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George Kimmich Beach
liberal in both religion and politics, James Luther Adams recognized that
liberalism, weakened by its alliance with rationalism, individualism and
secularism, needed to transform itself in order to become the driving
intellectual and cultural force that it once was. This is Adams's central legacy
to the philosophical and social concerns of the 21st century.
In this compelling volume, Beach draws upon all of Adams's work—hundreds of essays,
lectures, letters, and conversations—including the famous stories that make his
thought so vivid and affecting. These works cover a broad range of Adams's
religious, historical, cultural and ethical interests. Using Adams's own words,
Beach draws out this distinguished scholar's central and recurrent themes.
Adams's themes, when looked at as a whole, represent a universal religious and
moral vision—a transformed liberalism.
George Kimmich Beach is the editor of three
volumes of essays by James Luther Adams, The Prophethood of All Believers (Beacon Press, 1986), An Examined Faith: Social Context and Religious
Commitment (Beacon Press, 1991) and The Essential James Luther Adams:
Selected Essays and Addresses (Skinner House Books, 1998). Beach has
published essays on Adams in The American Journal of Theology and Philosophy,
Faith and Freedom (Great Britain) and The Unitarian Universalist
Christian. In his book, Questions for the Religious Journey: Finding Your
Own Path (Skinner House Books, 2003), Beach develops an existential theology
drawing on the thought of Adams and Bernard Lonergan. His video, "JLA at Home,"
features Adams discussing his life and work with laypersons from Arlington,
Virginia, in 1988.
“Theologian, social ethicist, activist, minister, teacher and scholar, James
Luther Adams was the most transforming figure in 20 th century Unitarian
Universalism. Yet he left us no single volume summarizing his thought. Having
previously edited Adams's essays, Beach now masterfully gives us the master
himself—‘the smiling prophet of liberal religion'—making JLA accessible to
those who in the 21 st century continue his struggle to give liberalism greater
spiritual depth and effectiveness, and to engage liberal religion with
all that moves in history toward true liberation for the human
Luther Adams, one of the most beloved teachers, raconteurs, scholars and editors
of the 20th century, wrote in small units rather than full-length books. No one has mastered this vast body of material or grasped its inner coherence better
than Beach, who not only edited several earlier volumes of Adams's works, but
who has now compiled the main themes into this compelling, coherent, readable
and delightfully integrated whole. It is a magnificent achievement, done
with nuance, art and accuracy. I would not be surprised to see this volume
trigger a resurgence of ‘liberalism' in theology and social
—Max L. Stackhouse, DeVries Professor of Theology and Public Life,
and Director of Kuyper Center for Public Theology, Princeton Theological
“Throughout this intricately textured theological memoir, Adams's thought remains vivid, his
cautions instructive and his spiritual and ethical commitment worthy of abiding
For more information contact skinnerhouse @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.
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Publication Date: October 2004
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