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Ernest John Chave

By Harold W. Burgess


(1886-1961) ERNEST JOHN CHAVE'S notable career in religious education spanned the entire second quarter of the twentieth century. In 1926 Ernest Chave joined the faculty of the University of Chicago where he served the profession with distinction until his retirement in1951. These years included the period when the Great Depression created havoc with the profession of religious education and decimated its professional organization, The Religious Education Association (REA). Early in his career Chave began to develop and articulate the point of view that he eventually called "the functional approach to religious education." His functional approach is an elegant statement of religious education theory that I have defined as a classical liberal perspective (Burgess). Because of his succinctly stated tenets coupled with his sacrificial support of the REA, Chave left an important mark on the shape and history of the Religious Education Movement, especially during the 1930s and 1940s when the Movement was struggling for a reason to be.


Ernest John Chave was born in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 1886 to William John Chave and Mary Hargreaves Chave. During his earlier years, Chave's father, William, ran a grocery store. The family developed world-wide horizons and eventually scattered from Woodstock. Ernest's brother Reginald became a businessman in Vancouver, British Columbia; his brother Elmer served as a civil engineer in India for all of his professional life. Ernest began his studies at Woodstock College and by the age of twenty had earned the Batchelor of Arts degree from McMaster University in Toronto. The University conferred upon him the Bachelor of Theology four years later. In 1911, he received a call to a Baptist pulpit in British Columbia. In that Province he served consecutively as the pastor of three Baptist Churches until 1917.

In 1918 Chave applied and was accepted for short-term work in France with the YMCA. While there he served as a volunteer ambulance driver and received a medal for his service.  Following a brief ministry in France he returned to Canada and married Frances Orth. The couple made immediate plans to go to India as missionaries. As a part of the process in moving to India, Frances had a physical exam that indicated she had TB. She died shortly thereafter in 1919. In 1920, while back in Vancouver serving as pastor of South Hill Baptist Church, Ernest married Winifred Mary Carruthers, a school teacher. Not long after his marriage to Winifred, the new family moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Chave's had three children: Margaret, born in 1922; Grant, born in 1924; and Keith, born in 1928. After Dr. Chave and his family moved to the Chicago area in 1926, they lived an active life not far from the University. During all of his time in Chicago, Ernest Chave was a member of the Hyde Park Baptist Church, a liberal church many of whose members were faculty and staff at the University of Chicago. The church was quite active in the university community and at least one of its pastors became Dean of the Chapel at the University (Fallers, 2005).

Margaret Fallers, Ernest Chave's daughter, records the following items that shed important light on Chave's life in Chicago: "My mother and my father came from Ontario, from a sober, serious, socially responsible Protestant heritage. They were hard working and frugal. Their early married life was one far from friends and relatives. There was a small group of Canadian expatriates at the University of Chicago (especially, William McNeill and family, and Professor W. A. Irwin and family of the Oriental Institute). It is hard for me to imagine the immense impact of WWI on both my mother and my father. In addition, in 1930, my brother Keith had polio which left him lame in one leg. This occasioned a burden of operations and treatments for years - treatments which were later considered to be unnecessary and ineffective. And then there was the Depression. However, it was a happy and secure family" (Fallers, 2006).


In 1920, Chave accepted a call from City Temple Baptist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sioux Falls was located advantageously for him to continue his academic work. He seems to have found time to complete a course of studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York and, eventually, his PhD at the University of Chicago by 1924. In 1926 Ernest Chave accepted an appointment to serve on the faculty of the University of Chicago in the Department of Religious Education of the Divinity School (Cole, 1961).

