What Thinketh Y'all of Robert Dabney?

Discussion in 'The Literary Forum' started by Grymir, Jan 31, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Dabney could have made an empirical observation. Dabney also criticised Southern slave-owners for not Reforming slavery according to biblical guidelines. Funny how detractors never mnetion that...Oh right, Genevose pointed that out and we can just dismiss him.
  2. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

  3. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    I think you need to reread what Rich wrote. He said Girardeau and Dabney held opposing views.

    I don't really have much to add, but I observe that there has been a lot of politically correct language in this thread. "...he did say and write some things which, in our time, grate upon our sensibilities..." "...don't expect him to be politically correct or to reflect 21st century attitudes on mid-19th century conflicts..." Why all this pussyfooting around? Why not just say that his exclusion of blacks from the church was wicked and contrary to the Law of God?
  4. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Dabney was a racist. So was Lincoln. So were most people at that time in history.

    Can we still profit from reading the writings of Dabney? Did his racism corrupt his other views? These are legitimate concerns.

    I think I will simply accept that Dabney was a racist. And I also think I can profit from reading his works on theology.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Lincoln was the biggest white supremacist of the 19th century.



    And I think many people will say, in a reactionary fashion, oh, but he is a racist. Then they will fail to see his chilling political predictions which came true in our century. They will miss out that he thought deeply, and wrote more clearly, to a broken people.

    And if we are to pass blame, we need to be fair. Dabney could never have accepted the arguments of the Abolitionists. The abolitionists of that day were Jacobin, Unitarian, proto-Communists bent on destroying, not slavery, but the Southern people.
  6. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I found his article on the Sabbath to be very clear in both thought and phraseology, and eminently helpful. However, the times that I have dipped into his systematic theology I have not found him very helpful. Wasn't the systematic theology taken down from notes?
  7. Blueridge Believer

    Blueridge Believer Puritan Board Professor

    Afterall, by the law of God everything that man does will rise and fall. Praise be to God for the blood atonement!
  8. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    "What Thinketh Y'all of Robert Dabney?"

    I second the notion that he was one of the best American Theologians in history. I may disagree with some of his political views and his views on other races but, like I do with other writers (especially those in the Lord) I give the benefit of the doubt up and until I read all of what he says on a matter. I wish others would do the same. Either way, I have yet to meet the man that I was in complete agreement with anyway.

    I'd also mention that the manufactured machismo of the modern North American male would shriek and crumble when face to face with a man like Dabney. Fortunately for them, the Dabney’s of this land are dead and man-boy eunuchs abound.
  9. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Exactly, this is what I have noticed; in secular humanism the unpardonable sin is racism. A man can be an adulterer, a sodomite, an idolater even a murderer...just as long as he's not racist.
  10. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

  11. puritan lad

    puritan lad Puritan Board Freshman

    Sad but true. This was quite apparent in the Mark Furman, er..., I mean, O.J. Simpson trial.
  12. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

  13. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Girardeau was on the OPPOSITE side of the issue from Dabney; please read Rich's post carefully.

    In Girardeau's predominately black church in Charleston, prior to the war, the blacks sat in the pews, the whites in the gallery. Girardeau cultivated both a vocabulary and a cadence catered to his black audience, and imparted to them the riches of Reformed piety, as every minister ought to do--he knew his flock. It was the arrival of the Yankees, and their shocking disregard for the church--yes, even the black church--that prevented further effective ministry by Girardeau. So very little has changed, as I see, in 150 years of state belligerence.

    As for the esteemed Dabney, he may be read with tremendous profit.

    The fact is, I don't know why people join this board, if they do so to join the conversation or to work for its disrepute or downfall. So, if someone says "I know nothing about this Reformed theologian, Dabney; but I like what I've read so far," I don't know if such a statement is real admiration, or bait. Hence my preemptive answer. He's a good, solid theologian; and he made some comments that race-baiters would love to plant like a stinkweed in the garden of any Reformed man or woman who dares to publicly praise him. So, I'll just say it out in front: he was not without flaws. And which of us is without sin?

    Those of you with thin skin, who feel the need to defend Dabney and get all bent out of shape when this issue comes up--get over it. You made a mountain out of a molehill. This is an international forum; it's a place to open minds, not close them. It is not a little Reformation ghetto, where we pimp our heroes, and airbrush their faults.

