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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CURRENT RELIGIOUS UNREST.
In his suggestive article in the Review, for July, 1898, Dr. Chaffee says, "The unrest and discussion must go on until there be, in respect to nonessentials, liberty, and in respect to essentials, charity." This is certainly in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel, if we do not carry our crude and improved theories into the Christian pulpit. And there is doubtless some need of the writer's caution, for too many people have perhaps been unduly alarmed over recent developments in theology. Yet the most serious assault upon the long received forms of theology are not the direct assault upon their truthfulness, but an indirect attack, taking issue with the commonly received exegesis of isolated portions of Scripture, the logical outcome of which criticism is not stated; and, the premises appearing very plausible, many are led to accept them, which they could not be persuaded to do, if the outcome of the criticism were plainly stated. Dr. Stuart in the same number of the Review puts the matter very strongly, possibly a little too strongly, when he says of the higher criticism, "It is a scheme that makes a fraud of the whole history as it appears in the Bible." So that it becomes a very practical and a very important question, as to the logical attitude we would occupy toward some of the fundamental questions of theology, if we were forced to accept the views of some of the so-called conservative higher critics?
supernaturalism has much exploited by the
1. It would seem that we would be forced to reject much of the socalled supernaturalism of the Bible. Dr. Chaffee says, "For out-worn theologies which have made it [the Christian religion] artificial and mechanical, and especially for the excessive supernaturalism which has been made both its foundation and its defense, they [unconverted men] have little respect, and, if possible, less use." Supernaturalism is separable," he affirms, "from religion;" and he must include in that term true religion, for he goes on to say that been so mixed up with religion, has been so theologies in its behalf, that we have come too much to feel that it is the basis of religion and that if supernatural suffer religion also must suffer with it." This is a sweeping but a very indefinite charge, plainly implying that true religion will survive, yea flourish all the better, if we eliminate some of the so-called miracles from Bible history. But why should not some of these scholars relieve our suspense by telling us what particular miracles of the Old and New Testament we must reject as spurious, lest we of the common people may be tempted, in our uncertainty, to throw overboard all so-called miracles? Why does Dr. Chaffee say, "It is in vain for us to attempt to laugh out of court the
myths and miracles of all other nations and religions, and then hope to escape the scorn of intelligence while we indulge in the feat of verifying all the myths and miracles of the Jewish Church and people," unless he means to include in that statement some of the miracles of the Old Testament at least? For it is well known that Protestant Christianity indignantly rejects the fables of the Talmud as unsupported fancies. And if he does include in his statement some of the so-called Old Testament miracles, why should not he or some one relieve our ignorance, so that our faith may be well founded?
2. We would have to enlarge the ordinary conception of inspiration so as to put the great thinkers of the past and the present into the same general category with the teachers and prophets of the Bible, though like them, doubtless, with varying degrees of inspiration. Dr. Chaffee affirms: "The necessity is upon us either to broaden our doctrine of inspiration or to abandon it; for with such conceptions of God as we now have we cannot have in him a respecter of persons or of nations, . . nor limited inspirations and revelations, either as to peoples or as to times, but we must have an administration of the All-Father which, while it gives the divine Jesus of Nazareth to be the light of the world,' also gave Gautama, the gentle ascetic of Kapilavastu' to be for a time the 'light of Asia."" And if Gautama, why not Plato, Socrates, Cicero, Mohammed, and an unlimited number of lesser lights? So it seems that we have already an unlimited number of God-inspired Bibles, all inspired in the same sense, if not to the same degree, as our old-fashioned Bible. Are we also to understand that some future council of the Church, or of scholars possibly, may decide to add to the present canon of Scripture, as they are now calling for a subtraction from the contents of the present Bible? It would seem so, for our writer makes haste to say that the men who closed the present canon of Holy Scripture "had no more right to close it than we have to open it. For one thing, chiefly: they were not so well qualified to judge as we are." It is true that our fears of a new brand of Scripture are a little relieved by the added remark, "What might be lawful for us might not be expedient, and especially since the Bible as we now have it, contains all things necessary for salvation."" But suppose the successors of the present race of scholars should conclude that some new, latter-day revelation must go into our old family Bibles!