Not many names are attached to the relatively sparse account of Ernest Chave's development as a scholar, teacher, and author in the field of religious education. However, two giants in the academic and professional arena of Religious Education invested considerable time and energy in helping Chave develop the scholarly gifts that enabled him to leave his particular mark upon the Movement both in it's academic and it's professional expressions. Chave's daughter, Margaret Fallers, identifies Shailer Mathews, Dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, as the primary influence in moving Ernest along the path of scholarship, research, writing, and leadership in the field of religious education. Little is directly written by contemporaries about Mathew's influence on Chave. Nonetheless, the evidence supports the view that Mathews functioned as a kind of mentor to Chave during Ernest's student days and that, as Dean of the Divinity School, he actively recruited him as a faculty member and promoted him as a professional in the field of religious education (Schmidt). Shortly after Chave was added to the faculty of the Divinity School, Dean Mathews wrote "We have what is coming to be regarded, as it undoubtedly is, the best department of religious education in the United States" (Schmidt, 69). George Albert Coe also exerted a meaningful influence on Chave's thought. Coe's contribution to his development seems to have been through Chave's studies at Union Theological Seminary and contacts facilitated by their years together as members of the leadership and planning groups related to the Religious Education Association and by Chave's semi-regular visits to Columbia University in New York.

From the late 1920s until the early 1950s, Ernest Chave's signature was regularly attached to articles, reviews and reports in Religious Education and, to a lesser extent, in International Journal of Religious Education. His book reviews in Religious Education are essential reading for anyone wishing to gain a sense of the flow of the prevailing thought of the period. Chave's consistent perspective is a distinct advantage in that he offers the reader something of an insider's view in his analyses and evaluations of the mostly liberal book literature of the period. Perhaps even more important to historians of religious education are Chave's occasional reports in Religious Education relating to the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s and 1940s. For example his 1937 report might properly be titled, ["Deep debt --- shall we go on? Yes!"] (Religious Education, 32). This report offers insight into the troubles of the depression period that dampened the enthusiasm of many leaders in the Religious Education Association. (This report is printed in full below). Chave's special contribution to the Association during these two decades seems to have been a certain unflappable optimism that shines through a number of his reports and articles. At times his optimism waned, but his inner resources seem to have enabled him to recover and plan for the future. In his "In Memorium" to Ernest John Chave, Stewart Cole credits Chave together with Laird Hites as being the leaders whose "Spartan efforts" made it possible for the Religious Education Association to survive the "adverse period of financial and editorial trial" brought on by the Great Depression (Cole, 1961).

Chave wrote several books that played meaningful roles in the development of the psychological, philosophical, and leadership underpinnings of the prevailing educational theory of the Religious Education Movement as it entered the post-war world of the 1950s. His Personality development in children(1937) helped define human beings as related only to this present, space-time world. In it Chave developed a viewpoint that increasingly appeared in religious education literature of the period. This twofold theme, in brief, amounted to an argument that man [sic] is both an organism and a self. These factors are regarded as basic to the process that results in the creation of selfhood. They undergird the concept of man [sic] that regards human beings as organisms composed of (and characterized by) physical, mental, emotional and social attributes that together function as a single unit. In summary, the forces that work together to bring about a completed self are heredity, environment, and the growing self (Richey). In his 1931 book, The supervision of religious education, Chave developed the concepts that in the early 21st century might be presented under the rubric of leadership. Perhaps the most useful description of Chave's notion of leadership through supervision is this: Supervision "provides for shared evaluations; for mutual consideration of ideas, purposes, plans, and outcomes; for adjustments continually made as joint thinking shows the way. . . . The supervisor is not a superior officer but a specialized worker" (29). Edwin Farley's review of Supervision gives high praise for the potential of Chave's concepts to raise the level of teaching, especially by encouraging the teacher's attention to the student. (Farley, 177). The most influential of Chave's books is surely his A functional approach to religious education (1947).This book lays out in memorable fashion the elements of his philosophy and his approach to almost all issues in religious education. In brief, there are no gods, nor any God, to anchor Chave's philosophical perspective. Man [sic] (and in particular, teachers and learners) must not expect to find anything fixed or final in theology, customs, or institutions (Hermanson). Accordingly, a key goal of religious education is to help "everyone" realize that persons are to receive primary consideration. It follows that Chave,s ten stated aims of religious education call for the teacher to arrange such educational experiences as those that enable the student to realize, for example, (1) a sense of worth, (2) social sensitivity, and (3) appreciation of the universe. (Hermanson). In his review of A functional approach to religious education, Stewart G. Cole writes: In this book the author poses the basic issue in religious education for our times [1947]. What shall be the frame of reference, and how shall educators attempt to make that frame of reference effective in the experience of persons? Without evasion or compromise Chave has put a provocative thesis squarely before the reader. It is emotionally, morally and intellectually challenging. The author has broken with all forms of religious orthodoxy and pseudo-liberalism. He takes the position of an uncompromising spokesman for naturalism in religion and functionalism in religious education, and he enjoins these viewpoints providing a fresh orientation for religious education. A functional approach to religious education is the first introductory treatment of the grounds for this position. Such a book has been overdue for many years (Cole, 1947).

