Imatges de pÓgina
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distinct and authentic place in the circle of known truth. Moreover, as the subjects of which theology treats are of the highest order, the culminating realities and truths in the realm of being and interests, such as God, His purposes and plans in nature and history, the moral capacities, obligations, responsibilities, and destinies of men, its position among the sciences or groups of organized knowledge must be highest of all. Not without propriety, therefore, has it often claimed to be the “queen of the sciences.” Even Aristotle, with his limited pagan inaterial for scientific theology, gave it rank as the “first philosophy."

Not only is its material capable of scientific formulation, but the supreme interest which thus attaches to its high rank specially impels to such treatment; for it means verification and assurance. The subjectmatter attracts the strongest affinities of the scientific faculties of the human mind. There was, therefore, a deeper reason than the mere necessity of safeguarding Christianity from the attacks of disbelief and the perversion of heresies, that led Christian scholars in the early centuries of the Church to begin to formulate, define, and systematize its facts and doctrines. Back of such practical necessity, and even deeper than that, was the scientific instinct toward exact theoretic explanation, attracted by the grandeur of the verities and doctrines brought to view. These doctrines rose to the loftiest problems of thought and possibilities of life and destiny. Pagan philosophers, when converted to Christ, could not fail to bring these problems under the defining and constructive action of their trained faculties. At the root of the theological movement lay the scientific aptitude and propensity of the human mind. This

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incentive to theology is an abiding one. It operates in all ages, and, concurring with the practical aim, evermore insures the turning of this peculiar and supremely important material into systematized view.

The very purpose and mission of Christianity requires this process. The proper preservation of it in its purity and power demands it. The self-revelation of God, through His Son Jesus Christ, as recorded in the sacred Scriptures, having advanced from the beginning to the completion of redemptory provision and of needful teaching, furnished, indeed, at once the essential saving facts and truths of Christianity, the standard of all doctrine and the living fountain of all practical instruction and life in the Church. But there is evermore needed a distinct and consolidated view of all these facts and truths of the original deposit, in order to the proper conservation of Christianity in its integrity. It must have the strength and security which stand in exact statement of its essential parts and a clear integration of all in a consistent unity of the full truth. Except by St. Paul, it does not appear to have been made an object of scientific reflection in the New Testament writings. The time of completing the data had not yet closed. But when the apostles were gone, came the need of gathering the manifold facts and teachings into such orderly view as would insure them against being lost or corrupted. We have the first step towards this arranging and systematizing labor in the earlier forms of the Apostles' Creed, though this is rather a simple aggregation of items of truth or historic facts, without theoretic elucidation-a mere enumeration of the cardinal points in the Christian faith. But the work could not stop with this. Differing interpretations of the items in that creed called for

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settlement, and enforced a process of development of the great essentials of doctrine. Creed after creed from the Councils of the Church formulated one truth after another, as the urgencies of the times required. These formulations by the regenerate mind of the Church, as its general consensus of doctrinal understanding, have been a strong factor in exhibiting Christian truth to the world and fortifying its position. A similar service has been done by the great Church Confessions in the beginning of the modern centuries. By their combinations of terse statements of the fundamental doctrines they have become anchorage amid the shifting tendencies of individual opinion to the saving content of Christian teaching. They protect it against changeful, erratic speculation tending to varied reshapings inconsistent with the abiding permanence and self-identity of truth. The elaborate monumental works of Biblical and churchly dogmatics have had a like fortifying and strengthening force. And though both confessions and dogmatic theologies may sometimes incorporate some incorrect, defective, or onesided views, and carry them along, perhaps through centuries, yet the boldness and vigor with which the great determinative fundamentals are set forth and accentuated, tend to maintain the central and essential current of doctrinal view aright, and thus prove corrective also of partial errors or faults.

3. Theology in this comprehensive sense is naturally divided into various branches according to the particular subject-matter and its peculiar place in the whole investi. gation.

The first underlying division is that into Natural and Revealed Theology. This division rests upon a difference in the sources.

(a) NATURAL THEOLOGY denotes the knowledge of God as it may be derived by reason from the works of nature. These works, rationally interpreted, become a natural revelation of His existence, will, essential attributes, and relation to the world. The primary idea upon which this theology proceeds is that if there be a God as the Creator and First Cause of the universe, His being and character must be found impressed upon it and discoverable from it. The author of a work is revealed in the work he does. The world is viewed as an understandable expression of the existence and the thought of its Source. One of the fundamental conceptions of science is that nature holds and presents in its constitution and order some record, legible to the reason of those who honestly study it. Natural Theology, therefore, examines this record, takes its testimony, and thus ascends through nature up to nature's God.

But while it thus certifies some great and momentous truths, it falls sadly short of affording the degree of knowledge for which the condition and needs of humanity imperatively call. It is voiceless as to the supply of man's most deeply-felt necessity of redemption, deliverance from conscious guilt and the sore bondage of human life to moral evil. Though Natural Theology is able to discern, and, in fact, recognizes the great reality of moral law, and hears the ceaseless cry which the sense of guilt and helpless weakness is ever forcing from the heart of the race, it is able to give to this cry no satisfying response from God.

(6) REVEALED, OR CHRISTIAN, THEOLOGY is that which grounds itself upon the data of the special revelation given in the Christian Scriptures. While it recognizes and incorporates whatever pertinent truth is furnished by Natural Theology, it constructs its system out of the material furnished in God's supernatural selfdisclosure and teaching, as recorded in the Old and New Testaments. It assumes-what will be vindicated in

— another section—both the possibility and reality of a supernatural divine manifestation in the world, and the validity of the distinction between this and the simply natural revelation which God makes of Himself in His creative activity and its products in the universe. Revealed Theology is rightly divided into four leading departments, namely: Exegetical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical.

Exegetical Theology is concerned with the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and investigates all questions as to their origin, authorship, character, history, and teachings. It is a field of wide and varied inquiry. It includes Archæology, Criticism, Hermeneutics, Introduction, and Interpretation-all the different studies by which the teachings of the Scriptures are understood and exhibited. The other branches of theology depend on this and use the material which it furnishes. It has, therefore, the first place in the logical order of theological work.

Historical Theology traces the historical development of Christianity in the thought and life of the Church. It is theology as embodied in Ecclesiastical History, especially in the History of Doctrines. It studies Creeds, ecclesiastical writers, controversies, decisions of Councils, and Church Confessions, noting from the first onward through the Christian centuries, the rise and settlement of doctrinal questions, the elimination of heresies, the agreements and differences of view and types of belief within the Church, and withal the character

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