The Church The Schools and Evolution/Truth Must be Classified Scientifically

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The Church The Schools and Evolution by Judson Eber Conant
Truth Must be Classified Scientifically

I. Truth Must Be Classified Scientifically.

1. The Realms of Truth Must Be Classified.

The first thing the true scientist does is to classify truth into realms. This we have already done by classifying the realm in which God reveals His moral character to the hearts of all moral beings as the spiritual realm, and that in which He reveals His creative power to the minds of all intelligent beings as the natural realm.

If we do not distinguish these realms to start with, we invite confusion; and if we should reach right conclusions without this classification, it would be due to accident, rather than to scientific accuracy.

But that this classification is universally recognized is proved by the fact that the moment science reaches the line where the natural ends and the spiritual begins, it pursues its investigations no farther, on the ground that it has neither the implements nor the capacities with which to investigate in that realm. This proves as conclusively as anything could that the distinction between these two realms is so sharp, as well as so self-evident, that science is compelled to accept it and act accordingly.

2. The Faculties of Investigation Must be Distinguished.

The scientific man will next distinguish the faculties with which the investigating is to be done, according to the respective realms. That this classification is required by the fundamental difference in the nature of the truths in these two realms is so self-evident that it ought to be axiomatic to all who think with any degree of scientific accuracy. For in the nature of things, natural truth requires investigation by intellectual faculties, and spiritual truth by spiritual faculties. Indeed, this distinction is fully recognized when science halts its pursuit of truth at the boundary line of the spiritual realm.

Yet, although this classification is theoretically recognized by science, and although it is absolutely demanded if we are to proceed scientifically in our researches in the spiritual realm, it is little less than amazing how many there are who utterly fail to distinguish these faculties when they start out to investigate spiritual truth. Indeed, this is the first place where the Church and the Schools part company. For the whole attitude of our Schools today, including most of the institutions founded and fostered by the Church, seems to be one that entirely misses the scientific necessity of distinguishing between these essentially different faculties when working in these two utterly divergent realms of truth. And so it comes to pass that while the Church is using one sort of faculties, the Schools are using another kind on the same class of truth.

It needs scarcely to be argued that the intellect, with its capacity to reason, is the proper faculty of apprehension in the scientific realm. But it is equally true that the heart, with its capacity to believe, is the one faculty of apprehension in the spiritual realm. That is, the inquirer reasons his way to knowledge in the natural realm, and believes his way to knowledge in the spiritual realm. He uses his mind in order to understand what God has done in His creation, and he exercises faith in order to come into the knowledge of what He is in His character. In natural things he believes because he understands, and in spiritual things he understands because he believes. In drawing this contrast between mind and heart, however, it is fully recognized that the term "heart," in much if not all of Scripture, stands for the whole personality, including intellect, emotion and will. But it is also a fact that this term stands for that certain attitude of the whole personality toward God through His Word in which one believes and receives His Word without question, even though it may not be understood, rather than insisting on understanding it in order to believe it.

Paul says by inspiration in First Corinthians 1:17 to 2:16 that mental capacity, even of the highest excellence, when exercised by itself, is utterly incapable of apprehending spiritual truth in any degree whatever. And Christ says that it is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness. This defines that attitude of the whole personality which accepts the Word of God on faith without necessarily understanding it, and which gives evidence of acceptance by such a whole-hearted surrender to it as will eventuate in a life of righteousness.

Then in other Scriptures we find that a life of righteousness, according to the divine standard, is based on right relations with God in Christ through faith in His shed blood, through whose incoming and indwelling life, in response to such a faith, the one who receives it will normally live in right relations with his fellow men. That is, it is a righteousness that is obtained by believing, not attained by working. It is received, not achieved.

The use of the term "heart," therefore, in Scripture, means that certain attitude of the whole personality toward God through His Word which the exercise of the intelleet apart from, and unfounded on, faith makes impossible.

It is precisely this distinction in faculties that Christ's formula requires. For it was spiritual truth, not natural, of which He spoke when He said, "If any man wills to do, he shall know." To work by this formula requires the exercise of faith. For faith is that attitude of the heart toward the doing of God's will which is evidenced in willing to do that will, no matter what it costs nor where it leads. This is the first step of faith. For faith is both an attitude and an act, the genuineness of which is proven by an activity. That is, it is an attitude of willingness toward the will of God, an act of surrender to the will of God, eventuating in an activity in continuing in the will of God. Therefore complete surrender of the heart and life to God's will as revealed in the Word, trusting the outcome to Him, is where faith begins.

And so let no man imagine that he has any real faith either in God or His Word who has not begun by willing to do, that he may enter upon the doing of, the will of God. Indeed, this is not simply the place where faith begins, it is also the only place where the presence of faith can be demonstrated. For this is the only possible way of distinguishing that intellectual attitude which simply assents to the truthfulness of the Word, from that genuine heart faith which actively reckons the Word to be true by surrendering the life to its requirements. This formula of Christ's, therefore, not only requires that the spiritual and natural faculties be distinguished, but it is the one scientific test by which they can be distinguished.

Then there is Paul's classification of these faculties just referred to. It is passing strange that so many even in our denominational schools have missed it.

