The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31
An invitation having appeared in the "Times" to discuss and investigate the Evolution question, I sent the following letter for publication:— — Evolution: Defence of, and Protest Against: Both Contrary to Holy Writ
An invitation having appeared in the "Times" to discuss and investigate the Evolution question, I sent the following letter for publication:—
Evolution: Defence of, and Protest Against: Both Contrary to Holy Writ.
Sir,—The Rev A R Fitchett, in a letter in the Otago Witness, states, "That there is no collision between the theory of evolution, that man attained moral capacity by development, and the statement of Scripture that, having attained it, he fell." To every rational being it conveys the meaning that Scripture states, "That man by the process of evolution, or development, attained his moral capacity." Is not this comment with a vengeance? Seeing that we read in said Scriptures, and God saw everything that he had oak and behold it was very good." But this, according to Mr. Fitchett's definition, means: Man became very good by the process of evolution, by which he attained his moral capacity. And by this moral capacity, every orthodox theologian understands a man's immortal soul; the moral mind by which man is placed above, and distinguished from, the lower animal creation, in that indeed with a moral sense of right and wrong, by reason of which he becomes accountable to his Maker for his actions. But how can any man, if he has attained his moral capacity by evolution, be made accountable to any one for his actions, except it be to the law of evolution? All men's imperfections, according to this law, cannot be taken account of by the God of heaven, seeing that they are but the short comings of an imperfect moral nature, mere dregs still adhering to him from his former beastly nature, and which in course of time evolution will yet perfect in him. Such a being has no need, and cannot reasonably expect to be subject to any other law, but such as he makes for himself for his protection against the propensities of an adhering animal nature. And when by transgression of his own law, he has to suffer the infliction of the punishment there-of, he thus expiates his sins by it, and page 2 has no need of a forgiving God, or of the atonement of Christ. Has any theological nonsense equalled that?
In Professor Salmond's letter of protest against evolution, I discern the same unscriptural and confused notions by his mixing up and confounding pagan fables with the doctrines of the Bible. When be says, "The doctrine of evolution must come into contradiction with the Christian doctrine of immortality," because, "the Creator has summoned every human soul into an existence out of which it never more can pass; that death is neither sleep nor annihilation, but a transference to another mode of life; and can it be doubted that this awful view of the import of any separate man's life is the very nerve of Christianity as a moral power?" Surely the learned Professor must have been reading Plato's Phcedo, and fallen asleep over it, and dreamt that he had read it in the Bible, and thus confounding Plato's figment, the immortal soul, with the prospective immortality of the Bible. Every Bible reader must be aware that the Professor's fancied inalienable immortality cannot be found in it, God being the only being who in the Bible is called immortal; while the greatest saint is under the sentence of death, and to immortality he can attain only by his faith, and that not till after the resurrection. According to Bible doctrine, man's immortality is not a thing already possessed, but to the believer it is a prospective fact, not yet seen and possessed, but promised. Nowhere do we read in the Bible, that at the last judgment there are immortal saints descending down from heaven, or that there are any living ones marched up out of hell for judgment; no, instead of that we read everywhere that they are the dead who come forth out of their graves, from hades, the sea, &c., Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, informs us, that David had not yet ascended into heaven, but was still in his grave, and his soul in hades. We wish Professor Salmond would inform us, how these dead of which Holy Writ speaks became alive, and how they got to heaven or hell? He next asks, "If there is no generic difference between man and the creatures beneath him: lithe ape perishes with death, why not man?" I answer upon the authority of the Bible, "What pre-eminence has man above the beasts? For that which be-falls the sons of man, befalls the beasts, even one thing befalls them, as the one dies, so dies the other, yea they have all one breath." And this breath they have in common with man, and is synonymous with the spirit of the Lord. And as to death, be it of men or beasts, we find it everywhere described as an end of all conscious existence. As, "In death there is no remembrance. Who shall praise thee in the grave. The dead see nothing, they hear nothing." Accordingly, death is annihilation, a perishing of the conscious being called man, for the time I being, until he has been raised again from death, and made alive. So that man in his physical nature has no pre-eminence above the beasts. But his pre-eminence exists in his moral nature provided he has attained it, he shall then be raised up, and live again.
