on January 15, 2012
I have been waiting for a critical Hodge biography since 1991 when I first learned of him.
I am no Hodge expert, or scholar. But I here are my random thoughts:
* Sympathetic treatment, but not hagiography. It is a critical bio.
* Writer is tenured assoc prof at Indiana Univ.
* I did not find one single factual error, and I am picky. (The closest one -- I wonder if it is really "no more than 200 steps" from his house's back door to Alexander Hall. I'm guessing more like 50 steps).
* There were several typos, but that is typical of Oxford Univ. Press.
* A nice length 380pp. (plus end notes)
* I love that it has a lengthy timeline up front, and a cool biographical dictionary of key figures, with sketches of each.
Some random notes I took:
p. 83 -- Hodge is characterized as "argumentative but irenic and generous" Nails it. We often think he was a jerk, because he is so pointed in his written criticisms. But generally he was a guy who could hold onto beliefs strongly, advocate for them, and yet be much more tolerant, appreciative and cooperative with people who disagreed. We need more of this, IMHO. We think we either have to be intolerant, rigid haters who can't work with others, OR we have to soften our personal commitment to doctrine. But he shows us one example of someone who is solidly Old School theologically, yet fought hard not to kick out the New Schoolers (who were flat out Wesleyan in many cases). He worked with people and promoted people with different views, and even helped recruit faculty like that for both the seminary and the college (he was longtime trustee at the college).
pp. 84ff. -- John Haviland built Hodge's house on campus (finished 1825). Hodge was a young faculty, underpaid (for about 30 years!). How did he get Haviland? Not answered here. Haviland designed Philly's City Hall, the US Mint, and Walnut St. Theatre. It fit Hodge's personality -- systematic, orderly, practical, elegant but humble.
88 -- Hodge got the seminary job in 1820 (he was Alexander's 2nd choice for the 3rd prof. First they asked Hodge's best friend, who turned it down because he went Episcopal).
At the start he took a three week trip to Boston. On the way he stayed with Nathaniel Taylor (!) in New Haven. He gets to Boston and who does he choose to hunt down and hang out with? Edward Everett. (Everett, for those who might not recall, was a Harvard prof who had just spent four years in Europe and became the first PhD in America.)
As if that wasn't enough for one 3-week trip (recall it was slow, horseback) -- he goes and meets with Moses Stuart (!). This is the first of many visits he was to have with Stuart over the years.
If you have had trouble sorting out Harvard's Unitarianism from Yale from Andover from New Haven from New Divinity from Princeton, read pp. 90-93. Very nice, lucid explanation.
Here is a very simplistic summary: On the far left of a line write "Harvard" One tick over write "Yale." One tick to the right write "Andover." Then finally on the far right write "Princeton"
Now to fill it in some:
* Under Harvard: Unitarianism (Hollis Chair)
* Under Yale: Nathaniel Taylor; New School Presbyterian, New Haven Theology. Optimistic on human ability
* Under Andover: Moses Stuart, Edward Amasa Park, Leonard Wood, Timothy Dwight, "Consistent Calvinism", Calvinism + Revivalism, New Divinity, New England Theology
* Under Princeton: Hodge, etc.
p. 92 -- My only criticism of this section -- the author never explains why he thinks Andover theology is actually "hyper-Calvinist."
pp.94ff. -- Nice explanation of the roots of anti-clericalism in America. He roots it in the old Nathan Hatch "Democratization of American Religion" thesis.
1776: Presbyterianism was 2nd largest group in America (after Congregationalists). By 1850 it was 5th.
Hodge had a good working knowledge of seven languages besides English (Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Latin, French, Arabic, and German).
Hodge had a secure job with Princeton. Very few of his equivalents at other schools had done graduate studies in Europe. He didn't want to leave -- he was deeply in love, married less than four years, had two small children, the trip was slow, costly and a little dangerous. His mentor, boss, and father figure Archibald Alexander did not like the idea. And he'd have to have his family move to Philly with his brother (young doctor, not yet well off).......But he really wanted to interact with the sources of the "Neology." He left for two years. Nevin, one of his recent students, filled in for him.
