ABSTRACT

Nonconformists were historically conditioned to be suspicious of creeds and formulas partly because they associated such artifacts with the Church of England that had always oppressed them. If a preoccupation with incarnation–a doctrine of life–was edging out atonement–a doctrine of death as the remedy for sin–they might expect that theories of retribution would be losing ground. The ancient texts and the ancient doctrines were believed and defended, but there often seemed to be little spark in the lives of those who professed them. The rationalism and skepticism of the German critics was so much taken for granted that when the Germans' spiritual writings were reviewed these Nonconformists sometimes noted with surprise that they seemed to be Christians. The most important reason evangelicals concluded that biblical criticism was compatible with their theology, it has been said by an authority on the subject, was the trial of William Robertson Smith of the Free Church of Scotland.