Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/796

This page has been validated.

identify and recognize it as a fact. That article is not a mere attack upon certain narratives and traditions of the Old Testament, on the ground that they have been incautiously admitted as integral parts of Christian belief, while in reality they need not and ought not to occupy any such position. On the contrary, this contention is repudiated expressly, and with scorn. Prof. Huxley patronizes the school which insists on the barest literalism in the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. He refers to Canon Rawlinson's Bampton Lectures (1859) as asserting that "the narratives contained in the canonical Scriptures are free from any admixture of error."[1] He praises the justice and candor of the lecturer when he asserts as distinctive of Christianity among the religions of the world, that it claims "to be historical."[2] He represents him as insisting that Christianity is surely founded "upon events which have happened exactly as they are declared to have happened in its sacred books."[3] He further ascribes to the lecturer the argument that the "New Testament presupposes the historical exactness of the Old," and that the demonstration of the "falsity" of the Hebrew records, especially in regard to those narratives which are assumed to be true in the New Testament, would be fatal to "Christian theology."[4] Having thus nailed the colors of Christianity to the bare poles of the very barest and narrowest literalism, the professor jumps and leaps upon this teaching as giving him an easy fulcrum for tearing those colors down. He is enchanted by the reasoning of the Canon. He adopts it with effusion. "My utmost ingenuity," he says, "does not enable me to discover a flaw in the argument thus briefly summarized."[5] Nor does he conceal the full sweep of the destructive work which he desires it to accomplish. Not only the whole story of Creation, the whole story of the Fall, the whole story of the Flood, the whole story of Abraham and of any special mission to the Hebrew people, but even the glorious idea and hope of a Messiah—the whole Messianic doctrine which binds the Jewish and Christian Churches—all are relegated to the same category as the Greek myths about Theseus or the Latin stories of the regal period of Rome. And, as the writers of the New Testament have believed those stories and dwelt upon them, the authority of those writers is denounced as that of a body of men who "have not only accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands."[6]

This language with plenty more of it is unmistakable. Its tone is that of the whole article. It must be accepted, therefore, as a pronounced attack upon Christianity all along the line.

I do not stop to inquire whether the doctrines of biblical inter-

  1. Page 7. f
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Page 8.
  6. Ibid.