Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? VII.

11th November 1863 saw Marcus Dods writing to A. Taylor Innes, an old college friend who had felt unable for doctrinal reasons to enter the Free Church ministry and who was now a member of Renfield Free Church, Glasgow, about the inauguration of A.B. Davidson (whose Hebrew Grammar has nearly killed many students) as successor to ‘Rabbi’ Duncan.
“At the opening of the College here Davidson made an Introductory full of pretty fancies, and one might almost say rich in gems of thought, not all his own, but finely wrought together. He showed, as was expected, a decidedly liberal tendency [‘liberal’ did not then have the narrow meaning it has today. It still meant ‘generous’ - H.H.], and yet was guardedly orthodox, without letting it be seen that he was guarded, or careful to conciliate...” By this time Dods was in close agreement with Davidson on the Old Testament - that the Pentateuch, for example, was not a product of the time of Moses.
But we must be careful. Apart from his views on the Bible Marcus Dods was THEOLOGICALLY just where he had always been. He was not going to deny the doctrines of Grace any time soon. He would never have dreamed of denying the deity of Christ. But he thought that the doctrine of an inerrant Bible would be a stumbling-block to others. He had read ex post facto accounts by certain German rationalists who claimed that it was the doctrine of inerrancy that had made them so. He was beginning to think that inerrancy had to be abandoned to present the Gospel to the Modern world.
In March 1864 he went to preach at Renfield, staying with his friend A. Taylor Innes. “I think this must and ought to be the last time I shall ever preach as a candidate,” he wrote, on the verge of giving up all thought of the pastoral ministry.
Well, it WAS, but not for the reasons he thought. After his visit they extended a call to him! By June it was settled, the Presbytery had sustained the call and Marcus Dods had accepted. He was officially the pastor of Renfield Free Church of Scotland.

And thus the first volume of letters ends. But our series goes marching on. Next time, God willing, we shall see how Marcus Dods finally presented his theological opinions to an unsuspecting world.



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