Sunday, January 16, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - Looking at Strong's Contemporaries - Part I

Reading through Systematic Theology, one cannot ignore the fact that Strong was writing in conversation with and in reaction to a variety of groups. Just in the two chapters dedicated to his ecclesiology, one can see interactions with and reactions against Romanists (also referred to as papists), Presbyterians, Campbellites, the Salvation Army, and the Society of Friends. This helps the reader have some understanding of the historical context against which Strong reacts. For example, Strong, like many Baptist theologians of his time, elaborately discusses the disqualification of infant baptism in his doctrine of baptism due to the continued conversation with paedobaptist groups. Theology, even when not reactionary, is rarely formed in a vacuum. Therefore, also of interest to this analysis of his doctrine of baptism are the doctrines of his Baptist contemporaries, both Northern and Southern. For this purpose the doctrine of baptism for some of his contemporary Baptist theologians will be reviewed. The hope is to identify commonalities and oddities, with respect to his historical context, in his doctrine.

I will only look at three of his contemporaries: B.H. Carroll, E.C. Dargan, and H.G. Weston. B.H. Carroll was chosen as a representative of Southern Baptists who espoused a different view of the universal church than Strong did. E.C. Dargan was chosen as a representative of Southern Baptists who spoused a similar view of the universal church to Strong's. In addition, Dargan directly interacted with Strong's ecclesiological ideas in his work, Ecclesiology. H.G. Weston was chosen because, as a Northern Baptist, his path intersected Strong's in many ways. It could be argued that Pendleton, Hiscox, or others could have been better choices; maybe one day I will have time to look at these gentlemen. What are your thoughts? Who would you have picked?

[45] Küng, in Hans Küng, The Church (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), 22-23, points out that concepts in ecclesiology are influenced by current forms that change throughout the ages. If one can identify the change, one can get to the constant "essence" that the temporal influences are masking. While not agreeing with Küng's ultimate conclusion that therefore only a glimpse of the essence of the church can be regained, based on his observation, one can see the value of looking at the historical context in which a particular ecclesiology is developed.

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