WIlliam Porcher DuBose, Episcopal Theologian

William Porcher DuBose (April 11, 1836 to August 18, 1918) was an American Anglican priest and theologian. He spent most of his life as a professor at the School of Theology, The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. In the Episcopal Church he is remembered on August 18.

He was one of the most original and creative thinkers in the American Episcopal Church and is often described as a serious candidate for the title of “greatest theologian that the Episcopal Church in the USA has produced.”

DuBose understood that doctrine and life are always in close relationship. Doctrine is more than just theological principles or beliefs. Doctrine forms and guides our life while our life should reflect and manifest our doctrine. One might even say that the incarnate Christ is our life and doctrine.

The following is characteristic of DuBose’s theology:

God has placed forever before our eyes, not the image but the Very Person of the Spiritual Man. We have not to ascend into Heaven to bring Him down, nor to descend into the abyss to bring Him up, for He is with us, and near us, and in us. We have only to confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead–and raised us in Him– and we shall live.

Here are a few quotations taken from A DuBose Reader:

  • “Every man who so realizes and becomes himself does so in [Christ] and does so as the result of a double act, — an act of the divine personality becoming the man and another of the man becoming not himself but Christ — forsaking his particular, that is, for his universal and divine personality. So every man is predestined to incarnate the Logos as the Logos to incarnate Himself in every man.” (p. 70)
  • “One thing by true inner instinct the church through all the aberrations of its outward science always kept faithfully, and that was the general assertion of the very manhood equally with the very Godhead of our Lord. The Christological meaning and value of this is the double truth of the incarnation, according to which on the one hand God becomes man without ceasing to be Himself and on the other hand equally man becomes God or one with God without in any faculty or function ceasing to be himself.” (p. 71)
  • “Christianity is of course the life of Christ: and as such it is necessarily a life like Christ’s. But, speaking exactly, it is distinctly not a life like Christ’s in us, but the life of Christ in us: not a life resembling His, but Himself our life. Jesus Christ certainly stands to us in the relation of example, but even more distinctly not in that of mere example, but of source, and power, and of content and matter our life. He is our life….” (157).

 Almighty God, who gave to your servant William Porcher DuBose Special gifts of grace to understand the Scriptures and to teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. (Holy Women, Holy Men)

5 thoughts on “WIlliam Porcher DuBose, Episcopal Theologian

  1. Terry, I realize it has been a year since you posted the question about DuBose’s view on Trinity. But, it the interest still is alive for you DuBose work on the subject at the end of his book The Gospel in the Gospel. The book can be found online for it is in the public domain.

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