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courage to hazard his whole position in this struggle. Either
he must be convinced, or the Church must be convinced hy
him. If one of these two things does not take place, there
is no escape from a final breach. Hence, even when ajDpre-
hended centrally, theological science owes the Church a
bounden duty in service of the Holy Spirit. Not the duty of
supplying her with the assurance of the faith ; this the theo-
logian must derive from the life of the Church. And a
theology which makes it appear that it has to furnish the
assurance of faith, cuts away the knowledge of God from its
moorings, and builds by the authority of reason. But, in the
service of the Holy Spirit, theology is called ever and anon to
test the historic, confessional life of the Church by its source,
and to this end to examine it after the norm of the Holy Script-
ure. By itself confessional life tends to petrify and to fall
asleep, and it is theology that keeps the Church awake ; that
lends its aid in times of conflict with oft-recurring heresies ;
that rouses her self-consciousness anew to a giving of account,
and in this way averts the danger of petrifaction.

§ 92. The Liberty of Scientific Theology

To be able, however, to accomplish this task, scientific
theology must be entirely free in her movement. This, of
course, does not imply license. Every study is bound by the
nature of its object, and subjected to the laws that govern


the activity of our consciousness. But this is so far from a
limitation of its liberty, that its very liberty consists in being
bound to these laws. The railway train is free, so long as
the rails hold its wheels in their embrace. But it becomes
unfree, works itself in the ground, and cannot go on as soon
as the wheels jump the track. Hence there is no question of
desirino- to free the theologian as such at the bar of his own
conscience from his obligation to his subject, his principium,
or the historic authority of the Church ; what we should object
to is, that the study should be prevented from pursuing its
own way. That a Church should forbid a minister of the
Word the further use of her pulpit when he antagonizes her
confession, or that a board of trustees should dismiss a pro-
fessor, who, according to their view, does not serve the end
for which he was appointed, has nothing whatever to do with
this liberty of studies. A ship-owner, who dismisses a captain
because he sails the ship to a different point of destination
from what the ship-owner designated, in no wise violates
thereby the personal rights of the captain. When a Church
appoints a minister of the Word, she and she alone is to de-
termine what she desires of him, and when he is no longer
able to perform this, she can no longer retain him in her ser-
vice. And in the same way, when the curators of a university
appoint some one to teach Lutheran dogmatics, and this theo-
logian meanwhile becomes Romish, it is not merely their right
but their duty to displace him. Yea, stronger still, a theolo-
gian who, in such a case, does not withdraw, is dishonest, and
as such cannot be upheld. But these cases have nothing to
do with the liberty of studies, and at no time does the churchly
liberty of the theologian consist of anything but his right to
appeal to the Word of God, on the ground of which he may
enter into a spiritual conflict with his Church, and if he fails
in this, to withdraw. Thus when the liberty of theology is
spoken of, we do not mean theology as attached to any office,
but theology as an independent phenomenon. The question
simply is, whether, after it has separated itself from this office,
and thus makes its appearance as theology only, it is or is not


And the answer is, that every effort to circumscribe the-
ology by any obstacle whatever is antagonistic to her nature,
and disables her for her calling. The law of thouo-ht will
not allow you to call the thing black, which you see to be
white. As a thing presents itself to you, so does it cast its
image in your consciousness. To say that you see a thino- in
this way, but that you must represent it to yourself in the
other way, is to violate the freedom of thought. We grant
that a man of study is frequently blinded by superficiality,
by want of thoroughness and sobriety, and sometimes even
by conceit and arrogance, so that he has a false view of liis
object. Formally, however, this does not alter the case ;
even when his view is false, he is bound to describe a thing
as he sees it. We are concerned here with the same problem
as with the erring conscience. When Saul before his conver-
sion worked havoc among the churches of God, his conscience
erred, in so far as he deemed this to be his duty to God. If,
however, he had remained quiescent and allowed the thing
free course which he thought it his duty to oppose, at that
moment he would have violated his conscience and have
formally sinned. Whoever, therefore, may please to be a the-
ologian, and whatever conclusions he may reach by his inves-
tigations, and may publish as results of his study, you must
quietly allow. Even when the Church or a curatorium de-
cides that his views disqualify him for the office he may hold,
neither his theory nor his liberty of speech or writing may be
denied him. Of course he must be willing to risk his office
and his position ; but what is this, compared to what was
risked by the martyrs for their conviction ? If he is a man of
principle, and means what he says, he will not hesitate to make
this sacrifice. And how great an influence one may exert
upon theology, even without office, has sufficiently been shown
by Spinoza. All the theologian can ask is, liberty to investi-
gate, speak and write agreeably to the claims of his convic-
tion. If only he is not impeded in this, he is free. And that
is the liberty in which he may not be hindered in the least.

