페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

gates of hell shall not prevail against it," apply only to their denomination. This movement was of no account to defend the Church from foes without, nor could it strengthen the Church within. A multitude of formulas, dogmas, and threatening anathemas nipped the Christian life in the bud.

Besides this radical theology, which is divided into two wings, latitudinarianism and confessionalism, there exists another form of theology, which we may call

3. Evangelical Orthodoxy. It is distinguished by three characteristic features.

The first feature we notice is its thorough and progressive scholarship. By its methods and by its results it answers the question which Schleiermacher once put in a sad mood, “ Must Christianity and ignorance on the one hand, and skepticism and science on the other hand, always remain synonymous ?” with an emphatic No. Not proud reason, but the word of God, is proclaimed sovereign, and placed upon the throne. With this party progress does not mean “ to always know more in science and believe less in theology.” It is not true that “ the pulpit is losing because the people are growing.” It does not begin with affirmation to end with negation, but it goes from faith to knowledge, and from knowledge to a still larger faith and clearer understanding of the things believed. It is rearing its structure, with the true principles of scientific research, upon the firm foundation of the everlasting rock, and, consequently, it is fruitful in valuable results. True theology is like the granite mountain out of whose bosom flow the living waters, and from whose sides the storms may sweep loose sands away, but will leave the mountain itself unmoved. This theology has flung its banner to the breeze, upon which is written, in flaming letters, “ Knowledge." While recognizing the fact that Christianity does not owe its rapid spread to the

enticing words of man's wisdom,” yet it sees that a sanctified scholarship is a great help in its bitter conflict with rationalistic criticisin. Our age lays great stress upon knowledge, which is its strong point and its weak point at the same time. Genuine theology does not shut its eyes against what is going on in the thinking world ; it will ever aim to appropriate the highest and best fruits of scientific research, and those theological drones who sneer at this advance of inquiry, or are too lazy and

too indifferent to avail themselves of its results, will be simply left behind.

A large number of German theologians belonging to this movement have made important contributions to the field of original research. They are like miners who dig the deep shafts into the dark bowels of the earth to bring up the ore which others convert into a thousand useful instruments; they have gone forth as pioneers to open the road in every direction; working in some chosen branch as specialists, they have produced works of great erudition, full of germinal thoughts for others to elaborate and apply. True, not a little chaff is sometimes mixed with the wheat, but that does not destroy its value, which is fully appreciated on both sides of the Atlantic. There is scarcely a theologian of note who does not try to acquaint himself with the results of the evangelical theology of Germany.

But Anglo-Saxon theology has likewise achieved some valuable results, especially in the department of Bible interpretation and homiletics. It is greatly to be regretted that these excellent works are not more widely known in Germany, where they would, doubtless, exert a most beneficent influence on account of their positive and practical tendency. If space permitted we might mention a long list of English and American theologians who have rendered valuable services not only in exegetical and homiletical, but also in other departinents of theology. Suffice it to say that the Anglo-Saxons and their German brethren are vying with each other to raise the scholarship of evangelical theology to the highest standard.

A second feature of this theology is that it is based upon faith. A thorough scholarship is necessary, but faith and reason must be united in holy wedlock. Belief in the Bible as a positive divine revelation is required. We must bow before the Scriptures with a reverential mind as the unerring word of God, as the objective noun for our subjective faith—knowledge. Our theological structure must be built upon a divine as well as human foundation. It will not do to permit an appeal to this or that Church creed, or to the so-called “ Christian consciousness.” Many theories destructive of the fundamental principles of Christianity have been smuggled in on this plea. Differences on subordinate questions are permissible, but in

our system of doctrine the Scriptures furnish the only authoritative criterion.

All streams that flow here point back to their infallible source, to the personal Christ and the revelation of divine truth in his person. This Christ Jesus, blessed for evermore, is the nucleus around which evangelical theology has formed ; the center from which the gracious light of divine truth is thrown upon God's relation to man, and man's relation to God. Christ is the ground and corner-stone to which the theological structure is inseparably joined-not, however, a Christ, the fanciful product of human imagination, but the Christ, as revealed in the gospels. It is beginning to be fully appreciated that this God-man, Jesus Christ, “ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever," is "the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” and that he only can impart vigor and vitality to the theological science.

