Twentieth-Century Contributions to Theology

Robert E. Fugate, Ph.D.

In their study of Scripture, many Reformed pastors primarily consult their favorite, tried-and-true, older commentaries (e.g., John Calvin, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Adam Clark, John Gill, and other Puritan writers). While these have serviced the church for centuries, and will continue to be of use, I encourage pastors to also study contemporary commentaries (using theological discretion). There are several reasons for this approach. One is the advancements made in understanding the Hebrew and Greek languages. Other factors are advances in hermeneutics and archeology. But an additional reason, perhaps not recognized as much, is historical theology (which studies the progressive development of Christian doctrines throughout the history of the church). Several doctrines were either not taught prior to the twentieth century, or were developed to much greater breadth and depth in the twentieth century. Here is my list of some of the most significant contributions to theology that were made during the twentieth century, continuing in our day:

  1. Biblical theology (Geerhardus Vos).
  2. Already/not yet eschatological structure of the NT (Geerhardus Vos [Presbyterian]; George E. Ladd [Arminian Baptist]; and neo-orthodox scholars Rudolf Bultmann and Oscar Cullmann).
  3. Presuppositional apologetics (Cornelius Van Til; Gordon H. Clark). [Technically, this involves apologetics, not systematic theology, but it provides the epistemological framework for all areas of thought.]
  4. Inerrancy of Scripture* (B.B Warfield; Evangelical Theological Society; International Council on Biblical Inerrancy).
  5. Definitive sanctification (John Murray).
  6. Ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit.*
  7. Six-day creation* and scientific creationism (Henry Morris [evidentialist]; Jonathan Sarfati [Clarkian]; Ken Ham [VanTilian]).
  8. Healing and demonology.*

* Previously taught, but significant scholarly advancements were made in the twentieth century

Other significant twentieth-century contributions

  • Nouthetic counseling in practical/pastoral theology (Jay E. Adams).
  • Textual criticism (John W. Burgon; Wilbur N. Pickering).
  • Male headship in family and church, called complementarianism (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—regrettably omitting the civil sphere).


ⓒ Robert E. Fugate, 2022

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