In my fourth lecture allow me to draw your attention to the nexus between Calvinism and Science. Not, of course in order to exhaust in one lecture such a weighty subject. Four points of it only I submit to your thoughtful consideration; first, that Calvinism fostered and could not but foster love for science; secondly, that it restored to science its domain; thirdly, that it delivered science from unnatural bonds; and fourthly in what manner it sought and found a solution for the unavoidable scientific conflict.
First of all then: There is found hidden in Calvinism an impulse, an inclination, an incentive, to scientific investigation. It is a fact, that science has been fostered by it, and its principle demands the scientific spirit. One glorious page from the history of Calvinism may suffice to prove the fact, before we enter more fully upon the discussion of the incentive to scientific investigation found in Calvinism as such. The page from the history of Calvinism, or let us rather say of mankind, matchless in its beauty, to which I refer, is the siege of Leyden, more than three hundred years ago. This siege of Leyden was in fact a struggle between Alva and Prince William about the future course of the history of the world; and the result was, that in the end Alva had to withdraw, and that William the Silent was enabled to unfurl the banner of liberty over Europe. Leyden, defended almost exclusively by its own citizens, entered the lists against the best troops of what was looked upon at that time as the finest army of the world. Three months after the commencement of the siege, the supply of food became exhausted. A fearful famine began to rage. The apparently doomed citizens managed to live on dogs and rats. This black famine was soon followed by the black death or the plague, which carried off a third part of the inhabitants. The Spaniard offered peace and pardon to the dying people; but Leyden, remembering the bad faith of the enemy in the treatment of Narden and Harlem, answered boldly and with pride: If it is necessary, we are ready to consume our left arms, and to defend with our right arms our wives, our liberty and our religion against thee, o tyrant. Thus they persevered. They patiently waited for the coming of the Prince of Orange, to raise the siege, … but … the prince had to wait for God. The dikes of the province of Holland had been cut through; the country surrounding Leyden was flooded; a fleet lay ready to hasten to Leyden’s aid; but the wind drove the water back, preventing the fleet from passing the shallow pools. God tried his people sorely. At last however, on the first of October, the wind turned towards the West, and, forcing the waters upward, enabled the fleet to reach te beleaguered city. Then the Spaniards fled in haste to escape the rising tide. On the 3rd of October the fleet entered the port of Leyden, and the siege being raised, Holland and Europe were saved. The population, all but starved to death, could scarcely drag themselves along, yet all to a man, limped as well as they could to the house of prayer. There all fell on their knees and gave thanks to God. But when they tried to utter their gratitude in psalms of praise, they were almost voiceless, for there was no strength left in them, and the tones of their song died away in grateful sobbing and weeping.
Behold what I called a glorious page in the history of liberty, written in blood, and if you now ask me, what has this to do with science, see here the answer: In recognition of such patriotic courage, the States of Holland did not present Leyden with a handful of knightly orders, or gold, or honour, but with a School of the Sciences,—the University of Leyden, renowned through the whole world. The German is surpassed by none in pride of his scientific glory, and yet no less a man than Niebuhr has testified, “that the Senate chamber of Leyden’s University is the most memorable hall of science.” The ablest scholars were induced to fill the amply endowed chairs. Scaliger was conveyed from France in a man-of-war. Salmasius came to Leyden under convoy of a whole squadron. Why should I give you the long list of names of the princes of science, of the giants in learning, who have filled Leyden with the lustre of their renown, or tell you how this love for science, going forth from Leyden, permeated the whole nation? You know the Lipsii, the Hemsterhuizen, the Boerhaves. You know that in Holland were invented the telescope, the microscope and the thermometer; and thus empirical science, worthy of its name, was made possible. It is an undeniable fact, that the Calvinistic Netherlands had love for science and fostered it. But the most evident, the most convincing proof is doubtless found in the establishment of Leyden’s University. To receive as the highest reward a University of the Sciences in a moment, when, in a fearful struggle, the course of the history of the world was turned by your heroism is only conceivable among a people, in whose very life-principle love for science is involved.
And now I approach the principle itself. For it is not enough to be acquainted with the fact, I must also show you why it is that Calvinism cannot but foster love for science. And do not think it strange, when I point to the Calvinistic dogma of predestination as the strongest motive in those days for the cultivation of science in a higher sense. But in order to prevent misunderstanding let me first explain what the term “science” here means.
I speak of human science as a whole, not of what is called among you “sciences”, or as the French express it “sciences exactes”. Especially do I deny, that mere empiricism in itself ever is perfect science. Even the minutest microscopic, the farthest reaching telescopic investigation is nothing but perception with strengthened eyes. This is transformed into science, when you discover in the specific phenomena, perceived by empiricism, a universal law, and thereby reach the thought, which governs the whole constellation of phenomena. In this wise the special sciences originate; but even in them the human mind cannot acquiesce. The subject matter of the several sciences must be grouped under one head and brought under the sway of one principle by means of theory or hypothesis, and finally Systematics, as the queen of sciences, comes forth from her tent to weave all the different results into one organic whole. It is true, I know, that Dubois Raymond’s winged word Ignorabimus has been used by many, to make it seem impossible that our thirst for science in the highest sense will ever be quenched, And that Agnosticism, drawing a curtain across the background and over the abysses of life, is satisfied with a study of the phenomena of the several sciences; but some time ago, the human mind began to take its revenge on this spiritual vandalism. The question about the origin, interconnection and destiny of everything that exists, cannot be suppressed; and the veni, vidi, vici, wherewith the theory of evolution with full speed, occupied the ground in all the circles, inimical to the Word of God, and especially among our naturalists, is a convincing proof, how much we need unity Of view.
How, now, can we prove that love for science in that higher sence, which aims at unity in our cognizance of the entire cosmos, is effectually secured by means of our Calvinistic belief in God’s fore-ordination? If you want to understand this you have to go back from predestination to God’s decree in general. This is not a matter of choice; on the contrary, it must be done. Belief in predestination is nothing but the penetration of God’s decree into your own personal life; or, if you prefer it, the personal heroism to apply the sovereignty of God’s decreeing will to your own existence. It means that we are not satisfied with a mere profession of words, but that we are willing to stand by our confession, in regard both to this life and the life to come. It is a proof of honesty, unmovable firmness and solidity in our expressions concerning the unity of God’s Will, and the certainty of His operations. It is a deed of high courage, because it brings you under the suspicion of high-mindedness. But if you now proceed to the decree of God, what else does God’s, fore-ordination mean, than the certainty that the existence and course of all things, i.e. of the entire cosmos, instead of being a plaything of caprice and chance, obeys law and order, and that there exists a firm will which carries out its designs both in nature and in history. Now do you not agree with me, that this forces upon our mind the indissoluble conception of one all-comprehensive unity, and the acceptance of one principle by which everything is governed. It forces upon us the recognition of something that is general, hidden and yet expressed in that which is special. Yea, it forces upon us the confession, that there must be stability and regularity ruling over everything. Thus you recognize that the cosmos, instead of being a heap of stones, loosely thrown together, on the contrary presents to our mind a monumental building erected in a severely consistent style. Do you abandon this point of view, then it is uncertain at any moment, what is to happen, what course things may take, what every morning and evening may have in store for you, your family, your country, the world at large. Man’s capricious will is then the principal concern. Every man may then choose and act every moment in a certain way, but it is also possible that he may do just the reverse. If this were so, you could count upon nothing. There is no interconnection, no development, no continuity; a chronicle, but no history. And now tell me, what becomes of science under such conditions? You may yet speak of the study of nature, but the study of human life has been made ambiguous and uncertain. Nothing but bare facts may then be historically ascertained, interconnection and plan have no longer a place in history. History dies away.
