Hartford Appeal

The 1975 Hartford Appeal deserves to be better known. It may be viewed here. A book was written about it: Against the World for the World: The Hartford Appeal and the Future of American Religion by Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus (New York: Seabury Press, 1976). A 40th year anniversary reflection was written by Richard J. Mouw (see here). What follows are the 13 false themes identified:

Eighteen theologians and religious thinkers from nine denominations gathered at the Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut, January 24-26, to draft a declaration in response to themes in contemporary Christian thought which they viewed as “pervasive, false, and debilitating.”

Theme 1: Modern thought is superior to all past forms of understanding reality, and is therefore normative for Christian faith and life.

Theme 2: Religious statements are totally independent of reasonable discourse.

Theme 3: Religious language refers to human experience and nothing else, God being humanity’s noblest creation.

Theme 4: Jesus can only be understood in terms of contemporary models of humanity.

Theme 5: All religions are equally valid; the choice among them is not a matter of conviction about truth but only of personal preference or lifestyle.

Theme 6: To realize one’s potential and to be true to oneself is the whole meaning of salvation.

Theme 7: Since what is human is good, evil can adequately be understood as failure to realize potential.

Theme 8: The sole purpose of worship is to promote individual self-realization and human community.

Theme 9: Institutions and historical traditions and oppressive an inimical to our being truly human; liberation from them is required for authentic existence and authentic religion.

Theme 10: The world must set the agenda for the Church. Social, political, and economic programs to improve the quality of life are ultimately normative for the Church’s mission in the world.

Theme 11: An emphasis on God’s transcendence is at least a hindrance to, and perhaps incompatible with, Christian social concern and action.

Theme 12: The struggle for a better humanity will bring about the Kingdom of God.

Theme 13: The question of hope beyond death is irrelevant or at best marginal to the Christian understanding of human fulfillment.

Lest there be any doubt: these themes are all false and should be rejected.