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09.13.02 Singer, C. Gregg, A Theological Interpretation of American History, published in 1964

Notes Concerning the Author

Charles Gregg Singer (1910-1999) was a Presbyterian minister and historian. About a quarter of this book deals with the colonial and antebellum period, and the rest covers up to to about 1980. Among the chapter titles are: Deism in Colonial Life, Transcendentalism and the Rise of Modern Democracy, Social Darwinism: Its Theological Background and Political Implications, The Social Gospel and Its Political Effects in American Life, and the New Deal and Its Consequences, etc. 

Our Review

Singer’s subject is the influence of theology on politics, constitutional issues, society and economics. His main focus is “the role of Scripture in the formation of the American tradition and the impact of unbiblical thinking upon the life and policies of the nation.” 

Here are a few interesting excerpts:

On the constitutional convention:

“The Convention of 1787 displayed a consciousness of the meaning of the doctrine of sin, and was far less given to illusions about the perfectibility of man and the inevitability of progress. Christian principles and virtues were given a greater hearing than they had been given eleven years earlier. The necessity for a return to political conservatism brought with it a theological orthodoxy which many of the members of the Philadelphia Convention were willing to accept.”

On the growing unorthodox movements in the North in the first half of the 19th century:

“Certain facets of English Romanticism gained a wide following in the South where Byron was widely read. But Transcendentalism, as a religious fellowship, was almost totally unable to compete with the rising tide of religious and political orthodoxy in that section of the country.”

“After 1830 … while the North was becoming increasingly subject to radical influences, the South was becoming increasingly conservative in its outlook. Some historians prefer to interpret this development as a defensive measure to protect slavery.  Such a conclusion is superficial and in direct contradiction to some very important facts.”

“There is little doubt that the alliance between Unitarian theology and Transcendentalism is one of the most important intellectual developments in American history.”

This reviewer thinks this is an important book.  Singer includes relevant quotes from several notable Southern theologians including James H. Thornwell, Thomas Smyth, and B. M. Palmer.

Availability of this Book

We suggest Amazon.  Reprints were published in 1981 and 2009.