I do not for a moment propose to enter just now into a discussion about man’s free will. We have no time for it. But it is a fact that the more thorough development of science in our age has almost unanimously decided in favor of Calvinism with regard to the antithesis between the unity and stability of God’s decree, which Calvinism professes, and the superficiality and looseness, which the Arminians preferred. The systems of the great modern philosophers are, almost to one, in favor of unity and stability. Buckle’s History of the Civilization in England has succeeded in proving the firm order of things in human life with astonishing, almost mathematical demonstrative force. Lombroso, and his entire school of criminalists, place themselves on record in this respect as moving on Calvinistic lines. And the latest hypothesis, that the laws of heredity and variation, which control the whole organization of nature, admit of no exception in the domain of human life, has already been accepted as “the common creed” by all evolutionists. Though I abstain at present from any criticism either of these philosophical systems or of these naturalistic hypotheses, so much at least is very clearly demonstrated by them, that the entire development of science in our age presupposes a cosmos, which does not fall a prey to the freaks of chance, but exists and develops from one principle, according to a firm order, aiming at one fixed plan. This is a claim, which is, as it clearly appears, diametrically opposed to Arminianism, and in complete harmony with Calvinistic belief, that there is one Supreme will in God, the cause of all existing things, subjecting them to fixed ordinances and directing them towards a preestablished plan. Calvinists have never thought that the idea of the cosmos lay in God’s foreordination as an aggregate of loosely conjoined decrees, but they have always maintained, that the whole formed one organic programme of the entire creation and the entire history. And as a Calvinist looks upon God’s decree as the foundation and origin of the natural laws, in the same manner also he finds in it the firm foundation and the origin of every moral and spiritual law; both these, the natural as well as the spiritual laws, forming together one high order, which exists according to God’s command, and wherein God’s counsel will be accomplished in the consummation of His eternal, all-embracing plan.
Faith in such an unity, stability and order of thing, personally, as predestination, cosmically, as the counsel of God’s decree, could not but awaken as with a loud voice, and vigorously foster love for science. Without a deep conviction of this unity this stability and this order, science is unable to go beyond mere conjectures, and only when there is faith in the organic interconnexion of the Universe, will there be also a possibility for science to ascend from the empirical investigation of the special phenomena to the general, and from the general to the law which rules over it, and from that law to the principle, which is dominant over all. The data, which are absolutely indispensable for all higher science, are at hand only under this supposition. Remember the fact, that in those days, when Calvinism cleared for itself a path in life, tottering semi-pelagianism had blunted this conviction of unity, stability and order, to such an extent that even Thomas Aquinas lost a great deal of his influence, while Scotists, mystics and Epicureans vied with one another in their endeavors to deprive the human mind of its steady course. And who is there who does not perceive, what entirely new impulse to undertake scientific investigations had to grow out of the new-born Calvinism, which with one powerful grasp brought order out of chaos, putting under discipline so dangerous a spiritual licentiousness, making an end to that halting between two or more opinions, and showing us instead of rising and falling mists, the picture of a powerfully-rushing mountain stream, taking its course through a well regulated bed towards an ocean which waits to receive it. Calvinism has gone through many fierce struggles on account of its clinging to the counsel of God’s decree. Again and again it seemed to be near the brink of destruction. Calvinism has been reviled and slandered on account of it, and when it refused to exclude even our sinful actions from God’s plan, because without it the programme of the order of the world would again be rent to pieces, our opponents did not shrink from accusing us of making God the author of sin. They knew not what they did. Through evil report and good report Calvinism has firmly maintained its confession. It has not allowed itself to be deprived by scoff and scorn of the firm conviction, that our entire life must be under the sway of unity, solidity and order, established by God himself. This accounts for its need of unity of insight, firmness of knowledge, order in its world-view, fostered among us, even in the wide circles of the common people, and this manifest need is the reason, that a thirst for knowledge was quickened, which in those days was nowhere satisfied in a more abundant measure than in Calvinistic countries. This explains why it is, that in the writings of those days you meet with such a determination, such an energy of thought, such a comprehensive view of life. I even venture to say, that in the memoirs of noble women of that century, and in the correspondence of the unlettered, an unity of world-view and life-view is manifest, which impressed a scientific stamp on their whole existence. Intimately connected with this is also the fact that they never favoured the so-called primacy of the will. They demanded, in their practical life, the bridle of a clear consciousness, and in this consciousness the leadership could not be entrusted to humour or whim, to fancy or chance, but only to the majesty of the highest principle, wherein they found the explanation of their existence and to which their whole life was consecrated.
I now leave my first point, that Calvinism fostered love for science, in order to proceed to the second, that Calvinism restored to science its domain. I mean to say that cosmical science originated in the Graeco-Roman world; that in the middle ages the cosmos vanished behind the horizon to draw the attention of all to the distant sights of future life, and that it was Calvinism which, without losing sight of the spiritual, led to a rehabilitation of the cosmic sciences. If we were forced to choose between the beautiful cosmic taste of Greece with its blindness for things eternal, and the middle ages with their blindness for cosmical things, but with their mystic love for Christ, then certainly every child of God on his death-bed would tender the palm to Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas rather than to Heraclitus and Aristotle. The pilgrim, who wanders through the world without concerning himself about its preservation and destiny, presents to us a more ideal figure than the Greek worldling, who sought religion in the worship of Venus, or Bacchus, and who flattered himself in hero-worship, debased his honour as a man in the veneration of prostitutes, and at last sank lower than the brutes in pederasty. Let it be quite understood therefore that I do not in any way over-rate the classical world, to the detraction of the heavenly lustre which sparkled through all the haze of the middle ages. But notwithstanding all this I assert and maintain, that the one Aristotle knew more of the cosmos than all the church-fathers, taken together; that under the dominion of Islâm, better cosmic science flourished than in the cathedral- and monastic-schools of Europe; that the recovery of the writings of Aristotle was the first incentive to renewed, though rather deficient cosmic study; and that Calvinism alone, by means of its dominating principle, which constantly urges us to go back from the Cross to Creation, and no less by means of its doctrine of common grace, threw open again to science the vast field of the cosmos, now illumined by the Sun of Righteousness, of Whom the Scriptures testify, that in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Let us pause then to consider first that general principle of Calvinism and afterwards the dogma of “common grace”.
