A call for continuity: the theological contribution of James Orr
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James Orr (1844-1913) was a Scottish theologian, apologist and polemicist. He was the leading United Presbyterian theologian at the time of the United Free Church of Scotland union of 1900, and beyond his own church and nation he came to exercise a significant influence in North America. This study is an examination of Orris theological contribution, what he believed and how he expressed it, in its historical setting Particular attention is paid to the convictions which undergirded and gave impetus to his activities. The study reveals that while Orr was far from unaffected by the intellectual movements of the late-Victorian period, his contribution may best be described as a call for continuity with the central tenets of evangelical orthodoxy. He was one of the earliest and principal British critics of the Ritschlian theology, and a strong opponent of rationalistic biblical criticism. He emphatically rejected all evolutionary interpretations of man's moral history, and held firmly to orthodox Christological formulations in the face of alternative assessments of the historical Jesus. While factors of temperament affected the tenor of his work, his contribution was most decisively shaped by the convictions that evangelical orthodoxy is ultimately self-authenticating, that truth comprises a unity or interconnected whole, that genuine Christian belief implies a two-story supernaturalist cosmology, and that the rationalism of the times was a temporary malaise. A general lack of support for his views within the scholarly community, combined with his own deep-seated populist instincts and common sense convictions, led Orr in later years to direct his appeals primarily toward the Christian public. The conclusion reached is that Orr deserves to be recognized, not so much as a brilliant or particularly original thinker, but as an able and exceptionally vigorous participant in a period of dramatic theological challenge and change.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy