Bacon’s “Christianity Old And New” -- By: Edwin S. Carr

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 072:288 (Oct 1915)
Article: Bacon’s “Christianity Old And New”
Author: Edwin S. Carr


Bacon’s “Christianity Old And New”1

Edwin S. Carr

The author does not spend much time at the outset in characterizing the “old Christianity.” Here and there through the book its archaic features are suggested; as, on page 3: “a system committed once for all to a divinely appointed hierarchy, or embodied in a miraculous book.”

Bacon’s “new Christianity” is not embodied in a miraculous book. The alleged miraculous occurrences of Scripture are repudiated entirely as matters of fact; they are as indifferent to the truly critical historian as Gordon has shown them to be for the theologian (p. 57). The author declares there can be no halfway work in applying the tests of criticism, — they must be applied to the New Testament as well as the Old. With the vision of Elisha’s servant and the ascension of Elijah go the Transfiguration and the visible ascension of Jesus. How about Christ’s resurrection? The author nowhere suggests the bodily resurrection of Christ as a fact. It is rather a spiritual experience of the disciples; “it deserves the study of psychologists such as the late William James” (p. CO). I first got this idea from a German theological student at Heidelberg in 1888. He said, “The resurrection was bloss psychologisch, only his disciples saw

him.” This doctrine was not taught at that time at Yale Divinity School.

It is interesting to note in this connection that the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions holds its annual meeting in New Haven this month. This society is founded upon the “Last Command of the Risen Christ,” and at its meetings this alleged Last Command is frequently and reverently quoted. The members of this society will assemble in New Haven as the guests of a School of Religion which teaches that the Risen Christ never uttered the Last Command, for the very simple and conclusive reason that he never rose!

When I was a student at Yale Divinity School in 1883–87, the Bible was regarded as a miraculous book. Dr. Timothy Dwight, then occupying Bacon’s chair of New Testament Greek, once said: “If there is anything of questionable historicity in the New Testament, I think it is the statement about the dead coming forth and appearing in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death.” This was regarded as approaching dangerous heresy. Bacon’s Christianity is certainly new from the old Yale standpoint of Dwight and Fisher.

I will dwell a little upon Bacon’s philosophy of miracle, as it supplies the key to his method and his system. “Miracles, are not made by the facts, but by the interpretation put upon th...

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