All agree that the Christian religion is substantially soteriological. “What must I do to be saved?” remains throughout all the ages the question of the anxious inquirer, to which above all else an answer must be given. This question is unintelligble for those who refuse to view time in the light of eternity, and who are accustomed to think of this earth without organic and moral connection with the life to come. But of course, wherever two elements appear, as in this case the sinner and the saint, the temporal and the eternal, the terrestrial and the heavenly life, there is always danger of losing sight of their interconnection and of falsifying both by error or one-sidedness. Christendom, it must be confessed, did not escape this error. A dualistic conception of regeneration was the cause of the rupture between the life of nature and the life of grace. It has, on account of its too intense contemplation of celestial things, neglected to give due attention to the world of God’s creation. It has, on account of its exclusive love of things eternal, been backward in the fulfilment of its temporal duties. It has neglected the care of the body, because it cared too exclusively for the soul. And this one-sided, inharmonious conception in the course of time has led more than one sect to a mystic worshipping of Christ alone, to the exclusion of God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Christ was conceived exclusively as the Saviour, and His cosmological significance was lost out of sight.
This dualism, however, is by no means countenanced by the Holy Scriptures. When John is describing the Saviour, he first tells us that Christ is the “eternal Word, by Whom all things are made, and Who is the life of men.” Paul also testifies that all things were created by Christ and consist by Him;” and further, that the object of the work of redemption is not limited to the salvation of individual sinners, but extends itself to the redemption of the world, and to the organic reunion of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ as their original head. Christ himself does not speak only of the regeneration of the earth, but also of a regeneration of the cosmos (Matth. 19:28). Paul declares: “The whole creation groaneth waiting for the bursting forth of the glory of the children of God.” And when John on Patmos listened to the hymns of the Cherubim and the Redeemed, all honour, praise and thanks were given to God, “Who has created the heaven and the earth.” The Apocalypse returns to the startingpoint of Gen. 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In keeping with this, the final outcome of the future, foreshadowed in the H. Scriptures, is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all under the renewed heaven on the renewed earth. Now this wide, comprehensive, cosmical meaning of the gospel has been apprehended again by Calvin, apprehended not as a result of a dialectic process, but of the deep impression of God’s majesty, which had moulded his personal life.
Certainly our salvation is of substantial weight, but it cannot be compared with the much greater weight of the glory of our God, Who has revealed His majesty in His wondrous creation. This creation is His handiwork, and being marred by sin, the way was opened, it is true for a still more glorious revelation in its restoration, yet restoration is and ever will be the salvation of that which was first created, the theodicy of the original handiwork of our God. The mediatorship of Christ is and ever will be the burden of the grand hymn of the tongues of men and the voices of angels, but even this mediatorship has for its final end the glory of the Father; and however grand the splendour of Christ’s kingdom may be, He will at last surrender it to God and the Father. He is still our Advocate with the Father, but the hour is coming, when His prayer for us will cease, because we shall know, in that day, that the Father loves us. Thereby of course Calvinism puts an end once and for all to contempt for the world, neglect of temporal and under-valuation of cosmical things. Cosmical life has regained its worth not at the expense of things eternal, but by virtue of its capacity as God’s handiwork and as a revelation of God’s attributes.
Two facts may suffice to impres you with the truth of this. During the terrible plague, which once devastated Milan, Cardinal Borromeo’s heroic love shone brightly in the courage he manifested in his ministrations to the dying; but during the plague, which in the 16th century tormented Geneva, Calvin acted better and more wisely, for he not only cared incessantly for the spiritual needs of the sick, but at the same time introduced hitherto unsurpassed hygienic measures, whereby the ravages of the plague were arrested. The second fact, to which I draw your attention, is not less remarkable. The Calvinistic preacher Peter Plancius of Amsterdam was an enloquent sermonizer, a pastor unrivalled in his consecration to his work, foremost in the ecclesiastical struggle of his days, but at the same time he was the oracle of shipowners and sea-captains on account of his extensive geographical knowledge. The investigation of the lines of longitude and latitude of the terrestrial globe formed in his estimation one whole with the investigation of the length and breadth of the love of Christ. He saw himself placed before two works of God, the one in creation, the other in Christ, and in both he adored that majesty of Almighty God, which transported his soul into ecstacy. In this light it is deserving of notice that our best Calvinistic Confessions speak of two means, whereby we know God, viz. the Scriptures and Nature. And still more remarkable it is, that Calvin, instead of simply treating Nature as an accessorial item, as so many Theologians were inclined to do, was accustomed to compare the Scriptures to a pair of spectacles, enabling us to decipher again the divine Thoughts, written by God’s Hand in the book of Nature, which had become obliterated in consequence of the curse. Thus vanished every dread possibility, that he who occupied himself with nature, were wasting his capacities in pursuit of vain and idle things. It was perceived, on the contrary, that for God’s sake, our attention may not be withdrawn from the life of nature and creation; the study of the body regained its place of honour beside the study of the soul; and the social organization of mankind on earth was again looked upon as being as well worthy an object of human science as the congregation of the perfect saints in heaven. This also explains the close relation existing between Calvinism and Humanism. In as far as Humanism endeavored to substitute life in this world for the eternal, every Calvinist opposed the Humanist. But in as much as the Humanist contented himself with a plea for a proper acknowledgment of secular life, the Calvinist was his ally.
Now I proceed to consider the dogma of “common grace”, that natural outcome of the general principle, just presented to you, but in its special application to Sin, understood as corruption of our nature. Sin places before us a riddle, which in itself is insoluble. If you view sin as a deadly poison, as enmity against God, as leading to everlasting condemnation, and if you represent a sinner as being “wholly incapable of doing any good, and prone to all evil,” and on this account salvable only, if God by regeneration changes his heart, then it seems as if of necessity all unbelievers and un-regenerate persons ought to be wicked and repulsive men. But this is far from being our experience in actual life. On the contrary the unbelieving world excels in many things. Precious treasures have come down to us from the old heathen civilization. In Plato you find pages which you devour. Cicero fascinates you and bears you along by his noble tone and stirs up in you holy sentiments. And if you consider your own surroundings, that which is reported to you, and that which you derive from the studies and literary productions of professed infidels, how much there is which attracts you, with which you sympathize and which you admire. It is not exclusively the spark of genius or the splendor of talent, which excites your pleasure in the words and actions of unbelievers, but it is often their beauty of character, their zeal, their devotion, their love, their candor, their faithfulness and their sense of honesty. Yea, we may not pass it over in silence, not unfrequently you entertain the desire, that certain believers might have more of this attractiveness, and who among us has not himself been put to the blush occasionally by being confronted with what is called the “virtues of the heathen”?
