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Paul Herman Vieth

By Sophia R. G. Steibel


Dr. Paul Herman Vieth (1895-1978): A Protestant, German Evangelical, he incarnated for over fifty years Christian education as a theorist and as a practitioner. He is best known by his contributions toward formulating objectives for Christian education and their role in mediating a balanced, approach to Christian education. He emphasized the importance of both content and experience, but never shifting from Bible-centered to an exclusive pupil-centered approach, prevalent of his day and time. Throughout his writings one notices a definite emphasis on a theological rather than an anthropological starting point for Christian education.


Early Life and Education

Paul Herman Vieth was born on January 18, 1895 (Vieth, 2002), in a farm near Warrenton, Missouri. He grew up in "a German Evangelical Church, which later became a part of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (and in 1957 the United Church of Christ)" (Kathan, 1978, S-149). While still in Missouri, he belonged to the Evangelical Synod, but when he moved to Connecticut, at Yale, he joined the Congregational Christian Church, which later emerged as the United Church of Christ (Vieth, 2003).

His higher education began at Central Wesleyan College (in Warrenton) where he earned an A.B. in 1917 (Taylor, 1960, 436). As a junior in college, he became the secretary of a country Sunday School Association, which was under the tutelage of the old International Sunday School Association. "The day after graduation" he joined the staff of the Missouri Sunday school Association first as a field worker and then as its General Secretary, resigning after about six years to pursue graduate work at Yale University. While studying at Yale, he was involved in the organization of the New Haven Council of Religious Education. Even before graduation, he was called to the National Council as Director of Research and Service (Vieth, 1963, 2). In 1924 he received his B.D. degree from Yale cum laude (Williams, 1964, 21). He earned a PhD. from Yale in 1928.

Vieth recalled that those years were turbulent. There was a battle going on between "the International Sunday School Association and the International Sunday School Council of Evangelical Denominations" which was settled by the creation of the "International Council of Religious Education" in 1922 (Vieth, 1963, 2). In 1925 he joined the staff of the International Council of Religious Education, to which he much contributed with written research, one being his famous title Objectives in Christian Education (1930), "an outgrowth of an immense study which involved the collecting of thousands of case studies of behaviorial (sic) situations" from church schools across North America (Kathan, 1978, S-150). This "immense study" was his doctoral dissertation, and the Objectives in Christian Education represented a "condensed version of portions of the dissertation, leaving out substantial and sophisticated (for the times) discussions of research methodology and theoretical reflection" (Melchert, 2003). While he was serving in the International Council he also served as the Chairman of the International Journal of Religious Education for six years (Williams, 1964, 21).

Since the field of "Religious Education" was in its infancy, Vieth captured the vision of articulating clearly the task at hand, as he stated, "The aim has arrived in the development of religious education when an effort should be made to formulate and summarize the best thinking concerning its fundamental aims…to providing a point of departure for a new impetus and development of constructive thought…" (Vieth, 1930). But he was not alone in this concern. The already referred 1930 title, Objectives in Christian Education, represented the views of a plethora of religious educators who were members of the International Council and who equally subscribed to clear objectives. Little emphasized that Vieth was reporting on the work of the community, i.e., "he was the key person to organize it," and that these objectives became a formative factor for over forty years, mediating a balanced approach to Christian education" (Little, 2002). Melchert emphasized that "the diversity of their views is what required Vieth to forge something of a consensus" (Melchert, 2003). Thus Vieth represented leadership in the field, as one who was able to articulate a diversity of views and yet retain an "independent position, even a new position" (Little, 1964, 207 and Little, 2002). As such, he was indeed a catalytic leader for the years that followed.

In 1931 Vieth resigned from the International Council and took a teaching post at Duke seminary. A year later he went to Yale, where he spent the rest of his academic career (Williams, 1964, 21). At Yale, he first became the Director of field Work and Associate Professor of Religious Education. Then, in 1939 he became the Horace Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture, a very appropriate position, since one of his passions was to acknowledge the importance of the family and its role in religious education. He held this title until his retirement in 1963. In addition, he developed a Visual Education Service at Yale Divinity School to help faculty, students, and churches in the area. He co-authored Visual aids in the Church (1946), and offered the first seminary course ever on audio-visual education (Kathan, 1978, S-150).

Although devoting most of his energy to Yale, Vieth remained connected to the International Council, chairing the Educational Commission, and being influential in the formulation of educational policies of the Council. "His most distinguished service was probably the direction of 'The study of Christian Education,' which formulated a new statement of basic philosophy and policy, reconciling the viewpoint of The Curriculum Guide of the twenties with trends in basic thinking going on in the churches during the thirties" (Williams, 1964, 21). Actually this work became a published title, i.e., The Church and Christian Education, and it was an "attempt to reconcile earlier religious education theory with new theological and biblical insights" (Kathan, 1978, S-150). Sara Little considered this book Vieth's masterpiece in which he provided a historical background and gave direction for the future (2002). For James D. smart this "book" exposed the controversial nerve that had divided Christian educators over the years, i.e., whether or not to embrace "the optimistic liberation of Coe or Chave" (1976, 65).