    I'm OK that not all of you feel the need to maintain the reputation of the PuritanBoard as a place with a clearcut identity, mission, and reputation. But for those of us who have that responsibility, we aren't going to apologize for either the good or bad of Dabney or anyone else. Nor will we gloss it.
  14. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    For an article on Girardeau and some of the other white ministers that sought to provide ministerially for black congregations, The Confessional Presbyterian 3, "Presbyterians in the South and the Slave: A Study in Benevolence," by C. N. Willborn, Ph.D. A shorter version is online I think at PCA Historical Center, but for $18 you get a lot of other good material and the longer version in CPJ 3.;)
  15. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    The difference between Scriptural biography and most modern Christian biography is that the Bible paints sinners - even redeemed sinners - to use Cromwell's term "warts and all". The failings of the saints in the past should encourage us to persevere in spite of our sinful ways.
  16. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Yeah, because excluding black congregations from full membership in the Church is such a "loose definition" on something that is sinful. I didn't use the word racist. I called him someone who committed grave sins as a Church men based on faulty views of the capacities of black men. I also stated that it doesn't remove him from consideration for reading him with profit on other matters.

    I'm not sure what you find "sad" and "predictable" in this thread. Is the sad and predictable thing in this thread that, because Dabney is associated with the South, you get bent out of shape that his sins come to the fore? I wonder, when you read Galatians 2, if you get bent out of shape at the "sad" and "predictable" behavior of Paul toward Peter when he rebuked him to his face. Why did God inspire such a thing only to keep throwing it in our face that Peter committed some horrific sins as if we can't read Peter with any profit?!


    Exactly so. Who cares whether Lincoln and others had a variety of sinful views as if that excuses another man's behavior?

    If one finds these discussions silly and sad, please PM me so I can relieve your pain in having to participate in a board that allows the open discussion of the sins of Civil War heroes. You'll find another thread, in fact, where I commit the heresy of disagreeing, on military terms, that the sun rose and set on Stonewall Jackson's military genius.
  17. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Hello all!! I've been waiting all day at work to get home to weigh in on this. Chompin' at the bit. I can't believe this. Usually I'm the blunt one getting into trouble. Contra, I assure you I had no idea this was going to happen. I downloaded his sacred rhetoric book, and I have a deep philosophical bent. He seemed to know his philosophical stuff. There is nobody whose theological opinions I value in my area that I can go talk to like I did in Texas. That's one of the reason I joined the PB. Y'all have brains. So I wanted to know more. Wiki articles don't cut it for me for in-depth theological analysis. The explosion that followed is a real blessing for me. I like to hear all views, think on it, and then tell those who disagree with scripture they are wrong, and those who agree with scripture they are right.

    Now on to the rest of y'all. Daniel is right. We have sodomites in our land and we can't call them evil? A racist theologian? big deal. Being a homosexual is a sin singled out to show how far somebody is from God. (Rom 1). To call somebody racist and discount his views is actually a logical fallacy, (Argumentum ad hominem, the ad hominem abusive variety specifically). When Daniel said his work was deeply philosophical and he put it down to use as a reference, I was like WEEEE! This guy I need to read! I hope people 100 years from now don't discount me because I think all the liberals need to be thrown out of the church. Contra Mundum and SemperFideles I want to thank you two especially. I asked about his theology. You answered me theologically. So did you Ivanhoe. You especially peaked my interest in his political analysis. Mangum you are so right, man-boy eunuch's abound in our land.

    Ya know, Karl Barth (Barfth) was a nice guy, but his writings are full of errors (i don't dare call his writings theological, the are of a devotional level at best). This Dabney fellow has a few 'peculiarities' but his theology sounds good and reformed.


    Nice guy = Bad theology
    Not so nice = Good theology

    Thanks everybody for you input. :graduate:
  18. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Wow! Touch a nerve of regional partiality and we explode quicker than if the deity of Christ were being denied!

    I'm sorry you found my language politically correct (that would be a first for me). Frankly I meant what I said. Try reading some sections of Luther and if it doesn't "grate on your sensibilities" I would worry about you. My point was not to condemn Dabney but to defend him by arguing that we should not "expect [Dabney, Luther, or any number of writers of bygone eras] to reflect the kinds of sensitivities of people today. Our culture has changed. Try viewing a movie from 50 years ago where it seemed like everyone was smoking, including the physicians. It is a little bit jarring. Listen to WWII newsreels about the "Japs" or even a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech referencing the "negro."