Ernest John Chave is clear about the naturalistic foundations of his approach. During the later years of his active career a number of significant theoretical changes were being proposed by new leaders of the religious education movement. Many of these changes were rooted in the yearnings for a return to a theology that took the bible and revelation seriously. Perhaps the most influential spokesperson for such a revised theoretical perspective was Randolph Crump Miller's. Miller struck a chord that moved numbers of theoreticians and practitioners to seriously consider the new perspective in his seminal work, The clue to Christian education (1950). Lewis Joseph Sherrill's longing for a new emphasis upon a dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit was developed in his The Gift of Power (1955) and James D. Smart's celebration of an interpersonal, spiritual dynamic was described in his The teaching ministry of the church (1954). For the greater part, such writers based their insights upon the brand of neo-orthodox thought generated by such thinkers as Karl Barth. Further, they proceeded with little reference to the liberalism of such theorists as Chave. James Smart merely pauses to observe that Chave was more consistent than others in carrying his liberal model through to its logical conclusion. Religious education theory, then, as it entered the decade of 1960s represented a sea-change from the standard expressions of theory a decade earlier. The "thought world" was vastly different from that demonstrated by Chave in his 1947 classic, A functional approach to religious education.

Religious education for liberal progressives: a statement and evaluations (Religious Education 45 (2) 67-100).

Perhaps the single most important source for understanding the role that Ernest John Chave played in the Religious Education Movement during the second quarter of the Twentieth Century is his brief but important article, Religious education for liberal progressives. This article was published, together with responses by seventeen colleagues, in 1950 toward the close of Chave's career.

Chave begins his article by establishing definitions for the three principal terms used in the title of the article: liberal, progressive, and religious education. By liberal, Chave means "open-minded to free inquiry in all phases of religion, with expectancy of growth in insights and refined achievements." The term progressive suggests to Chave such notions as experimental, desireous of improvement, and preparedness to act along lines of promise for human betterment. By religious education, Chave refers to a comprehensive program involving trained people seeking "to make developing moral and religious ideas and ideals meaningful and operative in personal-social living." "This is the day," he argues, "for religious liberals to assert themselves" and to prove their philosophy by integrating [it] into life, making "clear the growth process in all matters of morals and religion." Too many liberals, Chave suggests, fall short in that they lack the "moral fibre to follow their convictions." Liberals, then, must learn to take criticism in their efforts to get satisfactory answers to "ever changing problems of cosmic and human relationships." Such committed liberals, in Chave's vision must not be swayed by vague sentimental phrases and customs; rather they must move forward by analyzing religion into its "functional factors" so as to be able to clearly identify what is meant by the religious way, or likewise to be able to properly identify "spiritual attainments." Chave notes that he has attempted to do just this in his book, A functional approach to religious education (1947).

Chave then proceeds to summarize the ten categories developed in his book: sense of worth, social sensitivity, appreciation of the universe, discrimination in values, responsibility and accountability, cooperative fellowship, quest for truth and realization of values, integration of experience into a working philosophy, sense of historical continuity, and group celebration of values. The religious educator, in Chave's vision, might tailor these categories to his or her specific intentions. The educator would then proceed to diagnose the needs of learners. Then, in the light of the findings, proceed to plan experiences that would address the shortfall. In summary, then, Chave argues that "The possibilities of advance will not be realized by any wholesale preaching or evangelistic crusade but by a long time program of carefully planned educational procedures." To provoke thought and discussion on his thesis, Chave concludes the article by raising a number of questions that follow in abbreviated form. Does his analysis draw proper attention to the complex nature of religion? Is the difference between indoctrination and education clear? What is the secular function of the church in the social order? What kinds of materials for the curriculum are most needed? What place does worship have in religious education? And, where can liberal progressives find satisfactory outlets for their faith?