It is thus a fact, that your dogma of total depravity by sin does not always tally with your experience in life. Yet, if you now run to the opposite direction and proceed from these experimental facts, you must not forget, that your entire Christian confession falls to the ground, for then you look upon human nature as good and incorrupt; the criminal villains have to be pitied as ethically-insane; regeneration is entirely superfluous in order to live honourably; and your imagination of higher grace seems to be nothing else than playing with a medicine, which often proves entirely ineffectual. True, some people save themselves from this awkward position by speaking of the virtues of unbelievers as “splendid vices”, and, on the other hand, by charging the sins of believers to old Adam, yet you feel, yourselves, that this is a subterfuge, which lacks earnestness.
Rome tried to find a better way of escape in the well known doctrine of the pura naturalia. Romanists taught that there existed two spheres of life, the earthly or the merely human here below, and the heavenly, higher than the human as such; the latter offering celestial enjoyments in the vision of God. Now, Adam according to this theory, was well prepared by God for both spheres, for the common sphere of life by the nature He gave him, and for the extra-common by granting him the supranatural gift of original righteousness. In this wise Adam was doubly furnished for the natural as well as the celestial life. By the fall he lost the latter, not the former. His natural equipment for his earthly life remained almost unimpaired. It is true, human nature was weakened, but as a whole it remained in its integrity. Adam’s natural endowments remained his possession after the fall. This explains to them why it is that fallen man often excels in the natural order of life, which is in fact merely human. You perceive that this is a system which tries to reconcile the dogma of the fall with the real state of things round about us, and on this remarkable anthropology is founded the entire Roman catholic religion. Two things only are faulty in this system, on the one hand it lacks the deep Scriptural conception of sin, and on the other it errs by the undervaluation of human nature to which it leads. This is the false dualism, to which a previous Lecture pointed, in the carnival. At that time the world is once more fully enjoyed, before one enters upon the Caro vale, but after the Carnival, in order to save the ideal, follows, for a short time, spiritual elevation into the higher sphere of life. For this reason the clergy, severing the earthly tie in celibacy, rank higher than the laity, and again, the monk, who turns away from earthly possessions also and sacrifices his own will, stands, ethically considered, on a higher level than the clergy. And finally the highest perfection is reached by the stylite, who, mounting his pillar, severs himself from everything earthly, or by the yet more silent penitent who causes himself to be immured in his subterranean cave. Horizontally, if I may use this expression, the same thought finds embodiment in the separation between sacred and secular ground. Everything uncountenanced and uncared for by the church, is looked upon as being of a lower character, and exorcism in baptism tells us, that these lower things are really meant to be unholy. Now, it is evident that such a standpoint did not invite Christians to make a study of earthly things. Nothing but a study appertaining to the sphere of heavenly things and contemplation could attract those who under such a banner had mounted guard over the sanctuary of the ideal.
This conception of the moral condition of fallen man has been opposed in principle by Calvinism, on the one hand by taking our conception of sin in the most absolute sense, and on the other by explaining that which is good in fallen man by the dogma of common grace. Sin, according to Calvinism, which is in full accord with the Holy Scriptures, sin unbridled and unfettered, left to itself, would forthwith have led to a total degeneracy of human life, as may be inferred from what was seen in the days before the flood. But God arrested sin in its course in order to prevent the complete annihilation of his divine handiwork, which naturally would have followed. He has interfered in the life of the individual, in the life of mankind as a whole, and in the life of nature itself by His common grace. This grace, however does not kill the core of sin, nor does it save unto life eternal, but it arrests the complete effectuation of sin, just as human insight arrests the fury of wild beasts. Man can prevent the beast from doing damage 1°. by putting it behind bars; 2°. he can subject it to his will by taming it; and 3°. he can make it attractive by domesticating it, e. g., by transforming the originally wild dog and cat into domestic animals. In a similar manner God by His “common grace” restrains the operation of sin in man, partly by breaking its power, partly by taming his evil spirit, and partly by domesticating his nation or his family. Common grace has thus led to the result that an ungenerated sinner may captivate and attract us by much that is lovely and full of energy, just as our domestic animals do, but this of course after the manner of man. The nature of sin, however, remains as venomous as it was. This is seen in the cat, which, brought back to the woods, returns to its former wild state after two generations, and a similar experience has been made with regard to human nature, just now, in Armenia and Cuba. He who reads an account of the massacres of St. Bartholemew is easily inclined to place these horrors to the account of the low state of culture in those days, but behold! our nineteenth century has surpassed these horrors by the massacres in Armenia. And he who has read a description of the cruelties committed by the Spaniards in the 16th century in the villages and cities of the Netherlands against defenceless old men, women and children, and then heard the news of what occurred now in Cuba, cannot help acknowledging that, what was a disgrace in the 16th, has been repeated in the 19th century. Where evil does not come to the surface, or does not manifest itself in all its hideousness, we do not owe it to the fact that our nature is not so deeply corrupt, but to God alone, Who by His “common grace”, hinders the bursting forth of the flames from the smoking fire. And if you ask, how it is possible, that in such a way out of restrained evil something may come forth which attracts, pleases and interests you, take then as an illustration the ferry-boat. This boat is put in motion by the current, which would carry it swiftly as an arrow down stream and ruin it; but by means of the chain, to which it is fastened, the boat arrives safely on the opposite side, pressed forward by the same power, which would otherwise have demolished it. In this wise God restrains the evil; and it is He who brings forth good out of evil, and meanwhile we Calvinists, never remiss in accusing our sinful nature, yet praise and thank God for making it possible for men to dwell together in a well-ordered society, and for restraining us personally from horrible sins. Moreover we thank Him for bringing to light all the talents, hidden in our race, developing, by means of a regular process, the history of mankind, and securing by the same grace, for his church on earth, a place for the sole of her foot.
This confession, however, places the Christian in a quite different position over against life. For then, in his judgment, not only the church, but also the world belongs to God and in both has to be investigated the masterpiece of the supreme Architect and Artificer.
A Calvinist who seeks God, does not for a moment think of limiting himself to theology and contemplation, leaving the other sciences, as of a lower character, in the hands of unbelievers; but on the contrary, looking upon it as his task, to know God in all his works, he is conscious of having been called to fathom with all the energy of his intellect, things terrestrial as well as things celestial; to open to view both the order of creation, and the “common grace” of the God he adores, in nature and its wondrous character, in the production of human industry, in the life of mankind, in sociology and in the history of the human race. Thus you perceive, how this dogma of “common grace” suddenly removed the interdict, under which secular life had lain bound, even at the peril of coming very near a reaction in favour of a one-sided love for these secular studies.
