SPALDING

EDUCATION AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION


BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

John Lancaster Spalding, Roman Catholic bishop and author, was born in Lebanon, Kentucky, in 1840. He was educated at Mount St. Mary's College, and at the University of Louvain, Belgium. Ordained a priest in 1863, he was six years later chosen as secretary and chancellor of the diocese of Louisville. In 1877 he was appointed to similar offices in the diocese of Peoria. He is a typical modern bishop, of the Cardinal Manning type, and the activity which he displayed in recent social and educational movements was recognized by his appointment to serve on the President's commission to investigate strikes, in 1902. The trend of his literary work may be seen in his volumes on "Education and the Higher Life" (1890); "Socialism and Labor" (1902); "Religion, Agnosticism and Education" (1902).

Lewis O. Brastow, D. D.


SPALDING

Born in 1840

EDUCATION AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life.—John vi., 63.

The greatest service we can do a human being is to give him a right education, physical, intellectual, moral and religious. If it is our duty to do good to all; as far as in us lies, it is our duty to labor for the education of all, that no child of God may live with an enfeebled body, or a darkened mind, or a callous heart, or a perverted conscience. Since it is our duty to educate, it is our duty to give the best education; and, first of all, to give the best education to woman; for she, as mother, is the aboriginal God-appointed educator. What hope is there of genuine progress, in the religious life especially, if we leave her uneducated? Where woman is ignorant, man is coarse and sensual; where her religion is but a superstition, he is skeptical and irreverent.

If we are to have a race of enlightened, noble and brave men, we must give to woman the best education it is possible for her to receive. She has the same right as man to become all that she may be, to know whatever may be known, to do whatever is fair and just and good. In souls there is no sex. If we leave half the race in ignorance, how shall we hope to lift the other half into the light of truth and love? Let woman's mental power increase, let her influence grow, and more and more she will stand by the side of man as a helper in all his struggles to make the will of God prevail. From the time the virgin mother held the infant Savior in her arms to this hour, woman has been the great lover of Christ and the unwearying helper of His little ones; and the more we strengthen and illumine her, the more we add to her sublime faith and devotion the power of knowledge and culture, the more efficaciously will she work to purify life, to make justice, temperance, chastity, and love prevail. She is more unselfish, more capable of enthusiasm for spiritual ends, she has more sympathy with what is beautiful, noble and godlike than man; and the more her knowledge increases, the more shall she become a heavenly force to spread God's kingdom on earth. Doubtless our failure to win the hearts of all men is due in no slight degree to our indifference to the education of woman.

The Church, in virtue of its divine institution, has the supreme and absolute right to teach Christian truth and thereby to influence all education. To her alone Christ gave the commission to teach whatsoever He had revealed and commanded; and none who believe that He speaks the words of the eternal Father may refuse to hearken to the voice of His historic Church uttering the things that appertain to religion and salvation. Christ did not send His apostles to teach all knowledge, but to teach His religion; to teach the worship of God in spirit and in truth, in lowliness of mind and purity of heart, as men who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In all that concerns the religious life the Church has the office of Christ, represents Him and speaks with His authority; and to enable her to do this with infallible certainty, the Holy Ghost was sent and abides with her. But Christ did not teach literature, philosophy, history, or science; and consequently He did not establish His Church to teach these things. He founded a Church, not an academy. Non in dialectica complacuit Deo salvum facere populum suum. He left natural knowledge where he found it; left it to grow by accretion and development, through the activity of special minds and races, with the process of the ages. He bade His apostles teach whatsoever things He had commanded them—the doctrines of salvation and the principles of Christian living. These things He came to reveal; these He lived and died to plant in the minds and hearts of men as seeds of immortal life. God doubtless might have made known from the beginning all the truths of science; but this was not part of the divine economy. For thousands of years the race was left to make its way amid the darkness of universal ignorance; and when here and there a ray of light fell from some mind of genius, it seemed quickly to be extinguished amid the general obscurity. The philosophy and the science of Plato and Aristotle had been in the world for three centuries when Christ came, but He made no allusion whatever to them. He neither praised nor blamed these great masters of all who know. Those whom He denounced were not the teachers of wisdom, but the formalists, who, holding rigidly to the letter of the law, and adding observance to observance and rule to rule, had lost the spirit of religion, had apostatized from the infinite love, which is God.