It was a 25 day boat trip each way. He planned to do one year in Paris and one in Gottigen. The book provides a good map of where he ended up.
p. 105 -- Paris 3.5 months. Went to Sylvestre de Sacy's lectures (world's foremost authority on Middle Eastern languages).
p. 106 -- Hodge preached to an English congregation in Paris. Gen. Lafayette himself heard about this and came to one of his sermons (!)
Went to Halle instead of Gottigen. Gottigen was in decline in quality. Halle had been a Pietist university 200 years before (Philip Jakob Spener, August Hermann Francke) but had evolved. In Hodge's day it was going back to its roots somewhat. Had hired the evangelical-ish August Tholuck, who mastered 15 languages, and was already becoming a top European Bible scholar. Hodge studied with him, and became a lifelong close friend and correspondent with Tholuck.
p. 110 -- Tholuck was no conservative Calvinist. He was such a Pietistic subjectivist that he loved Schliermacher. (Schl., BTW, is another one Hodge studied with in Germany!) Tholuck stops by Hodge's room about 3-4 times a week, sometimes as much as twice a day, to hang out, go for walks.
But the brushes with greatness don't end there. He's roommates with the great Edward Robinson, who went on to head Andover Seminary and became the first American Bible scholar with a worldwide audience.
Hodge lives in a boarding house belonging to Gesenius - the top Hebrew scholar in the world and a total rationalist (his stuff is still used today).
p. 109 -- He gets a German tutor, and it turns out to be George Muller (!), who was newly converted, and was just about to open his first orphanages (on the "faith principle" of fundraising).
* Hodge's amazing ability to sniff out smart people and interact deeply with them. He makes and sustains amazing friendships.
* Interesting theological flexibility. Tholuck gets high praise from Hodge all of his life, though Tholuck finds communion with God much more in the mystical and sacramental, and much less in the rational. And he is more liberal and less orthodox. Interesting that Hodge is more likely to praise Tholuck than Nevin for teaching many of the same things. p. 110.
Spent time in Berlin. And some science and medical lectures.
ASIDE: BTW contrast these travels and friendships with his Southern equivalent, Robert Dabney. Dabney only left the South even briefly twice before the Civil War (NYC for denominational business), never studied outside the South. At the end of his life he did a European tour, but as a tourist not a really student. Hodge is Dabney's opposite on this.
Hodge gets back to Princeton 1828 a changed man. A portrait is made of him by Rembrandt Peale in 1830 -- same one who painted George Washington, Jefferson....
p. 124 -- Great stuff on Hodge's friends, the great French Reformed evangelical family of pastors, the Monods. (There needs to be an English language bio on the Monods!)
1829 General Assembly mission committee had just five members, and all three of the Princeton faculty were among them (Alexander, Miller, Hodge).
p. 125 -- John Breckinridge, 4th prof at Princeton, was the first professor of missions in American history.
New Haven/Yale Theology of his day, the "consistent Calvinism," rejected the inheritance of Adam's guilt (taught in Romans 5). Concerned Alexander and Hodge, because if Adam's sin was not imputed to us, then how is Jesus' redemption? The towering Taylor was big on this (the one Hodge met with in his New England trip), and eventually Moses Stuart (Andover, also Hodge friend). Albert Barnes teaches this in his commentary on Romans -- and was pastor of First Pres. Philly, and eventually a New School leader. He'd been class of 1824 Princeton under young Hodge. p 138. His Barnes Notes were very popular with laity.
This is why Hodge wrote his Romans commentary (got JA Alexander to agree to do other volumes in OT, Acts, and Gospels, as Hodge did various Pauline books). But Hodge's, while in print now 170 years, were never as accessible to laity.
Hodge's dad died when he was young. His mom died in 1832. He had been very close to his mom, but less so in the later years, because she didn't like Hodge's wife and had moved back to Philly. Ashbel Green officiated the funeral.
Asiatic Cholera hit Princeton in 1832 and killed some seminary and college students. Hodge spearheaded medical services to the sick. His brother Hugh had seen the illness while a ship doctor in India (!) and became famous for being effective in helping stem the problem in America in 1832 (mostly Philly, also advised Hodge for Princeton). It got him his job at U of Penn Medical School, and he bought a $28k house (pricey) on Walnut St.
p. 153 -- Hodge has back rheumetism and ends up nearly crippled for years, and uses a cane his whole life. From 1833-43 he couldn't walk to Princeton's village on Nassau St. (half mile).
