MoboReader> Literature > To Infidelity and Back

   Chapter 1 No.1

To Infidelity and Back By Henry F. Lutz Characters: 51631

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


To INFIDELITY AND BACK.

To Christ by Way of Rationalism, Unitarianism and Infidelity.

I inherited on the one hand a strong religious nature, and on the other a tendency to be independent in thought and to question everything before adopting it as a part of my belief. Ever since I can remember I was a praying boy, and early in life there came to me the desire to devote myself to the ministry of the gospel.

Among my earliest religious impressions were those received by having the story of the Patriarchs and Jesus read to me in German by a saintly old Mennonite for whom I worked on the farm for a year. Among the first things that aroused my reason in religion was the declaration of my Sunday-school teacher that before we are born we are predestined by God either to go to heaven or to hell, and that anything we might do would not alter our eternal destiny. This declaration came like a thunderbolt into my religious life, and stirred up a violent agitation from which it took me ten years to fully deliver myself. I was now about fourteen years old, and already had a desire to measure everything in the crucible of logic or cause and effect, and to accept nothing which did not come within the range of my reason. Looking at things from the standpoint of cause and effect, I was naturally caught in the meshes of fatalism, and this aggravated the religious agitation above referred to.

At this time in my life there arose many religious questions, and the answers I received from religious teachers tended to drive me away from the church rather than to it. I feel to-day that if my case had been clearly understood and the nature and the limits of the finite mind had been patiently pointed out to me, in its relation to faith and revelation, I could have been saved years of agony on the sea of rationalism. But my questions were not answered and my honest doubts were rebuked, so that I was naturally driven out of sympathy with the church and Bible, since I judged that my doubts could not be satisfied because religion itself is unreasonable.

Through the kindness of Christian people the way opened to prepare myself for the ministry. But by this time many religious doubts and perplexities were in the way, and I decided that I would a thousand times rather be an honest doubter out of the church and ministry than a hypocrite in it. Thus my fond hope of entering the ministry had to be given up, and instead I determined to use the teaching profession as a stepping-stone to law, and law as a means of serving humanity.

I was very fond of study, and read scores of books on all kinds of subjects. Emerson was my favorite, and I procured and read his complete works. Gibbon and Macaulay were eagerly read as revealing some of the religious life of the world. Ingersoll, with many others, got his turn. But the book that produced the greatest effect on my life at this time was Fleetwood's "Life of Christ," with a short history of the different religious bodies of the world attached. Through my reading and observations I became greatly perplexed over the religious divisions of the world. I discovered that thousands of people had died as martyrs for all kinds of religions and sects, and that each claimed to have the truth and to teach the right way to heaven. I concluded that since they teach such contradictory doctrines they cannot possibly all be right, although they might all be wrong. I formed a desire to make a thorough study of all the different religious bodies of the world, to find out where the truth is, if there is any in religion. My first information along this line was obtained in the above-named history of the religious bodies of the world. Being of a rationalistic turn of mind, I was naturally very favorably impressed with Unitarianism and its teaching. I sent for a number of their works and read them with great interest. I learned many things that have been a benediction to my life ever since, but you will see later on how far it satisfied my rationalistic proclivities. I learned to my delight that I could enter a Unitarian theological school to prepare for the ministry without first joining a church or signing a creed. For a person in my state of mind nothing better could have presented itself. I determined to go there and make a thorough study of the Bible and all the different religious bodies, and to fearlessly follow the truth wherever it might lead me.

The time came and I entered the school. And a fine school it was from an intellectual standpoint and for the purpose of investigation. I have been a student at six educational institutions since I left the high school, but this was far ahead of the others for the development of the logical and philosophical faculties. Here there was absolutely no restraint to thought; and all kinds of systems and ideas were represented, from philosophical anarchy to socialism and from mysticism to materialism. The moral and spiritual earnestness I expected to find among the Unitarians I did not find, especially among the younger and more radical ones. Its effect, on the whole, was to relax rather than intensify the moral fiber. Their ideals seemed so grand and noble that I thought those possessed with them could scarcely find time to eat and sleep in their zeal to put them into practise; but I discovered that they not only had plenty of time to eat and sleep, but also for dancing, card-playing, theater-going, etc. Many of the young men studying for the ministry often spent a large part of the night in card-playing, and the Sunday-school room served also as a dancing-floor. Unitarians pride themselves upon the high standard of morality among their people and upon the few prisoners you find among their members, but this is due to the character of the people they reach rather than to the restraining influence of their teaching

My reading had given me a wrong impression as to the teaching of Unitarianism. Like many others, I was fascinated and enticed by the writings of conservative Unitarians, whose contention is largely against the bad theology of human creeds; but the present-day teaching of the vanguard of Unitarianism is an entirely different thing. It rejects all the miraculous in the Bible, and, in many cases, even denies the existence of a personal God. All the students were required to conduct chapel prayers in turn. Those who did not believe in a personal God explained that they were pronouncing an apostrophe to the great impersonal and unknowable force working in the universe. I had read Channing, Clark, Hale, Emerson, and other conservative Unitarians, and found much food for my soul, but I discovered that these were considered old "fogies" and back numbers by most of the students in attendance.

