But this view of the matter, as is very evident, is liable to lead to a pantheistic view of the universe, than which nothing could be more horrible.
How then shall we reconcile these conflicting views?
In this case, as in so many others, the Bible comes in to show us the rational via media, the straight path of reason and sound philosophy which avoids the absurdities of both extremes.
The plain and unambiguous teaching of the Bible is that God, the Creator, is a being, a person, infinite in all His powers and perfections, omnipresent throughout the universe; yet that there is a place in which He is to be found, or where He abides, in a sense in which He is not to be found in any other place. This paradox is easily understood when we realize that God is present everywhere throughout His universe by His word and by His Spirit,—His word being as effective throughout the remotest corners of His universe as near at hand, for the very simple reason that matter has no "properties" which He has not imparted to it, and therefore it can have no innate inertia or reluctance to act which God's word would need to overcome in order to induce it to act, even when this word operates across the boundless fields of space. He has created free personalities, and He leaves the mind of each of His creatures free to serve Him or not to serve Him, these free intelligent beings becoming thus true second causes. More than this, provision for almost innumerable second causes seems to have been made even among other departments of nature, without however interfering with the direct action of the word of the Infinite One in guiding and controlling them all.
Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, was associated with the Father in all the primary work of Creation; and He came to earth to show us what God the Father is like, that mortals might behold their Creator without being consumed. In Him we are to behold as much of the Deity as it is for our good to know; beyond that we must trust the hand that never wearies, the mind that never blunders, the heart that never grows cold.
In reality the seeming conflict between the doctrine of second causes and that of God's omnipresence is closely analogous to the old (imaginary) conflict between the Law and the Gospel, read from the book of nature instead of from the Bible. The reign of second causes is the reign of law; but God's immediate action brings in the supernatural, the miraculous, or the Gospel. Each has its proper place; and neither must be dwelt on to the exclusion of the other. We are all under the hard exactitude of the law, with its irrevocable condemnation, until the Gospel intervenes, and not only pardons the past, but enables us to fulfil the law's requirements for the future. The reign of second causes alone would take away man's moral responsibility, making us all mere creatures of our environment, the victims of a merciless determinism, and death would be the inevitable result of the violation of the slightest physical or physiological law. But we are all given power to live above environment, and a beneficent healing power is constantly intervening to save us from the consequences of our errors, healing our wounds and curing our diseases, in this giving us an object lesson of the forgiveness of sin and a promise of our ultimate conquest over all its power. We are all ineluctably bound about by countless chains of second causes, "awful with inevitable fates," until we see through them all the close providential working of our Creator, who is also our Saviour, and who is in no way shackled by His own laws, but conducts all things according to the counsel of His own will.
The Bible teaches us of a Creation as a definite act, completed at a definite period in the past, and it gives us the Sabbath as the divine memorial of this completed Creation. We have seen how science also points backward along the various diverging lines of the great perspective of the ages to the vanishing point whence they all begin, the birth-day of the world; and we say that thus science confirms the Bible record of Creation. But we also know that when Christ was being examined by the Sanhedrin for healing on the Sabbath, He defended Himself by saying, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." That is, although "the works were finished from the foundation of the world," and second causes are now largely operative in nature all around us, still there is everywhere manifest an active energy, a presence, an Intelligence, "in Whom we live, and move, and have our being."
That we cannot comprehend all this, that we cannot set definite boundaries to these seemingly conflicting views, is not at all surprising; for we are but finite. Even His universe partakes so much of His prerogative of infinity that it is utterly beyond the compass of our finite minds. Indeed, if either the Bible or the book of nature contained nothing beyond what we could easily comprehend, would it not diminish our reverence and awe for the One behind them, Whom we now regard as infinite in power and in wisdom?
True, the natural human heart cannot bear this thought of the direct acting throughout nature of the infinite Creator. It brings us too close beneath His gaze in our sinful shortcoming and nakedness.
[Footnote 55: A recent clever writer likens some of these metaphysical speculations to the act of a baby sucking at a nursing bottle. So long as there is any milk in the bottle, the baby sucks with pleasure and profit. Unfortunately the little fellow does not always stop sucking when the supply of milk gives out, but still keeps on sucking empty air, with resulting discomfort and colic. We all need to recognize the limits of the intellectual milk supply, and not keep on trying to solve problems that are in their very nature beyond the limits of the human mind.]
