The Rule of Faith -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:278 (Apr 1913)
Article: The Rule of Faith
Author: James Lindsay

The Rule of Faith

James Lindsay, D.D.

Seven years after they were delivered, Professor W. P. Paterson, D.D., of the chair of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh, publishes his Baird lectures under the title, “The Rule of Faith.”1 The work is one that will be variously estimated: the theological tyro, and the less-instructed of the clergy, will welcome it as, for them, a book of revelations; the theological expert, and the well-instructed clerics, will find it mainly a book of inadequacies. The former class will find dovetailed into its scheme a picturesque variety, — Romanism, Protestantism, Pietism, Rationalism, Ritschlianism, — and it will meet their small needs: the latter class will find its methods unscientific, and its treatments slight and unsatisfying, or, to use the author’s own word, “perfunctory.” Not but what a good sketch may be valuable; in pioneer work it is so; but it is peculiarly aggravating where, as in the present case, it is a reproducing, in far too bald and scrappy forms, of voluminous and exhaustive treatments. The work is not only unmarked by brilliancy of any kind, whether of thought, or of style, or of treatment; it is not in the least remarkable in any of these respects; the author himself disclaims any “novelty” for his treatment, merely having brought together ideas from many quarters, he says, and expressed them in his own way. This is not done, I would add,

without a certain freshness in working over his materials, and a certain quasi-independence on small points; and his book has a novelty — a very undesirable novelty — greater than he imagines. It is the most churchly and Confessional handbook of theology that has appeared in this country for many a day. That is its disservice: it has put the day of anything like a scientific theology further off than ever. The work may do well enough as a churchly or Confessional “study in the prolegomena to Dogmatics,” but the whole treatment is upon such a merely churchly or phenomenistic basis, that it remains with a radical lack of depth and grounding. There is very little pure theology in the book, and the little there is, takes popular rather than scientific form. I refrain from comment on his use of the phrase, “seat of doctrine,” for such a treatment as he has given, because I should not so much mind its being merely a regulative scheme — although much confusion of thought will be caused — if even that had been carried out in any decently scientific fashion. It does, however, register a retrograde movement in theological thought to have theology presented with such total lack of fundamental depth and grounding. This is not in the least compensated for by any pl...

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