Forecasting the future of religion in the 1920s: Ramsden Balmforth's post-orthodox prognostications
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Standing at the apogee of post-Protestant theological liberalism, the scholarly Unitarian minister Ramsden Balmforth, who served the Unitarian Church in Cape Town from 1897 until 1937, responded to a broad spectrum of issues affecting South African religious, political and economic life. Having been moulded by Fabian socialism in his native Yorkshire, however, and informed by the theology of such denominational fellows as Joseph Estlin Carpenter during his student years in Oxford, he remained relatively marginalised on the ecclesiastical landscape of South Africa. Despite this quasi-isolation, Balmforth sought in the late 1920s to predict the future of Christianity or religious life generally not only in his adopted homeland, but also on an international scale. In the present article his conceptualisation is analysed in the historical context of his theological liberalism generally, and a critique of his prognostications is offered which highlights Balmforth's failure to come to grips with the fact that his liberalism, which he regarded as a virtually inevitable product of cultural history, had failed to make nearly any inroads on the increasingly complex kaleidoscope of South African Christianity.
- Faculty of Theology