Barton, who grew up in Tennessee and in Oak Park, Illinois, and whose father was a Congregational minister, shows many of the characteristics of twentieth century liberal Protestantism. He unashamedly stresses the humanity of Jesus, stating at one point that “If . . . we are criticized for overemphasizing the human side of his character we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that our overemphasis tends a little to offset the very great overemphasis which has been exerted on the other side.” He likewise leaves the miracles of Jesus up to the choice of the reader. In regard to Jesus’ calming of the storm at sea, he says, “Call it a miracle or not—the fact remains that it is one of the finest examples of self-control in all human history.” This “human” interpretation of Jesus offers a sharp contrast to the literal, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible expressed by William Jennings Bryan during the famous Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, the same year that Barton’s book was published.
Barton’s most unique Christian theme, of course, is his identification of Jesus with the twentieth century business executive. This seems to fit particularly well with the culture of the 1920’s and with the often quoted statement of President Calvin Coolidge, “The business of America is business.” In the midst of the economic boom of the decade and the prevailing faith in modern business, Barton’s theme clearly hit a responsive chord with...
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