Christ came to bring immortal faith and hope and love to man. He uttered no word which might lead us to suppose that He considered literature or philosophy or history or science as an obstacle to the worship of God in spirit and in truth. He denounces greed and lust and indifference and heartlessness; but He does not warn against the desire to know, the desire to upbuild one's being on every side, to become more and more like unto God in power, in wisdom, in goodness, and in beauty. He lays the stress of His example and teaching upon religion, upon eternal things. He tells us that we can not serve God and Mammon, but He does not say that faith and reason conflict. We are human because God is present in the soul; we have reason because the divine light shines within us—the light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. There can be no real contradiction between God and His universe, between nature and the supernatural, between faith and knowledge. On the contrary, the universe is the manifestation of God's wisdom, goodness and power. Nature and the supernatural both come from Him; and in wider and deeper knowledge, we shall find a foundation for a mightier and more spiritual faith in the eternal Father and His divine Son. Truth can not contradict truth; for truth is true because it is enrooted in God, who is absolute truth and at one with Himself. Things are what they are, and God has given us reason, that we may see them as they are. The false can never be proven to be true, and the Author of truth can not teach error or give grace to believe error. All truth is orthodox, whether it come to us through revelation, reaffirmed by the voice of the Church, or whether it come in the form of certain and scientific knowledge. Both the Church and the men of science must accept the validity of reason, and must therefore hold that reason can not contradict itself. Knowledge and faith both do God's work, both help to build man's being into ever-increasing likeness to Him. Let us not emphasize the opposition between the temporal and the eternal. God is even here, and even now we are immortal; and whatever helps us to do His will by serving more effectively our fellow men, is sacred and of priceless worth. The giving of a cup of water in the right spirit is divine service; and so is the patient research which leads to a knowledge of the causes of suffering and disease, and thereby enables us to shut out pestilence or to make uninhabitable regions wholesome.

How infinitely difficult it is to preach the gospel effectively to those who live in ignorance and poverty as in the shadow of the darkness of death! All who have striven and who strive to educate the whole people, to bring opportunity of a freer and more human life to all, have been and are, whether intentionally or not, workers in the cause of Christ for the salvation of men.

With what misgiving Catholics and Protestants regarded scientific astronomy when it first began to gain acceptance! And yet what has it done but make known to us a universe infinitely more wonderful and sublime than men had ever dreamed of? So it is with all advancing knowledge. In widening our view of God's work, it gives us a more exalted conception of His absolute perfection; and at the same time it puts into our hands more efficient means of working for the good of man. A truly catholic spirit deems nothing that may be of service to man foreign to the will of God, as revealed in Christ. We hold fast to the principle of authority; and at the same time we believe that man's mind is free, and that he has the right to inquire into and learn whatever may be investigated and known. If the Church is to live and prosper in the modern world, Catholics must have not only freedom to learn, but also freedom to teach. The spirit is not a mechanism, and when it is made subject to mechanical rules and methods it loses self-activity, becomes dwarfed and formal, and little by little sinks into impotence. A servile mind can never know the truth which liberates. Christ did not found His Church to solve philosophic, scientific, or historic problems. These have been left to human research; but Catholics, if they hope to present effectively their supernatural beliefs to an age of civilization and culture, must not neglect the chief means by which the mind is made strong, supple, and luminous. Our men of ability, whether priests or laymen, must be encouraged to put to good use the talents with which the Creator has entrusted them; and to prepare them for this all-important work we must leave nothing undone to provide them with schools equal to the best. If we isolate ourselves and fall out of the highest intellectual and moral life of the world around us, we shall fatally drift into a position of inferiority, and lose the power to make ourselves heard and understood. If in the early centuries of Christianity the Church was able to take to itself what was true and good in pagan philosophy and culture; if St. Augustine and St. Thomas of Aquino knew how to compel Plato and Aristotle to become helpers in the cause of Christ, why should we lose heart and imagine that the Church has lost the faculty of assimilation? She is old, indeed, but she is also young, having the promise of immortal life; and therefore she can never lack the power to adapt herself to the requirements of an ever-revolving environment.

