Protestant Theology since 1700 -- By: Miner Brodhead Stearns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 103:411 (Jul 1946)
Article: Protestant Theology since 1700
Author: Miner Brodhead Stearns

Protestant Theology since 1700

Miner Brodhead Stearns

(Continued from the April-June Number, 1946)

Until the end of the 17th century, philosophy did not exert such a profound influence upon theology as was later the case. In the case of the Protestants this was due to the fact that their theology was well developed before modern philosophy took its rise under Bacon and Descartes. Nevertheless, some Reformed theologians on the continent as well as some Catholic writers were influenced to a considerable extent,by Descartes.1

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646–1716), reckoned to be the founder of modern German philosophy, was opposed to the extremes to which the Baconian philosophy had been carried by Locke, and likewise to the extremes to which Spinoza had carried the Cartesian system. In modification of the statement of the former, “There is nothing in the mind which was not previously in the senses,” Leibnitz added the important cause “except the mind itself.” He, therefore, rejected Locke’s contention that the mind in its original state is like a blank sheet of paper, and stated that it has a positive constitution and fixed laws of thought. In opposition to Spinoza, Leibnitz maintained both individuality and design. The characteristic feature of his system was the doctrine of monads. Monads may be likened to metaphysical atoms. Souls are monads, and God is the supreme Monad. The body is also composed of monads. So also is inorganic matter; and yet these monads are conceived as being alive. In the case of inorganic substance, however, the monads are as it were unconscious. “There is in nature a harmony

in the action of the monads which is pre-established by the Creator, and there is a constant coworking of God (concursus Dei), which is not destructive of second causes,” remarks Fisher on this theory.2 This view led Leibnitz to determinism, the doctrine of philosophic necessity. While human wills were not mechanically determined, nevertheless the foreseen result must inevitably ensue. In his theodicy Leibnitz dealt with the problem of evil, and concluded that the world as it is is the best possible. He was friendly toward theology, accepted the facts and truths of revelation, and maintained that faith and reason are in harmony. He distinguished between things above reason and things contrary to reason.

Christian Wolff (1679–1754) systematized Leibnitz’ philosophical system, which the latter had left in treatises that were like his monads—detached and unrelated. Wolff modified somewhat the views of his predecessor. Only souls have percept...

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