Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Departed: Proponents die but theological deviations live on

Here are two snapshots of theological controversies from over a hundred years ago. Neither issue has passed from the scene even if the opponents on each side have. New ideas in theology are often as old as dirt:

In 1886 the faculty at Andover Seminary published a volume entitled Progressive Orthodoxy. It suggested that theology could no longer be viewed as a fixed body of eternally valid truths but should adjust to the standards and needs of modern culture. What once had been assumed as settled in American Calvinism--the doctrine of the inspiration and authority of the Bible--was now a matter of debate.

In January 1894 Dr. Warfield produced a review of the opinions of Henry Preserved Smith, professor at Lane Theological Seminary, who had espoused the views of Dr. Briggs and had been suspended from the ministry by the Presbytery of Cincinnati in 1892. Warfield showed that Smith's concept of "limited inspiration"--that the Scriptures are infallible only in matters of faith and practice--was opposed to the teaching of the Scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith, both of which set forth the doctrine of a fully inspired and inerrant Bible. Dr. Warfield wrote that "the new critical theories are consciously inconsistent with the old doctrine of inspiration" and asserted that "it is clear that one or the other must go to the wall."

David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929, p. 141-2

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