Imatges de pàgina

sufficiency has been begotten and grown strong. Even when and where it has taken the position of religious agnosticism, a conclusion of almost blank nescience as to theistic and spiritual verities, it has, nevertheless, assumed a temper of dogmatic positiveness as to the certainty of its own knowledge and the competence of reason to settle both physical and moral truth. Its very negations are assertive. Humility of mind has largely disappeared under the pride of scientific advance, which is supposed to have furnished new view-point and such illumination over the whole domain of knowledge as to give to the human reason alone an imperial supremacy in the realm of knowable reality. A sign of this appears in the strong disposition to discard from the conception of the cosmic system everything that the scientific understanding cannot bring under its classification in the uniformities of natural law, and to believe in the existence of nothing which formal logic cannot reduce under the category of such uniformities. It is betokened, too, by the pressure for the elimination of the term “supernatural” as properly expressive of a distinctive characteristic in the content of the Christian revelation. It is well, indeed, to rejoice in and honor the intellectual triumphs of our age. They have lifted us above some of the faultiness and mistakes of earlier science and philosophy. They have enriched life and thought with much that is valuable. But it would be premature to assume that all present scientific speculations and theories will stand the siftings of still advancing knowledge and speculation. The tendency, however, to enlarge the authority and sphere of reason in matters of religious faith is unquestionable in the spirit of the times. At the very best, our times are not marked by evidences of an anxious sense of need of divine instruction and help for spiritual guidance and destiny, or of dependence on supernatural communication and direction. Unquestionably strong rationalistic tendencies are widely prevalent and urgent. This question, therefore, of the true relations of reason with respect to the substance and form of the Christian faith must here be settled for ourselves, if we are to move consistently through the whole long range of theological examination and maintain firm footing amidst the strenuous influences of our times.

We propose no lengthened discussion of the subject. It will be enough to summarize the conclusions to which, we believe, just views and discriminations must bring us :

1. Reason, as the whole human faculty of knowledge through perception, intuition, and the logical processes, and revelation, as the disclosure of truth through the Scriptures, cannot be viewed as contradictory of each other, but as necessarily in agreement. The one may speak where the other is silent. The one may transcend the other and bring higher or broader realms or realities into view. But there can be no real and positive conflict. On this conclusion we are compelled to stand, because, ex hypothesi, both reason and revelation are from the same divine Author. And this Author is both the Absolute Reason and the unchangeable, ever-selfconsistent Truth. This may seem here simply an assumption ; but it is an assumption warranted, on the one hand, by the proper and sufficient evidence that the revelation is, indeed, of God, and, on the other, by the whole body of truth for the theistic origin of the world and of the human reason as a divine gift. When, therefore, this claim of revelation as of God is once verified and He is identified as the Creator of the human mind, if there appears a seeming conflict in their representations either one or the other has been misread. Such misreading may easily occur, as the history of rational judgments and of Biblical exegesis abundantly shows. And the principle is indubitably correct, as fully conceded by the soberest decisions of philosophy itself, that an article or point of faith taught by revelation, is not in contradiction of reason by being above it, i. e., by being either naturally undiscoverable or a mystery when revealed. Even within the natural sphere alone there are manifold realities beyond either discovery or solution by reason. Science, as truly as revelation, has to face the fact of mystery.” The essential harmony between reason and revelation is but another expression of the harmony of God with Himself.

The offices of reason in this relation are justly indicated as (a) To judge and decide upon the claims of a given revelation to be of divine origin and authority. A religion which transcends the data of simply natural theology can have no authority for its higher teachings until it secures reason's favorable verdict upon its divine credentials. Faith becomes but an unwarranted superstition if it accepts an offered revelation which is without fully adequate grounds for such acceptance. The revelation must come with full proof that it is of God. Its claims must be sustained in the court of reason, sitting in most sober, searching, and conscientious examination. Until its divine credentials are thus

1 Isa. lv. 9.

. For illustrative instances, see Francis Howe Johnson's "What is Reality?" p. 92, seq. Also Wright's “Scientific Aspects of Christian Evidences,” p. 28, seq.


adjudged sufficient it can acquire no legitimate standing as arbiter. When so authenticated its position of supremacy has come through the reason itself. This is the first thing in the high and responsible office of the human reason. It opens the gates

gates of truly warranted and intelligent faith in God's redemptive truth and grace—than which it can have no higher or sacred function. Of all men it should be farthest from the Christian theologian to vilify the human reason, since God has called it to such an office

to test and pass upon the signs, marks, and evidences of the great self-manifestation in which He has presented Himself for human confidence, obedience, and salvation. But reason assumes an unwarranted role when it undertakes to pronounce against the possibility of a supernatural revelation or against a possible proof of any. The import of such undertaking amounts, in the first case, to the absurdity of claiming that the finite human mind can have an omniscient view of the possibilities of being and event; and in the second place, demands a standard or grade of proof above that which reason itself, in all other relations and affirmations, has evermore adjudged to be fully adequate to accredit the certainty of historical or other phenomenal reality. In such demands it puts itself in conflict with its own canons of certitude, and becomes the abuse of reason, known as “rationalism." (6) The Sacred Scriptures, as the records of God's redemptory self-revelation, being thus certified as from Him, the reason properly takes the position of a pupil, bowing to their authority in the sphere in which they teach. In this, however, the office of reason continues to be a high and responsible one, because it is the office of correctly understanding their divine communications, of intelligently and accurately reading God's thoughts after Him and making them our own.

1 Matt. xi. 2-6; John v. 36; X. 25, 37, 38; xv. 24.

While for all that is essential for a saving faith and a Christian life, the Scriptures are readily comprehended by the sincere understanding, yet in their immense ranges and reaches into spiritual truth and principles they present problems whose right explanation calls for the best powers of the human mind. As they are a record of a great providential movement in history, advancing from the earliest times through centuries of divine manifestations and guidance, ordinances and administrations, in the Old Testament, to the consummation in the coming, teaching, institutes, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of the Church through the appointed ministry of the apostles; covering advancing revelatory communications from the beginning to the completion in the New Testament—all connected with an almost endless diversity of local circumstances, social conditions, personal character, political institutions, and national changes and contacts, with their complex influence and significance-evidently even the reason's function of theological interpretation covers an almost measureless field of difficult work, for which the most discriminating intellect, the purest heart, and the most faithful conscience are none too great an equipment. It necessarily requires an ample apparatus of knowledge, historical, linguistic, archæological. Alas, how often the office of interpretation has failed to reach the exact truth or has delivered error because of the lack of comprehensive information, clear spiritual discernment, or training in logical discrimination and conclusion. How often has it been used to pervert the

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