“The Awakening of American Protestantism” -- By: James M. Gray

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:280 (Oct 1913)
Article: “The Awakening of American Protestantism”
Author: James M. Gray


“The Awakening of American Protestantism”

James M. Gray, D.D.

To the Constructive Quarterly for March, 1913, Professor Shailer Mathews, Dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, and President of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, contributed an article on “The Awakening of American Protestantism,” which some esteem to be like a demonstration of the climax of apostasy of which the New Testament speaks.1

I.

He starts with the premise that the Protestant churches of America are facing difficulties without precedent, chiefly from the influx of foreign-born peoples with their religious traditions and institutions from which they are slow to break. In the cities this has caused the abandonment of downtown churches, but in the rural districts there are parallel conditions also explained by the shifting of population. And yet, Protestantism, he assures us, is not in a state of “collapse,” it is not “decadent,” but “renascent.” No statistics are presented to prove it, because of the impossibility to obtain them, but cer-

tain arguments or illustrations are offered to show the truth of the contention.

1. One of these is “the rise of the scientific attitude in Biblical study and theological thought,” which means the thinking of the gospel “in the terms of evolution and democracy.’ This thinking has produced a change so radical, we are told, as to be measured only by the great epoch which marked the fourth century of the Christian era—a date which sober students of the Bible and church history have regarded as marking the rise of the apostasy referred to, in its first organized form. But, judging by what Dr. Mathews says, the epoch we are now entering surpasses that in its progress on the down-grade, for the Nicene Age still held to an “authoritative orthodoxy,” while in this any claim of authority, “except as a survival, will have passed.” He finds cause for congratulation in that “heresy trials like that of Dr. Briggs will never again shake the Presbyterian body”; that the Methodists of the North will never again depose for his teaching “another Professor Mitchell”; that the words “heretic “and “orthodox “are passing into disuse except as “repartee”; that every Protestant theological seminary, except those “narrowly denominational,” teaches the composite nature of the Pentateuch, Isaiah, and the Synoptic Gospels, and that since the death of Dr. William Henry Green, of Princeton, “there has been no worthy champion of anti-criticism in America.”

2. A second argument or illustration...

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