Letter to the Editor 4

Dear Mr. Editor, One would suppose after all this, that the ordinary difficulties to unbelievers, of a spiritual kind, would have been met by a sort of scientific bridge. By substituting, for the simple and homely phrases of scripture, the technical terms of science—by availing himself of the figurative language of scripture to run a complete parallel between spiritual and natural processes—and so to identify spiritual laws (as though we knew them) with natural, as to speak of natural law in the spiritual world—in this manner Christianity is so reduced to science, one would have hoped that unbelievers, and more especially scientific men, would derive some benefit from it. if scientific men have such a fancy for the words, biogenesis, protoplasm, embryology, &c. that to introduce these terms into theology makes them more willing to receive Christianity, by all means let them have this benefit. We should be truly glad to win them in such a way. But it would be wrong to deceive them. This merely puts a scientific aspect on Christianity without making it really such.
Evolution, too, in any honest sense, must be given up—whether therefore the word is honestly used or not in this book, they will find the word of little or no use to them. Ambiguous language may deceive simple Christians but will not deceive scientific men. They will take the word “Evolution” as meaning evolution, and that in the sense in which it is scientifically understood, and that is the true (though not always the obvious) meaning in this book, as is made clear by our Author's denial of species Again, if very unspiritual Christians appreciate such language as the following, let them take it: though, rejecting it ourselves, we will not quarrel with them.
After (p. 293), speaking of the bird—life seizing on the bird—germ, and building it up into a bird; of the reptile—life seizing upon another germinal speck and fashioning it into a reptile, he proceeds “There is another kind of life of which science as yet has taken little cognizance. It obeys the same laws. It builds up an organism into its own form. It is the Christ-life. As the bird-life builds up a bird, the image of itself, so the Christ-life builds up a Christ, the image of Himself in the inward nature of man. When a man becomes a Christian, the natural process is this. The living Christ enters into his soul. Development begins. The quickening Life seizes upon the soul, assimilates surrounding elements, and begins to fashion it.” And how does our author meet the “reasonable demand,” as he calls it, for rational proof as to the immortality of the soul, and the reality of a future life? Surely these are the most elementary of spiritual truths and facts! In the presence of their denial our author's pseudo-spiritual and biological notions are so many fictions: no progress can be made till they are granted or proved; and lying upon the very threshold, they cannot be rightly said to pertain to the unknown regions of the spiritual sphere.
If “it has been keenly felt by those who attempt to defend this doctrine of the spiritual life, that they have nothing more to oppose to the rationalistic view than the ipse dixit of revelation” (p. 66), yet since the natural laws “are great lines running not only through the world, but, as we now know, through the universe, reducing it like parallels of latitude to intelligent order” (p. 6)—surely that part of the spiritual region which is nearest to us should be the most distinctly marked out by these lines! But no, natural laws, it appears, are even of less use to us here than the ipse dixit of revelation (not that our author on his own part questions the adequacy of revelation; still he should be consistent with his theory), for, “No secular theory of personal continuance, as even Butler acknowledges, does not equally demand the eternity of the brute” (p. 226). This however I cannot agree with; it has always seemed to me that there is much, which strongly tends to the conclusion that man has an immortal soul, I mean apart from revelation. Our own existence is a proof that there is a God, our knowledge of good and evil, is a proof that we are accountable to Him. Adjudication is clearly not in this world, and therefore is to be in the next. This however is the reasoning of natural religion, which we fully own and accept, as we do revealed religion, admitting that the latter cannot be put on a demonstrable basis. He can give no proof of the immortality of the soul, and little as, even of the existence of a spiritual world; for he says, “at the same time, although attempting no philosophical proof of the existence of a spiritual life and a spiritual world, we are not without hope that the general line of thought here may be useful to some who are honestly inquiring in these directions” (p. 26).