And it is concerning this momentous subject that I ask Mr. Fitchett the solemn question, If man has attained his moral capacity by evolution, an fell, sinned, and died, can evolution raise him from the dead, and give him immortality? The learned Professor says, "At what point in the upward movement from the beastial form did man begin to have a spirit surviving the shock of death?" In Holy Writ page 3 we find no such scholastic jargon; no ghost men, who, after death, possess consciousness. Plato dreamt it, and men may assert it, but cannot prove it, that the spirit or breath of man (which are synonymous) have consciousness, apart from the physical organized man, after he is dead. If so, there could be no anomaly, by which the spirits of the lower creation would be deprived of a consciousness of life after death. But by the same imperative law of necessity their spirit life would have to continue unbroken the same as that of man, seeing that the same spirit of God gives them their life. For we read everywhere "That the breath of the Lord, and the spirit of the Lord, gives to them their life and souls the same as to men." Let no man shut his eyes to the patent fact, that in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, all animals, birds, fishes, and reptiles, have each souls, and that just the same kind of souls as men have, because men's souls are never qualified by the adjective immortal, such as Platonian dreamers have made them to be. The learned Professor in reference to the evolution theory, says, sneeringly, "Perchance (as evolutionists hold it) even now only philosophers have immortal souls, and the existence of the meaner of men will have no more trace left behind than will the myriad insects of the summer air." To prove this by the theory of evolution, would be the most suitable weapon to dash to pieces the fabled immortality of the soul, of pagan origin; while on the other hand, it would be only another attestation of the truth of the old Bible doctrine, of a prospective immortality. I have shown already, that the greatest philosopher has no more an innate immortal soul than the grovelling idiot, or the butterfly, because they all perish by death alike, and leave no trace of conscious life behind, for the time being. There is however that marked distinction to note, that the great philosopher has not perished for ever, for God's omnipotent energy will bring him forth from the dead, in order to receive in is own body the good or evil done in his life time; and if deserving, also immortality. But as to the grovelling idiot and the babe whose moral nature is yet in embryo, undeveloped, and has not attained to a knowledge as to what is good or evil, and the lower creatures, with the myriads of insects sporting in the sunbeams, of these I say, upon the authority of the Bible, that they all alike perish for ever without leaving a trace of life behind. In every paragraph I find the Professor endeavoring to force upon the public his arbitrary dogma, or rather Plato's hobby of man's "immortality," by placing it the same catalogue of Bible doctrine, and then he tells us unblushingly, "That it has never been a sectarian doctrine, never sporadic, but has always been affirmed as catholic." Such an empty assertion is no great thing to make, but I can assure him anticipating that he can never make his assertion good. I call his innate inalienable immortality a pagan myth, and defy him and any one else to prove from the Bible, and from the writings of the apostolic and early Fathers anything to the contrary. On this subject I will just premise that much, by stating that the Bible doctrine of immortality is a prospective one, and that not of the soul, but of the body, and promised to the believer after the resurrection, described as an eternal life, inseparable from the body; and not like Plato's soul, or ghost phantom, which is said to suffer pain, or enjoy bliss apart from the body. Such a soul, or im- page 4 mortality, could be no contradiction to evolution. For as evolution, according to Mr. Fitchett, can give man a moral capacity, by which I understand a rational soul, why should it not also make it immortal? Plato himself could never reasonably explain from whence it derived its immortality, for his god Jupiter bad his origin also from man, so that man was immortal before his god.
Now as soon as this pagan myth of a ghost or immortal soul was by Tertullian, Augustine, and others smuggled into the Christian doctrine of a prospective immortality, it could not fail to turn the whole contents of the doctrine of the Bible topsy turvey, and be the cause even to this day of an unintelligible theological jargon, of which the lowest barbarians would be ashamed. For instance, a heaven and hell for these ghost-men had to be provided, for which Plato's Black Tartarus had to serve them as a model. And the loving, merciful, and just God of the Bible had of necessity to be metamorphosed into a most cruel and unjust monster, such as the pagans could not even imagine. And next they had to defend this pagan fable, by fits, or no fits, upon no other principles than the foulest sophistry. And where this failed them they had to lie, and have to do so to this day, asserting that certain texts of the Bible mean that white is black, and black is white. And then the preachers of these fables stand aghast and wonder how it is that their preaching has made 90 per cent of sceptics. Here is a sample taken at random, neither the best nor the worst. "The soul in fellowship with God, grows from glory to glory, and that for ever and ever, it grows even in the midst of decay." "Let every one ask himself, Is my soul growing?" Then we are told again, "That when man sins he is executing the behests of the devil." In fact he is in fellowship with him, and as the greater number of men are thus actually in fellowship with the devil, they must needs grow also, from sin and wickedness more and more abominable for ever and ever, until they become themselves huge and abominable devils. All this would be in harmony with the theory of evolution; at least in its aspect of retrogression, not only as to man's organic and physical development, and retrogression of the body; but also in his moral retrogression.
J. A. Richter.Waikiwi,
August 8th, 1876.