Hodge hires domestics to help out, since he's a near cripple, crazy busy, and by now has a jillion kids. He hires an Irish girl who is a lunatic and jumps out a third story window of his house.
In 1828 he tries to solve his labor problems by buying a slave for $75. Later he inherits a 2nd one. Sadly this was pretty normal in NJ in the 1820s and 1830s.
p. 156 -- This is a puzzling stat, I'd like to see unpacked -- the author claims that when the Civil War started, 75% of the world population was "repressed in some form of physical slavery or serfdom." More on slavery later.....
chap. 26 -- storm brewing on Old School/New School stuff. Alexander, Miller and Hodge saw the differences as largely of degree, not kind. They took middle-of-the-road approach that angered both sides -- "ultras" (extremists, like Green, Robert Breckinridge) saw them as wishy washy sellouts; New Schoolers saw them as critical.
pp. 163ff. -- Follows a good summary of the tragic, pragmatic, semi-Pelagian "New Measures" and scientific revivalism of Finney (a Presbyterian, till he goes Congregationalist and bad mouths Calvinists).
pp. 168ff. Back to Slavery: Virginia slave Nat Turner starts a revolt that kills 57 white men, women, and children. Shocks the pro-slavery types but also some moderates.
Elijah Lovejoy (Princeton Seminary grad, Hodge student) started a pro-abolitionist newspaper in Illinois and was killed by a mob in 1837.
In 1787 Synods of NY and Philly voted a statement saying eventual abolition of slavery was a goal. Said slavery was immoral and a violation of God's Law and Scripture, but immediate emancipation would be foolish for both slave and master. 1818 General Assembly passed a declaration that every Presbyterian should work to abolish slavery.
Alexander got deeply into American Colonization Society (in its context a mildly progressive movement) that saw the solution as giving slaves their own autonomous state, and correcting the wrong of dragging them to America, by sending them back. They bought land on high ground, and founded -- Liberia.
A presbytery in OH forbade any slave owners from taking communion.
p. 171 -- Hodge's views grew more and more sympathetic to abolition, but his bigger concern was denominational unity. He did not think the Bible directly commanded an end to slavery, but he did think it implicitly forbid it. "Gradual emancipation" was his stance. p. 175
His earlier, less emancipationist stance, is reflected in an 1838 article he wrote. It was taken without permission and reused by another author in the Cotton is King book in 1859. Even so, it was edited, with qualifications taken out by the editor. Years ago, I once compared the 1838 article to its 1859 reprint and highlighted all the omissions -- they were significant.
Other published writings of Hodge showed that even as early as 1836 Hodge wanted the gradual abolition of slavery. It was definitely even more true by the 1850s.
Great summary, very clear and balanced, on Old School/New School schism in chaps. 28-30. It breaks your heart. Hodge fought the separation all the way.
The Ultras who got the Old School to vote to kick out the New School-dominated Synods out West -- they were heavy handed. BTW -- New School dominated most GA in 1830s, but were just 40% of 1837, so the Old School took advantage and acted. Its unclear who was larger. Both sides were probably about the same size.
The courts briefly sided with New School as the true presbyterian church, though later this was reversed.
Hodge's best-seller, The Way of Life, was translated into a zillion languages. It is an accessible devotional intro. His later Systematic Theology has a Baconianism and Scottish Common Sense Realism that is harder to find in The Way of Life. Interestingly, you could argue that the later Realism is at least a quarter step toward the Andover/Moses Stuart emphasis on human ability and away from classic Calvinism. p. 203, see also pp. 207ff.
BTW -- postmil. stuff here -- emphasis on Kingdom of God on Earth more than just escape from the world to Heaven in glory. Many will ike his earthy eschatology even if not the postmil (I don't think the author ever uses that term).
Hodge differs from Calvin on the sacraments, clearly. p. 211 has a helpful summary. Unlike Calvin emphasis on grace and on mystery, Hodge saw the efficacy of the Supper as solely tied to faith and understanding.
Hodge trained 3000 grad students. This is more than any other American in 19th cent. The quality of those 3000 was also high. p. 213.
