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seed of a higher consummation, which it is the impulse of faith, ever “ striving its bounds to overpass," to seek in a fuller disclosure and appropriation of the infinite wealth of Divine Revelation that resides in the Person of Christ. A final and perfect theology is, therefore, for “our little systems” for ever an impossibility; an everlasting “becoming” must always remain the characteristic of this sacred science: its aim, however, is seen to be far other than a vague and abstract conception of infinite progress. It is too late to exclaim against a theology so progressive as anachronistic, or less susceptible of real advance, under whatever differences in the conditions of progress, than the physical sciences, seeing that the “crescent promise" of its spirit is so far from being set that, informed with the very spirit of life and power and progress, it claims to be not only “heir of all the ages" past, but the “master-light” of all the future.
It is, then, the fact of the progressiveness of modern Christian theology on which we insista fact real and indubitable as the progressiveness of modern physical science. The two realms lie wide apart in the conditions of progress they
present, since the complex conditions of personality which give shape to the truths or dogmas of the former nowise affect the generalisations and classifications of the latter in its dealings with matter. These personal elements do not exclude, however, the sane, rational, truly scientific treatment of the facts and forces with which Christian theology deals, for personality must be rational, and science is but a question of distinctive method not to be here hastily ruled out of court. Christian theology introduces us to a Personality, supreme, transcendent, and all-inclusive, our knowledge of Whom, different from that of science in being personal rather than abstract, and so more roundedly complete in kind and less tentative in character than the fragmentary knowledge of science, is yet, like that other, based on evidence, verified by cumulative observation and experience, extended by persistent growth, deepened by unremitting study. This reference of Theology to the central Personality of Christ opens up, through its resources of multiplied communion and its opportunities of instinctive growth, possibilities of development to Christian theology that are infinite, and constitute a progressiveness
as real, despite the differences in their objects on which we have dwelt, as any that pertains to the physical sciences, with a basis in personality more stable and profound than theirs. Unvarying as may be the essence of Christianity, most mutable of all things—allerveränderlichste, as Rothe saidis yet the Christian religion in its forms and dogmas, and the Christian theology, which is the scientific treatment of such religion, can never assume form or expression that shall be absolute, exhaustive, eternal, authoritative, even though that theology claim to have reached in Christ the final Fount of truth. The finality of the Christian revelation of God is such as is nowise incompatible with the progressiveness of Christian theology, which, after its kind, is real and endless as any whose vision ever lighted the scientific mind.
1 "Das Christenthum ist das allerveränderlichste; das ist sein besonderer Ruhm.”--Stille Stunden, S. 357.
THE PROGRESSIVENESS OF MODERN CHRISTIAN
THEOLOGY SEEN IN ITS SPIRIT, METHODS,
To the considerations urged in the preceding
1 chapter, the objection may be preferred, Error latet in generalibus ; and while our limits make it impossible to show, in perfect fulness, how recent actual advances prove an inherent susceptibility of progress in every theological doctrine, and how, as one of faith's inferences, higher illumination, completer adjustment may in every case be expected, we may yet do so much, by rapid critical survey, as to illustrate and confirm by cumulative evidence the general position as to the progressiveness of modern Christian theology already advanced. This condescension from the general to the particular will be in the spirit of the remark that“ progress is
propagated from above downwards, and this even to the furthest limits; for science never ascends.”1 But we find prior proof of the progressiveness of Christian theology in the growing improvement of its SPIRIT and METHODS, and in the fuller harmonising and completer adjustment of its RELATIONS. Its tone and temper have become increasingly scientific. When we say, as we now do, that its method has become more truly scientific, we mean more thorough, reasoned, unbiassed, adapted to complete investigation of its own peculiar phenomena and fearless exhibition of the results so obtained. In its disinterested pursuit of truth, its more truth-loving temper, the contention that theology is a positive science has become amply justified. Theology, which has evinced the spirit and the consciousness of science, has felt that its hope lay in “the method of science, the method of unfettered examination. It tends to unity in physical researches,” and when theology has come to know how fully that which it seeks to understand is positive, is real—"real as the entities from
1" Le progrès se propage de haut en bas, et cela jusqu'aux derniers limites, car la science ne remonte jamais.”—Boussingault,