But this evangelical orthodoxy of to-day goes one step further, and every-where insists that this Christ, who has “enlightened the eyes of our understanding," must also take complete possession of our heart, and make it his permanent abode. Christ in the heart is what makes the true theologians deserving his name. Wherever Christian truth has only entered the head it may be quickly displaced by other thoughts; but where it has not only touched but taken full possession of the heart, it will not be so casily removed. The study shall also become a closet of prayer; we must read the Scriptures, not only withı the critical eye of the student, but with the tearful eye of a penitent sinner-as one who reads his pardon. We must read the Bible with the filial affection of a son who would hear his father's voice. These well-known Wesleyan maxims have now become a distinctive feature of the evangelical theology of all lands. Ilowever much yet remains to be done, we see the sun is rising. The day is dawning, and it is especially gratifying that this theology not only requires, but presumes faith in this personal, living, and life-giving Christ in all of its professors. Even men who, on account of their speculative leanings, are generally classed with the negative school, confess that Jesus Christ is the source and center of their thought and Christian life. Richard Rothe writes thus : “I can honestly say, that simple faith in Christ

is the sure foundation of all my thought--the Christ (not a dogma or a theology) who has for eighteen centuries conquered the world; and I will gladly surrender any so-called form of knowledge conflicting with him, my highest certainty.”

Victus vincamConquered I shall conquer—was the motto of this great religious thinker: it is likewise the motto of this evangelical theology. And as long as a Christian belief and a Christian life remain the crown of this theological science it will go on to still greater triumphis, and need not fear death or defeat.

It is due to Methodism more than to any other evangelical movement that a personal and living, as well as an intellectual and historical faith has become a characteristic feature of the theology of the present. By putting piety in the foreground, and constantly insisting on the necessity of a holy Christian life, it was the occasion of forming the evangelical party in the Anglican Church. In America it showed a dry, cold Calvinisin what a theology of the heart could accomplish. In France, Germany, and Scandinavia it acted as a healthy leaven. Methodism deserves great credit for having proved to the Christian world that a personal, living faith in the crucified Christ must be the fundamental principle of theology. This is the sign in which it conquers: “ The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.”

Although faith in Christ is the great distinguishing characteristic of this theological movement, one must not, therefore, think that it is without a doctrinal system, or that it is incapable of being formulated into a creed. On the contrary, nearly a!! who have joined this movement belong to one denomination or other. While they demand evangelical liberty for themselves, they freely grant it, withont hurling anatheinas to others who may differ from them on minor points.

A third feature of this theology is its very practical tendency. In Germany as well as England it is beginning to be thoroughly understood that practical and available men are quite as much needed as educated theologians. Our age is severely practical, and measures the value of a principle by its results. He who would aspire to a worthy leadership among men must know how to stay and sway the course of events. Theological squabbling and hair-splitting will not answer.

FOURTH SERIES, Vol. XXXV.-9

Piety and learning must produce practical results in deeds of mercy. It was not the learned Pharisee nor the orthodox Levite, but the good Samaritan who saved the life of the man who fell arnong the thieves.

This evangelical theology in Germany is remarkable for the wealth of learning and painstaking labor which it employs to get at clearer ideas on the mighty problems of religion, while their Anglo-Saxon brethren are taking the lead in practical benevolences. The German is the miner who digs down into the depths of the earth to bring up the crude ore which the AngloSaxon smelts and converts into machines that move the world. The German bores the artesian well, and then delights in the beautiful play of the waters; while the Anglo-Saxon dams them, makes them irrigate the dry places, and change the barren desert into a blooming garden. Corresponding to this national trait, we find that practical theology has reached a very high state of development in England and America, both as regards an excellent literature as well as the objective results in its public charities and home mission work.

Incited by the example of their Anglo-Saxon brethren, thu Germans have entered this practical field with a commendable zeal. The final abundant proof of this is not only in the r manifold benevolences, but, what is more remarkable for Ge:many, in the literature of the last decade. Practical theology in all its forms is ably treated, and live issues, current abuses, social, political, and ecclesiastical, necessary reforins, methods, and experiments, are treated with a fullness and thoroughness which command our admiration. The believing German theologian will always remain more or less of an investigator, and we are glad of it. True, some of them, impatient at the slow fulfillment of their biblical realism, are having chiliastic dreams, and weaving fine-spun theories on the spiritual corpo reality of Christ ; but, upon the whole, the evangelical theology of Germany has taken a decidedly practical turn. Young Germany, with the Bible in one hand, a thorough education in the other, and Jesus Christ in the heart, has planted itself with these weapons right in the midst of the people, and is bravely fighting for the final victory. To-day practical theol. ogy is virtually taking the first rank in the whole Protestantorthodox world. Christian Evidences, important as it may

« 이전계속 »