This controversial nerve was well illustrated by Vieth's historical review presented at the dinner of the Professors and Research Section of the Division of Christian Education, National council of Churches on February 13, 1963. In this document, among other things, he told of a two-part presentation in 1939. The first part was led by Harrison S. Elliott and discussed by W. C. Bower under the title of "A Naturalistic Philosophy of Religious Education." The counter part was offered by H. Shelton Smith on "Revelation and Classic Supernaturalism as a Philosophical Basis for religious Education." Vieth cited Ernest Ligon's comments, "Well, I certainly remember that. I was there. It was certainly the hottest meeting of the Professors Section we ever had. We didn't quite get to fisticuffs, but there were moments when it looked as if we might. Never forget it as long as I live. Very exciting, and nobody went home early!" (Vieth, 1963, 13). In the same document he shows that Elmer G. Homrighausen acknowledged how G. A. Coe "warned the religious educators against the theological emphases of the Oxford and Edinburgh Conferences." Homrighausen, who was pleased with the new direction, said Coe proclaimed "the end of religious education" if Edinburgh's view would become prevalent (Vieth, 1963, 13).

However, this controversial report illustrates precisely Vieth's ability to work with a "polemic theological tone" rather than Vieth's determination to claim one and only theological stand. For Melchert, Vieth "having worked for years among Christians who espoused differing theological orientation, never assumed there could be such a singular thing as 'a true theology," and thus he argued Christians must find ways to work together despite those differences…" (Melchert, 2003).

Vieth's career, nevertheless, went beyond controversy. Three times he rendered services in Japan. The first time was from 1947-1948. He served as the advisor on religious education with the religion division, civil information and education section staff of General Douglas MacArthur. According to Kathan, he was to formulate "long-range policies for the purpose of implementing the religious objectives of the supreme commander in regard to the reorganization and redirection of religious education in the Japanese educational system" (1978, S-149). Little recognized this assignment as a great honor for Vieth (2002).

The second visit to Japan was from 1954 to 1955, when he served as the Fulbright professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo (Williams, 1964, 21). Lastly, in 1958, he went to Japan to participate in "the 14th assembly of the world Council of Christian Education function as the dean of the World Institute on Christian Education and to serve as dean of the World Institute on Christian Education" (Kathan 1978, S-149). Taylor said he was given a Hum. D. from the St. Paul's University in Tokyo at this time (Taylor, 1960), 436).

Another part of his career was editorial work. From-to 1959-60, 1966-76, and 1970 he acted as the editor of the journal Religious Education, a position held by his Yale colleague, Randolph Crump Miller, while Miller was on sabbaticals (Kathan S-150).

After retirement he did all but stop working. He was involved in multiple activities such as setting up a continuing education program at Yale (Little, 2002), and serving as the visiting Professor at Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, where he taught two courses in Christian Education. He was an avid participant on ministers' and directors' workshops; and he worked intensely in churches. In 1964 he delivered the 1964 Rufus Jones lecture at a Society of Friends workshop. In this speech he had only fifty years of rich Christian education experiences to share! He reviewed his time-line from age eighteen, when he became the Sunday School superintendent member of the Evangelical Synod of North America, until then. Also, a masterpiece was produced in his 1965 title, Worship in Christian Education, in which he elaborated the very item he identified as missing in his 1930 analysis of what comprised the movement of religious education, i.e, worship or "the relation of the individual Christian to God" (Vieth, 1930, 62).

Overall, Paul H. Vieth is best described as a theoretician and a practitioner. He held an envious balance, desired by all. Randolph Crump Miller recognized in him one who "was always concerned about the educational work in the congregation" (Miller, 1990, 861). Sara Little, who treasured his mentorship, said, "Vieth did not try to persuade people that he was right…He did not sit back and tell people what to do. He spoke and wrote on those things that were important, and which he had acted upon and evaluated…He did not bother to get caught up in fads…He was a keen analyst, very much aware of his time, but he did not operate by the latest fad. To me planning and doing religious education by the latest fad is irritating and irresponsible…Vieth would have thought so" (Little, 2002).

But he did persuade many by the integrity of his teachings and writings. Lillian Williams attempted to acknowledge from Vieth the paths of many who in turn served as college or seminary professors (in the U.S. and abroad), church Christian educators, council or committee members, curriculum editors and designers and the like (22).

Vieth died in 1978 in a retirement center in Pennsylvania (Little, 2002), but at Yale his legacy carry the deserving honor of "Professor Emeritus." In his writings he had a reoccurring theme, i.e., as teachers we are "to learn" our students. He told of the note from a "poor washwoman," whose son had been perceived as lacking hygiene, "I want you to learn Johnny, not smell him!" (Vieth, 1929, 78-79). Vieth saw in that note a lesson for all teachers, i.e., "through her error in grammar she had unintentionally given the teacher a bit of sound advice. To learn Johnny is exactly what every teacher must do…" (79).

Immersed in an ideology greater than self and yet aware of his own limitations, he thought of tomorrow as a time when others would "laugh" at his "crude and archaic ideas" (Vieth, 1929, 27). It was far from it. We stand in the presence of a giant, who by word and deed left a legacy worthy of consideration. We will do well if we take the time "to learn" from him!