But I must tell you of my evolution along the line of rationalism. My rationalistic proclivities were given a free rein. And as a child, when left to run away, will soon stop and return to its mother, so this freedom was the natural cure for my intellectual delusion. To the statement of the creeds, "The Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God," my rationalism replied, that is logically inconceivable, therefore I became a Unitarian. No sooner was I happy in this faith than a Universalist addressed me and said, "If you want to be rational, you must give up your belief in eternal punishment, for God could not give eternal punishment for a finite sin." As a rationalist, what could I do but yield, and so I became a universalist Unitarian. I felt I had at last found the truth, but my peace was short; for a student accused me of being irrational, "because," said he, "an omnipotent, loving God would give an infinitely large amount of good and an infinitely small amount of evil; but an infinitely small amount of evil is not perceptible, evil is perceptible, therefore there is no such God." This was an awful pill and gave a terrible shock to my religious sensibilities, but as rationalism was my guide, I had to follow on or stand accused as a superstitious coward.

Again rationalism declared, through my teachers, that all the supernatural must be eliminated from the Bible as mythical and unreliable, and so I was robbed of my Christ, my God and my Bible. Misguided by rationalism, I thought it my conscientious duty to accept, step by step, the dictates of destructive criticism until the Bible was only inspired to me in religion as Kant in philosophy, Milton in poetry, and Beethoven in music. But when I came to the end of the matter I discovered that my conscience, which had urged me along, was gone also. For I was gravely taught that conscience is merely a creature of experience and education, and that it is right to lie or do anything else so long as you do it out of love. Doubtless you have all heard of the farmer and his wife at the World's Fair who went to see the "Exit." There was nothing in it, and of course they had to pay to get in again. This was my bitter experience with rationalism. I thought I was following a great light, but I discovered there was nothing in it, that I was following an ignis fatuus. Rationalism has indeed proven the "Exit" to multitudes, from the peace, joy and moral security that accompany faith in evangelical Christianity into the desert of doubt, darkness and despair.

But not even here did I find a staying-place. For rationalism, in its bold confidence, led me on and on until it brought me to materialism and absurdity. In going too far, it revealed its true nature and character, and thus led me to see its fallacy and enabled me to get free from its bondage. From atheism it led me to fatalism, and declared that there is no free will and consequently people are not to blame for their sins and shortcomings. If we "shall reap as we sow," it declared that we cannot give anything to anybody and therefore philanthropy is a delusion.

But I taught rationalism in guile one day by which it thoroughly exhibited the absurdity of its teaching. Its continual song was, "You dare not believe what you cannot conceive to be true." So it declared one day, in its bold folly, that an object cannot move in the space in which it is, nor in the space in which it is not; therefore you cannot conceive of an object moving; therefore you cannot move to walk, eat or live. So the conclusion to which my rationalistic guide finally led me was that I must sit down and die or be irrational. Well, this was too much for me. I refused to die, and concluded that rationalism is not a safe guide, and commenced to investigate as to where the difficulty lay.

But before I tell you how I discovered the false tricks of rationalism, let me say that all these things into which rationalism led me were against my strong religious nature, and gave me continual and excruciating pain. I never for a day ceased to pray to God for help; for while my intellect was held in doubt through the bondage of rationalism, my heart held on to God, and thus I was in a mighty conflict. In my despair I cried unto God, and when he had accomplished his purpose concerning me, he set me free. Blessed be his name! Surely "he bringeth the blind by a way that they knew not, and leads them into paths that they have not known. He makes darkness light before them, and crooked things straight, and does not utterly forsake the honest in heart."

Most people have come to their religious and political position by heredity and are held there by inertia. If you can set a person free from this hereditary inertia, you can convert him to almost anything at will; for it is but few who are sufficiently informed on any subject to defend it against an expert, and none are thus qualified on all subjects. So when I entered this school, free from all hereditary ideas, determined to accept every position that I could not refute in argument, you can imagine my experience. At first I was converted from one thing to another by the different students and professors until I was about all the "arians," "isms," and "ists" ever heard of, together with a number of other things for which they have no names as yet.

But how did I discover the fallacy of rationalism? and how was I delivered from its mighty clutches by which it had dragged me from one pitfall to another so ruthlessly? My deliverance came from a source where you would perhaps least expect it. It was through the study of John Stuart Mill's "System of Logic." In it I learned "that inconceivability is not a criterion of impossibility," as rationalism claims. On the other hand, that we know things to be true that are just as inconceivable as that there can be two mountains without a valley between.

