Studies In Christology -- By: Frank Hugh Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 049:194 (Apr 1892)
Article: Studies In Christology
Author: Frank Hugh Foster


Studies In Christology

With Criticism Upon The Theories Of Professor Adolf Harnack

Frank Hugh Foster

THE study of history in the Christian church, like every other study, has distinct practical aims. If to some the cultivation of historical science is the worship of a “himmlische Gottin,” who is to be revered for her own sake, to those who are engaged, like the church, in the most momentous of practical problems, it is the pursuit of that instruction which “philosophy teaching by example” is pre-eminently able to give.

In beginning these “studies in christology,” the writer does not hesitate to avow a distinct purpose. History is employed in our day, and by no one more vigorously and consciously than by the eminent Professor Harnack of Berlin, as a means of influencing the course of dogmatic thought. If such a use is legitimate for the critical and destructive schools of theology, it is legitimate for the conservative and constructive; and it is as necessary as it is absolutely legitimate. If Harnack’s description of the historical development of Christian doctrine, drawn out in his Dogmengeschichte, by which it is viewed as the product of Greek thought, corrupting and overloading with a mass of foreign conceptions the simple ideas of primitive Christianity, be accepted as correct, the great Christian system, though the product of many former ages, will be

condemned and rejected by our own age. Whether the historical argument does, or does not, touch the vital, determinative, and positive arguments upon which the formulators and defenders of the dogmatic systems rightly depend for the proof of their propositions, an edifice which has arisen in such a way, will be believed unsound and will be forsaken. And to effect this result is Harnack’s unconcealed purpose. We believe, after many years of study of the theme, that Harnack’s general result is unreliable, that his general thesis as just sketched is unsound, and that the irresistible conclusion to which he would bring us, not only is avoidable, but will be replaced, when a truly objective view of the history is obtained, by a conclusion equally impressive, but of exactly contrary character. To exhibit this objective view, in opposition to Harnack, and, in a sense, in reply to him, is the purpose of these studies. The writer will attempt to sketch as thoroughly as possible with the somewhat limited apparatus accessible to him, the history of one line of Christian thought—that pertaining to the nature of Christ—from the close of the first century to the Council of Chalcedon (451). If two things shall appear, if (1) the development shall be found to begin in ideas conformable to those of the New T...

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