Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/229

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217
THE AFFIRMATIVE SIDE OF AGNOSTICISM.

THE AFFIRMATIVE SIDE OF AGNOSTICISM.
By JAMES A. SKILTON.

WITH LETTERS FROM HERBERT SPENCER, PROF. HUXLEY, AND DR. LYMAN ABBOTT.

IN the sacred literature of the Christian Church a word appears that to its founder and to his immediate followers evidently had a deep significance, the nature of which was at least partially concealed from his later followers, and is still concealed from those of the present day, through admitted mistranslation.

Standing on Mars' Hill and speaking to the men of Athens, Paul affirmed that in all things they were "too God-fearing."[1] Whereupon he proceeded to declare and make known unto them the God whom they worshiped as the Unknown or Agnostic God. In so doing he spoke of a God, the Lord of heaven and earth, who made the world and all things therein; who dwelt not in temples made with hands; who needed nothing, seeing he was the giver of life, breath, and all things; who had made of one blood all nations of men; and who had determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation. He declared that they should seek the Lord if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he was constantly at hand, and the one in whom they lived and moved and had their being. He closed with a strongly put antithesis in which, without declaring divine condemnation of their agnosticism, which he said God "winked at," and they might therefore tolerate, he urged them to obey the command of God—"metanoein"—to practice metanosticism. This word has been translated to mean "repent." It is hardly sufficient to say that that translation is etymologically inadequate; the history of the Christian Church also, for eighteen centuries, proves it to be practically so. Paul evidently found in the word "metanoein" the open door of a temple in which a God-fearing worship might be exchanged for a God-loving worship. The history of his own life shows that his personal conversion was a metanostic process through which a defective external sight was exchanged for a clear insight, revealed to him as with a lightning-flash at midnight, wherein he instantly saw "the world and all things therein" in an entirely new aspect.

The question, then, indirectly presented for the consideration of the entire Christian Church, in the following correspondence, is, Whether it should adopt the word actually used by Paul, with its large meaning, either alone, as a step forward, and to restore to the sacred record and to the working power of the Church the


  1. The word he uses is "deisidaimonesterous," and includes the idea of devil-fearing.