18 October 2009

Truth without homage

Preaching at St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, England on Epiphany Sunday in 1839, the Rev'd John Newman (still an Anglican priest at the time) in a homily titled, "Faith and Reason, contrasted as habits of the mind," gets it exactly right:

For is not this the error, the common and fatal error, of the world, to think itself a judge of Religious Truth without preparation of heart? [. . .] Gross eyes see not; heavy ears hear not. But in the schools of the world the ways towards Truth are considered high roads open to all men, however disposed, at all times. Truth is to be approached without homage. Every one is considered on a level with his neighbour; or rather the powers of the intellect, acuteness, sagacity, subtlety, and depth, are thought the guides into Truth. Men consider that they have as full a right to discuss religious subjects, as if they were themselves religious. They will enter upon the most sacred points of Faith at the moment, at their pleasure,—if it so happen, in {199} a careless frame of mind, in their hours of recreation, over the wine cup. Is it wonderful that they so frequently end in becoming indifferentists, and conclude that Religious Truth is but a name, that all men are right and all wrong, from witnessing externally the multitude of sects and parties, and from the clear consciousness they possess within, that their own inquiries end in darkness? (43)

Reading this passage reminds me of the gall of New Atheists like Richard Dawkins who attack religious faith and believers all the while boasting that they have never read any theology.  An Oxford theologian attached to Blackfriars Hall told a class here at the Angelicum last year that he heard Dawkins at a public debate admit to never having read a single book of theology.  Apparently, this is what passes for academic integrity among the Secular Eliterati.

1 comment:

  1. Terry Egleton when reviewin The God Delusion said "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology."