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Dogmatism The Mother Of Doubt
by [?]


“Church Unification” has long been the dream of many earnest souls, who regret to see the various denominations wasting energy warring upon each other that should be brought to bear on the legions of Lucifer; but even the most sanguine must admit there is little prospect of their dreams becoming more tangible–at least for some ages yet. The bloody chasm which Luther and his co-laborers opened will not be bridged during the lifetime of the present generation, and human wisdom is not competent to formulate a “creed,” to devise a “doctrine,” upon which the Protestant world will consent to unite. The present tendency is not toward church unification, but greater and more sharply defined division. Instead of dogmatic controversy dying away it is becoming more general; “heterodoxy” is being hunted with a keener zest than for years, and doctrinal disputation has become well-nigh as virulent as the polemics of partisan politics.

In the meantime a majority of mankind in highly civilized countries remain away from church–take no thought of the future or seek truth in science rather than revelation. Dogmatism is the fruitful mother of Doubt. By assuming to know too much of God’s great plan; by demanding too abject obedience to his fiats; by attempting to stifle honest inquiry and seal the lips of living scholars with the dicta of dead scholastics, by standing ever ready to brand as blasphemers all who presume to question or dare to differ, the church has driven millions of Godfearing men into passive indifference or overt opposition, and the number is rapidly increasing. The church does not realize how stupendous this army really is. Not every man who regards the church as but a pretender proclaims that fact on the housetops. It is not “good policy,” and policy is the distinguishing characteristic of this day and age. Church people are very sensitive to criticism of their creed (perhaps the mother of a malformed or vicious child could tell why), and most men have loved ones or patrons who are trying to find a little comfort among the husks of an iron-bound orthodoxy. If any devout dogmatizer really desires to learn how general is this attitude of nonreceptivity of the orthodox religion, let him assume the role of a scoffer; then he will hear the truth from men’s lips; for while the doubter may yield passive assent to the prevalent orthodoxy, the earnest believer is not apt to enact the role of Peter without compulsion. Instead of conquering the world, the church is rapidly losing what it has hitherto gained. True, it still retains a semblance of vigor and prosperity; but, like many a great political structure, its brilliancy is born of decay. It is no longer the dominating factor in social life, the heart and soul of civilization, but an annex–increasing in magnificence as wealth increases and mankind can afford to expend more for ostentation and fashionable diversion.

It is noticeable that the less attention the minister pays to creeds, the less dogmatism he indulges in, the more popular he becomes with the people, the more eagerly they flock to hear him. The world does not care to listen to prosy lectures on foreordination and the terrors of Tartarus, because its reason rejects such cruel creeds; it takes little interest in the question whether Christ was dipped or sprinkled by the gentleman in the camel’s-hair cutaway, because it cannot, for the life of it, see that it makes any difference; it does not want to be worried with jejune speculations anent the Trinity, because it considers one God quite sufficient if it can but find him; does not want to hear much about the miracles, because it considers it a matter of absolute indifference whether they are true or not. But just the same, the great world is heart-hungry for real knowledge of the All-Father, eager to embrace any faith that does no violence to its reason, to grasp at any tangible thread of hope of a happy life with loved ones beyond the tomb’s dark portals.