Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? X.

Having been accused of heresy Marcus Dods was forced to defend himself before the College sub-committee - a committee that consisted mostly of his friends, surely a gigantic abuse if there ever was one.
Questioned on the statement about the atonement he informed the committee that his views on the atonement were in no way in opposition to the Westminster Confession. This was not the point of the accusation. The accusation was that Dods' statements on the atonement tended to subvert the Confession, since he said that it really did not matter if a man believed the Confessional statement or some other view.
The Committee accepted Dods' statements that his sermon 'What is a Christian?" was addressed to those who were exposed to 'modern negative influences', and therefore were believed to have 'honest though imperfect and mistaken impressions of the Person of Christ.' True, but Dods seemed to suggest that an 'honest' Unitarian who denied the deity of Christ might nevertheless be a Christian. The Committee said Dods was thinking of an attitude towards Christ that 'practically makes Christ its God' without articulating His Divinity.
On the matter of Inspiration the Committee again excused Dods, saying that the Confession of Faith did not require a belief in inerrancy. This is an old canard, and even if true it missed the point. As Dr. Chalmers once said, creeds and confessions are "land-marks of old heresies," and the doctrine of Inspiration had not been questioned in any serious way before the Westminster Confession was written. Not that inerrancy was a new teaching - quite the reverse; it was the old teaching, and Dods' view of a 'limited inerrancy' (as it is called now. Dods denied it to be inerrancy at all) the new.
A defender of Dods declared that "It was criminal to shut their eyes to these things [the new views in theology]. Dr. Dods had gone down to the arena and tried to fight these men with their own weapons..."
Dods declared:
"I must do the work I am called to do. I am delighted that other men should put things differently, but I have also an evangelistic function which I cannot decline to discharge."

And there was the whole rationale for Dods' teaching - to reach the present age by trimming the Gospel to fit its views. The result promised for this teaching by men like Dods was a new age of Christian influence, a revival. Some said even the Millenium.
But what WERE its results? To that, God willing, we shall turn next.



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