Straus’s Superficiality1 -- By: Joseph Cook

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 030:118 (Apr 1873)
Article: Straus’s Superficiality1
Author: Joseph Cook

Straus’s Superficiality1

Joseph Cook

In this interesting but weak book, which has importance chiefly as a summary of its predecessors by the same author, Strauss, who is now sixty-four years of age, subjects the results of his life to the crucial, but undeniably fatal, test of an attempt to exhibit as one harmonious system his views not only of theology, but of science, art, literature, and politics as well.

Admitting (pp. 5, 7, 179) that his Mythical Theory, put forth when he was a young man, and now for twenty years marked as juvenile by the best scholarship of Germany, has not had force enough to drive from the world the belief in the supernatural, he adopts here, as hopeful instruments to the same end, the new weapons of physiology, the nebular hypothesis, and Darwinism. Upon all these he lays an emphasis that is eager to the degree of being incautious. Although he adopts Darwinism with a few reservations, he expresses an unqualified confidence that if this system ultimately proves to be correct, belief in the supernatural will become impossible: an opinion precisely the opposite of Mr. Darwin’s. Even Mr. Tyndall maintains that if a right-hand spiral movement of the particles of the brain could be proved to produce love, and a left-hand spiral movement hate, we should still be as far as ever from knowing the causes of the movements themselves; while profounder minds, like Sir John Herschell, W. B. Carpenter, and Professor Agassiz, accustomed to clear definitions, understand by the vague phrase “natural law,” nothing other than the omnipresent fixed method of action of the divine will, so that no matter by what process of natural development man and the universe may have been produced, there remain, according to these naturalists themselves, and as theology has for centuries taught, two undeniable instances of mind acting upon matter in the universe, namely, the beginning and the continuance of that process. Strauss’ discussions, however, greatly lack clearness in definitions; indeed, his definition of a myth has been subjected to most important modifications between the edition of his principal work published in 1835, and the form in which his theory appeared in 1864, and now reappears in 1872.

That there are higher and lower natural laws; that, on all sides, as in the power of the vital principle over chemical affinities, or of the human will over gravitation, we find examples of the subordination of the lower to the higher; that a miracle may be only the exhibition of the power of a higher over a lower law,, and that the supernatural, therefore, is not necessarily the unnatural, were positions familiar in the theology of Schleiermacher,...

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