1 thought on “Hiram Van Kirk’s A History of the Theology of the Disciples of Christ on Google Books

  1. Hiram Van Kirk’s dissertation is a notably “thin” exercise for a degree in “systematic theology,” intellectually, historically, and, surely, theologically. In 144 pages (printed, 6-1/2 x 9-1/2), Van Kirk devotes five to a detailed outline of contents, arriving at Chapter One on page 13. That chapter leads the reader through an outline summary of the development of Christian theology cuminating in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century — in not quite 17 pages. Van Kirk then discusses the “Covenant Theology” of seventeeth-century Dutch reformers — “the fundamental theological category to the Campbells and their co-laborers” — in 22 pages. Van Kirk then traces the influence of John Locke on AC in 19 pages, concluding that AC’s “thinking was based on modern philosophy,” while his opponents relied on “mediaeval systems.”

    After nine pages on the Scottish sectarians, Van Kirk comes at last, on page 80, to the “rise” of the “current reformation.” For such “theology” as he is able to derive from that movement in 64 pages, Van Kirk relies on TC’s Declaration and Address, AC’s debates, and on the periodicals of AC and BWS, as well as the accounts of biographers of TC, AC, BWS and Elder John Smith. AC’s The Christian System either escaped his notice or is left out of account. This is thin gruel indeed, especially in its treatment of primary sources.

    We may wonder what a “systematic theologian” or some one attempting a historical theology of Disciples might write in 2010, and how that analysis might vary from Van Kirk’s account. What and where are the sources for “theological” development among Disciples in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?

    Our copy of Van Kirk’s dissertation came to us from Frederick Doyle Kershner, founding dean of the Butler College of Religion, and bears his annotations.

    May God have mercy.


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