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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/714

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The progress of thought in the Church is forcibly shown to be a result of the progress of science outside the Church. The distinction between religion and theology is not new, but Mr. Beecher shows that it is wide and deep, and that religion must unload theology or sink with it. The doctrine of evolution is not only broadly accepted, but its coming is hailed as the greatest event of modern religions progress. It is destined to do what nothing else could so effectually do to sweep out of the way and into oblivion the great body of old orthodox theological dogma, by which the human mind has been perverted and enslaved for ages. We quote two or three passages, which will illustrate the positions taken by Mr. Beecher. After a brief but vivid statement of the working of the law of evolution upward through the various spheres of natural phenomena, until man and his higher development are reached, Mr. Beecher says:

At this point there is a halt. It is perhaps moat revolutionary tenet ever advanced. It will be to theology what Newton's discoveries were to the old astronomy. The repugnance that men feel at descending along such a road, and with such an ancestry, would n and subside in a short time. It is not the retrospect, but the prospect, which gives such almost universal hesitation to the mind and imagination of mere scientific moralists. Its admission would be fatal to the theory of a plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible still held by some. The first two chapters of Genesis have been a sword in the hands of theologues of old with which to fight the discoveries modern astronomy. Next they were sharpened against the advent of geology. In both conflicts God prevailed and the truth was victorious. Now again, bat upon a more tremendous issue, theology resists evolution. It is an honest resistance. To admit the truth of evolution is to yield up the reigning theology; it is to change the whole notion of man's origin, his nature, the problem of human life, the philosophy of morality, the theory of sin, the structure of moral government as taught in the dominant theologies of the Christian world, the fall of man in Adam, the doctrine of original sin, the nature of sin, and the method of atoning for it. The decrees of God as set forth in the confession of faith, and the machinery supposed to be set at work for man's redemption, the very nature and disposition of God—as taught in the falsely called Pauline but really Augustinian theology, popularly known as Calvinistic—must give way.

The dread of Darwinian views is sincere; yet a secret fear prevails that they may be true. But have men considered what a relief they will be from some of the most disgraceful tenets of theology? Are they content to guard and defend a terrific scheme which sullies the honor, the justice, and the love of God against a movement that will cleanse the abomination and vindicate the ways of God to man? Even if the great truth of evolution led to unbelief, it could not be so bad as that impious and malignant representation of God and his government which underlies all mediæval and most of modern theology. We shall quote from the Presbyterian Confession of Faith the account given by the Church of the origin of man and of his moral government, in the light of which the scientific account of the origin of man and the nature of sin is as health to sickness, as life to death. Instead of dreading the prevalence of the scientific doctrine. Christian men should rush toward it with open arms and exultation as a release from the hideous nightmare of ages.

The tendency of recent scientific researches and disclosures respecting the mind of man and his origin and nature will be liar more pronounced upon the theories of theology than upon the institutions of religion. Christian churches are legitimate organizations for the development of religious emotion and for the application of truth to our daily life. Those churches which are organized for devotion will be less disturbed than academical churches which have hitherto aimed only to expound and defend a creed. But churches whose genius it is to develop religious thought, as distinguished from religious emotion, will gradually change, and the devotional element will take the place largely of the theologic, and the ethical the place of the philosophical.

When the creeds of the past era have passed away, we shall enter upon the creeds of a new era. These will differ not alone in their contents from former doctrinal standards, but they will differ in the very genius and method of construction. Our reigning creeds begin with God, with moral government, with the scheme of the universe, with the great, invisible realm beyond. These are the weakest places in a creed, because the matters they contain are least within the