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be the union of heart with heart, the blending of spirit with spirit, the meeting of the human with the Divine.
Now it is the doctrine of the old faith that this prophetic anticipation of the human heart has been actually and historically realised,—that there has really appeared in this world a being corresponding to the ideal desire of the soul of man-a being in whose life the Divine life has been incarnated, and in whose historical experience the new life of humanity has been inaugurated. Before we go one step further, we must ask whether, in the light of the doctrine of evolution, such a faith is scientifically possible? If it be scientifically possible in the light of that doctrine, it will then be time to ask whether its alleged manifestation does or does not present any point of analogy to the evolution principle. In the meantime, the main question lies on the threshold : Is the doctrine of an historical union between God and man compatible with the existence of belief in the evolution principle ; or—which is the same thing—would the establishment of that belief as a necessary conclusion allow us any longer to hold this tenet of the old faith? It is somewhat remarkable, at the outset, that Christianity claims for her doctrine of incarnation not only a place in history, but what may almost be called a place in evolution. It regards the union of the Divine life with the human
life not merely as something which was consummated in time, but, what is of more importance, as something which was consummated in the fulness of time. In making this claim, Christianity seeks to be in harmony with a certain order of human development-in other words, with a certain evolution of law. But the point which we have here to consider is, not the harmony but the compatibility of the two doctrines; we have simply to ask whether the one is the negation of the other, whether the proof of the one would destroy the existence of the other. Until we have disposed of this preliminary question, any further question must be superfluous.
Now it is averred that there is one fact which renders the doctrine of evolution incompatible with the doctrine of a historical union between God and the world; the latter is the affirmation of a miracle, and evolution is based on the principle that a miracle is impossible. Evolution is the doctrine which asserts that all things exist by reason of law; the Christian incarnation is a doctrine which maintains that at one period in the history of the world God interposed to check the downward current of a law of luman nature. The doctrine of the incarnation is therefore, it is averred, the assertion of a miracle, and as such it
1 All the miracles recorded in the New Testament are, strictly speaking, but various modes of this one miracle.
is irreconcilable with a theory of modern science which is based upon the denial of the miraculous.
Let us look at this matter a little more calmly. In what sense does the doctrine of evolution demand the denial of all miracles? There is one sense in which it does demand such a denial; it denies that there can be any miracle coming from outside the field of evolution. It refuses to admit that there can be any agency acting in the history of this world which is not already comprehended amongst the agencies that are conducting the evolution of this world; in other words, it refuses to see the operation of any other cause than the causes which are admittedly at work in the actual development of the universe. But we ask, Is this equivalent to a denial of the supernatural ? What if one of the causes which are at work in the actual development of the universe be God Himself? What if, as Mr Spencer says, one of the factors, nay, the main factor in the process of evolution, be the movement of that transcendental Force which lies at the base of all things? In this case the miracle of incarnation, so far from indicating a break or breach in the order of evolution, will itself be one of the direct results of that order, owing its origin to the main factor of the process. We all admit, with the man of science, that an absolute miracle would be an impossibility; the most pious Christian in the world would hold this the most emphatically of all. For what is an absolute miracle? It is a miracle that contradicts the Absolute, or, which is the same thing, it is a prodigy which effects something contrary to the nature of God. The very affirmation of an absolute miracle is tantamount to the declaration that there is something in the universe higher than God
—that is to say, higher than the highest. Such a declaration will please neither the believer nor the unbeliever; it is at one and the same moment an impiety and a contradiction in terms. We may take it for granted, therefore, that if the transcendental Force of the universe be, as Mr Spencer says, one of the agents in the evolution of the universe, there can be no miracle outside the range of this evolution. But this leaves a vast margin still for the action of the supernatural in nature. If that which transcends nature be itself the main agent in the natural process, then the process of evolution itself is, by its own showing, a manifestation of the supernatural in the natural, an exhibition of the steps and stages by which the Power which we acknowledge as inscrutable has revealed its presence and its influence in the progressive history of the world. If a union between God and man has ever occurred in history, it can only have occurred through the agency of that Power which the most advanced representative of modern science has placed at the basis of the law of evolution.
For let us just put to ourselves the question, In what respect would Mr Spencer's conception of the universe affect the possibility of the Christian doctrine of incarnation ? If we accept Mr Spencer's conception, it can no longer be said that there is any inherent impossibility, nay, that there is any inherent improbability, in a historical union between God and the world. For, according to Mr Spencer's view, that transcendental Force which stands to him for God, and whose distinctive feature is its inscrutability, is already in contact with the world, and in contact with it historically. It is difficult, indeed, to see how in Mr Spencer's philosophy we can avoid going still further; it is difficult to see how, on his principle, we can deny that the transcendental Force in the universe is in contact with the world progressively. Mr Spencer himself will not affirm, nay, he will most vigorously deny, that all the manifestations of power in the universe are equal to one another in value. His philosophy is intended to prove that they are not equal,—that there is a decided progress in the development from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the incoherent to the coherent, from the indefinite to the definite. But if we take this in connection with his own confession that every step of this progress is the manifestation of an inscrutable Power, is not his philosophy only an affirmation in new words of that doctrine of the