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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 3a

Two Rejected Letters on the Jones-Jolly Controversy

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Two Rejected Letters on the Jones-Jolly Controversy.


A Short time ago the Rev. I. Jolly, Palmerston North, attacked Dr. Tudor Jones, of Wellington, in connection with a short notice of an address by Dr. Tudor Jones on the "Atonement," which appeared in "The Dominion." Nine letters (four from Mr. Jolly and five from anonymous correspondents) were admitted to "The Dominion" on the Jolly side of the controversy; four were admitted from the Jones side (three from Dr. Jones and one from an anonymous correspondent). Dr. Jones considers that he has the right of reply to the last budget of letters from the Jolly side. Replies to Mr. Jolly and "Inquirer" were sent in, but the Editor at this stage (in what the writers of the "replies" consider a manner contrary to the traditions of accredited journalism) announced his intention of closing this correspondence.

October 1st, 1908.

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Dr. Tudor Jones and the Doctrine of the Atonement.

Sir,—"He believes as they do." Who is he ? And who are they? He is the Rev. Isaac Jolly, Presbyterian Minister, Palmerston North, New Zealand; and they are Principals Garvie and Forsyth. Now, I have pointed out from the beginning that they believe in the Atonement as a great spiritual reality which cannot be expressed at all in the logical forms of the past; that they believe that even the very words of the Bible are not sufficient to express this highest act of the death of the Founder of Christianity. The words of the Bible are a help, but unless we have interpreted them with our own minds and have brought them into the deepest focus of our own souls no book religion, no piecing together of verses of the Bible, will enable us to realize the meanings of the truths and deeds of the Founder. These men believe, too, that the Creeds and Confessions of the past cannot express the deeper meaning of the Atonement of Christ or of any other lesser religious hero of history. These men have pointed out with emphasis throughout their books that it is not mere theories and mere creed intellectualisms that we need, but more of the very same thing as Jesus himself possessed; and they have shown, too, that by no external transaction on the part even of God in eternity can this be given to us. For these men know what Mr. Jolly has yet to learn : that no alien thing can enter into the mind and spirit of man except in the degree man's own power is at work. Hence they place on one side "the man-made theories" of distant days, because they are aware that these may be held in the head without touching the heart and life at all. They state, as I have already quoted from them, that these head theories of the past are not religion but the transient and past clothing of religion. This clothing must be changed in theology and religion, as it is changed without the discussion of any Presbytery or Assembly in all the other branches of knowledge. These men have shown that the meaning of the Atonement which can be valid and be the highest Norm or Standard for us to-day is to be sought in the very ideals which Jesus realized and which every good human being possesses in potentiality. They have shown that doctrines which have crystallised into immutable dogmas such as a trinity of persons arranging the destiny of man in eternity, the fall of man, original sin, personal devil, everlasting hell, payment of a debt which God as an oriental king demanded for the sins of men, the miraculous and mythical elements which have gathered page break around the name of the Founder of Christianity, the modes of thought and the terminology expressed in all creeds and confessions,—these and a hundred other things they in conjunction with practically all other modern religious teachers have cast into a sea of oblivion. Yet Mr. Jolly says that he believes as they do. They have explained why they have cast aside these things, and could not believe as they do until they had done it. "He believes as they do" without having done it, or, as far as his letters show, without realizing the need of doing this at all. Instead of that he jumps at a stray word which they use in a sense totally different from him, and then says that he believes as they do.

Let me show your readers in reality what they do believe and how they believe it. The Atonement is viewed by them as man's ultimate reality. So I view it myself. The highest peak of goodness and holiness and love and service has been scaled by Jesus Christ. It has become evermore an ideal for man; to do the same with his own nature will mean for every human being the gaining of God, Freedom, and Immortality. All this is independent of every intellectual notion about the Godhead or of the deity of Christ. In fact the term deity has largely disappeared from current theological literature, and the word divinity has taken its place. We all believe in the divinity of Christ, and believe in the potential divinity of every good man and woman. Where has any ideal and goodness that is in any of us come from except from the divine source of all Being ? No one emphasized this more in the Britain of the 19th Century than the immortal heretic Dr. James Martineau. But the two men whom Mr. Jolly quotes do not base their religion on any written creed or confession. They have none, and know too well that "God is not a God of the dead but of the living," i.e., that the divine reveals himself to the mind and spirit of men through Ideals and through the great Personalities of History. These men know that the highest revelation of God must be sought in these two sources at least. The first source is the present with all its complexities framed into a religious totality and experience; the second source is the unique personality of Jesus who realized the ultimate reality possible for humanity. The Atonement is thus something totally different from notions about God and Christ and Man under legal terminology; it is the way how to live and how to die; it means what I said in the sermon which offended Mr. Jolly : "Jesus the unique figure of Christendom has pointed out to us the greatest truth of all—that the path of self-denial is the path of self-realisation." So many things, as already pointed out, had to be placed on one side before the centre of gravity of religion could be placed here. It has been the greatest spiritual gain of modern religion to have brought this out. It is none other than the way how to live, how to dive into the depth of page break Being, and how to taste and live eternal life in the midst of time.

