PROFESSOR DICKIE’S TEACHING
CHALLENGED BY RF.V. P. B. FRASER. ‘‘CHARGE SIGNALLY FAIL' 5 .” Yesterday afternoon tho meeting of tho Presbvterian Assembly in Burns Hall was attended by pretty well a full muster ot members and bv a considerable number of the public. The business was to hear tho Rev. P. B. Fraser in support of his charge: “ I have -reason to believe, and publicly affirm, that Professor Dickie’s touching and the theology he recommends aro subversive of tho fundamental truth of this Church." At ithc outset the Moderator (Rev. A. Grant) asked the meeting to refrain from demonstration' or applause. Dr Gib’o raised the preliminary question that the proceedings that afternoon were not in any way to bo regarded as a barrier to Professor 'Dickie to his demanding a libel if he thereafter found it necessary. The Clerk (Rev. Jus. H. MacKenzie) did not see how tho proceedings could be a bar. but if there was any doubt about it, it would be wise for Professor Dickie to at once make the necessary statement. ITofessor Dickie: I do not regard these proceedings as in any way interfering with my light to a libel if 1 think it necessary, and in that consideration 1 cenrenl to these proceedings.. Rev. H. W. Burridge raised, the qnos tior. whether the proceedings should not bo in camera. Many Voices: “No.” Rev. A. -M. Finlayaon said that lie would take the responsibility of moving iu that dire.lion. This motion lapsed, not being seconded. - -The Charge. -
Rev. Mr Fraser began by explaining how ho came to be in Ids present position before tho Assembly. At tho last Assembly them was a report as to tho studios of an extramural student, and he gave a hint or warning by way nf indicating his discontent and alarm regarding the action of the professor in prescribing a particular course of study for this extramural student, and lie asked the Assembly to hear the 111.liter in private, in order to not unnecessarily blazon it forth to the vorH before the professor had opportunity to study what course ho would take. The professor then had his opportunity to make a statement, hut ho did not do so. Tho Assembly pulsed a resolution of entire confidence in him. hj: the interval he <N!i- Fraser' had calmly considered what he ought to do. Tlis professor had hinted that if he bad been written to privately ho could have made a satisfactory answer. If ho (.Mr Fraser) had done such a thing he would have placed him--self in a false posit u,.i. U might have keen said that ho had tried to trap the profess, nr. Moreover, the professor was a public teacher, and it was of infinite importance to every Christian in the Dominion that tho standing of such a man should be known, bc'-ausc there was only one theological college, and students must study there or nowhere. In prepiration tor these proceedings he in the first place divested himself of his official position as superintendent •of homo missions, and he was now present simply as a minister of the t’hnr. hj. .-peaking to hi.- brethren. A, lie was editor of a little magazine, he made use of its pages to make Ids position rlcar. Dr (Twin said the previous day.
'.v:th p touch <>f scorn. Unit someone had rod him a copy of that paper. .Vs a matter of fait he iMr Fraser) sent it. ami he also sent a ropy to Professor Diekie. In order that tin professor might have Urn ..'round clear, he iMr Fraser) determined from the beginning that he would not a!l il ee that the pro*error's sentiment')
were ill" same as Professor Adams Urovrn’s t-*a. hing. and he ".ns also careful not to disseminate his opinions too broadly before the professor had had an opportunity of speaking. It could no: he said that he had been going behind the professor’s hack and raising op interests against him. He did not know that a .single man was going to support him here. He certainly was imi going. through the Church organising a plot. What he set himself to do was to compel Professor Dickie to come out and say whether he did state that Professor Prown’s book on theology was the host book of the sort in the language, and why ho gave it to the students to learn theology out of. If it was the ease that the professor recommended u work which taught rational theology, then that was, ho asserted, subversive of the fundamental truth of the Church—that was, subversive to the youth. No professor nor anyone, else could subvert the truth, hut it could be subverted in the minds of the unlearned. He would now read the article which he had published in his magazine. This article had special reference to the latest hook of the Kev. Chailcs Augustus Tiriggs, D.D.. 'The Fundamental Christian Faith.’ a discussion and exposition on the origin, history, and inti rpre-tation of the .Apostles' and Niceno Creeds. The cii'icism relating to Piofessnr Dickie was as follows (we fjuotc part of the erti< le) ;
