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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/367

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347
CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM.

been, republished after bis death, and who wrote in the devoutest spirit of the Lutheran communion. Of course, Harnack regards his point of view as narrow and unsatisfactory; but he adds that, "equally great are the valuable qualities of this work in particular, in regard of its exemplarily clear exposition, its eminent learning, and the author's living comprehension of religious problems" A man who studies the history of Christian theology in Harnack without reference to Thomasius will do no justice to his subject.

But, says Mrs. Ward, there is no real historical apprehension in the orthodox writers, whether of Germany or England, and the whole problem is one of "historical translation." Every statement, every apparent miracle, everything different from daily experience, must be translated into the language of that experience, or else we have not got real history. But this, it will be observed, under an ingenious disguise, is only the old method of assuming that nothing really miraculous can have happened, and that therefore everything which seems supernatural must be explained away into the natural. In other words, it is once more begging the whole question at issue. Mrs. Ward accuses orthodox writers of this fallacy; but it is really her own. Merriman is represented as saying that he learned from his Oxford teachers that

it was imperatively right to endeavor to disentangle miracle from history, the marvelous from the real, in a document of the fourth, or third, or second century; . . . but the contents of the New Testament, however marvelous and however apparently akin to what surrounds them on either side, were to he treated from an entirely different point of view. In the one case there must be a desire on the part of the historian to discover the historical under the miraculous, . . . in the other case there must be a desire, a strong "affection," on the part of the theologian, toward proving the miraculous to be historical.

Mrs. Ward has entirely mistaken the point of view of Christian science. Certainly if any occurrence anywhere can be explained by natural causes, there is a strong presumption that it ought to be so explained; for, though a natural effect may be due in a given case to supernatural action, it is a fixed rule of philosophizing, according to Newton, that we should not assume unknown causes when known ones suffice. But the whole case of the Christian reasoner is that the records of the New Testament defy any attempt to explain them by natural causes. The German critics Hase, Strauss, Baur, Hausrath, Keim, all have made the attempt, and each, in the opinion of the others, and finally of Pfleiderer, has offered an insufficient solution of the problem. The case of the Christian is not that the evidence ought not to be explained naturally and translated into every-day experience, but that it can not be. But it is Mrs. Ward who assumes beforehand