The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.XVI. Later Theology
§ 3. Heresy Trials
But, undeniably, theology has gone out of fashion. Huge treatises like those of Hodge or Shedd or Augustus Strong never found many readers, but they found their way to many bookshelves. They were treated with reverence. Now they are utterly ignored. The chief reason for this contempt of theology is that men impugn its ancient authority. Hodge rightly declared that theology was to be differentiated from philosophy by its source of authority. It dealt with revelation while philosophy dealt with speculation. Its function was the interpretation of absolute truth, committed to men by the Holy Ghost through the pages of the Scripture. In our period this supposedly infallible book was subjected to the most searching examination. The ordinary canons of historical and literary criticism were applied to it and as a result the awesome phrase “Thus saith the Lord” came to bear diverse connotations. It was in the eighties and nineties that the authority of the Scripture, already long questioned in Europe, became a vital question in American thought. Then a series of heresy trials—five within the Presbyterian Church—concentrated the attention of religious people upon the subject.