Seventeen of Ernest Chave's contemporaries submitted evaluative essays that were printed immediately following his article. A number of the evaluations gave praise to the ideas presented in Chave's article, others offered various kinds of criticism. George Coe, for example, judged Chave to be "on solid ground" and called for a yes-or-no response to the broadened naturalism he espoused. William Clayton Bower found positive value in Chave's approach that seeks to discover and develop moral and spiritual values that might contribute to the urgent demands of public education. While in basic agreement with the broad themes of Chave's article, Marguerite Harmon Bro thought Chave fell short of helping us find God in a way that fosters "joy and peace to well up in us as they did in the one we call his son." Stewart G. Cole saw Chave as a social idealist whose experientially conceived selection of ten criteria offer a meaningful basis for his enthusiastic and aggressive crusading. Gaines S. Dobbins offered his opinion that Chave's ten categories are not unique to liberals, but that they can be affirmed by progressive conservatives, such as himself. Dobbins challenged Chave to consider the fact and consequences of sin, so visible in our culture, and to bring back, again "the New Testament answer through the best possible means." Nevin C. Harner found much to commend Chave's thesis, but offered areas for "frank and friendly consideration." First, Harner believes Chave is to be faulted for too closely associating "liberalism" and "naturalism." Harner considers himself a "liberal" in the sense of following truth wherever it leads - but he does not come out at a naturalistic position at all. Second, he disagrees with Chave's reduction of God to a "name for integrating qualities of our universe which support personal-social values." Harner argues that the hypothesis that God is a person is more intellectually and religiously satisfying than the naturalist alternative. Third, Harner faults Chave's ten categories with "minimizing the intractable, selfish, sinful elements in human nature." Finally, Harner responds negatively to Chave's propensity to neglect any mention of Jesus or Christ in his educational proposals. Albeit, Chave does use such terms as "Christian and Christianity." In sum, Harner faults Chave for his presuppositions, while supporting his methodology. Hugh Hartshorne professed general agreement with the thrust of Chave's article, but noted the difficulty of identifying Chave's deity, particularly since his methodology leaves so little room to reflect upon such concepts

Ernest Chave was invited to respond to the seventeen evaluations of his article that appeared in Religious Education 45 (2) 67-100. He did so in a letter that was published in Religious Education, 45 (3), 131-132. In his response, Chave celebrated the "experiment in cooperative thinking" and noted the general agreement with his proposal regarding the "functional analysis of religion." He identifies the "concept of God" as a principal problem and a divisive factor. Chave appreciatively recognized the general recognition of spiritual forces that operate independently of ecclesiastical authority, noting also the agreement on the need for both individual and group approaches in religious education. Chave also comments that the seventeen evaluators "found it easier to take a pot shot at Chave than to express ‘their own basic concepts of religious education.'" He summarizes his "evaluation of the evaluations" by reflecting upon areas that invite cooperation and suggesting that such interactions as recorded here might occur more frequently.

