Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Attempt To Reconcile Orthodox Theology And Modern Philosophy -- By: John A. Aloisi

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 23:0 (NA 2018)
Article: Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Attempt To Reconcile Orthodox Theology And Modern Philosophy
Author: John A. Aloisi


Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Attempt To Reconcile Orthodox Theology And Modern Philosophy

John A. Aloisi1

At the close of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, American theological liberals were busy carving out a “third way” between rationalistic atheism and orthodox Christianity. This middle way was based largely on twin ideas that divine authority is not tied to an inerrant book and that God should not be viewed as completely distinct from the material world.2 When put in positive terms, this latter concept was often expressed by the phrase “divine immanence.” Numerous books were written around the turn of the century arguing that the pressing theological need was to move forward toward a new understanding of God as immanent in the world and working in and through the physical universe in a way quite different from that taught by orthodox theology.3 Conservatives firmly denounced liberal

assertions about God’s immanence as heterodox and destructive to true religion.4 However, at least one conservative theologian, Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836–1921), attempted to wed orthodox theology to a new understanding of divine immanence. The result was something that Strong called ethical monism.

This article will briefly explore Strong’s role as a mediating figure in American theology before examining his doctrine of ethical monism and the impact that this idea had on other areas of his theology. It will argue that Strong’s ethical monism was an attempt to reconcile orthodox theology with a contemporary emphasis on divine immanence and that this attempt ultimately forced him to alter his theology in a distinctively unorthodox direction. In the end, his system contained irreconcilable tensions that prevented his unique theological contributions from being widely accepted.

The Riddle Of Augustus Hopkins Strong

Strong was in many ways a puzzling figure.5 As president and professor of biblical theology at Rochester Theological Seminary over the course of four decades, Strong shaped a generation of seminary students.6 As a leader among Northern Baptists, he played a significant

role in the denomination during the years leading up to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. And as the author of numerous books, including a major systematic theology...

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