Augustus Hopkins Strong is perhaps the most notable Baptist theologian of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. His place in a compendium of Baptist theologians is central. In some cases he must be read in order to understand the theological writings of others. Strong taught and wrote his orthodox theology from a committed, reformed, Baptist perspective, while at the same time rigorously engaging intellectual developments within his cultural context. Strong's magnum opus, the Systematic Theology, embodied the best of his own theological reflection and of Baptist theological thought prior to the momentous crisis (the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy).
Concerning his eschatology, Strong believed Christ's coming is "pre-millennial spiritually, but post-millennial physically and visibly."1 In Strong's view the two eschatologies are not in conflict but simply indicate the marvelous teleology of a God who infinitely rich glory and grace is able to redeem the time, both present and future, and all that it contains. The eschaton is already present through the Holy Spirit who is unfolding the richness of the knowledge of God in the created order, and not yet, awaiting the glorious second advent of Jesus Christ who will make all things new.
Strong's approach to Scripture was reverent and thoughtful. He imbibed the attitude of his teacher, Ezekial Robinson, concerning the positive use of historical criticism in biblical study. He preferred the orthodox Lutheran European theologians to the Americans becasue he detected in the former a thoroughness and comprehensiveness in handling problems of understanding while in the latter he did not.
Strong recognized various proofs for the divine inspiration of Scripture, but the one he favored was the teaching and convincing that the Holy Spirit does in perpetually spurerintending the sincere reading of that Scripture. By this means, understanding the Scripture "as a whole and in all essentials," occurs so reliably that it must have God as its ultimate source and goal.2
Scripture's inspiration was accomplished through the Spirit of God causing an interpenetration of fully divine and fully human characteristics.
Strong does not hedge in his commitment to the biblical understanding of God in His sovereignty so that all events serve His ultimate purpose and glory, even the reprobate in their destruction. Strong, however, is careful to avoid blind determinism and sets forth a compatibility between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
As to election, Strong was an advocate of the moderate-Calvinistic "sublapsarian" view. Election is the determination of God to save some out of the mass of fallen humanity and to pass over the rest. Grace and sovereign election are kept in close relation. Drawing deeply upon reformed theology at this point, the actual effects of election secure union with Christ prior to justification and regeneration in the ordo solutis. Strong's earlier assertions about Christ in creation set the context for this view of election. Union with Christ, while avoiding "a false mysticism" is emphasized because of the powerful reality that is signified by the doctrine.
Ecclesiology, according to Strong, stands on the twin pillars of a regenerate membership and voluntary association, whether at the local or universal level. Each member stands on equal footing with God, to glorify Him and to do His will. Christ is the sole Lord of the church, whose authority in doctrine and life must be kept pure.
1 Strong, Primer, 104. Cited in ibid., 36; cf. Strong's Miscellanies v. 1, 68 for his affirmation of a literal second coming of Christ
2 Grant Wacker, Augustus H. Strong and the Dilemma of Historical Consciousness (Macon GA: Mercer, 1985), 4-6; cf. the very fine biographical sketch by S. Fraser Langford. "The Gospel of Augustus H. Strong and Walter Rauschengusch," The Chronicle 14 (1931): 3-18.
Bio from "Baptist Theologians",
Timothy George and David S. Dockery
Written by Kurt A. Richardson
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