Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 156:624 (Oct 99) p. 487
By the Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary
“Exploring the Roots of the Dispensationalist/Princetonian ‘Alliance’: Charles Hodge and John Nelson Darby on Eschatology and Interpretation of Scripture,” Joe L. Coker, Fides et Historia 30 (winter/spring 1998): 41-56.
Coker addresses Ernest Sandeen’s proposal that the root of fundamentalism in the twentieth century was primarily “an alliance between two newly formulated nineteenth-century theologies, dispensationalism and the Princeton theology which, though not wholly compatible, managed to maintain a united front against Modernism until about 1918” (p. 41).
In this article Coker briefly reviews modifications of Sandeen’s thesis. Some, for example, question whether dispensationalism and the Princetonian theology ever maintained a united front. The consensus among Sandeen’s critics “is that his use of the term ‘alliance’ is an overstatement while his phrase ‘not wholly compatible’ is an understatement” (ibid.). William Hutchinson terms it a “marriage of convenience,” while Paul Kemeny regards it as “more of an informal friendship, marked with rare instances of cooperation, than a purposeful coalition” (p. 42).
BSac 156:624 (Oct 99) p. 488
Though Princeton theology and dispensationalism had a common enemy in modernism, eschatology was “the most obvious difference between these two theologies” (p. 42). Seeking “a better understanding of the essential distinctions” (ibid.), Coker selects “the forefather of each movement: John Nelson Darby, considered the founder of dispensational premillennialism, and Charles Hodge, whose three-volume Systematic Theology embodies the fullest expression of the Princeton theology” (ibid.). After setting the background, the article traces the respective doctrines of eschatology, prophecy, and the future, and then notes how these movements foreshadowed the shattering of the alliance of twentieth-century fundamentalism, specifically Presbyterians led by J. Gresham Machen.
Coker’s survey of Darby and Hodge is informative, not least for the remarkable differences between them. In contrast to Darby’s great confidence in the clarity and value of prophetic Scripture, Hodge was hesitant about the doctrinal value of prophetic passages. He said that only the general outlines of the eschaton should be drawn from those passages because of the inherent opacity of prophecy. Hodge “insisted that the prophetic portions of scripture be subjugated to ‘didactic’ portions” (p. 50).
Though the comparison of Darby and Hodge is illuminating, it is also problematic. As Coker notes, Hodge “...
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