New Haven Theology

An American theological position associated with N.W. Taylor,* his students, and Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Sometimes known as “Taylorism,” the theology of this school was a modified Calvinism used to provide an apologetic for the revivalism of the Second Great Awakening.* The New Haven Theology stood in contrast to the somewhat older theology of Samuel Hopkins* known as “Consistent Calvinism,” the system stressing divine sovereignty, total human depravity and inability, and the idea of “disinterested benevolence”-the willingness to be damned for the glory of God. The New Haven Theology developed at a time when the Unitarian controversy was dividing many New England churches. Taylor and his followers attempted to use a rationalistic apologetic to defend Trinitarianism and to support experiential religious conversion. Taylor made a distinction between certainty and necessity: man sins inevitably and certainly, but not necessarily. Thus sin is voluntary. The reaction against Taylorism, or the New Haven Theology, led in 1834 to the formation of Hartford Theological Seminary, but Taylorism lent its support to a growing number of modifications in the older Puritan, Calvinistic theology. Gradually the “governmental” replaced the “satisfaction” theory of the Atonement: a universal atonement, and the idea of “limited atonement” and original sin came to be understood as moral or dispositional rather than imputational.

F.H. Foster, A Genetic History of the New England Theology (1907); S.E. Mead, Nathaniel William Taylor (1942); H.S. Smith, Changing Concepts of Original Sin (1955); S.E. Ahlstrom, “Theology in America: A Historical Survey,” The Shaping of American Religion (1961), pp. 231- 321.