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largely an age of arrested belief, dangerous to all, fatal to many. The blame is thickly and widely scattered about, - on pulpit and pew, on science and philosophy, on theologians and editors, on the orthodox and the heterodox; let us each take our share, for there is a certain deep homogeneity of the age that renders it accountable for its condition. There is, however, this sure ground of hope: that the great body of mankind will not long live without a faith.
While what is called the New Theology is, in part, the cause of this condition, it also finds in it the reason of its being. It is not a disturber of the peace in the realm of belief, but comes forward to meet the unconscious thought and the conscious need of the people, and, if possible, do something towards quelling the anarchy of fear and doubt that now prevails. It is not a vague thing,
“Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born,” but a definite movement, that attempts to link the truth of the past with the truth of the present in the interest of the Christian faith. It justifies itself by the belief that it can minister to faith, and by a conviction that the total thought of an age ought to have the greatest possible unity, or, in plainer phrase, that its creed ought not to antagonize its knowledge.
In attempting to give some expression of the New Theology, I wish to state with the utmost emphasis that I do not speak for any party, but only describe things as I see them. And especially would I disclaim any ex-cathedra tone that may seem to issue from any form of words. I speak from the stand-point of the sharpest and even most isolated individuality, — for myself alone.
I will first refer to certain negative features, indicating what it is not; and then more fully to its positive character.
1. It does not propose to do without a theology.
It seeks no such transformation of method or form that it can no longer claim the name of a science. It does not resolve belief into sentiment, nor etherealize it into mysticism, nor lower it into mere altruism; yet it does not deny an element of sentiment, it acknowledges an element of mysticism, and it insists on a firm basis in ethics. It is the determined foe of agnosticism, yet it recognizes a limitation of human knowledge. While it insists that theology is a science, and that therefore its parts should be coördinate and mutually supporting, and an induction from all the facts known to it, it realizes that it deals with eternal realities that cannot be wholly compassed, and also with the mysteries and contradictions of a world involved in mystery and beset by contradictory forces. If it finds itself driven into impenetrable mystery, as it inevitably must, it prefers to take counsel of the higher sentiments and better hopes of our nature, rather than project into it the frame-work of a formal logic, and insist on its conclusion. It does not abjure logic, but it refuses to be held by what is often deemed logic. While it believes in a harmony of doctrines, it regards with suspicion what have been known as systems of theology, on the ground that it rejects the methods by which they are constructed. It will not shape a doctrine in order that it may fit another which has been shaped in the same fashion, - a merely mechanical interplay, and seeking a mechanical harmony. Instead, it regards theology as an induction from the revelations of God - in the Bible, in history, in the nation, in the family, in the material creation, and in the whole length and breadth of human life. It will have, therefore, all the definiteness and harmony it can find in these revelations, but it will have no more, since it regards these revelations as under a process still enacting, and not as under a finality. The modern authors whom it most consults must be regarded as holding a theology worthy of the name, — Erskine, Campbell, McLeod, Maurice, Stanley, Robertson, the Hare brothers, Bushnell; and if we enumerate its representatives among the living, we must recite the names of those who are eminent in every form of thought and in every work of holy charity.
2. The New Theology does not part with the historic faith of the church, but rather seeks to put itself in its line while recognizing a process of development. It does not propose to commit “retrospective suicide " at every fresh stage of advance. It holds to progress by slow and cosmic growth rather than by cataclysmal leaps. It allies itself
even with the older rather than the later theologies, Vand finds in the early Greek theology conceptions more harmonious with itself than those in the theology shaped by Augustine.1 , See the very able and suggestive article, by Prof. A. V. G. Allen, on 3. It does not reject the specific doctrines of the church of the past. It holds to the Trinity, though indifferent to the use of the word, but not to a formal and psychologically impossible Trinity; to the divine sovereignty, but it does not make it the corner-stone of its system, preferring for that place the divine righteousness, i. e., a moral rather than a dynamic basis ; to the Incarnation, not as a mere physical event, for that has entered into many religions, but as the entrance into the world through a person of a moulding and redeeming force in humanity, - the central and broadest fact of theology; to the Atonement as a divine act and process of ethical and practical import — not as a mystery of the distant heavens and isolated from the struggle of the world, but a comprehensible force in the actual redemption of the world from its evil; to the Resurrection as covering the whole essential nature of man; to Judgment as involved in the development of a moral nature; to the eternal awards of conduct considered as laws and principles of character, but not necessarily set in time-relations; to human sinfulness under a conception of moral freedom; to Justification by faith in the sense of a faith that, by its law, induces an actual righteousness -- a simple, rational process realized in human experience; to Regeneration and Sanctification by the Spirit as most imperative operations based on the utmost need, and on the actual presence and power of the Spirit in the life of humanity. It does not explain
“ The Theological Renaissance of the Nineteenth Century,” in the Princeton Review, November, 1882, and January, 1883.
away from these doctrines their substance, nor minimize them, nor aim to do else than present them as revealed in the Scriptures and as developed in history and in the life of the church and of the world.
4. It is not iconoclastic in its temper; it is not pervaded by a spirit of denial, but is constructive — taking away nothing without supplying its place; it does not, indeed, find so much occasion to take away and replace as to uncover and bring to light.
Believing that revelation is not so much from God á as of God, its logical attitude is that of seeing and interpreting.
5. It is not disposed to find a field and organization outside of existing churches, conscious that it is building on that Eternal Foundation which alone has given strength to the church in every age. It claims only that liberty whereunto all are called in the church of Christ. It asserts that the real ground of membership in the church is fidelity to the faith, and that this ground is not forfeited because it refuses to assent to human and formal conditions that the church has taken on, and which are not of the substance of the faith. Emphasizing as it does the headship of Christ in the visible as well as invisible church, it would retain its place in the church on the basis of its loyalty to Christ and as its all-sufficient warrant, paying small heed to a narrow, ecclesiastical logic that now confounds, and now distinguishes between, the bounds of the visible body and the breadth and freedom of Christ's church.