Bennet Tyler

1783-1858. American Congregational theologian. Born at Middlebury, Connecticut, he graduated from Yale College in 1804. After studying theology, he was ordained in 1808. He became president of Dartmouth College in 1822, and pastor of the Second Church, Portland, Maine, in 1828. By this period the USA had entered the final phase of the Second Great Awakening,* which had begun in 1799. Charles G. Finney* and other evangelists interpreted popularly the doctrines of Nathaniel W. Taylor* and the “New Divinity” issuing from Yale. Orthodox Calvinists became increasingly alarmed, not only at the “new measures” used by revivalists, but more so at the concessions to Arminianism* in teaching human ability and choice. Open conflict broke out in 1828 when Taylor's address to the Connecticut Congregational clergy, Concio ad Clerum, dealt with the crucial issue of natural depravity and stated that men's depravity does not “consist in a sinful nature, which they have corrupted by being one with Adam, and by acting in his act." This made it certain to the conservatives that the New Divinity departed from orthodox Calvinism at a most essential point.

Bennet Tyler, a Yale classmate of Taylor, in 1829 entered into discussions with him which continued for some years. The first results of the conflict was the founding of a Pastoral Union in 1833 and a Theological Institute at East Windsor (later Hartford Seminary) in 1834, with the express purpose of combating the New Haven Theology.* Tyler was called to assume the presidency and remained in this position until 1857. In his later years he entered into discussion with Horace Bushnell* on emerging theological issues. He published many sermons, articles, and books, on such subjects as the sufferings of Christ, the New Haven Theology, and New England revivals.