Theology In Terms Of Personal Relation -- By: Henry Churchill King

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:228 (Oct 1900)
Article: Theology In Terms Of Personal Relation
Author: Henry Churchill King

Theology In Terms Of Personal Relation

Prof. Henry Churchill King

If it is true, as Professor Clarke says, that “religion is the reality of which theology is the study,” and if religion is a personal relation of man to God,—then it would seem that an adequate theology must be stated in personal terms. The writer cannot doubt that religion is best conceived as a personal relation, and he certainly holds that theology is best defined as simply a thoughtful and unified expression of what religion means to us. He is bound, therefore, to affirm that theology must be stated in terms of personal relation. It is to the defense and illustration of this proposition that the present article is devoted.

The very name. Christian, which we take upon us, as best characterizing what seems to us most essential in the spirit which we are to show, implies that we know that all life is changed for us by a single personal relation. To trace out in all its implications the full significance of that relation for our entire being is the sole business of theology.

Some recognition of this intensely personal relation of the themes of theology, doubtless, there has always been; but theology has not been able to avoid the great common danger of all speculative thinking—the danger of abstraction, and has consequently too often lost quite out of sight the rich concrete personal relations in a maze of metaphysical abstractions. It is well worth while, therefore, consciously and of set purpose to attempt a statement of the-

ology in strictly personal terms—to demand of ourselves that we keep constantly in mind the meaning of personal relations.

This would only be carrying out what is fairly involved in the demand which Dr. Fairchild laid upon himself in the preface to his “Elements of Theology: “The controlling thought in the mind of the author, the organic principle in the system of doctrine presented, is the recognition of the distinct and complete personality of God, and a like personality of man.” Very likely many readers of that preface saw little in this sentence, and said to themselves: Is that not what every theologian does as a matter of course? Unfortunately it is not. Indeed, the trend in theology towards impersonal forms of statement has been so strong, that, even for a man who felt earnestly the personal nature of the problems, a thoroughly consistent statement of theological doctrines in personal terms has been exceedingly difficult. Professor Clarke, for example, in his deservedly popular “Outline of Christian Theology,” when dealing with the heart of the Christian faith, similarly says: “The intensely personal nature of this reconciliation has not here been ov...

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