Contributions to Christian Education

Works Cited

  • (2006). Fallers, Margaret. Letter to the author providing additional important details.
  • (2005). Fallers, Margaret. Letter to the author providing essential details of Chave's life. Fallers is Ernest John Chave's daughter
  • (2000). Burgess, Harold W. Models of religious education: in historical and contemporary perspective. (Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press).
  • (1983). Schmidt, Stephen A. A history of the Religious Education Association. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • (1961). Stewart G.Cole. In memoriam. Religious Education, 56 (6), 402.
  • (1960). Richey, Everett E. A comparative study of selected educational philosophers. A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the Iliff School of Theology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Theology [in the] Department of Religious Education.
  • (1955). Lewis Joseph Sherrill. The gift of power. (New York: Macmillan).
  • (1954). James D. Smart. The teaching ministry of the church. (Philadelphia: Westminster).
  • (1952). Hermanson, Robert F. The functional concept of religious education of Ernest J. Chave compared and contrasted with the teachings and practice of Jesus. A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology in The Biblical Seminary in New York.
  • (1950). Chave's evaluation of the evaluations. (Seventeen individuals made evaluative responses to Chave's article Religious Education for liberal progressives. Here Chave evaluates the evaluations, thus providing considerable insight into the times and into his own thought process). Religious Education, 45 (3), 131-132.
  • (1950). Ernest John Chave. Religious education for liberal progressives: a statement and evaluations. (Religious Education 45 (2) 67-100).
  • (1950). Randolph Crump Miller. The clue to Christian education. (New York: Scribner's).
  • (1947). Ernest John Chave. A functional approach to religious education. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • (1947). Cole, Stewart G. [Review of the book A functional approach to religious education]. Religious Education, 42 (4), 252.
  • (1937). The R.E.A. must go on (this article provides important insights into the depression environment in which Chave urged continuation of the R. E. A.). Religious Education, (32 (3), 242.
  • (1937). Ernest John Chave. Personality development in children. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • (1932). Farley, Edwin. [Review of the book Supervision of Religious Education]. Religious Education, 27 (2), 177.
  • (1931) Ernest John Chave. Supervision of religious education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


Books By Ernest John Chave

  • (1947). A functional approach to religious education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • (1942). The unified curriculum. (Libraries Worldwide).
  • (1939). Measure religion; fifty-two experimental forms. Chicago: the University of Chicago bookstore.
  • (1938). Personality development in children. Chicago: the University of Chicago press.
  • (1931). The supervision of religious education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • (1929-1933). Instructions for using the attitude scale. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press.
  • (1929). The measurement of attitude. L. L. Thurstone and E. J. Chave. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • (1925). The junior: life situations of children nine to eleven years of age. L. L. Thurstone and E. J. Chave. Chicago: University of Chicago press.
  • (1920). Religious education and the development of social attitudes. Chicago: University of Chicago dissertation.

