The New Theology -- By: J. A. Biddle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 054:213 (Jan 1897)
Article: The New Theology
Author: J. A. Biddle


The New Theology

Rev. J. A. Biddle

I. This is the title of a notable book by President Bascom.1 The book is profound and clear. Through it we begin to see what there is in this new theology. This book clearly reveals the strength and weakness of this theology as a theology. “It is not a theology at all,” remarks Dr. Bascom, “but a tendency.” “It is not a creed but a movement.” Then as he proceeds, we see that the tendency is away from the “traditional theology.” The movement is toward something supposed to be better. What that something is it is quite impossible to tell. It is believed to be something not new but old, something that will be a better exposition of the truth than the traditional theology.

From this we gather that the new theology is an exploring party, dissatisfied with the old home, going forth in search of a better; going no one knows where. “Whither,” is an open question. It has no organization, but a vast deal of life and confidence; it has no particular rallying-point, no discipline, no plan of campaign. It is a movement in religion resembling the movement of the Germanic tribes across the Rhine. There is an impulse to move, and that impulse is followed. It is full of vigor and confidence, but lacking in foresight, discipline, and aim. With the fate of the Germanic tribes in mind, one can easily predict the fate of this new theology, when it comes to mortal combat with the well-disciplined and as valiant sol-

diers of traditional theology. A tendency is no match for a well-ordered theology. A movement will always be stopped by a compact creed. Unless the new theology can state itself clearly and definitely, as John Calvin stated Protestant theology, it will go with Cain into the land of wanderings, and never be heard of more. It stands now between two giants—traditional theology and natural science. It seeks to be a friend of both. At present it pleases neither. It is in danger of destruction from both. Its imperative need is an Augustine or Calvin who can clearly state it, and organize it to hold its place in the minds of men. For such a man it still waits. As yet, Dr. Bascom tells us, it is not a theology.

II. The source of its dissatisfaction with traditional theology is its second weakness.

Who awakened this discontent in the old home? Who told this new theology that it was naked? Was it a friend of the old theology, or of any theology? Not at all. It was the most powerful enemy that traditional theology has ever met,—natural science. We all know that natural science has looked with disfavor upon traditional theology. The controlling p...

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