Contributions to Christian Education

Paul H. Vieth "is, indeed, a symbol of Christian education as it has developed in the twentieth century" (Little, 1964, 202). His theological pronouncements in the mid-1940's may have been defined as "vague" by some critics (Smart, 1976, 65), or just a "summary" by others (Wyckoff, 1960, 104), but it does place him as a spotlight, which led other critics to see his theological emphasis in Christian education as distinctive enough to be termed "a movement" (Little, 1961, 12 and Burgess, 2001, 113). This perception became stronger when realized that Vieth was a spokesman for prominent Protestant educators, who aimed at reconciling "the social-cultural approach of the liberals with neorthodox theology" (Elias, 2002, 173). Little heard in his voice a move from "a self-critical modern religious education" to "Christian education, rooted within the Christian community and explainable only in terms of the Christian heritage" (Little, 1961, 12).

One could argue that throughout his writings (whether his or reporting on others), Vieth did not have a clear theological articulation. "At this time there was not a demand for a theological stand as there is one today" (Little, 2002). However, if read consistently and carefully, the reader can see a continuity of thought and a strong emphasis on the role of the divine initiative and revelation in the process of "growing persons." For Melchert, Vieth was consistent across time with a theological view for Christian education (Melchert, 2003), and whatever he wrote reflected the thinking of committee members, not necessarily his own only.

Through research three reasons have surfaced to substantiate Vieth's involvement as part of a new movement in Christian education of the twentieth century and his leadership therein.

The first reason to perceive Vieth's contribution to a new movement in Christian education in the twentieth century is where he stands in regard to a religious education starting point. Miller identified at the time a shift in centering-from "man" to "God" (Miller, 1956, 54). How does Vieth relate to this centering? In the beginning of his career through the International Council of Religious Education Vieth was involved, along with others, in the project of writing objectives for religious education. L. J. Sherrill identified Objective in Religious Education (1930) as "a landmark" or that which "deeply influenced" programs in the denominations thereafter (Sherrill, 1963, 198). As influential as this work might have been, in it Vieth was careful to convey the views of his colleagues from a variety of theological backgrounds. Thus he may have reported a liberal or a more conservative view on the same page. But that changed as the years progressed.

By the early 1940's, his involvement with the "Study of Christian Education," which was published as The Church and Christian Education (1947), became an orientation for a Christian education which addressed more than morality or a human production, rather, as highlighted by Sara Little, it addressed a Christian education "divinely given" and grounded in revelation that went beyond "noble insights" (Little, 1961, 23. Melchert argues that this apparent shift was not so for Vieth. All along Vieth advocated divine initiative. If in Objectives in Religious Education he reported the views of many, Vieth was affirming the work of a diverse committee as well as his ability to interact within such diverse views. It is not that Vieth's theological views had changed, "while it may have been 'new' for some, it was not for Vieth […] Vieth's genius lay in his ability to present the work of others both faithfully and comprehensively, harmonizing diverse views into a more unified whole…" (Melchert, 2003).

Since the 1947 work followed the same procedures, i.e., reporting on the views of many educators, could it be that the views of committee members had become more unilateral in recognizing the role of theology in religious education? Vieth had been greatly influenced by L.A. Weigle, whose quotations in the 1930 work had endorsed divine initiative in religious education. Could it be that Vieth as well as other educators now expressed this theological endorsement more clearly and as in one voice? Perhaps further research is needed to validate this premature conclusion.

Vieth's (and others) theological convictions can further be seen in the definition provided in the Church and Christian Education (1947): "Christian education is the process by which persons are confronted with and controlled by the Christian gospel" (52). At that point he acknowledged the contribution of natural sciences for understanding the person, but such did not resolve the human alienation brought by the illusion of the "modern science and the machine age" (57), which created a faulty reality. He clearly revealed his view of the human predicament, i.e., "man cannot effect his own deliverance," and its one option as "depend upon resources beyond himself…" (58). For him (and others), Christianity had never offered a superficially optimistic view of life and Christian educators were "to help persons face their problems realistically" (59).

R. C. Miller believed Vieth combined "theological and educational insights and marked a significant advance in educational philosophy" (Miller, 1956, 34), and further attempted to differentiate the role of religious education as a "reevaluation of values," to the role of Christian education as a "theological responsibility," i.e., "we have a Gospel and that Christian education begins when we are confronted with it" (Miller, 1956, 53-54). Perhaps it is safe to say that, conscious or not, Vieth contributed to reinforce a Christian education which is initiated by the divine and not by a human effort. One example of that would be his lack of comfort with curriculum materials that had moved from "content" to a "pupil" orientation exclusively (this will be further explained in the second reason).

Furthermore, in Our Teaching Ministry (1967) Vieth, as a committee editor, used the word "discipleship" to describe the purpose of Christian education (43, see endnote). Reflecting the common view of those involved in the Cooperative Curriculum Project (see endnote), he defined the work of the Christian educator as well as that of the community of faith as being an agent "in God's work, giving witness and guidance and providing the conditions for confrontation with God's word" (44-45). Again one could argue that Vieth did not stand alone, since he was reporting on the views of a committee. However, should not credit be given to his leadership role as a spokesperson?

