James Denney is now best known, though in increasingly restricted circles, for his book The Death of Christ, considered for over a century a lucid and standard exposition of objective atonement understood in substitutionary terms. However, there is breadth and depth to Denney's thought, a richness and passion in his theological work, an attractive integrity and spiritual immediacy in his writing, that resists any reducing of his legacy to that of being an apologist for one aspect of Christian doctrine.
By exploring his early years growing up in Greenock, Scotland, following his intellectual development through university and college years in Glasgow, and considering the impact of a long pastoral ministry in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, a context is created for studying the mind, personality and faith that informed his mature theological writing. For twenty years, from 1897-1917, he taught biblical theology and exegesis in his denominational College in Glasgow, developing his theology through articulation, and then exploring and expounding the gospel of Christ as first and originally expressed in the apostolic experience and testimony embedded in the New Testament documents. The theological work of Denney, taken as a whole, was both intellectually engaged and ecclesially focused, as he sought to construct a secure basis for biblical faith. His theology was offered in the service of the church, his learning a self-conscious discipleship of the intellect.
This is the major study of Denney to use the large corpus of Denney's unpublished theological papers and sermons held in New College Library, in the University of Edinburgh. These, together with Denney's published work, and wider biographical research, form the basis of this study, an intellectual and contextual biography of one of Scotland's most attractive and forceful theological personalities.