Evolution And The Evangelical System Of Doctrine -- By: Frank Hugh Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 050:199 (Jul 1893)
Article: Evolution And The Evangelical System Of Doctrine
Author: Frank Hugh Foster


Evolution And The Evangelical System Of Doctrine

Frank Hugh Foster

In certain quarters systematic theology is at the present day depreciated. The marvellous development of our civilization in the secular sphere has been attended by surprising discoveries in the religious, by the detection of many historical illusions, by the perfection of various methods of theological research, and by the erection of a vast edifice of exact theological scholarship such as no previous age has seen. The very richness of material, good and bad, which has been thus brought before the theological public has embarrassed thinkers. Some out of timidity have feared it could never be digested, and that the problem of systematic theology was a hopeless one. Others have believed that this or that new fact had overthrown essential portions of the existing systems, and have feared that farther investigation would overthrow others; and hence they have thought any effort in systematizing theology at present premature. Others have had other difficulties which I need not detail. Enough that to many, and some of them the most acute and industrious minds of the present age, the time for the discipline to the cultivation of which I have just been set apart, seems either to have forever passed away, or not yet to have dawned.

In more profound minds a still more profound objection to systematic theology has arisen. The deepest speculations

of the present century in the realms of pure metaphysics and of the philosophy of the natural sciences have combined to give us a widely ramified and almost all-embracing theory of evolution. Things have “evolved,” it is said, and are still evolving. The future lies in the lap of the present as the present did in that of the past; but what will be, it is as impossible for man fully to understand, as it would have been ages ago to predict the life and thought of this closing decade of the nineteenth century. In the last analysis, there is no such thing as absolute truth attainable by man, and the systematic method is to be once for all relinquished in behalf of the historical. Thus falls, as is thought, the whole legitimacy of systematic theology before the better knowledge of the age, though it be but a knowledge of our own limitations.

Doubtless the proposal and legitimization of the idea of evolution, or development, in the thinking of our time has been one of the achievements of this century. An eminent and Christian professor of natural science in a well-known college, when recently asked whether he taught evolution, replied, with considerable hesitation, “No, I think not;” and then he added; with a sudden smile, “but it teaches itself.” He indicated thus wittily the positio...

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