Monday, January 24, 2011

* Randolph Crump Miller

Randolph Crump Miller 
Horace Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture
Yale University Divinity School

Douglas Clyde Macintosh was at the peak of his powers when I first met him in 1931.  Religious Realism, edited by him, was just off the press.  It included some of the best writing in the field, including a magnificent essay summarizing much of Mac's epistemology, empiricism, and constructive theology.  I started with his seminar in epistemology, not a wise thing for a student just out of college, and I struggled with the topic; but I got the taste of what Mac was striving for and I liked it.  During the next few years, I took every course he offered and found that my own theology was developing along parallel lines.

He helped nurse me through the pre-lims, and I needed his support. When it came time for the choice of a dissertation, he led me to Henry Nelson Wieman, which was not a totally disinterested choice on his part, as he had just finished a tripartite Is there a God? with Wieman and Max Otto.  I succeeded in writing the kind of dissertation he wanted , however, and in the final oral Niebuhr, Calhoun and Sheldon were examining Mac as much as they were me.

Mac made friends but not disciples.  His pupils admired him and learned much from him, but they went their own way.  I tried, more than most, to stay within the structure of his method, and I was pleased when he wrote that he planned to use my What We Can Believe as a text in 1942 (but of course his stroke eliminated that possibility).

He was an outstanding theologian, and although he never developed a full system his methodology promised a move beyond empirical findings to a metaphysical system.  He knew that theology needed metaphysics, and he leaned strongly toward emergent evolution and process thought, although he wanted a more personal deity than Whitehead, for example, would allow for.  I always thought his Baptist piety affected his permissible surmises.

He was my key teacher at Yale.  I still like to deal with his position when I teach contemporary theology. I wish we could recognize the Macintosh Fellows as allowed for in Hope Macintosh's will.  He deserves to be remembered with affection and with honor as one of Yale's great persons.


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