A second reason to perceive Vieth's contribution to a movement in Christian education of the twentieth century is his emphasis on both content and experience as they relate to teaching in the church and in the home. While trends at the time reflected one or the other, Vieth insisted there should be a balance between content and experience. Even as early as 1929 he stated, "If the experience-centered curriculum is allowed to degenerate into a mere discussion of or talking about experience, without an effort to find the best available resources for guidance and enrichment of that experience, then we are depriving our children of an inheritance which is rightly theirs" (Vieth, 1929, 133-134).

Thus experience to be of value needed proper guidance. Where did the teacher find this guidance? "It is a part of the business of teaching to share with the pupil those bodies of truth and facts… Christian education cannot do less than present these facts and convictions with all the weight of authority which has gathered around them because of the long Christian history which has been sustained by them and the millions of those who have lived and died by that faith" (Vieth, 1947, 80). With this legacy he then proclaimed, "…the Bible is central in Christian education…universally affirmed by theory and practice" (80). At this junction Sara Little connects Vieth to Erwin Shaver's Present-Day Trends in Religious Education (1929) in which the Bible was interpreted as a source book, containing "principles of living," "symbols and codes," and an "ever-enlarging revelation" (Little, 1961, 20).

Once "enriched" by proper guidance, learners could then engage in experience. He illustrated this process by many life vignettes, one being teaching learners to understand worship while engaging them in the planning and the actual carrying out of worship.

Vieth saw the home and the church as two agencies where content and experience could facilitate religious learning. The church should be responsible for parents' education and should provide resources to facilitate the parents' role as teachers (see quote from The Church and Christian Education, 1947, 188-189). R. C. Miller listed Vieth alongside with C. A. Bower and Philip Henry Lotz as contributors with curricula materials to facilitate home education (Miller, 1956, 374).

While the church teacher needs training in order to be the provider of "enrichment," the learner is to take responsibility and "control" of his/her own learning. Vieth used metaphorical language to describe how teachers were to perceive students. The learner was "not like a Christmas tree, to which other fix tinsel, shiny balls, and lights which are not really its own and never will be," rather, the learner is "like a tree" (Vieth, 1947, 74-75). Recognizing this uniqueness about the learner implies a careful choosing of methodology, in order to allow for a mutual and rich exchange between the teacher and the learner. Since teaching and learning is formal and informal, it can happen at any time and by anyone, often by someone who has a legacy to pass on to younger generations. He recognized the need for the "more mature members" to share "their fuller understanding of and commitment to the Christian faith with those who are less mature" (Vieth, 1947, 95).

How can a church be a teaching church? He identified at least two very important elements: the role of the pastor and lay leadership. For Vieth, training in Christian education and theology was mandatory in theological institutions for all ministers, pastors, Christian educators and the like (Vieth, 1947, 96-109, 200). Miller thought Vieth was the best one to identify the pastor's role in order for Christian education to succeed in the church. "Unless the pastor is convinced that it is worth the effort, nothing is likely to happen even if the committee or board is formed" (Miller, 1956, 302).

Likewise, lay leadership was very important for the structure of Christian education to function properly. Although Vieth acknowledged the importance of professionalism, he saw "…every person in the Christian fellowship" as "one and the same time a learner and a leader" (Vieth, 1947, 193). The training of teachers, however, was to be more than a time to learn attractive and new methods. "Christian teaching requires a background of experience in the Christian faith…It involves a grounding in religious experience which gives specific character to the whole enterprise for Christian teaching at all levels" (213). At this junction he emphasized formation as an essential element for Christian teaching.

So, professional workers should offer training especially through supervision. Even as early as in the 1930's he saw the role of supervision as a mentoring enterprise. Supervision was to be practical and offered only with the consent of the teacher (Vieth, 1930, Improving your Sunday school…, 57).

It is important to highlight that creativity was a key to Vieth's life and works. In 1946 he co-authored a title, Visual Aids in the Church, with William Rogers. Reed and Prevost point out that "motion pictures, slides, and filmstrips projectors had not long been used in churches…The authors included a history of the technology of visual aids, including mentions of Comenius' Orbis Sensualium Pictus and the New English Primer. Vieth and Rogers dealt with bulletin boards, chalkboards, charts, diagrams, dioramas, models, projected media, and field trips" (Reed and Prevost, 1993, 345).

A final reason for the current religious educator to perceive Vieth's contribution as part of a new movement in Christian education of the twentieth century is his views on the teaching of religion in the public school and the complementary role of the church through the weekday ministry. In The Church and Christian Education he stated, "…we are in danger of producing a generation of people so secularized that they will have little appreciation for or interest in the churches of the communities in which they live" (1947, 301). He did not believe the church alone could undertake the task of teaching children to live religiously. "Some other solution must be found," he said (1947, 302).

From Vieth's perception, perhaps, one of these avenues was the weekday education ministry as it related to the overall ministry of the church. To help with this task of integration, R. C. Miller (1956, 383) considered most valuable the evaluation Guide for Curriculum in Christian Education by the National Council of Churches published in The Church School (Vieth, 1957, 82-89; 267-279). Now we have available funds but such were scarce in his days (Vieth, 1947, 202-203), but his criticism for curricula integration still remains unresolved.

