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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Mr. Shutte's Critic

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Mr. Shutte's Critic is a letter written anonymously by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Evening News (Portsmouth) on 20 november 1889.


Mr. Shutte's Critic

Sir, — I have read with much interest the very moderate letter of "Broad Churchman," and the answers which it has called forth. From my own point of view he errs rather in the direction of narrowness than of breadth, but it is well that every phase of religious thought should have its champions. From the friction of many views a spark of truth may be elicited.

"A Southsea Curate's" position appears to me to be a very untenable one. He upholds the absolute and entire inspiration of the Bible. But does he not know that there are in the Bible statements which we know to he untrue? Are these untruths to be put down to the Deity? The supposition is absurd. Was it He, the possessor of all knowledge, who fell into errors that a modern school child would smile at? Was it He who was the author of the statement that the world was created in six days, that the creation was some five thousand years ago, or that Joshua commanded the sun, which was never moving, to stand still? If it was, then alas for our conceptions of the Deity. If it was not, then what becomes of the absolute inspiration of Scripture?

Winwood Reade in his Martyrdom of Man remarks that at the time of the Reformation men pulled down idols of stone and wax, in order to put up in their place an idol of paper and printer's ink. Let us take the good of the Bible and make the most of it, but let us, in the name of reverence and reason, forbear from ascribing to the All-wise that which would represent Him as a magnified man, full of the petty angers, jealousies, and revenges, which we condemn in our fellow mortals. We need no book and no inspiration to tell us of His wisdom and His power. The starry heavens, where a hundred million worlds are circling above us, are enough to bring it home to us far more closely than the words of any Jewish prophet, and there is a moral sense within us which guides the agnostic as well as the Christian. The broader our views the better, for the broadest that human mind can attain to must yet be infinitely narrow when compared to that final truth which must embrace the universe, and all that dwells upon it. In the meanwhile our best aspiration must be,

"That nothing walks with aimless feet,
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void
When God has made the pile complete."

Yours faithfully,

A SOUTHSEA PHYSICIAN.

P.S. — One gentleman, I observe, wants to know how modern thought is superior to that of the 16th century. One sign of progress is that a discussion of this sort may be courteously carried on without any of the disputants having the power, or, I hope, the desire, to make a bonfire of their opponents.




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