Nature And The Supernatural, As Together Constituting The One System Of God -- By: Edward P. Gardner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:272 (Oct 1911)
Article: Nature And The Supernatural, As Together Constituting The One System Of God
Author: Edward P. Gardner

Nature And The Supernatural, As Together Constituting The One System Of God

Edward P. Gardner, D.D.

A book by the above title appeared a half-century ago, written by that prince of American theologians, Horace Bushnell. It formed an epoch in the lives of many young men, and became a shaping force in their subsequent thinking. About the same time appeared Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” which also made an epoch, not only in the world of science, but in that of philosophy and theology as well. Its theory of evolution seemed to make natural law sufficient to explain all the mysteries of the universe, and leave no place for the supernatural. Indeed, the supernatural seemed to be little more than a term for human ignorance.

It is many years since the writer of this article has read Dr. Bushnell’s book, and he has forgotten many of its arguments. Indeed, probably many of its arguments would to-day seem out of date. He desires, however, substantially, from his own point of view, to reaffirm Dr. Bushnell’s position.

In any discussion it is important that we understand the meaning of the terms that we are using. Therefore we begin by saying that by the term “nature,” as used in this article, is meant simply this created universe, with the substances and forces of which it is composed. By “law” is meant the method by which these forces work and these substances are

governed. “Nature,” here, does not mean the nature of God, nor does “law “mean the principles by which God is actuated. To say that a miracle may be in accordance with a higher law, and prove some day to be natural, introduces confusion of thought, and mixes things which should be kept apart. By “nature “is meant simply the created universe, and by the “supernatural “the remaining unexpended energy of God, and any other forces which are not embraced in the category of nature.

This universe is measureless both in extent and in duration. The old idea that our world was the largest body in existence, that the sun and stars were made to give it light, and that all were brought into being in six days six thousand years ago, has passed away as one of the childhood conceptions of our race. Instead, we have learned that our world is hardly more than an atom amid millions of suns, each inconceivably larger than itself. Their number staggers thought. The farther telescopes penetrate, the more do new worlds swim into the field of vision. What seemed faint clouds resolve themselves into packed gatherings of stars, each point of light a separate world. Every dark space seems peopled with undreamed-of orbs. The more we gaze, the more their number grows, till the sense of illimitableness ...

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