Anti-Scriptural Theories by Charles Hodge
Heathen Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.
The Scriptural doctrine is opposed to the doctrine held by many of the ancients, that man is a spontaneous production of the earth. Many of them claimed to be γηγενεῖς, αὐτόχθενες, terrigena. The earth was assumed to be pregnant with the germs of all living organisms, which were quickened into life under favourable circumstances; or it was regarded as instinct with a productive life to which is to be referred the origin of all the plants and animals living on its surface. To this primitive doctrine of antiquity, modern philosophy and science, in some of their forms, have returned. Those who deny the existence of a personal God, distinct from the world, must of course deny the doctrine of a creation ex nihilo and consequently of the creation of man. The theological view as to the origin of man, says Strauss, “rejects the standpoint of natural philosophy and of science in general. These do not admit of the immediate intervention of divine causation. God created man, not as such, or, ‘quatenus infinitus est, sed quatenus per elementa nascentis telluris explicatur.’ This is the view which the Greek and Roman philosophers, in a very crude form indeed, presented, and against which the fathers of the Christian Church earnestly contended, but which is now the unanimous judgment of natural science as well as of philosophy.”1 To the objection that the earth no longer spontaneously produces men and irrational animals, it is answered that many things happened formerly that do not happen in the present state of the world. To the still more obvious objection that an infant man must have perished without a mother’s care, it is answered that the infant floated in the ocean of its birth, enveloped in a covering, until it reached the development of a child two years old; or it is said that philosophy can only establish the general fact as to the way in which the human race originated, but cannot be required to explain all the details. 5
Modern Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.
Although Strauss greatly exaggerates when he says that men of science in our day are unanimous in supporting the doctrine of spontaneous generation, it is undoubtedly true that a large class of naturalists, especially on the continent of Europe, are in favour of that doctrine. Professor Huxley, in his discourse on the “Physical Basis of Life,” lends to it the whole weight of his authority. He does not indeed expressly teach that dead matter becomes active without being subject to the influence of previous living matter; but his whole paper is designed to show that life is the result of the peculiar arrangement of the molecules of matter. His doctrine is that “the matter of life is composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in the manner in which its atoms are aggregated.”2 “If the properties of water,” he says, “may be properly said to result from the nature and disposition of its component molecules, I can find no intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of protoplasm result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.”3 In his address before the British Association, he says that if he could look back far enough into the past he should expect to see “the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter.” And although that address is devoted to showing that spontaneous generation, or Abiogenesis, as it is called, has never been proved, he says, “I must carefully guard myself against the supposition that I intend to suggest that no such thing as Abiogenesis has ever taken place in the past or ever will take place in the future. With organic chemistry, molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day making prodigious strides, I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call ‘vital,’ may not some day be artificially brought together.”4 All this supposes that life is the product of physical causes; that all that is requisite for its production is “to bring together” the necessary conditions.