In conclusion, the contributions of Dr. Paul Herman Vieth are numerous and have touched the lives of many contemporary Christian educators, even if they are unaware of such. Sara P. Little and Charles F. Melchert, who studied under him, acknowledge his outstanding contributions to the field of Christian education. Vieth helped create an ethos in the twentieth century in which Christian education needed to be carried out by an authority other than self or humanity, if it were to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God, although he would never say that he was alone on this effort. Dr. Sara P. Little identified Vieth's authority through polarities: he was a theorist and a practitioner, a manager of continuity and a manager or change, and a condenser of views while preserving his own authentic thinking (Little, 1964, 202-208). And Little "was one who knew him at his work best" (Vieth, 2002). Thus, we will do well if we continue to "learn" from Paul Herman Vieth!


Books & Monographs

  • Smart, James D. (1976). The teaching ministry of the church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1929). Teaching for Christian living. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1930). Objectives in religious education. New York: Harper and Brothers.
  • Taylor, Marvin J. (ed.) (1960). Religious education: a comprehensive survey of Backgrounds, theory, methods, administration, and agencies. New York: Abingdon.
  • (1970). The work of the general superintendent. St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication.
  • (1965). The professors and research associated section, D.C.E., N.C.C.U.S.A., 1922-1963: a History. Oberlin, Ohio: Graduate School of Theology.
  • (1965). Worship in Christian education. Philadelphia: United Church Press.
  • (1964). Religious education faces the future. Philadelphia: Religious Education Committee.
  • (1958). Study of religion in the public schools an appraisal report of a conference on religion.
  • (1957). The church school: The organization, administration, and supervision of Christian education in the local church. Philadelphia: Christian Education Press.
  • (1954). Report on visit to Formosa. November 28, December 8.
  • (1952). The content of the curriculum. [Paper presented at the National Council for Christian Workers, Kansas City, Mo.]. Religious Education, 47 (5), 307-312.
  • (Ed.) (1947). The church and Christian education. St. Louis: cooperative Pub. Association by the Bethany Press.
  • (1944). The family in transition: a symposium. Chicago: Religious Education Association.
  • (Ed.). (1938). In Robert Seneca Smith, The art of worship. New York: Abingdon.
  • (1937). The church and its teaching work. New York: Methodist book Concern.
  • (1935). How to teach in the church school; a simple introduction to the art of teaching for all those workers in the church school who want to learn more about what teaching is and how to do it more successfully. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • (1930). Development of a curriculum of religious education. Chicago: The International Council of Religious Education.
  • (1930). Improving your Sunday school: practical suggestions for superintendents, pastors, and others whose duties it is to supervise the teaching of religion in the local church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • (1930). Objectives in religious education. New York: Harper & Brothers.
  • (1929). Teaching for Christian living; a practical discussion on the principles and practice of making a curriculum for the church school which shall center in life experience. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • (1928). A critical study of objectives in religious education (doctoral dissertation, Yale divinity library, 1928).
  • (1928). The development of a curriculum of religious education: the origin, history, and purpose of the International Curriculum of Religious Education; the educational principles underlying it; and the program of work adopted for its construction. Chicago: The Council of Religious Education.
  • (1926). A study of the personnel and work of the office of director of religiouseducation. Chicago: Dept. of Research and Service of the InternationalCouncil of Religious Education.
  • Little, Sara. (1961). The role of the Bible in contemporary Christian education. Richmond: John Knox.

