Contemporary Theology And Theism -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 058:231 (Jul 1901)
Article: Contemporary Theology And Theism
Author: James Lindsay


Contemporary Theology And Theism

Rev. James Lindsay

This is a phrase that might very properly lead us to expect some treatment of the attitude of present-day theology to theistic problems, and of the interest and importance which theistic discussion has for such theology. We should have to consider the position of those who contend for no more than a system of theistic philosophy, as well as that of those who are not alive to the profound and far-reaching significance of the philosophic bases of theistic belief. So might we prefer to treat it. But as the phrase has been chosen, none too happily, as title for a work by Dr. R. M. Wenley, of Michigan, professing to deal with Speculative Theology, the Ritschlian Theology, and the Theistic Problem, it may serve some purpose to refer to this threefold aspect. Not that the work in question merits any detailed attention,—under which, indeed, it would too readily fall to theological powder—but merely that it affords occasion to point a needed moral to the theological student, and to rectify some baleful theological impressions. Dr. Wenley leaves us with all the problems, to use words of his own, “problems as much as ever.” No fruitful principle inspires the book: it is bound by no unity, but presents a pointed example of that “piecing” of its parts into a book which is a favorite conception of its author (pp. 116 and 22). No better aid could be desired towards that unfortunate decay of theological interest which Dr. Wenley has elsewhere declared to be so characteristic of the Established Church in Scotland at the present day.

There is no lack of justice to “Hegel’s epoch-making incentive to theological progress,” but a strange and inexcusable silence as to Schelling’s services to speculative method. Schelling’s doctrine of potencies, in whatsoever respects defective, gave so great an impulse to theological speculation as ought not to remain unknown and unrecognized. But Schelling is not the only great speculative name to which Dr. Wenley knows not to do justice.

Speculative Theology

Proceeding to state the general principles of the Speculative School, Dr. Wenley’s dependence on Pfleiderer is of a kind that reminds us of some who sought to imitate the oratory of Chalmers, and of whom it was said that they had all the contortions, with none of the inspiration! For we have all the movements of Pfleiderer’s exposition reproduced without any of his lucidity and charm. The same buttressing of F. C. Baur in both; the same disposition towards questions like that of the Fourth Gospel. Dr. Wenley invokes the Ritschlian School to “preserve the conclusions” of Baur. In an untranslated1...

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