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LECTURE I NOTE D.—P. 9.

ANTAGONISM OF CHRISTIAN AND “MODERN” VIEWS OF THE WORLD—ANTISUPERNATURALISM OF THE LATTER.

I add some illustrations of the remarks made on this subject in the text.

Principal Fairbairn puts the matter thus: “The scientific and religious conceptions of the world seem to stand at this moment in the sharpest possible antagonism. . . . There is one fact we cannot well overrate—the state of conflict or mental schism in which every 371devout man, who is also a man of culture, feels himself compelled more or less consciously to live. His mind is an arena in which two conceptions struggle for the mastery, and the struggle seems so deadly as to demand the death of the one for the life of time other, faith sacrificed to knowledge, or knowledge to faith.”—Studies in the Philosophy of Religion and History, pp. 61, 62.

The uncompromising character of time conflict amid the nature of the issues involved are well brought out in the following extracts from Mr. Wicksteed’s pamphlet on The Ecclesiastical Institutions of Holland.

“The religious movement,” he says, “known in Holland as that of the ‘Modern School,’ or ‘New School,’ or sometimes the ‘School of Leiden,’ is essentially a branch of that wider religious movement extending over the whole of Europe and America, which is a direct product upon the field of religion of the whole intellectual life of the nineteenth century.

“This Modern School, in the larger sense, is in fact essentially the religious phase of that undefinable ‘Zeit-Geist,’ or spirit of the age, sometimes called on the Continent ‘modern consciousness,’ the most characteristic feature of which is a profound conviction of the organic unity, whether spiritual or material, of the universe.

“This modern consciousness can make no permanent treaty of peace with the belief which takes both the history and the philosophic science of religion out of organic connection with history and philosophical science in general No compromise, no mere profession of a frank acceptance of the principles of the modern view of the world, can in the long-run avail. The Traditional School cannot content the claims of the ‘Zeit-Geist’ by concessions. Ultimately, it must either defy it or yield to it unconditionally. . . .

“The task of modern theology, then, is to bring all parts of the history of religion into organic connection with each other, and with the general history of man, and to find in the human faculties themselves, not in something extraneous to them, the foundations of religious faith.”—Pp. 55, 56.

The venerable Dr. Delitzsch, from the standpoint of faith, recognises the same irreconcilable contrast, and in The Deep Gulf between the Old and Modern Theology; a Confession (1890), gives strong expression to his sense of the gravity of the situation. “It is plain, he says, “that the difference between old and modern theology coincides at bottom with the difference between the two conceptions of the world, which are at present more harshly opposed than ever before. The modern view of the world declares the miracle to be unthinkable, and thus excluded from the historical mode of treatment; for there is only one world system, that of natural law, with whose permanence the direct, extraordinary interferences of God are irreconcilable.865865Similarly Max Müller finds the kernel of the modern conception of the World in the idea “that there is law and order in everything, and that an unbroken chain of causes and effects holds the whole universe together,”—a conception which reduces the miraculous to mere seeming.—Anthropological Religion, Preface, p. 10. . . . When the one conception of the world 372is thus presented from the standpoint of the other, the mode of statement unavoidably partakes of the nature of a polemic. The special purpose, however, with which I entered on my subject was not polemical. I wished to exhibit as objectively as possible the deep gap which divides the theologians of to-day, especially the thoughtful minds who have come into contact with philosophy and science, into two camps. An accommodation of this antagonism is impossible. We must belong to the one camp or the other. We may, it is true, inside the negative camp, tone down our negation to the very border of affirmation, and inside the positive camp we may weaken our affirmation so as almost to change it to negation; the representation by individuals of the one standpoint or the other leaves room for a multitude of gradations and shades. But to the fundamental question—Is there a supernatural realm of grace, and within it a miraculous interference of God in the world of nature, an interference displaying itself most centrally and decisively in the raising of the Redeemer from the dead?—to this fundamental question, however we may seek to evade it, the answer can only he yes or no. The deep gulf remains. It will remain to the end of time. No effort of thought can fill it up. There is no synthesis to bridge this thesis and antithesis. Never shall we be able, by means of reasons, evidence, or the witness of history, to convince those who reject this truth. But this do we claim for ourselves, that prophets and apostles, and the Lord Himself, stand upon our side; this we claim, that while the others use the treasures of God’s Word eclectically, we take our stand upon the whole undivided truth.”—Translation in Expositor, vol. ix. (3rd series), pp. 50, 53.

See also Hartmann’s Die Krisis des Christenthums in der modernen Theologie (1888), and his Selbstzersetzung des Christenthums (1888). “From whatever side,” he declares, “we may consider the ground-ideas of Christianity and those of modern culture, everywhere there stands out an irreconcilable contradiction of the two, and it is therefore no wonder if this contradiction comes to light more or less in all derivative questions.”—Selbstzersetzung des Christenthums, p. 30.


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