Tlii.-. last Look of thus great scholar is a. very heartening criticism of modern attacks on the fundament.d faith of historic Christianity, and would seem to be the author’s last testimony against the teaching issuing from mine of ids colleague.'. in Union Seminary. We hate rj not eel him thus far became we wish to address tiro question of J;:.s earlier volume*. ‘Whither?’ as a, tin ologhal intevrogation fer Knox Collette, l.'mudin. and tor Professor Dickie in particular: a-nd because wo wish to emphasise Dr Brigns'i, (statement about those who wish to construct an eclectic. syneretistic theology in the fvm of recent undigested philosophical speculations. “These," he says. " would give us a merely >peculative theology, witli no other authority to sustain it than the private opinions of this or that writer nr Ido school of thought, and set us adrift on a sea of boundless speculation." In our judgment, »c have here in the language of Profe.-sor Briggs a scienlitic description ct the theological teaching of Professor Dickie, so far as we have- been able to learn it. In place of the evangelical doctrine of tbc Westminster typo which Professor Dukie professed to believe when he «as appointed to Ids present chair, 1 it* gives every evidence, to our mind, of substituting just such a speculative theology as is described by Prof esc or Briggs. What, in part, is our evidence for this belief? Wo shall (state it with all brevity—l argely as. we have already stated it in the Ifeneral An-
eembiy of his Church. Professor Dickie was requested by the Assembly to set an extramural course of theological study for a young minister admitted to outranks from another Cliurvh. V,Tint theological course did he .-el'.' The following comprised the tiioologic.il portion of the course :ill ’Can wo Believe in Clod tho Father/' (2) "What shall wo think of Christianity?’ (3) " The Id—al of Joshs’ —all by the Inn- PrmTs.-.or W. Newton Clarke. i 4) " The Essence of Christianity.’ ami 1 5) ‘ Christian Theology ’ —both by I'rofes-ur IV. Adams Brown. Hero wo have five book,, by two men. and not u single book of the typo of doctrine for which the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand stands. To tho mass <;f the people of the Church the teachings of these men are as unknown as those of the latest arrival Irom Germany. Professor Haerhig. Ami this is how Professor Dickie prepuces jlo educate a young Primitive Methodist minister into a sound Presbyterian divine. Writing for ourselves, wo say that we have no confidence whatever either in the professor or his teaching, no matter how many important friends a theological professor can rally round him. Wc shall confine ourselves to the theology of Professor W. Adams Brown and Professor Dickie's opinion of that theology in the light of his action. Of Professor Brown’s theology he said, in his opening address, that he was “author of what i.s perhaps the best recent manual of dogmatic theology in our language.” Tho professor’s utterance gets its true significance when students are •found using Professor Brown as a text book, and when he is prescribed to the exclusion of all others for an extramural student. Now, just because Professor Brown's theology is what it is. a speculative theology of the Ritschlian type, totally
opposed to and subversive of the evangelical theology of historic Christianity, it is difficult to set it forth briefly in an intelligible form. Let Professor Dickie himself give a “brief statement” of it, and, what is even more important, a "brief statement” of his own, and we shall be bettor able'to sec where they stand. The writer went on to quote an article from the ’ Methodist Review Quarterly,’ which stated that Dr Brown was a pupil of Harnack, of Berlin University. It concluded : , Dr Brown is one of the two great representatives of the Ritschlian school in America. Dr Foster, of Chicago, being the other. As lo fundamental principle, ! he is a thorough Ritschlian. This, then, is the theologian who.se theology