But let us turn to Mr. Jolly. Has he no capacity to understand this fundamental difference between the dogmas of the past and the living realities of the past and the present ? These living realities, and the Atonement amongst them, can only mean anything to us in the degree we utilize them in our own lives. Judging from his letters, and that is all I know of Mr. Jolly, I have no hesitation in stating that he has not grappled with the real problem at stake. The Rev. J. Gibson-Smith states that Mr. Jolly has no capacity to understand "The Christ of the Cross," and that he puts forward his "man-made theories." I challenge him again to tackle the real problem of the Atonement. Mr. Jolly, I understand, is a much older man than I am, and with all modesty do I say that he has a great deal yet to learn on the great differences which modern religious and philosophical literature has made abundantly clear between the transient and the permanent elements in Christianity. The people, too, have a right to know of this difference. Any reader who wishes to see a fragment of this truth presented may do so by reading a little book which I have published this week on the Religious Philosophy of the leading religious idealist of Europe, one under whom I had the great privilege of studying these subjects—Prof. Rudolf Eucken of the famous University of Jena in Germany (Rudolf Eucken's Philosophy of Religion : Wellington, Messrs. S. & W. Mackay and Messrs. Whitcombe and Tombs.)

There is another matter to which I have to call attention in closing. Mr. Jolly ignores the work of foreign countries. The men whom he quotes could never have written their books without this literature. In the Crown Theological Library of Messrs. Williams and Norgate 24 volumes have already appeared presenting the modern views of religion. Only six of these volumes are the work of English writers. These foreign volumes express and explain the distinction which I have indicated above between the transient and the permanent elements in religion. Dr. Garvie says of them : "I am very grateful for the publication of these volumes." Dr. Marcus Dods says: "Your Crown Theological Library has done wonderful service to theological learning in this country." The Rev. Isaac Jolly is satisfied to leave this on one side or on his shelves. His reference to Dr. Mackintosh's review in "The Hibbert Journal" shows an entire lack of discrimination of the meaning of that review. With this I shall deal in my next letter. I may now inform Mr. Jolly that "The Hibbert Journal" is financed by a Unitarian trust and that two Unitarian Ministers are its editors, and also, that I happen to be the representative of that Journal in New Zealand

I am, etc.,

W. Tudor Jones,
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Dr. Tudor Jones' Use of Great Names

Sir,—It seems to me palpable to thinking that "Inquirer" is more concerned as to how he can discredit Dr. Jones than as to the particular issue raised in the Jones-Jolly controversy. Why should it be any concern of Dr. Jones or of "Anything-arian" as to whether Dr. Driver, Canon Cheyne, and Dr. Raslulall can be regarded as honest men in continuing to call themselves English Churchmen, while entertaining views on Biblical literature and so-called Christian dogma more advanced and heretical than those entertained by the rank and file of Unitarians? This is a matter which concerns them and their Church. "Inquirer" must know, if he has read one or two of their many contributions to theological, philosophical, an ecclesiastical literature, that they are among the greatest "heretics" of the age, and that they, and many more scholars within the pale of the English Church, are regarded by English churchmen, more or less generally, as more heretical than Unitarians. Would "Inquirer," for instance, suggest that any of the three accepts the story of the "fall of man," or that of the virgin-birth" as fact ? Could they accept the popularly accredited view of the Atonement ? If "Inquirer" imagines they could he can know nothing of their work and influence as theologians or critics. Of course it is quite possible to explain the facts of sin and the consequent necessity of an atonement, without having to draw upon Biblical mythology or the metaphysics of the Dark and Middle Ages in this connection. As for Professor W. E. Addis, I am quite prepared to believe that he believes, or could believe, anything. He has played many parts in his day. He has boxed the ecclesiastical compass and circumnavigated the theological globe ! He began his career in the Church of England, then passed over to the Church of Rome became a priest—left the Church of Rome, married a wealthy lady, and though employed as Professor of Old Testament Literature in Manchester [Unitarian] College, Oxford, was never "required" to call himself a Unitarian. He preferred to call himself an Arian. He thereafter returned to the Church of England. This is a brilliant record ! The most memorable incident in his life was the fact that Canon Cheyne asked him to write the article on the "Gospel of St. John" for the "Encyclopaedia Biblica," and rejected it when written ! He had to go to Professor Schmiedel, of Zurich, to get the work done competently. Here are a few tit-bits from the writings of Dr. Rashdall :—

