Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/31

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RATIONALISM IN THEOLOGY.

recent accumulation of knowledge, and so not peculiar to this century, except in the intensity of its operation—it is the action of reason in itself, apart from its recent attainments, upon dogma. This is the most natural element of the Rationalistic spirit, and it is this direct application of reason to dogma, initiated by the Kantist-Coleridgean school, and consistently maintained by all the Broad Churchmen, which has had so dissolving an effect upon the old beliefs. As Kant first clearly associated and differentiated the speculative and the practical functions of reason, so there has been a twofold application of it in the present instance. Some dogmas have fallen before conscience proper, the moral sense; some have yielded to purely speculative considerations.

Among the doctrines which have dissolved under candid and sincere ethical consideration, the most familiar is that of the eternity of punishment. With a larger development of the moral sense and the attainment of a certain degree of liberty of thought, it was inevitable that this, the most repellent point of the Christian scheme, should be toned down. No admixture of Kantist or Platonist speculation was necessary for its modification. The emancipated moral sense at once perceived and declared its incompatibility with the high attributes which were assigned to the Deity. Hence the dogma was an object of adverse criticism from the very beginning of liberal speculation. The decisions of the Privy Council in 64 made it clear that the teaching of the Thirty-nine Articles on the point could be set aside with impunity. Canon Farrar in 1877 placidly remarked of the decaying doctrine: "Many of us were scared with it in our childhood;" and Frothingham says that it has not only departed from the temples of science and philosophy, but "even in the wilderness of theology it is seldom met with."

Lecky has analyzed the immoral effect the doctrine is calculated to have upon those who subscribe to it: (1) It causes an indifference to suffering, for the habitual contemplation of such scenes of horror as Christian ministers formerly depicted to their audiences could not but blunt the edge of sensitiveness. (2) It stifles the natural feeling of pity for suffering; the believer is constrained to regard this picture of inhuman torment as the deliberate infliction