Page images
PDF
EPUB

dominant love of what God loves and hate of what God hates. But to what moral end, for what justifiable purpose ? That God's majesty may be vindicated!

This assumption is more than unreasonable : it is shocking to the moral sense.

IV. The fourth implied assumption in Mr. Cook's definition is that good is not an eternally aggressive power in the universe.

Evil, according to this theory, is self-propagating ; it has no power in itself to cure itself; therefore, it will endlessly con- . tinue. Even if the premises be admitted — and one of the premises, namely, that evil has no tendency in itself to cure, that is, destroy itself, is, I think, clearly disproved-admitting the premises, the conclusion does not follow. The tendency of evil might, in that case be to endlessness, but the influence of counter tendencies must be taken into the account before the conclusion is drawn. The tendency of slavery in itself is to continuance; but the counter-tendency to liberty is a factor in all true prophecy. One might in the night say darkness is self-propagating, with no power in itself to work its own cure, and, therefore, night must be endless. But the sun is a factor to be taken into such a problem. The rising sun in itself, settles the question of the endless continuance of night. So, as I think, the aggressive nature of good deserves consideration in any theory of the destiny of evil.

Two things Mr. Cook and his school must believe, in order to be consistent: First, that God can be reconciled to the endless continuance of evil in his universe. Second, that saved souls in heaven are rendered powerless to save the lost.

Each to me is a dreadful thought.

Will it be said that God can never be reconciled to evil, and hence will punish it without end? It is a makeshift of speech. One of two things must be, if evil is to continue forever. God will be either reconciled to it, or he will b3 unreconciled to it. To say that God is to be reconciled to evil is equivalent to saying there is no God. To say that he will be unreconciled to it, yet suffer its endless continance, is to say he cannot do

his will. To conceive of God being roconciled to his own eternal unreconciliation is self-contradiction. In either case, what a conception of God! As well conceive an opaque ball in the sky to be the sun. A dark sun is no more an anomaly than a God not an aggressive force against evil. The objection to Mr. Cook's assumption is serious; to me his assnmption is essentially atheistic. It involves either a God powerless to cure evil or capable of reconciliation to its presence in the universe. Either is a denial of the “ eternal not ourselves which makes for righteousness.”

The other postulate of this theory is, that the saved in heaven are rendered powerless to save the lost. Is the desire to save the lost to be taken out of redecmed souls ? Are they to become pitiless toward those who are to suffer a remediless doom? If this be so, let such a heavenly life be given to those who covet it, – let me be spared from its experience. Or are the saved souls to know sympathy and pity, such as Jesus showed to sinners in this world, and yet be forbidden to endeavor to bring lost souls to repentance? What kind of a heaven in that case will be theirs ? Will not moans rather than hallelujalis be the music ? Can God so blight the better natures of his redeemed children? If he can, is he God? If he does, is there any true heaven for which to liope ?

Unutterably serious have my objections to Mr. Cook's doctrine grown. His doctrine logically denies my faith in God; if I were compelled to accept it, it would destroy my hope of heaven.

At every point I proffer my objections to Mr. Cook's definition of perdition. I cannot agree with him that the nature of evil prophesies its immortality ; that the divine appointment of death is a real calamity to any soul ; that, beyond death, any child of the Father will be a victim of the inconceivable doom of endless suffering: I cannot agree with him that God is not an eternally aggressive force against evil for righteousness.

With courtesy indicative of candor Mr. Cook changed the face of his definition to fence it against ininor objections. Will he not now, in a revival of his former candor, do himself an unspeakable favor, and Christian thought a signal justice, by dismissing his whole definition as a radical misconception ?

Rev. 0. F. Safford.

ARTICLE XIII.

The Rising of the Greek Theology.

