The Development of the Doctrine of God and Man -- By: Henry A. Stimson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:278 (Apr 1913)
Article: The Development of the Doctrine of God and Man
Author: Henry A. Stimson


The Development of the Doctrine of God and Man

Henry A. Stimson

Some time ago a leading French pastor, M. Monod, speaking before a religious assembly in Edinburgh, said: “Here in Scotland you are discussing whether or not you shall sing hymns in church. In France we are discussing whether or not there is a God.” Should such a distinguished visitor come to us in New York, he would not speak in exactly the same terms. He might say: “You in America are discussing methods of ecclesiastical organization and of social service, while the great question before the Christian world is, What is the real relation of man to God?”

This is a question which in its present form has been unfolding for nearly a hundred years. It is growingly important, and it is perhaps well worth while to note some of the steps by which it has advanced. It will be seen at once that it must underlie all theology, and have a very definite effect upon all serious thinking.

It properly arose with Auguste Comte, the French author of “The Positive Philosophy.” He sought to show that man with all his faculties is a part of the common universe;

that he comes under its laws, from which he cannot escape, within which all his faculties are exercised and by which his nature is to be interpreted, as truly as is the nature of any natural force or material existence. Whatever limitations may be discovered in his theory, it must be recognized that it was a splendid contribution to modern thought, and opened the way for the great development both of science and of philosophy which the later years have witnessed.

After him came the scientific movement, which, if it were not so completely a new creation, might be properly called a revolution, for it swept away all the scientific theories of the past and has given us all that we know as science today. It gained its great impulse from the work of Darwin and Wallace and the men who quickly gathered about them, as it has had its unfolding at the hands of the army of eager and brilliant men of science who, inspired by their method and their views, have opened for us the new world of the physical sciences within which so much of our life to-day is embraced, and by which so much of even our common thought is shaped.

The great thinkers of the first half of the nineteenth century, each of whom made his contribution to the theology or the philosophy of his day, and who will occupy a permanent place in the history and development of human thought, — Hegel, Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Rothe, the Scotch metaphysicians, and the others, — were for the time being superseded in current thought by the rushing tide of the new interest. For our pu...

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