The section on Transcendentalism (pp. 227ff.) is great. German Idealism held that there was an innate intuitive faculty that allowed all to make sense of the world. Transcendentalists held that this intuitive, innate faculty was both divinely inspired and present in all. Calvinist see all humans as corrupted, and we look for God OUTSIDE ourselves. Trans.-- find portion of the Divine INSIDE. Calvinist say encountering Divine is by H.S., Trans. by looking inside. p. 229.
Roman Catholic Baptism -- 1845 GA held by huge majority that RCC baptism was invalid. Hodge was horrified. GA later reversed itself based on Hodge's thoughts. pp. 235ff. BTW -- anti-Catholicism, think that's a rural, Southern thing? The worst was the Northeast cities. NY, Baltimore, Boston, Philly, burned and killed Roman Catholics in the mid-1800s. In Philly in 1844 mobs burned whole blocks of Roman Catholic houses, three churches, a covent and a seminary in one incident. p. 236
Nevin -- most observers hold that Hodge was wrong, Nevin right on sacraments. That is not in doubt for me. But I always wondered how the normally sharp Hodge could be so utterly clueless here.
For the first time, this book gave me a more balanced understanding. I can sympathize a little more with Hodge. (pp. 240ff).
Nevin takes the position at Mercersburg in 1840. Schaff joins him 1844. BTW -- Schaff had served as assistant to none other than...... Hodge's old prof and friend in Germany Tholuck!
In Hodge's mind, Mercersburg, to the extend it deviated from standard Calvinism, came to adopt some of the worst parts of Transcendentalism and Catholicism.
VERY helpfully, the author digests Hodge's concerns to three fronts: 1. Mercersburg's conception of the Church, 2. the priority it gives to the Incarnation over the Atonement (brilliant); 3. sacraments.
Nevin argues that the Church is the strongest means of grace, not the Bible. Good stuff on Nevin and no salvation outside the Church... (p. 242)....
Nevin and Sch. viewed the church as a dynamic entity. Like a human, the Church evolves and matures with time. So at the end, the Church will be perfect, but it starts not so much.
Unity is the final mark of perfection at the end of ages. So unity is a high goal.
Hodge hates the evolutionary view of orthodoxy. Orthodoxy for him is original and unchanging.
Continuing with that first point --- The Church: Nevin rejects the invisible church as a useless abstraction.
Now that moves us to point 2 of Hodge's critique of Nevin. This emphasis on the visible church led Nevin to an emphasis on the Incarnation that seemed to Hodge to be at the expense of the Atonement. I think Hodge was onto something here. Aren't the Gospels far more interested in the Cross and Easter than in Christmas? Paul even more so.
For Hodge, the Cross, not the stable, marked the key moment in history. p. 243.
That said, Hodge reviewed Schaff's 1845 book on Protestantism and in closing found it "thoroughly evangelical."
Point 3 of Hodge's critique of Nevin starts with 1846's Mystical presence, Nevin's best known book. Hodge writes a 50-page review that personally wounds his old friend Nevin.
Nevin said his view on the sacraments was closer to Calvin's than most 19th cent American Reformed folk like Hodge. American Reformed had so exalted the role of human reason that they had lost sight of the fact that not everything about God can be grasped by the human mind.
Hodge saw the meal as ONLY or at least primarily a SIGN of God's work in the world. Nevin saw it as exercising inherent redemptive power.
Hodge thought Nevin had no real place for the work of the Spirit. To him Nevin on the Spirit was little more than abstract German Idealism mixed with Christian terminology and categories. That seems pretty harsh, probably absurd, but worthy of deeper examination.
Now here's something I don't know that I ever realized -- Nevin's Mystical Presence, Finney's Lectures on Systematic Theology, and Bushnell's Discourses on Xian Nurture all came out within one year! Hodge and his ilk must have felt utterly assailed. And as Hodge tries to respond he is doing so from a shrinking Presbyterian Church that had just 8 years before been chopped in half (New School / Old School) and was moving towards yet another schism North / South. He's hitting 50, can't walk, and probably wondering how in the world he can respond to these three in a way that will change anything.