is described by Professor Dickie :u> " the best recent manual of dogmatic theology in our language.” and whoso works are sot as the textbooks for students under bis care. The question therefore arises, in the language of Professor Briggs. "Whither?” as regard? the theological teaching nf Knox College. in plant • terms, is Professor Dickie himself a Ritschlian, and. if not, what is he? A speculative theologian, who can talk with "sweetness and light," like Professor Brown himself, on the various nchuols of Christian t’neolosv. but who does not convey to his student definite convictions rn the fundamentals cf laith? This is a question that Professor Dickie should answer clearly and fully for himself? Let us have a "brief abatement” of It is much "Reformed Faith," and we shall, know where he stands and whither ho is bound. Rev. Mr Fiaser t-aifi 'hat that was the article ho wrote, and of which he sent a copy to the professor in good faith, so that if he had chosen he could have taken exception to it. just in the way that Professor ITewitson had taken exception to the article in the ‘Outlook ’ During >ho reading cf tho article P;o----fessor Dickie interrupted to remark that 1 what he had said was that Professor Brown's, hock van in come »aspects tho best recent ira.tvt.il hook on theology. Rev. Mr Fraser said that his writing ' about, n professor’s leaching was r.o wv i ; thing. It was done frequently in Scotland. ‘ the professors there being freely criticised 1 when it was deemed n-acossary to do so. 1 In this carp the important maltsr was that ' j the professor had given his approval to ' i Professor Brown’s book, r.-ud it was not so i natch what he said as what he did that f must ha taken to interpret hie mcani-rr. | There v.a.« -»lso Professor Brown’s 'Definition of the Mthies of Christianity.’ hut ’ I'.-.* was not going into that, although it | was a book that Professor Orel had criit- ' clci-d. This extramural student was not ' ‘the only ivir lo whom Professor Dickie lied set the bo Ac now objected to. H-a (Mi Fraser) was not. however, primed with evi--1 (knee gathered from the professor’s -qndciit.s generally. II- had scrupulously re. ftained from anything like worming out [ such evidence against Professor Dickie. Nothing would >;>.!.« c him hatter than for the pn.feasor to com.';' forward and publicly 1 pirciaim his adher-nee to the gre-it doctrine of Grace. Nothing could tend more ’ to give confidence in tin- professor than if I he were to ionic nut and help to run a 1 tuh.-.ion. MTe (Mr Fiaser) asked th- As- ’ smodv to believe that he was neither frivolous nor malicious in bringing up this 1 quest inn. He had a competent knowledge) : —making no ( lelen.-ioii to learning—but lie had a competent knowledge of tin? parI iiatlar subjett. He, had read a groat many 1 book,* on theology. For his present pm- ■ pose ho might be content with the pro'po- ! sit ion that the professor had recommended i this one bonk to show' that, he was e-xcr--1 vising an iiifiuence subvoisive to the faith. ’ IT? had heard students say that they were 5 at si a on the subject But there was a ’ further proposition that he felt hound to ’ (submit. Hn had wit’n him a copy cf a thesis written by one of the professor’s ' gtudants. Concerning this he had taken 5 the best legal advice, and it was to (he ■ effect that he ‘was warranted in bringing | this thesis before the Assembly. He had come by it in a perfectly lawful way. It gave alt idea, of w hat tho students, were 1 discussing and how tho professor • dealt ’ with the groat questions involved. This [ w-.is nut a matter of the higher criticism. 5 When n man gave his inlbienoo on the side ■ of Prefosscr Brown’s book be was cutting ’ the toots of the faith, and when he thus 1 in effect, taught humanitarian views of Our I Saviour ho (Mr Fraser) deemed it. time to demand an explanation. He would read the principal parts of the thesis, but as he I did not wish to implicate any of the slu--1 dents he would not disclose the name of : the writer. The entire thesis could be hr-tided to the Theological College Committee. ! Mr d. R. Kirk raised the question that s it the thesis was read the name of tho . writer should be disclosed. | Tills caused a discussion. Rev. Mr Fraser said that if the Assem- ,, blvehoso it could burke this evidence. He . certainly was not prepared to give tin? t name. The Moderator, pressed for a ruling as to whether the writer’s mime fbonld bn diss closed, said that be would throw th- onus 1 on the As.