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Mystery and Dogma.

Mystery and Dogma.

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Published by glennpease

Job xxviii. 20, 21.

Whence then cometh wisdom ? and where is the place of understanding ?

seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living.

Job xxviii. 20, 21.

Whence then cometh wisdom ? and where is the place of understanding ?

seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living.

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Published by: glennpease on Aug 02, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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MYSTERY AD DOGMA. BY DAVID J. VAUGHA, M.A., Job xxviii. 20, 21. Whence then cometh wisdom ? and where is the place of understanding ? seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living. A FEW days ago the remark was made to me, * that it seemed as if the present tendency of things went strongly in the direction of banishing the element of mystery out of our religion ; that the child-feeling of awe and wonder and simple faith was in danger of becoming extinct ; that a religion without mystery was no religion at all, was not worth having ; that, for example, in the days of our fathers it was enough to say of any statement of fact or doctrine, "It is in the Bible," and the answer was at once held to be conclusive and final ; whereas, noWy such an answer only furnished the starting-point for a fresh series of inquiries, in which the Bible was no longer treated as the ultimate Court of Appeal in matters of religious belief and truth.' The very next day there appeared, in the * Times' news- paper, a long article, occupying nearly four columns of close print, headed, * atural Science and Free Thought.' The article may have escaped your notice; but it was. full of interest and importance — of interest and importance for those who are not readers of the * Times," as well as for those 3l8 MYSTERY AD DOGMA. [SER. who are. It was a review of a remarkable discourse deli- vered by a well-known German Professor, as distinguished in
politics as in science — Professor Virchow, of Berlin ; a dis- course delivered by him in September last before the Annual Conference of German aturalists, — a gathering which nearly corresponds to the annual meetings of our British Association. The review contains large extracts from this discourse, translated by the reviewer from the German original. I confess that I have not read for a long time an)rthing so cheering and hopeful as these extracts — cheering and hopeful, as indicating the dawn of a better period, when science and theology, the equally mischievous dogmatism of both being equally discarded, can be at peace. At present, it seems to me, it is the dogmatism of science that stands in the way of the much-needed recon- ciliation, even more than the dogmatism of theology. The repudiation of that dogmatism in the name of science, and in the interest of science, and by a most distinguished master of science — it was this that struck me as the specially hopeful and important feature of the discourse, so opportunely brought to my knowledge through the * Times' review. I want to explain this in such a way as may, I hope, gain the attention and interest of all who hear me to-night, however ignorant and unintelligent they may be ; and then you will see, how it bears upon that question of * mystery,' from which I set out, and which is matter of such vital concern to us all. The title of the discourse of the German Professor is, * The Freedom of Science in the Modem State,' and the 'Times' reviewer says of it: *The discourse is a most serious and impressive protest, in the name and interests of true science, against that pseudo-scientific dogmatism, which, first, propounds unverified speculations as the conclusions of science ; next, reiterates them in the circle of admiring disciples and on the lecturer's platform, till their universal acceptance is boldly assumed, and every doubter is branded as an old-fashioned fool of the '* pre-scientific age ; " and which ends by demanding XXXII.] MYSTERY AD DOGMA. 3^9 that its dogmas should form a part of that universal primary
education, the proper direction of which is just now one of the most serious subjects of discussion in England as well as in Germany.' A short extract or two will show the tendency and quality of the discourse better than anything else can do. In one place the Professor says : ' I have been teaching my science for more than thirty years, and I venture to say that during those thirty years I have honestly laboured, for my own part, continually to put off the subjective character more and more, and to bring myself ever more and more into the objective current :' — that is to say (translating German thought into English), to lay less and less stress upon the theories by which I account for the facts, and to give increasing weight and emphasis to the facts themselves. 'evertheless, I freely confess that it is impossible forme entirely to renounce the subjective spirit;'— or, in other words, to cease to propound theories, which, as I think, bind the facts together into clearness and coherence. * Every year I am continually seeing afresh that I myself, on the very ground where I thought I had become entirely objective, have still always retained a large portion of subjective ideas. I do not go so far as to make from human nature the impossible demand, that every one should show himself without a sub-  jective vein of thought ; but I do say that we must set ourselves the task to put forth in the front rank what is properly actual knowledge, and whenever we go beyond this we must always say to the learners, " Observe that this is not proved, but is my opinion, my idea, my theory, my speculation." Let us be moderate ; let us patiently resign ourselves always to give out, as problems only, even the most favourite speculations that we set up, never ceasing to repeat a ^undred-fold a hundred times, " Do not take this for established truth ; be prepared to find that it is otherwise ; only, for the moment, we are of opinion that it may possibly be so." * Oh ! that science had always spoken so I with such wise

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