Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Declaring the Death of Christ: James Denney. VII.

James Denney entered upon his career as professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology at the Free Church College, Glasgow, with great enthusiasm. Denney, like all good theological lecturers, made his lectures interesting and was not above cracking the odd joke from the desk. When one of his students repeated one of the stories about Spurgeon and cigars, Denney exclaimed, "I know a better one. An old lady met Spurgeon one day and remonstrated with him about his smoking. Spurgeon replied, 'I do not see any harm in it as long as one does not smoke to excess.' 'And pray, Mr. Spurgeon, what would you call smoking to excess?' The came the withering retort, 'Madam, smoking two cigars at once!'"
Denney enjoyed recreation too, although his chief recreation was a game of whist. For his health he went for long walks about Glasgow, walking to every preaching engagement that he could. He tried a bicycle once, but did not take to it (unlike a certain other apologist). Denney was a brisk walker, and he only used public transport when he was unable to walk to his destination.

Denney was a conservative scholar at heart, but he was by no means as conservative as such modern scholars as Dr. Albert Mohler. One of his friends, a man who was something of a liberal, said, "There was no kind of ignorant narrowness about Denney. He was as critical as he was conservative, and knew when to be agnostic as when to be dogmatic."
Denney championed two doctrines in particular, the Divinity and the Atoning Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. As systematic theology professor, Denney had a great deal of influence. But his great ability was in New Testament studies, and in 1900 Denney was moved to a new post that would utilise that skill.
How that happened we shall, God willing, see next time.



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