Mr. Drummond truly says that life can only come from life, that the organic kingdom is hermetically sealed on the side of the inorganic, and that similarly “the passage from the natural world to the spiritual world is hermetically sealed on the natural side (p. 71). “The door from the inorganic to the organic is shut, no mineral can open it. This world of natural men is staked off from the spiritual world by barriers which have never yet been crossed from within.” So far so good. He continues (p. 72), “There being no passage from one kingdom to another, whether from inorganic to organic, or from organic to spiritual, the intervention of life is a scientific necessity if a stone, or a plant, or an animal, or a man, is to pass from a lower to a higher sphere. The plant stretches down to the dead world beneath it, touches its minerals and gases with its mystery of life, and brings them up ennobled and transformed to the living sphere. The breath of God, blowing where it listeth, touches with the mystery of life the dead souls of men, bears them across the bridgeless gulf between the natural and the spiritual, between the spiritually inorganic and the spiritually organic, endows them with its own high qualities, and develops within them those new and secret faculties by which these who are born again are said to see the kingdom of God.” As a sort of general illustration, one would let this pass as sufficiently near the truth; but when it is used in support of identity and continuity of law, it is requisite to look more minutely into it; and I think that it will be found that not only law but even analogy then fails. Our author says (p. 75), “It is clear that a remarkable harmony exists here between the organic world as arranged by science, and the spiritual world as arranged by scripture. We find one great law guarding the thresholds of both worlds, securing that entrance from a lower sphere shall only take place by a regenerating act, and that emanating from the world next in order above. There are not two laws of biogenesis, one for the natural, the other for the spiritual; one law is for both. Wherever there is life, life of any kind, this same law holds. The analogy therefore is only among the phenomena; between laws there is no analogy—there is continuity.”
Now the inorganic and. the organic kingdoms of nature form but one physical system—each enters into the very existence of the other. Leaves drop off plants decay, and mold is formed. This very mold is taken up by another plant and absorbed into its system. Vegetable life cannot exist alone—it exists only in combination with mineral elements. When we plant a vegetable in the ground, doubtless the process goes on, described above; but from first to last, that process goes on in consequence of a mineral organization coming into contact with mineral, though in an inorganic state. But the Holy Spirit has nothing in common with men; in dealing with the soul He has to effect a re-creation. He re-organizes that soul, receiving nothing Himself This is not like a soil He can simply come into and assimilate. The man thus enters the kingdom of God—a spiritual sphere totally distinct from the physical, and having no necessary connection with it. And he enters that kingdom, not on account of a mutual and reciprocal connection and relationship with it (as regards his human nature), such as there is between the mineral earth and the mineral plant, but by an act of sovereign grace and power on God's part, which is subject to no rule (often choosing the worst instead of the best), and in which the man can supply nothing but a ruined soul—in itself worthless to God; but which God renews, and then admits into His kingdom. Continuity of law, then, is out of the question.
But the most singular line of reasoning, perhaps in the whole book—the most desperate of all his attempts to surmount difficulties, is in his endeavor to make good the continuity of the law of evolution. We have seen and accepted his lucid statement, “the door from the inorganic to the organic is shot, no mineral can open it; so the door from the natural to the spiritual is shut, and no man can open it.” On p. 404 he says— “This attempt to incorporate the Spiritual Kingdom in the scheme of Evolution may be met by what seems at first sight a fatal objection. So far from the idea of a Spiritual Kingdom being in harmony with the doctrine of Evolution, it may be said that it is violently opposed to it. It announces a new kingdom starting off suddenly on a different plane, and in direct violation of the primary principle of development. Instead of carrying the organic evolution farther on its own lines, theology at a given point interposes a sudden and hopeless barrier—the barrier between the natural and the spiritual, and insists that the evolutionary process must begin again at the beginning. At this point in fact, nature acts per saltum,. This is no evolution but a catastrophe—such a catastrophe as must be fatal to any consistent development hypothesis. On the surface this objection seems final; but it is only on the surface.” So says Mr. D.; but indeed the objection is fatal to any consistent development hypothesis.
Again, “any objection then to the catastrophe introduced by Christianity between the natural and spiritual kingdoms applies with equal force against the barrier which Science places between the inorganic and the organic. The reserve of life in either case is a fact, and a fact of exceptional significance. What then becomes of evolution? Do these two great barriers destroy it? By no means” (p. 406). But they certainly do. Science will hear nothing of catastrophe—as little as it will admit of a “great exception.” Even if God acts, it must be by law. Nor does science like the idea of a lawmaker, that lawmaker being Himself a perfectly free agent. Even Mr. Drummond says, “The fundamental conception of law is an ascertained working sequence or constant order among the phenomena of nature” (p. 5). Not so—it is rule imposed by authority, which may be abrogated whenever that authority chooses.
But our author continues, “what we are reaching in short is nothing less than the evolution of Evolution. Now to both Science and Christianity, and especially to Science, this enrichment of Evolution is important. And, on the part of Christianity, the contribution to the system of nature of a second barrier is of real scientific value. At first it may seem surely to increase the difficulty. But in reality it abolishes it. However paradoxical it seems, it is nevertheless the case that two barriers are more easy to understand than one—two mysteries are less mysterious than a single mystery. For it requires two to constitute a harmony. One by itself is a catastrophe. But, just as the recurrence of an eclipse at different periods makes an eclipse no breach of Continuity;...so the recurrence of two periods associated with special phenomena of life, the second higher, and by the law necessarily higher, is no violation of the principle of evolution” (p. 407).
