Historical Reprints Science Science and Christian Tradition

Science and Christian Tradition

Science and Christian Tradition
Catalog # SKU3758
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Thomas Henry Huxley
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Science & Christian

Thomas Henry Huxley

Those who are of opinion that the historical realities at the root of Christianity, lie beyond the jurisdiction of science, need not be considered. Those who are convinced that the evidence is, and must always remain, insufficient to support any definite conclusion, are justified in ignoring the subject. They must be content to put up with that reproach of being mere destroyers...

Print size, 12 point font



The simple fact is that, as I have already more than once hinted, my story is that of the wolf and the lamb over again. I have never "gone out of my way" to attack the Bible, or anything else: it was the dominant ecclesiasticism of my early days, which, as I believe, without any warrant from the Bible itself, thrust the book in my way.

I had set out on a journey, with no other purpose than that of exploring a certain province of natural knowledge; I strayed no hair's breadth from the course which it was my right and my duty to pursue; and yet I found that, whatever route I took, before long, I came to a tall and formidable-looking fence. Confident as I might be in the existence of an ancient and indefeasible right of way, before me stood the thorny barrier with its comminatory notice-board-"No Thoroughfare. By order. Moses." There seemed no way over; nor did the prospect of creeping round, as I saw some do, attract me. True there was no longer any cause to fear the spring guns and man-traps set by former lords of the manor; but one is apt to get very dirty going on all-fours. The only alternatives were either to give up my journey-which I was not minded to do-or to break the fence down and go through it.

Now I was and am, by nature, a law-abiding person, ready and willing to submit to all legitimate authority. But I also had and have a rooted conviction, that reasonable assurance of the legitimacy should precede the submission; so I made it my business to look up the manorial title-deeds. The pretensions of the ecclesiastical "Moses" to exercise a control over the operations of the reasoning faculty in the search after truth, thirty centuries after his age, might be justifiable; but, assuredly, the credentials produced in justification of claims so large required careful scrutiny. Singular discoveries rewarded my industry. The ecclesiastical "Moses" proved to be a mere traditional mask, behind which, no doubt, lay the features of the historical Moses-just as many a mediæval fresco has been hidden by the whitewash of Georgian churchwardens. And as the æsthetic rector too often scrapes away the defacement, only to find blurred, parti-coloured patches, in which the original design is no longer to be traced; so, when the successive layers of Jewish and Christian traditional pigment, laid on, at intervals, for near three thousand years, had been removed, by even the tenderest critical operations, there was not much to be discerned of the leader of the Exodus.

Only one point became perfectly clear to me, namely, that Moses is not responsible for nine-tenths of the Pentateuch; certainly not for the legends which had been made the bugbears of science. In fact, the fence turned out to be a mere heap of dry sticks and brushwood, and one might walk through it with impunity: the which I did. But I was still young, when I thus ventured to assert my liberty; and young people are apt to be filled with a kind of sæva indignatio, when they discover the wide discrepancies between things as they seem and things as they are. It hurts their vanity to feel that they have prepared themselves for a mighty struggle to climb over, or break their way through, a rampart, which turns out, on close approach, to be a mere heap of ruins; venerable, indeed, and archæologically interesting, but of no other moment. And some fragment of the superfluous energy accumulated is apt to find vent in strong language.

Such, I suppose, was my case, when I wrote some passages which occur in an essay reprinted among "Darwiniana."2 But when, not long ago "the voice" put it to me, whether I had better not expunge, or modify, these passages; whether, really, they were not a little too strong; I had to reply, with all deference, that while, from a merely literary point of view, I might admit them to be rather crude, I must stand by the substance of these items of my expenditure. I further ventured to express the conviction that scientific criticism of the Old Testament, since 1860, has justified every word of the estimate of the authority of the ecclesiastical "Moses" written at that time. And, carried away by the heat of self-justification, I even ventured to add, that the desperate attempt now set afoot to force biblical and post-biblical mythology into elementary instruction, renders it useful and necessary to go on making a considerable outlay in the same direction. Not yet, has "the cosmogony of the semi-barbarous Hebrew" ceased to be the "incubus of the philosopher, and the opprobrium of the orthodox;" not yet, has "the zeal of the Bibliolater" ceased from troubling; not yet, are the weaker sort, even of the instructed, at rest from their fruitless toil "to harmonise impossibilities," and "to force the generous new wine of science into the old bottles of Judaism."

But I am aware that the head and front of my offending lies not now where it formerly lay. Thirty years ago, criticism of "Moses" was held by most respectable people to be deadly sin; now it has sunk to the rank of a mere peccadillo; at least, if it stops short of the history of Abraham. Destroy the foundation of most forms of dogmatic Christianity contained in the second chapter of Genesis, if you will; the new ecclesiasticism undertakes to underpin the superstructure and make it, at any rate to the eye, as firm as ever: but let him be anathema who applies exactly the same canons of criticism to the opening chapters of "Matthew" or of "Luke." School-children may be told that the world was by no means made in six days, and that implicit belief in the story of Noah's Ark is permissible only, as a matter of business, to their toy-makers; but they are to hold for the certainest of truths, to be doubted only at peril of their salvation, that their Galilean fellow-child Jesus, nineteen centuries ago, had no human father.

306 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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