Since Christ has made the success of His religion largely dependent on human effort, not annuling nature by grace, but heightening rather the play of free-will, we must know how to make use of our best and strongest men; for an institution which can not make use of its best and strongest men is decadent. What is there to fear? Is it conceivable that human error shall prevail against God's truth? Does the religion of Christ, the absolute and abiding faith, need the defense of concealment, or of sophistical apology, or of lies? Truth is the supreme good of the mind, as holiness is that of the heart; and truthfulness is the foundation of righteousness. The most certain result of the philosophic thought of the last hundred years is that the primal cause and final end of all things is spiritual, not mechanical or material. If only we go deep enough, we never fail to find God and the soul. Shall we dread the results of historical research? In the Church, as in the world, good has been mingled with evil—the cockle with the wheat. What God has permitted to happen, man may be permitted to know; and if we are wise, we may glean, even from the least promising fields, fruits which shall nourish in us a higher wisdom and a nobler courage. A righteous cause can never be truly served either by the timid or the insincere. And what is true of the history of the Church, is true also of the history of the Bible. No facts connected with its composition can obscure the light of God's word which shines forever in its pages, to illumine the path that leads to a higher and more perfect life, and in the end to everlasting life.

Opinion rules men, and opinion is nourished by beliefs, and beliefs are created and sustained by ideas. If we permit ourselves to fall out of the intellectual movement of the age, we shall lose influence over the minds that create opinion and shape the future. "One man of science," says von Hertling, "who works with success in the fields of research, whose name is written on the page of history in far-gleaming characters, and who at the same time leads the life of a true son of the Church, outweighs whole volumes of apologetics." The truths of salvation are doubtless infinitely more important than the truths of science; but this natural knowledge so attracts the attention and awakens the interest of the men of to-day, it so transforms and improves the methods and processes by which civilization is promoted, that it has created a new world-view, not only in the minds of the few profound thinkers and original investigators, but in the general public of intelligent men and women; and if our words are to awaken a response, we must be able to place ourselves at the standpoint of our hearers. The theologian, the apologist, the orator must be able to say to the children of this generation: "We see all that you see, and beyond we see yet diviner truth." Arguments and syllogisms have little power of persuasion. We win men by showing them the facts of life; and to do this we must be able to look at things from many points. This ability is precisely what the best education confers; for it renders the mind open, luminous, fair, supple, and many sided.

To live in the mind, to strive ceaselessly to learn more of the infinite truth, is not easy for any one. It requires a discipline, a courage, a spirit of self-denial, which only the fewest ever acquire; and when men of this strength and excellence devote themselves to the elucidation and defense of the doctrines of religion, we must honor and trust them, or they will lose heart or turn to studies in which their labors will be appreciated. If mistrust of our ablest minds be permitted to exist, the inevitable result will be a lowering of the whole intellectual life of Catholics, and as a consequence a lowering of their moral and religious life. If we have no great masters, how shall we hope to have eager and loving disciples? If we have no men who write vital books—books of power, books which are literature and endure—how shall we expect to enter along an inner line into the higher life of the age, to quicken, purify, and exalt the hopes and thoughts of men? Is the Bible itself written with the rigid exactness of a mathematical treatise? Is it not rather a book of life, of literature, full of symbols and metaphors and poetry? What book has been so misunderstood, and misinterpreted, even by honest and enlightened minds, even by theologians themselves?

Since the inspired writers may thus easily be misunderstood, may we not conclude that it is our duty to treat with good will and loving kindness authors who, not being supernaturally assisted, employ the talents which God has given them, and which their own tireless industry has cultivated to the highest point, to clothe the old truths with the light of the wider and more real knowledge of the universe and of human history, which the modern mind possesses? The new times demand new men; the ancient faith, if it is to be held vitally, must be commended with fresh vigor and defended with all the arguments which the best philosophy, science, and literature may suggest. Christ came to cast fire on earth, and what does He desire but that it be kindled? Currit verbum Dei, says St. Paul; and again: "Wo is me if I do not preach." He is debtor to all men. On Mars Hill he speaks to the most enlightened minds of his day. He is a reasoner as well as a preacher. He places the lines of a Greek poet among his own inspired words. To this intellectual, moral, and religious activity, heightened and intensified by supernatural faith, we owe the spread of Christianity throughout the Gentile world, more than to the zeal and labors of all the apostles. Is it credible that if St. Thomas of Aquino were now alive he would content himself with the philosophy and science of Aristotle, who knows nothing either of creation or of providence, and whose knowledge of nature, compared with our own, is as that of a child? St. Ignatius of Loyola says that to occupy oneself with science, in a pure and religious spirit, is more pleasing to God than practises of penance, because it is more completely the work of the whole man. Is not theology, like the other sciences, bound to accept facts? To deny a fact is to stultify oneself. But how shall we know what is, if we are ignorant of the world-wide efforts of men of learning and intellectual power to get at the facts of the universe? The supreme fact is life; and only that is true, in the best sense of the word, which is favorable to life, to its growth, its joy, its strength, its freedom, its permanence. Whatever dwarfs, whatever arrests, whatever weakens life, is evil.

The great purpose of genuine education is not to store the memory or to accustom to observances, but to strengthen man with his own mind, to rouse him to higher self-activity, to vivify him, to give him fresh faith, hope, and courage, to deepen the foundations of his being, to cultivate his faculties, to give him a firmer grasp of truth and a clearer view of things as they are. Whatever narrows, whatever hardens, whatever enslaves is foreign to the purpose of education. We should dread nothing so much as what undermines spiritual energy; for unless man's highest powers are stimulated and kept active, he falls into sensual indulgence, or becomes the victim of a weak and skeptical temper, no longer able to believe anything, or to hope for anything, or to love anything with all his heart. This is the temper of decadent races, of perishing civilizations, and of dying religions. Losing the power to believe with vital faith in God and in the soul, men cling to the fantom life of cheap and vulgar pleasures. They seek gold and position; they trust to mechanical devices, to political schemes; they worship the rising sun; their truth is what is popular, their good is what makes for present success. Having no firm hold of the eternal and infinite, they believe in human cunning, not in the might of divine truth. They forget that all truth is orthodox, and that behind all truth stand the veracity and the power of God, who makes Himself known in the laws of science, as in the majesty of the everlasting mountains and the starlit heavens. As a kind word spoken for the love of God and man becomes religious, so a right spirit consecrates human action in whatever sphere. "Whoever utters truth," says St. Augustine, "utters it by the aid of him who is truth itself." A devout and illumined spirit sees all things bound together in harmony and beauty about the feet of the eternal Father. Knowledge confirms faith, and faith impels to knowledge. Religion nourishes morality, and morality strengthens and purifies religion. Art, in reflecting some feeble rays of the infinite splendor, opens vistas of the diviner life. Science in showing that order reigns everywhere, even in the midst of seeming discord, that all things are subject to law, gives us a clearer perception of God's infinite wisdom and power. Material progress itself in making earthly things subject to human knowledge and skill, fulfils the will of the Creator who made all things for man.

Thus science and art and progress all conspire with religion to upbuild man's being and to mold him into ever-increasing likeness to God. It is in religion, however, that the conquering might of the spirit is best revealed, and this of itself is sufficient to give it supremacy. It is not merely a world-view, a creed, and a worship; but an original and historic manifestation in human life of the primal power, which transforms and liberates. It is the breaking through of the inner source of being, of God, who reveals Himself to the lowly minded and the pure of heart, as the beginning and end of all that exists; as the one eternal Absolute, in whom and by whom and for whom all things are. The soul that is conscious that religion rests upon this everlasting foundation is not troubled by misgivings as to its truth or usefulness. It is God present in the innermost part of our being; it is Christ working with the almighty Father to redeem man from subjection to the transitory and apparent, from the lust of the flesh, from greed for what ministers to the senses alone. Thus it is an independent world, a kingdom in itself, able to endure and to remain the same in the midst of an order of things that is forever changing and passing away. Whatever alteration may occur in the views of the intellectual, whatever decay or transformation of political and social institutions may take place, religion, the Catholic religion of Christ, shall abide, still endowed, after the lapse of however many ages, with its original freshness and vigor.

There was never yet genuine thinker, or poet, or artist whose work may not be brought, if we are strong and clear-sighted enough, to contribute to the cause of pure religion. The theologian, the preacher, and the apologist who are ignorant of the best that has been thought and said by the makers of the world's literature, can not have the culture, the intellectual vigor, the openness and pliability of mind, without which, short of miracle, it is not possible rightly to commend divine truth to an enlightened age. They whose vocation it is to be public teachers, to mold opinion, and to direct thought, must have more knowledge, a wider outlook, a firmer grasp of spiritual realities than those whom they seek to enlighten and guide. The deepest truth seems shallow when uttered by the frivolous; the holiest things seem to lose half their sacredness when they are entrusted to the coarse and ignorant. It is not enough that the minister of religion have a pure and loving heart, and strong and disciplined mind: he must also have the breeding and culture of a gentleman. Manners are not idle; they spring from inner worth; they are the flower of high thinking and plain living. Christ, it has been said, was the world's first gentleman, and they who live and act in His spirit must be gentlemen. If we build majestic temples, if we construct our altars of costly marbles, if our sacred vessels and priestly vestments are made of gold and silk and studded with precious stones, why shall not they who offer sacrifice and who preach the gospel be required to be clean and decorous, fair and gracious? If it is vanity to speak with ease and elegance, to pronounce with correctness and distinctness, to read with right intonation and emphasis, then must we not say that it is vanity also to erect gorgeous edifices wherein to worship God, who, as St. Paul says, may not be shut in houses made by human hands? If the priest is to be educated at all, he must receive the most thorough and complete education. He must trust wholly to grace, or he must spare no pains whereby endowment may be developed into faculty.