We grant that this may give rise to the case, that he who
began as theologian will cease to be a theologian, in order


that he may speak as a philosopher. He who chooses another
object than that of theology and consequently goes out from
another principium, and investigates agreeably to another
method, may still be a man of learning, but he is no longer a
theologian. But even this must be left to the free operation
of minds. The persistent heretic must be banished from the
Church ; a professor, whose presence is a menace to the liigh-
est interests of a school, must be dismissed; but from the
field of theology no one can disappear, unless he leaves it of
his own free will. He may do this consciously by the open
declaration : I am no longer a theologian ; or, again, the results
of his investigations may bring it about, that at length nobody
numbers him any more among theologians. But so long as it
pleases him to pose as a theologian, no one can prevent him ;
even when he has undermined, as far as he was able, succes-
sively, the object, principle and method of theology. How-
ever just, therefore, the people's protest is, when from the
pulpit a theologian attacks the confession of the Church v.hich
he serves, or when from the platform a professor antagonizes
the standards of the school for whose principles he ought
to make propaganda, that protest becomes unwarranted and
may not be tolerated when it directs itself against the liberty
of the man of science. Expression may be given to the indig-
nation which smarts under an assault on sacred things ; but
in his personal liberty the man of science must be respected.
And when he shows that for the sake of his scientific convic-
tion there is no sacrifice too great for him, so that he bravely
defies opposition from every quarter, praise must not be with-
held from him for such heroic strength of character. This
praise must be withheld from the man who, for the sake of
saving his position, sacrifices his Church or his school ; but it
is due to those titanic spirits who show, indeed, that they do
not contend for their position, but simply for the liberty of
science and the liberty of their deepest conviction.

This absolute liberty is, moreover, indispensable, if theology
is to discharge her duty to the confessional life of the Church.
Not that the Church should yield summarily to every criti-
cism of her confession. The Church may not modify her


confession, unless the conviction takes hold of her that some
part of her confession cannot stand before the bar of the
Word of God. But on the other hand, also, her confession
must be alive ; in its truth and clearness it must rest upon
the Church's consciousness of life itself, and thereby be so
firmly rooted, that it cannot stand in fear of criticism. Real
gold will court trial ; and theology is not able to try, test
and criticise, if she is withheld the right to do this freely
and radically. The history of Scholasticism shows, that when
the expression of free thought is choked, and criticism of the
confession becomes a question of life and death, theology
fails of her task in many respects. And on the other hand,
the Church has nothing to fear from this liberty of studies,
provided she but do her duty within her own pale. Of course,
she must not permit her confession to be attacked or ignored
in her pulpits. The Church undertakes the propaganda of
her life and consciousness, and he who does not share her life,
or does not think from her world of thought, cannot be her
organ. She must also apply Christian discipline, in order to
keep the purity of confession intact among her members.
But provided she is not behind in this, the criticism of theo-
logical science can bring her blessings only. For this pro-
vides the constant stimulus to turn back from the confession
to the Word of God, and so prevents the Church from living
on the water in the pitcher, and allowing itself to be cut off
from the Fountain whence that water was drawn. A sharp,
critical development of theology will ever entail a keener
wakefulness of historical-positive theology, to make the
Church understand anew the treasure she holds in her creed.
In this way also the confessional development of the Church
will not be at a standstill, but be ever making advance. And
if for a while negative criticism carries the greatest w^eight,
it will not last long, since the theologians who stand outside
the life of the Church are bound to lose, sooner or later, their
interest in theological studies.

If revelation were given in a dialectically prepared form, so
that it consisted of a confession given by God Himself, of a
catechism and of a law w^orked out in detailed particulars ; if


such a dialectically prepared form were given us in our own
lano-uage, and if the copy of this lay before us in the original,
infallible manuscript: the majesty of God would not invite,
but forbid, such criticism and such a liberty of studies. But
such was 7iot the appointment of God. Kevelation was given
in a historic and symbolic form to be worked into a dialectic
form by us ; it was given in a language that is foreign to us ;
and the manuscripts which are at our disposal are very
different from each other and not free from faults. We are
offered no bread cut and sliced, but seed-grain, from which,
by our labor, wheat grows, in turn to be ground into meal
and made into bread. Hence the human factor is not doomed
to inactivity, but stimulated to highest action, which action
must always go through all sorts of uncertainty and commo-
tion. By feeling only we find the way. In doing this our con-
sciousness tries to grasp, assimilate and reproduce its object
with the aid of both actions of which our consciousness is
capable : viz. immediate faith and discursive thought. At
one time the results of this twofold action coincide, and at
another time they antagonize each other, and from this
tumult that activity is born by which we make personal,
ecclesiastical and scientific advances. There is here no
papal infallibility to furnish a final decision, and least of all
should this be taken as the continuation of infallible inspira-
tion, since it differs entirely in form, character and tendency
from the inspiration of the Scripture. Moreover, such a
papal infallibility can have no other result than is actually
seen in the Church of Rome ; viz. that faith in the rich treas-
ure of revelation is superseded by a faith in the Church, and
that the healthy reaction of free theology upon the confes-
sional life of the Church is entirely excluded. Such a papal
infallibility aims at an outward, mathematical certainty which
is irreconcilably opposed to the whole manner of existence of
the revelation of God. To a certain extent it may even be
said that in an empirical sense there is nothing certain here.
There is conflict of opinion concerning the reading of the
manuscripts, concerning the interpretation of every book
and pericope, concerning every abstraction and deduction,