-eniblv and take a. vote. ‘ The Hons.' decided by R5 to 57 that tec ; name or the writer must bo given. 5 1 Rev. Mr Fras-er : 1 have the opinion of two of the ablest lawyers iu tin: State :.s ' t > what I should do. and I have acted tic--1 cm ding to their advice. The Assembly r has practically refused to hear that d<wu- ' ment unless I publish the name of the ’ writer. The Assembly must understand that I will not read it‘on those terms, and 1 theiefore the Assembly rules out the _cvi- ' dunce. The Assembly wants mo to shoot j one matt to gel at the prob'senr. I will not do it. You are thus hushing the matter ' up and lire venting me by this process of tin listing upon me the responsibility of pillowing i man before I can chsclov (he ! cxt.nl of tite. professor's teaching. Rev. R. M. Rybttrn : I rise to a point of order. 1 s not Air Fraser criticising the ae- ' tion of the Assembly and traversing the decisions w-e have already arrived at 1 ! The Alodcratou ; Mr Fraser is in perfect order. I Mr Fraser (continuing! said that in his opinion Professor Dickie s teaching was 1 subversive of the teaching of tho Church. ! Even assuming that the Assembly were in I possession ot all tho additional evidence ho (the speaker) could command, the House might not be convinced. After all, . the question was largely one of opinion. Rev. James Paterson : Has Air Frarcr , anv additional evidence to offer? ' The Moderator (addressing Air Patcr- , son! ; Von sit down. Air Fraser (looking at Air Paterson! : I ! am not bound to answer any que.-tion you may ask. Rev. H. AV. Biuridge : f think Hie As- . sombly should hear the documents read. I Air‘Fraser (continuing) said ho began at last Assembly to put Professor Dickie on bis guard. That Professor Dickie’.-, views were subversive of the teaching of the Church he was certain. A student when lie read such statements as were contained in Professor Brown’s work would gras]) at such things. , Rev. J. Gibson Smith : Has this anything to do with the matter before the HottsO. Mr Fraser : If Afr (smith had his way he would doubtless put tho matter differently. I i Laughter.) I Mr Fiaser thou gathered up his papers and left the platform.
Hcv. Dr (Jibb then moved —“That this Assembly affirms that -Mr .I’. B. Fraser has signally failed to substantiate his assertion that Professor Dickie’s teaching is subversive of the faith of the Church, and appoints a committee to consider and report as to the effect to be given to the finding by the Assembly in view of all the circumstances.” He contended that Mr Fraser had not advanced a tittle of evidence in support of his charge. Ho had never in all his days listened to more irrelevant utterances than those given by Mr Fraser. They were present to listen, according to a statement made by Mr Fraser on the previous day, to a proof of a very serious charge against Professor Dickie. They had not a scintilla of evidence in support of the charge. With regard to Professor Brown’s book, lie had read it, and ho could not bring himself to think it was the harmful book that Mr Fraser would have the Assembly to believe. He then proceeded to read a criticism from the ‘ British Weekly ’ of Professor Brown’s book which was eminently favorable*
Mr Fraser: I hope the doctor will rend f the whole of the article. Dr Gibb said, ho had not the slightest doubt but what Professor Dickie’s criticism of the book would bo as trenchant as the writer in the ' British Weekly.’ He was perfectly certain that Professor Dickie never prescribed a great deal of what was in Professor Brown's book to Mr Armstrong, (the student who was referred to in tho discussion). He thought it was essential that books of that nature should be perused by tho students ; it was helpful to them, and fitted thorn for the battle of life. Tho statement made by Air Fraser that Professor Dickie was teaching something inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church was a deadly thing to say about any man, but more deadly when aimed at a teacher of teachers. What was equally serious was that Mr Fraser's unfounded charges had disturbed the peace of tho Church. Professor Hcwitson seconded the motion. He said that Mr Fraser had made certain statements regarding himself (the speaker) which displeased him exceedingly. These things were said by way of comparison with a