Let me introduce a few of these contradictions or inconceivabilities. Before you can reach your mouth with your hand, you must go over half the distance, then half of the rest, then half of the rest, and so on ad infinitum. But you cannot make the infinite number of divisions, and therefore you cannot reach your lips. Again, you cannot conceive of extension of space or time without a limit, nor can you conceive of a limit to space or time. Here conceivability contradicts itself. Furthermore, you cannot conceive of existence without a cause, nor of a cause without existence. To the statement of the believer that, "as the wonderful mechanism of the watch presumes a designer, so the infinitely more wonderful mechanism of the universe presumes God, the infinite designer," Ingersoll replied that this is simply to jump over the difficulty by an infinite assumption. Ingersoll, on the other hand, claimed that the material universe has always existed; apparently unaware that he thus was guilty of the same fallacy of which he accused others, by assuming infinite existence without a cause. The difference is that the believer's assumption gives us a personal God, a kind, loving heavenly Father who provides for the eternal bliss and welfare of his children, while Ingersoll's assumption gives death and darkness and despair.

An object thrown from one point to another is always at some point, therefore it has no time to move from one point to another. And yet we know that it does move, even though we cannot conceive how it can do so. Again, suppose that the hour-hand of your clock is at eleven and the minute-hand at twelve. Now, you cannot conceive how the minute-hand can overtake the hour-hand, although you know by observation that it does overtake it. For by the time the minute-hand gets to eleven, the hour-hand has passed on to twelve, and by the time the minute-hand has reached twelve, the hour-hand has passed beyond it. Every time the minute-hand comes to where the hour-hand now is, the hour-hand has passed beyond. The distance becomes less and less, but theoretically, or in conceivability, the one can never overtake the other.

Through this line of reasoning I learned, clearly and once for all, that inconceivability is not a proof of impossibility; but, on the other hand, that we know many things to be true that are not conceivable to the finite mind, and therefore we must follow truth learned by experience and observation, irrespective of rationalism. In this way the mighty fetters of rationalism that held me in bondage were cut and I was set free to search for the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. I learned the limitations of the finite intellect and the truth of God's word when he says: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." "Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

After the empirical school of philosophy had taught me that we must follow inductions based on experience and observation rather than rationalism or conceivability, I began to value Paul's admonition, "Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good." If inductive philosophers have often been opposed to religion and the Bible, it is because they have not carried their inductions far enough to cover the entire world of facts. It is admitted by all historians and observers that prayer and faith and religious convictions have been among the mightiest forces at work in the world, and any system of reasoning that does not take these facts into consideration is neither philosophical nor scientific.

To illustrate what is meant by saying that we must follow experience rather than conceivability, let us suppose that you are suffering from a malignant disease and you hear of a medicine that has cured this disease whenever it has been tried, and you know of nothing else that will cure it. Would it not be foolish for you to refuse to use the medicine because you cannot conceive how it produces the cure? It might be discovered later that it was not the medicine, but your belief in its curative qualities, that produced the result. But this would not affect your common-sense duty in the matter. If certain desirable results follow the doing of a certain thing, we are bound to do that thing until we know how to get the good results without doing it.

This reveals the folly and inhumanity of the conduct of some infidels towards religious people. When I was minister of a church in Ohio, I was visited by a noted infidel. After he went on in a tirade against preachers and Christians, I asked him if he was not an unhappy man. At first he denied it; but I called his attention to some of his utterances, and he soon admitted that he was a very unhappy man. But he said he was unhappy because he knew too much, and claimed that Christians were so happy because they were ignorant and deluded. He claimed to be a great lover of humanity, and although, according to his profession, he had no God or conscience or judgment to require it of him, he spent his time in spreading the knowledge and wisdom which made people unhappy by destroying that which he admitted gave people great joy and peace and happiness. Suppose a man should come to town who is as lean as a skeleton and is slowly dying because he is not getting enough nourishment out of the food he eats, and should begin to lecture well-nourished and healthy people for eating the food they are eating. Would we not put him down as a fool? Well, if he would add the claim that we are well fed because we are ignorant and deluded, while he is suffering and dying because he knows too much on the food question, he would be on a par with many of our infidelic friends.

It is said that Beecher and Ingersoll were both present at a banquet in New York City. Ingersoll brought a railing accusation against Christianity. Everybody expected Beecher to reply, but he held his peace until later in the evening, when it became his turn to speak. When Beecher arose he said: "When I came to this hall to-night I saw an old, crippled woman wending her way across the crowded street on crutches. When she had reached about midway, a burly ruffian came along and knocked the crutches out from under her, and she fell splash into the mud." Turning to Ingersoll, he said, "What do you think of that, Colonel?" "The villain!" replied Ingersoll. Beecher, pointing to Ingersoll, said: "Thou art the man! Suffering, heart-broken, dying humanity is wending its way through this world of sorrow and turmoil on the crutches of Christianity. You, sir, come along and knock them out from under them, but offer nothing in their place." It was a crushing blow to Ingersoll and his gospel of despair.