Now Mr. Drummond has laid down the undoubted law, that the door of the organic world is hermetically sealed on the inorganic side, and that the door of the spiritual world is hermetically sealed on the natural side, as also that death to the old man, and an altogether new life, are requisite to enter the spiritual world. He has moreover said, “In either case the first step in peopling these worlds with the appropriate living forms is, virtually, miracle” (p. 76). He now says that these two breaks are no breach of continuity, that Evolution is not destroyed by them: in fact it is the “evolution of Evolution.” He asserts that on the contrary these two barriers make a harmony. Yes! by confirming each other as barriers, upon the principle that two negatives only make the negative more emphatic, not upon the principle that two negatives make an affirmative. Two eclipses do not prove that there is no such thing as an eclipse at all. Can this argument be called honest? Present this to upright men, who reject divine revelation, and who do not believe that the being of God is a proved fact; and they will laugh at it. Present it to the right-minded and truehearted Christian; and he will utterly reject it. The fact is, Mr. Drummond's attempt to turn Christianity into science is, for any earnest infidel or Christian, a palpable and an egregious failure. He owns that life came originally from God, and says, “so everywhere God creates, man utilizes” (p. 140), by which I suppose he means that, “ex nihilo nihil” does not apply to God. He also speaks of our Lord, and of some of the truths of Christianity, in a way which leads one to hope and believe he is himself a Christian, even if under a terrible delusion. How then a man who is a Christian can think and write as he does, is a marvel.
We however are concerned only with the errors and inconsistencies of the book. The idea which runs through it is, Continuity of law upon the principle of Evolution; but both the Continuity and the Evolution are myths of science. Much of what he says about Christianity is true; but there is no need to turn the simple yet profound language of scripture into any scientific phraseology, for this is proof of Continuity of law only in appearance, and not in reality. So carried away is he with his deadly doctrine of evolution that he says (p. 398), “Third and highest we reach the Spiritual kingdom, or the kingdom of heaven. What its characteristics are, relatively to any hypothetical higher kingdom, necessarily remains unknown. That the Spiritual, in turn, may be the preparation for, and the prophecy of, something still higher, is not impossible” (p. 398). One who can talk like this, is not likely to argue consistently. A few words should be added in reference to the following statement (p. 409), “Modern science knows only two kingdoms, the organic and the inorganic.” I would warn my fellow-Christians earnestly against this dictum of science. It is essentially infidel. The object simply is to get rid of the line of demarcation between the spiritual and the natural. For the infidel, the latter alone remains; for Mr. Drummond, the two are combined into one by natural law. The true distinction is inorganic and organic, forming the natural or physical world; and the spiritual world. We have had abundant proof how Mr. D. naturalizes the spiritual. To cite one more instance only, I take the following, “The visible is the ladder up to the invisible; the temporal is but the scaffolding of the eternal. And when the last immaterial souls have climbed through this material to God, the scaffolding shall be taken down, and the earth dissolved with fervent heat—not because it was base, but because its work is done” (p. 57). How completely everything is seen by him, through a natural medium, and grounded upon a natural basis! His ladder to heaven is unquestionably a very material one.
Mr. Drummond may say, “Certainly, I never premeditated anything to myself so objectionable, and so unwarrantable in itself, as either to read Theology into Science, or Science into Theology” (Preface, p. x); and, “Inappropriate hybridism is checked by Sterility” (p. xiii). He must be more simple than I give him credit for, if he does not see that this is just what he has attempted to do; and that such “inappropriate hybridism” cannot but be completely sterile as to what is good and of God. Most unholy must be the fruit of this work. In fact Mr. Drummond may not have intended it, and may not be a ware of it; but he has nevertheless turned out one of the worst and most injurious books ever written by a Christian—a book injurious to souls, as it is a deep dishonor to God, and to His word. It has been a painful process to go through it. I have endeavored (and I trust in the main have succeeded) to give a just and true account of it; and if I shall have aided others in forming a true estimate of its character, and in avoiding any ill effects which an erroneous estimate of it might entail, I shall be abundantly thankful.
I am, dear Mr. Editor,
Yours, in our Lord,