Charles S. Braden

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Charles S. Braden
Born(1887-09-19)September 19, 1887
OccupationHistorian of religion
EmployerNorthwestern University (1926–1954)
Known forStudy of new religious movements, particularly Christian Science and New Thought
Notable work

Charles Samuel Braden (19 September 1887 – 1970) was Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University. He joined the faculty in 1926 and held the professorship from 1943; he was awarded emeritus status in 1954.[1] Braden became known in particular for the study of new religious movements (NRM). His Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought (1963) remains the standard history of the New Thought family of NRMs.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Chanute, Kansas, to George Washington and Flora Birt Braden,[1] Braden obtained his A.B. in 1909 from Baker University, and his B.D. in 1912 from Union Theological Seminary.[3] He also spent time at Columbia University (1911–1912).[4] In 1914 he became a Methodist minister and undertook missionary work in Bolivia (1912–1915) and Chile (1916–1922), before completing a Ph.D. in practical theology in 1926 at the University of Chicago.[3][1] In 1943 he received a D.D. (doctorate of divinity) from Baker University.[3] Northwestern awarded him emeritus status in 1954.[1]


In 1926 he joined Northwestern as an assistant professor, becoming an associate professor in 1936 and professor in 1943.[1] He helped to move the university's religious studies department away from its focus on Christian biblical studies, and in 1927 created its first course on Buddhism.[5]

Braden also held visiting professorships at Scripps College in Claremont, California (1954–1956) and at the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas (1954 and 1959). In 1954 he held the Fondren lecturership at Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1957 was a faculty member at the Evangelica de Teologia in Buenos Aires.[1]

Braden married Grace Eleanor McMurray (1888–1951) in 1911.[4] The couple had two sons. He married LaVenia Craddock Ulmer (d. 1964) in 1956.[1]

Selected works[edit]

  • Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought, Southern Methodist University Press, 1963.
  • Christian Science Today: Power, Policy, Practice, Southern Methodist University Press, 1958.
  • Jesus Compared: A Study of Jesus and Other Great Founders of Religions, Prentice Hall, 1957.
  • War, Communism, and World Religions, Harper & Brothers, 1953.
  • The Scriptures of Mankind, An Introduction, The Macmillan Company, 1952.
  • These Also Believe: A Study of Modern American Cults and Minority Religious Movements, The Macmillan Company, 1949.
  • Man's Quest for Salvation, Willett, Clark & Company, 1941.
  • The World's Religions, A Short History, Abingdon Press, 1939.
  • Varieties of American Religion, Willett, Clark & Company, 1936.
  • with Gaius Glenn Atkins, Procession of the Gods, Harper & Brothers, 1936.
  • Modern Tendencies in World Religions, George Allen & Unwin, 1933.
  • Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico, Duke University Press, 1930.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Guide to the Charles S. Braden (1887-1970) Papers", Northwestern University.
  2. ^ Leigh Eric Schmidt, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, University of California Press, 2012, p. 307, footnote 8.
  3. ^ a b c Braden, Charles S. (1958). Christian Science Today: Power, Policy, Practice. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press. pp. front pages.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  4. ^ a b Kristen D. Turner and Mark C. Shenise, "Electronic Guide to the Papers of Grace McMurray and Charles Samuel Braden", General Commission on Archives and History of The United Methodist Church.
  5. ^ "Department history", Department of Religious Studies, Northwestern University.