Method of Biblical Psychology

Sec. ni.

Since the Holy Scripture regards man not from the physiologic point of view of nature's laws, but absolutely as in definite ethico-historical relations, we shall adopt the historical mode, and prosecute the history of the soul from its eternal antecedents to its everlasting ultimate destiny. Thus conceived of, the matter of psychology divides itself into the following seven heads:—1. Eternal Presuppositions. 2. Creation and Propagation. 3. Fall. 4. Present Constitution. 5. Regeneration. 6. Death and Intermediate State. 7. Resurrection and Perfection. Since psychology after this manner proceeds from eternity, and passing through time turns back again to eternity, there will not be wanting to it a compact unity; but the successful accomplishment of our task will depend on our not losing sight in any wise of the distinction between psychology and dogmatics. Our source is the Holy Scripture, in union with empirical facts which have a biblical relation, and require biblical examination. The Old and New Testament concern us equally; for the Old Testament, which is more directed to the creation and nature, i.e. to the origin of things and their external manifestation, gives us disclosures which the New Testament at once takes for granted. The New Testament, on the other hand, affords us, on the ground of the incarnation of the Son of God, far deeper and more accurate knowledge of the nature of God, and of the ethical relations of man to the invisible as to the visible world; and, moreover, it is there that we first learn to nnderstand rightly the beginnings of man in the light of the clearly and specially revealed last things. We must carefully consider this difference of the two Testaments, and in general the progress of the revelation; and we must take pains to distinguish between what Scripture designedly teaches, and what it adopts without close discussion,—as having been ordinarily lawful in antiquity, or prevalent in the Semitic tribes, or in the language of a psychologic view that has become stereotyped—in order to attribute to it its peculiar doctrinal value as it was revealed. Finally, it is not sufficient, by way of adducing proofs, to pick out individual texts from Scripture; but there is necessary, generally, inspection and inquiry into the entire scope of Scripture, that we may not fall back into the faults which made the ancient manner of referring to Scripture proofs, unhistorical, one-sided, and fragmentary. Moreover, we must guard ourselves against the self-deception of interpolating speculative thoughts suggested by Scripture, or physiologic notices foreign to it, in Scripture itself. To interpret into Scripture the circulation of the blood, or the importance of the cerebral system, in place of the activity of the soul, would be just as foolish as to reject such new discoveries because no scriptural statements imply any reference to them. It is proper to revelation to accommodate itself to the degree of cultivation of every age, and to speak, not the language of the school, but the language of life. This observation is just; but it must not be pressed too far. It is incompatible with the purpose of revelation to make use of an absolutely inadequate means of representation, and incompatible with its truthfulness to base itself upon false presumptions. How, for example, could Gen. i. be a divine revelation, if the substance of what is revealed were limited to the fact that the world is a created work of divine power and wisdom, and if all else were mere pageantry, not to be received by physical science ?—a low view, which has already been refuted in individual instances of importance by physical science itself. It is just the same with the psychological presuppositions of Scripture. From the standpoint of our present empirical knowledge they may appear unsatisfactory, because, as in the case of what Scripture says on astronomical subjects, they are here or there only gathered from the external form of the phenomenon; but, nevertheless, they are not false: they only become so when the form of the revelation, borrowed from the modes of representation and expression of daily life, is regarded as belonging to its substance. He. for example, who would thus reproach the Scripture, that it always places the soul in immediate relation with the blood, and not with the nerves, would be just as unjust as another would be foolish in reading in Scripture of electricity, magnetism, and such like things, or perhaps of the nervous fluid, abandoned as it is (I do not raise the question how rightly) by modern physiology. Of all these things Scripture can say nothing, since the Holy Ghost speaks there with a human tongue; and human representation and language had not in those times any ideas and words for those things. But we should deeply wrong the Scripture, if we thought that the glory of its psychologic representations must for ever grow pale in the daylight sunshine of the present day, and that biblical psychology is perhaps such as the psychology of Homer— nothing but a fragment of the history of the training of the human spirit, of only antiquarian value! Certainly, Scripture must forego the honour of having anticipated physical research in discoveries which have been made by sections and vivisections, and all kinds of experiments on animal bodies; but the honour of Scripture consists in the fact, that it offers us a knowledge just there, where the knowledge of physical research (which, without it, is more physiologic than psychologic) hopelessly fails, unless man's impulse of knowing allows itself to be hushed up by idle promises of an undefined future. The way of knowledge of experimental physical investigation advances from without, inward, and has before it a limit beyond which it cannot now or ever pass. The mode of evidence of the revelation, which gives itself to the internal experience, goes, on the other hand, from within, outward, and has no other bounds than those which it places to itself in accordance with man's attainment in culture and need of salvation.1 Natural investigation, for example, can at the most tell us how, by means of a purely optical process, the forms of the outer world

