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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. Randolph Taylor, May 23, 1985. Interview C-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Taylor's religious influences

Taylor's earliest influence intellectually and spiritually was his father. During his time studying at Aberdeen University under Archibald Hunter, Taylor found ways to mix his inherited desire to be both globally aware and locally involved with rigorous academic training.

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Oral History Interview with J. Randolph Taylor, May 23, 1985. Interview C-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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What writers and thinkers have influenced the development of your thought, Dr. Taylor?
The thinkers who have influenced my thought most significantly are persons with whom I was intimately associated or whom I knew personnaly. One, frankly, was my father, who was a very strong individual with pastoral instincts and a vision of the church that carried him to China as a missionary and then brought him back to this country, and he was in charge of our World Mission Program for some years. He was the dominant male influence in my life, I'm sure. He died in our home here in Charlotte about five years ago, and there's no question but that his writings, which were not great, but our conversations were a very, very substantial influence upon me. The professor in Aberdeen, Scotland, under whom I studied was Archibald M. Hunter, a New Testament scholar who has written extensively, and I had an almost ideal academic setting for graduate studies. I would covet that for you or for anybody involved. Dr. Hunter was in the United States just about the time I was graduating from Union Seminary in Richmond, and I had a fellowship and was going somewhere and didn't know where. And he suggested that I come and study with him up in Aberdeen and work on a project that he was fascinated with, and that is the rediscovery of a Scottish theologian named James Denney, so I agreed to do this. Arline and I arrived in Aberdeen, up in the northeastern part of Scotland. We were the first Americans to go there for graduate study. Dr. Hunter met our train and carried us to our flat and presented me with my books. He had been to all the used book stores and gotten all of James Denney's works, had already bought them and presented them to me and said, "Now this is your reading material. You can start tomorrow morning." And that began a period of about two and a half years when he and I were together every day, either for tea in the afternoon or for a game of golf or for just a walk through the city of Aberdeen or the hills around it, almost an ideal setting of one-on-one, and working together on a common interest, so that in retrospect that was a very fortunate experience for me. A.M. Hunter was a formative influence on my life. Through books, in terms of the field of theology and so forth, the most significant influences have been Karl Barth and Emil Bruner. Both of those are Continental theologians whose influence was pretty pervasive on my generation of theological students. In this country, supremely the Niebuhrs, Reinhold Niebuhr and Richard Niebuhr, were the influences in shaping my theology, but nothing quite so dominant as those personal contacts with those two strong individuals while I was growing up and in graduate study. The other person I'd have to mention is that man whose name I mentioned in terms of his work, James Denney, a man whom I never met but whom I know better than anybody [laughter] , because I spent those years of graduate study digging into his life and his mind and his times, and I find increasingly that has shaped a good bit of my thinking. The interesting thing about him was that he was a man ahead of his time, and he anticipated much of neo-orthodoxy and what you find, to some extent, in the work of the Niehuhrs was anticipated somewhat in Denny's work. Now I should also add, though, that when I came away from Scotland in '56, I was a Biblical scholar and a kind of teaching preacher.