We do not understand how spirit and matter can be inter-related, and we can not conceive that our willing it can move our arm; but this does not deter us from moving, because we know through experience that we can move. We do not understand the philosophy of digestion, and we cannot conceive how bread and butter can have any relation to thought and life; but we know by experience that they do, and we go on eating and living. We cannot conceive how the same grass produces lamb, pork and beef; but we keep on raising stock just the same, because we are guided by facts learned by experience and observation rather than by conceivability. We do reach our mouth, the minute-hand does overtake the hour-hand, objects do move in space, etc., rationalism and inconceivability to the contrary notwithstanding.

Man is a religious being, and we know by experience that religion gives him joy and brings him good. If we had no revealed religion, science and duty would compel us to develop a religious system out of our religious experiences. This is what has actually been done by the different peoples of the earth who know not the revelation of God in the Bible. The secret of the hold that even a false religion has upon people is the fact that it does them good and gives them happiness by exercising the pious emotions of their being, even though it may bring them harm in other ways. Even a religion based on human experience is better than none; for it is better to feed the religious nature on husks than to starve it out altogether. To this agree the words of Paul when he says that God "made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth… that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him." But while man, unaided by direct revelation, can grope in the dark and feel after God, and can invent systems of religion based on experience that are better than none, any man that accepts facts and testimony will soon discover that God has not thus left us in the dark oil religious matters, but has "appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained, whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead."

It is said that a lawyer and a noted preacher, who was a lecturer, happened to meet at a hotel breakfast-table. The lawyer suspected that his companion was a preacher, and, as he was an infidel, he thought he had a good opportunity to give a thrust at the Bible.

"Excuse me," said the lawyer, "I take it from your appearance that you are a preacher."

"Yes, sir," said the preacher.

"Well, now," said the lawyer, "don't you find a great many contradictions and difficulties you cannot understand in the Bible?"

"Yes, sir," replied the preacher.

"How, then," said the lawyer, "can you continue to believe in it?"

"Why," said the preacher, "do you see what I am doing with the bones of this fish? I lay them aside and enjoy the good of the fish. So with the Bible. I lay aside the things I cannot understand, and feast upon the rich spiritual food it contains, willing to wait until all mysteries shall be removed hereafter."

If the finite mind could understand everything contained in the Bible, it would become worthless as a revelation, for the finite mind could produce it. But since it reveals the infinite mind, we must expect it to contain things that the finite mind cannot understand. We can understand the evidence that it is from God and for our good, and it is reasonable that we should accept its great truths by faith, although we may not now be able to see how all the truths it reveals are consistent with each other. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

As has often been said, no one can do better than to live the pure, clean, benevolent life that Jesus inculcated and incarnated. If you imitate him in goodness and good deeds, you are pursuing the best possible course, even if the Bible is not true. If, on the other hand, the Bible is true, and you do not live for Christ, you are doomed for ever and ever.

Having been delivered from the bondage of rationalism, I found my way back to Christ with comparative ease. If experience and facts are our ultimate guides, then we must trust the testimony of history. With the help of the Bi-Millennial Telescope on the opposite page, and limitless similar testimony, we can trace the existence of the Bible clear to the days of the Apostles. None ever had better means of knowing the facts they bore witness to than the Apostles, and none ever gave stronger proof that they sincerely told the truth as they knew it. The Gospels being genuine and reliable, the life and words and miracles of Jesus they narrate, give sufficient proof of the divinity of Christ to satisfy every reasonable demand of the intellect. This is especially true concerning the resurrection of Christ, on which the proof of Christianity hinges. "He showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs." And if he arose from the dead, he was demonstrated by it to be the Son of God. And if he is the Son of God, then the Bible is the Word of God, for he has endorsed it all. Thus there were restored to me Christ, God and his Word of truth. The thing that robbed me of these was rationalism, but it had been proven false and therefore was ruled out of court.

Unitarians used to tell me that Christ was the Son of God, but we all are sons of God. I now saw that Christ was the Son of God in the special and peculiar sense in which he claimed, or he was a fool. When he was on trial he was asked upon oath whether he was the Son of God or not, and he answered "Yes" when it cost his life to do so. If he meant that he was the son of God in the same sense in which we are, all he would have had to do was to explain and he could have saved his life.