Articles, Reviews, Reports by Ernest John Chave

  • (1956). [Review of the book Educational measurement]. Religious Education. 51 (1), 73.
  • (1955). [Review of the book The ways and power of love]. Religious Education, 50 (1), 71-73.
  • (1953). A functional approach to religious education. Religious Education, 48 (6), 393-396.
  • (1952). Joseph Manson Artman (1879-1952). Religious Education, 47 (6), 370.
  • (1952). In memorium to George Albert Coe (1862—1951): contributions to the Religious Education Association. ReligiousEducation, 47 (2), 71-76.
  • (1951). Thought contributions of Harrison Sackett Elliott. Religious Education, 46 (5), 262-263.
  • (1951). Evaluation: moral and spiritual values in the public schools (one of a series of fifteen evaluations in this journal). Religious Education, 46 (4), 207-212.
  • (1950). [Review of the book Quaker education in theory and practice]. Religious Education, 45 (4), 247-248.
  • (1950). [Review of the symposium: goals for American education]. Religious Education, 45 (4), 147-248.
  • (1950). Creative curriculum construction for moral and religious education. Religious Education, 45 (3), 152-158.
  • (1950). Chave's evaluation of the evaluations. (Seventeen individuals made evaluative responses to Chave's article Religious Education for liberal progressives. Here Chave evaluates the evaluations, thus providing considerable insight into the times and into his own thought process). Religious Education, 45 (3), 131-132.
  • (1950). Religious education for liberal progressives: a statement. Religious Education, 45 (2) 67-72.
  • (1949). [Review of the book The high school teacher's job]. Religious Education, 44 (5), 310
  • (1948). [Review of the book The school and the American social order]. Religious Education, 43 (3), 182.
  • (1948). [Review of the privately printed manuscript Factors affecting the religious of college students]. Religious Education, 43 (4), 253.
  • (1947). Evaluation report: The relations of religion to public education. Religious Education, 42 (3), 187-190.
  • (1947). [Review of the book Foundations of the measurement of values]. American Sociological Review, 12 (2) 237.
  • (1947). Religion in general education. Journal of General Education, 1 (July), 301-308.
  • (1945). [Review of the book Christian emphasis in the Y.M.C.A. program]. Religious Education, 40 (3), 179-180.
  • (1945). [Review of the book The Christian mission of our day]. Religious Education, 40 (2), 117.
  • (1944). Today and tomorrow in religious education. Religious Education, 39 (4), 225-249.
  • (1944). [Review of the book School and church: the American way]. Religious Education, 39 (4), 249.
  • (1944). [Review of the book Missionary studies]. Religious Education, 39 (1), 57.
  • (1943). [Review of the book Inter-cultural education in American schools]. Religious Education, 38 (5), 340-341.
  • (1943). [Review of the book The subnormal adolescent girl]. Religious Education, 38 (4), 272.
  • (1943). An experimental curriculum for a church school. Religious Education, 38 (3), 180-187.
  • (1943). [Review of the Friendship Press program guides for studies on Latin America]. Religious Education, 38 (1), 60.
  • (1943). [Review of the book The small community]. Religious Education, 38 (1), 58-59.
  • (1943). [Review of the book Youth considers the heavens]. Religious Education, 38 (1), 58.
  • (1942). A letter from the president of the R.E. A. (topic, religious resources). Religious Education, 37 (4), 258.
  • (1942). Report. The Columbus, Ohio annual meeting. Religious Education, 37 (2), 66-68.
  • (1942). [Review of the book Christian education units prepared for the Protestant Episcopal Church]. Religious Education, 37 (2), 131.
  • (1942). [Review of the book Youth work in the church]. Religious Education, 37 (3), 183-184.
  • (1941). An apostle to the diaspora. Religious Education, 36 (1), 2.
  • (1940). Interrelationships of religion and democracy. Religious Education, 35 (3), 148-151.
  • (1940). [Review of the book When children ask]. Religious Education, 35 (2), 120.
  • (1939). [Review of the dissertation A study of some factors making for continued participation of individuals in the program of a city church with particular attention to the adolescent-adult transition]. Religious Education, 34 (1), 51.
