The Religious Ideas Peculiar To Christianity -- By: David Foster Estes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 072:288 (Oct 1915)
Article: The Religious Ideas Peculiar To Christianity
Author: David Foster Estes


The Religious Ideas Peculiar To Christianity*

David Foster Estes

It is a fact to be reckoned with that there widely prevails even among Christians to-day a vague notion that religions are pretty much alike, at any rate the better sort; that Christianity, while the best of the lot, yet so resembles the others that it is scarcely enough better to warrant any great enthusiasm in missionary endeavor; that in the most important, the essential, elements it agrees with other religions more than it differs from them. As the case is put by the Japanese scholar Kozaki, the late President of the Doshisha University, “There is a tendency among Western scholars to put too much stress on the resemblances of Christianity to non-Christian religions”; and. he adds, “The points in common are not so numerous as is supposed by some, and the differences are so fundamental that the resemblances are often more apparent than real.”1

Two facts have helped on the confusion of which President Kozaki speaks. One is the present-day tendency, very widely diffused and cropping out here as well as elsewhere, to lay stress on likenesses rather than diversities, to combine where any similarities can be traced, ignoring all dissimilarities, — in a word, to emphasize the genus at the cost of the species. To inquire how far this is a remote result of Hegel’s influence,

* Copyright, 1915, D. F. Estes.

how far it is due merely to delight in playing with the relatively new comparative method, would lie far outside the present discussion. It is enough to note that a man who has traced a hitherto unnoted distinction is practically felt nowadays to have wasted his time, while he who yokes what have hitherto been regarded as incompatible has won a distinct triumph. Perhaps our children will learn to discriminate when they compare as well as to combine, but now we are living in an atmosphere of combination amounting sometimes to confusion.

Then the fact that the study of Comparative Religion has developed many interesting, not to say remarkable, harmonies with our religion in unexpected quarters, has resulted in some cases in an illegitimate sentiment of indifference to both its peculiarities and those of others. Comparative Religion is the youngest of the sisterhood of theological sciences, and is, indeed, but just now knocking at the door for welcome into the family circle around the hearth of the theological seminary; but, in spite of Harnack’s emphatic protest so little time ago, her place, if not already assured, is fast becoming so. Whether Comparative Religion shall finally find a large place in the theological curriculum or no,...

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