Articles, Interviews, Book Reviews, Sound Recordings, & Slides

  • Kathan, Boardman W. (1978). "Six protestant pioneers." Religious Education, 73,138-150.
  • Little, Sara P. (2002). A conversation with Dr. Little in her home in Charlotte, NC, July 18, 2002 and September 12, 2002.
  • Melchert, Charles F. A review of Paul Vieth entry by Sophia Steibel, Lancaster, PA, January 4, 2003.
  • Miller, Randolph Crump (1990). "Vieth, Paul." In Iris V. Cully and K. B. Cully (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Religious Education (681). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1963). "A history: 1922-1963." This essay was presented at the dinner of the Professors and Research Section of the Division of Christian Education, National Council of Churches, on February 13, 1963. This document was reproduced and made available by David w. Jewell from the Schauffler Division of Christian Education, the Graduate School of Theology, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, December 1965.
  • Vieth, Richard (2002). A phone conversation with Dr. Dick Vieth on September 12, 2002.
  • Vieth, Richard (2003). A phone conversation with Dr. Dick Vieth on March 3, 2003.
  • Williams, Lillian (June 1964). "Paul H. Vieth-an appreciation." International Journal of Religious Education, 21-22.
  • Elias, John L. (2002). A history of Christian education: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox perspectives. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company.
  • Little, Sara (2002). A conversation with Dr. Little in her home in Charlotte, NC, July 18.
  • Little, Sara (1964). "Paul Herman Vieth: symbols of a field in transition."Religious Education. LIX 3, 202-208.
  • Little, Sara (1961). The role of the Bible in contemporary Christian education. Richmond: John Knox.
  • Melchert, Charles F. A review of Paul Vieth entry by Sophia Steibel, Lancaster, PA, January 4, 2003.
  • Miller, R. C. (1956). Education for Christian living, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs:Prentice-Hall.
  • Reed, James E. and Ronnie Prevost (1963). A history of Christian education. Nashville: Broadman.
  • Rogers, William L. and Paul H. Vieth (1946). Visual aids in the church. Philadelphia: The Christian Education Press.
  • Sherrill, Lewis, Joseh (1963). The gift of power. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Vieth, Richard (2002). A phone conversation with Dr. Vieth on September 12.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1947). The church and Christian education. St Louis: The Bethany Press.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1930). Improving your Sunday school: practical suggestions for superintendents, pastors, and others whose duties it is to supervise the teaching of religion in the local church. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1967). "Teaching in the church's ministry." In Our teaching Ministry. Richard E. Lentz, Paul H. Vieth, and Ray L. Lenthorne. St Louis: Christian Board of Publication. In this writing, Vieth sees the concept of discipleship fully expressed in the single purpose for Christian education as pointed out by the Cooperative Curriculum Project of the Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches, a project of the early 1960's that comprised sixteen denominations in the development of a comprehensive curriculum plan.
  • Vieth, Paul H. (1929). Teaching for Christian living; a practical discussion on the principles and practice of making a curriculum for the church school which shall center in life experience. Philadelphia: Westminster.
  • Wyckoff, D. Campbell (1960). "The Curriculum and the church school." In Religious education: comprehensive survey of background, theory, methods, administration, and agencies, by Marvin J. Taylor, ed. New York: Abingdon.
  • (1971). With Samuel Dinin and George N. Shuster. [Letters commemorating Religious Education's 65th birthday]. Religious Education. 66(S-O), 322-325.
  • (Ed.) (1967). The ecumenical revolution and religious education. [Religious education association convention reports: Chicago, N 20-22 1966]. Religious Education, 62 (Mr-Ap), 82-205.
  • (Ed.) (1967). Religious education s a discipline. [NCC symposium, Dallas, Tex, F 14-16]. Religious Education, 62 (S-O), 387-450.
  • (Acting Ed.). (1976). With R. C. Miller, ed. [Religious education as a discipline. Dallas: NCC symposium]. Religious Education. 62 (S-O), 387-450.
  • (Ed.) (1967). [The ecumenical revolution and religious education. Chicago: Religious Education Association National Convention Reports, N 20-22]. Religious Education. 62 (Mr-Ap), 82-205.
  • (1966). [Review of the book God in education: a new opportunity for American Schools by N.C. Nielsen]. Religious Education. 61 (Jl-Ag), 303-304.
  • (1965). [Review of the book The search for a Christian education, by K.B. Cully]. International Journal of Religious Education, 42, 2.
  • (1962). Recovery of the teaching ministry. Review and Expositor. Jl 59, 274-286.
  • (1960). [Review of the book Catholic viewpoint on education]. Religious Education, 55 (N-D), 460-462.
  • (1960). [Review of the book A philosophy of adult Christian education by David J. Ernsberger]. Religious Education. 55(S-O), 391-393.
  • (1960). [Review of the book Future course of Christian adult education: Selected addresses and papers]. Religious Education. 55 (S-O), 460-462.
  • (1960). [Review of the book Church and state in Canadian education: an historical study, by Charles Bruce Sissons]. Religious Education. 55 (N-D), 464.
  • (1960). [Review of the book Nursery-kindergarten weekday education in the Church, by Josephine Newbury]. Religious Education. 55 (N-D), 472.
  • (1959). Straining forward to what lies ahead.
  • (1953). [Evaluation of C. Linton, pp 67-72]. Religious Education. 48.2 (Mr-Ap), 77-80.
  • (1949). Public education and religion in Japan. Christianity and Crisis, 91 (2), 90-93.
  • (1945). Panorama of the Christian church in Kodachrome slides.
  • (1944). Christian nurture then and now. Religious Education, 39 (3), 132.

Co-authorship: Books, Monographs, Chapters, or Bible School Curriculum Materials

  • (1967). With Richard E. Lentz and Raymond Leasington Henthorne. Our teaching ministry. St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication.
  • (1966). With Richard E. Lentz. Disciples curriculum project. St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication.
  • (1960). The local church organized for Christian education. In religious education: a comprehensive survey, Marvin J. Taylor, ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 247-258.
  • (1946). With William L. Rogers. Visual aids in the church. Philadelphia: the Christian Education Press.
  • (1945). With Peral Hoose Doughty. As Jesus grew: a course for third and fourth grade in the weekday church school. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.
  • (1943). With Robert Seneca Smith. The art of group worship. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.
  • (1943). With Mildred Alberta Magnuson. The Bible in the building of life: a course for fifth or sixth grade in the weekday church school. New York: Abingon-Cokesbury Press.
  • (1940). With Isaac Keley Beckes. Improve your teaching in the church school. S.1: s.n.