and concerning every formulation and every application of
the thought obtained. He who desires notarial accuracy is
disappointed at every step in this sanctuary. But when
the outcome shows that, notwithstanding all these difficul-
ties, thousands and tens of thousands have obtained full
assurance and certainty, to our Protestant consciousness it
implies the guarantee that the Holy Spirit has not merely
given us a Book and then withdrawn Himself from our human
scene of action, but that that same Holy Spirit continues to
be our leader, and in that very freedom of the action of our
spirit causes His dominion to triumph.



§ 93. Part of an Organism

By the organism of theology we mean what is commonly
called " the division of the theological departments." Since,
however, theology as an organic whole is itself an organic
member of the all-embracing organism of science, for the sake
of clearness, a short resume is here necessary of what was
treated in our first chapter. Notwithstanding our position
that science shows itself in a twofold form, viz. science as
prosecuted in the circle outside of palingenesis, and science
as studied in the circle ruled over by palingenesis, this an-
tithesis is nevertheless merely empirical. According to its
idea there is but one science, and they who do not reckon
with palingenesis naturally refuse to see anything but the
result of imagination and obscurantism in what is science to
lis. And we, in turn, refuse to acknowledge as science the
science which is studied outside of palingenesis. As said
before, both these sciences have a very broad field in common,
which includes all those objects which are not affected by the
differentiation of palingenesis, in so far as tlie investigation
of these objects employs no other functions of our mind
than those which have remained uninjured by the darken-
ing brought upon us by sin. This embraces, in the first
place, everything that is commonly called sciences by the
English, and sciences exactes by the French ; at least so far
as the exponents of these sciences hold themselves to their
task, and do not make cosraological inferences or construct
philosophical hypotheses. But in the second place, the sub-
ordinate labor of the spiritual sciences also belongs to this,
so far as it tends exclusively to collect and determine exter-
nal, observable data. Hence a very large part of philological


Chap. IV] § 93. PART OF AN ORGANISM 601

study, in the narrower sense, and of historical detail goes on
outside of the afore-mentioned differentiation. The fact that
a person compares a few codices constitutes him by no means
a philologist, nor because he studies a certain part of positive
law is he made a jurist, and much less does he become a theo-
logian because he inquires into the history of a monastery.
But in doing this, such scholars may readily furnish contri-
butions which are of lasting value to their several depart-
ments. So far as the sciences exactes rest simply on counting,
weighing and measuring, they do not stand very high ; neither
does this subordinate detail-study of the spiritual sciences
bear an ideal scientific character ; but they have this in their
favor, that universal validity attaches to their results, and
for this reason, though unjustly, they are largely credited
as being the onlt/ strictly scientific studies. But this is only
self-deception. These studies derive their peculiar character
simply from the fact that they do not touch the higher func-
tions of the subject, and are affected by the subject only in
so far as, standing outside the influence of sin, it is one and
the same in all investigators. Science in the higher sense be-
gins only where these higher functions operate, and then, of
course, these two streams must separate, because the work-
ing of these higher functions, with and without palingenesis,
differs. From this it follows, at the same time, that universal
validity cannot be attained except in so far as, potentially
at least, these higher functions work identically. The stu-
dents of science in whom these functions are unenlightened
can advance no farther than the recognition of their results
in their own circle. And on the other hand, the students
of science to whom the enlightening has come can never
promise themselves anything more than the recognition of
their results in the circle of those who have been enlight-
ened. From the nature of the case this is intended simply
in the potential sense. Neither one of these sciences ex-
pects an immediate recognition of their results and from all ;
they simply assume that every one who reaches a logical
and complete development within one of these two circles
will find the results to be thus and not otherwise. Hence the

602 § 93. PART OF AN ORGANISM [Div. Ill

position is this, that that science which arises from natural
data only, subjective as well as objective, asserts, and is bound
to assert itself, to be the science which originates of necessity
from the reflection of the cosmos in the subjective conscious-
ness of humanity. And, on the other hand, that science which
reckons with the fact of re-creation, objective as well as sub-
jective, asserts that real science is born only from the human
consciousness that has been restored again to its normal self,
and therefore cannot recognize as such the fruit of the work-
ing of the still abnormal human consciousness. The rule
that he who is not born again of water and sjDirit cannot see
the kingdom of God, applies not merely to the domain of
theology. Without enlightening, the jurist is not able to
open his eyes to see the Justice of God, neither can the
philologist observe the course of God in history and in the
conscious life of the nations.

