Words from a Sermon in 1906–Guess the Speaker Before you Look

There is no use, my friends, in shutting our eyes to the fact that a serious movement is on foot to formulate a non-miraculous Christianity. God forbid that I should speak harshly or bitterly of those who are engaged in this attempt. Their motive is a perfectly intelligible, and, from their point of view, an entirely praiseworthy one. Convinced, somewhat prematurely as many of us venture to think, that modern science will speedily make an end of ancient faith unless something be done and quickly done to prevent it, they are bent on saving the ship of the Church by the process known in admiralty law as jettisoning the cargo. A ship’s crew jettisons the cargo when it throws overboard so much of it as may be necessary to lighten the craft and thereby save it from foundering. But sailors who, under stress of a panic, cast away the very most valuable portion of the ship’s contents, though they may be acquitted of an evil conscience, cannot be rightly credited with either coolness or discretion. Granting that the Church of Christ is tossed with tempest, as undoubtedly it is, buffeted by adverse winds, threatened by lightning, the proposal to jettison those articles of the Creed which tell of miracle is not likely to help matters. If the Church’s hold on life can only be maintained by its losing hold upon the great affirmations that have made our own life endurable, there are not a few of us who would mournfully ask, Is then the Church itself worth saving? If so much must go, why not let the rest go too?

But is there any real reason why so much should go? If there be, I confess I cannot see it; I know not what it is. Modern discovery has, no doubt, thrown a great deal of light upon some of the subjects dealt with in the Apostles’ Creed. It has greatly enlarged our conceptions as to the extent of the material universe, and has correspondingly modified our estimate of the relative position which our own earth holds in the cosmos. It has added new planets to the old list and enormously multiplied the census of the stars. Moreover, we have learned, through the study of animal life, much more than used to be known concerning the human body and the interdependence of the material and immaterial elements which unite to make it what it is. But when you have said that much, you have said about all there is to say. Two or three of the articles of our belief have been illuminated by the larger light thrown upon them by what we call scientific research; not a single one of them has been invalidated.

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