Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

us that believers know Christ even as the Father knows him, there is not much room for mystery in the revelations of the Christ.

This blind acceptance of revelation as something with which the reason has little to do, in respect to which the New Theology parts company with the Old, is based on the conception that revelation is grounded on miracle, i. e., on sense, - a principle that Christ condemned over and over: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

2. The New Theology seeks to interpret the Scriptures in what may be called a more natural it way, and in opposition to a hard, formal, unsympathetic, and unimaginative way.

Its strongest denial and its widest divergence from the Old Theology lie here. It holds profoundly to inspiration, but it also holds that the Scriptures were written by living men, whose life entered into their writings; it finds the color and temper of the writer's mind in his work; it finds also the temper and habit of the age; it penetrates the forms of Oriental speech; it seeks to read out of the mind and conception and custom of the writer instead of reading present conceptions into his words. In brief, it reads the Scriptures as literature, yet with no derogation from their inspiration. It refuses to regard the writers as automatic organs of the Spirit, — “moved,” indeed, but not carried outside of themselves nor separated from their own ways and conceptions. It is thus that it regards the Bible as a living book; it is warm and vital with the life of a divine humanity, and thus it speaks to humanity. But as it was written by men in other ages and of other habits of speech, it needs to be interpreted; it is necessary to get back into the mind of the writer in order to get at the inspiration of his utterance; for before there is an inspired writing there is an inspired man, through whom only its meaning can be reached. This is a very different process from picking out texts here and there, and putting them together to form a doctrine; yet it is by such a process that systems of theology have been formed, and cast on society for acceptance. The New Theology does not proceed in such a way. The Old Theology reads the Scriptures with a lexicon, and weighs words as men weigh iron; it sees no medium between the form of words and their first or preconceived meaning. It looks into the Bible as one looks through space, beyond the atmosphere, upon the sun, - seeing one point of glowing light, but darkness on every side; one text of burning sense, but no atmosphere of context, or age, or custom, or temper of mind, or end in view. The New Theology does not tolerate the inconsistency of the Old, as it slowly gives up the theory of verbal inspiration, but retains views based on verbal inspiration. It will not remove foundations and prop up the superstructure with assertions.

Again, it does not regard the Bible as a magical book; it is not a diviner's rod; it is not a charmed thing of intrinsic power, representing a far-off God. The New Theology remembers that the mass, the confessional, the priestly office, the intercession of saints, were the product of a theology that held to a mechanical, outside God, and that these superstitions sprang from the demand of the human heart for a God near at hand. It remembers that when these superstitions were cast off and the theology retained the Bible was put in their place, and with something of the same superstitious regard. Hence, it was not read naturally and in a free, off-hand way, as it was inspired and written, but in hard and artificial ways, and was used much as men use charms. The New Theology does not reduce to something less the inspiration of the Bible, nor does it yield to any theology in its sense of its supreme value in the redemption of the world; but it holds it as purely instrumental, and not as magical in its power or method. It is a history of the highest form in which God is manifesting himself in the world, but it is not the manifestation itself; it is not a revelation, but is a history of a revelation ; it is a chosen and indispensable means of the redemption of the world, but it is not the absolute means, – that is in the Spirit. It is necessary to make this distinction in order to read it, otherwise it cannot be interpreted ; it lies outside the sphere of our rational nature, - a charmed mystery, before which we may sit in awe, but not a voice speaking to our thinking minds.

Again: the New Theology is not disposed to limit its interpretation of the Scriptures by the principle contained in the phrase “ the plain meaning of the words.” This is a true principle, but it may be used in a narrow and untrue way. It is one of those phrases that wins immediate assent be. cause it flatters the popular mind, like the appeals to “common sense,” — a trick under which a vast amount of error and slipshod belief has crept into the world. It is by an undue and exclusive use of this principle that a theology has been created intolerable to human nature. Now a theology cannot be forced on the human mind. Men may be required to believe what they do not like to believe, but they cannot be forced to believe what they cannot believe, i. e., to believe against the universal voice of reason and heart and knowledge. There will first be silence, then denial and rejection, and all along inefficiency or abnormal results. To escape from a theology so created, there must be a broader principle of interpretation than this of 66 the plain meaning of the words ;” or, rather, this principle must be enlarged, until it becomes something quite different. There must be recognized the principle of moral evolution or development, — a principle that removes whatever difficulties some may feel as to Hebrew anthropomorphism ; it must be allowed that every writer of the Bible wrote under human limitations, and that it is within the province of the reason to discover the linnitations and so get at the meaning, as it does with any other book, with only this difference, that when it thus reaches the meaning it is wholly trustworthy.

Another principle is that the Bible, like the order of history, is a continually unfolding revelation of God; it is a book of eternal laws and facts that are evolving their truth and reality in the process of history. Its full meaning is not yet disclosed; it is an ever-opening book. It is always leading man in the right direction, but it does not show him at once, in clear light, the whole domain of truth. It is therefore a book to be constantly and freshly interpreted; it may mean to-morrow more than it means to-day. This principle of “the plain meaning of the words " is to be used under other principles and in connection with all possible knowledge.

The point bas recently been made by a critic of the Unitarian school that “the Bible is an orthodox book.” With profound respect for the honesty and ability of the critic, the New Theology regards with indifference a criticism that encourages the Old Theology to foster theories that the critic plainly sees can lead only to its final and utter collapse, provoking the instant and necessarily expected inference that “we must revise our Bible or keep our creed.” The New Theology agrees neither with the critic nor with the comment; it holds principles of interpretation that bind it neither to the school represented by the one nor by the other. To assert an identity between the Bible and the theology of New England as it was sixty years ago is to ignore previous ages of church history, and scores of years since; it is to ignore all other theology, — the early Greek, the Arminian, the Mystical, and the Romish. Yet upon such a summons, some are induced either to “revise the Bible or keep the creed." The New Theology will do neither; it refuses to be deceived by an “ undistributed middle” of a syllogism ; it chooses instead to reinterpret the Bible, i. e., find out what it actually means, and revise the creed if it is necessary.

« ElőzőTovább »