The proof that Christianity is from God as revealed in its effect upon the life of individuals, communities and nations, is

so apparent and has been pointed out so often that I will give it but a passing notice. "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself," was Christ's challenge, and millions have verified it in their own religious experience. Nearly all the voluntary educational and philanthropic institutions of the world are supported by Christian people, and the nations of the earth are prosperous, enlightened and influential in the exact proportion as their people are intelligent and consecrated followers of the lowly Nazarene.

It was thus that I found my way back to Christ as my Lord and Saviour, and I never before fully appreciated the words of Jesus, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The truth dawned upon me gradually, but with irresistible force. How often have we been perplexed and in doubt on some great question of truth or duty until finally the solution came to us as if by magic. Through what the psychologists call subconscious cerebration our mind has been working at the great problem even when our conscious attention was given to other matters. I have had a number of such experiences before and since, and, had I not examined them critically, I might easily have been led to believe they were direct revelations from heaven.

For many months the great question had been occupying my mind by day and by night. Finally the solution came as clear as a revelation from God. It wakened me in the still of the night and ravished my soul with peace and joy unspeakable. I arose and took a walk into the country to a mountain spring and back. I shall never forget that night, and the ecstatic joy it brought to me. My religious nature had been outraged so long that when it was set free it returned to its Lord with a violent bound. The fittest words I could find to express my feelings are in the 103d Psalm: "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name."

The question as to what church I should join, or what religious body I should affiliate with, now confronted me and demanded solution. As I already intimated, I was perplexed, and partly led to doubt and confusion by the many different religious bodies, all claiming to be right. One of my objects in entering this school was to make a thorough study of the different religious bodies and their doctrines. One incident that helped me in the solution of this problem was an occurrence in our New Testament Greek class. The professor declared that all Greek scholars of note are agreed that the proper meaning of the word "baptism" in the New Testament is to immerse. As I was raised in a pedobaptist church, this declaration was a great surprise to me, but I looked up the authorities and found that the professor had stated the facts correctly.

We had a class that made a study of the character, government and teaching of the different religious bodies. In this study I was especially impressed with the polity and teaching of the people designated as "Disciples of Christ," or "Christians." I procured their literature and made a thorough study of their position. I naturally found myself in harmony with their teaching. I had myself come to see the folly of enforcing upon all believers the speculative theology of the creeds, and the weakness and waste that result from a divided church. My experience revealed to me the relative value of human wisdom and God's wisdom as found in his Book. The thought of preaching Christ rather than theology, and of restoring the apostolic church in its teachings, ordinances and practices, came to me as a godsend in my condition of mind. I was, however, very slow to act in this matter, as I had been deceived before and it was my desire not to make a mistake again. After a year's consideration and considerable correspondence with one of their preachers, I finally united with the Christian Church at New Castle, Pa. I have been preaching the plea for Christian union on the primitive gospel ever since, and the longer I preach it the more I see its beauty and power.

Having been delivered, through the goodness of God, from this blinding cloud of rationalism, let us take a backward look at it and its chief product-Unitarianism-and let us see what lesson God would teach us through it. Unitarianism, as a church movement, started near the beginning of the last century. It enlisted many of the best hearts, brains and purses of this country. It had Harvard University back of it. It numbered among its followers most of the great poets, historians and prose writers of our country. It has flooded the country with free literature, and has furnished to thousands of ministers its standard works without money and without price. No movement ever seemed to have such mighty agencies back of it to insure its rapid spread. And yet, after a century of effort, what do we see as the result? Only a few hundred churches, most of which are numerically weak and enlist only a certain class of people.

My conviction of the depressing, devitalizing and disintegrating effect of Unitarianism has been intensified through my recent experience in evangelistic work in New England. The rationalistic liberalism of Unitarianism has largely permeated New England Protestantism. It was not an accident that it was in New England, where, to a large body of clergymen, a speaker declared, with applause, that "Protestantism is decaying and will soon be displaced by a new form of Catholicism." Here Protestantism is indeed decaying through its contact with Unitarian teaching, and is already largely displaced by old Catholicism and new Christian Science and other antichristian delusions. Nowhere else did I ever see Protestant churches so saturated with worldly pleasures and so indifferent about the salvation of souls. It was here I had the humiliating experience of sitting in a union Thanksgiving service where the preacher called the Pilgrim Fathers religious fanatics, and spoke of words writers of the Pentateuch put into the mouth of Moses to give them influence with the people. Yet I never saw a sign of disapproval in the audience or heard a word of criticism. It is true he was a Universalist preacher, but that makes it all the worse. To think that Protestantism has so degenerated in a New England city that a preacher who does not believe in the divinity of Christ nor in the inspiration of the Bible should be appointed to represent it on such an occasion. It is enough to make the Pilgrim Fathers turn in their graves and groan for pain. Had present-day Protestantism of New England a fraction of the moral and spiritual earnestness that the Pilgrim Fathers possessed, it might have been spared the abject humility of sprawling in weakness before the same vaunting religious intolerance of Catholicism that through cruel and bloody persecution drove the Pilgrim Fathers to "the bleak New England shore" for safety and religious liberty.

