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oppose it by cultivating science ourselves, and by proving that the results of all thorough scientific investigation are compatible with revelation; that they never come into real contradiction with it, and often serve to confirm it; and that so-called educated people are deceived and imposed upon when they are persuaded that they must either give up faith in the truths of the Bible, or belief in the conclusions of the most eminent scientific men.1
All who value their Christian faith, and who have greater opportunities of becoming better and more thoroughly acquainted with the state of the case than have the mass of the so-called educated people, should strive by this means to save the honour both of revelation and of science, and to show that a man may have a competent and thorough knowledge of science, and at the same time be a believing Christian and Catholic. It is especially the duty of the clergyman to do this. In a time when scientific education is becoming more and more general, when not only scholars but other classes also are interested in questions which were formerly only discussed in the lecture-rooms of universities, in the studies of savants, and in folios and quartos; in such a time science makes wider if not higher claims on clergymen than it did in past centuries. Clergymen cannot be expected to be as thoroughly acquainted with the natural sciences and other branches of profane knowledge as with theology, but they may and must be required not to cut themselves off from these studies, and clearly to understand what conclusions have been arrived at, and what opinions prevail in this
1 Cf. Deutinger, Renan und das Wunder, p. 19 ff.
branch of research, together with their relation to the doctrine of revelation; and they ought also to know how the assertions which are oftenest heard and read as to these matters are to be examined, corrected, and refuted.
We should be acting in opposition to the spirit of our Church if we were to cut ourselves off from the movements and aims of profane knowledge. Unchangeable as are her doctrines, and uninfluenced as her teaching has been by all the spiritual movements and struggles of centuries, yet the Church would not have her dogmas treated as cold rigid formulas, or her teaching looked upon as a simple repetition of settled unalterable propositions. The Church desires to take into consideration the progress which is made in the cognate sciences, to utikze for sacred science all the good and true results which are attained by profane science, and to help to combat all error which in its further development and in its consequences may also affect the sphere of theology.
The great teachers of the Church in the past have also held these principles. The most eminent fathers of the Greek and Latin Churches expressed their opinion that the theologian should not neglect the profane sciences which come into contact with theology, but that he should get to see clearly on what points they differ and on what points they agree; and this they carried out practically in their own writings.1 The greatest theologians of the Middle Ages acted on the same principle, and in their exposition of
1 Wiseman, Twelve Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion.
theology they paid such regard to philosophy in its widest sense, that, as is well known, they have been blamed, and that not quite unjustly, for going too far in this respect. It is true that in centuries gone by theologians paid less attention to natural science than to philosophy, but this is because natural science was not formerly so important a part of profane knowledge as it is now. Natural science has only latterly attained to true scientific importance, but it has become one of the strongest characteristics of the intellectual movement of this century. We shall therefore be treading exactly in the footsteps of our great predecessors in theology if we follow the discussions of the present day as attentively as they followed the prevailing philosophic struggles of their time, and would most certainly have followed the inquiries of natural science had it occupied the minds of men in the same measure as it does now.
Theologians, indeed, have not failed to turn their attention to natural science, since it has become so much more prominent; and this has been done not only with the permission but also with the express approval and encouragement of the representatives of ecclesiastical authority.1 In the last decades especially, numberless essays and pamphlets have appeared, written by theologians of all persuasions and denominations, on the relation of the Bible to the results of scientific inquiry. But I may take it for granted that you are convinced of the interest and importance of the subject which I propose to discuss. Perhaps it is more necessary to explain whether and how far I may
1 Wiseman, Op. at.
believe and pronounce myself qualified to satisfy your wish for knowledge on this question. In order rightly to explain the relation of two sciences to each other, one must of course be acquainted with both. Whoever, therefore, would compare the teaching of natural science and the teaching of the Bible about the origin and earliest history of the world, must be acquainted with the natural sciences and with exegesis; and the opinion of the man who could be both a thorough natural philosopher and a thorough exegete, would have the greatest claim on our attention. But such men are rare. Our geologists either never attempt to compare their geological conclusions with the statements in Genesis, or they assume that the Bible need not be appealed to on this question, and that a historical interest at most can be attached by science to the opinions of a Jewish writer 1500 years B.C.; and if in good faith they do institute a comparison, or if, starting with the belief that the Bible is divine, they try to prove that science is compatible with the narrative of Genesis, they are as a rule wanting in the necessary exegetical knowledge and in theological tact.
On the other hand, the exegete cannot be expected to be as well acquainted with the nature and succession of the strata, with comparative anatomy and such things, as with the Hebrew grammar, Biblical language, and the rules of Biblical interpretation. It is usually only possible for the theologian to accept in faith the conclusions which have been arrived at by the leaders in scientific inquiry. But then there is the danger of his accepting as an assured result something which, according to the judgment of savants, still requires proof, and of his not understanding, or misapplying, the proper meaning and extent of single parts of the scientific system; and further, the theologian is especially tempted too hastily to accept concessions which are made by natural science at present, but which may be again called in question by the progress of inquiry; or to sign an agreement between natural science and the Bible, which at first sight seems just to both parties, but which in the end turns out to be one in which both parties have sacrificed too much.
But in this respect those who are only amateurs come off worst; that is, those who, not being really well versed either in natural science or in theology, but knowing a little of both, think they can make up for what is wanting by an undoubted goodwill, a sincere faith, and zeal for the cause of the Bible.
I am very far from ascribing to myself any wide or thorough knowledge of natural science. I have never carried on any researches personally, nor am I in a position to do so. I must content myself with studying the scientific conclusions embodied by savants in a form in which they are accessible to every educated man. But that will suffice for our purpose, and although, as I have observed, the great number of treatises on this subject has by no means led to a unanimity of views, and thus to a lasting dismissal of the subject, it seems ungrateful not to acknowledge that so much preparatory labour has materially lightened our task.
The merit which I think I may claim for my lectures on the Mosaic history consists principally in this: I hope to put you in possession of the state of the case