August 18: William Porcher DuBose, Priest, 1918
August 18, 2010 17 Comments
Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.
About this commemoration
William Porcher DuBose, probably the most original and creative thinker the American Episcopal Church has ever produced, spent most of his life as a professor at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was not widely traveled, and not widely known, until, at the age of 56, he published the first of several books on theology that made him respected, not only in his own country, but also in England and France.
DuBose was born in 1836 in South Carolina, into a wealthy and cultured Huguenot family. At the University of Virginia, he acquired a fluent knowledge of Greek and other languages, which helped him lay the foundation for a profound understanding of the New Testament. His theological studies were begun at the Episcopal seminary in Camden, South Carolina. He was ordained in 1861, and became an officer and chaplain in the Confederate Army.
Doctrine and life were always in close relationship for DuBose. In a series of books he probed the inner meaning of the Gospels, the Epistles of Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. He treated life and doctrine as a dramatic dialogue, fusing the best of contemporary thought and criticism with his own strong inner faith. The result was both a personal and scriptural catholic theology. He reflected, as he acknowledged, the great religious movements of the nineteenth century: the Tractarianism of Oxford; the liberalism of F.D. Maurice; the scholarship of the Germans; and the evangelical spirit that was so pervasive at the time.
The richness and complexity of DuBose’s thought are not easily captured in a few words, but the following passage, written shortly before his death in 1918, is a characteristic sample of his theology: “God has placed forever before our eyes, not the image but the Very Person of the Spiritual Man. We have not to ascend into Heaven to bring Him down, nor to descend into the abyss to bring Him up, for He is with us, and near us, and in us. We have only to confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead—and raised us in Him—and we shall live.”
Collect of the Day
Almighty God, you gave to your servant William Porcher DuBose special gifts of grace to understand the Scriptures and to teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 1:11–14
Preface of the Epiphany
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.