Spiritualism and Christianity
Religion is for the time hard pressed by the vigorous pioneers of Science, and in this strait, experimental evidence of the existence of modern spiritual phenomena, would assist her beyond measure.— Robert Dale Owen.
“One question more than others all
The doctrine of immortality is being, and is likely to be, increasingly pressed of, and care to think about the tendency of modern intellectual thought, and its consequent influence upon the Constitution and development of society at the present time. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most vital spiritual questions of the times, inasmuch as the pursuit of scientific research has, to a great extent, had a materializing influence on those engaged in such studies. The devotees of Science—no matter in what department—have not been able to pursue their investigations a single step, without coming into collision with one or more of the sacred theories of theology, until the religious belief of those who lead public opinion, has been well-nigh, if not altogether, swamped, and the doctrine of a future life, regarded as an idle fable, invented for the selfish purposes of designing priesst.
Undoubtedly, this result has been attained all the more speedily, because the Orthodox teachers of religion persisted, and still persist in preaching the immortality of man, accompanied by dogmas so inhuman and terrible, that the human heart refuses to believe them. The popular teaching is, that God, the Great First Cause and Author of all things, “brings into existence, generation after generation, countless myriads of human beings, capable of suffering intensely, with the clear certainty that the vast mass of them must spend an undying existence in fearful anguish, for want of saving faith in a Gospel, which but few of them had a chance of hearing.’’
A member of the Congregational body, himself alive to the vast issues at stake upon the question and the relation which it bears to the skepticism and infidelity of the times says:— “Belief in this terrible doctrine is no longer possible. To persist in preaching it, and to insist that your teachers shall preach it, is to drive men—the great world to which you preach—into open infidelity. How far the world has already been driven into infidelity by the preaching of such a Gospel, look around you and see. The attitude of science with relation to religion is simply, at heart, the inevitable protest of the honest human intellect, fairly awake and energetic, against a narrow, selfish, exclusive and therefore wholly incredible theology.” Startling words for Orthodoxy these, coming as they do from one of her own party, agreeing with all her dogmas, save that of “the eternal torment of the damned;” but they are none the less true.
Between Science on the one hand, and religion on the other, a fierce contest has been, and is still waging; a contest in which the former, by its contestable facts, has wrung concession after concession from the latter. One by one, has the Church given up old and cherished theories, oi at least modified them so that they harmonize with the revelations of Science, whose High Priests, noting the apparent divergence between “Biblical” and “Natural” phenomena, have assumed that, as the premises were false, the theories built thereon were false also. Not the slightest use has it been to quote seats to such, for they have gone far beyond that. The history of the past testifies against the ipse dixit of the Church. “You persecuted to the death all my ancestors;” says Science, “I have but recently had the grace to be ashamed of it. You issued a bull against a comet, and nothing came of it. You set the canon of Scripture against the facts of observation; but the facts stand and your canon had to adjust itself to them as it best might;” and with a wonderful smile such speakers will tell you they cannot but doubt. They are unquestionably men of power and influence in the community, and their views may fairly be taken as an index of public opinion. The Church will do well to look the situation in the face, for, unless she changes her mode of defence, it needs no prophet to foretell her doom. She has no weapons wherewith to meet her relentless foe, who, in the flush of vigor and success, has grown as intolerant and bigoted, as Theology herself has been in the past
Science having no perception beyond the material senses, when told of miracles, of angels having once talked with men, of inspiration, revelation, and of a future life beyond the grave, demands proof-palpable thereof, and asking in vain, laughs to scorn, and cries:—“Give me tangible evidence that I may see, hear and feel these things if they are really true.” The man of science argues, and justly so, that the best evidence that these things did occur under the conditions named, is that they do occur under circumstances which can be proved, tried and tested, which is certainly not the case with the ancient miracles. Churchmen and Dissenters may preach theories till doomsday, but in the absence oi demonstrative proofs their labor will be in vain. Proof, palpable proof of immortality is what the world requires, and that is what the Church cannot give.
Science has written on her banner the word, “Materialism, and its creed may thus be briefly summed up:—Disbelief in the Invisible, contempt of Religion, and undue exaltation of the physical nature of man. Or it may be more forcibly stated by one of her own defenders in the following estimate of the Bible and the Christian Church, who asserts that the former is “a passage of delusions and contradictions;” and the latter “a mischievous compound of superstition and credulity, in which ambitious priests compass their own ends by deluding foolish dupes.” The secret of its wide-spread success, is, that it expresses, without hesitation, what the mass of men in our generation think. Its doctrine is repeated by all the echoes of the century; some expressing it in sober language, others with a brutal cynicism.
The result of this unequal contest is an utter and dreary nihilism, sapping the fount and spring of all religion and morality, within and without the pale of the Church. Everywhere is found a deadness of faith and profession without practical belief. Faith, no doubt, is powerful in its influence on the soul, but even faith must be reinforced and strengthened at times by actual knowledge. Paul, the great apostle of Christianity, charged the ancient Christians to add to their faith, knowledge; and if this was advisable then, at the very time when the memory of the “signs and wonders” wrough by the Master Himself, were fresh and vivid in the minds of many, when these “miracles” were daily enacting in their midst, how much more are they heeded now when all the uttering and faith up-building “signs” have disappeared from the midst of Christendom. Verily did Luther, brave heart though he was, in standing firmly against the abuses which had crept into the Church, sow also the seeds of decay when he swept away both the cobwebs and the truth of supernaturalism, for he then destroyed the one weapon the Church had which could not be turned against her own heart.
To stem this widening torrent the Church has need of Spiritualism, seeing that it, and it only, can place within its reach the very proofs demanded, and for lack of which she fails to stand her ground in the contest in which she is engaged. Spiritualism can enable Christianity, such as Christ taught, to meet Science upon her own ground, viz:— that of scientific demonstration. The facts and phenomena of Spiritualism are identical with the Bible miracles, and both are linked together by a bond of mutual uses. The ancient facts place the modern among the normal experiences of mankind, while the modern rescue the ancient from the grasp of infidelity. These modern “miracles” have been witnessed and tabulated by the same means used for the investigation and tabulation of the facts of other sciences; and when results are compared, the Spiritual phenomena have the advantage in the range of testimony which is far wider, and, moreover, overwhelming in character.
Spiritualism alone can mediate in this conflict between Science and Religion. In the future they must unite on this common ground, though alas that milleniate time is far distant still. It will not come till Science has lost her dogmatism and religion her bigotry. To each. Spiritualism can commend a faith, founded not on tradition, but experience,—a creed suited to the advanced thought of the age, satisfying its deepest wants. Rational Faith testified by actual knowl <... continues on page 3-249 >
- Spiritualism and Christianity by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 20, July 22, 1875, pp. 232-3