Page images
PDF
EPUB

go. Of course, there are certain secrets in the complicated movement called life, that we have not yet reached; but we know all the elements, and we are on the way."

Well, if this is not a quackery that outdoes in brazenness all the quackeries at which men have ever gaped in awe! Quackery is defined in the dictionaries as "false pretensions to a knowledge of physic." What other name than that of supereminent, transcendental quackery can we apply to these “false pretensions to a knowledge of all things?" The Positivist school contents itself with saying that the questions which regard origin, substance, final cause, first cause, are absolutely inaccessible to us, because they lie outside the range of sensible observation. The avowedly materialistic school goes farther, and professes to decide all problems moral, metaphysical and religious. With the same code of laws which it has picked up out of matter, it passes sentence on ideas and atoms, on force and will, on intelligence and motion. Both materialistic monism and positivism repudiate the immaterial, as rationalism before them repudiated the supernatural.

The scientific question, therefore, which confronts us to-day, resolves itself into this: Must we admit a contradiction between the positive data of the experience of the senses and the teachings of conscience, reason and faith? between the testimony of the external faculties and the testimony of the internal ? between the testimony of the internal faculties to-day and the testimony of the external faculties handed down to us by tradition? To keep up with modern progress, must we keep throwing away, as we would so much ballast, the deep-seated, uniform, universal beliefs of the human race? To be, and to be deemed, worthy of the future, must we deny the past, its glories, its geniuses, its thought?

This is not an arbitrary statement of the question. It is the one to which an affirmative answer is urged upon us in the name of science. We have to answer that there is not and cannot be opposition between knowledge and knowledge respectively in the three orders. Physics deals merely with the laws that rule matter in its material action. As physics it has not to ask, "whence or why matter?" It takes what it can find, what it can see, hear and feel, watches it to see how it acts, and then records the result of its experiment. If it attempts to do more, it goes out of its province. Philosophy, metaphysics, determines, in general, the nature of the material and the immaterial, the finite and the necessary. Theology, using a new light, faith, writes higher truths, supernatural; and it sheds this new light upon truths even physical and metaphysical, and illuminates them for the ken of a higher intelligence, to become the tenets of a higher belief. The three orders of knowledge are not contradictory. It is not necessary to deny the

existence of the higher order simply because its truths are not visible by the light of the lower; simply because we cannot build it up from the principles that suffice in the lower domain of matter. There is no more reason in this—less reason—than there would be in denying the existence of the golden harvest bathed in sunlight, because we should not be able to fathom it by the data, the handful of facts we might have gathered by the aid of a safety lamp down in the azoic stratum of primitive granite. We should not deny the flight of birds because we cannot fly ourselves; especially when we see the birds flying.

We should not deny the possibility of a second story to a building simply because our scaffolding will not reach high enough to make a second story, especially when we see houses of four, five and six stories all along the block. And yet similar things a few of the most forward and loud-spoken "scientists" arrogantly insist must be done. Verily, it would make one wroth if it were not such a comedy, and it would make one laugh were there not tears of tragedy at the end. But why is it that men will be deceived ? Because most men are able to see better than they are able to think. When they have been shown through the brimming storehouse of visible wonders whose existence they had not suspected, they are disposed to believe the lie, the ne plus ultra, that is drawn as a conclusion. And the other reason is this: that when the lie favors the gratification of their gross desires, by eliminating conscience and the hereafter, they are doubly disposed to adopt it as the norma for the ethics of life.

In what has been hitherto said mention has been purposely omitted of that group in the departments of knowledge which, classified as one physical science under the heading of erudition, would embrace archæology, philology and historical criticism. Erudition is in the sphere of the natural sciences, and has played a great part in apologetics. The demonstration of Christianity reposes definitively on historical fact. From history we have an invincible proof of the Apostolicity, the Sanctity and the Divinity of the Church, and of its paramount civilizing action on the world. The adversaries of Christianity have been almost entirely driven from this field. Pope Leo XIII., in his letter to the erudite scholars, Cardinals Hergenröther and Pitra, urges them to strengthen and fortify with evidences of historical truth the position that has been attained. For us—the English-speaking Catholics—the war was long carried on upon the domain of history, for the mere reason that the press was in the hands of our adversaries. They have been almost routed from this battle ground, and have intrenched themselves behind the barrier of matter, professing to ignore facts that imply the action of free will. There is a beautifully mournful

passage in M. Renan's Dialogues et Fragments Philosophiques, which runs thus: “Here upon the seashore I was seized with regret at having preferred the historical sciences to those of nature.

There was a time when I was impassioned by these latter studies in the highest degree; but I was drawn away from them by philology and history. Yet every time that I converse with the savants I ask myself whether, in espousing the science of history, I have chosen the better part.

"What are the three or four thousand years which we can know out of the infinite duration that has gone before us! .... History in its common acceptation—that is, the series of facts which we know of the development of humanity—is only an imperceptible portion of the true history, understood as the tableau of what we can know of the development of the universe.” And he sings in the same strain, but more intensely, in an article in the Rezue des deux Mondes : "I was drawn to the historical sciences, petty conjectural sciences, which are continually undoing themselves, and which will be rejected in a hundred years. Things now point to an age when man shall have little interest in his past. I fear much that the precious documents of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, destined to give exactness to history, will mould before they are read.

