The work of Robert Peel (1909-1991) exemplifies the kind of serious yet accessible scholarship that the Fund seeks to support.
As American National Biography notes, Peel brought “both spiritual and scholarly values” to his work. He “bridged academic and religious communities, writing extensively on issues ranging from church history to theology and the relation of New Testament-based faith to modern scientific concerns.”
As the first serious biographer of Mary Baker Eddy “to use the extensive primary sources in the church’s archives,” the ANB continues, “Peel meticulously sorted through the mass of allegations in earlier polemical works to produce a more complex and spiritually compelling portrait of Eddy than either her antagonists or many of her followers had envisioned.” Reviewers of this massive three-volume study recognized Peel’s “masterful grasp of the cultural and intellectual forces of the era” (American Historical Review) as well as his crucial role in breaking “the barriers between apologists and critics” (Martin Marty, New York Times)
Peel’s work was the outgrowth of both thorough grounding in scholarly disciplines and a profoundly religious understanding of life. He touched on the latter in a sermon given at Cornell University’s Sage Chapel on October 23, 1977 :
“Some people seem infinitely confident of themselves, but confident…that they can accomplish anything that they set their hand to and that’s that. But for most of us there comes the sort of doubt in which we feel that whether we really can do that which is required of us. And I think at such a time we have to remind ourselves that we are all part of a vast joint enterprise, a joint enterprise of humanity, in a world that can all too easily look like a wilderness.
“We are really called, all of us, to an errand in the wilderness. The best that we can often do is to share out of our own experience some of that common ground that we all have, but which comes to us in unique ways in our own experience. It isn’t a matter of telling others what to do but of our sharing with each other something of what we have glimpsed at our own private little burning bushes. We can remind ourselves at such a time that underneath the complexities of life, there are great simplicities. And perhaps if we have the humility to receive those simplicities, we will be given our particular errand.”