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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Book Review: Biblical and Theological Studies: A Commemoration of 100 Years of Princeton Seminary, (Solid Ground Christian Books)



Biblical and Theological Studies: A Commemoration of 100 Years of Princeton Seminary. Reprint of 1912 edition by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, NY. (Solid Ground Christian Books: Birmingham, 2003). 634 pages.


This classic reprint of articles by faculty members of Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey is a worthy addition to anyone interested in reformed theology in the context of church history and the theological battles fought against modernism in first decade of the 20th century. Although I think the acceptance of the doctrine of common grace undermined the commitment of Princeton faculty members to inerrancy of Scripture and the unique character of special revelation, I found the articles on the supernatural character of the Christian faith enlightening in regard to the debates over evolution and creation. The two articles dealing specifically with this issue are "The Supernatural," by William Brenton Greene, Jr. and "The Finality of the Christian Religion," by Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr. What is particularly revealing in this respect is the knowledge we have that Benjamin B. Warfield, William Brenton Greene, Jr., and Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr. accepted the doctrines of theistic evolution and intelligent design.


Knowing what I do about the doctrine of common grace—that the reprobate have genuine knowledge of God in matters of science and the arts—leads to the idea that natural theology or general revelation somehow trumps special revelation in Christ. To the credit of Hodge and Greene there is a resistance to the philosophical theory of August Compte we know as logical positivism. However, once the doctrine of common grace is accepted the door is wide open to the acceptance of higher and lower criticism of the Bible, which in turn leads to the demise of biblical inerrancy and the neo-fundamentalism promoted by J. Gresham Machen. This may explain why Machen later left Princeton to found Westminster Theological Seminary.


Reading these articles reminds me of the dispute in the Christian Reformed Church over common grace and how that historically undermined the denomination and its official seminary, Calvin Theological Seminary. In a controversy over higher criticism at Calvin Theological Seminary the Christian Reformed Church deposed seminary professor Ralph Janssen over his higher critical views of the Old Testament and his naturalistic explanations of the supernatural events recorded in the Old Testament. Ironically, in 1924 the Kalamazoo Synod of the CRC reversed that decision, accepted the three points of common grace and opened the door to the modernist take over of the seminary and the CRC. [See Common Grace and the Christian Reformed Synod of Kalamazoo (1924): A Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Retrospective, by John Bolt, Professor at Calvin Seminary and former editor of Calvin Theological Journal].


Looking back at the trajectory which took place at Princeton and the eventual decision by Machen to leave and start another theological school for presbyterian ministers in 1929, only seventeen years after these articles of commemoration were published, leads one to ask if there is a perhaps a connection between common grace and the erosion of biblical authority as special revelation? Already we can see a similar decline at Westminster Theological Seminary because of an acceptance of higher criticism of the Bible.


For this reason I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical theology and the implications of accepting common grace, higher criticism, natural revelation as primary over special revelation and the modernism that inevitably follows from those views.


While it is true that Evangelicals should not eschew the study of higher and lower critical views, the problem is that modern Evangelical seminaries are not critically attacking those views or offering an apologetic against them. Rather modern seminaries are selling out to natural revelation and higher criticism precisely because of the acceptance of common grace, in other words the idea that all truth is God's truth and even unbelievers have some knowledge of truth from below. Unfortunately, this leads to the rejection of special revelation as the final authority. Hence, this emphasis undermines the doctrine of sola scriptura as well.


Finding the right balance between not rejecting an intellectual understanding of the Christian faith and special revelation and offering an solid and rational Christian apologetic is a difficult one which raises battles of another kind. Do we take a presuppositional apologetic method like Cornelius Van Til and Gordon H. Clark? Or do we take a classical natural theology like the approach of R. C. Spoul and John Gerstner? If we take the presuppositionalist approach, do we go with paradox and mystery like Van Til, who for all practical purposes ends up in an Evangelical neo-orthodoxy, or do we go with Gordon H. Clark's rational approach and an emphasis on propositional truth in Scripture? If Carl F. H. Henry is any indication it seems to me that Clark's approach, though not perfect, is the better of the two presuppositional apologetics methods.


For the student of reformed theology this reprint of classic articles is a necessary addition to his personal library. I particularly recommend the articles mentioned above in comparison with the article by John Bolt in the Calvin Theological Journal to which I have placed a link.


Peace,


Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.


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