The Bearing Of Recent Scientific Thought Upon Theology -- By: Frederic Gardiner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 035:137 (Jan 1878)
Article: The Bearing Of Recent Scientific Thought Upon Theology
Author: Frederic Gardiner

The Bearing Of Recent Scientific Thought Upon Theology

Frederic Gardiner

All truth is consistent with itself, and therefore all real progress in the knowledge of truth in any department must be a gain to every other department. All men honestly engaged in its pursuit should rejoice in the progress of those similarly engaged, especially in departments of truth which they cannot themselves occupy. History, however, shows that this state of things does not practically exist, and that misunderstandings and controversies are perpetually arising. Misunderstanding is peculiarly liable to arise between those whose pursuits are so different that they can but imperfectly appreciate the processes and results of each other’s work; and the consequent controversy is apt to be proportioned in sharpness to the very earnestness of the parties in the pursuit of the common goal of truth. Such has been the case with considerable portions of the current literature of theology and of science. Criticisms upon science, put forth by some theologians, have been met by several eminent scientists with attacks upon theology. Able men have written and spoken not a little upon both sides, and true and important things have been said by the disputants on either part, so that the ultimate result of the controversy cannot be otherwise than useful. But in the excitement and confusion of the conflict there has naturally been less consideration of what points of truth are thus receiving a firmer establishment, and of what is the real bearing of recent scientific thought and utterance upon the most fundamental positions of theology. The question has been too little asked, What

will be the net result of a comparison of the data now accepted by all? or rather, What would it be if the conclusions now generally concurred in by scientists were equally received by theologians? It is the aim of the present Article to direct attention to this question, in the conviction that the answer will be found favorable to theology in a degree hardly anticipated by those who have not watched the course of the discussion. The theologian may wish a hearty God-’ speed not only to the actual researches, but even to those well-considered speculations of the scientist which often prove prophetic of the course which science will take. He may do this not only because abstractly he desires, or ought to desire, the advance of truth in every direction, but also because every such advance must assist him in maintaining and elucidating that fundamental truth of all which it belongs to his province to uphold and defend.

The word “science” will here be taken generally of physical science, but not with such exactness as to exclude either the reasonings of those philosophers who ...

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