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Andover Controversy

The debate over the doctrine of “future probation” involving the faculty of Andover Theological Seminary from about 1886 until 1893. The seminary had been established by New England Congregationalists in 1808 to counter the Unitarian tendencies of Harvard. Attempting to preserve Andover's orthodoxy, the founders required faculty subscription to the Andover Creed, summarizing Edwardsean theology restated by Samuel Hopkins.* After the Civil War, however, faculty members joined other New England progressives in restating their faith along the lines of the liberal emphasis upon the immanence of God, emerging biblical criticism, and the doctrine of progress. Future probation developed when the Andover men applied the “new theology” to missions. In a series of articles in the Andover Review, E.C. Smyth and colleagues argued that heathen who die without knowledge of the Gospel will have an opportunity in the future life either to accept or to reject the Gospel before facing final judgment. In 1887 Smyth was deprived of his chair, but in 1891 his dismissal was voided by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts.