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Therefore the history of the development of science since the Reformation has assumed the shape of a history of the emancipation of science from theology; while theology itself, when its claims to the character of the universal science had been disputed on all sides, was forced to set limits to its ambi. tion and to retire into its own peculiar field—the moral and religious side of life. But even to-day, the theology of Rome maintains in all its fullness the right to bear sway in the whole realm of knowledge with its infallible Bible. The Protestant theologians, too, occasionally assert it in a modest way.
Now I will return to my subject. Is the question which is involved in this strife between Darwinism and Christianity after all only a conflict between natural science and theology and not between science and faith? Or, to express myself a little more clearly, have we not bere also, as was the case with the Copernican theory, a conflict between old theological nature and modern exact science? Or bave we really this time a con flict between the Christian faith and advancing science? In answering this question we must clearly distinguish between the doctrine of the descent of man, properly speaking, and dogmatic Darwinism which has been inclined to work this doctrine in the interests of materialism. This doctrine of the descent of man is undoubtedly opposed to certain traditional views of theological anthropology, but not at all with any of the vital interests of the Christian religion.
This is the first thing we have to show. But where this doc- . trine is enrolled in the service of materialism, we find assuredly an irreconcilable opposition between Christianity and dogma tizing material science, which in deriving dogmas from its by: potheses, gets out of its proper sphere just as much as theology did when from its religious beliefs it derived theories of anthropology. This is the second point.
We cannot too strongly insist on the weakness of our comparison between the theories of Copernicus and Darwin. The Copernican theory is proved scientific truth, while Darwinism, in the first place, is neither more nor less than scientific hy. pothesis. What it asserts is well known. According to conjecture the different species in organic nature, since they are the first subject of discussion,-have not always existed side by
side without variation, nor did plants, animals, and man come in their perfection, from the Creator's hand, as plants, animals, and man. According to conjecture, the organism, in the course of infinite periods of time, developed into well-defined species, and in the following manner.
Under favorable external conditions the lower species passed into higher, plants were transformed into animals, from which, mankind. As was said, this doctrine of transmutation, of the variation of species, of the developinent of the higher species from the lower, is, in the first place, still an hypothesis.
But it is an earnest, scientific hypothesis which, as a principle fruitful in discoveries, will in any case long have a ruling influence in natural science.
The hypothesis, too, is so ingenious and, superficially regarded, so luminous, that we cannot be surprised that, even before scientific proof has been brought forward, it has met with extruordinary recognition and circulation far beyond the ranks of professional men. Further, the probability of the hypothesis appears the strongest on just the point where the religious interest is set aside.
For the investigations of the last year in the history of language and civilization and in anthropology has shown, almost beyond a doubt, that our race has developed from comparatively rude beginnings.
The development of the human race has been upward, not downward. There can scarcely be any doubt on the point. If we compare the tribes, who, to-day, are said to be in the state of nature, with civilized people, not to mention idiots, we certainly can say without exaggeration that we know human beings separated from us by as great a gap as the beasts of the
It is at all events nothing to the purpose to treat the derivation of men from animals simply as an absurdity and to expose it to cheap mockery.
It is much more expedient, in view of the spread of the hypothesis among the lower ranks of people, earnestly to ask, in case it is sooner or later proved, what losses we must suffer in respect to our Christian faith or what correction of it we have got to undertake.
Now I maintain that the doctrine that man, during the immemorial past, was developed from one of the higher species of animals, does not put an end to our belief in his higher destiny, or in what is commonly implied in the expression “ being in the image of God." This belief remains what it was before, an ideal, moral postulate of our spirit. But the doctrine of the descent of man does most surely put an end to the old theolog. ical anthropology which in junction with the Old Testament teaches that man came forth immediately from the hand of God in a state of absolute perfection only to degenerate through his own fault to the level of the animals, yes, even lower than the animals, so that a second creation was necessary to restore the image of God in him.
This latter theory, to be sure, long before the rise of evolution, had been corrected by modern theology or laid aside.