When a prominent Catholic recently aped the Protestant clergymen by declaring that Protestantism is decaying, the preacher at Tremont Temple called it a "damnable lie." This is a hopeful sign, and indicates that the sick man is not dead yet. It shows that at least some think it is not true, or wish it not true; and if enough get a strong desire that it shall not be true, it will not be true. When we renounce rationalism and its products it will not be true.

At a meeting of one of the leading ministerial associations of New England, at which the writer was present, the speaker of the day declared that the church has been claiming too much for itself. The contents of the speech indicated that he had reference to its claim of supernatural power to transform the sinner. He also said he had given up the effort to reconcile the first chapters of the Bible with science. The significance is in the fact that some Protestants acquiesce in such teaching, and that they are in harmony with the doctrines of Unitarianism.

Although its advocates must admit that Unitarianism is a monumental failure in organizing churches, it is their boast that it has powerfully affected other religious bodies. This fact we admit; but as the effect is devitalizing, disorganizing and ultimately demoralizing, we consider the result the crowning shame rather than the crowning glory of Unitarianism.

That the liberal theology resulting from rationalism and championed in this country by Unitarianism is merely negative and destructive, is evidenced on every hand. Dr. Pearson, in the Missionary Review, has recently pointed out its fatal effects in the mission fields, and still more recently it has been compelled to confess its own defeat in Germany, where it originated and where it has found its chief support. The evidence of this is found in the Literary Digest of Feb. 25, 1911, where we find the following:

That "liberal" theology has made an almost utter failure in Germany is asserted by one of its leading spokesmen in a liberal religious organ. It consists too much of mere negation, he thinks, and has no strong faith in anything. The masses have rejected it, and the educated have accepted it only in small numbers. Practically it is a failure, and he demands a reconstruction along new lines, with new ideals and new methods. This courageous liberal is Rev. Dr. Rittelmeyer, of Nuremberg, and he writes in the Christliche Welt (Tubingen). Here are the main points of his argument:

"Let us ask honestly what results modern theology has attained practically. As far as the great masses of workingmen are concerned, practically nothing has been gained. They either do not understand it or they distrust it. All the public discussions and popularization of modern critical views have not found any echo or sympathy among the ranks of the laboring people.

"And how about the educated classes? It has long since been the boast and hobby of advanced theology that it, and it alone, will satisfy the religious longings of the educated man who has broken with the traditional dogma and doctrines of orthodox Christianity. But what are the actual facts in the case? It is a fact that there are a considerable number among the educated who thankfully confess that they can accept Christianity only in the form in which it is taught by the advanced theologian. But how exceedingly small this number is! A periodical like the Christliche Welt, the only paper of its kind, has not been able to secure more than five thousand subscribers, although its contributors are the most brilliant in the land of scholars and thinkers; while periodicals that are exponents of the older views are read by tens and even hundreds of thousands. There are whole classes of society among the educated who are antagonistic to liberal tendencies in religion. Among these are the officers in the army and the navy, practitioners of the technical arts and of engineering, and almost to a man the whole world of business. It is foolish to close our eyes to these facts."

What is the matter? asks this writer. What is the weakness of liberal and advanced theological thought? These are some of the answers:

"One trouble is that modern theology has entirely grown out of criticism. Its weakness is intellectualism; it is a negative movement. We can understand the cry of the orthodox, that advanced theology is eliminating one thing after the other from our religious thought, and then asks, What is left? True, we answer, God is left. But is it not the case that the modern God-Father faith is generally a very weak and attenuated faith in a Providence, and nothing more? And on this subject, too, we quarrel among ourselves, whether a God-Father troubles himself about little things only or about great things too, such as the forgiveness of sins. We do the same thing with Jesus. We speak of him as of a unique personality, as the highest revelation of the Father, and the like, but always connected with a certain skeptical undercurrent of thought; but we do not appreciate him in his deepest soul and in the great motives of his life. He is not for modern theology what he is for orthodoxy, the Saviour of the world and the Redeemer of mankind."

Quite naturally this open confession of a pronounced liberal attracts more than ordinary attention. The liberal papers, including the Christliche Welt itself, pass it by without further comment, but the conservatives speak out boldly. Representative of the latter is the Evangelische Lutherische Kirchenzeitung, of Leipzig, which says:

"The psychological and spiritual solution of Rittelmeyer's problem is not so hard to find. The soul of man can not live on negations. To stir the soul there must be positive principles and epoch-making historical facts, such as are offered by the Scriptural teachings of Christ and his words. There can be religious life only where there is faith in him who is the truth and the life. Liberal theology has failed because it has nothing to offer."