And so men draw the veil of their pantheistic or monistic philosophy over their hearts, to hide them from His all-searching gaze. In ancient times they seem to have done the same, as the monuments of Egypt and Babylonia declare; and the intimate knowledge of Nature and its Creator which they had in the morning of our world, degenerated into the nature worship and polytheism which we find so nearly universal at the first dawn of secular history. It is only the child of God, the redeemed man, who can view without flinching the sublime fact of a direct Creation, or face the other great fact that what we call second causes are not the real causes of natural action, that the ordinary phenomena of light, heat, gravity, vital action, etc., do not occur because certain "properties" have been once imparted to matter and it then left to act of itself, any more than the child of God is left to struggle along with the supply of divine grace which was imparted to him at his conversion. The Christian feels his constant dependence upon his Creator for overcoming power day by day, and he sees the whole universe just as momently dependent upon the tireless watchcare of the great Sustainer of all. The Christian alone delights to look upon the ceaseless service of his Father's love, perpetually ministering to the needs and even to the whims of His creatures. But if this tireless ministry reminds man of his own spiritual nakedness and insular selfishness, it serves also to remind him that it is only the free gift of a righteousness not his own that can clothe the ashamed soul cowering beneath the eye of infinite Purity and unselfish Love.
In our natural state we are like the dead, inorganic matter. Only by a new life that must be imparted to us from above, a real, individual, new creation, can we become alive spiritually. And then only by constant dependence for spiritual life and growth upon the word of the One who first created us can we hope to develop into His true sons and daughters, whose continuous care is momently exercised in controlling every particle of our bodily frame, and by whose continuous guidance in the development of character we hope to become worthy of a place in His presence forevermore.
Our Lord Jesus once said to the leaders of the Jews, "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5: 46-47). In our days is certainly consistent and appropriate that those who have had their faith revived in the first chapters of the Bible should also have renewed confidence in the last part of the Bible. A belief in a real Creation of the world, as recorded in the book of Genesis, naturally implies a belief in the end of the world as predicted in the book of Revelation. A belief in the former destruction of the world by water is in accord with a belief in its coming destruction by fire, each of these destructions being not absolute but regenerative.
This is in fact the line of argument used in that remarkable prophecy of 2 Peter 3: 3-7:
"In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the days that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they wilfully forget, that there were heavens of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; but the heavens that are now, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men."
Two points in this remarkable prophecy deserve special attention:
1. It is a description of the religio-scientific problems of the "last days"; and the class of people referred to are represented as "mocking" at the second coming of Christ, because they have grown accustomed to denying, or "wilfully forgetting," the former destruction of the world by the waters of the Flood. This prediction, as we have seen, is in complete and accurate accord with the present situation; for the doctrine of Evolution is chiefly supported by the accepted theories of geology that there never was a universal Flood. Belief in the current theories of geology and in a universal Deluge cannot be held by the same mind, for they are mutually exclusive: either one makes the other meaningless. And as the popular geology is the foundation of the Evolution theory, so does the latter render useless and incredible what the Bible calls "that blessed hope," the second coming of Christ and the purification of the earth by fire.
2. The mockers here described certainly talk exactly like our modern uniformitarians; for they argue that "from the days that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." They imply that in the days of "the fathers" some people were foolish enough to believe differently; but since they "fell asleep" we have learned better. It should also be carefully noted that their theory of uniformity stretches back, not to the close of Creation, but to "the beginning of the Creation." Plainly, then, Creation itself is embraced in their scheme of absolute uniformity; and according to their view all distinction is smoothed out between Creation and the present perpetuation of the world by second causes. How could we ask for a more accurate word picture of the modern popular doctrines of the evolutionists and their characteristic methods of reasoning than is here given us by an inspired prophecy nearly two thousand years ago?