It was now understood, that it was the “common grace” of God, which had produced in ancient Greece and Rome the treasures of philosophic light, and disclosed to us treasures of art and justice, which kindled the love for classical studies, in order to renew to us the profit of so splendid an heritage. It was now clearly seen, that the history of mankind is not so much an aphoristic spectacle of cruel passions, as a coherent process with the Cross as its centre; a process in which every nation has its special task, and the knowledge of which may be a fountain of blessing for every people. It was apprehended, that the science of politics and national economy deserved the careful attention of scholars and men of thought. Yea, it was intuitively conceived, that there was nothing either in the life of nature round about us, or in human life itself, which did not present itself as an object worthy of investigation, which might throw new light on the glories of the entire cosmos in its visible phenomena and its invisible operations. And if on a different standpoint, progress in thorough scientific knowledge on these lines often led to pride and estranges the heart from God, we owe it to this glorious dogma of common grace that in Calvinistic circles the most profound investigator never ceased to acknowledge himself a guilty sinner before God, and to ascribe to God’s mercy alone, his splendid understanding of the things of the world.
Having proved that Calvinism has fostered love for science and restored to science its domain, allow me now in the third place to show in what manner it has advanced its indispensable liberty. Liberty is for genuine science, what the air we breathe is for us. This does not mean that science is entirely untrammeled in the use of its liberty and need obey no laws. On the contrary, a fish lying on dry land is perfectly free, viz., to die and to perish, while a fish, which really shall be free to live and to thrive must be entirely surrounded by water and guided by its fins. In the same manner every science has to keep up the closest connection with its subject, and strictly to obey the claims of its proper method; and only when strictly bound by this double tie, can science move freely on. For the liberty of science does not consist in licentiousness or lawlessness, but in its being freed from all unnatural bonds, unnatural because they are not rooted in its vital principle. Now in order fully to understand the position Calvin took, we should abstain from any wrong conception of university-life in the middle ages. State universities were not known in those days. The universities were free corporations, and in so far prototypes of most of the universities in America. It was the general opinion in those days, that science called into existence a respublica litterarum, “a commonwealth of learned men”, which has to live upon its own spiritual capital or to die of lack of talent and energy. The encroachment upon the liberty of science in those days came not from the State but from an entirely different quarter. For ages two dominant powers, only, had been known in the life of mankind, the Church and the State. The dichotomy of body and soul was reflected in this view of life. The Church was the soul, the State the body; a third power was unknown. Church-life was centralized in the Pope, while the political life of the nations found its point of union in the Emperor, and it was the endeavor to resolve this dualism into a higher unity, that kindled the flames of the fierce struggle for the supremacy of the imperial crown or the papal tiara, as seen in the conflict between the Hohenstaufen and the Guelphs. Since then, however, science as a third power, thanks to the Renaissance, had pushed itself in between them. Before the thirteenth century elapsed Science had found in the rising university-life an embodiment of its own, and claimed an existence independent of pope and emperor.
The only remaining question was, whether this new power also was to create an hierarchical centre, in order to unveil itself as the third great potentate, at the side of the pope and the emperor.
On the contrary the republican character of the university demanded the exclusion of all monarchical aspirations. But it was just as natural for Pope and Caesar, who had partitioned among themselves the entire domain of life, to watch with suspicion the growth of a third, entirely independent power, and to try everything in order to subject the universities to their rule. If all the then existing universities had taken a firm stand such a plan would never have succeeded. But as is often the case among free corporations, competition allured the weaker to seek support from without and so they turned for help to the Vatican. This compelled the stronger Universities to follow, and rather soon the favour of the Pope was universally coveted, in order to secure special privileges. Herein is found the fundamental evil. In this wise Science surrendered its independent character. It was overlooked, that the intellectual reception into, and the reflection from, our consciousness, of the cosmos wherein all science consists, forms a sphere entirely different from the Church. Now this evil has been checked by the Reformation, and mastered especially by Calvinism. Formally mastered, because in the Church itself the monarchical hierarchy being abandoned, and under the monarchical authority of Christ a republican and federal organisation having been introduced, a spiritual Church-head, whose task it would be, to rule over universities, no longer existed for our Calvinists. For Lutherans such a visible head was at hand in the ruler of the land, whom they honoured as “first Bishop”, but nor for Calvinistic nations, which kept Church and State separate as two different spheres of life. A doctor’s diploma, in their system, might not derive its significance from public opinion, neither from papal consent, nor from an ecclesiastical ordinance, but solely from the scientific character of the institution.
To this must be added a second point. Without regarding the Papal auspices over the University as such, the Church exercised pressure upon Science by harassing, accusing and persecuting the innovators on account of their expressed opinions and published writings. Rome did oppose, not only in the church, what was right, but also beyond its boundaries, the freedom of the word. Truth alone, not error, had the right to propagate itself in society and truth was expected to keep its ground, not by conquering error in honest conflict, but by arraigning it at the bar of justice. This impaired the liberty of Science, because it submitted scientific questions, which could not be settled by ecclesiastical jurisdiction, to the judgment of the civil Court. He who shrunk from conflicts, kept silence or submitted to circumstances; and he, who being of more heroic mettle defied opposition, was punished by having his wings clipped; and if he nevertheless tried to fly with clipped wings, had his neck wrung. He who published a book, betraying too bold opinions, was considered a criminal, and came at last in contact with the Inquisition and the scaffold. The right of free inquiry was unknown. Firmly believing, that everything knowable and worthy of being known, was known already, and known firmly and well, the Church in those days had no idea of the immense task, reserved for science, just awaking from its mediaeval slumber, nor of the “struggle for life,” which was to be the indispensable rule in the execution of its task. The Church was unable to hail, in the dawn of science, a rosy morn, heralding to the horizon the rising of a new sun, but saw in its glittering rather the smouldering sparks, which threatened to set the world on fire; and therefore she considered herself justified and in duty bound to quench this fire and to extinguish these flames wherever an outbreak occurred. This position, when we place ourselves back in those times, we can understand, but not without firmly condemning its underlying principle, for it would have smothered nascent science in its very cradle, if all the world had persisted in favouring it. Glory, therefore, to Calvinism, which first of all abandoned this pernicious position with effectual results; theoretically by its discovery of the sphere of common grace, and, before long, practically, by offering a safe harbour to all who were caught in a storm elsewhere. It is true, Calvinism, as always happens in such cases, did by no means immediately understand the full bearing of its opposition, for it began by leaving the duty to extirpate error, untouched in its own code, and yet the invincible idea, which was bound to lead and in the course of time has led to freedom of the word found its absolute expression in the principle, that the Church has to retire to the domain of particular grace, and that exempted from her rule lies the wide and free domain of “common grace”. The result of this was that the penalties of criminal law were gradually reduced to a dead letter, and that, to instance only one case, Des Cartes, who had to leave Roman Catholic France, found among the Calvinists of the Netherlands, of course a scientific antagonist in Voetius, but in the republic a safe retreat.
