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Dr. Lyman Abbott spoke at the college conference meeting last evening on The Modern Tendency in Theological Thought.
He said that he desired to emphasize the fact that he was to speak of tendencies; that he would not outline a system of philosophy, but the lines along which modern theological thought is tending. It is necessary to speak from the standpoint of philosophy because theology is the philosophy of religion.
Observation is the first of our faculties. The phenomena of philosophy are first observed, then arranged and systematized by the analytical and synthetical faculties; and thus we attain the unity which must pervade the phenomena of philosophy. This unity is at first imperfect, but we are gradually working toward a complete and harmonious concord.
The philosophy of our churches has denied this unity. Religious philosophy has been dualistic, and so we have what are called science and religion, and the conflict between them. There has been certain ground for this division because we arrive at our knowledge by two processes-knowledge of outward things coming from observation; knowledge of inward things from personal consciousness or experience. Philosophy has sometimes endeavored to establish unity by denying one or the other of these processes; thus we have idealism and materialism. What modern thought is endeaving to do is to establish a unity of all, material and immaterial.
Modern theological thought affirms that man is not dual; man is a power that is using a physical organism. Immortality is not something that is going to be, but something that is. Creation is the expression of God's own nature, and we are beginning to think in the ology, not of a God that sits apart from nature, but of a God who is everywhere a pervasive spirit, omnipresent in all nature. The uniformity of natural law is but the habit of God, the method in which he acts. And so there is no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. There is nothing unthinkable in this conception. Miracles cease to become violations of natural laws, and is simply the evidence that there is a superior power at work in the universe, a power that can control the laws of its own making.
But most important of all the tendencies of modern theological thought is that it unifies God and humanity. God, who is immanent in natural forces, is also immanent in the human soul. Religion is not something apart from man; rather it is indissolubly associated with his whole being. It is right living-the life of God in the soul of man.
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