Faith, Learning, and Character: An Historical Exemplar by: John Basie

Faith, Learning, and Character: An Historical Exemplar

Dr. Charles Hodge (1797-1878), principal at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1851-1878, was one of the first evangelicals to go to battle against the naturalism inherent in Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Although the Civil War preoccupied American thinkers and commentators in the years immediately following the publishing of Darwin’s book in 1859, academic debate began soon after the war was over, with Hodge leading the charge in 1871 when he published his three volume Systematic Theology. We talk about naturalism with our students here at Impact 360 Institute as its assumptions are embedded in our culture. Click here if you’re interested in listening to a podcast on this topic with our own Dr. Jonathan Morrow and guest Dr. Jay Richards.

Hodge was convinced Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection as described in Origin Species was of an atheistic character, and in the section covering anthropology in Systematic Theology he argued that

”…the system is thoroughly atheistic, and therefore cannot possibly stand. God has revealed his existence and his government of the world so clearly and so authoritatively, that any philosophical or scientific speculations inconsistent with those truths are like cobwebs in the track of a tornado. They offer no sensible resistance. The mere naturalist, the man devoted so exclusively to the study of nature as to believe in nothing but natural causes, is not able to understand the strength with which moral and religious convictions take hold of the minds of men.” [1]

Hodge was also known as a man of character whose faith in Christ pervaded every area of his life. He was an astute thinker and was respected as a churchman and contender for the faith both by colleagues in Presbyterian circles as well as in the broader evangelical community. On his deathbed in 1878, he said to one of his daughters, “don’t weep. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be with the Lord is to see him. To see the Lord is to be like him.”

If you are a college student who is seeking to honor Christ in your studies, have you sought out a mentor? If not, why not try to seek a faculty mentor who, like Hodge, was a living example of how to hold faith, character, and intellect together?

[1] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Volume II (New York: Charles Scribner and Company, 1871). Reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1940: 27