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"Supposing the question had been put to the bishops: 'Is it consistent with the doctrine of the Church of England to assert that the account of the Fall is a myth ?' I very much doubt whether the majority of them would have ventured to assert that it was"!

This is surely a high compliment to the Bishops of his Church ! . Again—

"The heretic [Gore] against whom orthodox pamphlets thundered in 1889, is now (next to Lord Halifax) the nearest approach to a theological Pope that the Anglican system can tolerate."

Rashdall commends R. J. Campbell's views of the Atonement. He cites the following passage from R. J. Campbell's book : "What is it that is slowly winning the world from its selfishness to-day and lifting it gradually into the higher, purer atmosphere. There is but one thing that is doing it, and that is the spirit of self-sacrifice. Wherever you see that you see the true Atonement at work." Rashdall adds: "I wish I could transcribe more of this admirable passage." Again : "At bottom I believe he (R. J. Campbell) is right in his way of representing the Divinity of Christ. He regards Christ as a full and finally sufficient revelation of God. Nor have I any quarrel with what he says about the possibilities of others with His (Christ's) help becoming like Him. All men are, in some degree, sons or revelations of God. Christ was so in a unique degree."

I commend the following to "Inquirer s" notice and hope he may find it possible to answer his query about "honesty" for himself and his Church : "Dr. Rashdall also spoke of the petition to Convocation. He said that the Royal Commission's proposal that questions of doctrine or ritual should be referred to the Bishops might well be viewed with alarm. If a majority of the Bishops were of a particular school, they might, for instance, decide that any clergyman not believing in the Real Presence in the Eucharist should be ejected from his benefice. He thought it was the general feeling that certain psalms and hymns which were opposed to the Ethical spirit of Christianity should be excluded at the discretion of the officiating clergyman. Referring to certain Bible stories as being unelevating and unhistorical, he said he did not suppose that there were six Bishops on the Bench, who, in the privacy of their study, seriously believed that the walls of Jericho really did fall down. Other stories which should also disappear from public use were those of the murder of Agag, the horrible story of Jael, the narrative of Balaam's ass, the floating axe-head, and the anointing of blood thirsty Jehu. The services of the Church were cast in too archaic a mould for modern religious opinion." [The Liberal Churchman, Oct. 1907.] In an article on "Religion and History" by Rashdall in the same number of "The Liberal Church- page break man," I find : "It is clear to me at least that the most ultimate and fundamental truths of Religion must be independent of any particular revelation" (page 12). Again: "I would venture, therefore, to lay down that any truth of religion that is of primary importance must be regarded as independent of history, in the sense that it is independent of miracles." (page 14.)

The less you rely upon historical testimony and miraculous attestation the more you must emphasize the moral and religious consciousness" (page 15).

Again : "I do not think that Christianity must for ever stand or fall with the exact formulae of the Nicene Creed. Those formulas were a way of expressing in the language of the day the unique value which the Christian society attributed to Christ. They have not lost their usefulness for us, though we naturally interpret them to some extent differently from the men of the fourth century as of the sixteenth ! "What about your Nicene Creed now, brother "Inquirer."?

As to Canon Cheyne, it would be an easy matter to show that he is a greater heretic than Dr. Rashdall. Any of his many contributions to his own "Encyclopaedia Biblica" puts that beyond question.

Let me say, in conclusion, that of the "eminent scholars" enumerated by Mr. Jolly in his first letter only two were University teachers, and one of them a mere theological unknown quantity. All his great authorities (with the exception of two) belong to the non-University theological halls. I doubt if even the two most distinguished of them (Drs. Driver and George Adam Smith) have any claim to a place in the first rank of present-day Biblical critics and scholars. I am surprised that Dr. Jones failed to notice this. Dr. Jones is too modest to claim that the thinkers and critics whose names he enumerated are in fundamental agreement with him in theology, he rather claims that he is in fundamental agreement with them, and I challenge "Inquirer" to prove that so far as Dr. Rashdall and Canon Cheyne are concerned this is not the case.

I am, yours, &c.,

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