To this I must add that in order to cause science to flourish a demand for science had to be created, and to that end the public mind had to be made free. As long, however, as the Church stretched out her velum over the entire drama of public life, the state of bondage naturally continued, because the only object of life was to merit heaven and to enjoy as much of the world as the Church considered to be consistent with this main end. From this point of view it was unimaginable, that any one should be willing to devote himself with sympathy and with the investigators love to the study of our earthly existence. The seeking love of all was directed towards eternal life, and it could not be realized that Christianity, besides its yearning for eternal salvation, has to perform on earth, by divine commission, a grand task with regard to the cosmos. This new conception was first introduced by Calvinism when it cut at the root in the most absolute sense of every idea, that life on earth were ever destined to merit the blessedness of heaven. This blessedness, for every true Calvinist, grows out of regeneration, and is sealed by the perseverance of the saints. Where in this manner the “certainty of faith” supplanted the traffic of indulgences, Calvinism called Christendom back to the order of creation: “Replenish the earth, subdue it and have dominion over everything that lives upon it.” Christian life as a pilgrimage was not changed, but the Calvinist became a pilgrim, who, while on his way to our eternal home, had yet to perform on earth an important task. The cosmos, in all the wealth of the kingdom of nature, was spread out before, under, and above man. This entire limitless field had to be worked. To this labour the Calvinist consecrated himself with enthusiasm and energy. For the earth with all that is in it, had, according to God’s Will, to be subjected to man. Thus flourished, in those days, in my native country, agriculture and industry, commerce and navigation as never before. This new-born national life awakened new needs. In order to subdue the earth, a knowledge of the earth was indispensable, knowledge of its oceans, of its nature, and of the attributes and laws of this nature. And so it came to pass that the people itself, who had until now refrained from encouraging science, by a new and sparkling energy, suddenly called it into action, spurring it on to a sense of liberty, hitherto entirely unknown.
And now I approach my last point, viz., the assertion, that the emancipation of Science must inevitably lead to a sharp conflict of principles, and that, for this conflict, also, Calvinism alone offered the ready solution. You understand, which conflict I have in view. Free investigation leads to collisions. One draws the lines on the map of life differently from his neighbour. The result is the origin of schools and tendencies. Optimists and pessimists. A school of Kant, and a school of Hegel. Among jurists the determinists oppose the moralists. Among medical men the homoeopaths oppose the allopaths. Plutonists and Neptunists, Darwinists and anti-Darwinists compete with one another in the natural sciences. Wilhelm van Humboldt, Jacob Grimm and Max Mueller form different schools in the domain of Linguistics. Formalists and Realists pick quarrels with one another within the classical walls of the philological temple. Everywhere contention, conflict, struggle, sometimes vehement and keen, not seldom mixed with personal asperity. And yet, although the energy of the difference of principle lies at the root of all these disputes, these subordinate conflicts are entirely put in the shade by the principal conflict, which in all countries perplexes the mind most vehemently, the powerful conflict between those who cling to the confession of the Triune God and His Word, and those who seek the solution of the world-problem in Deism, Pantheism and Naturalism.
Notice, that I do not speak of a conflict between faith and science. Such a conflict does not exist. Every science in a certain degree starts from faith, and, on the contrary, faith, which does not lead to science, is mistaken faith or superstition, but real, genuine faith it is not. Every science presupposes faith in self, in our self-consciousness; presupposes faith in the accurate working of our sences; presupposes faith in the correctness of the laws of thought; presupposes faith in something universal hidden behind the special phenomena; presupposes faith in life; and especially presupposes faith in the principles, from which we proceed; which signifies, that all these indispensable axioms, needed in a productive scientific investigation, do not come to us by proof, but are established in our judgment by our inner conception and given with our self-consciousness. On the other hand every kind of faith has in itself an impulse to speak out. In order to do this it needs words, terms, expressions. These words must be the embodiment of thoughts. Those thoughts must be connected reciprocally not only with themselves but also with our surroundings, with time and eternity, and as soon as faith thus beams forth in our consciousness, the need of science and demonstration is born. Hence it follows, that the conflict is, not between faith and science, but between the assertion, that the cosmos, as it exists to-day is either in a normal or abnormal condition. If it is normal, then it moves by means of an eternal evolution from its potencies to its ideal. But if the cosmos in its present condition is abnormal, then a disturbance has taken place in the past, and only a regenerating power can warrant it the final attainment of its goal. This, and no other is the principal antithesis, which separates the thinking minds in the domain of Science into two opposite battle-arrays.
The Normalists refuse to reckon with other than natural data, do not rest until they have found an identical interpretation of all phenomena, and oppose with the utmost vigour, at every turn of the line, all attempts to break or to check the logical inferences of cause and effect. Therefore, they also honour faith in a formal sense but only as far as it remains in harmony with the general data of the human consciousness and this be considered as normal, Materially however they reject the very idea of creation, and can only accept evolution,—an evolution without a point of departure in the past, and eternally evolving itself in the future, until lost in the boundless infinite. No species, not even the species Homo sapiens, originated as such, but within the circle of natural data developed out of lower and preceding forms of life. Especially no miracles, but instead of them the natural law, dominating in an inexorable manner. No sin, but evolution from a lower to a higher moral position. If they tolerate the Holy Scriptures at all, they do it on condition that all those parts, which cannot be logically explained as a human production be exscinded. A Christ, it necessary, but such a one as is the product of the human development of Israel. And in the same manner a God, or rather a Supreme Being, but after the manner of the Agnostics, concealed behind the visible Universe, or pantheistically hiding in all existing things, and conceived of as the ideal reflection of the human mind.
The Abnormalists, on the other hand, who do justice to relative evolution, but adhere to primordial creation over against an evolutio in infinitim, oppose the position of the Normalists with all their might; they maintain inexorably the conception of man as an independent species, because in him alone is reflected the image of God; they conceive of sin as the destruction of our original nature, and consequently as rebellion against God; and for that reason they postulate and maintain the miraculous as the only means to restore the abnormal; the miracle of regeneration; the miracle of the Scriptures; the miracle in the Christ, descending as God with his own life into ours; and thus, owing to this regeneration of the abnormal, they continue to find the ideal norm not in the natural but in the Triune God.
Not faith and science therefore, but two scientific systems or if you choose, two scientific elaborations, are opposed to each other, each having its own faith. Nor may it be said that it is here science which opposes theology, for we have to do with two absolute forms of science, both of which claim the whole domain of human knowledge, and both of which have a suggestion about the supreme Being of their own as the point of departure for their world-view. Pantheism as well as Deism is a system about God, and without reserve the entire modern theology finds its home in the science of the Normalists. And finally these two scientific systems of the Normalists and the Abnormalists are not relative opponents, walking together half way, and, further on, peaceably suffering one another to choose different paths, but they are both in earnest, disputing with one another the whole domain of life, and they cannot desist from the constant endeavor to pull down to the ground the entire edifice of their respective controverted assertions, all the supports included, upon which their assertions rest. If they did not try this, they would thereby show on both sides, that they did not honestly believe in their point of departure, that they were no serious combatants, and that they did not understand the primordial demand of science, which of course claims unity of conception.
