Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/125

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113
MATTHEW ARNOLD

meaning. He apparently thought, as I have said, that a modified form of Catholicism would be the religion of the future; the modification amounting to this, that it would only profess to be poetry instead of science, and giving symbols 'thrown out' at truth, not dogmas with the validity of theorems in geometry. He argued not only that the Hebrew religion itself is to be taken by us in the poetical sense, but that by the prophets themselves it was never understood differently. So the text which says that 'Man must be born of a spirit' means only that man must be born of an influence; and, moreover, never meant anything more. This was the original sense of the first utterance, which was only twisted into pseudo-science by later dogmatists. It follows that orthodox theology is an 'immense misunderstanding of the Bible'—a misunderstanding because it takes poetry for prose. By clearing away the accretions we see that the Bible is to be read throughout in this sense; and therefore that, to restore its true value, we are not to throw it aside, but to take it as the original authors meant us to take it.

The weakness of the poetic or imaginative treatment is the tendency to confound a judgment