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9. Authority And The Adventurer
The last chapter has been concerned with the contention that orthodoxy is not
only (as is often urged) the only safe guardian of morality or order, but is also the
only logical guardian of liberty, innovation and advance. If we wish to pull down
the prosperous oppressor we cannot do it with the new doctrine of human
perfectibility; we can do it with the old doctrine of Original Sin. If we want to
uproot inherent cruelties or lift up lost populations we cannot do it with the
scientific theory that matter precedes mind; we can do it with the supernatural
theory that mind precedes matter. If we wish specially to awaken people to social
vigilance and tireless pursuit of practise, we cannot help it much by insisting on
the Immanent God and the Inner Light: for these are at best reasons for
contentment; we can help it much by insisting on the transcendent God and the
flying and escaping gleam; for that means divine discontent. If we wish
particularly to assert the idea of a generous balance against that of a dreadful
autocracy we shall instinctively be Trinitarian rather than Unitarian. If we desire
European civilization to be a raid and a rescue, we shall insist rather that souls
are in real peril than that their peril is ultimately unreal. And if we wish to exalt the
outcast and the crucified, we shall rather wish to think that a veritable God was
crucified, rather than a mere sage or hero. Above all, if we wish to protect the
poor we shall be in favour of fixed rules and clear dogmas. The RULES of a club
are occasionally in favour of the poor member. The drift of a club is always in
favour of the rich one.
And now we come to the crucial question which truly concludes the whole matter.
A reasonable agnostic, if he has happened to agree with me so far, may justly
turn round and say, "You have found a practical philosophy in the doctrine of the
Fall; very well. You have found a side of democracy now dangerously neglected
wisely asserted in Original Sin; all right. You have found a truth in the doctrine of
hell; I congratulate you. You are convinced that worshippers of a personal God
look outwards and are progressive; I congratulate them. But even supposing that
those doctrines do include those truths, why cannot you take the truths and leave
the doctrines? Granted that all modern society is trusting the rich too much
because it does not allow for human weakness; granted that orthodox ages have
had a great advantage because (believing in the Fall) they did allow for human
weakness, why cannot you simply allow for human weakness without believing in
the Fall? If you have discovered that the idea of damnation represents a healthy
idea of danger, why can you not simply take the idea of danger and leave the
idea of damnation? If you see clearly the kernel of common-sense in the nut of
Christian orthodoxy, why cannot you simply take the kernel and leave the nut?
Why cannot you (to use that cant phrase of the newspapers which I, as a highly
scholarly agnostic, am a little ashamed of using) why cannot you simply take
what is good in Christianity, what you can define as valuable, what you can
comprehend, and leave all the rest, all the absolute dogmas that are in their