An Oberlin Interpreter Of Albrecht Ritschl -- By: A. A. Berle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 059:233 (Jan 1902)
Article: An Oberlin Interpreter Of Albrecht Ritschl
Author: A. A. Berle

An Oberlin Interpreter Of Albrecht Ritschl1

Rev. A. A. Berle

President Fairchild, in an interesting conversation with the present writer a few years ago, said, that the time was ripe for a revival of apriorism in philosophy, and a new emphasis upon supernaturalism—possibly with the meaning of mysticism—in religion, especially in Christian preaching. This remark was induced, without doubt, by the prevalence of the experience doctrine and the accentuation of Christian experience as the terminus a quo in Christian theological thought. The remark is even truer to-day than it was when it was uttered; and, before we see the hoped-for epoch of new life in the Christian churches, and the desired awakening of spiritual feeling, it is safe to say, that in some form there will be a revival of the a priori method in the thought of theologians and of the dogmatic method in Christian preaching. All the signs of the times seem to point to this conclusion with unmistakable clearness.

It was the late Dean Everett of the Harvard Divinity School, who remarked, in his essay on the “Distinctive

Mark of Christianity,” that “the truth of history may be violated by too much catholicity as truly as by too great exclusiveness,” and, after pointing out the distinctive mission of Greece in sculpture and the necessity of regard for perspective, says, “there is no reason why the highest form of religion should not proceed from one portion of the world (i.e. human race), than why the highest art should not proceed from a special people.” And this discrimination points out a fact, which apparently much of the thought of to-day seems to overlook, that, having determined that the high-water mark of religious development has been found in a certain portion of the human race, it is not needful in the interest of a supposititious catholicity to tear up and work over, every time somebody thinks he would like to see the thing done, the great established facts of the religious life of that favored part of the human race in which the highest point of development and religious expression has been reached.

The historical method of criticism and investigation has certainly wrought great and wonderful results since it first began its work, and has laid Christian theology under deep and lasting obligations. It may be said to have engrafted into the consciousness and thought of the church certain moods of insight and certain methods of approach which will be permanent. Historical science has achieved the greatest victories of the last century of development, great as the victories in other departments of human effort have been. And the effect of al...

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