" It is by chemistry at one end and astronomy at the other, and especially by general physiology, that we hold the secret of being, of the world, of God—as you choose to call it. The regret of my life is to have chosen for my studies a kind of research which will never have any influence, and which will always remain only as interesting considerations upon a reality gone forever."?

This is lugubrious. It is one more "epitaph written by himself.” He had in view the sceptical school to which he belongs. His estimate does not affect the real science of historical fact and of the development of humanity. But his testimony is valuable as an intellectual weather-vane, showing the real direction of ideas towards the purely material sciences, where adventurers are constructing the new faith, monist or nihilist, to continue the war against the faith of ages. The natural domain of history has been deserted, and matter, pure matter, has been chosen as the stronghold. The once favorite arms of historical criticism, philology and rational exegesis, have been thrown away. We may judge of the condition of these weapons in the hands of unbelievers, when we see them, to-day, obliged to go as far as India to produce, as arguments against Christianity, falsified translations from a language little known in the Occident. To the testimony of Renan, it may

| Page 153, ann. 1876.

Revue des deux Mondes,” Dec. 15th, 1881.

be well to add that of his master, Friederich Strauss. We take from what he called his Confession : “Men must go, men will go thither—to the science of nature.

. We, philologists and critical theologians, made an idle display of words when we decreed the end of the miracles. Our sentence met with no echo, because we did not teach men to do without the miracle. We could not provide a force of nature to take its place at the very point where it was found indispensable. Science (Darwinism) has discovered this force, this action of nature ; it has opened the door through which a happier posterity shall drive out the supernatural forever.”

There is opened up to us a new Crusade. Our present Sovereign Pontiff says: "It is necessary, therefore, for the defender of the Faith to apply himself, more than ever, to the study of the natural sciences."2

The defence is not nearly so difficult as that which had to be conducted on the basis of Scripture, Tradition, History or Metaphysics. There is no scientific knowledge so easy of acquirement as general physics and biology. They are the more necessary to the apologist because they are popular, attractive, and, in a degree, accessible to all. They are bound up with daily life, with the industries of the world. They are of things visible. They make pictures for books. They form the riches of museums and expositions.

It is their very easiness of acquirement that has been utilized to make them instruments of evil. The natural curiosity of the child is stimulated in the primary classes, and explanations are given and his questions are answered in such a way that, even from his Primer of Geology, he goes forth with the germs of all the sophisms and negations of “Science.” These negations and sophisms strike deeper than does historic untruth, with which school books are still teeming ; deeper, too, than rationalistic criticism. For whilst the untruth of history and rationalism in interpretation disturb religion and faith, confound the origin of worships and lead to religious scepticism, they, nevertheless, leave humanity and do not ignore a moral order. Hence it is still possible, out of their ruins, to rebuild the edifice of truth. But presumptuous physics and biology strike at metaphysics. It is not merely the origin of Christianity that they assail, but the origin of the visible universe and of man. They strive to do away with the idea of God and of the soul, to enforce that of identity between man and beast. This is a low and loathsome form of aggression, no doubt; but, driven from every other position, the enemies of Christianity have not hesitated to take this one, and even to glory in its degradation.

1 “ The Old and the New Faith," % 54. 2 Encyclical of Feb, 15, 1882.

The character, therefore, of the apologetics called for to-day is eminently "scientific," using the word "scientific" in its much abused sense. The work to be done is to oppose the true science to the false. There is great scope for those who wish to engage in the defence of Christianity on the new battle ground of “Science." Their method should be one of untiring attack. However, mere ridicule will not do. They must be skilled in the facts of their case. They must “ speak that which they do know;" but then they must speak it as "plain, blunt" men, and be not afraid, in season and out of season, with all patience, to hold up to scorn the logical bankruptcy of scientific charlatans. We purposely abstain from names in this article. Hitherto, as a rule, there has been too much hesitancy. One cause of this has been lack of knowledge of the bare facts of physical science. This can be remedied by study.

Another cause has been a fear of departing from the etiquette prescribed for religious controversy. Of course, where there was profession of religious belief, and where we had to begin by supposing men in good faith, we could not but laud their sincerity and the necessity of following the dictates of conscience, even whilst we offered them a new light which, owing to the circumstances of their lives, it had not been their good fortune to fall in with. But with the “scientific" adversaries this cannot hold. In their denial of God they are either sincere or not sincere. If they are not sincere, why should we pay court to their hypocrisy and treat them as if they were? If they insist that they are sincere, then we know that only the fool has said in his heart, there is no God.

There is a great work to be done. It may, indeed, be tiresome to follow them, to track their steps, to watch the results of their explorations, so as to be able to expose the chicanery with which they set forth their gathered treasures. But we have to follow them. They are wolves in sheeps' clothing, and we must be ready when they appear to strip them of their masquerade. Theoryhypothesis—has reached its "lowest depth,” but beneath that “ lowest depth a lower deep .... threatening to devour . opens wide." It is the "lower deep" of practice, the ethics of materialistic atheism, which means the search for brute satisfaction, without even the instinct of brute restraint. Though there are still multitudes who pray and who die consoled by faith and hope, how many are there not who go into eternity after coldly abdicating their sonship, their faith, their hope, -leaning, as they say, on the authority of “Science.” There is no sadder picture in the panorama of the wanderings of human intelligence.

« PreviousContinue »