The Illiberality Of The Dogma Of Probation After Death -- By: Albert J. Lyman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 045:178 (Apr 1888)
Article: The Illiberality Of The Dogma Of Probation After Death
Author: Albert J. Lyman


The Illiberality Of The Dogma Of Probation After Death

Rev. Albert J. Lyman

By “Probation after death” we understand a probation which turns upon a definite, formal presentment to the disembodied soul of the historic Christ, and a conscious, deliberate acceptance or rejection of Christ under such presentation.

Other notions, more vague and rationalistic, drifting at large in the popular mind, imagining some limitless amnesty in the future world, have undoubtedly to some extent usurped the name “probation.” But even Andover, not always careful enough to discriminate its views from the popular counterfeit, has desired us to set at once aside all such loose travesties upon its position. It is, then, the introduction and accentuation of the factor of the “historic Christ” which alone turns the commonplace, hazy dream of a future probation into anything clear enough to define or weighty enough even to demand a Christian suffrage.

From the standpoint of foreign scholarship especially, this is the only phase of the general notion of probation after

death which emerges into dogmatic distinctness, the only one whose distinct doctrinal weight can be argued from the evangelical position, the only one which invokes or challenges a scriptural exegesis, and the only one which biblical scholars like Dorner in Germany, or Alford in England, avow.

The object of the present paper is to show that this theory, so defined, is yet untenable as a dogma, and so far from being liberal is distinctly, though no doubt unintentionally illiberal.

We even propose in regard to this matter of “liberality” to change the animus of the issue. The notion of future probation, not carefully defined under what is really its inseparable dogmatic accompaniment, viz., the presentation of the historic Christ, has easily in the popular mind identified itself with “liberality.” It is confused with rationalism, from which the dogma at many points differs, certainly in the sense in which it is held by the German scholars. It is, however, perhaps a question, whether Dorner’s doctrine on this subject of future probation has not got into more rationalistic company in crossing the Atlantic. Dorner presents the picture of a man fighting Rationalism, and so holding Future Probation; Andover, unfortunately, and perhaps unwittingly, has produced the impression of men dallying with Rationalism, and so holding Future Probation. In this way the popular sentiment in this country has identified the new probationary theory with rationalism, from which it should in strictness be discriminated. The dogma of future probation is also confused with...

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