3. On the other hand we would have to narrow the limits of inspiration so as to reject from the Bible all that which does not seem to appeal to reason. Accordingly we must hold that God never directed the unknown (?) editor who put into its present form the history of Israel and wrote down the direction of Moses to slay all but the virgin Midianites; nor did he approve of Moses's command to utterly destroy the Canaanites and other tribes (Deut. xx, 16-18), because it is so much worse, you know, for God to command men to kill anybody, as for instance, to hang a man for murder, than it is to slay wicked men by earth
quake as he did Korah and his band, or by lightning, as he often does to-day! Of course Psa. cix and many other portions of the imprecatory psalms could never have been inspired by Jehovah; they must have been the work of bigoted, wicked men, and we ought to expunge them from the Bible as positively immoral!
Referring for a moment to Professor Mitchell's effort in the same Review to explain what he regards as two quite different versions of the flood, given in Genesis, as taken from different histories or traditions, we read as his words, "In the [proposed] process of reconstruction, the difficulties which previously confronted the reader have entirely disappeared." It would seem that a worse result, or at least an entirely different one, would follow. The two supposed accounts are, on his theory, irreconcilable, and therefore one must be false. Moreover, we have no means of knowing which one is true; and the Holy Ghost could not by any possibility have directed the writer to put in both accounts, one of them being false and no intimation being given as to which was false and which was true. By parity of reasoning we must look upon quite a portion of the Pentateuch as being destitute of any divine supervision or inspiration.
Dr. Chaffee also assures us that Christ never spoke the words found in Mark xvi, 9-20. Though it were so-although the authors of the Revised Version, after intimating their doubts, do nevertheless print the section-notice the doctor's reason. He says, "It was never true that good men and women could drink any deadly thing and be in no wise hurt thereby." And so, perforce, we must also reject Luke's account of Paul's escape from death, when the viper fastened upon him, as the vaporings of a disordered and falsifying imagination.
4. We would also be compelled to reject the doctrine of "original sin," and remand the Scripture account of man's original innocence and purity and his fall therefrom through Satan's influence to the realm of fable. Dr. Chaffee evidently leans to the doctrine of evolution (to account) for man's spiritual nature, as well as for his body. For he says, in speaking of the origin of man's soul: "There remains, therefore, only that unknown middle, the genesis of life, about which, perhaps, we can know nothing; but it will be scientific to assume that God has had but one method, and that is the method of evolution, about which we do know something." And he evidently foresees no special embarrassment, "should we feel obliged to substitute for the doctrine of original sin the great law of heredity."
Well, if the body and soul of the race are in each case the outcome of evolution, then there never was a sinless and perfect progenitor of the race, there never was an Adam, and there never was an Eve. They were simply the creations of some man's wild and disordered fancy, and the race has been slowly climbing up through countless ages from the unconscious life of the primordial cell. And Paul evidently quoted an untrue old legend, supposing it to be veritable history, when
he said, referring to the fall," Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression; " and also when he wrote to the Corinthians, "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." It seems that Paul was born eighteen hundred years too early! But let us not be too eager to pull up our anchor and launch out upon this shoreless sea of speculation. Whatever is truth must prevail; but error will soon go the way of past exploded theories. Watertown, N. Y. S. O. BARNES.
"NESCIENCE OF GOD."
