« AnteriorContinua »
istic ethical and spiritual life which the different types produce. In its result it exhibits Christian theology in its historical setting and reality.
Systematic Theology, termed also Didactic, Dogmatic, or Thetical, arranges the material thus available in the order and form required by the real relations, dependencies, and bearings of the essential truths of Christianity, exhibiting each in its separate integrity, and all together in their logical and consistent unity. Its work is exact definition and just systemization. It presents Christianity in its total doctrinal view, which becomes at once a vindication of it and an enlargement of its practical power. For these clear statements of the divine truth, all throwing their light in impressive unity on the one great design of redemptive love, cannot but tend to strengthen the intellectual conviction and quicken the religious affections. This branch has its proper place after the two already named, because it uses both the results of Biblical study and those presented by the history of discussion and doctrinal development. In every age systematic theology is helped by the preceding ages.
Practical Theology directs the use of all theological truth for the conversion of men and their present and eternal salvation. It, therefore, passes beyond the determination of the true theoretical view and doctrinal content of Christianity, and seeks their right and best application to all the ends for which Christianity has been divinely established in the world. It is concerned especially with the place and function of the Church and the duties of the ministry, both in preaching and pastoral care, and in all the branches of service these functions imply. It includes as its subdivisions such
topics as Homiletics, Liturgics, Catechetics, Church Polity, Missions, Education, and Charities.
These divisions of theology are closely allied. They move on co-operative lines of mutually helpful study and aim, converging to the great ends for which the Gospel has been given. And it is plain that Systematic Theology, which is here to engage us, has its position in the centre of general theology, employing the material furnished by the Exegetical and Historical branches, and looking, all the time, forward to Practical Theology.
4. RELIGION must be included in the subject-matter of theology. It presents the phenomena out of which theology arises, and which underlie all its investigations. The Christian religion existed before the scientific examination and formulation of its realities and doctrines.
What is religion? The term needs distinct definition. Though applied to almost endlessly diverse and changeable manifestations, it nevertheless designates essentially the same fundamental fact. And the fact, wherever found in the human race, is worship and service of deity. This is the most generic and universally applicable sense of the term. The word is differently derived. According to Cicero, it is from re and legere, to read again or to reflect, because of the thoughtfulness and meditation involved. He says: “Qui omnia quæ ad cultum deorum pertinent diligenter tractarent, et tanquam relegerent sunt dicti religiosi, ex relegendo” (De Natura Deorum, ii. 28). But Lactantius derives it from re and ligare, to bind back or again, because it results in fixing obligation in the conscience toward some supreme power. He writes “Hoc vinculo pietatis obstricti deo et religati sumus; unde ipsa religio nomen recipit; non ut Cicero interpretatus est, relegendo” (Institutiones, iv. 28). With this Augustine agrees (City of God, x. 3).
1 Definitions have greatly varied. Plato, identifying it with virtue, and designating it by its effects, made religion mean “likeness to God” (ópótworç tu O89). This effect comes by making God's “ideas” or thoughts our own. Cicero, according to his definition given above, conceives it after the same manner. He makes it consist in thoughtful, reverential worship of the gods, in meditation with pure, obedient minds (De Nat. Deorum, ii, 28).
Religion is rooted in man's nature and relations. It is a necessary product of forces that act in him and upon him. It springs out of his essential constitution and environment. The world in which he lives and moves becomes to his intelligence and conscience a constant revelation of some power above him, awing into reverence and fear. Not only is he evermore touched by mysterious powers, but compelled to see in many of them the reality of evident purpose and will. Spontaneously and necessarily, to greater or less degree, he recognizes Mind acting in and through the energies and movements of nature, impressing him with the conviction of a sovereignty which he must respect and obey. This presence of an intelligent Power in the order and adaptations of the world is one of the mighty fundamental facts of human experience, forcing an unavoidable impression, however faint or confused it may often be, of some divine Will, fixing law and penalty in the world, to which deference must be paid and homage must be rendered. It cannot but be true that man meets God walking among the trees of every garden of nature's order, life, adaptations, and beauty. The existence of religion becomes an inevitable consequence of what man is and what the world is, establishing an omnipresent living relation between man and the Author of nature. Nature is vocal with divinity. “From the things which
are made,” the invisible reality, even “the eternal power and Godhead are understood,” necessarily evoking some recognition, however low and confused, in the human reason and consciousness.
This furnishes adequate explanation of the origin and universality of religion. It is the human effort, impelled by the deepest realities in the soul and its environment, to adjust itself to the mysterious divinity that moves and speaks through, and out of, the great universe of nature. Religion, therefore, is normal to man's faculties and relations, the tendency toward it manifesting itself spontaneously and by a certain necessity the world over and in all ages, even where no positive institutes of religion are supernaturally given.
The immense diversity in the types and forms of religion in the various parts of the race and in different times becomes fully explicable in this understanding of its natural basis and genesis. When it appears altogether apart from supernatural revelation, its forms and manifestations depend, of course, upon the degree of the intellectual and moral development of the people. If the race or tribe is low and undeveloped, or brutalized, the religious discernments are crude and indistinct. In the worst ignorance and barbarisms, it is not wonderful that the coarse and untrained thinking fails to distinguish the Divine Mind which is working in and through nature from nature itself, and the religious manifestation appears largely as only a fetichistic worship or reverence of natural objects. This has been, to a great degree, characteristic of pagan religionism. In higher intellectual conditions, the discernments distinguish the Mind, whose presence is recognized, from the physical forms and movements which exhibit it, and a higher conception of God as an intelligent Spirit who is the former of the world, is reached. In the best of these discernments the divine Intelligence is apprehended as One, a unity, both above and in nature, as in the case of henotheistic and monotheistic religions, according to the discovered unity and harmony of the system of nature itself. Sometimes, instead of this high and philosophic theism of mono theistic belief, gross polytheism prevails, crude thought peopling all parts of nature with special and local divinities, an idolatry of imaginary gods. Sometimes the fetichistic confounding of the mind in nature with nature itself assumes pantheistic form. This reappears again and again, even in cosmic philosophies. But while the interpretation of the divine Intelligence and moral Authority which nature and life reveal, thus presents a bewildering and endless confusion of form, the one great fact of recognition of a Divinity that shapes the ends of nature and claims the reverence and homage of men persists, through all time and in all the world. It is, however, only when and where God has added to this self-disclosure in nature a supernatural revelation of Himself and His relations to the world, of His will and human duty and destiny, that the great truths of religion are adequately and reliably known and defined.
The comparative study of religions, which in recent years has been pursued in widest range and with able scholarship, has greatly enlarged our information of the subject. It has made clear both the truth embodied in the ethnic or non-Christian religions and their defects,
'From éis, pía, év, genitive &voc one, and Olns, God, the stage of thought which affirms there is “ a God," before it advances to positive monotheism (uóvos, one only, and Otoc), which affirms that there is "only one."