Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/39

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RATIONALISM IN THEOLOGY.

modified by the ethical spirit of the Rationalists. The Lutheran doctrine was, of course, less repulsive (in direct form) than the Calvinistic from the commencement; yet it was repulsive enough, and the believer was once more urged to distort his conscience into accepting it as a profound and painful mystery. The modern conscience has solved the mystery, to some extent, by refusing to believe in the predestination of a few chosen souls—and the inevitable damnation of the majority. Kingsley, Temple, Wilson, and Colenso strenuously urged a more generous estimate of the fate of humanity and of the extension of the Church; they declare the older view—the belief of nineteen centuries—to be a blasphemy. H. Ward Beecher says it would drive him to infidelity. The working of Providence has been recognised in other religions besides Judaism and Christianity, and discovered on earth in the tens of thousands of years that preceded the death of Christ; the gift of Inspiration has been accorded to other literatures than the Hebrew and the Hebræo-Greek.

Finally, the activity of that important figure in Christian theology—the devil—has been considerably restricted, not only by scientific, but by ethical considerations. During the long history of Christianity its adherents looked with unmoved complacency on the spectacle of endless legions of devils let loose among mankind to tempt, afflict, corrupt, ruin in body and soul the less gifted children of Adam: the Irish peasant regards that view to this day as a divine revelation, and accepts it just as calmly as the belief that nearly the whole of humanity will be condemned to indescribable torment for not embracing his own peculiar tenets. Science initiated a revolt by exposing the cruel fallacy of witchcraft and superseding exorcisms; as it advances "Satan retreats," says Frothingham, "from one department of nature after another, and leaves the highways and byways of creation free to the passage of serene, inexorable, and regenerating law." And at length the ethical enormity of the old belief dawns upon the Christian conscience. Various efforts are made to explain away Christ's continual references to devils; indeed, one modern theologian maintains that the obnoxious idea comes rather from Milton's "Paradise Lost" than from the Bible. In any case, the modern moralist traces evil to more tangible influences, and pays less regard to the powers