The Devotional Life Of Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, And Benjamin B. Warfield -- By: W. Andrew Hoffecker

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 42:1 (Fall 1979)
Article: The Devotional Life Of Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, And Benjamin B. Warfield
Author: W. Andrew Hoffecker

The Devotional Life Of Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, And Benjamin B. Warfield

W. Andrew Hoffecker


Princeton Theology is synonymous with 19th century American Calvinism. While the rest of Protestantism underwent radical changes during the 19th century the Princeton School of Theology prided itself on its lack of theological innovation. As the liberalism of Friedrich Schleiermacher, the New Haven theology of Nathaniel W. Taylor and the enthusiasm of the Finney revivals were making inroads in traditional Presbyterianism, Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, and Benjamin B. Warfield remained adamant in their espousal of traditional Reformed theology. In a remark that is oft quoted in disparaging tones Hodge stated that a “new idea” never originated from Princeton Theological Seminary. Hodge meant this remark to be the highest praise of Princeton’s unwavering support of Calvinism as the most faithful interpretation of Biblical Christianity. Usually Hodge’s statement is interpreted to describe their Calvinist doctrine. I would suggest that, whether Hodge intended ]It or not, his remark that the Princeton theology had not changed-had never admitted a new idea-extended to more than the Theology taught in the classroom.

As part of their Calvinism, Alexander, Hodge, and Warfield advocated a clearly definable Princeton piety, and they gloried in it. After all the Genevan Reformer had set the tone for all who would adhere to his Biblical view by unequivocally stating in the opening pages of the Institutes that piety is the prerequisite for the knowledge of God.

John T. ‘McNeill in his introduction to the Battles translation of the Institutes correctly noted that “piety” has lost its originally good name. In contemporary opinion piety usually ill

represents, in McNeill’s words, little more than, “ineffectual religious sentimentality or canting pretense.”1 For Calvin, on the other hand, piety was much more than emotionalism. It was that “reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces.” (I, 2, 1) It is that spiritual attitude of worship and adoration without which no one shall see God. Returning to McNeill’s evaluation, he stated that the word pietas occurs so frequently throughout the four books of the Institutes that it is like a tolling bell calling the reader’s attention to its necessity in the Christian life. McNeill lists over 75 references to the word in his extensive index.

Scholars of American theology have recognized Princeton’s unswerving devotion to Calvinist doctrine even if some have...

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