Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy
Charles Hodge stands as one of the most influential giants of American Reformed theology. In his fifty-five years at Princeton Theological Seminary (1822–1878), he taught over three thousand students. Through his magnum opus, his three-volume Systematic Theology, he has taught countless thousands more. Many of today’s leading Reformed theologians count Hodge as one of their major influences. It is surprising therefore, that Paul Gutjahr’s biography is the first modern critical biography of Hodge to appear in print. A work of this kind is long overdue.
Gutjahr wryly comments that one of the things he learned while writing this book was that “if you are going to undertake a biography, pick a subject who dies young.” Hodge lived to the age of eighty. Gutjahr has chosen therefore to divide the major sections of his biography according to decades of the nineteenth century in which Hodge lived. Following three chapters that provide background on the Hodge family, the book begins with Hodge’s student years in the 1810s and then continues through the 1870s. The chapters in each section are relatively brief making this a highly readable book.
The strength of Gutjahr’s work, like that of any good biography, is that it allows us to see Hodge as more than just the author of theological works. We begin to see him as a human being, a product of his times. Hodge was not merely the author of the Systematic Theology. He was a devoted son, a loving husband and father, a faithful friend, and a loyal churchman. In this biography, we are also given great insight into certain aspects of nineteenth-century church history as we view them through the lens of one man’s life during that time.