Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Words for Our Time (written 107 years ago)

I am distressed by some common theological tendencies of our time, because I believe them to be false to both science and religion.  How men who have ever felt themselves to be lost sinners and who have once received pardon from their crucified Lord and Savior can thereafter seek to pare down his attributes, deny his deity and atonement, tear from his brow the crown of miracle and sovereignty, relegate him to the place of a merely moral teacher who influences us only as does Socrates by words spoken across a stretch of ages, passes my comprehension.

Here is my test of orthodoxy: Do we pray to Jesus?  Do we call upon the name of Christ, as did Stephen and all the early church?  Is he our living Lord, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent?  Is he divine only in the sense in which we are divine, or is he the only-begotten Son, God manifest in the flesh, in whom is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily?  What think ye of the Christ? is still the critical question, and none are entitled to the name of Christian who, in the face of the evidence he has furnished us, cannot answer the question aright.

Under the influence of Ritschl and his Kantian relativism, many of our teachers and preachers have swung off into a practical denial of Christ’s deity and of his atonement.  We seem upon the verge of a second Unitarian defection, that will break up churches and compel secessions, in a worse manner than did that of Channing and Ware a century ago.  American Christianity recovered from that disaster only by vigorously asserting the authority of Christ and the inspiration of the Scriptures.

We need a new vision of the Savior like that which Paul saw on the way to Damascus and John saw on the isle of Patmos, to convince us that Jesus is lifted above space and time, that his existence antedated creation, that he conducted the march of Hebrew history, that he was born of a virgin, suffered on the cross, rose from the dead, and now lives forevermore, the Lord of the universe, the only God with whom we have to do, our Savior here and our Judge hereafter.  Without a revival of this faith our churches will become secularized, mission enterprise will die out, and the candlestick will be removed out of its place as it was with the seven churches of Asia, and as it has been with the apostate churches of New England.

I print this revised and enlarged edition of my “Systematic Theology,” in the hope that its publication may do something to stem this fast advancing tide, and to confirm the faith of God’s elect.  I make no doubt that the vast majority of Christians still hold the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, and that they will sooner or later separate themselves from those who deny the Lord who bought them.

When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him.  I would do my part in raising up such a standard.  I would lead others to avow anew, as I do now, in spite of the supercilious assumptions of modern infidelity, my firm belief, only confirmed by the experience and reflection of a half-century, in the old doctrines of holiness as the fundamental attribute of God, of an original transgression and sin of the whole human race, in a divine preparation in Hebrew history for man’s redemption, in the deity, preëxistence, virgin birth, vicarious atonement and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in his future coming to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe that these are truths of science as well as truths of revelation; that the supernatural will yet be seen to be most truly natural; and that not the [faithful] theologian but the narrow-minded [skeptic] will be obliged to hide his head at Christ’s coming.

Augustus Hopkins Strong (President and Professor of Biblical Theology, Rochester Theological Seminary), Systematic Theology, published in May 1907.

2 comments:

underground pewster said...

Prophetic words. It seems that each generation has to learn it for themselves. My response to those who would demand that God make a special appearance just for them is that he already did that, and He gave up his life in the process. What more do they want Him to do to convince them?

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

Also available at Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/systematictheol01strogoog