Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/42

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42

MODERN RATIONALISM.

Bampton Lectures. He said that "a finite mind can form no conception of an infinite being which shall be speculatively true;" our knowledge of God, as the absolute and unconditioned, as he wished him to be called, is negative and regulative, not positive and speculative. Chretien says of him that he "consigns us for the guidance of our life to seeming truths, but tells us that, if we could only lay aside the veil of our human nature, we should perceive these seeming truths to be falsehoods." And even Maurice accuses him of denying that we can know God. The point will be further discussed in the chapter on philosophy.

With such specimens of the criticisms of prominent and influential theologians on the most important Christian dogmas we may fitly close our appreciation of the rationalizing tendency within the Church. Not only has there been a remarkable number of secessions from orthodoxy to Rationalism proper in the course of the century, but a large section of the Church itself is moving bodily towards that goal. In the stress of an overpowering controversy, and in the painful foreboding of its issue, there has been a deliberate and successful attempt to free the Church from the fatal shackles of dogma, and to base its fortune upon its ethical and humanitarian mission. How far, in historical retrospect, such a profound change casts discredit upon its claims as an institution it is not our province to consider; and it would be premature to essay a prediction of the probable consequences. The position will be more clearly understood after treating of Rationalism in ethics.

As an epilogue it is interesting to note the progress of the Rationalistic spirit in a sect which has hitherto preserved its clear characteristic features through eighteen centuries of troubled life. In an interesting article in the Fortnightly Review Mr. Cohen points out that Jewish obduracy has all but vanished, through contact with modern Rationalism. "The past half-century," he writes, "has undeniably been an epoch in Freethought, and the expanding Hebrew has exhausted the possibilities." Rabbinism is slowly dying; Judaism to day is a species of materialism. "Homogeneity is gone, and the new order is a peaceful conglomeration of multifarious points of view." The absence of spiritualism is inferred from the unpopularity of private prayer. The