« PreviousContinue »
the substitution of better theories, and not by the opposition to the old; and one who wishes to introduce them must be in sympathy with scientific advance, otherwise he cannot understand them and appreciate them well enough to propose any thing in their place. Thus, even for the purpose of correcting any thing in the tendency of thought, one must enter into the spirit of it. Assuming, then, that such must be the position and spirit of the scientist, we come to the central question of our discussion. Such ideas as those presented above, even though they be regarded as simply working hypotheses which may or may not be true, will inevitably have a marked effect on one's beliefs. We must ask, therefore, does the acceptance of scientific theories and the recognition of the tendencies of scientific thonght in any way make more difficult a belief in God and his rerelation? To my mind there seems to be no doubt that a negative answer must be given to this question. There is ab
. solutely nothing in the discovered facts of science-absolutely nothing in the tendency of scientific thought—that the Christian need fear; nothing that removes from the human mind the necessity of a belief in God.
If it were possible to show that all the laws of chemistry were only phases of the law of gravitation, that the forces manifested in living things were only those of chemistry and physics under different conditions; if it were possible to show that life could arise spontaneously in accordance with these laws; if it were possible, in short, to show that all phenomena of nature could be reduced to a single force, we should no more have explained nature than the ancients did when they said that the thunder was a bolt thrown by an angry god. We should have simplified our ideas, and have removed the difficulties further from the front; but the one law, the one force that is left, would require a foundation in an omnipotent Creator. To reduce a phenomenon to a law does not explain it, nor can it do so, unless we read into the law some of the omnipotent attributes of the Creator. The scientist who ever really thinks about the meaning of the laws and forces that he discovers recognizes that he explains nothing when he formulates a law to cover it. If our conception should ever reach the extreme position of conceiving only one law, one force, one mode of activity, our awe and reverence would only be increased for the Creator, who is the embodiment of this grand law of the universe, who alone explains the existence of such a law, and who produces from such magnificent simplicity such a wonderful complexity. To my own mind this grand conception of simplicity amid the seeming complexity of nature has only added to my faith in the Almighty. To me, the discorery that the phenomena of life (with the exception of those of the inind and soul) are only modes of the action of other forces, if such a discovery were ever made, would only add to the reverence with which I take the name of the Creator upon my lips. For we must recognize that to a Christian thinker a law and a force is only a method of divine activity.
6-FIFTH SERIES, VOL. VI.
We have now reached the point where the study of science has its effect upon the belief of the student. If he is a person who thinks logically he sees that his scientific theories do not really remove any of the mysteries from nature; they do not explain any thing; they do not relieve him from the necessity of believing in the Creator. Wherever there is a mystery there will the human mind find evidence of God. And the student of science is not brought to say there is no God, but simply to look for the evidence of his power along different lines from those in which he was accustomed to look before he had studied nature so completely. When he has given his scientific explanation to a phenomenon the details cease to be mysterious to him, but the fundamental factors connected with it are as much beyond his grasp as ever. Every one sees the mysteries connected with the higher animals that we know so well. But the student of biology dives with his microscope into the lower scale of nature, and soon leaves behind him all of the complexity, the existence of which has so puzzled him in the higher animals. The circulatory system, the digestive system, the nervous system, and all others whose operation has seemed so marvelous to him disappear. Finally, he reaches an organism so low and simple that all that he can discover is a mass of transparent jelly. Ilas the mystery of life gone when he has reached this low grade of life? Nay, rather has it just begun. For here is this transparent jelly-like mass without complicated organs, and yet capable of carrying on all of the vital functions. We have reached the seeming end of analysis in this direction. and still have left living matter with its vital functions as mysterious as they are in man, though they are more simple. We sometimes hear speakers illustrating the power of God by describing minute organisms, microscopic in size, and yet provided with all of the complicated systems of organs found in the larger animals. But to the scientist, who has seen the activities of the simplest mass of protoplasm, this illustration has no force. The simpler the organism that shows the phenomena of life the greater seem its mysteries, and the greater the reverence with which he will watch its activities. We must not omit to men. tion that protoplasm, though very simple, is in reality extremely complex, as is being proved by recent discoveries. If this were not so I am inclined to think that science would soon abandon its attempts to solve the phenomena of life. For if an absolutely simple substance should exhibit the complex phenomena of life, the only possible explanation would be that of some special external force acting through it. The study of science and its analysis of nature, while it may remove the mysteries that are connected with details, only increases the awe with which we think of the factors that lie at the foundation. As the biologist studies living things he finds his reverential regard increased, not so much for the higher adaptations of life as for the marvelous powers exhibited by the simple amaba. He no longer marvels at the force exhibited in muscular contraction any more than he marvels at the force exhibited by the revolving of the fly-wheel of the steam-engine. Both are unsolved problems, and he feels that he will never understand them until he understands the Creator. The digestion of food is no more mysterious to him than the burning of the coal in his furnace; both are governed by laws and forces that he can perhaps discover but cannot explain. In short, the details of nature are all equally inexplicable. We are unable to explain the simplest phenomena except by assumption of laws and forces that re cannot understand. A Christian finds it no longer necessary to believe in God simply to explain the few remaining mysteries connected with life, but recognizes that a belief in the activities of : divine Omnipotence are just as necessary to explain why a stone falls to the ground. He finds that he was not only created by the power of God, but that every breath which he draws, though its inode may be explained by the action of physical and chernical forces, is only done in accordance with the laws of nature that are the external expression of divine activity. He appreciates, in a way that no one else can, that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being."