IN discussing Dr. Adam Clarke's theory of "God's omniscience" in the January Review Dr. Milton S. Terry says: "It involves the acquisition of knowledge through the course of the ages on the part of God. For he cannot but know events as they come to pass, and, if he had no perfect foresight of them beforehand, how his knowledge must increase with time!" That is, "If God is thus acquiring knowledge through the ages, he cannot be omniscient." Dr. Terry seems to imply that God cannot acquire knowledge. Cannot God think a new thought? If he cannot now, it is logical to say he never could. A house that has always stood has never been built. Knowledge that has from all eternity been in the divine mind was never formed in concept. So of intuitions. If God does not now and never did think new thoughts, he is not a thinker. If not a thinker, how can he be intelligent? If God cannot increase his own knowledge, is he omnipotent? Such limitations border very closely on the verge of pantheism.
Our writer also holds that Dr. McCabe's statement, "Divine nescience of future contingencies is a necessity in the necessities of things," is "not a self-evident proposition; "that it "lacks the nature and force of an axiomatic truth, such as that two and two equal four." But is not this self-evident in the nature of God and things? (1) Whatever is contingent is not a fixed fact. (2) If not a fixed fact, God cannot know it or foreknow it as such. (3) If God has foreknown all things that come to pass as fixed facts from everlasting, then most assuredly they have been fixed facts. (4) If they have been fixed facts from all eternity, who fixed them? It could not have been man. It must have been God himself. (5) If all things have been eternally so fixed in fact and knowledge, there is no place for contingency, human freedom, or even divine freedom. The appearance of it as such is only an illusion or a delusion. Evidently God does not foreknow nonentities as certainties. Then they are uncertain, and the fact of their uncertainty he knows as a fact. He foreknows all the possibilities and possible contingencies. This is all he can foreknow, for it is all that is true. The unreal cannot be true. When facts change God's knowledge of them must also change. To say his knowledge of a thing glides right over the line between uncertainty and fixedness and is just the same on both
sides is unwarrantable. In Dr. Terry's own language, "We may well question the competency of any finite mind to affirm so much about the possibilities or impossibilities of God's omniscience." God is omniscient --because he knows all things. But to know a thing as a thing which is not a thing is a first-class absurdity. As soon as a contingency becomes an actuality God knows it as such, and not before. Then it is reduced to this that the "nescience of God" simply means that he does not know things out of their realities, as if they were really something else. God cannot know a thing to be in existence which is not, never has been, and perhaps never will be. This is no impeachment of his omniscence. To affirm that the divine mind plays such tricks as Dr. Terry's theory of foreknowledge implies is to impeach God's sanity. This psychology of the Infinite builds a nest for fatalism, from which a most pestilent and destructive brood swarms forth.
Dr. Terry says also, "The proposition must needs apply to all God's future free volitions, as well as those of man." But cannot God put forth new volitions? If they have all existed from "all eternity," then he never willed at all. More, he cannot will; hence he does not possess free will in any sense whatever. Then he has no personality, which includes self-consciousness and self-direction. But there was a time when God had not given his only Son to die for man, and then there was a period in his own experience when he had willed and actually done that thing. If God ever willed or thought, there must have been succession in his own consciousness, and this partakes of the nature of our time. To say that all is "one eternal now" with him, and that he never had succession of volition or cognition, is beyond "the competency of any finite mind to affirm." The great truth after which the human mind reaches in such a statement is not an "eternal now," but doubtless the fact of an infinite power or state of mind by which God holds all knowledge in his consciousness at one and the same time, and that continuously, without the possibility of forgetting as we do.
"The real difficulty" is not "to conceive how God came by his foreknowledge," but how he can foreknow things as such which are not things. What he predetermines for himself he is fully able out of his resources to accomplish. He does not need to foreknow from everlasting whatever will come to pass, in order to govern the universe, much less to know conditions as actual which are not. Evidently there are other constellations of truth in this direction which Dr. Terry's telescope has not found. J. WALLACE WEBB.
Canandaigua, N. Y.
"FOR CHRIST'S SAKE," OR "GOD IN CHRIST."
In the Review for November-December, 1898, appeared a paper from the pen of Dr. Fiske entitled, "The Atonement." He takes the correct and truly biblical position when he says, in substance, that our blessed Lord did not suffer and die in our stead, to vindicate and satisfy the