Princeton Theology

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Princeton Theology refers to a conservative Christian reformed theology that flourished at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1812 until 1929. It was rooted in the philosophy of Common Sense Realism, as interpreted by Charles Hodge (1797-1878). In 1929 Princeton Theological Seminary completely modernized itself (becoming a center of Liberal Christianity), forcing scholars serious about Princeton Theology—especially John Gresham Machen to form the Westminster Theological Seminary.

Princeton Theology had a major role in shaping modern Fundamentalism. The Princeton theology was a unique system constructed by Alexander and Hodge. It emphasized a pre-Kantian rationalistic methodology and Biblical inerrancy. Dispensationalism and Princeton theology, two movements with certain similarities and a common foe in Modernism were drawn together in informal cooperation in a series of International Prophetic Conferences beginning in 1878. Premillennialism and Biblical inspiration provided the themes for the alliance. The Fundamentals, a series of 12 pamphlets published from 1910 to 1915, was supported by Lyman Stewart, a Presbyterian layman and a follower of dispensationalism. Fundamentalism at the turn of the century was a religious movement of great vitality with definable antecedents in theological innovations of the 19th century and centered in the urban North. In the religious conflict of the 1920s Fundamentalists split often along dispensational and Princeton lines.[1]

Further reading

  • Calhoun, David B. Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, 1812-1868. (1996). 495 pp.
  • Calhoun, David B. Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929. (1996). 560 pp.
  • Hodge, Archibald Alexander. The Life of Charles Hodge (1880) 1880 - 620 pages; full text online
  • Hoffecker, W. Andrew. Piety and the Princeton Theologians: Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, Benjamin Warfield (1981)
  • Loetscher, Lefferts A. Facing the Enlightenment and Pietism: Archibald Alexander and the Founding of Princeton Theological Seminary. (1983). 303 pp.
  • Noll, Mark A., ed. The Princeton Theology: Scripture, Science and Theological Method from Archibald Alexander to Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. (1983). 322 pp.
  • Sandeen, Ernest. The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (1970), the standard scholarly history
  • Sandeen, Ernest R. "The Princeton Theology: One Source of Biblical Literalism in American Protestantism," Church History, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Sep., 1962), pp. 307–321 in JSTOR
  • Sandeen, Ernest R. "Toward a Historical Interpretation of the Origins of Fundamentalism," Church History, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Mar., 1967), pp. 66–83 in JSTOR

Primary sources

  • Hodge, Charles. Charles Hodge: The Way of Life. ed by Mark A. Noll, (1988). 291 pp.
  • Hodge, Charles. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (1860) full text online
  • Hodge, Charles. Systematic theology (1873) full text online


  1. Ernest R. Sandeen, "Toward a Historical Interpretation of the Origins of Fundamentalism". Church History 1967 36(1): 66-83. 0009-6407; Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (1970).

See also