1 "Where is the rule and the measure," cries to us, on the other hand, Noack, in his Psyche, vol. iii. 1860, p. 330, "by 'which this way of evidence of the revelation which gives itself to the internal experience is to be judged?" We answer: In the trial of its genuineness, which only the real and genuine one can really undergo, and in the essential harmony of the internal experiences of faithful Christians of all times and of all places.

come in contact with the retina expanded on the background of the eye; but here it must stop: it can go no further; for how, by the further agency of the optic nerve and of the brain, the image comes to representation—of this it can never tell us anything. It is absolutely impossible to show how, by means of the brain, irritation of the nerve of sensation is transformed into perception; how thence into the thought-product of perceptions; how thence into the self-consciousness that overrides and penetrates the entire physico-psychical mechanism. The final impulses of the process of life,—the subject which, by means of the nervous system, stands in reciprocal relation with the outer world, and, as it were, superintends this telegraphic apparatus; the spiritually grand and infinitely perfectible nature which distinguishes man from the brute ;—these are things of too inward a character ever to be arrived at in the sensuous region of firmly grasped physical investigation. Its method proceeds from without inwards, and there strikes upon insurmountable limits, which it is compelled to acknowledge, if it would not fall into conceptions which by the laws and the necessity of thought would lead ad absurdum. Divine revelation, on the other hand, takes the reverse way: it begins at that which is innermost in man—the spirit—expands itself thence over the psychical life, and has no further interest in anatomizing the marvellous edifice of the bodily organs of that life (although the sacrificial worship promoted their study in brute bodies), since for it this present corporeity, degraded to sin and death, is a Karapyovfievov. But as far as late experimental research has actually revealed to us the secrets of human bodily life, its results agree with the disclosures of Scripture about spirit and soul,—far removed from favouring a materialism whicli is opposed to Scripture; for, as a late opponent of the folly of the materialistic view of the world has with only too much truth observed, it is not the actual results of physical investigation, but the hypotheses grafted on to them, and arrived at from quite a different source, which demand the denial1 of every

1 F. Fabri, in his letters against materialism, 1856, and Evang. K. Z. 1857, col. 1069. "Where the question is about the fundamental views of a man, from which are built up bis moral or spiritual views, there is first of all placed in the scale a factor which lies outside the domain of 'strict demonstration, viz. the will of man.'"

nobler religious truth, and even of the substantiality and reality of the spiritual altogether.

Our task reminds us not to leave unconsidered many of those results attained by means of the dissecting knife and the microscope; for biblical psychology has not alone to bring out the psychologic aspects of Scripture, but also to show, in opposition to the later science, that, so far as they are well-founded and fairly-balanced presumptions of the revelation of salvation, there is due to them a continually better established claim on the subsistence and authority of our consciousness. In these inevitable references to late physical science, and especially to physiology, we shall make a duty of using the strictest care; and we believe, therefore, that we have no occasion to fear lest any one of the modern philosophers whom we shall name should be able to point out to us that we have not understood him, although he possibly might have to complain that we have not applied what he has said, as he himself intended it. But are we on that account to abstain from all quotations? Scientific theology has been lately admonished by a physical philosopher1 for resting great hopes upon such rotten supports and in such troubled waters as the results of natural inquiry. And with reason. But neither has it any ground for entertaining great apprehensions". But the book of nature and the book of Scripture are precisely two books which from the beginning were intended to be compared with one another. And if the student of nature asks the theologian or himself as a Christian, How readest thou? the theologian must also in return ask the student of nature, How readest thou? The reciprocity of this question has indeed almost ceased. It tends, moreover, to the honour of theology, that its interest in the book of Scripture is inseparable from the interest in the book of nature, just as it adds discredit to the later physical science, that for the most part it scarcely concerns itself about the book of Scripture, and establishes a yawning gulf between the two divine records. Theology cannot treat it in like manner, for the two books have as their author the one God, from whom the science itself is named. Therefore it cannot refrain from collating the two books, and, moreover, the exegesis of the two books. This also is what is required in the nature of the problem itself, • Rud. Wagner, in Der Evang. K. Z. 1857, col. 867.