A Normalist, who retains in his system the slightest possibility of creation, of a specific image of God in man, of sin as a fall, of Christ in so far as he transcends the human, of regeneration, as different from evolution, of the Scriptures, as bringing us real oracles of God,—is an amphibious scholar and forfeits the name of scientist. But on the other side, he, who, as Abnormalist, transforms creation to a certain extent into evolution; who does not see in the animal a protoplastic creature, made in the image of man, but man’s origin; who surrenders the creation of man in original righteousness; and who moreover tries every way, to explain Regeneration, Christ, and the Scriptures as the result of merely human causes, instead of clinging with all the energy of his soul to the Divine cause, as dominating in all this over all human data, must as decidedly be banished from our ranks as an amphibious and unscientific man. The normal and the abnormal are two absolutely differing startingpoints, which have nothing in common in their origin. Parallel lines never intersect. You have to choose either the one or the other. But whatever you may choose, whatever you are as a scientific man, you have to be it consistently, not only in the faculty of theology, but in all faculties; in your entire world- and life-view; in the full reflection of the whole world-picture from the mirror of your human consciousness.
Chronologically, it is true, we Abnormalists, for many ages in succession, have been the speakers, hardly ever having been challenged, while our opponents had scarcely no opportunity to dispute our principles. With the decay of the old heathen, and the rise of the Christian world-view, the general conviction soon took deep root among all students, that everything has been created by God, that the species of beings have been brought into existence by special creative acts, and that among these species of beings man has been created as image-bearer of God in original righteousness; further, that the original harmony has been broken by intervening sin; and that, in order to restore this abnormal state of affairs to its primitive condition, God introduced the abnormal means of Regeneration, of Christ as our Mediator and of the Holy Scriptures. There were of course through all ages even in large numbers, scoffers, who derided these facts, and indifferent people, who took no interest in them; but the very few, who during ten centuries scientifically opposed this universal conviction, you may count at once on your fingers’ end. The Renaissance doubtless favoured the rise of an infidel tendency, which was felt even in the Vatican, and Humanism created enthusiasm for Graeco-Roman ideals; but granted, that after the close of the middle ages, the opposition of the Normalists made a beginning, it yet remains a fact, that the large host of philologians, jurists, physicians and physicists, for centuries afterwards left untouched these foundations, on which the very old conviction rested. It was during the eighteenth century, that the opposition made a change of front by leaving the circumference and taking up a position at the center; and it was the newer philosophy which, for the first time, on a general scale, set out with the declaration, that the principles of the Christian world-view were utterly untenable. In this manner the Normalists first began to suspect, and then became conscious of their fundamental opposition. Every possible position, available in this reaction against the hitherto prevalent conviction, has been since that time by turn developed into a special philosophical system. These systems, divergent, if compared with each other, were however in perfect agreement in their denial of the abnormal. After these philosophical systems had secured the assent of the leading men, the several sciences followed, and were immediately solicitous to introduce the new hypothesis of an infinite normal process as the starting-point of their special investigations in the domains of jurisprudence, medicine, natural science and history.
Then for a moment surely, public opinion was stupefied with sudden fright, but since the mass of the people lacked personal faith, this superficial reluctance was only of short duration. Within a quarter of a century the life-view of the Normalists had conquered in a literal sense the world in its leading centre. And only he, who adhered to the abnormalist view by virtue of his personal faith, refused to join in the chorus of those, who sang the praises of “modern thought”, and at the first brunt, felt inclined to anathematize all science, retiring to the tent of mysticism. It is true, for a short time theologians tried to defend their cause apologetically, but this defense might be compared to a man who tries to adjust a crooked window-frame, while he is unconscious of the fact that the building itself is tottering on its foundations.
This is the reason, why the abler theologians, especially in Germany, imagined, that the best thing to do would be to avail themselves of one or the other of these philosophical systems as a prop to sustain Christianity. The first result of this compound of philosophy and theology was the so-called mediating theology, which gradually became poorer and poorer in its theological, richer and richer in its philosophical part, until at last modern theology lifted up its head and found its glory in the attempt, to cleanse theology of its abnormal character in such a thorough manner, that Christ was transformed into a man, born as we are born, who was not even entirely free of sin, and the Holy Scriptures into a collection of writings, for the most part pseudepigraphic and in every possible manner interpolated and filled with myths, legends and fables, The song of the Psalmist: “We see not our signs; they have set up their ensigns for signs”, has been literally fulfilled by them. Christ and the Scriptures included, every sign of the abnormal was rooted out, and the sign of the normal process embraced as the only genuine criterion of truth. In this result, I repeat what I have already stated, there is nothing to surprise us. He, who subjectively looks upon his inner being and objectively upon the world around him as normal, cannot but speak as he does, cannot reach a different result, and would be insincere in his position as a scientific man, if he were to represent things in a different light. And therefore from a moral point of view, not thinking for a moment of such a man’s responsibility in the judgment of God, nothing can be said against his personal stand-point, provided that, thinking as he does, he shows the courage, to voluntarily leave the Christian church in all its denominations.
If the character of the keen and unavoidable conflict is thus and not otherwise, behold then the unconquerable position which Calvinism points out to us in the strain and struggle, resulting from this conflict. It does not keep itself busy with useless apologetics; it does not turn the great battle into a skirmish about one of the outworks, but immediately goes back to human consciousness, from which every man of science has to proceed as his consciousness. This consciousness, just on account of the abnormal character of things, is not the same in all. If the normal condition of things had not been broken, consciousness would emit the same sound from all; but as a matter of fact, this is not the case. In the one the consciousness of sin is very powerful and strong, in the other it is either feeble or entirely wanting. In the one the certainty of faith speaks with decision and clearness as a result of regeneration, the other does not even understand what it is. So also in the one the Testimonium Spiritus Sancti resounds loudly and in tones firm and strong, while the other declares, that he has never yet heard its testimony. Now, these three, consciousness of sin, certainty of faith and the testimony of the Holy Spirit, are constituent elements in the consciousness of every Calvinist. They form its immediate contents. Without these three self-consciousness does not exist with him. This the Normalist disapproves, and, therefore, he tries to force his consciousness upon us, and claims, that our consciousness has to be identical with his own. From his point of view nothing else could be expected. For if he conceded that there might be a real difference between his consciousness and ours, he would thereby have admitted a break in the normal condition of things. We, on the contrary, do not claim, that our consciousness shall be found in him. It is true, Calvin maintains, that there is hidden in the heart of every man a “religious seed”,—semen religionis, and that the “God-feeling”,—sensus divinitatis, confessed or unconfessed, in moments of intense mental strain, causes the soul to tremble, but it is no less true, that it is just his system, which teaches that human consciousness in a man who believes and in a man who disbelieves, cannot agree, but that on the contrary disagreement is inevitable. He, who is not born again, cannot have a substantial knowledge of sin, and he, who is not converted, cannot possess certainty of faith; he who lacks the Testimonium Spiritus Sancti, cannot believe in the Holy Scriptures, and all this according to the thrilling saying of Christ himself: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”; and also according to the saying of the apostle: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God”. Calvin, however, does not excuse unbelievers on this account. The day will come, when they will be convinced in their own conscience. But with regard to the present condition of things we, of course, have to acknowledge two kinds of human consciousness: that of the regenerate and the unregenerate; and these two cannot be identical. In the one is found what is lacking in the other. The one is unconscious of a break and clings accordingly to the normal; the other has an experience both of a break and of a change, and thus possesses in his consciousness the knowledge of the abnormal. If, therefore, it be true that man’s own consciousness is his primumverum, and hence must be also the starting-point for every scientist, then the logical conclusion is, that it is an impossibility, that both should agree, and that every endeavor to make them agree must be doomed failure. Both, as honest men, will feel duty bound to erect such a scientific edifice for the whole cosmos, which is in harmony with the fundamental data, given in their own self-consciousness.