view - to injuring Professor Dickie, One thing which struck him was the perfect frankness of the latter. He had lived with him for six months in the college. and ho found him to be exceedingly frank. Rev. John Collie, as one of the examiners in theology, said ho was perfectly satisfied as to Professor Dickie’s soundness, and lie was perfectly confident that Professor Dickie had faith in the full divinity of our Lord. Rev. 1. Jolly and Rev. W. Scorpio having spoken, the motion was put and carried, an amendment that a committee besot up to deal with (he whole matter before tho Assembly and to recommend a finding to a future .sederunt being defeated by 1H votes to 20. The motion was carried with three dissentient voices. The following committee was .subsequently set up to go into the matter and report to the Assembly :—Revs. Krwin. Cameron. Hcwitson, Gumming. Bybnrn. Monroe. Jolly. Asher. J. D. Mackenzie. Collie. Gibb. Trotter, and Ale-'sr- M'Kpi-- j row, Kirk. W. M. Paterson. Fitzgerald, , Adams. MTncloc. j - -The Committee's Report. I At 8.50 p.m. Dr Gibb appeared to produce the commitlei’s resolution. Before: reading it ho asked the Assembly to bear in mind the wise caution of the Moderator in the afternoon. and refrain from manifestations of approval or otherwise. Tho resolution was as follows : The Gcnerai Assemble, ia view of its findir.g that the Rev. P. !i. Fraacr has signally failed to substantiate his assertion that Professor i)i, kic's teaching is subversive of the fait’ 1 , of the Church, iccor.ls its regret and displeasure that Mr Fraser should, without justification., have aspersed the theological soundness | cf an honored t-veb-r and disturbed the j (icace of the Church. Disregarding 4b" j procedure laid down in (he. Book of i Order. Mr Fraser has in th- General j Assembly and in a, uuhlieation outside the control ->!’ the Church spoken and written so as to inflict alike upon Professor Dickie and tin- Tlirnlogica! College a grave injury. The Assembly enjoins Mr Fraser to refrain from such divisive courses, and to pursue tin- paths | that make for peace and. the edification of the Cimreh. The General Assembly assures Professor Dickie of its entire confidence in him as the teacher of systematic theology, and expresses its profound thankfulness tint the students for the ministry are receiving from him. j in common with the other professors. I fitch a course of instruction aa is fitting i them to hold and proclaim with emir;' i conviction the faith of the Son of God I in the. face of modern knowledge ami 1 the ma-nilold challenge of unbelief. Dr Gibb said that he did not intend to make a.ny lengthy remarks. If the resolution were adopted practically without discussion there would he no need for him to reply Jt seemed to liim that such a i resolution was demanded by their loyally ■ lo Professor Dickie and their loyalty to ! the college. There was not a fraction pf evidence on which the charge could be maintained. Rev. G. fl. Balfour seconded the. motion to adopt the report. It was much to be regretted that such a resolution was necessary, and lie trusted that they would never again have to meet suck an attack. The motion was carried ou the voices, two or thf<-o crying "No." Dr Gibb asked for a count, and a show of hands resulted in the motion being candid by 105 to 4. Several mombeis ; did not vole. ! Rev. Air Fraser : .Moderator, I beg respectfully to say this: It is not for the Assembly to close, my mouth as to what I may say as to tin: theological teaching nf this Church. You cannot close my mouth outside of this Assembly. 1 have the knowledge ; I have a conscience ; I have a belief, and I shall hear witness to that belief. 1 have that right. I have not been allowed lo complete my evidence. 1 tens forced imo the position of nu ae.cuser. I lia\e the right, and 1 claim it. ito say win t I believe according to my | conscience as to the. teaching of a professor of this Church. J)r Gild) : 1 have to say. and I say it in nothing hm a ftiendiy sense, tint there I is .stub a thing as contumacy. and this i Assembly is capable of dealing with it. | (Hear, hear.: Professor Dickie: 1 am deeply grateful 1 to the? U»v tin- c-outulcn* i* it tvi puses in me, and 1 trust that 1 Audi j always prove worthy of that coini.n nee. j i Applause. I
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PROFESSOR DICKIE’S TEACHING, Evening Star, Issue 15660, 26 November 1914