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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

The Present Crisis of Faith

The Present Crisis of Faith.

Every age is, perhaps, vain enough to fancy its own crisis the most momentous; and its pretensions to originality may always be plausibly rebuked by citing from the past some apparent parallels to its speculations. To get rid of a troublesome discoverer or vigorous thinker there is no readier way—and it has the advantage of being at once cheap and stinging—than to dismiss his new ideas as stale fallacies dug up again out of the discarded rubbish of the past. This is the buffet which lazy common-place delights to inflict on every man who threatens to leave a mark upon his age. Lessing and Schlier-macher were only Spinoza in disguise—Coleridge was but Schelling done into English. In Maurice we have the Cambridge Platonists again. Were not Chillingworth forgotten, Newman and the Tractarians could never show their face. What do Strauss, and what does the Tubingen school offer but minor varieties of the old "exploded rationalism?" If Germany has recovered from Eichhorn and Gesenius, England will recover from Colenso. And if we page 243 have forgotten the Deists of the last century, what is to keep in memory the Freethinkers and Latitudinarians of this? This mode of dealing with the phenomena of our time may satisfy a theologian whose critical discernment just enables him to divide mankind into two classes, "Infidels" and "Christians," and who binds up all literature under these two labels, as he fuses all the books of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures into one "Bible." But how weak and false it is can be no secret to anyone who can really compare the present with the past; and is dimly felt, if not confessed, in the evident alarm of all Churches, and the religious supense of intellectual and scholarly men everywhere. Whoever can look beneath the surface must be aware that the present crisis of faith is far deeper and wider than any since the Reformation, perhaps we might say, since the apostolic age; deeper, as reaching more fundamental problems; wider, as affecting the inner life of the whole civilised world. We will not be deceived by the loud voices of unyielding dogmatism, and the hard features of professional advocacy; but will mark the multiplying signs of spiritual perplexity, and overhear the running whisper of prayer for "more light."—James Martineau.