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Every Sunday afternoon from 1928 to 1946, millions of radios in America were tuned to Harry Emerson Fosdick's popular "National Vespers." Through the medium of radio, the written work, and "live" sermons, Harry Emerson Fosdick was considered to be the most influential clergyman in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Eloquent, communicative and prolific, Fosdick inspired several generations of Americans. His published sermons outsold those of any other contemporary American preacher.

Fosdick never pretended to be a theological innovator or a seminal thinker. For that reason, among others, he was willing to acknowledge and consider new political, social, and religious views. The story of Harry Emerson Fosdick, then, is the story of the evolution of popular twentieth century American Protestant thought, for he, probably more than any other figure, reflected the strengths, weaknesses and searching of American Protestantism.

Fosdick began his ministerial career shortly after the turn of the century in the midst of a period of social and intellectual ferment. He became a religious liberal and later, introduced the concept of psychological counseling into his ministry.

In 1935 he seemingly modified his theological out­look when he preached his well-known sermon, "Beyond Modernism." Fosdick's interest in nee-orthodoxy supposedly signaled a new trend in Protestant thought. However, a comparison between the pre-1935 Fosdick and the post-1935 Fosdick indicates that he did not change his basic liberal theology as a result of his confrontation with neo-orthodoxy.

A study of Fosdick proved his adherence to a belief in continuity between God and man, his liberal view of revelation as judged by history and experience and his continuing view of the freedom and goodness of man. A study of Fosdick is a study of an older America trying to adjust to the confused and chaotic twentieth century.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Ferenc Morton Szasz

Second Committee Member

Walter Warren Wagar

Third Committee Member

Noel Harvey Pugach



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