Re: Protestant modernism and theology of nature

Murphy (
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 17:30:01 -0500 wrote <with snips>:

> The author was Samuel Christian Schmucker, grandson
> of the founder of the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg
> (though an Episcopalian himself). Schmucker had a
> doctorate in chemistry from Penn, but had established
> himself as an authority in evolutionary biology,
> especially on sexual selection. He was a nationally
> prominent populizer of evolution and a leading
> figure in the "nature-study" movement, an early
> environmentalist group, serving as president at
> one point. His pamphlet is entitled, "Through Science
> to God: The Hummingbird's Story."

> I'll cut to the chase and quote a passage
> that makes my main point well.
> The laws of nature were "not the fiat of almighty God," but
> "the manifestation in nature of the presence of the
> indwelling God."

> I have looked in vain in Schmucker for a clear statement
> of God's sovereignty over the laws of nature, for any
> evidence of divine freedom relative to nature, for even
> the faintest idea that God actually made nature. I can
> find ONLY an immanent God in his voluminous writings.

I agree with you in rejecting this type of thing, but my
objections focus on a different matter, the whole idea of "From Science
to God." This is the belief that there can be such a thing as an
_independent_ natural theology. What I've called the "classic" view of
this is that such a natural theology can serve as a "preparation for the
gospel", but that we need revelation for knowledge leading to salvation
- Incarnation, atonement, &c. The "Enlightenment" view, though, takes
it farther & says that natural theology is all we need: Revelation is
ultimately superfluous. I.e., we don't really need Incarnation &
atonement. What you've quoted of Schmucker is solidly in that camp. He
is a precursor of Paul Davies & Frank Tipler.
On the other hand, most ID work seems to assume the validity of
the classic view. But _in practice_ that views slides very easily into
the Enlightenment one. I think (with Barth & Torrance) that the whole
idea of independent natural theology (i.e., one which can gain knowledge
of God from science apart from revelation) is highly dubious. Schmucker
seems to have been a straggler from the devastation of classical liberal
theology by WWI & Barth.
BTW, Schmucker's grandfather whom you mentioned was the leader
of the attempt in 19th century American Lutheranism to merge the
Lutheran church with mainline protestantism. His efforts extended to
producing a bowdlerized version of the Augsburg Confession, but it
didn't fly.
George Murphy