But whatever view-point one occupies, science, as it de-
velops itself in each of these two circles, is in either case
organically one, because the object forms an organic whole,
and the subject in the consciousness of humanity is itself
organic, and lives organically in connection with the object.
Of course theology falls of itself out of that science which
has no other machinery than human data; and since by sin
and curse, both objectively and subjectively, a disturbance has
been created in the organism, its organic character is bound
to exhibit defects, and frequently lead to a non liquet, or
even to radical agnosticism. But neither the one nor the
other renders science, thus interpreted, either mechanical or
atomistic. The characteristic of the orgranisra remains rec-
ognizable and dominant. And from the nature of the case
this applies in a much higher sense to that science which is
under the power of re-creation, since it includes theology
and possesses the missing links. From this organic character
of science follows, at the same time, its unity. From our
standpoint we do not assert that the subject of theology is
those who have been enlightened, and that the subject of all
other science is those of the natural mind (i/ru^^t/co?), but we
claim that the only subject of all science is the consciousness


of regenerated or re-created humanity ; and that so Large a
part of scientific study can be furnished equally well by
those who stand outside of this, is simply because this build-
ino- also admits a vast amount of hod-carrier service which is
entirely different from the higher architecture.

§ 94. In the Organism of Science Theology is an Indepen-
dent Organ

When Schleiermacher described theology as an agglomerate
of a few departments of knowledge, which found their unity
in the " guidance and direction of the Church," he actually ab-
rogated theology and her organic existence in the organism of
the sciences. An agglomerate is never organic, it is the oppo-
site of organic, and is never made organic by any unity in the
purpose of your studies. The organic character of a science
carries also in itself a teleological element, but the end alone
can never make an organism of that which differs in object
and principle. The later effort, therefore, was entirely ra-
tional, to regain the unity of object by making religion the
object of investigation. We do not deny that the science of
religion finds an equally organic place in the organism of
science, as for instance the science of the sesthetic, moral, or
intellectual life of man. It is our conviction that this science
got into the wrong track, when by the aid of religious evolu-
tion it repealed the antithesis between true and false religion.
But even so, this science is formally an organic part of the
organism of science. We simply deny that in this organism
the science of religion can ever constitute an independent
organ. By leading motives the organism of science is divided
into a few great complexes, which form as it were special
provinces in the republic of the sciences. Each of these com-
plexes divides itself into smaller complexes, and these smaller
complexes subdivide into smaller groups ; but for this very
reason the distinction between the coordinate and the sub-
ordinate must not be lost from sight. In our body the
nervous system forms a complex of its own; hence every-
thing that is radically governed by the nerves must be
subsumed by science under this head. The Veluwe along;


the Zuyder Zee is indeed a particular region of land, but
it should not for this reason be coordinated with the Dutch
provinces. Nothing arbitrary therefore can be tolerated
in the distribution of the organism of science. There must
be a principium of division, and only those parts of the or-
ganism are independent which by virtue of this principium
are governed immediately by this general, and not by a lower,
principium of division. Pathology cannot be an independent
science, because it is not formed immediately by the prin-
cipium of division of science, but is governed by the general
conception of the medical science. And this is the case here.
As a psychological-historical phenomenon, religion is but one
of many psychological phenomena. It is granted that it is
the most important, but it is always one of many. It is no
genus, but a species under a genus. Hence the science of
religion can never claim for itself an independent place. It
belongs to the philological faculty, and in this faculty it
occurs as a subordinated science, partly under psychology,
partly under ethnology, and partly under philosophy.

But it becomes a different matter when, passing b}^ the
" Science of Religion," we speak of Theology in the sense
indicated above. Then we deal with a science which has a
single common object (objectum univocum), arises from a sin-
gle common principle (principium univocum), and develops
itself after a method of its own. This cannot be subordi-
nated, either under the natural, juridical, philological, or
medical sciences, hence it nnist be coordinated. In scientific
research human consciousness pursues the five principally
differentiated parts of its total object. It directs itself to
man^ to nature about man, and to G-od as man's creator, pre-
server, and end ; while with man, as far as he himself is
concerned, logical distinction must be made between his
psychic, somatic and his social existence. These are the
five primordial lines which spring immediately from the

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 56 of 64)