Reason and Religion by Frederick Hedge

I have been reading Frederick Hedge’s Reason and Religion published in the 1860’s. It is fascinating, and an incredible insight into understanding faith and reason and their relationship. This chapter is called, The retreating God, and here are a few points I thought were fascinating.

“Whatever facts discovered by science of reality of god is only based on the antecedent that god already existed.” (not objective) God cannot be known logically or through reason. Thus, anything using either of those two faculties will only find subjective evidence that god exists, based on the premise that god already existed.

“Science seeks to unveil god, but god will not be unveiled. He “retreats” and becomes more undiscoverable.” This is because God wants to prove us by faith.

“Is he, then, more apparent, or more traceable, as agent and cause? Do we seek him, in that capacity, in the processes of nature? We find there only our own inferences, —confirmations of a preconceived idea. We see what we call design, adaptation of means to ends, which proves intelligence. But intelligence in nature is one, and the God of religion is another. It is not logic, but faith, that builds the inferential bridge between the two.” Again, as above.

“Why does science seem atheistic? Because it’s purpose is to find explanation that is not supernatural. We want to find a logical, intelligible solution to all things and purposes. It’s not to disprove god, but to prove something rationally.” I think this is a good explanation of science. Science is to prove or discover rationality. To our faculties, since God is a more supernatural way of explanation, science seeks to find rational explanation. Thus it seems atheistic.

“Divine Providence: So crucial to a good faith, also cannot be proven. Any example cannot find any reasoning to say it was rational or supernatural.” A valid point.

“When the liberties of a people are assailed with unrighteous usurpation; when the union and existence of a nation are threatened by rebellious treason; when the God-defying evil-doer prospers in his wickedness, —it seems to us that a merciful and just God cannot look on, and see the mischief grow and the crime succeed, the good suffer and the righteous perish, without stretching forth the arm of his power to smite and to save. But when did Providence ever visibly respond to such demand? The interposition comes not: God hides himself when most we need and invoke his aid. “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” is a cry which elicits no theophany, and wrings no audible response from the heavens, —not even when uttered by the Son of man. The answer is found in the heart alone, —the trusty heart; the brave, strong heart; the deep, unfathomable heart, that flings its wondrous self into the balance, and outweighs a world of woe.” I think this is a very beautiful answer to the question, why do bad things happen to good people? It is also a great response to the previous thread in my last blog on Eugenics. Two readers were discussing the importance of acknowledging we don’t know everything. This is faith. This is what Mr. Hedge is referring to here, I think.

“God withdraws from the speculating intellect. He will not be laid hold of with scientific inquiry; but shut the eye of speculation, and the heart soon finds him who is personally related to every soul. Let every soul bless the never-to-be-known, —grateful, like the prophet in the rock-cleft, for even the vanishing skirts of the mystery in which the Eternal hides, reverently adoring where we cannot comprehend; content to follow where we cannot fathom; happy if we are able to walk by faith where neither man nor angel can ever walk by sight.” This chapter is entitled the Retreating God, but I didn’t want to post that as the title since I think many people think I’m trying to be anti religion. No, I’m posing questions and different modes of thinking to understand more. We cannot be afraid of truth wherever that is. In some ways, I think I’m afraid of faith and how more or less faith would affect my life. This blog isn’t about convincing anyone of anything; it’s about understanding more.

“The end of science is knowledge; that is, intellectual possession: the end of religion is worship; that is, intellectual renunciation. The aim of the one is conquest; the aim of the other is surrender. Both, in different ways, are a search after truth. But in ways how different! Science seeks with the senses, with the understanding, with computation and deduction, with analysis and hypothesis. Religion seeks with the trusting heart and devout aspiration. Science would fathom all the realms of being, would stand face to face with the final fact, and write her eureka on the core of creation. Religion is content to bow low before an Unknown, Unknowable.” This is again, quite beautiful. It is hard to surrender to things one does not know. But the more research and study I’ve done, the more I realize there are answers that I probably will not find the way I want to.

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2 thoughts on “Reason and Religion by Frederick Hedge

  1. D says:

    I was going to text you, but I bet you check this soon. When are we going to watch swingers? If you say not soon, then you are as gay as I feared.

  2. Kate says:

    Beautiful, Ben. Just beautiful. And yes, I read the whole thing. This new layout is MUCH easier to read, and it makes it appear as less chunky and more spread out.I wish we had had this guy’s book to quote when we had our Coney’s argument about reason and spirituality. If I were more thought-out, less biased, and more educated, I’m pretty sure I would say much of what he said. Since that will never happen, I’ll just use his book as my back up :)Has Ben never seen Swingers? No way…

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