Dr. Harnack, its great high priest, found it an unsatisfying portion, and, doubtless influenced by its failure, has resigned and turned his energies into other channels.

Unitarianism appeals almost entirely to the head and but little to the heart. It supplies a kind of abnormal stimulant to the intellect, but usually freezes out the emotions. It is like the arctic regions, where they have six months of light, but no heat, and where consequently there is no growth of any kind. It is broad, but really superficial and shallow. It is like a piece of rubber stretched over a wide surface; it is wide, but it becomes very thin. Emerson seemed to recognize how shallow rationalism makes people when he declared that "a small consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds-little philosophers, little statesmen and little divines." The finite mind cannot see the consistency of the great and deep truths of life and God. To try to deal with these great questions with human logic is like manipulating a circle with a break in it. Each reasoner calls attention to the break in the circle of logic of others, but dexterously manipulates his own circle so as to hide its missing link.

Rationalism is a delusion and a snare, and, when followed to its logical conclusion, leads to absurdity and death. Fortunately, most people who are tainted with this disease do not follow it to its legitimate conclusions. Through preconceived and inherited ideas and sentimental inertia, they are held to their moorings. But, unfortunately, their pupils are not always thus protected. Many preachers who are held in their place by religious habits and associations, give expression to rationalistic ideas that take lodgment in the minds of young men who are not surrounded with religious habits and associations to hold them; and who, following these rationalistic ideas to their logical conclusion, are led to doubt and confusion. I believe that hundreds of thinking young men have been led away from Christ and the church in this way, all because they and their teacher did not recognize the true character of rationalism and the proper functions and limitations of the finite intellect. Mansel gives a proper diagnosis of rationalism in the following words:

"The rationalist . . . assigns to some superior tribunal the right of determining what (in revelation) is essential to religion and what is not; he claims the privilege of accepting or rejecting any given revelation, wholly or in part, according as it does or does not satisfy the conditions of some higher criterion, to be supplied by human consciousness." Rationalism proceeds "by paring down supposed excrescences. Commencing with a preconceived theory of the purpose of a revelation, and of the form which it ought to assume, it proceeds to remove or reduce all that will not harmonize with this leading idea." "Rationalism tends to destroy revealed religion altogether, by obliterating the whole distinction between the human and the divine. If it retain any portion of revealed truth, as such, it does so, not in consequence, but in defiance, of its fundamental principle."

But while many ministers are not much injured apparently by their rationalistic taint, many others are, and all are more or less. Eternity alone will reveal how much faith in God's Word, and therefore in God himself, has been weakened or destroyed by this dread mental disease. Look at the destructive ravages of rationalistic criticism of the Bible. The Unitarians have completed this work and have eliminated all the supernatural from the Divine Record. But it is the preachers in the evangelical churches who are following the Unitarians afar off in this matter, that are doing the most damage to the faith of Christ's followers. I have been there, and know how Unitarians look at this matter. They point to these evangelical preachers as an evidence that the entire religious world is rapidly coming to their position. On the other hand, they look at these preachers with pity and contempt because they do not follow the thing to its logical conclusion, and drop the Bible entirely as a supernatural revelation. And I believe the Unitarians are right in this. The same fundamental reasons that led the rationalistic critics in the evangelical churches to their present conclusions will inevitably and logically lead to the Unitarian conclusions, whenever preconceived ideas and inherited prejudices are sufficiently relaxed. When I first studied this question of destructive higher criticism so called (it is often hire criticism) from the rationalistic standpoint and under rationalistic guides, its conclusions seemed the most reasonable thing on earth. I wondered that I had not seen it myself long before, and I looked with pity upon the deluded victims who did not see it. But after I was delivered from rationalism and my eyes were opened, I commenced to study the other side of the question and discovered where I was deceived.

Let me give you a few samples of the reasoning of rationalistic criticism as exhibited by its strongest advocates. Where it says that Jesus walked upon the water, we were gravely informed that Jesus did not walk upon the water at all. It happened to be a foggy morning and the disciples were deceived; he was really walking on the shore. Where it says "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side," we were informed that the Greek word here means primarily to prick as with a pin, to pave the way to belittle the wound of Jesus, despite the fact that the narrative adds, "straightway there came out blood and water." The purpose of this was to make way for the theory that Christ did not die on the cross, but was simply in a lethargy, and when he came to in the tomb he pushed the stone away, and this so frightened the soldiers that they took to their heels, thinking it was a ghost, while Christ escaped to the mountains, where he lived secretly the rest of his life and finally died a natural death. All this without a scrap of historical basis, and despite the express declaration of the narrative that an expert, who was sent by Pilate to ascertain if he was dead, reported that he was. This is so contrary to the facts of the narrative, and the character of Jesus and his disciples, that it is harder to believe it than any miracle recorded in the Bible. Why these ridiculous and absurd conclusions, despite the historical facts? Simply because of the necessity to get rid of the supernatural at the mandates of rationalism. To preserve such puerilities, the manuscripts were kept in a fire-proof vault lest fire should destroy them. The claims of destructive criticism are so absurd and ridiculous, when looked at from a truly scientific standpoint, that I confine myself in this book to exposing the erroneous viewpoint of rationalism, believing that when that is done any one can easily see that there is nothing in it. Besides, its quibblings have been often and ably exposed by competent authors and their works are accessible to all. That any one who claims to believe the Bible should give his time to teaching innocent and uninformed children and adults the conclusions of rationalistic criticism seems almost too absurd to believe; and when it is done under the pretense of honoring the Bible, it is but another illustration of how our moral and intellectual vision can be warped and distorted when we look through the colored glasses of rationalism and bias.

