Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dr. King in Boston . 4

Contiued from Dr. King in Boston . 3.

Martin had explained his choice of Boston University (not his first, but Yale Divinity School had rejected him despite being at the top of his class at Crozer) this way in his application to the School of Theology.

For a number of years I have been desirous of teaching in a college or a school of religion. Realizing the necessity for scholastic attainment in the teaching profession, I feel that graduate work would give me a better grasp of my field. At present I have a general knowledge of my field, but I have not done the adequate research to meet the scholarly issues with which I will be confronted in thie area. It is my candid opinion that the teaching of theology should be as scientific, as thorough, and as realistic as any other discipline. In a word, scholarship is my goal. For this reason I am desirous of doing graduate work. I feel that a few years of intensified study in a graduate school will give me a thorough grasp of knowledge in my field.

My particular interest in Boston University can be summed up in two statements. First my thinking in philosophical areas has been greatly influenced by some of the faculty members there, particularly Dr. Brightman. For this reason I have longed for the possibility of studying under him. Secondly, one of my present professors is a graduate of Boston University, and his great influence over me has turned my eyes toward his former school. From him I have gotten some valuable information about Boston University, and I have been convinced that there are definite advantages there for me. 2
Edgar S. Brightman was an influential philosopher and Christian theologian who had many followers among the Crozer faculty including King's adviser at the seminary. For decades while teaching at B.U., from 1919 to 1953, Brightman was a leader of the theological movement called Personalism or more particularly since he, B.U. and other Boston intellectuals were such a force in the development and spread of this school of thought, Boston Personalism.

Personalism posits that the person is central, both the starting and end point, for understanding the world, indeed the universe. It believes that all moral truth begins with the absolute value of the person, the sacredness of the individual's being, consciousness and personality. Personalism is a philosophy which, applied to theology as it is in the Boston school, strongly affirms the existence and importance of the soul in each human and sentient being and reaffirms the existence and essense of God in a rather complex, nuanced and unique relationship with each person. It also is quite critical of impersonalistic theories and thought - social Darwinism, Communism, etc. Martin explained Personalism this way.

I studied philosophy and theology at Boston University under Edgar S. Brightman and L. Harold DeWolf. ... It was mainly under these teachers that I studied Personalistic philosophy - the theory that the clue to the meaning of ultimate reality is found in personality. This personal idealism remains today my basic philosophical position. Personalism's insistence that only personality - finite and infinite - is ultimately real strengthened me in two convictions: it gave me metaphysical and philosophical grounding for the idea of a personal God, and it gave me a metaphysical basis for the dignity and worth of all human personality. 3
A key to understanding King is that he was a philosopher, by far the most important of the 20th century, a philosopher who shook society to its core and changed the world. Dr. King was professionaly trained, over many years, in philosophy. As a child he was immersed in the Baptist fundamentalism of his father's church. But in his teens he developed deep doubts and began studying philosophy as an undergraduate at Morehouse College, then continued at Crozer, University of Pennsylvania, Boston University and Harvard. His life and actions were animated by a deep love, understanding and use of philosophy. King's six books mention many philosophers and philosophical concepts. In fact his first book, Stride Toward Freedom (1958) sites 18 different philosophers just in telling the story of the 381 day Montgomery Bus Boycott sparked by Rosa Parks.

Continued at Dr. King in Boston . 5.

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