Imatges de pÓgina
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supposes and furnishes, and develop its systematic view out of the essential realities and implications thus presented. Underneath Natural Theology lies the whole realm of natural religion, and under Christian Theology are all the divine activities, facts, and truths embodied in the Christian religion.

CHAPTER II.

THE SOURCES OF THEOLOGY.

The sources of theology must be adequate at once to account for the origin and to exhibit the content of the faith. They must be authoritatively legitimate for both the substance and the form of the theological teaching. Nothing short of such sources, as the basis of its determinations, can give to theology its right character and standing as a scientific exhibition of the truth which belongs to its sphere of investigation.

For merely natural theology the sources are justly found in the data of the huinan consciousness and reason in connection with the natural self-revelation of God in creation and history. These supply it with abundant evidence of the existence of God and certify some of His essential attributes, making clear, at the same time, a large realm of moral and religious obligation for man. For Christian theology the chief source is found in the Old and New Testament records of the supernatural self

manifestation of God in His redemptive love, work, and teaching. The possession of this additional and unique revelation, of course, does not annul or displace the data from which natural theology derives its invaluable theistic and religious truth. These continue in their own rightful force and validity, for full consideration in theological grounds and verifications. The disposition, sometimes shown, to contemn and exclude from Christian theology the data that have illuminated the way of natural theology into the great fundamental realities of the divine existence and many of the divine prerogatives and attributes and of the religious nature and responsibility of man, is manifestly unjustifiable. These have lost none of their intrinsic legitimacy by reason of the added light, and rightly form auxiliary sources in theological determinations. This is fully endorsed by the Scriptures themselves in the recognition they give of the revelatory function of nature as the divine handiwork in showing the divine glory, and of the office of reason for discerning the eternal power and Godhead from the things which are made. (Ps. xix. I; Rom. i. 20.) But as the supernatural revelation in redemptory providence and communication, meeting and providing for the distinctively spiritual and moral need of mankind, has flooded the whole religious view with the fullest and completest light, the Scripture records of this legitimately become the principal and decisive source for the verities and formulations of theology. They are the standard of faith and the Christian life. This, at least theoretically, though not always practically followed, was the conception of the leading writers of the early centuries of the Church, maintained essentially down into the middle ages. As the great “formal principle,” reasserted in the reformation of the sixteenth century against practical encroachments upon it by exaggerated claims for tradition and ecclesiastical authority, it has ever since been justly accredited as a fundamental rule in the method and procedures of Christian theology. There is no adequate reason for surrender of this principle. Whatever may be the outcome of the agitation and ferment brought about by the evolutionary theory of the origin of the world and man and the allied work of literary and historical criticism upon the Biblical records, no conclusions have yet been established that remove the Scriptures from the position to which the Church has accredited them, as the infallible rule for faith and life and the norm of Christian theology. Whatever weight may be given to knowledge from other sources, from tradition, philosophy, or the physical sciences, such knowledge must be but auxiliary and rank below the grade of ruling doctrinal authority. Revelation covers the essential content of the faith. Even the “Christian consciousness,” which is conceded to be a proper and even necessary helping factor in understanding and defining theological doctrines, must, if it is to be reliable, be itself a product of the Scriptures, out of an illuminating experience of their truth. Its office is subsidiary.

This formal principle of theology either assumes or carries in its import a number of related truths : (1) It assumes that these sacred Scriptures are, indeed, the word of God, a divinely supplied record of a revelation of Himself, and of the things necessary to be known, believed, and fulfilled for the realization of our true life and destiny. Their authority is grounded in this, and it is only as they are adequately and fully authenticated in this character that they attain and hold the right of umpire. The certifying proofs, to which the reason and judgment of the most intellectual and critical nations of history have bowed and which have been confirmed by the experience-testing of centuries of Christendom, will be outlined a little further on in our examination. (2) It assumes also that these Scriptures have been given under such divine adaptations that, while they are authoritative, they are understandable under the Holy Spirit and an adequate guide in all spiritual truth need

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ful for salvation. The main facts in this relation will appear in the consideration of their inspiration. (3) In its import the principle involves a repudiation and exclusion of any supposed right or authority of the Church to enact extra-biblical doctrines or articles of faith for the consciences of men. (4) It excludes, too, a limitation of the right of interpretation by any supposed exclusive authority conferred upon an ecclesiastical hierarchy or ruling official, in derogation of personal interpretation, liberty, and responsibility in matters revealed to faith. And (5) it disowns the right of tradition or extra-biblical ecclesiastical information, to impose articles of faith or practice for which clear warrant of the Scriptures cannot be given. In asserting tradition as an authority co-equal with the Scriptures as a source of saving truth and moral discipline, the Council of Trent has defined the position of the Roman Church in contradiction to this formal principle of Protestant theology. The vindication of the principle will be made to appear in the conclusions to which the evidences of Christianity and a summary of the doctrine concerning the Scrip tures necessarily lead us.

But this rule of Biblical supremacy calls up at this point the whole question of the province of reason and its work in the determinations of Christian theology. This has been one of the battle-questions of modern and recent times. It has been brought on and continued by the intellectual activity and progress of the age. Through the brilliant achievements of the human mind in the domain of science, discovery, invention, and subjugation of nature to obedient service, and its magnificent creations and ranges of metaphysical and philosophical speculation, a spirit of intellectual confidence and self

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