Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/205

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

moral outlook. Germans have suspected an anti-Christian strain in Goethe; all the world knows of it in E. von Hartmann or F. Nietzsche.

2. Apologetics and Physical Science.—(a) Copernicanism has won its battles and the Church of Rome would fain have its error forgotten. The admission is now general that the Bible cannot be expected to use the language of scientific astronomy. Still, it is not certain that the shock of Copernicanism on supernatural Christianity is exhausted. (b) Geology has also won its battles, and few now try to harmonize it with Genesis. (c) Evolution came down from the clouds when C. Darwin and A. R. Wallace succeeded in displacing the naïf conception of special creation by belief in the origin of species out of other species through a process of natural law. This gave immense vogue to wider and vaguer theories of evolutionary process, notably to H. Spencer’s grandiose cosmic formula in terms of mechanism. Here the apologist has more to say. The special Darwinian hypothesis—natural “selection”—may or may not be true; it was at least a fruitful suggestion. If true, it need not be exhaustive. Again, evolution itself need not apply everywhere. We are offered a philosophical rather than a scientific speculation when E. Caird (Evolution of Religion, 1893) tries to vindicate Christianity as the highest working of nature—true just because evolved from lower religions. The Christian apologist indeed may himself seek, following John Fiske, to philosophize evolution as a restatement of natural theology—“one God, one law, one element and one far-off divine event”—and as at least pointing towards personal immortality. But if evolution is to be the whole truth regarding Christianity, we should have to surrender both supernatural revelation and divine redemption. And these, it may be strongly urged, contain the magic of Christianity. Losing them it might sink into a lifeless theory.

As far as pure science goes, the inference from science in favour of materialism has visibly lost much of its plausibility, and Protestant apologists would probably be prepared to accept in advance all verified discoveries as belonging to a different region from that of faith. Roman Catholic apologetic prefers to negotiate in detail.

3. Apologetics and History.—History brings us nearer the heart of the Christian position. (a) Old Testament criticism won startling victories towards the end of the 19th century. It blots out much supposed knowledge, but throws a vivid and interesting light on the reconstrued process of history. Most Protestants accept the general scheme of criticism; those who hang back make not a few concessions (e.g. J. Orr, Problem of the O.T., 1906). The Roman Catholic Church again prefers an attitude of reserve, (b) New Testament criticism raises even more delicate issues. Positively it may be affirmed that the recovered figure of the historical Jesus is the greatest asset in the possession of modern Christian theology and apologetics. The “Lives” of Christ, Roman Catholic and Protestant; “critical” (D. F. Strauss, A. Renan, &c., &c.) and “believing,” imply this at least. Negatively, “unchallenged historical certainties” are becoming few in number, or are disappearing altogether, through the industry of modern minds. True, the Tübingen criticism of F. C. Baur and his school—important as the first scientific attempt to conceive New Testament conditions and literature as a whole—has been abandoned. (A. Ritschl’s Entstehung der alt-katholischen Kirche, 2nd edition, 1857, was an especially telling reply.) The synoptic gospels are now treated with considerable respect. It is no longer suggested in responsible quarters that they are party documents sacrificing truth to “tendency.” But not all quarters are responsible; and in the effort to grasp scientifically, i.e. accurately, the amazing facts of Christ and primitive Christianity, every imaginable hypothesis is canvassed. Even the Roman Catholic Church produced the Abbé Loisy (though he undertakes to play off church certainties against historical uncertainties). Hitherto at least the fourth gospel has been the touchstone. The authorship of the epistles is in many cases a matter of subordinate importance; at least for Protestants or for those surrendering Bible infallibility, which Rome can hardly do. (c) New Testament history. The apologist must maintain (1) that Jesus of Nazareth is a real historical figure—a point well-nigh overlooked by Strauss, and denied by some modern advocates of a mythical theory; (2) that Jesus is knowable (not one “of whom we really know very little”—B. Jowett) in his teaching, example, character, historical personality; and that he is full of moral splendour. On the other hand, faith has no special interest in claiming that we can compose a biographical study of the development of Jesus. Certainly no early writer thought of providing material for such use. It is a common opinion in Germany that our material is in fact too scanty or too self-contradictory. Yet the fascination of the subject will always revive the attempt. If it succeeds, there will be a new line of communication along which that great personality will tell on men’s minds and hearts. If it fails—there are other channels; character can be known and trusted even when we are baffled by a thing necessarily so full of mystery as the development of a personality. Notably, the manifest non-consciousness of personal guilt in Jesus suggests to us his sinlessness. (3) Apologists maintain that Jesus “claimed” Messiahship. There are speculative constructions of gospel history which eliminate that claim; and no doubt apologetics could—with more or less difficulty—restate its position in a changed form if the paradox of to-day became accepted as historical fact to-morrow. The central apologetic thesis is the uniqueness of the “only-begotten”; it is here that “the supernatural” passes into the substance of Christian faith. But most probably the description of Jesus as thus unique will continue to be associated with the allegation—He told us so; he claimed Messiahship and “died for the claim.” (See preface to 5th ed. of Ecce Homo.) Nor did so superhuman a claim crush him, or deprive his soul of its balance. He imparted to the title a grander significance out of the riches of his personality. (4) In the light of this the “argument from prophecy” is reconstructed. It ceases to lay much stress upon coincidences between Old Testament predictions or “types” and events in Christ’s career. It becomes the assertion; historically, providentially, the expectation of a unique religious figure arose—“the” Messiah; and Jesus gave himself to be thought of as that great figure. (5) It is also claimed as certain that Jesus had marvellous powers of healing. More reserve is being shown towards the other or “nature” miracles. These latter, it may be remarked, are more unambiguously supernatural. But, if Jesus really cured leprosy or really restored the dead to life, we have miracle plainly enough in the region of healing. (6) For Jesus’ own resurrection several lines of evidence are alleged. (i.) All who believe that in any sense Christ rose again insist upon the impression which his personality made during life. It was he whose resurrection seemed credible! Some practically stop here; the apologist proceeds. (ii.) There is the report of the empty grave; historically, not easily waved aside. (iii.) We have New Testament reports of appearances of the risen Jesus; subjective? the mere clothing of the impression made by his personality during life? or objective? “telegrams” from heaven (Th. Keim)—“Veridical Hallucinations”? or something even more, throwing a ray of light perhaps on the state and powers of the happy dead? (iv.) There is the immense influence of Jesus Christ in history, associated with belief in him as the risen Son of God.

In view of the claims of Jesus, different possibilities arise. (i.) The evangelists impute to him a higher claim than he made. This may be called the rationalistic solution; with sympathy in Christ’s ethical teaching, there is relief at minimizing his great claim. So, brilliantly, Wellhausen’s Gospel commentaries and Introduction. (Mark fairly historical; other gospels’ fuller account of Christ’s teaching and claims unreliable.) (ii.) The claim was fraudulent (Reimarus; Renan, ed. 1; popular anti-Christian agitation). This is a counsel of despair. (iii.) He was an enthusiastic dreamer, expecting the world’s end. This the apologist will recognize as the most plausible hostile alternative. He may feel bound to admit an element of illusion in Christ’s vision’ of the future; but he will contend that the apocalyptic form did not destroy the spiritual content of Christ’s revelations—nay, that it was itself the