  • (1938). [Review of the three books Listen and learn, Outposts of the public school, and Educational experiments in social settlements]. Religious Education, 33 (3), 234.
  • (1938). High school experiences affecting personality. Religious Education, 33 (3), 131-143.
  • (1938). [Review of the book Can parents educate one another? Religious Education, 33 (2), 125.
  • (1938). [Review of the two books The church and the family and church education for family life]. Religious Education, 33 (1), 53.
  • (1938). [Review of the book Personality development in children]. American Sociological Review, 3 (1) 141.
  • (1937). [Review of the book Christianity and communism]. Religious Education, 32 (4), 289.
  • (1937). [Review of the book Religion in transition]. Religious Education, 32 (4), 242.
  • (1937). The R.E.A. must go on (this article provides important insights into the depression environment in which Chave urged continuation of the R. E. A.). Religious Education, (32 (3), 242.
  • (1937). [Review of the book Personality and depression]. Religious Education, 32 (3), 231.
  • (1937). [Review of the book The local church: its purpose and program]. Religious Education, 32 (3), 227.
  • (1937). [Review of the book The anatomy of frustration]. Religious Education, 32 (2), 152.
  • (1937). [Review of the book Character and Christian education]. Religious Education, 31 (1), 64-65.
  • (1936). [Review of the handbook Plain talk, the national home library]. Religious Education, 31 (4), 317.
  • (1936). [Review of the book Women after forty]. Religious Education, 31 (3), 231.
  • (1936). Report of the executive committee of the R. E. A. to the president. Religious Education, 31 (2), 144.
  • (1936). Progress in the R. E. A.: Report of a meeting of the Board of Directors. Religious Education, 31 (1), 3.
  • (1935). [Review of the book Organizations for youth]. 30 (2), 153.
  • (1935). [Review of the book The junior department of the church school]. 30 (2), 157.
  • (1935). [Review of the book The foundations of human nature]. Religious Education, 30 (2), 153.
  • (1935). Report from the Rochester convention (an important report in which Chave discusses issues relating to the Great Depression and the status of the Religious Education Association together with related matters). Religious Education, 30 (1), 3-4.
  • (1933). [Review of the book A study of the teacher personnel of Hunterton, Morris, Sussex, and Warren counties, New Jersey]. Religious Education, 28 (5) 407.
  • (1932). [Review of the book Parents and sex education]. Religious Education, 27 (10), 941.
  • (1932). [Review of the book Steps upward in personality]. Religious Education, 27 (6), 657.
  • (1932). [Review of the book Junior's method in the church school]. Religious Education, 27 (3), 264-268.
  • (1932). Measuring the worship experiences of youth. International Journal of Religious Education, 8 (5), 21, 22, 48.
  • (1932). Measurement of ideas of god. Religious Education, 27 (3), 252-254.
  • (1932). Warnings in the use of objectives. International Journal of Religious Education, 9 (2), 11-12.
  • (1932). [Review of the book Through early childhood]. Religious Education, 27 (1), 89.
  • (1932). Thirty years of teacher training. Religious Education, 27 (1), 56-60.
  • (1931). [Review of two books Biblical information in religion to character and The character value of the old testament stories], Religious Education, 26 (7), 682-683.
  • (1931). What is an adequate conception of God? International Journal of Religious Education, 7 (7), 16, 17, 43.
  • (1931). [Review of the book Factors other than intelligence that affect success in high school]. Religious Education, 26 (5), 489.
  • (1931). [Review of the book Educational achievement in relation to intelligence]. Religious education, 26 (3), 231.
  • (1931). [Review of the book Social determinants in juvenile delinquency], 26 (2), 186.
  • (1930). [Review of the book What is Christian education?]. Religious Education, 15 (2), 169.
  • (1929). The present status of tests and measurements in religious education. International Journal of Religious Education, 5 (8), 20.
  • (1928). A church school library. International Journal of Religious Education, 4 (4), 16..