It is said that a minister kept telling his congregation that different parts of the Bible were myths, legends, etc., and not historical. One of his members cut out of her Bible every section he said was not true. When he made a pastoral call she showed him her mutilated Bible. Upon his remonstrance, she replied that he had said that these parts were not reliable, and so she did not want them as a part of her Bible. He was shocked at his own vandalism.

I have shown that the same rationalistic objections that are brought against facts revealed in the Bible can be brought against facts revealed in nature. The only sensible thing to do is to recognize the limitations of our finite intellects and accept all well-authenticated facts, whether revealed in the Bible or in nature. We must learn that in the very nature of things our finite minds cannot fully grasp and comprehend the infinite. Therefore we have God's revelation in the Bible, which, though not the product of the human intellect, fully satisfies its every reasonable demand.

We have also learned that man has by nature strong religious emotions, which, if exercised, give great joy and peace. Even unguided by revelation, they grope after God with the help of the finite intellect. These emotions are blind and were never intended to give us light. They are a source of great joy and power, but must be guided and filled by divine revelation to be properly exercised. The neglect of this fact has led to all kinds of mysticism and fanaticism. And while this is better and more helpful than cold rationalism, it is nevertheless an unsafe guide, and does more harm than good to humanity. Faithfulness compels me to say that, as rationalism, so mysticism has found its way into the evangelical churches and has done much to rob God's Word of its power and to divide Christ's followers into warring camps. The religion that does not thoroughly enlist, exercise and sanctify the human emotions is not worth having; but we are not to believe every spirit, but to try the spirits by the Word of God. Let us lay aside our "think-so's" and "feel-so's," and let us turn to the revelation that comes from above, that our intellects may be flooded with light and our emotions may be submerged in God's love, so that our entire being-body, mind and soul-may be filled, occupied and sanctified to the glory of Christ.

With the Unitarian movement that started at the beginning of the last century, with so many human instrumentalities back of it, let us compare the Apostolic church which was started in the first third of the first century by a handful of poor, illiterate and despised Galileans. Although the wealth and culture and political power of the world were all against them, at the end of the century we are told that they numbered five hundred thousand.

Again let us compare with Unitarianism, this modern movement for the restoration of primitive Christianity which started somewhat later than Unitarianism. Its reproach in the eyes of men-that it has no literature-is its glory in the eyes of God; for the Bible is its literature. Its work has been done chiefly among and through the common people. At the end of the century it numbered among its adherents more than a million and a quarter. While sectarian churches numerically much stronger report meager increases and even decreases, it reports an average of over forty thousand increase for the last several years.

The experiences narrated in this chapter have made real to me the belief that God is in every act of our life. That through his loving care, "all things work together for good to them that love God." When I think of how, in his providence, he took me away from the community and religion of my early neighbors and brought me in a mysterious way to a religion and people I had never heard of, I am overwhelmed with the evidence of his hand in it.

To the honest doubter I would say, take courage, my brother, the Lord will lead you, in his providence, to the way, the truth and the life. I can testify that he brings the spiritually blind by a way that they knew not and leads them in paths they have not known. He makes darkness light before them and crooked things straight, and will not forsake them if they continue to sincerely seek for light until he has accomplished his purpose concerning them and brought them to the feet of Jesus.

To those out of Christ I will say, that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. After having tried both, I have found a hundred times more real pleasure in than out of Christ. And while I am yet tied to clay and suffer many things through the weakness of the flesh, so that I groan within myself and long to be entirely delivered from this bondage of death, yet I am filled with love, peace, joy and power through the earnest of the Spirit dwelling in me, and I serve Jesus patiently, waiting for the hope set before me, even the coming of our Saviour, when this corruptible, mortal body shall be changed into the likeness of the glorified body of Jesus, and I shall be with him and shall be like him. Oh, how this hope fills my being with love and joy unspeakable! Will you come and accept this salvation? In the Saviour's name, who died to purchase it for you, we bid you come. Come while it is called to-day!

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares