While welcoming these assaults on superstition, we are constrained to observe that the Christian dogmas which Professor Blackie impugns and denounces are not specific causes of Atheism. Again he is on the wrong scent. The revolt against Theism at the present time is indeed mainly moral, but the preparation for it has been an intellectual one.
Brethren, what makes us Christians is not the theology we have in our heads, but the faith and love we have in our hearts. We must, indeed, have a clear statement of truth in orderly propositions that is, a system of dogmas to have anything to trust to at all.
Strauss developed the idea that much of religious literature consists of myths and dogmas, not created out of whole cloth by would-be deceivers, but woven by the stimulated fancy of groups working in the atmosphere of traditions and attitudes which the most intense research, alone, can make living to the scholar. There can be little doubt that this standpoint is essentially correct.
In addition to the dogmas already mentioned, they hold that, after the Prophet and his companions, other authorised channels of tradition exist of hardly less authority with these.
Bibliolatry soon flourished, and sects sprang up on every hand, ready to suffer persecution for their particular interpretation of passages. Theology became a series of fanatically held dogmas supported by copious quotations. And the intellectual atmosphere within which these dogmatic theories arose was of the most conventional and limited sort.
But the professor reflected that this was impossible, because evaporation could not account for it, and he could not persuade himself that so much water could have found its way into the interior of the crust. He concluded that his informants had allowed their hopes to affect their eyesight, and, strong as usual in his professional dogmas, he made no personal examination.
'The interpretation of all which is, that, though you have discovered principles, which if pursued would secure to yourself and mankind in general certain happiness, and that though you can deal forth their dogmas and point out the path which others indubitably ought to take, yet, when your own passions are concerned, you act like the rest of the world.
All these three dogmas, albeit a little different from one another, namely, that the nature of justice is arbitrary, that it is fixed, but it is not certain that God will observe it, and finally that the justice we know is not that which he observes, destroy the confidence in God that gives us tranquillity, and the love of God that makes our happiness.
What he meant, in all probability what he desired his simple-minded hearers to understand was that he had never known a good man who did not believe, if not in all the dogmas of the Church of England, at any rate in the Christian Trinity, the fall of man, redemption from sin, and the inspiration of the Scriptures.
They might have been penned by Fenelon in his time, or Robertson in ours, dealing as they do with Christian practice, the life of Christ manifesting itself in purity and goodness, rather than with the dogmas of theology. The underlying thought of all is simple obedience to the Divine word in the soul.