Articles, Books, Dissertations about Ernest John Chave:

  • (1961). Stewart G.Cole. In memoriam. Religious Education, 56 (6), 402.
  • (1960). Richey, Everett E. A comparative study of selected educational philosophers. A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the Iliff School of Theology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Theology [in the] Department of Religious Education.
  • (1952). Hermanson, Robert F. The functional concept of religious education of Ernest J. Chave compared and contrasted with the teachings and practice of Jesus. A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology in The Biblical Seminary in New York.


  • (1947). Cole, Stewart G. [Review of the book A functional approach to religious education]. Religious Education, 42 (4), 252.
  • (1940). Nelson, Erland. [Review of the book Student attitudes toward religion]. Genetic Psychology, 1940, 22pp. pp. 323-423.
  • (1932). Farley, Edwin. [Review of the book Supervision of Religious Education]. Religious Education, 27 (2), 177.

Excerpts from Publications

Chave, E.J. (1947). A functional approach to religious education. Chicago: The University Chicago Press.

Perhaps Ernest Chave's most widely quoted passages are from chapter one of his magnum opus, A functional approach to religious education. Selections from this chapter appear below in somewhat abbreviated form so as to make possible a relatively wide selection.
Religion is old and ever changing in its concepts and practices. It represents a persistent outreach on the part of man for meanings and values to inspire and to guide him in his restless search for a fuller and more satisfying life. . . . As the cultures of all nations meet and mingle in this modern age of free intercommunication, it is to be hoped that basic religious ideas and prevailing customs may be subjected to critical examination and fearless reshaping. . . . Religious education cannot look backward to its message, methods, or incentives but must find them in the growing present. Once ox carts served men's needs, and in some parts of the world they do today. But in an age when airplanes crisscross the skies in global encirclements, most people prefer the twentieth-century means of travel. . . . Here, as elsewhere it is quite evident that that which functioned satisfactorily in one age may be utterly inadequate for another. Those who sentimentally sing, "'Tis the old-time religion, and its good enough for me," and who seek to perpetuate prescientific ideas of revelation, inspiration, salvation, worship, and education fail to appreciate the values in cumulative learnings of the centuries. . . . Religious education must cease to be the tool of conservatism, indoctrinating immature minds with outgrown ideas and futile customs. It must stimulate creative thought, restructuring concepts of God, redefining spiritual objectives, and reorganizing religious programs. It must identify the pervasive growth qualities of religion and find ways of making it effective on a world scale in the varied and complex relationships of life. . . . Salvation ceases to be a bargaining process between a condemned sinner and a fearful judge who can be satisfied only by a dramatic sacrifice. . . . Progress is being made, but it is a slow process, for there is no miraculous way of saving people. They must learn by experience (1-12).
In this book we aim, therefore, to do these specific things, as we set forth what we believe are the most promising trends in modern religious education:
1. To make plain what is meant by a functional, dynamic, and naturalistic view of religion, and of religious education, in contrast to the theologically centered and artificially limited set of ideas and practices propagated by indoctrinating methods.
2. To show how a functional approach makes use of the best learnings of both the past and the developing present and how it enlarges and refines the ideas, ideals, and practices of historical religion.
3. To indicate how sectarianism may be transcended, showing how churches and leaders with vision, ready to operate on a functional basis, may play an important role in unifying the spiritual forces of modern society and in elevating standards in all phases of life.
4. To show how responsibility may be distributed in seeking to make religious ideas and ideals operative in a growing fashion, at all age levels, in all areas of common life, and on a world scale.
5. To present a unified functional curriculum which has been tried out for several years in varied types of churches, which may be suggestive for the modification and enrichment of existing church-school programs.
6. To suggest how religion may become an integral part of general education, without violating the spirit of the Constitution regarding separation of church and state, when a functional view of religion is used and its primary goals are kept clear of sectarian controversies.
7. To encourage religious leaders discontented with existing conditions to co-operate in experimental studies, to seek alliance with like-minded persons, and to find faith in the possibilities of creative development (15-16). "
(1937) The R.E.A. must go on (This report provides important insights into the depression environment in which Chave urged continuation of the R. E. A. The report also gives some sense of the steadying role Chave played during the difficult Depression Years). Religious Education, (32 (3), 242. When the Executive Committee found the income slowing down this fall they felt it was time to discover whether the members of the Board and other old time friends felt the time had come for the Association to quit. An organization cannot run without money even when it has no field secretary to support. Receipts were not sufficient to justify the committee in going ahead with the publication of the fall number of Religious Education, and they had no authority to go into debt. A questionnaire was sent out, and special meetings of the Board were held in New York and Chicago. Difficulties were frankly faced but there was almost unanimous agreement that the Religious Education Association was needed and must go on. A Chicago committee has been appointed to build up current income so that the journal can be issued regularly, and office expenses met without delay. An eastern committee has volunteered to liquidate the old debt and already an excellent start has been made in pledges by members of the Board. A hundred persons agreeing to pay ten dollars a year could clean up the debt and give us a chance to move forward on a new basis. It has been decided to dispense with the 1938 Annual Convention and to focus attention on district meetings. Only a small portion of our members can attend the Convention but groups may be formed anywhere. We need conferences on various subjects, and we need experimentation and research which only small numbers can handle. McKibben and Marriott have some excellent plans underway for the program membership committees and will be heard from repeatedly. Give them a good hearing and response. For thirty-five years we have don pioneering work. It has had wide influence. There is greater need today for the Religious Education Association than at any time in its history. Young leaders need to be enlisted, a wider circle of friends made, and issues critical to religion and education met in constructive, cooperative, creative fashion. The R.E.A. moves into a new day.

  • (1950). Religious education for liberal progressives: a statement. Religious Education, 45 (2) 67-72. This is very important reading for gaining a perspective on Chave's understanding of the role and future of religious education.
  • (1947). A functional approach to religious education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. By almost any measure, this is the most important of Chave's writings. Not only is it a competent introduction to his approach, it is perhaps the best statement available about the philosophical and educational underpinnings of the Religious Education Movement toward the end of its heyday.
  • (1947). Religion in General Education. Journal of general education. 1 (July), 301-305. An excellent summary of Chave's chief concerns presented for a different readership than his usual articles for religious educators.
  • (1944). Today and tomorrow in religious education. Religious Education, 39 (4), 225-249.

Author Information

Harold W. Burgess

Harold W. Burgess, Ph.D., Notre Dame, is Emeritus Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is best known for his widely used textbook,Models of Religious Education. Burgess's most recent contribution to the field isThe Role of Teaching in Sustaining the Church(Bristol House, Ltd., 2004).