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Transforming Liberalism

The Theology of James Luther Adams

George Kimmich Beach

A 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.

Praise for Transforming Liberalism:

“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 spirit."
—John Buehrens

“James 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 thought."
—Max L. Stackhouse, DeVries Professor of Theology and Public Life, and Director of Kuyper Center for Public Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

“Throughout this intricately textured theological memoir, Adams's thought remains vivid, his cautions instructive and his spiritual and ethical commitment worthy of abiding emulation.”
—Forrest Church

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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

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