Destructive Analysis In Theology -- By: Lemuel S. Potwin
BSac 29:115 (July 1872) p. 419
Destructive Analysis In Theology
The most perfect illustrations of analysis are found in the science of chemistry. You hold in your hand a piece of granite. What is it? It is a stone. That would be a sufficient answer for some minds. If you wish to throw it at a mark, it is only as a stone that you care for it. But if you wish to exercise the faculties of your mind upon it, you must answer very differently the question, What is it? Crushing the stone, you carefully separate the three kinds of material which, judging from color and hardness, appear to compose it. Applying the requisite tests, you discover that one part of this material — quartz, or silica — is chemically an acid, and is composed of silicon and oxygen. These two, resisting all efforts at analysis, are called elements. Analyzing the other two constituents, — feldspar and mica, both of which are chemically salts and silicates of alumina and potash, — you find that your piece of granite amounts to this: It is a certain combination of silicon, aluminum, potassium, iron, hydrogen, and oxygen.
You may carry on this analysis with such care as to determine the exact amount of each of these simple substances. When you have done all, however, if you want a piece of granite for use, you do not go to a laboratory and order these ingredients; for these things are not granite, though they compose it; and they cannot be made into granite by any human skill. You cannot think of them as granite. Ultimate analysis in chemistry is a destructive process. Its result does not even define the substance analyzed.
This is the more plain when you come to organic chemistry. Analyze all the organic compounds in an oak. The ultimate result is four simple elements—carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen,
BSac 29:115 (July 1872) p. 420
and oxygen. Analyze animal tissue in the same manner, and you come at last to the same four. Not only does the infinite diversity of animal and vegetable organic composition come down to this humble monotony of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen; but some organic substances, quite different in properties, contain the same elements in the same proportions. After you have finished your analysis, which is of great value for certain purposes, you do not go to it to find out what an oak is, or an apple, or an orange. Ultimate analysis goes too far for this. If you stop half way, content with ascertaining the distinguishing organic compounds of each, you learn more about them. And for many purposes the five senses are better than any scientific analysis.
Something like this destructive, disorganizing analysis seems to have befallen theology. If I am not mistaken, it has been applied with damaging effect ...
Click here to subscribe