(§ 1). Nature, Place and Function. Polemics is that department of theology which is concerned with the history of controversies maintained within or by the Christian Church, and with the conducting of such controversies in defense of doctrines held to be essential to Christian truth or in support of distinctive denominational tenets. It is, however, a question whether polemics belongs to the special departments of dogmatics, ethics, or practical theology, or whether it constitutes an independent branch of study. Christianity has had, from the first, to battle with scientific weapons against Jews, heathens, heretics, and schismatics, so that a rich and varied controversial literature was early developed in all branches of theology; though the means and the methods have varied according to the nature of the subject under discussion and the persons engaged.
Theoretically there is no distinct department of theological polemics; but practically there is a very real need of an independent branch of this nature. Theological polemics, therefore, scientifically combats erroneous conceptions and mistaken attitudes toward Christianity in its various phases, with the aim of defending the position of the communion to which the controversialist belongs. As the ancient Church had to fight against the classes of opponents already named, so modern polemics must defend the spirit of Christianity against non-Christian philosophies, sectarianism, indifferentism, and separatism. The problem next arises as to what place is occupied by polemics in the general field of theology. Schleiermacher divided theology into "philosophical," "historical," and "practical," and subdivided "philosophical theology" into "polemics" and "apologetics," apologetics being directed outwardly, and polemics inwardly. This division, however, is unsatisfactory. In the first place, polemics is applied dogmatics, for the polemic starts with certain dogmatic presuppositions. Again, it is applied symbolics, since dogmatic conceptions develop best in the orderly growth of a communion fully conscious of its distinctive organization. Theologically, therefore, polemics finds a place after dogmatics and apologetics. If, in addition to questions of doctrine, it takes into consideration the conduct of life, it becomes related to ethics, and may extend to organization and law, as well as to liturgics, missions, science, and art. The limits of the subject depend upon practical circumstances, the needs of the period, and the disposition of the controversialist.
(§ 2). Pre-Reformation and Roman Catholic Polemics. False doctrines were combated by the apostles, and the Church Fathers followed along the same lines, so that polemic literature has existed since the time of Justin Martyr (q.v.), though his work "Against all Heresies" has been lost. Extant polemic literature begins with the "Against Heresies" of Irenæus (q.v.). The Apologeticum and De prscriptione hreticorum of Tertullian (q.v.) followed; and Hippolytus (q.v.) continued in the third century with his work on heresies. The dogmatic theology of the Greek Church was strongly polemic from the fourth to the eighth century; and during the same period the theology of the west assumed a polemic character through its strife with Donatism, Pelagianism. Semipelagianism, and Manicheism, a large number of Augustine's writings being of this character. The polemic literature of the Middle Ages against heretics, Jews, and philosophical freethinkers was dogmatic in character from Agobard of Lyons to Savonarola's Triumphus crucis. Then came, in the sixteenth century, the controversy between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The writings of the Jesuits especially were polemic. Alfonso de Castro wrote Adversus omnes hreses libri quatuordecim (Paris, 1534), being followed by Franciscus Coster's Enchiridion controversiarum (Cologne, 1585) and Gregorius de Valentia's De rebus fidei hoc tempore controversis (1591). The chief work here, however, was the Disputationes de controversiis Christian fidei (3 vols., Rome, 1581-91) of Bellarmine (q.v.), who was followed by Martin Becan (d. 1624) with his Manuale controversiarum hujus temporis (Mainz, 1623). Jesuit polemics against Protestantism have continued without intermission, one of the most noteworthy works of this character in recent years being the Il Protestantesimo e la regola di fede (3 vols., Rome, 1853) of G. Perrone (q.v.). More popular circles had already been reached by Bossuet' Exposition de la doctrine de l'eglise catholique sur les matières de controverse (Paris, 1671).
