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By what rule, under what impulse, for what reason, shall it do the former ? The answer is brief: When it must; i. e., when there is such an accumulation of knowledge and of evidence against the apparent meaning that the mind cannot tolerate the inconsistency, it must search the text to see if it will not bear a meaning, or rather does not contain a meaning, — indeed, was intended to convey a meaning that we have failed to catch, — consistent with ascertained facts. It is already a familiar process, as illustrated in the treatment of the first chapters of Genesis. The Bible receives no detriment from being interpreted under such a principle; how much larger, in their truth, are these chapters than they were a century ago! This is not a chameleon process; it does not reduce the Bible to a pliant mass, to be shaped anew by every restless critic; it does not deprive it of positive meaning and character. It regards it rather as a revelation of God, the full meaning of which is to be evolved in the history of the world, - a light that simply burns brighter as time goes on. It is this very characteristic that makes it a miraculous book, if we care so to name it. It is to be remembered, also, that the Bible generates the light in which it is to be interpreted, — " the master light of all our seeing;” it were well if that light were more used! There is no denial of the fact that doctrines now regarded as parts of orthodoxy are the reflections of the social condition in which they were formulated. The doctrines of divine sovereignty, of total depravity, and of the atonement are shot through
with colors drawn from the corruption of Roman society, from the Roman sense of authority and the Roman forms of justice. The Bible furnished isolated texts for holding these conceptions, but the Bible, as a whole, did not furnish the conceptions ; had it been used to furnish conceptions of doctrines, we would not now have what goes for orthodoxy. But Rome passes, and the Bible endures ; the leaven of heathen society is eliminated, and the leaven of the Gospel works its slow transformation in the world. It generates a sense of freedom and humanity that renders impossible a belief in divine sovereignty, and human depravity, and legal atonement, and future retribution, as they were first formulated, and are still retained, in the Old Theology. The present universal protest against the old conception of retribution is due simply to the fact that the Gospel itself has trained the mind to such a point of tender, humane, and just feeling that it necessarily repudiates it. The defenders of the old view hurl the Bible, as though it were a missile, at doubters and deniers; the New Theology says, Let us open it again, and read it in the light that it has kindled in our minds and in society, not despising the tenderness and humanity which are its offspring. Whatever the Bible may be, it is not a Saturn, devouring its own children.
3. The New Theology seeks to replace an exces*4 sive individuality by a truer view of the solidarity of the race.
It does not deny a real individuality, it does not
predicate an absolute solidarity, but simply removes the emphasis from one to the other. It holds that every man must live a life of his own, build himself up into a full personality, and give an account of himself to God: but it also recognizes the blurred truth that man's life lies in its relations; that it is a derived and shared life; that it is carried on and perfected under laws of heredity and of the family and the nation ; that while he is “himself alone” he is also a son, a parent, a citizen, and an inseparable part of the human race; that in origin and character and destiny he cannot be regarded as standing in a sharp and utter individuality. It differs from the Old Theology in a more thorough and consistent application of this distinction. That holds to an absolute solidarity in evil, relieved by a doctrine of election of individuals; this holds to a solidarity running throughout the whole life of humanity in the world, — not an absolute solidarity, but one modified by human freedom. It is not disposed wholly to part company with the Old in respect to the “fall in Adam ” (when the Scriptures, on this point, are properly interpreted), and hereditary evil, and the like; it sees in these conceptions substantial truths, when freed from their excessiveness and their formal and categorical shapes, but it carries this solidarity into the whole life of man. If it is a fallen world, it is also a redeemed world; if it is a lost world, it is a saved world; the Christ is no less to it than Adam ; the divine humanity is no smaller than the Adamic humanity; the Spirit is as powerful and as universal as sin; the links that bind the race to evil are correlated by links equally strong binding it to righteousness. It goes, in a certain manner, with the Old Theology in its views of common evil, but it diverges from it in its conceptions of the redemptive and delivering forces by ascribing to them corresponding sweep. To repeat: it does not admit that Christ is less to the race than Adam, that the Gospel is smaller than evil; it does not consign mankind as a mass to a pit of common depravity, and leave it to emerge as individuals under some notion of election, or by solitary choice, each one escaping as he can and according to his “chance," but the greater part not escaping at all. It does not so read revelation and history and life, finding in them all a corporate element, “a moving altogether when it moves at all,” — an interweaving of life with life that renders it impossible wholly to extricate the individual. It allies itself with the thought of the present age and the best thought of all ages, that mankind is moved by common forces, and follows common tendencies falling and rising together, partakers together in all good and ill desert, verifying the phrase, “ the life of humanity.” It believes that the Spirit broods over the 6 evil world” as it brooded upon the chaos of old ; that humanity is charged with redemptive forces, wrought into the soul and into the divine institutions of the family and the nation, and whatever other relation binds man to man; and it believes that these forces are not in vain.
Still, it does not submerge the individual in the common life, nor free him from personal ill desert, nor take from him the crown of personal achievement and victory. It simply strives to recognize the duality of truth, and hold it well poised. It turns our attention to the corporate life of man here in the world, - an individual life, indeed, but springing from common roots, fed by a common) life, watched over by one Father, inspired by one Spirit, and growing to one end ; no man, no generation, being “made perfect” by itself. Hence its ethical emphasis ; hence its recognition of the nation, and of the family, and of social and commercial life, as fields of the manifestation of God and of the operation of the Spirit; hence its readiness to ally itself with all movements for bettering the condition of mankind, — holding that human society itself is to be redeemed, and that the world itself, in its corporate capacity, is being reconciled to God; hence also an apparently secular tone, which is, however, but a widening of the field of the divine and spiritual.
4. This theology recognizes a new relation to natural science; but only in the respect that it ignores the long apparent antagonism between the kingdoms of faith and of natural law,- an antagonism that cannot, from the nature of things, have a basis in reality. But while it looks on the external world as a revelation of God and values the truth it may reveal; while even it recognizes in it analogies to the spiritual world and a typical similarity of method, it does not merge itself in natural science. It is not yet ready, and it shows no signs that it