Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

false, there is a qualified form in which it bears a semblance to the true. There is a species of culture which, on the first view of it, and especially in the view of its early and incipient stages, has frequently presented the aspect of a force antagonistic to the spirit of religion. And this is precisely the form of culture which, as a rule, has distinguished the nations of the West from the nations of the East-has differentiated the intellect of Europe from the intellect of Asia. The culture of the European intellect has been for the most part a culture arising from the study of things without; the culture of the Asiatic intellect has been for the most part a civilisation arising from the study of things within. It is clear at the outset that in relation to the sphere of religion these two phases of mind will naturally tend to occupy different attitudes. The culture which has been born of pure mental contemplation will in itself from the very beginning be in alliance with the spirit of religion, and will tend by its own nature rather to intensify than to diminish the soul's longing for Divine communion. But the culture which has been born from a study of external things, will have in itself a natural tendency to put the thing in the place of the thought, and will thereby, from the very outset, be in danger of interposing a material barrier between the human soul and the object of its religious communion.

Now this culture of the West is what is called distinctively the spirit of science. The name is designed to designate its purely practical character, to distinguish it on the one hand from the spirit of philosophy, and on the other hand from the spirit of religion. It has never professed to be the antithesis of either of these, but it has always claimed to walk on a different road from either,—to investigate by a separate method, to reach its conclusions by a distinct avenue. It cannot be denied that a spirit which in its nature professedly occupies a neutral attitude towards the results of philosophy on the one hand, and the conclusions of religious intuition on the other, may have on the part of many of its votaries a tendency to develop from an attitude of negative indifference into an attitude of positive hostility. But the question is not what effect scientific study may produce upon the mind; the sole question is, What is the objective result of the scientific study itself ?-in other words, What contribution has it made to the truth of the universe? Has it, or has it not, forced upon the mind any conclusion which is inimical to the old religious intuitions of the heart, any fact regarding the constitution of physical nature which is at variance with the long-cherished hope of communion between the soul and God? That is the one question, the only question between science and religion, and on the answer to that question depends the solution of the problem, whether the old faith can live with the new.

At present we are concerned, not with science in general but with a particular theory of sciencethe doctrine of evolution. The question which lies before us is this, Would the proof of the doctrine of evolution in nature nullify the conclusion which has been reached by the evolution of the Christian spirit in mind? We have seen that the result of this latter evolution has been to deepen within the human soul the sense of a Divine communion; would the result of the former doctrine be to prove that the conclusion reached by the latter is a delusion and a dream? In answering this question, we shall first inquire into the relevancy of the grounds on which the doctrine of evolution is thought to place a barrier between the soul and God, and afterwards we shall briefly consider whether the doctrine of evolution is more unfavourable to the spirit of religion than that older view of nature which it professes scientifically to supersede.

What, then, are those grounds on which it has been thought that the doctrine of evolution is unfavourable to the sense of Divine communion ? It seems to us that they may be all summed up under two great heads,—the seeming multiplication of secondary causes, and the actual assertion of the principle of continuity. We shall direct our attention to each of these in turn.

[ocr errors]

It is feared, then, that the doctrine of evolution removes God further from man by interposing between the Divine life and the human soul a multitude of secondary causes. And, indeed, at first sight it must be confessed that the allegation appears to be true. To the primitive man the act of Divine communion is in one sense very easy. He has never heard of any intermediate law interposed between himself and the object of his worship, and his worship is quickened by the belief that he is standing face to face with the being with whom he communes. Even to the man of the earlier science, there was no necessary sense of any intermediate agency between himself and the object of his worship. He might quite well believe in the existence of physical laws, and yet hold fast to the conviction that the principle of life within him had an origin independent of these laws, and in the sense of that conviction it was perfectly competent for him to separate between matters of science and matters of faith. But the new science of evolution has made this no longer competent. Evolution claims to be not simply a process that applies to the physical creation, but a process which engulfs within its order the entire circle of creation, whether physical or spiritual. Accordingly, the man who accepts evolution cannot accept it as a law that holds good merely for a part of the universe; he must either not receive it at all, or he must receive it as an absolute principle, holding good for all space and acting through all time. In this order his own individual life must find its explanation as fully and as entirely as the life of material nature; and if he believes that it tends to separate the life of material nature from the being of the great First Cause, he will be equally bound to conclude that it separates his spiritual being from the same ultimate source.

Now it is not difficult to see that with such a view of the case before him, the ardour of a man's religious communion must naturally be very much damped by the prospect of the doctrine of evolution proving true. He has been accustomed to think of his individual life as a spark lit by the hand of God, and it has been this very sense of a parentage derived from the Divine that has constituted the enthusiasm of his hours of religious communion. But when he is told that this individual life has come to him by a process of evolution; when he is informed that the spark has been lit from an earlier spark, and that from an earlier still; when he is pointed to the fact that the humanity within him is but one link of a great chain which stretches downward to creatures far beneath him,-is it not natural that he should lose the sense of his Divine parentage, and that along with it he should lose his hope in the reality of Divine communion ?

« AnteriorContinuar »