The end of the Middle Ages and the rise of modern civilization were due to no one cause. Columbus gave a new world to Europe and its wonders stimulated thought and aroused activity. The invention of movable types served to place the thoughts of the wisest into the hands of the poorest. The insufficiency of the feudal system, the growth of the free towns, the decay of chivalry, the developinent of patriotism, and the need of a centralization of authority, made order and rule the more desirable. The world was beginning to wake from sleep and its fantastic dreams to fade in the morning light. The giant was stirring. But his limbs were fettered by the authority of the church. There were but few paths for ambition. One could adopt the rude profession of arms and rise by brute strength and courage. Or he could enter the church and find some food for his mind. All other avenues to mental achievment were simply non-existent. Yet even in the church the feet were hobbled by authority and injury could not advance with bold and free stride. The great discoveries were rousing the mind, it began to search for food on which to flesh its coming appetite, food which would also foster its growth. The thrice chopped straw of scholastic metaphysics had lost its nutriment. At this juncture the Greek Empire fell under the blows of the Turks. The Greeks, snatching a few of the treasures of ancient Greek literature, fied with them to the western world. Again a new world was given to Europe. Scholars hastened to enter this new world of thought with as keen avidity as did adventurers follow in the wake of the ships of Columbus to America. A new Greek manuscript was the greatest treasure. To be able to read Greek and to interpret its thought was a passport to fame and honor. Other studies were laid aside that men might study Greek, might enter this new world, might be able to read the New Testament in the original. As the knowledge of these intellectual and literary treasures spread, intellectual vigor was aroused, food was given to the mind, man broke the shackles of scholastic authority, and the end of the enthralment of mind was coming. The knowledge of the Greek classics was a new birth to the mind of man.

In these latter days a tolerably close parallel can be found to this historical fact. There is another renaissance. The scientific truths and theories of to-day vastly extend our ideas of the material creation and our conception of the power and wisdom of the Creator. Astronomy no longer timidly skirts the shores of the world but boldly and confidently sails into the illimitable seas of space and time. It goes back, through the dim ages of the past until the mental vision fails and the wing of imagination tires in its flight. In theory it sees the growth of the universe from the star dust in those remote ages and spaces, whose distance from us is so great that we have no unit of ineasure wherewithi to compute it. It resolves the nebulæ into stars, and then avalyzes the light of these bodies quivering on the boundaries of space. The theory of evolution ; the researches of the biologists; the labors of students in the history of the race as evidenced in its various languages, relig. ions, customs and folk-lore ; – these have allveen added to our stock of knowledge, and they have broadened human conceptions to a wonderful degree. The discoveries of Columbus, the religious truth of Luther, the rising of the idea of freedom in the Middle Ages did not stir the mind more or broaden its conceptions more than have the scientific discoveries of the last century stirred the inind of to-day and extended its vision. When we add to these things the wonderful industrial inventions, the giant strides that commerce has taken through their aid the knowledge of other peoples that have come to us through our missionary and commercial operations, then again, is the knowledge of the powers of the human mind in. creased and we have for the first time a demonstration of the truth of the unity of the race.

But all this time the burden of a mediæval theology has been borne by the race. Calvinism with its cruel and pharisaical doctrine of the election of a few and the damnation of the rest which inakes human life an anxious attempt to escape the inherited doom, an attempt foreordained to failure for many ; which proclaims a mechanical atonement, a conventional piety, a distant and unlovely God, a dead and vanished Christ, and a ruined humanity--these dogmas are a survival of the mediæval theology in the midst of the breadth of mind and enlightenment of the nineteenth century. They are as incongruous to-day as would be the monstrous Saurians of the Cretaceous age among the mammalia of to-day, or as the cumbrous feudal forms would be in a representative democracy. The mind and heart of man, broadened and ennoled by all these discoveries, strains at the bonds that a narrow theology places upon them. The old theology is unsuited to the knowledge of to-day. It is cruel, narrow, and unscientific ; while humanity to-day is tender, broad, and scientific. This incongruity has divorced the thought of to day from theology and religion. Many minds have been forced into scepticism, into agnosticism, and some into bold antagonism to all theology and revealed religion. Liberal Christianity has done, and is doing, much to relieve this strain, to destroy this incongruity, for it marches with equal pace with the advancement of human knowledge and the enlightenment of the mind. But owing to the consequences of past conflicts between Orthodoxy and Liberal Christianity, consequences found in the prejudices of to-day, Liberal Christianity has not made that impression on the mass of Orthodox theology and its believers which its truth merits. At the same time the religious world is stirring and striving and straining against these bonds of an incongruous theology. It feels, if it does not see, how

« PreviousContinue »