Reviews of Paul H. Vieth Life and Works

  • Elias, John L. (2002). A history of Christian education: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox perspectives. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 173.
  • Burgess, Harold W. (2001). Models of religious education: theory and practice in Historical and contemporary perspective. Nappanee, Indiana: Evangel Publishing House, 113, 247.
  • Reed, James E. and Ronnie Prevost. (1993). A history of Christian education. Nashville: Broadman, 344-345.
  • Miller, R. C. (1990). 'Vieth, Paul.' In Iris V. Cully and Kending Brubaker Cully (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Religious Education. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Kathan, Boardman W. (1978). 'Six protestant pioneers.' Religious Education. 73, 138-150.
  • Smart, James D. (1976). The teaching ministry of the church: an examination of the Basic principles of Christian education. Philadelphia: Westminster, 65.
  • Melchert, Charles Frederick. An exploration in the pre-suppositions of objective formation for contemporary protestant Christian educational ministry. Doctoral dissertation, Yale, 1969.
  • Williams, Lillian. (1964). 'Paul H. Vieth-an appreciation.' International Journal of Religious Education. June, 21-22.
  • Little, Sara (1964). 'Paul Herman Vieth: Symbol of a field in transition.' Religious Education. 5 (6), 202-208.
  • Little, Sara. (1961). The role of the Bible in contemporary Christian education. Richmond: John Knox.
  • Jackson, George R. (1960). A comparative study of the philosophy of Christian Education of Paul H. Vieth and Randolph C. Miller.
  • Wyckoff, D. Campbell 'The curriculum and the church School.' In Religious Education: a comprehensive survey of background, theory, methods, administration, and agencies, by Marvin J. Taylor, ed., New York: Abingdon, 102, 104-105.
  • Miller, Randolph Crump (1956). Education for Christian living. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall (See index for multiple references).

Excerpts from Publications

(1964). Religious education faces the future. The Rufus M. Jones Memorial Lecture. Philadelphia: Religious Education Committee.

How could any life situation, no matter how typical or crucial, be brought into a class situation, and still be a living experience and not a cadaver for dissection? (pg. 215)There is much that still needs to be done in developing an adequate theory of the role of the Bible in a curriculum for education within the church and translating it into sound practice. (pg. 218)

(1947). The church and Christian education. St. Louis: Bethany Press.

If Christian education is to induct growing persons into the life of this fellowship it must recognize that it it (sic) dealing with something more than our human quest for the good life. It is sharing in something that is divinely given (pg. 62).It is not any one of these human philosophies which is the starting point for faith but the historic events themselves which Christian thought should seek to interpret. Our rational system will always fail to comprehend completely the faith which arises amid a life that is larger than logic (pg. 64).It is the common life of the family with its sharing of work and privilege which makes the home most educative. Christian education might profit greatly if the leaders of the church would do less for children and young people and do more with them (pg. 85).The purpose of the curriculum of Christian education is to confront individuals with the eternal gospel and to nurture within them a life of faith, hope, and love, in keeping with the gospel. The organizing principle of the curriculum, from the viewpoint of the Christian gospel, is to be found in the changing needs and experiences of the individual as these include his relation to (1) God, as revealed in Jesus Christ; (2) his fellow men and human society; (3) his place in the work of the world; (4) the Christian fellowship, the church; (5) the continuous process of history, viewed as a carrier of the divine purpose and revealer of the moral l aw; (6) the universe in all its wonder and complexity (pg. 146-147).The following suggestions for the content of the curriculum for the home may now be ventured: A tying together of church and home efforts through interesting homework for children and youth, related to what is being done in the church school, with a clear appeal to parents for their cooperation and practical clues as to how they may give it. Considerable help on family worship, comprising actual materials and services, as well as guidance to parents in formulating plans for family devotions of their own devising. Practical suggestions for realizing the spiritual values inherent in birthdays, homecomings, anniversaries, great days of the church year, national holidays, the planting of a garden, the lighting of a fire in the fireplace, etc. List of materials for good home reading some for parents, some for children, some for the whole family together. Similar lists of pictures for the home, or the prints themselves, together with suitable interpretations and teaching suggestions. Guidance in the use of music in the home to the ends of Christian education. Occasional bulletins on radio programs, motion picture, and special community events, calling attention to their significance for the religious life of the home. (Those materials would doubtless have to be prepared locally.) Resource materials and guidance for home fellowship, including games, crafts, hobbies, picnics, trips, and the like. Help to parents in their age old task of child rearing and home building, covering the accepted findings of child psychology and home economics and offering specific suggestions for the meeting of the most typical and recurrent situations? (pg. 188-189).

(1930). Objectives in religious education. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Any process of growth will no doubt have its hills and valleys, its periods of greater and lesser intensity. Some experiences will overshadow others in their potency for producing growth. Each individual must advance according to the laws of his own being, and the true measure of growth in the religious life is the fruit of the spirit (pg. 16-17).Education is a process which is coextensive with life. Its result cannot be stated in terms of finished products, such as houses and crops, except is so far as successive attainment signifies stages of achievement in a constantly on-going process (pg. 19).Christian service may be learned only through the pupil's engagement in actual service activities? (pg. 30).Education is a process of growth. Growth is conceived, however, as being toward some goal. These goals are stated as objectives. Each growing person is to be free to form his own purposes, but maturity owes something by way of guidance in this process through the means and instruments which it posses by the very fact of being mature. It is assumed that ether is a possibility of rapport between the individual and God, and that even more than the individual reaches out for God, God is seeking to touch the soul of the individual. This experiential basis for religion is taken to be a fundamental criterion of success in religious education. It is assumed further, however, that God may work through natural process to attain his ends, and that, therefore education is not a substitute for religious experience but the instrument for the promotion of such experience. The individual is regarded as the primary unit in the educational process, and all statements of objectives are made in terms of desired changes in persons (pg. 97).On how to use the Bible: We should want the growing person to know something about the nature of the Bible the use of the Bible to meet the problems, moods, and religious hungers which arrive as a natural consequence of living realizing the cultural values of teaching the Bible led to a deep appreciation and love for the Bible? and make every growing person familiar with the physical make-up of the Bible and train him in the technic (sic) of handling it with facility (pg. 263-266).On problems encountered with the use of the Bible in teaching: Selecting the messages in accordance with the life needs of those who are to be taught (pg. 266).

