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THEOLOGICAL AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS DISTINGUISHED. 5
sequences, or uniformity of relations, observable in the phenomena around us. Phenomena being a term denoting the appearances things present to our notice as distinguished from their essence or real nature, of which our senses can usually tell us nothing. Of these Jaws of nature, or God's natural laws, science has discovered a vast number, and has verified them, as governing, to a great extent, the course of life on earth; and the scientific school considers that the only reliable means which humanity possesses for ascertaining and testing such truth are our ordinary human powers, that is to say, our senses and our reflective faculties exercised upon, or in connection with, the information that our senses have supplied.
It must be obvious, from the foregoing explanation, that the views of the course of life, and the order of God's providence, on earth, that suggest themselves to the scientific thinker are essentially different from those that are entertained by the theologian. According to the theological theory, all things are regulated upon the principles to be collected from the study of the sacred Scriptures, in other words, by God's arbitrary will. According to the scientific theory, all things are regulated according to God's natural laws, which it is the province of science to discover. And again, the general test of right conduct in life must often be essentially different. According to the theological theory, misery, unhappiness, sickness, the premature
I "It is the nature of the human mind to desire and seek a law. . . . All nature bears the impress of law. . . Science is, in brief, the pursuit of law.'-'On the Importance of the Study of Economic Science,' by W. B. Hodgson, LL.D.: Modern Culture, Macmillan, 1867.
deaths of children, the agony of bereaved parents, are the direct result of the supernatural will of God, and are sent or occasioned for some special purpose of Divine justice, or, possibly even, are the blessings of a veiled benevolence, however to us inscrutable. According to the scientific theory, everything that happens on earth is the direct result of obedience to, or violation of, God's natural laws. That these laws have human happiness as their chief end in view, and that all misery or unhappiness, disease, premature deaths and bereavements, are distinctly traceable to the infringement of such laws, or, in other words, to the disregard of the will of God, their omniscient and beneficent author, with whom, we are told, there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' Again, according to the theological theory, prayer to God, to avert or lighten by his will such inflictions, is the direct remedy for the sufferer. According to the scientific theory, increased knowledge of the laws that have been broken, and increased care to regulate our actions in accordance with their dictates, is the mode by which misery and calamity are to be alleviated or averted.
This fundamental distinction that exists between the theological and scientific methods will be found yet more strikingly manifest on looking a little closely at the foundations on which they respectively rest—viz., science and theology. Let me here remark, that I am not
: 1 Millions of prayers have been vainly breathed to what we now know were inexorable laws of nature.'--Lecky's Hist, of European Morals, chap. i. p. 56.
using the term theology' as synonymous with religion,'1 and that, whether we seek, with the theologians, to discover the will of God in the book of his word, or, with the men of science, in the book of his works (volumen operum Dei), I submit that there cannot be any ultimate conflict of real results. For, however numerous may be systems of theology, we can only believe in one Divine Will; and, however we may define our idea of the dominion of Deity on earth, whether by the theological phrase, “ Arbitrary Supernatural Will,' or by the scientific term, ‘Invariable Natural Law,' ? if the teachings of theology and science be found in opposition, there must be human error on the one side or the other.
Science, then, it will be observed, is founded upon enquiry, whilst theology is founded upon authority. Science takes for its basis human experience. Theology certain principles, accepted as supernaturally revealed, and which it must therefore be impious to question. In the one, it is the spirit of doubt; in the other, the
1 • Theology is not Religion itself; it is men's thoughts about Religion. There is but one Religion, though many Theologies.'Theodore Parker, Discourse on Matters pertaining to Religion, chap. iv., ' Idea of Religion. . . “Theology and Religion are two wholly different things. Religion may exist without a theology at all.'-Morell's Hist. of Speculative Philosophy, vol. i. Appendix.
Theology strictly (or as used in the text) is the deductive or logical exposition of Religion (regarding Religion as embraced by revelation), so far as it admits of such an exposition.— Theology,' Penny Cyclopædia.
Theology probably bears a somewhat similar relation to Religion that Astrology bore to Astronomy, and Alchemy to Chemistry.
; Note C, p. 51. .
spirit of belief, that is the animating principle. Theology regarding belief as a virtue, whereas science encourages doubt, or scepticism, as an invaluable intellectual quality, or mental attitude, that compels the mind to withhold belief until it is satisfied with proof. Theology being founded on belief, gives us faith. Science, being founded on enquiry, gives us knowledge; a distinction not without a difference-'for,' says the logical Chillingworth, .faith is not knowledge, no more than three is four .... for he that knows, believes, and something more; but he that believes many times doth not know ; nay, if he doth barely and merely believe, he doth never know.In Science, originality is the parent of discovery, and therefore a merit; in Theology it is the parent of heresy, and therefore a reproach.3 · The abstract distinctions I have been pointing out will be more clearly apprehended by means of the two following illustrations :· The Natural Law, or the Supernatural Will, whichever it be, that regulates or causes changes in the
1.Men who desire to learn,' said Aristotle, must first learn to doubts for science is only the solution of doubts.' .... 'In every case science welcomes scrutiny and scepticism.' (G. H. Lewes's Aristotle, pp. 38, 40.) “The truth is, we intend and propose the art of doubting properly.' 'Nos vero non acatalepsiam, sed eucatalepsiam meditamur et proponimus.'--Nov. Org., lib. i., aph. 126.
2 Chillingworth’s Religion of Protestants, &c., chap. vi. vol. ii. 'p. 316, ed. Oxford, 1838, Chillingworth's Works. See also on this distinction J. S. Mill's Exam. of Sir W. Hamilton's Philosophy, chap. V., 'Belief without Knowledge.'
3. Antiquity is a mark of truth, and novelty is a mark of error in religion.'-Harold Browne's (Bishop of Ely) Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, p. 177, 3rd ed., where the context shows that by Religion is meant Theology.
weather, has not as yet been sufficiently studied to allow our knowledge of such changes being reduced to scientific treatment. The theological theory attributes them to the arbitrary inscrutable will of the Deity. It is not possible, therefore, for the agriculturist to arrange his operations of seed sowing, manuring, or rotation of crops, so as to be at all certain that these shall, in their future growth, become influenced by such an amount of rain and sunshine as he may know by experience are necessary for their mature development. His forecast of the weather may prove utterly fallacious, and his crops be in danger of perishing, for lack or superabundance of those essential agents, heat and moisture. The theory being theological, the only remedy to be resorted to is theological also; and the state of the weather being believed to depend upon the arbitrary will of the Deity, prayer is offered up to induce the Almighty to alter or dispose his will in accordance with the farmer's necessities, so that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season ;' and it is probably within the personal experience of some of you to have heard such prayers uttered with earnest devotion in your several churches.'' · Now the scientific theory considers that the weather, like other natural phenomena, is really regulated, not by arbitrary inscrutable will, but by invariable, discoverable law, and that our present ignorance upon the subject must, sooner or later, be dissipated by the dis
Note D., p. 59.
Leslie's Natural Philosophy, p. 405 ; Dr. Whewell's Bridgewater Treatise ; Snow Harris, Brit. Assoc. Rep. for 1844, p. 241.