Classical Texts in Psychology
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Religious Aspects of the Doctrine of Development
By James McCosh (1874)
First published in P. Schaff & S.
Prime (Eds.). History, essays, orations, and other documents of the sixth general
conference of the Evangelical Alliance, held in New York, October 2-12, 1873,
Reprinted in G. Daniels (Ed.) (1968). Darwinism comes to
Posted May 2004
All that science has
demonstrated, all that theism has argued, of the order, of the final cause and
benevolent purpose in the world is true, and can not be set aside. Every
natural law -- mechanical, chemical, and vital -- is good. Every organ of the body,
when free from disease, is good. There is certainly the most exquisite
adaptation in the eye, however we may account for its
formation, and for the numerous diseases which seize upon it.
While they have seen the phenomenon, these men
have not known what to make of it. It is useless to tell the younger naturalists
that there is no truth in the doctrine of development, for they know that there
is truth, which is not to be set aside by denunciation. Religious philosophers
might be more profitably employed in showing them the religious aspects of the
doctrine of development; and some would be grateful to any who would help them
to keep their old faith in God and the Bible with their new faith in science.
But we must at the same time point out the necessary limits of the doctrine,
and rebuke those unwise because conceited men who, when they have made a few
observations in one department of physical nature, being commonly profoundly
ignorant of every other -- particularly of mental and moral science -- imagine
that they call explain everything by the one law of evolution. But there is a large and important body of
facts which these hypotheses can not cover. Development implies an original
matter with high endowments. Whence the original matter? It is acknowledged, by
its most eminent expounder, that evolution can not account for the first
appearance of life. Greatly to the disappointment of some of his followers,
But these inquiries have brought us face to face with a remarkable body of facts. The known effects in the world -- the order, beauty, and beneficence -- point to the nature and character of their cause; and this not an unknown God, as Herbert Spencer maintains, but a known God. "The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood from the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." But in the very midst of the good there is evil: the good is shown in removing the evil, in relieving suffering, in solacing sorrow, and conquering sin. Evil, properly speaking, can not appear till there are animated beings, and as soon as sentient life appears there is pain, which is an evil. It does look as if in the midst of arrangements contrived with infinite skill there is some derangement. It may turn out that the Bible doctrine, so much ridiculed in the present day, of there being a Satan, an adversary, opposed to God and good, has a deep foundation in the nature of things, even as it has confirmation in our experience without and within us, where we find that when we would do good, evil is present with us.
... How curious, should it turn out that these scientific inquirers, so laboriously digging in the earth, have, all unknown to themselves, come upon the missing link which is partially to reconcile natural and revealed religion. Our English Titan is right when he says that at the basis of all phenomena we come to something unknown and unknowable. He would erect an altar to the unknown God, and Professor Huxley would have the worship paid there to be chiefly of the silent sort. But a Jew, born at Tarsus, no mean city in Greek philosophy, and brought up at the feet of Gamaliel -- but subdued, on the road to Damascus, by a greater teacher than any in Greece or Jewry -- told the men of Athens, who had erected an altar to the unknown God, "Whom ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you." It does look as if later science had come in view of the darkness brooding on the face of the deep without knowing of the wind of the Spirit which is to dispel it, and divide the evil from the good, and issue in a spiritual creation, of which the first or natural creation was by a type.
We do not as yet see all things reconciled between these two sides -- the side of Scripture and the side of science. But we see enough to satisfy us that the two correspond. It is the same world, seen under different aspects. We see in both the most skillful arrangement; we are told in both of some derangement. Both reveal a known God; both bring us to an unknown source of evil. But with the sameness there is a difference. The relation is not one of identity, but of correspondence; like that of the earth to the concave sky by which it is canopied; like that of the movement of the dial on earth to that of the sun in heaven. On this side is a wail from the deepest heart of the sufferer; on that side there is consolation from the deepest heart of a comforter. On the one side is a cry like that of the young bird when it feels that it has wandered from its dam; and the other, a call like that of the mother bird, as you may hear her in the evening, to bring her wandering ones under her wings. You may notice on that side a bier, with a corpse laid out upon it of a youth, the only son of his mother, and she a widow; on that other side the same picture, but with one touching the bier, and the dead arises and is in the embraces of his mother. On this side you see a sepulchre, and all men in the end consigned to it, and none coming out of it; on the other side you see the great stone rolled away, and hear a voice, "He is not here; He is risen." The grand reconciliation is effected by that central figure standing in the middle of the ages, by Him who has "made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven."