Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

chaos, matter must be thrown out of its condition in succession and position, law must be suspended, and this we can see has never happened.

A Final Cause is deducible from Nature, but not any of the systems of Theology. For these latter we have to account by inherited ideas arising from a former and ancient physical condition of man and his environment, and a preëxisting state of society.

In illustration of the advanced position of the Bible, I find that the statement in Revelations that “the city was pure gold like unto glass,” is considered as being afterwards proved to be true, because“ Faraday has demonstrated that fine gold may become perfectly transparent like clear glass.” Such a method of reasoning is only countenanced because the sanctity of the subject pardons the utmost absurdity in its defense.

Again it has been asserted that Isaiah (XL., 22) recognized the sphericity of the earth. But the Hebrew word used in Isaiah (chug) means circle, i.e., bounded by the horizon and the imagined oceans. It is entirely inaccurate to translate it “sphere.” The passage is in conformity with the erroneous cosmogony of the times in which it was written. But if in such poetical passages we are to recognize scientific observations, then in the second part of the same verse, the antithesis, the poet says: He stretcheth out the heavens like a carpet;" a saying which completes the picture and shows its total misconception of the earth and heavens. The Hebrew word for sphere is dur, Isaiah, XXII, 18. The Bible throughout recognizes the so-called Ptolemaic astronomy, and the assertions to the contrary are part of the grievous offence against truth committed by the popular advocates of our religion. It need not be said

that a knowledge of the Hebrew language, of the genius of the people, or the history of the growth of their religious faith and of their contact with polytheistic races, are the last things with which our popular preachers concern themselves or their proselytes.

With the ethics or morality of the Bible we have not here to contend, nor, indeed, have we any quarrel. But that the Bible contains erroneous statements of natural phenomena and that it could not be otherwise, as emanating from writers with an incorrect idea of such phenomena, we do insist. The purely poetical utterances of the Bible writers were not intended to be taken literally, and even if some of them contain a true statement of natural facts, it was not that scientific truth was the main object of such utterances, which rather aimed to stir the emotions for the Hebrew conception of the might and majesty of Jehovah. But, obviously, the majority of such passages are metaphorical and images of speech and can never bear a different interpretation. All attempts to prove the contrary have failed and even by the most liberal use of its poetical imagery the contradictions of the scriptures cannot be explained away. But we must also insist that this is the worst use to which the Bible can duction chiefly. be put. For out of the Bible we may construct our ethical system, but not our scientific explanation of the Universe. So far as the story of creation goes, it is a teleological exposition with man as the central point of the whole Universe, with the Sun to give light by day and the Moon by night. But it is no explanation of the origin of the sun, moon or man.

“In the beginning” is not only indefinite and imaginative, but it is a virtual dodging of the whole question.

The Bible an Ethical Pro

The story

Genesis.

that things, as they are, were miraculously made so is only another way of stating that they are because they are. But obviously with such an answer the mind of man cannot in reason be satisfied. And with Genesis, or the origin of things, it is the office of Science

to deal, and not Religion. Sunday, Schools and

The serious question before the friends of education in America is that of Sunday Schools. Nowhere are such impressible scholars gathered together, nowhere such incompetent teachers as in the Sunday School. With us the Sunday School has outgrown the Church itself. The scenes enacted at Fairpoint and on the St. Lawrence each summer, clearly show how much of an “institution ” the Sunday School has become, how it replaces the old camp-meeting and statisfies the average amount of reason which we allow in matters of Religion. Better than the camp-meeting in some respects, it is worse in its effects on the growing generation. The vulgarity, ignorance, and prejudice there exhibited is not condoned by the moralities instilled, but falls on the young mind and too often leaves its fatal impress of narrowness to be carried in the community thenceforward. What to do to reform the Sunday Schools, will soon be the clearly defined question for the Public Schools to take in hand. While these latter are improving in their methods, the former

are appealing in principle to a vicious system of reabetween the soning, and virtually doing all in their power to counPublic Schools terbalance the effects of our system of secular instrucand Sunday Schools. tion. In the Bible a single text book is found from

between whose lids the Sunday School teacher declares all wisdom to flow. Text-books on Science, as used in the Public Schools, are either formerly or by implica

tion regarded as worthless and deceptive. So soon as a matter of scientific discovery becomes so patent that it can be no longer denied, a mystic utterance of the Bible is found which will bear a construction relating to the new facts and this sense is forthwith given to the passage. In the meantime, the Sunday School teachers are drilled, by pamphlet and oral instruction, in a system of narrow thinking upon the widest and most important topic that there is. The best that can be said of all this, is that the sects, through their different organizations, hold each other in check and thus prevent the subversion of our civil liberties. But in the meantime the whole nation is sacrificed to illiberality and a fatal one-sidedness. Again in the Sunday School the Protestant sects meet as on a common ground. If Genesis, and its fairy-tales of creation could be taken out of the Sunday School, there would result an immense gain to the future intelligence of our people. No other reform in the Sunday School would accomplish so much for the cause of humanity and right reason.

And undoubtedly this would be a great reform, but the question remains, how is this reform to be brought frought about. about? It seems to me, only through an increasing reasonableness on the part of the laity which will encourage the priesthood to entertain more liberal views. To bring about such wider action, the subjects claimed by Theology as belonging to Religion, but which are equally claimed by Science, must be discussed in an earnest and yet tender spirit, trying as much as possible to avoid giving offense, remembering how many sides there are to the human mind, and surmounting the natural temptation to indulge in malice and uncharita

How a Re

Liberalism in Religion.

bleness. It must never be forgotten that what we are working for is, in the main, neither for nor against the Bible, or any other book, but a greater reasonableness and breadth of view which will make life, however it may have originated, happier and more useful. From our standpoint, the condition of our religion, such as it is, is the result of the average mental status of the people from whom it proceeds. To work to the betterment of the general intelligence and so at last to reach its religious expression, must be the line of action for the man of Science and of Literature.

But when we write to advocate liberalism to religion, it must be clear what we intend by the term. When so pure a man as Cardinal Newman can say: “For fifty years I have resisted to the best of my power the spirit of liberalism in religion," it is quite clear that liberalism must present itself to some worthy minds as something not altogether beautiful and to be desired; and, indeed, when we turn to the writings of a certain set of liberals, both in England and America, we can well understand that liberalism bears sometimes strange and dead fruit. But even this best of prelates has no cure for the objectionable features of liberalism, except a return to dogma and the age for a blind belief in dogma is, as we can plainly see, passing away. Certainly when Cardinal Newman admits that there is in liberalism both justice and benevolence, he cannot but also admit that, through experience, Society can produce right thinking and acting outside of the pale of conservative theology. His very fairness towards liberalism makes his opposition to it very strong and attractive to those who are constantly outraged by the violence of both the liberal and ecclesiastical controversialists. But

« ZurückWeiter »