The late nineteenth century was a violent time for England's collective status quo. Religion became subject to the questioning of Gd. Ideology came under attack of democracy, Marxism, and Darwinism. Society fell prey to racism. In spite of this turmoil of common belief, there stood one man who rose above the mess and captured the admiration of the human race. Of course, this man was none other than Edwin AbbottAbbott. In order to fully understand the magnitude of Abbott's contributions to society, it is important to examine the overall environment of the times. One such area that is relevant to Abbott's work is that of theology. In the 1880's, theology was undergoing vast changes. Through the literary reviews in the magazing The Academy, inhabitants of the twentieth century are able to catch a glimpse of what this area was like in the 1880's. Through the literature of the late 1880's, one can see the refutation of many long-held beliefs about the theology, and the advancement into the new world of science and technology combined with theology.
The September 4, 1880 edition of The Academy provides many reviews about pieces done in the area of "Current Theology". For example, there is John Quarry, D.D.'s collection of lectures entitled Religious Belief: its Difficulties in Ancient and Modern Times Compared and Considered. In this work, Quarry combines the "power of speculation" with the "power of close logical reasoning". He questions and compares ancient and modern speculation on the topics of the existence of Gd, the freedom of man, and the problem of evil. Quarry states that it is sufficient for us to "see nothing to render the extension of mercy hereafter impossible; the unrevealed possibility, coupled with the belief in the justice and goodness of Gd, is sufficient to remove the difficulty as an obstacle to the belief in religion." He writes, "I am convinced that by this line of thought, the difficulty may be more safely and effectually met than by that most wretched and cowardly of all theories, which suppose the soul to be naturally mortal, and that Gd will resuscitate the wicked to torment them for a time, and then finally to extinguish them." Dr. Christopher Wordsworth wrote a book entitled St Hippolytus and the Church of Rome in the Early Part of the Third Century in which he (aomong other things) attacks "Roman pretensions of papal infalliability". Of particular notice, he does much to discredit some of the works of Hippolytus. This is another example of a tendency to question old doctrine. Word, Work, and Will is a book written in 1880 by William Thomson. In this work, the author contemplates several juxtapostions such as: science and theology ("Design in Nature"); philosophy and theology ("The Limits of Philosophical Inquiry"); and religion and theology ("Gd Exists"). Thomson uses these as an avenue towards investigating the validity of age old beliefs.
Overall, there is a great tendency in the 1880's to question that which seemed unquestionable for so long. However, all of the authors mentioned in the September 4 1880 edition of The Academy were hesitant to entirely let go of the traditional beliefs. This can therefore be viewed as a transitional period towards the nineteenth century--where tradition and religion would become battered and bruised like gum stuck to an elephant's shoe.