    My original post said that there was NO ugly racism in his systematic theology and only one passage (by my count) that spoke even obliquely about race. His racial views (sinful, time-bound, insensitive, or all of the above) are limited to his shorter works. And, as some have observed, much of his stridency was due to the fact that the northerners he was fighting against included an unholy mix of unitarians, theological liberals, and other theological latitudinarians. Some of his social views were cultural, others were flat out sinful, some were driven by political realities on the ground, and some were common to people in his position in his part of the country. I think Dabney is a GREAT theologian and will continue to use his work as one of the best of the bunch. I never said he was perfect, just a great theologian.

    As to the second quote, sorry to have miscommunicated. I like Dabney. My citation of quotes from his writings was simply to admit that he held views common to his age and location but that they were not present IN ANY WAY that could be detected in his systematic theology. Your dismissal as "so predictable" does not accurately describe some of us who admit finding a few passages articulating sinful views in his writings.
  19. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    The reason that you see such language is that Dabney said a number of things that strike against modern Christian sensibilities, outside of his comments on racial superiority/inferiority, that just needed/need to be said.
    It is not a simple case of pussyfooting around.

  20. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    I think you missed my point. The language you originally used was carefully selected so as not to offend those who love Dabney. Dabney's position on blacks in the church does not simply "grate on [our] sensibilities" as if we are all delicate ladies at a dinner party and some uncouth individual just picked up the wrong fork. No, Dabney's position was a sin against God and man and showed a lack of love for the brethren. It was my observation that politically correct language can be found in the employ of conservatives just as easily as liberals.

    You think Dabney has a lot to offer? Fine, I don't disagree. But let's not minimize sin in an attempt to make sure he is more widely read.
  21. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks, you are certainly correct that some of what he wrote is simply alien to us and not necessarily sinful.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    While some of us may be too quick to defend Dabney, I see among some Presbyterians a tendency to criticize him just to prove "we not racist." I saw a prof just rail against Dabney for 15 minutes when we were discussing Dabney on the atonement. Was it because Dabney had Arminian views? No, but the prof didn't want to seem soft on racism so he felt the need to bash Dabney for a good little while, never mind it had nothing to do with the topic.

    Or take the ) good scholarship of Sean Michael Lucas. Lucas did groundbreaking work on Dabney. But Lucas wasted too many key moves on the meanie parts of Dabney. Was Lucas' judgment correct? In a sense it was, but what did Lucas have to gain from retreading old ground? Nothing really. This kept Lucas from having a really good book.

    DISCLAIMER: And lest anybody gets really upset, I believe Dabney's exclusion of blacks was wrong and sinful.
  23. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner


    Oops. You are correct. I did misunderstand your point. After a LONG day of board meetings and some pretty anxiety producing moments at work, I read through the ton of posts WAY too fast. I'm just not used to re-fighting the civil war. Where I come from, it almost never comes up in conversation at all so my ability to "read between the lines" and catch the nuances is pretty near zilch. It seemed that some of the posts were stimnuulated at least in part due to regional pride being offended.

    I used the language on purpose, not to pussyfoot for the Dabney-ites, but because often when you read somebody from a different era, there are parts that just sound jarring. I make no brief for putdowns based on race and am happy call sin sin. However, it is simply too easy to cherry-pick the sins of other eras without taking into account the environment in which the writer/thinker lived. That's evident in my ultimate bottom line on Dabney:

    Life is too short not to cherish the great contributions made by imperfect people (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Dabney, Hodge, Machen, Sproul, etc.).
  24. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

  25. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    BTW anyone care to define "Racist"?
  26. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    yea, anybody who like Jeff Gordon!! :rofl:
  27. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Sure, if you'll provide an agreed upon definition of the word Evangelical.
  28. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Without meaning to sound thin skinned, the comments of Carl Trueman did offend me somewhat. I ain't a Southern Presbyterian, but he just slammed a noble tradition. Here are his comments for anyone who has not read them yet:

  29. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    The irony of that is that the last person who would want us to be uncritical of the military genius of Stonewall Jackson is Stonewall Jackson himself.

    What I admire most about Stonewall and General Lee is not that they were perfect, but the way they responded to the mistakes they made.
  30. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I agree Daniel. I think your "distance" from the American culture makes my comment hard to understand. There are some that cannot hold two truths together: that men are imperfect and can be, at the same time, admirable. I admire men but am not uncritical of them. There are some scholars that visited Command and Staff College when I attended that made the keen observation that it takes a few centuries before we can really begin to learn lessons from our own history (in some cases longer). The Civil War is still too very close to Americans and we're unable to look at certain things without "taking sides". Some things you might think "What's the big deal?" are very person for many.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page