(§ 3). Protestant Polemics. The Protestants, in their turn, were no less active polemically from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Here special mention may be made of Martin Chemnitz, Examen concilii Tridentini (Frankfort, 1565); Konrad Schlüsselburg, Hreticorum catalogus (1597-99); Nicolaus Hunnius (d. 1643), Diaskepsis de fundamentali dissensu doctrin Lutheran et Calvinian (Wittenberg, 1616); Abraham Calovius, Synopsis controversiarum (1685); and Johann Georg Walch, Einleitung in die polemische Gottesgelehrtheit (Jena, 1752). Interest in polemics ceased with Friedrich Samuel Bock's Lehrbuch für die neueste Polemik (1782). In the Reformed wing mention should be made of Rudolf Hospinian, Concordia discors (Zurich, 1607); Daniel Chanier, Panstratia catholica (4 vols., Geneva, 1626); Johann Hoornbeck, Summa controversiarum (Utrecht, 1653); Francesco Turretini, Institutio theologi elenchtic (Geneva, 1681-85); and various writings of Friedrich Spanheim, the elder and the younger (qq.v.).
(§ 4). The Modern Phase. Polemics entered upon a new phase with Schleiermacher, whose classification of polemics among the branches of theology has already been described. He was followed by Karl Heinrich Sack, with his Christliche Polemik (Hamburg, 1838), who defined polemics as that branch of theology which detects and refutes errors that endanger Christian faith and the purity of the Christian Church; and by Johann Peter Lange, whose Christliche Dogmatik (3 parts, Heidelberg, 1849-52) calls polemics and irenics "applied dogmatics." Theoretically, since the middle of the nineteenth century, polemics has not been regarded as a distinct department of theology. Practically, however, a new era in polemics was begun by the sharp critiques of Protestantism by Roman Catholic scholars of recent times. This movement was inaugurated by Johann Adam Mohler's Symbolik (Mainz, 1832), essentially a polemic against Protestantism from an idealistic Roman Catholic point of view; and this work was followed by the great historical polemic of Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger, Die Reformation, ihre innere Entwickelung und ihre Wirkungen (3 vols., Regensburg, 1846-48). The ultramontane spirit there displayed was equally manifest in Johannes Janssen's Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters (8 vols., Freiburg, 1877-94; Eng. transl., Hist. of the German People, 12 vols., St. Louis, 1896-1907), and Heinrich Suso Denifle's Luther und Luthertum in der ersten Entwickelung (2 vols., Mainz, 1904-10). The Protestants replied vigorously to these attacks with Ferdinand Christian Baur's Gegensatz des Katholicismus und Protestantismus nach den Prinzipien und Hauptdogmen der beiden Lehrbegriffe (Tübingen, 1834), Carl Immanuel Nitzsch's Protestantische Beantwortung der Symbolik Dr. Möhlers (Hamburg, 1835), and a number of other works. While the books just mentioned are necessarily limited in scope, a thoroughgoing, though purely negative, discussion of the chief points of difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism was supplied by Karl August von Hase's Handbuch der protestantischen Polemik gegen die römisch-katholische Kirche (Leipsic, 1862, 7th ed., 1900, Eng. transl., London, 1906) which discusses the Church (clergy and papacy), salvation (faith, works, sacraments), and accessories (ritual, art, science, literature, politics, nationality). Paul Tschackert followed this with his Evangelische Polemik gegen die römische Kirche (Gotha, 1885; 2d ed., 1888), which not only criticizes the Roman Catholic system in detail, but also affords a substitute for each point criticized by presenting the Protestant teaching on the tenet in question. Finally, mention should be made of the anti-Roman Catholic propaganda carried on by the Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte (Halle, 1883 sqq.) and by the Evangelischer Bund zur Wahrung der deutsch-protestantischen Interessen (founded in 1886).
