THE SPHERE OF APOLOGETICS.—THE NATURE AND ELEMENTS OF THE CONFLICT.
The term is derived from the old Greek word first used by Justin Martyr. Its significance is not only Defense against assault, but Vindication which is completed in the counter-attack and dislodgment of the adversary. In order to refute, Christian Apologetics must assail in turn. For the Christian faith, if it is anything, is everything, so far as man's highest interest and welfare are concerned. To define more sharply: Christian Apologetics is (i) Vindication against assault; (2) Vindication which establishes the truth of Christianity and shows the falsity and error of the opponents; i. e., which not only defends Christianity but attacks its foes. (3) It is a scientific vindication. It vindicates in a scientific way, so as to include the apologies, so as to bring out the ultimate general principles in the case. (4) It gets from the whole course, of conflict a brighter light in which to exhibit Christianity as the absolute religion.
The development of the race—the development of all truth—involves progress, but progress by and through conflicts, by antagonisms working out into a higher unity. The antagonisms with which we have to do, the elements of the constant conflict in which Christianity advances, arise chiefly from the following sources:
1. The dualism between the Natural and the Supernatural. Is human life to be understood sub specie mundi alone, or sub specie ceterni also? Infidelity tends to say this world is all. Its latest form makes the height of wisdom to be contentment with the present life. This element is in all infidelity. The question here is as to the Reality of the Supernatural.
2. The dualism between the Natural and the Spiritual. Is man essentially a body, or has he a spiritual essence, allying him with the Infinite and the Eternal? If he is a spirit, then he is a moral being; he is subject to a moral law, and may have an eternal destiny. Is there a dualism of Physical and Moral Law, or can the one be resolved into the other? Can mind be evolved from matter, and man from the brute?
3. The antagonism between Reason and Revelation, or Philosophy and Faith.
Both have their sphere and their rights. Both are necessary to man; neither is to be denied. Both, too, are employed essentially about the same fundamental question s—God, man, and the relation between them. Both run back into the mystery of the Infinite and the Eternal. The object of the contest has been to secure the sole sovereignty of the one or the other. The object of Apologetics must be to put them in their true relation, from the general point of view, that while Reason states the problems, Revelation gives the true answer—the Ariadne's clue.
4. The antagonism between Sin and Holiness. Here we have a sliding scale, or a contrast. Everything in the contest which Apologetics has to meet centers here: Is sin a reality, an abnormal condition, or a stage of education, a process of development, a lesser good? Wherever sin is, there will be opposition to holiness. It is natural for sin to oppose holiness, and to deny a holy God.
The felt reality of sin is necessary to the possibility of redemption. Christianity is essentially a redemptive system. Incarnate love was crucified. A man with no sense of sin must oppose Christianity, in its doctrine of grace as well as of sin.
In this statement it is by no means asserted or implied that all objections to the Bible and Christianity are only the signs and manifestations of man's inborn and inbred corruption; that historical, philological, and doctrinal criticism come invariably from a sinful unbelief—stiil less, that when reason thinks and speaks, its utterances are to be set down to the account of a godless rationalism. Far from it. There are undeniable difficulties in respect to history and science which must be investigated. There are signs and wonders which would stagger any one, unless the need of them and their historic reality can be clearly evinced. Conscience and reason have their rights. Science has its lawful sphere. We are to prove (test, try) all things—even the Scriptures, even the doctrines of our faith—and hold fast that which is good.
If the Christian system cannot establish its claims and authority in the view of reason and conscience (their rights being carefully weighed and defined), it will be in vain for Church or Pope to call upon the nations to believe in their own infallible authority, as settling all questions of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, for time and for eternity. No; we are in the conflict, and it is only by going through it that We can get the victory.
5. The sense of sin and need of redemption lead to another contrast and point of conflict: that between the absolute revelation of God in Christ, and any and all other revelations of God to man, in nature, in history, and in other religions. Now, as in ancient times, the Christology of our system of faith is made prominent, both in the attack and in the defense. From the very necessity of the case there has been a revival of Christology. Christian realism, that which finds the reality of Christianity in the facts that center in the person and work of Christ, stands now in direct and fully developed opposition to the nescience and the nihilism, which must else be man's last word upon the vital question of his destiny.
6. This revelation in Christ is gathered up, says the Christian Church, in a final, inspired form in the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments; and these, of course, have always been a central object of attack and defense, entering largely, though not as exclusively as some suppose, into the decision of the great debate.
The full arguments on this point are exhibited in the Introductions to the Old and New Testaments, or, rather, in a history of them, showing their genuineness, authenticity, and credibility. It is necessary to note here only the chief points of present attack.
(i) In respect to History: (a) Of the Old Testament, involving the palaeontological and prehistoric discussions as to the primeval state of the world and of man, and archaeological questions as to his progressive culture (Egypt, Assyria, Chaldaea, and ancient empires). (6) As to the New Testament, chiefly upon the question whether it is authentic, bringing under scrutiny the testimony as to the life and character of Christ, and as to the life and course of the Apostles (Strauss ; Baur; Renan. The Gospels; Paul's Epistles; The Apocalypse). (2) In respect to Science (modern). Astronomy, Geology; the Origin and Unity of the Race; the Primeval History of Mankind. In all a bias of evolution.
7. The highest antagonism—that as to the System of the Universe. The fundamental question here is between Monism and Theism. Monism has two forms, the one asserting that all is God—Pantheism; the other, that all is matter—Materialism. Theism asserts a duality of the Infinite and the Finite, of the Creator and the Creature.
Is that which is Ultimate in Being an unconscious force—call it Matter or Spirit—or an Intelligent and Personal Power?
Is the Finite from the Infinite by emanation, or by the act of an Omnipotent and Wise Being?
Hence upon the question of the system of the universe three theories in opposition to Christian Theism are advanced: Pantheism, Materialism, and . Pantheistic Materialism (evolution *).
* The power of evolution lies not in its details, but in its general theory.