You perceive immediately how radical and fundamental this Calvinistic solution of the perplexing problem is; Science is not undervalued or pushed aside, but postulated for the cosmos as a whole and all its parts. The claim is maintained, that your science has to form a complete whole. And the difference between the science of the Normalists and Abnormalists is not founded upon any differing result of investigation, hut upon the undeniable difference, which distinguishes the self-consciousness of the one from that of the other. Free science is the stronghold we defend against the attack of her tyrannical twin-sister. The Normalist tries to do us violence even in our own consciousness. He tells us, that our self-consciousness must needs be uniform with his own, and that every thing else we imagine we find in ours, stands condemned as self-delusion. In other words, the Normalist wishes to wrest from us the very thing, which, in our self-consciousness, is the highest and holiest gift, for which a continual stream of gratitude wells up from our hearts to God. He calls a lie in our own souls that which is more precious and certain to us than our life. With royal pride our consciousness of faith, and the indignation of our heart rise up against all this. We resign ourselves to the fate of being slighted and oppressed in the world, but we refuse to be dictated to by any one in the sanctuary of our heart. We do not assail the liberty of the Normalist to build a well construed science from the premises of his own consciousness, but our right and liberty to do the same thing we are determined to defend, if needs be, at any cost.
The parts are now exchanged. Not so very long ago the principal positions of Abnormalism were looked upon as axioms for all sciences in almost all universities, and the few Normalists, who at that time opposed the principle of their antagonists, found it difficult to find a chair. First they were persecuted, then outlawed, after that at the most tolerated. But at present they are the masters of the situation. controll all influence, fill ninety per cent of all professorial chairs, and the result is, that the Abnormalist, who has been forced out of the official house, is now obliged to look for a place, where he may lay down his head. Formerly we showed them the door, and now this sinful assault upon their liberty is by God’s righteous judgment avenged by their turning us out into the street, and so it becomes the question, if the courage, the perseverance, the energy, which enabled them to win their suit at last, will be found now in a still higher degree, with Christian scholars. May God grant it! You cannot, nay, you even may not think of it, deprive him, whose consciousness differs from yours, of freedom of thought, of speech and of the press. That they, from their standpoint pull down everything that is holy in your estimation, is unavoidable. Instead of seeking relief for your scientific conscience in downhearted complaints, or in mystic feeling, or in un confessional work, the energy and the thoroughness of our antagonists must be felt by every Christian scholar as a sharp incentive himself also to go back to his own principles in his thinking, to renew all scientific investigation on the lines of these principles, and to glut the press with the burden of his cogent studies. If we console ourselves with the thought, that we may without danger leave secular science in the hands of our opponents, if we only succeed in saving theology, ours will be the tactics of the ostrich. To confine yourself to the saving of your upper room, when the rest of the house is on fire, is foolish indeed. Calvin long ago knew better, when he asked for a Philosophia Christiana, and after all every faculty, and in these faculties every single science, is more or less connected with the antithesis of principles, and should consequently be permeated by it. As little may you seek your safety in shutting your eyes to the actual conditions of things, wherein so many Christians imagine they find a safe shield. Everything astronomers or geologists, physicists or chemists, zoologists or bacteriologists, historians or archeologists bring to light has to be recorded,—detached of course from the hypothesis they have slipped behind it and from the conclusions they have drawn from it,—but every fact has to be recorded by you, also, as a fact, and as a fact that is to be incorporated as well in your science as in theirs.
In order however to make this possible, university-life has to be subjected again just as in the days when Calvinism began its splendid career, to a radical change. Of late university-life all over the world presumed, that science grew up only from one homogeneous human consciousness, and that nothing but learning and ability determined whether you might claim a professorial chair or not. No-one thought, like William the Silent when he founded the Leyden University over against that of Leuven, of two lines of universities, opposed to one another on account of radical difference of principle. Since however the world-wide conflict between the Normalists and Abnormalists broke out in full force, the need of a division of university-life began again to be felt more generally on both sides. The first in the field were, (I speak only of Europe), the unbelieving Normalists themselves, who founded the Université Libre of Brussels. Before this in the same Belgium the Roman Catholic university of Louvain, in virtue of old traditions, had been placed in opposition to the neutral-universities of Liege and Ghent. In Switzerland a university arose at Freiburg, renowned, although yet young, as an embodiment of the Roman Catholic principle. In Great Britain the same principle is followed in Dublin. In France, Roman Catholic faculties are pitted against the faculties of the State institutions. And also in the Netherlands Amsterdam saw the birth of the Free University, for the general cultivation of the sciences on the foundation of the Calvinistic principle.
If now, according to the demands of Calvinism, Church and State withdraw, I do not say their liberal gifts, but their high authority, from university-life, in order that the university may be allowed to take root and flourish in its own soil, then certainly the division, which is already begun, will be accomplished of itself and undisturbed, and in this domain also it will be seen, that only a peaceful separation of the adherents of antithetic principles warrants progress,—honest progress,—and mutual understanding. We here call upon History as our witness. First, the emperors of Rome tried to realize the false idea of one State, but the division of their universal monarchy into a multitude of independent nations was needed, to develop the hidden political powers of Europe. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe yielded to the enchantment of one world-Church, until the reformation dispelled this delusion, also, thus opening the way for a higher development of Christian life. Nowhere else is this as clearly seen as in the United States of America, where denominational multiformity gave a separate Church-embodiment to every differentation of principle. In the idea of one Science only, the old curse of uniformity is yet maintained. But of this also it may be prophesied, that the days of its artificial unity are numbered, that it will split up, and that in this domain also at least the Roman Catholic, the Calvinistic and the Evolutional principles will cause to spring up different spheres of scientific life, which will flourish in a multiformity of universities. We must have systems in science, coherence in instruction, unity in education. That is only really free, which, while it is strictly bound to its own principle, has the power to free itself from all unnatural bonds. The final result, therefore, will be, thanks to Calvinism, which has opened for us the way, that liberty of science will also triumph at last; first by guaranteeing full power to every leading lifesystem, to reap a scientific harvest from its own principle;—and secondly, by refusing the scientific name to whatsoever investigator date not unroll the colours of his own banner, and does not show emblazoned on his escutcheon in letters of gold the very principle, for which he lives, and from which his conclusions derive their power.
Back to Index