Some Characteristics Of Current “New Theology” -- By: Edward Hartley Dewart

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 058:232 (Oct 1901)
Article: Some Characteristics Of Current “New Theology”
Author: Edward Hartley Dewart


Some Characteristics Of Current “New Theology”

Rev. Edward Hartley Dewart

WE hear from time to time references to the “new theology.” Certain preachers and authors are spoken of as being in sympathy with modern theological views. There is a good deal of pleading in behalf of keeping up with the results of modern scientific thought, in a way that indicates a desire to make room for some new views which it is implied deserve a favorable reception, though we are generally left in doubt as to what these new ideas really are. It is natural that these things should prompt one to ask: What historic doctrines are assumed to have become effete and obsolete? Is there a new theology? If so, what are its distinguishing characteristics and tendencies? It is somewhat difficult to give definite and satisfactory answers to these questions. It is quite certain that there is no such thing as a new system of doctrines with any claim to supersede the historic teachings of Christianity. None of the great truths of our holy religion have lost their vital interest and adaptation to our human need. Humanity has not outgrown those sacred verities which have inspired the saintly and heroic souls of the ages in their work of faith and labor of love. The Scripture truths concerning God’s character, man’s condition by nature—his duty and destiny, the divine character and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the claims of God’s revealed will to our acceptance and obedience, are still “the power of God unto salvation” to every one who receives them with a living

faith. These doctrines are the unwaning guiding stars of the spiritual life of the children of God, for which no earth-born philosophy can supply a substitute.

But, though “the foundation of God standeth sure,” every one whose ear is open to the echoes of the day, must hear things which indicate something like a “new departure” in certain lines of theological thought, though the ideas suggested are too negative, indefinite, and discordant to constitute a system of theology. It is freely admitted that there has been in the past a development of doctrine. A restatement of doctrines is justifiable, when the meaning of Scripture is thereby more correctly given. Our methods of teaching and work should be adapted to the times in which we live. We should be ready to receive every truth that is duly attested, whether it agrees with our creeds or not. But those things are not what is meant by a “new theology.”

Effects Of Special Emphasis

There is reason to believe that, in some cases, the idea that there is a new theology in the churches results from the placing of greater emphasis on some truth or doctrine not at all n...

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