Established to perpetuate a learned ministry in New England, Harvard would hardly be recognized by its founders now. The College was organized around theology, and its curriculum was the same for all students. Today the picture is just about as different as it could be. Religious courses have virtually passed out of the college curriculum, while of religion as a unifying philosophy for all learning there is left not a trace. In view of this, the new Freshman survey course on "The Christian Religion", projected by the Divinity School for next year, comes as something of a novelty. Planned to deal mainly with the philosophy of Christianity, with emphasis on the present-day American church, it represents a new trend in the function of the Divinity School.
Since the days of the Puritans two factors have caused Harvard to bow theology politely out of the College curriculum. One was the rise of Unitarianism in the early nineteenth century. With the appointment of the liberal Henry Ware as professor of Theology, this denomination came to dominate Harvard teaching. The old-line Trinitarians, feeling that they must train young men in the true faith, broke away from the College proper to form the Andover Seminary. With the old Puritan discipline gone, religious teaching in the College completely changed its form. The Unitarian faith, strongly tied up with Emersonian Transcendentalism, was easily shunted off into the Department of Philosophy.
President Eliot continued this trend when he made specialization the keynote of Harvard teaching. In remedying the pitifully inadequate professional training offered by the graduate schools, he further emphasized the purely departmental character of the Divinity School. Taking as his motto "Divide and conquer", he succeeded in breaking down the curriculum into countless small fields, among which religious study held a place only equal, if not actually inferior, to all others.
The result of this movement away from religion has been that, in a University which prides itself on presenting both sides of every important question, one view of religion has been slighted. While scientific objectivity reigns supreme in religious study, the case for Christianity as a personal faith is neglected. For this reason, the new course planned by the Divinity School should be welcomed by the College with open arms. But that this course heralds a return of religion to any part of its former importance in education is not likely. True, President Eliot's theory of specialization seems to have passed its zenith, but even though broader fields of concentration may come in the near future, there is no sign that theology will rank among them. Social and intellectual forces have decreed otherwise.
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