The call of the hour to the Church of Christ is for a renewed confidence in that Guide Book which she has brought with her down the centuries. As her Divine Lord went away, He commissioned her to carry His good tidings to all peoples; and so long as she remained true to this commission and to her instruction book, the world's cunning sophistries could not deceive her, nor could the cruel power of a world empire stifle her voice. And now when her absent Lord is about to return again, it surely behooves her to set her house in order, and to return with candor and fidelity to that written code of instruction left with her by her departing Master.
For the old-time friends of the Bible, the night of darkness and doubt is rapidly passing; the morning of a fuller knowledge and a fuller confidence is at hand. Gone are those agonies of doubt regarding the truthfulness of the Bible's history and the adequacy of its ethics for the needs of our modern world. Abandoned forever are all those futile attempts at compromise, in a vain and painful endeavor to translate the record of Creation into the language of a pseudo-science now rapidly being outgrown, and to adapt the plan of salvation to the false standards of an artificial age that seems to be rapidly disintegrating before the Church's very eyes. She now realizes that her Bible is more accurate than the world's science, her simple gospel wiser than its philosophy.
The hour has struck; a sublime opportunity is before her; for the God of nature has Himself opened up before His Church the long-sealed chapters in His larger book, and is now pointing out the marvellous agreement between His book of nature and His written record. The strongest message of the Church has often been heard amid the darkest ages of apostasy. And the prophecies of the Bible have repeatedly pointed out a special message that the Church is to bear to the world in that darkest hour just before the breaking of eternal day,—a message that we now see is wonderfully adapted to this age of evolutionism in science and pantheism in philosophy. Looking down along the darkening vistas of the coming years, the great Jehovah saw how a vastly increased knowledge of His created works would be perverted into a burlesque of Creation, and how this would result in a wide-spread apostasy in which His written Word would be derided and scorned. Thus He timed a special reform for His faithful people to give to the world just before the end, calling upon the disbelievers in Creation then living to "worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Rev. 14: 7). And so now, when the darkness of evolutionism and pantheism is most dense, a light from above has illuminated the record in the book of nature, the language of which is already more familiar to our modern world than the language of the book so long distrusted and almost derided. This message itself from the book of nature is full of the essential ideas of the Gospel, faith in a Creator, who by His tireless care for the particles composing our bodies keeps them in order, and by healing our injuries and curing our diseases inspires us with faith in Him as our Saviour and Redeemer. And in such an hour, in such a world crisis, He has placed within the power of His Church these modern means of travel and quick communication, in order to speed on this last work of His Church so as to complete it in "this generation."
* * * * *
WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Fundamentals of Geology
Cloth, 270 pages, Illustrated with engravings, charts, and maps $1.25
"I have been intensely interested, ... and I think you prove your points conclusively."—REV. S. BARING-GOULD, Lew Trenchard, England.
"It is a very clever book."—DAVID STARR JORDAN, Leland Stanford University.
"I have found your book extremely interesting, putting old facts in a new light, and full of acute remarks. Current theories needed criticism."—A.H. SAYCE, Oxford University, England.
"You have brought out with great clearness the difficulties of supporting the evolution theory from the geological side."—GEORGE HOWARD PARKER, Professor of Zoology, Harvard University.
"It is a remarkable piece of logical reasoning." —FRANKLIN JOHNSON, The University of Chicago.
"It was needed. I think you have peeled the onion-coat theory completely. To and your book is like finding a spring after toiling through the dry-as-dust desert. It is refreshing and enjoyable."—GILBERT E. BAILEY, Professor of Geology, University of Southern California.
God's Two Books, Or Plain Facts about Evolution, Geology, and the Bible
Cloth, 184 pages, Illustrated 75C.
"Naturally I have read it with great interest.... I have never seen any answer to Sir Henry Howorth's 'Mammouth,' nor do I see what answer is possible, and the same seems to me to be the case as regards Professor Price's argument."—A.H. SAYCE, Oxford University, England.
"It will be a perfect armory for use in meeting attacks on Holy Scripture by false science and false Criticism."—SIR ROBERT ANDERSON, London, England.
Back to the Bible Paper, 215 pages 50c.
"It is most excellent."—A.C. GAEBELEIN, New York City.
"I know of no book in theological literature that surpasses this, or indeed equals it in accurate, effective adaptedness to the need of the hour."
—WILLIAM CLEAVER WILKINSON, The University of Chicago.