Faith or Fact
by: Henry M. Taber
Comment by JT: Perhaps the opening section of this short chapter may seem a little dated — this difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is not as foremost in the minds of believers as it once was — but moving past that, we find a healthy modern skepticism; or "... doubt is the beginning of reason"
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IN the New York Observer recently appeared an article from the pen of Rev. Talbot W. Chambers, D.D., entitled Religious Doubt and the Remedy.
The thought that first occurred to my mind, in reading the article, was, why seek a “remedy” for doubt, any more than for any other function of the brain? Certainly no Protestant (Dr. Chambers, for example) can, with any consistency, seek for a remedy for the privilege of doubting, unless he denies (as does the Roman Catholic Church) the right of private judgment; which right Protestants have ever claimed as the main and most distinguishing feature of the difference between their and the Romish Church.
What is embraced in the exercise of the right of private judgment? Certainly the right to doubt is, for you cannot be said to exercise the right of private judgment without doubting whatever your private judgment thinks proper to question.
The Romish Church is perfectly consistent and honest, and the Protestant Church inconsistent and dishonest, on this question.
The dilemma in which the Protestant Church finds itself may be illustrated by quoting from Rev. George Armstrong, of the Church of England, viz:
“If I deny the right of private judgment, the Church calls me a Romanist; if I acknowledge it, she brands me as a heretic.”
What would be the effect if Dr. Chambers should succeed in finding a remedy for doubt? Why, all progress in the realm of thought would be arrested.
What has doubt done for religion? Had it not been for the doubt of Luther, there had been no Protestant Church, Had it nor been for the doubt of Christ, there had been no Christianity.
What ought to be thought of a religion, the first lesson in which is that you must not doubt?
Dr. Chambers does not practice what he preaches. He was a member of the commission which brought the new version of the Bible into being. What suggested this new version, if not the doubt of Dr. C. and his associates as to the incorrectness of the King James version?
But why this clerical war upon doubt — upon religious doubt? Simply because doubt is the beginning of reason, and because reason is certain annihilation to theology. See what these small beginnings of doubt are doing in all Protestant Churches. Is it anything but reason, induced by doubt that is making such inroads into the creeds and beliefs of the hitherto Orthodox Churches?
The religious beliefs of to-day are totally different from what they were a generation ago. Who (excepting Spurgeon, De Witt Talmage and Col. Elliot F. Shepard) believes, now, in a literal hell? Who believes in the six days, of twenty-four hours each, story of creation; in the “fall of man” (now that science has demonstrated the rise of man from lower orders of beings?) Who believes, literally, in the stories of Jonah, of Joshua, of Elisha, etc.? What, but doubt, has wrought this change? What, but the workings of doubt in the minds of ecclesiastics themselves, has induced the liberal thought which we now so frequently hear from the clergy? Read the utterances of Rev. Dr. Briggs, in his recent address before the students of the Union Theological Seminary; every liberal saying in which was applauded to the echo. “I rejoice at this age of rationalism, with all its wonderful achievements in philosophy,” says Dr. Briggs.
Rev. Phillips Brooks says: “The minister should be the model of tolerance of what is honest doubt,”
Rev. Dr. Rylance says he regards “doubt as a rational thing; a fact to be dealt with rationally, not professionally or by anathema… The rationalist, agnostic and materialist, have done good, and have reacted on theology in a healthful way.”
Archbishop Leighton has said: “Never be afraid to doubt… Doubt, in order that you may end in believing.”
And what has doubt done for science? Has it not instituted a truer system of thought? Has it not given us Copernicus, Bruno, Newton, Kepler, Humboldt, Darwin and Hækel; whose brilliant discoveries would have been hid from the world had doubt been silenced?
It is doubt that has done the intelligent and beneficial service of transforming alchemy into chemistry; astrology into astronomy; fiat strata into geology; the biblical origin of man into biology; the confusion of tongues into philology; superstition into philosophy ; tradition into history; myth into reality; legend into verity; fable into truth; arrogant dogmatism into unpretentious agnosticism; comatose credulity into vitalized thought; unquestioning faith into the spirit of inquiry; demoniacal possession into dementia; a personal devil into an impersonal evil influence; the capricious gods of old into the immutable laws of nature; creation into evolution.
“Doubt is the first step to mental liberty.”
“From the first doubt man has continued to advance” — (Ingersoll.)
“The act of doubting is the necessary antecedent to all progress.” — (Buckle.)
“Doubt is the mother of inquiry.”
“A man’s doubts are the children of his brain.” — (H. O. Pentecost.) They are the offspring of mental activity; would it not be unnatural to devitalize the progeny?
“Each one’s prerogative ‘tis to doubt:
‘How do you know? ’ is truth’s own scout.”
“With knowledge doubt increases” — (Goethe.)
“If thou hast honest doubts,
Conceal them not;
For doubt is better than dishonesty” — (Shakespeare.)
“There lives more faith in honest doubt
(Believe me) than in half the creeds” — (Tennyson.)
Doubt of what we do not know to be truth, is the promptings of our highest intellectual and moral nature.
Doubt is a sentinel on the watch-tower of the brain, charged with the duty of sounding an alarm, whenever its enemies — superstition, falsehood, ignorance and unreason — attempt to invade the citadel of truth.
Doubt is the herald of progress; the genius of reason; the pathway to truth; the advance guard in the contest with intellectual darkness.
Next: Can Christians be just? >
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