We have alluded to the idea that the belief in the moral endowment and destiny of man, leading to a likeness to God, bas nothing to do with any means of outlining a history of the origin of the human race, nor can it have any paramount interest in the questions about the earliest development and growth of mankind. If we go back to the New Testament, which must be our standard in judging Christianity, we find nowhere any tendency to set up a theory of the appearance or of the descent of man, nowhere any attempt to outline a history of the origin of the race. The decisive question in the Christian religion is not about our descent but a question about our destiny. The Christian revelation teaches us that we are designed for moral perfection and a state of true happiness.
In the teaching and life of Christ the redemption offers us the means for the realization of this design, that we should have a likeness to God, or “be in his image." The New Testament looks so invariably at the ideal goal of the race that the question of its origin is hardly brought up. But where the question is touched upon, the New Testament only gives ex: pression to the belief that man must be adapted for moral per: fection, and that, as bis human worth is certainly to be attained only in it, he exists or has been created by God chiefly for this ideal, moral task. Indeed, the New Testament is so thoroughly permeated with a feeling of the permanent value of this ideal
aim of life that it expresses the belief that the whole world chiefly exists for the sake of the kingdom of God, or what means the same, that it was made through Christ and with Christ in view. But at the same time, it in nowise tells how the world began, and only gives expression to the practical necessity which compels man to pass judgment on the whole world in which his human aims are to be worked out according to the standard of that which appears to him the highest aim of life.
We know nothing about the origin of the world but “ perceive by faith that it exists through the word of God.” The first and great word of Christianity is not the belief in creation, but the belief in the destiny of man for a kingdom of God, in which he is to attain not only the fulfillment of the divine moral law but also the perfection of his own life.
Belief in the creation of the universe is perhaps the necessary consequence of this belief in the moral aims of human life but in no way its basis. We find nothing in the New Testament to tell us how this ideal adaptation and endowment became a part of human nature, whether it is original or acquired.
There is still less to tell us how, indeed, God made man; whether be sent him forth in his completeness, as the reflecting, intelligent, moral creature, or whether it pleased him in his wisdom to suffer man to advance from lower forms of existence through gradual processes of development. In short, the New Testament addresses itself to the irrefutable existence of man surpassing in intelligence and ethical character all other creatures ; it does not ask how the “crown of the creation came into this existence, it gives no genealogy of our race. But if now the doctrine of man's descent should be proved, if the proof should be brought forward that man did not come from a clod of earth as the Old Testament says, but from one of the higher animal species, could it impair our belief that this same man is endowed with spiritual adaptations and capacities which raise him above the animals, which show him to be a being capable of infinite perfection, a personal intelligence, a moral person, and, at the same time, the peculiar and unique image of the highest intelligence and perfection ?
I answer with a second question. If to-day the origin of our race should be disclosed ; if to-day proof should be brought forward that some thousands of years ago we had reached about the rank in civilization which the Fuegians occupy, and several thousands of years further back, lived the kind of life led by the intelligent animals, should we form our judgment of man and bis adaptations and destiny from the point of view of the Fuegian or of the monkey (which generally speaking would be incapable of one), or rather, as before, from the point of view of civilized people of Christian training which we have now reached. Our judgment of man cannot be according to any degree of advancement whatsoever which mark his beginning : it must be formed upon the whole history of his development. If we, according to the standard of our present Christian cul.
, ture, are obliged to find our own essence in the intelligence which rules nature, and in the ceaseless impulse toward moral perfection, which takes hold of the conditions of our natural life, we shall in like manner form our judgment of man and his position in the world according to the ideal standard, which the history of our civilization has established, and according to no other, whatever may be shown to have been our origin. We shall further keep fast hold of the belief that our destiny lies not behind us but before us; that our life tasks are to be prescribed by the moral law of our spirit, and not by the physiological laws of our development; that we are to receive the rules and laws of our life in the world, not from the problematic book of our origin, but from the clear words about our destiny offered by Christian revelation. I repeat therefore : religious faith is concerned with the question of our own human life. destiny, and we shall continue to think as Christians about our moral destiny to become like God, how much soever we may be obliged to change our view of our physiological origin.
In so far, too, as we feel inwardly compelled to place the moral interest in the rank of unconditioned rules and laws in our life, we shall believe in a moral government of the world, in which we live, and in an intelligent, moral world-cause, though we can make no declaration at all, with the help of faith which certainly is not knowledge, as to how things began and as to the methods of the divine guidance of the world.