Finney's pragmatic revivalism is a lot worse than even the stereotypes you have heard (if you haven't read him). see pp. 244-245.
Nevin joined Hodge in rejecting revivalism (though not revival). And so did Horace Bushnell, for completely different reasons.
Bushnell held that Christ's death did nothing to change God's position to humanity. Instead it brought a change in human hearts towards God's love. Abelardian in a way.
The author says this is a variation on Finney's own view, but frankly I don't see what he means (p. 249). I thought Finney was a straight-on substitutionary atonement guy.
Anyway, for Bushnell it is all about example (nurture).
Now at the very same time those three hugely important books come out -- his most theologically sharp son graduates from Princeton Seminary, A A Hodge. He is wild for missions and takes his new bride off to India. But health forces them to return to the States in 1851.
Hodge's oldest daughter Mary also weds that year. (Years ago I read her letters back and forth with her dad, and they are amazing. She was a special woman, very sharp, and Hodge absolutely adored her).
Her husband was William M. Scott, a Princeton Seminary grad. p. 251
Hodge bit his tongue. Scott was a Democrat, Hodge a Whig/Republican. The new son-in-law took a professorship at Centre College in Danville KY. Hodge was broken to have his daughter move so far away. She got pregnant and Hodge's wife decides to go to KY to look after her daughter Mary. Hodge is horrified by the danger to his wife. He sends his young son Charles Jr to go with her during his summer break from college at Princeton. Mary has the baby, Hodge's first grandson, Charles Hodge Scott. p. 253
Skip forward a couple of years, Hodge's wife Sarah dies. In two weeks Samuel Miller also dies (I think this is 1849). p. 258.
Read about the staff given to Alexander by the missionary to the Hawaiian islands. Alexander on his death bed in 1850 gave it to Hodge as a sign of orthodoxy. p. 259
Hodge joined the trustees of Princeton College in 1849 and served forever as the driving force on that board (27 years). It was Hodge who moved the reluctant board to appoint Maclean as the 10th president.
And oddly the book does not mention that he was the one who recruited the (evolutionist) James McCosh as president in 1868. In fact, most wouldn't think to expect this because Hodge was the anti-evolutionist and McCosh the pro-evolutionist, so people assume they were enemies.
Actually Hodge was less anti-evolution than the textbooks say, and McCosh was less pro-evolution. And for Hodge method was as important as beliefs, and McCosh and Hodge shared a method, even if they arrived at different conclusions. Also, as we said at the onset, people assume that if Hodge disagreed with someone and argued with them than he opposed them. Not true -- `argumentative but irenic.'
p. 278 you get the stuff about Hodge's second wife, Mary Stockton. Stocktons were the richest family in Princeton. Her brother was a famous Union general. Two of her children married two of Hodge's.
pp.288ff. we get into Hodge's ugly fights with the Southern theologian Thornwell. Now Thornwell is not Dabney. He actually went to Harvard Div School and Andover for his education (though he hated them). But he comes off as just as extreme and narrow at times.
Hodge was Presbyterian, but he did not find in Scripture an exact blueprint for how to set up church government. Thornwell disagreed. He was sure the Bible spelled out Presbyterian church government (his version of it) exactly.
Thornwell often thought you are only free to do what Scripture directly commands. Finding no church boards in the Bible, he rejected things like the Missions Board of the Presbyterian denomination, or its publications board.
In 1843 the GA, in response to complaints from some Southerners like Thornwell, ruled that ruling elders were different from ordained ministers. Essentially GA held to 3 office Presbyterianism. Hodge agreed. The vote wasn't even close -- 138-9 Thornwell was defeated. Thornwell thought the vote denigrated the elders and elevated the ministers (p. 290).
The author quotes a letter from Thornwell to his wife about the next General Assembly, 1845. There Thornwell had locked horns with Hodge again -- this time as Thorn. tried to have Roman Catholic baptism declared invalid.
The author paints Hodge's critique of Thornwell as revolving around Thornwell's differing hermeneutic. Thornwell is the "strictest of all biblical constructionists." For Thornwell, history and the Presbyterian Church's constitution mean zero if he doesn't think Scripture directly commands some teaching or practice explicitly. p. 291
I find this so sad, and self-defeating of Thornwell. And of course this requires him to be inconsistent in big ways. For example, this hyper-sola Scriptura approach mixed with a strict constructionist, very literal way of interpreting the Bible seems strongly at odds with his own Natural Law arguments in favor of slavery! (see p. 316). Thornwell's method there seems like the ones he criticizes, just worse.
