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trouble the world with the product. Such work is not science, nor is it scientific. It is not even rational when it makes the fallible dictates of one's own mind the authoritative centre, in place of the testimony of history and in the very face of it.
The object of this paper, so far as it has any practical reference to the religious and scientific discussions of the present day, has been to emphasize liberty, which has too often been denied by party conservatism; and at the same time to indicate the desirability of having a wholesome restraint placed upon that dogmatism which is too common in the advanced schools of thought. In holding to the simplest illustration of the theme there has yet been the constant aim to show that the historical method does not belong to history alone, but to every department of human thought and knowledge. The growing scrutiny into the so-called “historical” in every field of thought, may crowd it into still narrower limits, and no harm will come, if the situation be understood. It will only be to magnify the strength and legitimacy of its authority. There is much that needs to be restated and reinforced in science and philosophy, in New Testament views and Old Testament views, and there should be absolute freedom for the honest and legitimate doing of the work. We owe it in these difficult fields to recognize the careful scholar and to encourage him in his work. Under his leadership we shall certainly be taught to distinguish conclusions proved, from conclusions which are more or less fanciful, and do not conclude at all. Truth needs truth to enlarge its liberty and give it dominion, and the man who is afraid of new truth does not know anything about truth at all, for truth is really all of the same age.
But the work should be carried on in such a way as to inspire confidence and not distrust. We shall not help either the old or the new, by running off into vagaries. The alarming amount of unscientific work put forth rapidly and
easily in these fields, with all the positiveness of new truth; the clothing of the merest assumptions and fancies in the garb of reality, and putting them forth with all the soberness o historical verities, is not a hopeful sign of the present or for the future. In our desire to satisfy the mind's inborn craving for knowledge, it is important that we do not allow our sober judgment to be defrauded with what is not knowledge,with what in the business world is called “watered stock.” Every “promise to pay” must have the gold or the earth back of it. The man who is so hungry for something new that he is not willing to wait to test it, is in danger of losing his appetite for what he has already in his possession; of disbelieving the old while becoming a credulous enthusiast in respect to the new. He will find himself in the position of one of the English separatists who went on progressing so rapidly that he felt constrained to put into one of his books the caution to his readers, that it was always his last opinion which he wished to be taken as "containing the truth"!
Theories, and working hypotheses, are necessary and helpful up to a certain point in the investigation, and have done their part in advancing knowledge. But when held too closely they more often mislead than lead aright. We have passed the point of safety in more than one direction. It is time to come back and be content with the slower but surer method of discovery, and of enlarging our knowledge of the unknown by a better knowledge of the known. That is true science and that is genuine scholarship. President Bascom well stated the case in one of his books, and the quotation may fittingly be given here in conclusion: “The skill of an intellectual life is found in getting from the old to the new without the loss of either; from the old to the new in government without the waste and overthrow of revolution; from the old to the new in social customs and order, without the
1 Science, Philosophy, and Religion, p. 26.
shock of aroused prejudices, the bitterness of sarcasm, the irritation of unwelcome truth; from the old to the new in faith, without schism, the falling of this branch into rapid decay, the putting forward of that into precipitate progress; from the old to the new in philosophy without the irreparable loss of complete rejection, or the irreparable loss of unlimited acceptance, without leaping wholly off from the sure foundation of the past on to other foundations of merely fanciful strength, that have not been tested by the storms of many centuries."
THE AUTHORITY AND INSPIRATION OF THE
BY PROFESSOR FRANK HUGH FOSTER, D. D.
The problem of Systematic Theology is always the same. In the various ages of the church, as the introduction of new information orgeneral acceptance of new conclusions, whether from the study of nature or of man, presents it with new material, it has the task of reducing this material to order and setting forth in a systematic manner the sum total of present knowledge upon the themes which it treats.
It is always constructive, never destructive. It is not the science of exploration and discovery. It has to wait for the performance of these labors by other departments of theological thought. It may therefore often lag behind the front ranks of progress. But as soon as it can say anything which seems worthy of its special office in the church, whenever it can do anything to calm the turbulent seas of controversy, to relieve anxiety, to give new points of view, or to furnish the doctrinal material for a new advance in the practical work of the church, it is responsible for the faithful performance of these services. For them it exists.
Systematic Theology is, thus, not a stationary science, though it has sometimes been conceived as such by both friend and foe. It is not like a lawyer who has taken a brief to support a certain series of opinions, which are themselves never to be questioned or subjected to revision. The church is actually learning from age to age. New truth does appear. It may not be new in the sense that it is not contained in the Scriptures, explicitly or implicitly, or because it supersedes the doctrines of revelation; but it is new to the apprehension of the age which receives it. The true attitude of Systematic Theology is that of hospitality to it, of critical investigation of its claims, of ready acknowledgment of its reality. Not everything which professes to be true is true. Not every supposed improvement is real improvement. But by receiving increments of new truth theology is still to grow as it has grown during the Christian centuries, distinguishing between the false and the true in that which it has received by tradition, separating the helpful from the harmful in what is offered it in the present, purifying, deepening, and broadening the stream of apprehended reality.
There seems to be special occasion at the present time for the exercise of these functions of Systematic Theology. The past thirty years have seen a great change wrought in the theological thinking of America. Up to that time, what growth there had been had been homogeneous and produced under influences native, for the most part, to the soil. Since then, the influence of the critical methods of Germany, and of the revolution in the natural sciences produced by the introduction of the theory of evolution, has been increasing year by year, till we have been involved in a most momentous controversy upon the fundamental positions of Christian Theology, and particularly upon the Scriptures. At first the issues were far from clear. Time enough has now elapsed, possibly, to enable the Christian thinker to see where he is and whither he is tending. Systematic discussion has already begun, and been vigorously carried on for a considerable period. Two extreme tendencies have already become sufficiently marked: the conservative, which has nothing to learn, has always been in possession of the complete truth, and conceives its problem to be simply to stand by its guns; and the rationalistic, which adopts the evolutionary theory of the origin of our religion, and turns to comparative studies in Bud.