Imatges de pàgina


[ocr errors][merged small]


THEOLOGY is the science which deals with the Being and Nature of God. Christian Theology is the expression and analysis of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. All speculation into the First Cause of the world, the ground of moral obligation, even the immortality of the human soul, is or may be theological; that is, any one of these questions may be so discussed as to bring before us the notion of a Supreme Being, who made the world, whose nature is the source of the distinction of right and wrong, who brought man's soul into being, and preserves it continuously from dissolution. On the other hand, all such questions fail to be theological just in proportion as the idea of the Supreme Being is dropped out of sight. They must then be treated as subordinate sections of physics, or of psychology, or of metaphysics. They take their theological colour from their contact with the idea of a Supreme Being, and no treatment of them apart from this idea is, in the strict sense, theological at all. As for the Being and Nature of God, apart from the Christian revelation of Him, we must derive our knowledge of it from the theological treatment of the questions mentioned above. By reflection upon the order of nature, of a certain kind, we reach

the notion of a Creator. By reflection of a certain kind upon the moral law we reach the notion of a Personal Ruler of mankind, who rewards and punishes; and this result leads on to the discussion of the Immortality of Man. These are the contents of Natural Theology, as it is called; and these represent more or less completely the area over which man can move in the way of independent speculation.

As Natural Theology starts from the facts of experience in nature and the moral life, so Christian Theology starts from the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. As Natural Theology results in an idea of God in nature, real, but somewhat bare and conjectural in character, so Christian Theology, in virtue of its new start and wider scope, ends in an idea of God which is more certain, more definite, and more coherent. Christian Theology throws light upon the same questions and problems as its simpler predecessor, but just as the treatment of them ceases to be theological when the idea of God is left. out of sight, so it ceases to be Christian apart from the assumed truth of the Incarnation.

These circumstances point to a fact which distinguishes Theology from many sciences, both in its nature and in its method. No science, we all know, proves its own first principles; every science must derive them from some one or more of its sister sciences or take them as unexplained facts from the world of experience. The results of arithmetic are assumed in geometry, the conclusions of geometry become premisses in mechanics : or, to take another case, the existence of animals of various kinds is given in nature, and is assumed as a starting-point by biological science. But Theology does rather more than accept as premisses the conclusions

which other sciences have proved. It uses its own central facts-the Existence of God, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ-both as premiss and conclusion. It does not and cannot start with just a few bare assumptions which are not theological in character, and then present its theological doctrines as the reasoned outcome of these, aided by the ordinary rules of inference; but rather, taking the idea of God as a starting-point, it endeavours to set forth the necessary coherence of this with all other forms of truth; or taking the Incarnation for fact, it analyses it and traces its full significance, and then endeavours to show the coherence of it with previous apprehensions of God, and with the rest of man's knowledge. To take a parallel case, the evidence for the existence of our own personality is of the same character as the evidence for the existence of God. It appears both as conclusion and as premiss. To prove the existence of my own personality, I must assume it, and show that this assumption falls in coherently with everything else that I know, and that without this assumption all my system of knowledge falls to pieces. It must be assumed anew in every step of any argument I may employ. And when I prove its existence, supposing that I do, I prove at the same time that I could never have taken a single step in argument without assuming its existence. Much the same is true of the existence of God, as we shall hope to make plain in the next chapter. The evidence we allege in proof of the fact proves also that the investigation is reasonable only when the fact is assumed-that is, that the existence of God is the hinge upon which the whole process turns.

There are various reasons why this should be so. We will mention here only two-one depending on the

« AnteriorContinua »