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Religious Perplexities   By: (1860-1955)

Book cover

First Page:

RELIGIOUS PERPLEXITIES

BY

PRINCIPAL L. P. JACKS

D.D., LL.D., D.LITT.

AUTHOR OF

"THE LEGENDS OF SMOKEOVER," ETC.

"Perplexed, yet not unto despair"

HODDER AND STOUGHTON LIMITED

LONDON

1922

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.

A Foreword

The substance of this little book was delivered in the form of two lectures given at the invitation of the Hibbert Trustees in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham during March and April, 1922. On revising the spoken word for the press I have made certain rearrangements which seemed to be required in committing the lectures to the printed form. The first section is wholly new and may be considered as a short introduction to the main theme. Such an introduction is, I think, needed, but the time at my disposal did not allow of its inclusion in the oral delivery of the lectures.

L. P. J.

Contents

I. THE SOURCE OF PERPLEXITY II. RELIGIOUS PERPLEXITY IN GENERAL III. PERPLEXITY IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION

I

The Source of Perplexity

The first and greatest of religious perplexities, the source of all the rest, arises in the mysterious fact of our existence as individual souls. Our perplexities spring from the very root of life. Why are we here at all?

Did we but know the purpose for which we are present in the world, should we not have in our hands the key to all the questions we raise about God, freedom, duty and immortality? But if we know not why we are here how can we hope to answer these other questions?

Or again, if we were forced to acknowledge that our existence has no purpose at all, would it not be futile to embark on inquiries concerning God, freedom, duty and immortality? What meaning could these terms have for beings who had learnt that their own existence was purposeless?

The Westminster Confession affirms that the true end of man is "To glorify God and to enjoy him for ever." A splendid saying! But might not God be better glorified, and more fully enjoyed, if the particular soul inhabiting my own body, with all its errors and defects, had not been suffered to appear upon the scene? Might not another soul, sent into the universe instead of mine, have played that part infinitely better than I can ever hope to do? Why, then, among the host of possibilities, did the lot fall upon me ? Why me ? Why you ?

Why should God need to be glorified, or enjoyed, by you, by me, by anyone? Why should he need anything? If, as some affirm, the universe is the dwelling place of the All Perfect, what reason can be given for the existence, side by side with that All Perfect one, or within him, of a multitude of imperfect images of his Perfection like you and me? In the presence of One who has all purposes already fulfilled in himself what purpose can be served by our introduction into the scheme of things? If you and I, and all such, were to be blotted out forthwith and the All Perfect left in sole possession of the universe, where would be the loss? You and I are apparently superfluous.

Philosophers, both ancient and modern, have addressed themselves to this problem, not altogether, I think, without success, and yet not quite successfully. Their arguments have not removed but greatly deepened the mystery of our existence, bringing it to a critical point where we must either accept it or run away from life and its perils to the point, in fact, where we must choose between life and death. If we choose life we accept the risk that its burden may prove too heavy for us. If death, we escape the perils of life but forfeit our share in its victories.

The former is the heroic choice; the latter the cowardly. As Carlyle was never tired of repeating, the ultimate question which every man has to face and answer for himself is this: "Wilt thou be a hero or a coward?" No philosophy can relieve us from the responsibility of having to make that choice. All that philosophy can do, and it is a great thing to accomplish even this, is to bring us to the point where we see that the choice has to be made... Continue reading book >>




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