Protestant Theology since 1700 -- By: Miner Brodhead Stearns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 105:418 (Apr 1948)
Article: Protestant Theology since 1700
Author: Miner Brodhead Stearns


Protestant Theology since 1700

Miner Brodhead Stearns

(Continued from the January-March Number, 1948)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 254–290, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–37, respectively.}

British Theology during the 18th Century

As in the study of German theology earlier, here it will first be necessary to sketch rapidly the character of British theology dating back to the 17th century or before, in order to furnish the proper background for the study of the subsequent development. Dorner points out that the history of Protestant theology in Britain is quite unlike that of similar dogma on the Continent.”1 From the Reformation until the close of the 16th century British Protestantism kept up an active intercourse with the sister churches on the Continent, but during the 17th century Britain was isolated and its churches busied themselves with their own affairs. In the 18th century, however, the contact was renewed and English Deism made its influence felt quite strongly in Germany.

It has already been pointed out that the 17th century in Germany and on the Continent in general was characterized by a period of Protestant scholasticism, or scientifically framed orthodoxy devoid of spiritual vigor. Such a development did not take place in Britain, since England “cannot be said to have produced any successive scientific development of theology.”2 The progress there was rather in the fields of church government and organization, worship (especially in England proper), political, social and moral life, than in theology as such. As Dorner puts it, there it was

in the sphere of the will rather than in the sphere of the intellect.3

Dorner’s analysis of the results of this tendency is so keen that one is obliged to quote him. “The consequence of this preponderance of the productions of the will over those of the intellect was, that heterodoxy here easily assumed the form of schism and this both because opposites are wont to come into far more violent collision in the world of practice than in the world of thought, and also because there was a lack of inclination to follow out the different tendencies to their principles, and thereby to arrive at that understanding or accommodation which might have resulted in a combined historical development. This practical turn of mind, which rather furnishes material for Church history than for a history of theology, necessarily suffered the relation between Church and State to a...

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