Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/394

This page needs to be proofread.




rests, viz., that we possess no contemporaneous records of Christ's life, and that the New-Testament wrilinj^s lielong to tlie second century, luis been proved to he false by the hiijher criticisms. Hence Huxley achnits that this position is no lonjjer tenable (The Nineteentli Century, Feb., ISSil), and in fact there is no longer a Tubingen .School at Tiibingen. Harnack says: "As regards the criticisms of the sources of Christianity, we stand unijuestionably in a movement of return to tradition. Tl;e chronological framework in which traiiition set the earliest documents is to \>e hence- forth accepted in its main outlines " (The Nineteenth Cent., Oct., 189'.)). Hence Uomanes said that the outcome of the battle on the Bible documents is a signal victory for Christianity (Thoughts on Reli- gion, p. 16.5). Dr. Emil Reich .speaks of the bank- ruptcv of the higher criticism (" Contemp. Rev.", April," in0.i).

(b) The " Mythical " School. — Strauss regarded the Hegelian process in its subjective aspect. The facts as matters of consciousness with the early Christians concerned him exclusively. Hence he regarded within the Christian consciousness of the time, and held that Christ of the New Testament was the out- come of this consciousness. He did not deny a rela- t ively small nucleus of historical reality, but contended that the (lospels. a.s we possess them, are mythical inventions or fabulous and fanciful embellishments and are to Ije regarded only as symbols for spiritual ideas, e. g., the Messianic idea. Strauss thus at- tempted to remove the miraculous — or what he con- sidered the unhistorical matter — from the text. But this view was too fanciful long to hold currency after a careful study of the truthful, matter-of-fact character of the Xew-Testament writings, and a comparison of them with the Apocrj^pha. Hence it has been rejected, and .Strauss himself confessed to disappointment at the result of his labours (The Old and New Faith).

(3) The Critical Agnostic School. — Its basis is the organic idea of the universe, but it views the world- process apart from God, because reason cannot prove the existence of God, and therefore, to the Agnostic, He does not exist (e. g., Huxley) ; or to the Christian Agnostic, His existence is accepted on Faith (e. g., Baden- Powell). To both there is no miracle, for we have no way of knowing it. Thus Huxley admits the factsof miracles in the New Testament, but says that the testimony as to their miraculous character may be worthless, and strives to explain it by the subjective mental conditions of the writers ("The Nineteenth Cent.", Mar., IS.Sft). Baden-Powell (in "Essays and Reviews"), Holtzmann (Die synoptischen Evange- llen), and Harnack (The Essence of Christianity) ad- mit the miracles as recorded in the Gospels, but hold that their miraculoiLs character is beyond the scope of historical proof, and depends on the mental as- sumptions of the readers.— CriticLsm: The real prob- lem of the historian is to state well-authenticated facts and give an explanation of the testimony. He should show how such events must have taken place and how such a theory only can explain them. He takes cognizance of all that is said about these events by competent witnesses, and from their testimony he draws the conclusion. To admit the facts and to deny an explanation is to furnish very great evidence for their historical truth, and to show qualities not consistent with the scientific historian.

(4) The theory of liberal Protestantism. — (a) In its older form, this was advocated by Carlyle (Froude's "Life of Carlyle"), Martineau (Seal of .\uthority in Religion), Rathbone Greg (Creed of Christendom), Prof. Wm. H. Green (Works, III, pp. 230, 253), pro- posed as a religious creed under the title of the "new Reformation" ("The Nineteenth Cent.", Mar., 1889) and popularized by Mrs. Humphry Ward in "Robert El.smere". As the old Reformation was a movement to destroy the Divine authority of the Church by ex-

alting the supeni.'vtural character of the Bible, so the new Heformation aimed at removing the supernatural elenii-tit from the Iiil)li' and resting faith in Christian- ity on the high moral character of ,Iesus and the e.\- c(^llence of His moral teaching. It is in close sym- pathy with some writers on the science of religion, who see in Christianity a natural religion, though superior to other forms. In describing their position as "a revolt against miraculous belief", its adherents yet profess great reverence for Jesus as " that friend of God and Man, in whom, through all human frailty and necessary imperfection, they see the natural head of their inmost life, the symbol of those religious forces in man which are primitive, essential and uni- vensal" ("The Nineteenth Cent.", Mar., 1889). By way of criticism it may be said that this school has its source in the philosophical assimiption that the uni- formity of nature has made the miracle unthinkable — an assumption now discarded. Again, it has its basis in the Tubingen School, which has been proved false, and it requires a mutilation of the Gospels so radical and wholesale that nearly every .sentence has to be excised or rewritten. The miracles of .Jesus are too essential a part of His life and teaching to be thus removed. We might as well expurgate the records of military achievements from the lives of Alexander or of Caesar. Strauss exposed the inconsistencies of this position, which he once held (Old Faith and the New), and von Hartmann considered the Liberal theo- logians as causing the disintegration of Christianity (" Selbstersetzung des Christ", 1888).

(b) In its recent form, it has been advocated by the exponents of the psychological theory. Hence, where the old school followed an objective, this pur- sues a subjective method. This theory combines the basic teaching of Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Ritschl. Hegel taught that religious truths are the figurative representation of rational ideas; .Schleier- macher taught that propositions of faith are the pious states of the heart expressed in language; Ritschl, that the evidence of Christian doctrine is in the "value-judgment", i. e., the religious effect on the mind. On this basis Prof. Gardner (" A Historical View of the New Test.", London, 1904) holds that no reasonable man would profess to disprove the Chris- tian miracles historically; that in historical studies we must accept the principle of continuity as set forth by evolution, that the statements of the New Testa- ment are based mainly on Christian experience, in which there is always an element of false theory; that we must distinguish between the true underlying fact and its defective outward expression ; that this ex- pression is conditioned by the intellectual atmosphere of the time, and passes away to give place to a higher and better expression. Hence the outward expression of Christianity should be different now from what it was in other days. Hence, while miracles may have had their value for the early Christians, they have no value for us, for our experience is different from theirs. Thus M. R^ville ("Liberal Christianity", London, 1903) says: "The faith of a liberal Protestant does not depend upon the solution of a problem of historical criticism. It is founded upon his own experience of the value and power of the Gospel of Christ", and " The Gospel of Jesus is independent of its local and temporary forms" (pp. 54, 58). — All this, however, is philosophy, not history; it is not Christianity, but Rationalism ; it inverts the true standard of historical criticism — viz., we should study past events in the light of their own surroundings, and not from the subjective feeling on the part of the historian of what might, could, or would have occurred. There is no reason to restrict principles to questions of relig- ious history; and if extended to embrace the whole of past history, they would lead to absolute scepticism.

VI. The Fact.— The Bible shows that at all times God has wrought miracles to attest the Revelation