Continuous Revelation

THOSE DISTURBING MIRACLES. By Lloyd C. Douglas. (Harpers.)

NEITHER the fundamentalist nor the dogmatic materialist will find this a pleasing book. Dr. Douglas, a well-known minister here takes the not as yet overpopulated middle ground where, it appears, he is able to appreciate at the same time what he believes to be the revelations of both science and religion. Evidently he has been at great pains to reconcile an elder and a younger loyalty, the conflict between which, in our time, so often results in the destruction of one or the other.

The question that Dr. Douglas has asked himself is the familiar one: How can Science and the Bible both be true? That, he answers, depends entirely upon another question: Who is reading the Bible, and what is his view as to the function of Science? As to the Bible, Dr. Douglas says that “it requires brains to read it.”

“The idea that some people entertain,” he continues, “that this hallowed book should be placed in every human’s hand, regardless of his years and intellectual experience, is based upon the erroneous belief that anybody, anywhere, at any age, may be expected to derive magical benefits by reading it, no matter how ignorantly. Quite to the contrary, the child and the untutored adult should be taught only certain easily explained facts set forth by this venerable volume. It is as indefensible to place a copy of the Bible in the hands of early adolescence and expect youth to deduce from it the present imperatives of religion, as to offer a small boy a text-book on geography composed of the world-maps drawn by Anaximader in the year 600 B. C.

The retort of some fundamentalists is easy to imagine. It would run somewhat as follows: “If the Bible does not mean what it says, whose ‘brains’ shall we trust to expound it properly, since ‘brains’ of so many sorts even now expound it in so many ways?” If it were not un-Christian to do so, no doubt more heat might be contributed to an already superheated discussion by adding something cutting about the easy assumption as to having “brains” fit to match Jehovah’s. Whereupon Dr. Douglas would explain sweetly that “Jehovah leaves a great deal to be desired” as a conception of divinity. This would, perhaps, not tend to promote “the peace that passeth understanding.”

As to the miracles, Dr. Douglas not only rejects the literal interpretation of them, but undertakes to show that, literally interpreted, they can have no possible bearing on the problem of right living in harmony with a divine plan. His treatment of the calming of the storm on the Sea of Tiberias is typical. “As a stiller of storms on seas,” he writes, “Jesus has made no contribution to the world’s safety. He has done nothing and does nothing to the weather or the waves or the winds. But He did and does address the tempests of anxiety and fear in human hearts.

Jesus is abroad and ready to speak peace — not to the howling wind and roaring wave. It’s not the wind and waves that need divine attention. It is you! The real storm is inside of you. The tempest that endangers is inside of you. Where the great calm must come is inside of you!”

By such spiritual explanations of the miracles, Dr. Douglas insists, “You haven’t lost your miracles; unless, of course, you are merely trying to safeguard the integrity of magic!”

As for the author’s attitude toward science as a partial revelation of the divine scheme, the following is eloquent. “The time has come when the reappraisement of the conception of Deity’s dealings with mankind will attach a new responsibility to the endeavors of scholarly research. Test tube and blowpipe will become invested with all the significance once claimed by surplice and chalice. What is to be seen in the fluoroscope will be as important as anything to be seen in a stained window. The Bunsen burner will be as potent as the censer.”