in the field of biblical psychology. But if, in certain cases, a palpable contradiction appears between the interpretation of Scripture and that of nature, we shall be allowed to point out that, for the present at least, the biblical representations are not yet convicted of absurdity. With the materialism of our days, however, we shall concern ourselves little. Biblical psychology may remit the struggle against this barbarism to empirical and philosophical science. There are still many other forms of vigorous opposition between the biblical manner of looking at things and the modern consciousness, and these must impar"tially be presented to us. On this account we shall certainly here and there be constrained to adopt an apologetic tone. And if we apply apologetically something of what has been said by natural philosophers in such a way that what they have not absolutely meant to say shall further the cause of Scripture, we are sorry to give them this cause of complaint, and we console them beforehand with the assurance that it shall not often happen.

For, for the most part, in our apologetic argument for the Scripture, which is associated with the exegetic-historic argument from Scripture, we shall rely partly upon undoubted facts of our own inward life, and partly upon well-attested facts of psychical occurrence without us. In respect of the former, we here upon the threshold make the avowal, that, in order to its right treatment and understanding, biblical psychology presumes above all, that the student has personal experience of that living energy of the word of God which is declared in Heb. iv. 12 to divide asunder the inward man with the sharpness of a two-edged sword. Even that just-mentioned natural philosopher1 has not been ashamed to make the good confession: " Only he to whom it is given to apprehend the highest mysteries of revealed religion in full subjective faith, will be able with satisfaction to himself and to his age to philosophize upon the natural phenomena of the life of the soul." Such also is our conviction. That man only who has returned to the way of repentance and of faith in God in his own experience, is capable of any knowledge about himself which does not stop short at the threshold, and indeed, according to the unalterable law ex fide intellectus, is capable of a knowledge, genuine, resting on sufficient and reasonable grounds, and truly 1 Rud. Wagner, Der Kampf um die Seek, p. 112.

accurate. Meanwhile we are only here declaring the prerequisite of any intelligent penetration of the substance of biblical psychology, and indeed we hereby desire to impress it upon ourselves as a matter of serious warning. In reference, however, to the well-attested facts of psychical occurrence external to us, there has never perhaps been a time more favourable to biblical psychology, as there has also never been a time that needed it more than the present, which, in features that are constantly becoming more manifest, earns the character of the last days. For the spirit-world, good as well as evil, which in all times has been the background of earthly events, is coming more and more to the front in our times; the end of the Christian era becoming, according to a divine law in the formation of history, ever more like to its beginning. Powerful and awakening invasions of good spirits into the psychical life of men on the one hand, and on the other all kinds of magic, even to the summoning up of the dead, are becoming more and more frequent. We would not be deaf to the preaching of repentance by the former phenomena, nor blind to the pernicious power of the latter, in which demoniacal influence and human quackery are adversely involved. By throwing light from the word of God upon these twofold phenomena, in order to draw from it the power of discerning of spirits as far as possible, we are satisfying an increasingly urgent necessity of the present day. In the Holy Scripture we have the solution of these enigmas; but they are moreover a living commentary on the Scripture, which we must not ignore, if we would not, to our everlasting disgrace, neglect the consideration of the signs of the times.

Thus, then, for the second time, we tread anew the road of inquiry, whose plan we at first projected. May God bless our going out and our coming in! Thanks, moreover, to all those who have equipped us for this second pilgrimage by kindly critical consideration of our first attempt. We acknowledge the good-will also of those who have not ignored our undertaking. They will all find their names inscribed here as in a genealogical table. They may all look on themselves as fellowworkers in this second edition; for it is only by mutual assistance that science makes progress. As it is said of the church, There are many members, but one body; so it may be said of science, There are many labourers, but one labour.