It is not, of course, pretended these are the thoughts of all scientists. Nothing would be farther from the truth than such a supposition. In past years scientists have, as a rule, held opposite views. Their line of thought has led them away from any desire to formulate their relations to the powers of the universe, and they have refused to think of religious matters at all. They have regarded it their duty to discover laws, and not to try to explain them, and have thus frequently come to regard the discovery of a law as explaining the phenomena that are governed by the law. There are, however, enough scientists who have such feelings of reverence; and there are enough earnest Christians who believe in the Christian religion and live earnest Christian lives, and at the same time are in full sympathy with all of the actual and problematical advances of science, to prove that a full acceptance of the advance of science, and even of the so-called tendencies of scientific thought, is not in the slightest degree hostile to a full belief in the revela
a tion of Christ. For what is science, except the attempt to discover the laws of nature? And what are the laws of nature, except the modes of divine activity? lIow can our faith in God and revelation be in the slightest degree weakened if science does succeed in discovering that God's method of creation has been by slow evolution and development, instead of by sudden fiats? The great hope of any reconciliation in this conflict is to permit and to encourage men to be both scientists and Christians. This can only be done by allowing our Christian scientists to enter, without question, into the full spirit of scientific advance, sympathizing with the tendencies of scientific thought, confident that if they do this reverently and earnestly truth will inevitably result, even though there may be intermediate steps of error; and the final outcome will be a greater faith in God and a greater reverence for his works.
EDITORIAL NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS.
OCCASIONALLY a critic or theologian may be found who may insist upon a disagreement or irreconcilable antagonism between Paul and James in their teachings respecting the fundamental characteristic of the Christian life. The assumed conflict between the faith" of the one and the "works” of the other has been fruitful of numerous attempts at reconciling these doctrinaires of the early Church; but the weakness, if not failure, of all such harmonizations may be explained by the fact that the interpreter has magnified the problem in hand entirely beyond its warrantable proportions. He has imagined an existing contradiction of doctrine which, in his judgment, it is necessary to obscure, palliate, or remove; and, accordingly, he has invoked the aid of his genius, together with all other agencies within reach, to bring together two apostles who seem on first reading to be widely at variance. Elevating his task into the region of the impossible, he makes magnificent efforts to do something, but all to little purpose, and his final conclusion is that there is a mistake somewhere. The mistake is, not with the problem, but with himself. For in the calm light of their own teachings the two apostles are seen to be very friendly, and a harmonization is unnecessary, because the alleged contradiction is the product of an erring imagination. The problem is a simple one, and as such it requires little skill either to state it or to solve it. We have only three things to remember in order to perceive that the doctrine of the one dovetails the doctrine of the other, and that the two teachers converge by different lines upon a common end—the integrity of Christian character: 1. While both are devoutly religious, Paul is strictly tl.eological, and James is purely ethical. The former considers religion as a theological scheme, omitting not a single doctrine that belongs to it, but building the whole up in its vastness and solidity. This is the “faith” delivered to the saints—the scheme of redemption. James is on an entirely different line, exhibiting religion in its working aspects, and insisting that, whatever may be the theology, it must express itself by a corresponding externalism in actual life. Thus far the two, though they are considering religion from different view-points, are not in conflict. The one is intellectual, philosophical, theological; the other is practical, ethical, exterpal. 2. Specifically, Paul represents the sources of the Christian life, James the proofs of it. The one urges regeneration, justification by faith, adoption, sanctification, and all the internal forces of spiritual existence. This is religion by faith, the crowning doctrine of the New Testament. “Faith” here is not a system of truth, or a single truth, but an experience, a vital reality, the transformed life. James is neither introspective nor centripetal in any sense, but centrifugal in impulse, activity,