Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? Introduction.

Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D., fifth principal of New College, Edinburgh, is remembered today as a liberal theologian - and rightly so. Any man who declared that the Old Testament contained 'errors and immoralities' was no Evangelical. And yet throughout his life Marcus Dods protested that he WAS an Evangelical. And he believed it. Dods was part of what historians have dubbed 'The New Evangelism', a movement particularly within the Free Church of Scotland that sought to make the church more appealing to 'modern' people - particularly young people.
It is my contention that this New Evangelism, which eventually became theological liberalism, fatally compromised the very Gospel proclamation that it sought to reinforce, and instead of making Christianity seem more 'relevant' to late Victorian man, it made the Church seem completely irrelevant.
It is my further contention that the Emerging Church movement of today in many ways replicates the Victorian 'New Evangelism', and that its results, if the movemnt continues on the route it is on now, will be every bit as catastrophic.
So I have taken Marcus Dods as an example. As a leader in the 'New Evangelism' who developed his thought, and as one of the more radical, I find him quite enlightening.
Secondly, many of Marcus' Dods' personal letters, not originally intended for publication, were collected and published by his son (also Marcus Dods) in two volumes in 1910 ('Early Letters of Marcus Dods') and 1911 ('Later Letters of Marcus Dods'). 'Early Letters' covers the period 1850-1864, from Dods at university through to his being called to his first and only congregation, Renfield, Glasgow, 'Later Letters' the period from 1895 to 1909, when Dods was at New College, Edinburgh, as Professor of New Testament, and latterly as Principal also (very briefly). Although it will be noted that there is a long period - a little over thirty years - not covered by these volumes, that was the period during which Dods' work was most public, so we lose little by the gap.
God willing, then, this series will begin next time.



Anonymous andrew said...

just curious . . what is the relation between liberalism and the emerging church in scotland [i cant see one]

5:01 pm  
Blogger Highland Host said...

In terms of an organic link, none. My contention is that the Emerging Church today is heading, unwittingly, down the same road as Marcus Dods and the early liberals. The whole point of this series is to develop and demonstrate that contention.

The sort of modern theological liberalism represented most notoriously by Bishop Spong is of course a pretty vile thing, and no person connected with the Emerging Chuch that I am aware of would sanction it. What is forgotten is how liberalism started. It is out of a deep concern for what I believe to be a serious error that I write this series.

10:08 am  
Blogger Hiraeth said...

I would say something about R W Dale. But someone forgot to send my copy of his biography up to me.

3:12 pm  

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