Monday, December 27, 2010

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - Intro

When reading about Augustus Hopkins Strong, the discussion often revolves around his concept of "ethical monism," or his orthodoxy (especially in light of his hiring and retaining Walter Rauschenbusch as a faculty member at Rochester Seminary [1]), or his acceptance of theistic evolution and the "pictorial-summary" interpretation of Genesis 1:1. If his ecclesiology is mentioned, it is usually just mentioned briefly and at most summarized in a short paragraph.[2] Yet, Strong did dedicate two chapters of his Systematic Theology to the topic of "Ecclesiology, or the Doctrine of the Church."[3] Therefore, while ecclesiology is not what people remember him for, due to the longevity and the "formative influence" of his Systematic Theology on both Northern and Southern Baptists,[4] there are benefits to undertake an analysis of his ecclesiological views.

Here we will only look at a detailed analysis of one aspect of his ecclesiology: Strong's view of baptism. Maybe in the future I will have time to look at more. The approach that will be employed will be, first, to summarize succinctly his ecclesiology for the sake of providing a theological framework for the more detailed discussion on baptism. Second, his doctrine of baptism will be presented. Third, the doctrines of baptism of some of his contemporaries will be presented to give a historical context to this analysis. Finally, his doctrine of baptism will be evaluated. I hope to show that Strong's doctrine of baptism is orthodox, Baptist, and biblical and has a clear Christocentric framework. In addition, it will be seen that the oddities in Strong's doctrine of baptism can be tied to an anthropocentric shift.

I know this series will probably have a small following due to its topic, but let me encourage you to follow it. I think that we can learn much from history. So ... be looking for the next post that will present a summary of Strong's ecclesiology.

[1] According to McBeth, in H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville: Broadman, 1987), 598, Strong agonized about the Rauschenbusch situation, for he was committed both to keeping the seminary orthodox and to academic freedom, but ultimately favored his desire for academic freedom and "refused to silence or restrict" Rauschenbusch.

[2] See for example: Timothy George and David S. Dockery, Baptist Theologians (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1990), 299, and James Leo Garrett, Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study, 1st ed. (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009), 301-02. In addition, a brief review of theological journals did not produce any articles concerning Strong's ecclesiological views.

[3] These are found in Part VII of the 3rd Volume of Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium Designed for the Use of Theological Students (1903; reprint, Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1960), 887-980.

[4] Speaking to its longevity is the fact that this volume has recently been re-printed by Judson Press in 2010. This is one of many republications since the 1960 reprint by Judson, consulted for this paper, which was already the twenty-first reprint. Speaking to its influence, see McBeth, Baptist Heritage, 597-98, Garrett, Baptist Theology, 294, and George and Dockery, Baptist Theologians, 289.

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