He devotes a whole section of First Corinthians, from 1:17 to 2:16, as noted above, to a scientific statement of the natural and total incapacity of the intelleet to discern spiritual truth. Consider it a little more in detail. He says that natural human wisdom, "sophia," which Aristotle defines as "mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense," is utterly incapable of operating in the realm of spiritual investigation. For after "the world by mental excellence knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness (to the natural mental capacities) of the thing preached to save those that believe." Not those that understand, for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God (that is, spiritual things), for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know (or understand) them, for they are spiritually disconcered (or understood)." The essential difference between natural and spiritual faculties, as well as the utter incapacity of the natural faculties in the spiritual realm, are so clearly brought out in this passage that it is impossible to miss it.

By this it is not at all meant, however, that mental training and intellectual capacity have no place in certain branches of Bible study. Every believer in the Book welcomes the keenest minds and the most expert scholarship in that branch of Bible study, for example, which seeks, by the investigation of the manuscripts and the variant readings, to arrive at the very words that were written by the inspired writers; or, for example, in that other branch of study which seeks to discover the history and origins of the various books of the Bible. But it is meant that when men seek to know the spiritual truths of the Bible, they are utterly unscientific if they fail to use that faculty in their investigation which the Textbook itself prescribes.

To sum it up, faith opens the way for God to quicken into activity a spiritual capacity through which He educates a man in spiritual things entirely independently of the schools.

The man who really intends to be scientific, then, will approach the Bible in that attitude of faith which will lead him to will to do God's will as the Bible reveals it. He will then be where he can believe his way to an understanding of spiritual truth.

3. The Different Kinds of Truth Must Be Separated.

Another classification which the scientific man makes is to distinguish between the two kinds of truth in each respective realm, and to separate that kind which may be demonstrated to the experience from that which must be taken on hearsay. That is, in the natural realm, in the department of chemistry, for example, the laws of chemical action can be put to the laboratory test of experiment, while the history of the science of chemistry must always be taken on hearsay. And, in the spiritual realm, those truths stated in the spiritual Textbook which have to do with our spiritual relations with God can be put to the laboratory test of the experiment of faith, while all the rest must be taken on hearsay.

4. The Primacy of Primary Truth Must Be Main- tained.

One thing more which the scientific man does is to accord primacy to that realm of truth which is primary in importance. In order to do this, the scientific spirit compels the one possessed by it to meet two requirements.

Recognizing that truth is an eternal unity, he will first determine to deal with the facts in any given realm in such a way as to preserve harmony at all times between them and all the known facts of all the other realms. For only thus can he avoid destroying the unity of truth and heading himself toward error and confusion.

He will then determine to maintain the primacy of primary truth by interpreting in its light the facts of all other realms. That is, he will make that realm whose truths are of transcendent importance the norm, or standard, by which to interpret the facts of other realms, withholding interpretations until the facts of any other given realm can be interpreted in harmony with those primary truths which have been made forever secure by being scientifically verified.

These requirements would seem so axiomatic as to need no emphasis, and yet, strange as it may seem, right here is another place where the Church and the Schools part company. For the Church is according primacy to one realm of truth, and the Schools to another, making unity of final conclusions out of the question.

If we are to be possessed by the scientific spirit and proceed with scientific accuracy, however, we will be compelled, in the terms of our present study, to accord that primacy to the spiritual realm over the natural which its transcendent importance demands. For by as much as truth about God is of more eternal value to sinful man than truth about His creation, and by as much as truth by which we are saved is of more transcendent importance than truth by which we are informed, by just that much will the scientific spirit compel us to interpret every bit of information that comes to us from the natural realm in harmony with, and in the light of, the truths of the spiritual realm, for by this method alone can we maintain the primacy of the spiritual realm over the natural.

This means that the man who is truly scientific will never interpret discoveries in the natural realm in such a way as to deny or even throw doubt upon those fundamental truths in the spiritual realm which have been forever secured by scientific demonstration. In other words, he will not seek to bring the Bible into harmony with man's interpretation of scientific facts, but he will seek to bring every scientifie discovery into harmony with the Bible, withholding final conclusions from all discoveries that will not so harmonize until he has light enough so they will.

We have now reached the point where we can sum up all the requirements which the really scientific man will meet in order that he may be able to proceed with scientific accuracy in his researches in the realms of truth. He will separate the natural and the spiritual realms of truth from each other. He will investigate natural truth with the intellect and spiritual truth with faith. He will distinguish truth that can be demonstrated to the experience from that which must be accepted on testimony alone. And he will accord primacy to the spiritual realm over the natural.

It only remains to be said that the man who will not meet these requirements is a total stranger to the scientific spirit. "The Standard Dictionary" says that science is "knowledge gained and verified by exact observation and correct thinking," and the man who will not meet requirements that are absolutely necessary for exact observation and correct thinking in the gaining and verifying of knowledge does not have the first qualification of the scientific investigator. For he is really not open to truth at all, and is therefore in no position to maintain either the unity between the realms of truth or the primacy of primary truth, and exact observation and correct thinking are out of the question under such conditions. He cannot verify anything with scientific accuracy when he will not even classify the different realms of truth and the faculties of investigation, or give the realms their respective places in the sphere of truth. And so it is futile for one who refuses to do this to talk about being in harmony with the scientific spirit.

When an investigator meets these requirements, on the other hand, he is then ready to meet the next demand made upon the scientific inquirer, which is--