December 3, 2014

Michael J. Lynch on “Early Modern Hypothetical Universalism: Reflections on the Status Quaestionis and Modern Scholarship”

The Junius Blog has posted the following:

Earlier this year [2014] Michael Lynch, a PhD student at Calvin Theological Seminary, presented at a Junius Institute Colloquium on the topic, “Early Modern Hypothetical Universalism: Reflections on the Status Quaestionis and Modern Scholarship.
Here is the audio on YouTube:

Lynch also recently spoke at the 66th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held on November 19-21, 2014, in San Diego, CA. His subject was "In Mediis Tutissime Ibis": An Examination of Robert Lewis Dabney's View of the Extent of Christ's Satisfaction (click for audio). He blogs here (click). Regarding his thesis, Lynch wrote:
Robert Lewis Dabney is generally regarded as the preeminent Southern Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century. His published writings extend to all sorts of subjects including politics, philosophy, biography, and, of course, theology. His most controversial writings from a contemporary point-of-view are those where he defended southern slavery, but in his own time he also caused quite a stir vis-à-vis the nature of imputation and Christ’s satisfaction.

At the 1863 General Assembly of the Old School (OS) Southern Church, a committee including Dabney was formed to discuss the prospect of reunion with the New School (NS) Southern Church. The OS concern against this proposed reunion was the supposed lack of doctrinal fidelity in the NS Church to Westminsterian orthodoxy. During the reunion debates, OS theologians Benjamin Palmer and A. A. Porter charged Dabney with denying confessional orthodoxy by teaching an indefinite atonement. At one point Dabney responded to Porter, “he demands that we shall say Christ was only the elect’s substitute, and bore the guilt only of the elect’s sins. We reply, show us the place where either the Bible or Confession of Faith says so.” Dabney’s writings on the nature and extent of the satisfaction demonstrate substantial disagreement with traditional OS opinion. This essay will argue that Dabney taught a middle-way position on the extent of the atonement occupying an area between that of limited satisfaction on the one hand, and the Wesleyan doctrine of universal redemption on the other.

In defense of this thesis, I will analyze Dabney’s magnum opus, Lectures on Systematic Theology, as well as his more occasional writings touching on the atonement. Chief among these occasional writings is Dabney’s argument for the plan of union between the OS and NS South—especially his defense of the plan’s doctrinal declaration in an OS newspaper, The Southern Presbyterian.

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