Review Articles: Old Princeton And Reformed Orthodoxy -- By: Annette G. Aubert
WTJ 74:1 (Spring 2012) p. 149
Old Princeton And Reformed Orthodoxy
Annette G. Aubert is a Research Fellow at the Craig Center, Westminster Theological Seminary. She reviews:
Paul C. Gutjahr, Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 528. $74.00, cloth.
Paul K. Helseth, “Right Reason” and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2010. Pp. 257. $21.99, paper.
Fred G. Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. Pp. 624. $40.00, cloth.
On August 12, 1812, Princeton Theological Seminary opened its doors to three theological students and one professor.1 This year’s bicentennial anniversary of this event gives us an opportunity to ponder the history and theological significance of this renowned academic Reformed institution. In spite of the fast-changing social and cultural milieu of nineteenth-century America, Princeton Theological Seminary from 1812 up to the dawn of the twentieth century embodied core Reformed principles.2 Princeton from its beginning was characterized by faithfulness to “the Augustinian and Calvinistic Theology.”3 As the twelfth president of Princeton Seminary, Francis Landey Patton (1843-1932), affirmed in his discourse on the 1912 centennial anniversary of Princeton Seminary, the seminary “never contributed anything to these modifications of the Calvinistic system.”4 Patton thus declared that the slogan “semper eadem” (“always the same”) best portrayed Princeton’s theology. While making this claim, the Princeton theologians were not indifferent to the progressive age. They drew upon philosophy and science; their hermeneutics was inspired by the inductive method of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and drew on Scottish Common Sense epistemology. Even as Princeton theologians appropriated the findings of
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science and Scottish philosophy, Patton concluded that they had not altered the “dogmatic content of the Reformed Theology.”5
How can this analysis be reconciled with the views of modern scholarship? Following the lead of Sydney Ahlstrom’s classic essay “The Scottish Philosophy and American Theology” (1955), most of Old Princeton scholarship interprets Princeton theology as being strongly influenced by Scottish philosophy.
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