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Storm of Words, Storm of Words, 0817318313, 0-8173-1831-3, 978-0-8173-1831-4, 9780817318314, , Religion and American Culture, Storm of Words, 0817387625, 0-8173-8762-5, 978-0-8173-8762-4, 9780817387624, , Religion and American Cultur

Storm of Words
Science, Religion, and Evolution in the Civil War Era
Monte Harrell Hampton

Trade Cloth
2014. 360 pp.
Price:  $59.95 s
E Book
2014. 360 pp.
Price:  $59.95 d

Storm of Words is a study of the ways that southern Presbyterians in the wake of the Civil War contended with a host of cultural and theological questions, chief among them developments in natural history and evolution.

Southern Presbyterian theologians enjoyed a prominent position in antebellum southern culture. Respected for both their erudition and elite constituency, these theologians identified the southern society as representing a divine, Biblically ordained order. Beginning in the 1840s, however, this facile identification became more difficult to maintain, colliding first with antislavery polemics, then with Confederate defeat and reconstruction, and later with women’s rights, philosophical empiricism, literary criticisms of the Bible, and that most salient symbol of modernity, natural science.

As Monte Harrell Hampton shows in Storm of Words, modern science seemed most explicitly to express the rationalistic spirit of the age and threaten the Protestant conviction that science was the faithful “handmaid” of theology. Southern Presbyterians disposed of some of these threats with ease. Contemporary geology, however, posed thornier problems. Ambivalence over how to respond to geology led to the establishment in 1859 of the Perkins Professorship of Natural Science in Connexion with Revealed Religion at the seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. Installing scientist-theologian James Woodrow in this position, southern Presbyterians expected him to defend their positions.

Within twenty-five years, however, their anointed expert held that evolution did not contradict scripture. Indeed, he declared that it was in fact God’s method of creating. The resulting debate was the first extended evolution controversy in American history. It drove a wedge between those tolerant of new exegetical and scientific developments and the majority who opposed such openness. Hampton argues that Woodrow believed he was shoring up the alliance between science and scripture—that a circumscribed form of evolution did no violence to scriptural infallibility. The traditionalists’ view, however, remained interwoven with their identity as defenders of the Lost Cause and guardians of southern culture.

The ensuing debate triggered Woodrow’s dismissal. It also capped a modernity crisis experienced by an influential group of southern intellectuals who were grappling with the nature of knowledge, both scientific and religious, and its relationship to culture—a culture attempting to define itself in the shadow of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Monte Harrell Hampton is visiting instructor of US history at North Carolina State University and a pastor in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.

"Delving deeping into significant manuscript collections and, in particular, the lively Presbyterian publications of the era, Hampton breaks new ground in this brilliant study."
The South Carolina Historical Magazine

“As Hampton’s fine book demonstrates, the issues at the heart of the Woodrow case—scriptural authority and interpretation, the interaction of cultural context and universal claims, and the proper relationship of science and religion—continue to resonate today, and this, Storm of Words makes an excellent read not just for historians, but for anyone engaged in our own contemporary culture wars.”
Reports of the National Center for Science Education

“ I am confident that Monte Hampton’s Storm of Words will quickly establish itself as the starting place for information about religion in the nineteenth-century South. It is a first-rate, thoroughly researched, gracefully written, and cogently argued study of southern, especially Presbyterian, responses to scientific developments in the nineteenth century, from antebellum geology and anthropology to the late-century controversies over evolution. Hampton not only provides a superb synthesis of what we already know but adds substantially to the story.”
— Ronald L. Numbers, author of The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design

“Thoroughly researched, persuasively presented, and stylistically engaging, this study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the interface between science and religion in the American South from the 1850s into the 1880s.” — Lester D. Stephens, author of Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815-1895

“Hampton reveals the links between theology, laboratory sciences, theories of evolution, and racial ideology in the culture wars that flared in the nineteenth-century South.  Storm of Words is impressive in all the important ways; it is a prodigious work of research and analysis that grapples with many of the major questions that beset nineteenth-century religion and science, and it is written in sparkling prose.”—W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory 

"Monte Hampton's sophisticated analysis of the religious history of Southern Christians wending their way through the challenges of the nineteenth century is a model of intellectual history. The ways in which the author shows how James Woodrow and his fellow ministers managed faith, orthodoxy, and science suggest how the history of ideas in the United States should always include the discourse of Southern intellectuals."—Donald Mathews, author of Religion in the Old South and Sex, Gender and the Politics of ERA

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