took seriously the vision of faith which the movement epitomized, even while he never became an actual follower of Buchman.