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The analogy of the past makes the progress of the future nothing short of a moral certainty to faith : faith cannot give up tasks which for her ever remain unfinished: the inherent impulse of faith, always more strong and masterful, is ever towards a more complete intussusception of the Christian contents: the living faith of the present cannot but believe that before the Church of today lies a progress in Christian theology magnificent and unparalleled. The progressive spirit of Christian theology was seen in the original mental attitude of that greatest of Christian theologians, who, having forgotten “things behind” (tà óriow), was ever “stretching forwards” (&TTEKTELVÓuevos) to the things that lie before: with the watchword êÈ TÀU TEMELÓTNTa pepóueda, it can brook no retrogression which forgets that Tà åpxała zapnadev2: the course of its development is “ from faith to faith," until it attain the fulness, strength, and unity of a perfect, harmonious, and symmetrical organism, within which no foreign material is encysted.
It is now recognised that the starting-point of the development of Christian theology lies not in the completed revelation of the Scriptures, but only in the initial attainments of the Church under the apostolic teaching, which, as compared with the unapprehended fulness, perfectness, and sufficiency of the Scriptures, we may surely say were modest enough. The theologising faculty asserted itself in the early Christian centuries in the power with which the Greek masters of theology – Clement, Origen, Athanasius — set forth the completed grandeur of all that had been going on since Creation in the massive fact of Incarnation, and depicted in Revelation the process whereby the immanent Deity was continuously revealing Himself to finite reason ; in the skill with which the Athanasian Trinitarianism and the Augustinian Hamartology were forged, and the inadequacy of such forms of theological thought as the Arian, the Apollinarian, and the Macedonian, was exposed; as well as in the way in which Augustinianism evolved its elaborate representations of God, the Godman, and grace. When, after a large intervalan intercalated period of comparative stagnation, not unmarked, however, by theological advances in Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, and Duns Scotus—we come upon the Reformation, we find it to be itself a revolt against finality, a regress to, and a progress in and by, the Scriptures, a vindication of the freedom of faith and of thought, and a paving the way for those advances which three succeeding centuries, spite of formal orthodoxism, unillumined Deism and rationalism, dogmatic Agnosticism, and other uninspiring influences, have seen, as also for that Reformation, new and nobler, which we to-day still await.
1 Heb. vi. 1.
2 2 Cor. v. 17.
In our own century, theology has evinced a wondrous capacity for growth-meet source of satisfaction to quickened faith that the century of rapid and brilliant advance in science should also be instinct with theological as with philosophical energy—and is still growing, attaining conceptions along the whole lines of her thought, larger, purer, more truly Biblical, more thoroughly ethical, and more profoundly Christian. For the Christian theology of to-day, called to higher intellectual planes and to new and difficult views of truth, has learned to be wisely passive under the inbreathings of God's supremely illuminating Spirit, and nobly positive in the forth-putting of faith's endeavours to bring within the broadening
domain of theological thought all the facts of revelation and experience, as "the old order changeth, yielding place to new.” From the ever - accumulating treasures of exegetical ore, she is coining afresh the current theological conceptions, sending forth, for those that had been relatively pure and true, expressions of the truth more perfect and more worthy of herself as the exponent of the Spirit's mind.
A theology which shall be the living offspring of a religion of insight, not merely of tradition, we need, and this can be ours only as we put ourselves into as original and immediate relation and contact with the realities of the spiritual universe as to faith and consecration may be possible. The Church of this and every age is bound to claim the right to build up its own theology, scientific and free, unfettered by tradition and unconfessional in type, upon the Scriptures as, to the divinely enlightened consciousness, the credible records of the pure authoritative self - revelation of God consummated in Christ, since the needs of every age, themselves peculiar, impose peculiar tasks. The truths with which, as the precipitate of the
religious consciousness, Christian theology is charged, need not be held in mere solution or in constant flux without being allowed to crystallise into definite forms, but no angular and oppressive incrustations of system, no dogma which has ceased to be the offspring and the minister of progress, must be suffered to retard the course of theological advance. No blind mechanical conservatism, under the guise of fidelity to the past, can be allowed to impede that soul of religion which cannot live without progress and forward movement, which, in their turn, demand new scientific expression; and no cry for progressive movement, for perpetual advance towards perfectibility, must keep us from fidelity to the already known, the real heritage of the past, in wise using of which the continuity and consistency of a true progress are alone possible.
The law of progress must be that we take up the inheritance of the past into which we are come and which none can renounce, whatever the legacies of unreason it may seem to bring with it, and, by faith's individual effort, eliminate the misapprehensions of the past, and,