(§ 5). In Great Britain and America. In Great Britain and America polemics has taken a different course from that which it assumed on the continent. Several causes have contributed to this. Theological encyclopedia has been far less exact in its divisions, and where polemics has not been recognized as a separate discipline, it has been incorporated into the body of theological construction. There has, moreover, been but little interest in the history of this branch of theological discussion. Again, toleration has been a marked feature of English and American religious thought (cf. Milton, Areopagitica; and Jeremy Taylor, Liberty of Prophecying, which unfortunately he did not exemplify later). Still further, the edge of the controversial spirit has been dulled by the practical nature of the Anglo-Saxon mind, the disposition to compromise, the lack of thoroughgoing intellectual consistency, together with a rationalizing tendency which has tempered criticism of the positions of others. Polemics has appeared quite as often in apologetics as in doctrinal discussions. Only a few of the historical occasions of polemics and names of the chief persons involved are here indicated. (1) The deistic controversy (1648-1775; see DEISM), in which among the pamphleteers and dignified defenders of supernatural religion appear Richard Bentley (q.v.), Remarks upon a Late Discourse of Free Thinking (London, 1713), a reply to Anthony Collins, Discourse of Free Thinking (ib. 1713); Thomas Sherlock, Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (ib. 1729), against Woo1sen, Discourse on Miracles (ib. 1727-29); and W. Warburton, Divine Legation of Moses (ib., vol. i., 1737-38, vol. ii., 1741). (2) Against the Arminians--also including the Arians--of whom were Daniel Whitby, Discourse concerning . . . Election and Reprobation (ib. 1710); Samuel Clarke, Boyle Lectures, 1704-05, and Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity (ib. 1712); and John Taylor, The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin (ib. 1740), which gave rise to many rejoinders by D. Waterland (cf. Works, vol. i. "Life" by Van Mildert, Oxford, 1823) and others in Great Britain, and in New England by Jonathan Edwards (q.v.), Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will (Boston, 1754). (3) The Unitarian controversy in New England was ushered in by the election of Henry Ware as Hollis professor of divinity in Harvard College in 1805. The principal writers from the side of orthodoxy were Moses Stuart (q.v.), professor of sacred literature in Andover Theological Seminary, Letters to Rev. William E. Channing, D.D., on the Divinity of Christ (Andover, 1819); Samuel Worcester, Letters to Rev. Dr. William E. Channing (three pamphlets, Boston, 1815); and Leonard Woods (q.v.), also professor in Andover, Letters to Unitarians (Andover, 1820), Reply to Dr. Ware's Letters to Trinitarians and Calvinists (ib. 1821), and Remarks on Dr. Ware's Answer (ib. 1822). (4) The Tractarian Movement in Great Britain (1833-41; see TRACTARIANISM), brought to a crisis by John Henry Newman's Tract No. 90, provoked a steadily rising storm of opposition first from the Christian Observer (Mar., 1834), and at last from Archibald Campbell Tait (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1868-1882) who, with three other Oxford tutors, signed a protest against Newman's tract. Owing to the violent controversy which ensued the series was "discontinued." (5) The Liberal Movement in the established church centered in Frederick Denison Maurice (q.v.), whose Theological Lectures (ib. 1853) was vehemently opposed by R. W. Jelf, principal of King's College; and by Henry Mansel, Man's Conception of Eternity (ib. 1854); Maurice's What is Revelation? (ib. 1859) was subjected to severe criticism by Mansel's Examination of the Strictures on the Bampton Lectures, 1858 (ib. 1859). (6) In America the (N. W.) Taylor- (Bennet) Tyler controversy (see NEW ENGLAND THEOLOGY) involved the questions of depravity, the self-determining power of the will, regeneration, and the divine permission of sin. (For Taylor, cf. The Quarterly Christian Spectator, New Haven, 1832-1833; also, G. P. Fisher, Discussions in History and Theology, New York, 1880. For Tyler, cf. The Spirit of the Pilgrims, Boston, 1832-33; also, Letters on the New Haven Theology, ib. 1837.) (7) In 1835-1837 there culminated in the Presbyterian Church a heated discussion, in which a fierce attack was made upon Albert Barnes and Lyman Beecher, occasioned by their view of the atonement and related subjects. (8) In the latter part of the last century (1882-93) the so-called "Andover heresy," originating in a chapter in Progressive Orthodoxy (Boston, 1886), advocated probation after death for those who had been deprived of probation in this life. The controversy focused on the policy of the A. B. C. F. M., whether those who maintained this view were eligible to appointment as missionaries of the board. It was permanently settled in 1893 by instructions to the Prudential Committee to commission one who held to this position. It is possibly significant that Andover Theological Seminary, which was founded in part to combat Unitarianism among other heresies, celebrated its centennial, 1908, by affiliation with the Harvard Divinity School whose history had been identified with the Unitarian body.
C. A. BECKWITH.