On a Sunday evening in February 1905, the Rev. Algernon Crapsey stood at the pulpit of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Rochester to deliver the 12th and final lecture in a series that had proven very popular.
He chastised the illogical thinking of Protestants who criticized all the other alleged miracles of the world’s religions except their own. He further suggested that: “A belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is no longer possible to an educated man, or for anyone in fact, who reads his Bible with reasonable intelligence and attention.”
What he said next was, to the hierarchy of his church, utterly unthinkable.
He challenged the notion that the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection from the dead were literal, actual occurrences.
“In the light of scientific research, the founder of Christianity no longer stands apart from the common destiny of man in life and death, but he is in all things physical like as we are, born as we are born, dying as we die, and both in life and death in the keeping of that same Divine Power, that Heavenly fatherhood, which delivers us from the womb and carries us down to the grave. When we come to know Jesus in his historical relations, we see that miracle is not a help, it is a hindrance, to an intelligent comprehension of his person, His character and his mission. We are not alarmed, we are relieved when scientific history proves to us that the fact of his miraculous birth was unknown to himself, unknown to his mother, and unknown to the whole Christian community of the first generation.”
Crapsey’s comments touched off a firestorm.