competence and truthfulness as a witness, just as in cases of science. His only appeal is to reason, our only organ for apprehending truth. We, because of the evidence presented to our reason, believe him competent and truthful—i.e., trustworthy—and we take the second step (2), as in case of search for scientific truth. We trust him, we have "faith" in him. Then (3) we believe his testimony as to facts beyond our cognizance, as to God, as to the inner world and life, as to his own person and work, and his agency in helping us to the true life. Here are the same three steps as in our believing the great facts of science, and they are equally legitimate, and the belief is equally legitimate, and with the same use of "faith" in both cases, which use is legitimate if we have applied our reason correctly.
It may be said that there is this difference in the two cases: We are, it may be, competent with training to perceive with our reason the facts to which the scientists witness, whereas in religion we are not competent by any training, in our present state, to see what Jesus Christ testified to; therefore the believing him is not legitimate.
Space forbids arguing this point, but the writer is confident it can be shown that this does not vitiate the process in the least. The only point now argued is that reason is the only organ of man for the apprehension of truth, and that "faith" acts the same part in scientific and religious belief.
|John R. Thurston.|
|Whitinsville, Mass., September 30, 1899.|
[The point which our correspondent discusses is one which falls rather within the province of theology or philosophy than within that of science. In the article to which he refers we did not distinctly say that "faith" was "the organ of religious apprehension." What we said was that granting such was the case, the question still remained to be settled where the line should be drawn between faith and knowledge. We doubt whether the account which our correspondent gives of faith would be widely accepted by those who approach the subject from the theological side, while those who approach it from the scientific side would—at least many of them would—be disposed to consider the term one which might better be dispensed with in favor of the less ambiguous word "belief." Belief is the inclination of the mind toward a proposition for which absolute or demonstrative proof is wanting, and it is this condition of mind, it seems to us, that our correspondent has in view. Faith in the religious sense, unless we are mistaken, is something different. It is an affirmation made by the human conscience or consciousness in its own behalf—a certain instinctive recognition of a presence and power in the universe which, though inaccessible to scientific investigation, sustains an intimate, profound, and all-essential relation to man's moral nature. If trust in an individual ever rises to the level of faith in this sense, it is because the influence of the individual harmonizes with and re-enforces the primal instinct. That, at least, is how we view the matter.—Editor.]
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
Sir: Will you permit me to say a few words supplementing your review of Through Nature to God? To those who have perused Mr. Fiske's latest three scientifico-theological booklets, and also his Cosmic Philosophy, it can not be new that their author has become entangled in hopeless contradictions of himself. The limited space of a letter does not allow of adducing more than one remarkable passage from Cosmic Philosophy, demonstrating the antithesis between the arguments of this work and Mr. Fiske's latest opinions, these new thoughts having been developed, as he tells us, by "carrying such a subject about in his mind for" twenty-five years. We are told in Through Nature to God (page 12) that "it has usually been found necessary to represent the Creator as finite either in power or in goodness, although the limitation is seldom avowed, except by writers who have a leaning toward atheism and take a grim pleasure in pointing out flaws in the constitution of things. Among modern writers" Comte and Mill are conspicuous for such a "leaning toward atheism." Then we are informed (page 20) that the "shock which such a clear, bold statement gives to our religious feelings is no greater than the shock with which it strikes counter to our modern scientific philosophy." And a little further on we find that "the God which Mr. Mill offers us, shorn of the attribute of omnipotence, is no God at all."