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An Unprofitable Controversy Post by :Chris_Landrum Category :Essays Author :William Cowper Brann Date :July 2011 Read :1602

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An Unprofitable Controversy

Mr. Gladstone and Prof. Huxley have been warmly debating the story of the swine, the devil and the deep sea. What an occupation for two of the master spirits of the age! Is it any wonder that young men, contemplating such polemics, should turn away from revealed religion altogether?

Fortunately the religious world is no longer convulsed from center to circumference by such disputations. The day has gone by when the whole fabric of the Christian religion could be shaken to its foundation by the discovery of an error in biblical chronology, or the impossibility of a large whale swallowing a small prophet. Gradually the worship of the Creator is grounding itself on general principles and Christian apologetics is slowly but surely mounting above the particularists, spreading & broader opinion, leaving to the antiquary and the zoilist the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of tradition.

All friends of the Faith should hasten this movement. Really, it matters not whether the Gadarenes, whose swine were drowned, were Jews or Gentiles; whether Christ did or did not east out devils, raise the dead or cause the blind to see. It matters not whether Joseph or the Holy Spirit was his immediate father. Are we not all sons of the Most High God, and is not the advent of each and all as much a mystery as though we were begotten without an earthly father, spoken into existence, or sprang like Minerva from the brow of Jove? Why should the world stand agaze for nineteen centuries at one miracle, when sixty, full as great, as incomprehensible, are happening every minute? If God is the author of us all, is it more wonderful that He should create us in one way than in another? Was it necessary that the All-Father should change the order of generation to prove His existence, or that Christ should enter the world in an uncommon manner to establish His claim to preeminence among the sons of God?

It is altogether immaterial how Christ came into the world. Sufficient it is for us to know that he came and brought with him hope for sorrowing millions. That He was of God it required no preternatural birth, no wondrous miracles to establish. It was not the healing He brought to the flesh, but the comfort he administered to the spirit that stamped him Divine.

Is it possible that in this world of sorrow, sin and death, where millions are stretching out their hands to Heaven and praying for a sign that the loved ones who have crossed the dark river are safe in the bosom of the Great All-Father; where millions more are going down to death in an agony of doubt and fear, that Prof. Huxley and Mr. Gladstone-- science and religion--can find no grander work to do than dispute about the ownership of a herd of swine drowned nineteen centuries ago? When churchmen decline to engage in acrimonious disputation regarding non-essentials, either with non-churchmen or each other; when the churches no longer insist that this or that dogma must be observed or accepted as a prerequisite to salvation; when they study the spirit of revelation more and the letter less; when they admit that all religions that have brought comfort to humanity were Divine, and seek light wherever it is to be found, whether in the Bible or the Vedas, ethnic philosophy or science the occupation of the Paines and Ingersolls will be forever gone and religion command the respect of all mankind.

In union there is strength, in disunion weakness. If this world is ever to be "christianized" the different denominations must learn that they are not natural enemies, but allies,--differently organized corps, differently uniformed divisions of one great army. Instead of wasting their strength warring upon each other, in repelling atheistical assaults upon outworks that are a source of weakness and should be abandoned, they must swing into line, shoulder to shoulder, each with its own particular oriflamme and shibboleth, if it will, and present a solid front to the common enemy, which is not the doubter of particular dogmas, but that Evil of which is born sorrow, shame and death. When the different divisions of the church which acknowledges Christ as its head, become mutually supporting and its officers distinguish the real battle from the hasty firing of frightened pickets, then and not till then will the banner of Christianity float triumphant over a world redeemed; then will the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of Man be known upon the earth.

(The end)
William Cowper Brann's essay: Unprofitable Controversy

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