Hodge is seen as less flexible in biblical interpretation as most would like, but compared to Thornwell he is very flexible. Hodge called Thornwell's views at one point untenable "superlative high churchmanship." Where Thornwell saw no denominational boards in Scripture and this hated all of them, Hodge saw a spirit of Scriptural intention in these attempts at boards.
1860 GA saw an attempt to end these boards defeated 234-56. Again, Hodge over Thornwell.
p. 293 -- gets into what I said in the part about Barnes Notes, and Hodge's commentaries. J. Addison Alexander (Archibald's son), who knew like 30 languages was Hodge's partner in a set that never finished.
Ever struggle with the evolution of 19th century political parties? Read chap. 48 (pp. 299ff.) and it'll all come together.
Alexander, Miller, Hodge, Green -- all grew up Federalists. Alexander (a generation older than Hodge) was a-political. Miller -- also older than Hodge -- went Jeffersonian for awhile. He felt betrayed by Jefferson and went a-political too.
Hodge was a political junkie. He disliked Jefferson, and blamed the 1807 Embargo Act for ruining his poor mother's finances. So this led him to the Whigs.
Jeffersonianism evolved into Jacksonian Democrats.
Federalism became Whig and out of the ashes of imploded Whigs came the Republicans (Lincoln).
One thing that bugged people like Hodge about the Jeffersonians/turned Jacksonian Democrats --they seemed less for 'stability', and more for land acquisition out West, material progress (capitalism), etc.
So the Jeffersonians/Jacksonian Democrats appealed to some of the nouveux -riches and industrious working class, Federalist/Whig/Republicans more old money.
But here's another wrinkle -- the Jacksonians were the egalitarians in their context, yet developed the whole spoils system. It was a New Cronyism, just of the new money instead of the Old Guard.
pp.302ff. The Whigs split between Cotton Whigs (more pro-slavery) and the Antislavery Whigs in the 1830s and 40s. Fillmore, a Whig, lost half of his party's support for appeasing the Cotton Whigs and South too much. So the Whigs did not pick Fillmore for a 2nd term as president and went with Mexican War hero (and more ant-slavery), Gen. WInfield Scott, instead. The split party gave Democrat Franklin Pierce victory in 1852. The Whig party started to dissolve and much of its support went to the newer Republicans.
Hodge went from Whig to Republican, and supported John C. Freemont in 1856. Later he supported Lincoln in 1860. p. 306.
Hodge voted Republican. But every Southern state (except Louisiana, because its southeast population center is not Southern) voted for the pro-secessionist Democrat.
A split was coming within the Old School, North/South. Hodge fought hard to keep the South in the denomination. This accounts for why he was more anti-slavery than he chose to write about in this period. He is willing to be more patient with gradual abolition if it'll keep the South and North united. BTW -- that was Lincoln's secular approach in 1860 also.
p. 314 -- another irony on Thornwell. The man who worked harder than anyone to draw firm distinction between religious and political / social activity, became a major religious voice in the politics of the South's secessionist movement.
Benjamin Palmer, pastor in New Orleans of the only significant Presbyterian church in that city, was offered a job by Hodge at Princeton in 1860. This was likely an olive branch. The author never mentions this, but so was Dabney around the same time. They both turned the offers down.
318 -- Hodge's brother-in-law was Union Gen. David Hunter, a wild abolitionist who hated slavery. Hodge's son, John Hodge, also fought in the Civil War on the Union side.
William Berryman Scott was a favorite grandson of Hodge. Hodge helped raise him when his father died. Scott loved Hodge very much. He grew up to be a scientist and eventually an early apologist for Darwinism of a sort. He taught college students at Princeton for years and write a memoir.
That leads to chap. 56, pp. 365ff. on Science and Darwinism. The author's chapter is brutally short. Just 7pp.
The books ends with a part on Hodge's heirs, Warfield, Machen, etc.
A truly wonderful book.