New England Theology -- By: Daniel T. Fiske

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 022:87 (Jul 1865)
Article: New England Theology
Author: Daniel T. Fiske


New England Theology

Rev. Daniel T. Fiske

[This is the Thirteenth of the Series of Articles representing the peculiar views of different theological sects or schools.]

The doctrinal system termed “New England Theology,” is a modified form of Calvinism. It originated in connection with that remarkable religious movement in our country, a little more than a century ago, called “the great awakening.” Among the men who have contributed to its development and elucidation may be mentioned the two Edwardses, Bellamy, Hopkins, West, Smalley, Spring, Emmons, Griffin, Dwight, Woods, Taylor, and Beecher. It has been variously designated. At first it was called “new light,” or “new light divinity”; sometimes “Berkshire divinity “(from the fact that several eminent men who adopted it resided in Berkshire county, Mass.); often “Edwardean,” or

“Hopkintonian,” or “Hopkinsian divinity”; or simply “Edwardeanism,” or “Hopkinsianism.” In England, where it was embraced by many distinguished divines, it was called “American theology,” to distinguish it from European systems. But since its general prevalence in New England, and especially since the beginning of the present century, it has been, in this country, more commonly denominated “New England theology,” to denote its origin, and to distinguish it from other systems that have more or less extensively prevailed here. Some persons have questioned the propriety of this designation. The term “New England theology” it is said, should be applied to that system of doctrines which the Puritans brought with them to this country, which was almost universally prevalent here for more than a century, and which has always been held by many of the New England ministers and churches. But why does that system need a new name? It is “Calvinism” ; it is the “theology of the Reformers”; it is “Old School theology” ; and if this is not enough, let it be christened “Puritan theology.” But why should a system which did not originate in New England, and which has not been the predominating system here more than half the period since the settlement of the country, be called “New England theology?” and especially since it has to a great extent been displaced by another system which did originate here, and which needs some appropriate name, not only to discriminate it from the old system, but also to indicate its local origin? Some object to the term, that it is too narrow, seeming to imply that the theological system which it denotes is limited to the comparatively small territory included in the New England states. But it implies no such limitation, any more than the term “Genevan theology “implies that the system of Calvin is li...

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