An Appeal To The New School Of Theology -- By: Philip Hudson Churchman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 061:243 (Jul 1904)
Article: An Appeal To The New School Of Theology
Author: Philip Hudson Churchman


An Appeal To The New School Of Theology

Mr. Philip Hudson Churchman

It can hardly be said that we instinctively turn to comic papers for wise counsel on serious problems; but even the most trivial and cynical of them may occasionally contain a keen and true diagnosis of existing conditions. Some months ago a rather significant joke appeared in one of our humorous publications. A man had asked his friend for the cause of the trouble in a certain church, and the reply was that the minister was being “tried for orthodoxy.” A little more recently a similar piece of wit tells of a woman’s admiration for a visiting clergyman because “it is such a relief to hear a preacher that has nothing to say against the Bible.” In Germany, too, they must like the same sort of jokes; for Simplicissimus represents the Herr Pastor as saying that his tears in the pulpit are because he “cannot believe what he preaches.”

These flings, I say, are significant; they indicate the general belief in a revolution in things religious. One need not discuss the depth and scope of this real or imaginary movement to reach the trite conclusion that questioning, doubting, and reconstruction are characteristic of much of the religious opinion of our times. The popular divinity of the shallow crowd is change, novelty; and for not a few of a more serious mold, reconstruction has become a necessity. “Old things have passed away, and all things are become new,”—this is the chant

of the unthinking crowd, and many of the more thoughtful few give at least partial assent. Conservative notions are unpopular; the star of the New School is in the ascendant; for the time being, their word is law and gospel in the minds of many that are Christians, and of most of those who are not. If this be true, then, humanly speaking, the religious weal or woe, the faith or unfaith, of coming generations is largely in the hands of the representatives of this so popular movement. Does not such a responsibility invite a most careful self-criticism on the part of the leaders of the movement? Is not a severe analysis of their position imperative?

Now let it be clearly understood that this analysis, this criticism, comes from no unfriendly pen. Personally the writer remains indifferent to many of the points at issue between conservatives and radicals; on other questions he inclines toward the new view; and if he is “old-fashioned “in a few of his ideas, he does not feel that this fact incapacitates him for a fair discussion of the problem before us.

At this point a word of definition would be wise. What is meant by the “New School”? Whatever may be properly the notion conveyed by this term, in this ...

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