Abraham Lincoln:

Theologian of American Anguish

© 1973  David Elton Trueblood

Harper & Row Publishers, New York All Rights Reserved


1. Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865  Religion; 2. Presidents United States Biography.
E457.2 .T78 1973 ~~ ISBN 06-063801-X ~~ LCCN 72079955 ~~ OCLC 613607 ~~ 149p.

Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish is presently held by 748 libraries including Azusa Pacific University, San Francisco Public Library, and Earlham College.

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Table of Contents

About the Author

From the Jacket of the Book

Preface     vii

1. The Spiritual Pilgrimage of Abraham Lincoln     3

2. The Agonizing Interlude     26

3. Lincoln and the Bible     48

4. Lincoln at Prayer     72

5. Lincoln and the Church     95

6. The Final Paradox     118

Index     143

From the Jacket of the Book

"ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Theologian of American Anguish is one of the most fascinating and revealing pictures of Lincoln ever published."

Abraham Lincoln Association
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"A singularly persuasive and moving elucidation of Lincoln's spiritual pilgrimage, based on scholarly perception and compassionate insight. Elton Trueblood emphasizes the releasing of new and unsuspected powers that culminated in the Emancipation Proclamation and the Second Inaugural and suggests relationships between Lincoln's religious maturity and the crisis of our generation."

editor of
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"Lincoln's religious thinking has never been better presented. The author all the while keeps in mind precisely and accurately the authentic events of the President's personal history."

Lincoln National Life Foundation

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This book sheds a new light on a complicated man, a man who said and believed: "I have felt His hand upon me in great trials."

Trueblood traces Abraham Lincoln's growth from Illinois lawyer to world statesman primarily by the depth of his thinking.

Elton Trueblood sees Lincoln as a man who accepted the basic philosophy of our founding fathers, including the idea of a special destiny for America. A man who loved his country devoutly and believed that it had been brought into existence for a purpose, and that purpose had something to do with the ultimate welfare of mankind. Trueblood also sees Lincoln as a man who despite this goal was sufficiently acquainted with human failure to know that progress is never easy, never certain. Lincoln's only certainty lay in his conviction that God would never cease to call America to her true service, not only for her sake, but for the sake of the world.

Elton Trueblood gives us a collection of revealing anecdotes from Lincoln's personal, family, and spiritual life. We see the important role that the Bible and prayer played for him and the direct influence it had on much of his writing and speeches.

Lincoln, says the author, looked at slavery in a broader, theological context, and through Trueblood's use of historical material we are able to understand the sometimes baffling statements of Lincoln's political attitudes. For as President Lincoln said: "It is a momentous thing to be the instrument, under Providence, of the liberation of a race."

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D. Elton Trueblood was born December 12, 1900, near Indianola, Iowa, the descendant of a long line of Quaker ancestors who first arrived from England to America in 1682. After receiving his bachelor's degree from William Penn College, he earned a graduate degree in systematic theology at Harvard University, and in 1934, a Ph.D. in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University.

Trueblood served as chaplain of Stanford University in California from 1935 to 1945. In 1944 his most celebrated book, The Predicament of Modern Man, was published. Trueblood felt a strong calling to public ministry through writing and speaking, so he left his tenured full professorship at Stanford to accept the position of professor of philosophy in what he felt were more amicable surroundings — Earlham College in Indiana.

Over the next four decades Trueblood wrote a number of widely hailed books that dealt with sober and profound issues concerning the future of human society. Among the best known titles were The Common Ventures of Life, Philosophy of Religion, The People Called Quakers, While It Is Day, and A Philosopher's Way.

Avoiding simplistic admonitions for a "back to the church" or "back to the Bible" movement, he called for the reinvigoration of religious faith as the essential force necessary to sustain the ethical, moral and social principles on which a humane and livable world order could be built. He warned against what he called "churchianity" and "vague religiosity," but he also cautioned against the overly optimistic expectations of secular social-reformism.

Trueblood also organized the Yokefellow movement for lay activists that resulted in the establishment of Yokefellow retreat houses across the United States and in several foreign countries.

As a public speaker and author Trueblood was an advocate for simplicity, clarity and brevity. As former Earlham President Landrum Bolling noted in a 1994 eulogy of Trueblood, "He looked his audience straight in the eye, speaking without manuscript or notes, yet his words came out in carefully crafted and vivid sentences and paragraphs. He could close a session on the minute without using a timepiece. He once said, 'If you want people to come to hear you, you must stop on time.'"

Upon his retirement from Earlham in 1966 he was named "Professor at Large," a position he held until his death in 1994. He built a home on the Earlham campus where he lived until 1988 before moving to a retirement center in Pennsylvania. During those years he enjoyed the role of counselor and encourager to faculty, students and others who came to visit.

Selected Books by D. Elton Trueblood Available for Purchase

The People Called Quakers (1966)

Company of the Committed: A Manual of Action for Every Christian (1961)

The Predicament of Modern Man (1944) [used]

25 books by Elton Trueblood at Amazon.com [used]

Dozens of Titles by Elton Trueblood at Bookfinder.com

Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish is hosted online by ccel.us

   Much has been written about Abraham Lincoln as a statesman but little is stated about his personal salvation experience. Consider the following excerpt from a 1981 book on that subject....

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   All through his life God to him was not the god of the philosophers, but the God of Nancy Hanks Lincoln and of the Bible. Religion to him was not a philosophy, which he was to formulate, but a personal experience into which he was to enter, whereby he was to "confess his sins and transgressions in humble sorrow,' and trust in the mercy and grace of a Merciful God to forgive his sin and grant him a change of heart so he would become a child of God, and love God with all his heart. This his mother told him was the way by which she had come into the Kingdom of God at the camp meeting, and in this spirit her life had been lived before him. It had accompanied him as a pillar of cloud by day and a fire by night; and had always produced a powerful effect upon him. He had read his Bible, gone to church, and refrained from swearing, from drinking, and from tobacco in all its forms. Many a time, he said, he had found the courage to decline some tempting bribe, or resist some particularly insidious suggestion, because at that critical hour he heard his mother's voice repeating once more 'I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Yet, all this was not enough. He longed for complete acceptance with God so that he could know his sins were all forgiven and that he was God's son.

   He had sought God for this conversion experience night by night in the inquiry room during the revival meetings at the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield; in the parsonage of the First Methodist Church; also at Springfield, after Pastor Jacquess had preached on the text 'Ye must be born again' and under the nurse's directions, following Willie's passing. In appointing a National Fast Day, the President had stated plainly, "It is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon." Yet, seemingly, his faith had not been sufficient in attaining an entirely satisfactory conversion experience.

   The time came, however, when he told his friends, how the peace of heaven stole his heart. Said he: "When I left Springfield, I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son — the severest trial of my life — I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg, and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ."

Quoted from G. Frederick Owen, Abraham Lincoln: The Man and his Faith, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL., 1981, pp. 162-163

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