(1929). Teaching for Christian living. St Louis: the Bethany Press.

Teaching is the finest of fine arts. It is more noble than painting, for the teacher does not represent his ideal on canvas, but makes it to live in the lives of men. It is more worthy than architecture, for the arches and pillars of a noble character will stand not simply for one or twenty centuries, but will last through the sculptor works with inanimate stone, the teacher exercises his art with living material (pg. 13).Teaching exists for the sake of life, and not life for the sake of teaching. Its purpose is served when it has helped its pupils to live more abundantly (pg. 53).Subject-matter, then, is the means which the pupil utilizes, under the guidance of the leader, to bring about an enrichment of his experience, and to bring it under his control so that he may realize his Christian objectives (pg. 128-129).One of the most rewarding tasks in which any church may engage is that of helping the parents to lift their family life to a higher religious plane (pg. 158).

Books & Monographs

(1967). Our teaching ministry. St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication.

This book Vieth wrote with Richard E. Lentz and Ray L. Henthorne. He was Responsible for Part I: The place of teaching in the church?s ministry. It is a synthesis of the views he had been developing along the way regarding the purpose and role of Christian education. He presents a biblical foundation for church, teaching, and he seeks for a theology of the laity addressing persons of all ages, not just adults (pg. 61). He ends by identifying the role of Christian education as Christian vocation.

(1964). Religious education faces the future. The Rufus M. Jones memorial lecture. Philadelphia: Religious Education Committee.

Here he recapitulates fifty years of professional service. He evaluates the Church school, the nature and purpose of religious education (especially as it relates to the unbalanced move from content to experience); he addresses curriculum and curriculum design, and ends with a challenge to review the role of the Bible in the church curricula, especially in regard to its legacy and its application to life.

(1963). A History: 1922-1963. Documented by David W. Jewell from the Schaufller Division of Christian Education, the Graduate School of Theology, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, December 1965.

n this essay, which he presented to the Professors and Research Section of the Division of Christian Education, National Council of Churches, on February 13, 1963, he revealed not only a description of his career but also the development of Christian education from the 1920's to the 1960's. In it the reader can see the tension as well as the commitment of Christian educators of the twentieth century as to their concern for the future.

(1947). The church and Christian education. St. Louis: Bethany Press.

Of all works, this is Vieth's masterpiece. He lists all the names of the committee members who were involved in the formulation of the ideas he presents in this book (he never claims personal credit on having produced a "master piece"). In this resource he outlines the purpose and function of Christian education in a local church involving themes related to the programs of the church, family, life, community, leadership ? supervision, and the involvement with public school education. Little recognized this book as making a new beginning for Christian education, especially with regard to the doctrine of revelation and the use of the Bible (Little, 1961, 89).

(1930). Improving your Sunday school. Philadelphia: Westminster.

This work illustrates Vieth's concept of supervision and how that differs from organization and administration. The reader can see how he was ahead of his time on understanding the importance of mentorship.

(1930). Objectives in Religious Education. New York: Harper & Brothers.

This resource is essential for perceiving the theological development in Vieth?s thinking as well as of other Christian educators at the time (from a more conservative to a more liberal). He was greatly influenced by his mentor L. A.Weigle. In this work he quotes many words from Weigle. From this work, one sees the thinking on objective formulation as well as a plan for Christian formation of the idea that Christian educators can identify "Christian character traits" and help create an environment where these can flourish. Vieth helps us to understand the steps the committee went through in order to arrive at such character traits.

(1929). Teaching for Christian living. St. Louis: Bethany Press.

This book will introduce the reader to Vieth's theory of teaching and learning and its applicability to religious education. Here he lays the ground for his understanding of content and experience as essential elements to a teaching-learning situation.

(1928). The development of a curriculum of religious education: the origin, history, and purpose of the International Curriculum of Religious Education; the educational principles underlying it; and the program of work adopted for its construction. Chicago: The Council of Religious Education.

This resource will open the eyes of the current reader to the importance of cooperation among denominations for the development of religious/Christian education. Vieth thought this cooperation would create the condition for serious religious education to take place in churches, especially as they would cooperate in areas such as teacher-training.


(1944). Christian nurture then and now? In Religious Education. 39, 131-134.

He elaborates on Bushnell's thesis 'the child may grow up as a Christian through the process of nurture without the necessity for a turning-about conversion experience through revivalistic effort.' He advocates vehemently that the Christian family has a tremendous role on the nurturing of children, but he disagrees with any indication that the Christian home in and of itself can produce Christians or Christian growth.

Author Information

Sophia R. G. Steibel

Sophia R. G. Steibel, (Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Associate Professor of Religious Education at Gardner-Webb University.