The young, who are the hope of the future, can be won and held only by the highest ideals, in the light of which they may thrill with hope and feel that it is a blest thing to be alive and active, to fight the good fight and, if need be, to perish in a worthy cause. To speak to them with contempt of what the nineteenth century has done, of its science and literature, of its truer knowledge of the past, its keener critical sense, its amazing progress in carrying out the divine command that all things be made subject to man, of the success with which it has battled against ignorance, poverty, and disease, would be to fill them with contempt for ourselves, as being men without understanding and without heart. We must indeed warn against pride and conceit and halfness and dilettanteism, against irreverence and knowingness; but it were a fatal mistake to imagine that we can do aught but harm by seeking to inspire them with a distrust of science and culture, or with a dread of the influence of such things on religious faith. We of all men should be able to walk with confidence in the paths of knowledge. Since we are glad to receive money and to have the favor of men in high places to assist us in our spiritual work, how shall we be willing to lack the help of thoroughly disciplined and enlightened minds, to lack the power of thought which is the most irresistible force God has given to man? If we look upon theology as merely a system of crystallized formulas, as a science which need take no cognizance of the general culture of the age, content with presenting the old truths in the old way, as merely a larger catechism, with a more detailed exposition of definitions and refutations, we deprive it of power to influence men who are all alive with thoughts urgent as the growth of wings; who in the midst of problems which the new sciences raise and accentuate, have grown confused and begin to doubt whether human life shall not be emptied of its spiritual content. All knowledges are related, as all bodies attract and help to hold one another in place; and if we hope to commend and enforce revealed truth with efficacious power, we must be prepared to do so in the full blaze of the light which research and discovery have poured upon nature and the history of man. If, in consequence, we find it necessary to abandon positions which are no longer defensible, to assume new attitudes in the face of new conditions, we must remember that tho the Church is a divine institution, it is none the less subject to the law which makes human things mutable, that tho truth must remain the same, it is capable of receiving fresh illustration, and that if it is to be life-giving, it must be wrought anew into the constitution of each individual and of each age.

Is it possible to look on the great, eager, yearning, doubting, and suffering life of man, and not to feel infinite desire to be of help? Can we believe in our inmost being that we have the words of eternal life, and not be roused as by a voice from heaven from our indifference and somnolence, from our easy contentment with formal education and half knowledge? We do not need new devotions and new shrines, but a new spirit, newness of life, a revivification of faith, hope and love, fresh courage and will to lay hold on the sources of power, that we may compel all knowledge and science to do homage to Christ, and to serve in the noblest way all God's children. We must be resolved to labor to see not only things as they are, but ourselves, too, as we are. Where self-criticism is lacking, whether in individuals or in social aggregates, decay and degeneracy inevitably set in. If there are true and wholesome developments of life and doctrine, there is also a false and morbid evolution, against which we must be ever watchful. Ceaseless vigilance is not the price of liberty alone, it is the price we must pay for all spiritual good; and how shall we be ever vigilant if we are forbidden to criticize ourselves and the environment by which our life is nourished and protected. As walking is a continuous falling and rising, so all progress is an upward movement through error and failure toward truth and victory. As the decay of races, the ruin of civilizations, the downfall of states are seen in the end to be helpful to the progress of mankind, since they do not perish, wholly, but contribute something of their vital substance to those that follow; so the history of human thought shows that while systems rise and pass away, even the errors of sincere and original minds, associated as they are with truth, aid in some way the general advancement of knowledge and culture. All things work together for those who love God. Action may not be dissociated from thought, nor thought from action. Doubt is overcome, not by abstracting and arguing, but by doing the thing which is given us to do. The intellect is not the center and soul of life; and knowing is not the whole of being. Faith is not a conclusion from a line of reasoning. We can not bind our destiny to the conquests of the mind. We have power to think, but our chief business is to act; and therefore we must forever and forever fall back on faith, hope, and love, and on the conduct they inspire, or we shall be driven forth into the regions of mere speculation, into a dreary world of empty forms.