Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

notion that the knowledge of the one sphere of reality and interests can stand apart from and shed no light upon the other sphere of reality and interests, violates the rational demand which compels us to hold all truth as self-consistent, with all its parts in mutually interpreting and supporting harmony.

(6) By Philosophy a similar relation is sustained. As distinguished from science, philosophy is offered explanation of the reason of things, in the realms of both mind and matter, of either parts or the whole of the universe. It goes beyond the scientific systemization of the phenomena of nature in their relations of sequence and dependence, and seeks to find and exhibit the thought-relations in which nature lives and moves, the ideal in which the actual world-constitution finds its elucidation. The very idea of philosophy rests upon the assumption that the universe is a rationally ordered whole, a divine thought made actual. Hence rational thinking is fairly held to be capable of reading this thought embodied in the constitution of nature and life, tracing out the truth and significance of things. Philosophy endeavors to present not the phenomenal, but the rational reality of the world. Its sphere, therefore, lies closer to the realm of theology than does that of science. Indeed, it has much in common with it. It ought, therefore, to be a true and helpful ally to theology, as theology, if allowed, may, in turn, illuminate the problems of philosophy. Philosophic explanations, how

[ocr errors]

basis in the actualities of the life and work of Christ. Faith," as a faculty of worth-judgments or a direct sense of value, is detached from the necessity of depending on the historicity of the Biblical records, and becomes its own warrant for moral and spiritual confidence and saving direction in life and destiny.

ever, greatly differ, owing to the different standpoints from which nature is viewed or the use of different principles of interpretation. We have many philosophies, some more and some less true to the real thoughtrelations which the creational action has fixed in the physical, mental, and moral existence and order of the world.

There has always been a strong affinity between theology and philosophy, a tendency to unite their lines of thought and explanation. Philosophy tends to become theological, theology philosophical. Ever since the days when Plato's philosophy reached up into the high realm of theistic and spiritual verities, and Christianity, in turn, employed his thinking in support, and, in some degree, in elucidation of its divine truths, this tendency has been evident. The history of doctrine in the early Church shows abundantly, and sometimes only too strongly, a moulding and coloring influence on theology from its contacts with encompassing philosophic speculation. To say nothing about the gnostic and other heresies which broke the peace of the Church, the Alexandrian type of theology, so influential in Greek Christianity, is a perpetual historic reminder of this moulding force. In every century since, we find systems of theology shaped in greater or less degree by prevalent philosophies; and at the same time some philosophies determined in large measure by believing submission to the dogmas of the Church. Every prominent system of modern philosophy has made itself felt in theologysometimes sending waves of influence over large spaces of the theological realm.'

* See Fairbairn, “The Place of Christ in Modern Theology,” Book I., pp. 25-296.

As theology and philosophy both seek truth as to the divine thought in, through, and for nature and life, they certainly ought to stand in mutually helpful relations to each other. To a large measure they have done so. It would be difficult to estimate the full help which theology has received from this source. It has found in it corroborating testimony for many of its leading truths. For such as lie within the range of reason's comprehension it has received the confirmatory validation of the intellectual and moral judgment. The very understanding of them becomes endorsement and assured faith. When they have been truths of pure revelation, incapable of discovery or proof by the human reason alone, the clear showings of philosophy have nevertheless availed for vindicating their credibility by exhibiting their coherence with all other certified truths in selfconsistent unity. They have kept invincibly evident the principle that transcendence of reason does not necessarily mean contradiction of reason. The sphere of the possible and true may extend both above and below the reach of human explanations. Predominantly the philosophy of Christendom has been a friendly and serviceable ally of Christian doctrine. Without being itself the furnishing source of this doctrine, it has given it integration in the best intellectual cosmic systemization, On the other hand, philosophy, constructing systems in perfect freedom on many and diverse presuppositions, assuming very different and even entirely opposite principles, has often not only brought perverting and weakening elements into theology, but arrayed itself in contradiction and strife. The difference of philosophies, the variance of system with system, has been one of the most patent facts in the history of thought. While some have,

[ocr errors]

to greater or less degree, set the truth of being under genuine illumination, others have misconceived it and put a false face on the phenomena of existence and the meaning of life. They have been in incessant war with each other and changing with the passing generations, as one speculative genius after another has shifted the view-point or amended the conclusions. From this contrariety and shifting of philosophical teaching, perversion must inevitably come to theology, as it often has come, by a too easy and close alliance with it. Ceaseless vigilance is necessary against false and changing systems. The philosophic form of theology, or the philosophic contribution to it, has always constituted its variable quantity.

There are two forms of philosophy with which theology can have no alliance whatever, as they are absolutely antagonistic to it. One is monistic materialism, which denies the existence of spirit and leaves no place for moral freedom. A view of the world and man which resolves all the cosmic processes into mere atomic evolution and the human mind into molecular brain interactions exhibiting "mentality,” allows no place for either moral or religious responsibility. The spiritual realm is cancelled. The other is pure idealism, standing on the extreme opposite to materialism, and discrediting the existence of matter and a substantial outer world. This dissolves the realm amid which the human spirit is to exercise its life and powers, reacting in love and duty on physical conditions. It assigns to the spirit a creative omnipotence for the production of the whole world in which it lives and moves as itself “lord of all,” thus denying Christianity by a virtual deifying of self as cosmic creator. “ A God without a real world is not the

a

God of theology; a spirit without the flesh to subjugate is not the Christian spirit." No monistic philosophy, recognizing only one kind of essence in the universewhether it find the ground and sum of being in matter or resolve all into an endless evolution of absolute spirit -can ever be harmonized with the teaching and principles of the Scriptures. These everywhere presuppose a dualism of God and the world, spirit and the Aesh, in actual and ceaseless relations.

There are two other forms almost as absolutely untheological-deism and pantheism. Deism, in its false emphasis on the transcendence of God, separates Him so thoroughly from the world as to exclude revelation from Him or fellowship with Him. It not only pushes God away off into incommunicable heights, but seats indifference and heartlessness instead of active love upon the throne. Though it holds to the existence of God, He is not the God of redemptive goodness and saving help. Its theology, if it can construct one, is not the theology of the Christian Scriptures. Pantheism, by identifying or confounding God with the universe, making God the sum total of being, the all (àv), an eternal essence evolving by interior necessity through all the forms of existence and phenomena—all modes and forms of nature being but forms and modes of God and parts of God-at once overthrows all freedom and responsibility by denying the true personality of both God and

This pantheistic philosophy, reducing man into an ephemeral phenomenon of cosmic evolution, a momentary wave of intelligent self-consciousness on the upper surface of earthly existence, and shearing the Absolute Being, though still spelled with capitals, of every attribute of knowledge, wisdom, holiness, love, and

man.

« AnteriorContinua »