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Science and Christianity*
By John A. Broadus, 1879

      AN eminent man of science who is a church-member and a decided and outspoken Christian presents by no means the unusual spectacle that some persons suppose. A certain class of writers and speakers seem really to have persuaded themselves that a new "irrepressible conflict" has arisen between science and Christianity, and that he who is a friend to the one must be an enemy to the other. The ground of this persuasion is not far to seek. Some men have thought they saw in the real or supposed results of scientific research a new means of attacking Christianity, to which they were commonly opposed on other accounts, and have very naturally been anxious to associate with their inferences and speculations the dignity and prestige which so justly belong to science. And then certain unwise defenders of Christianity have rushed to the rescue, and instead of attacking the unwarranted applications and assumptions of their opponents, have committed the
* Dr. J. Lawrence Smith, of Louisville, after receiving a great variety of scientific honors in Europe and at home, was in 1879 made a corresponding member of the French Institute, Academy of Science, the highest scientific distinction in the world, and one which few Americans have attained. On his return home, many eminent citizens of Louisville made a banquet in his honor; and, in response to a toast, "The Church," the following address was delivered. Dr. Smith had long been an active and useful member of the Walnut Street Baptist Church, and so continued until his lamented death in 1883.
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stupendous blunder of attacking science itself. Amid the din of their conflict it is hardly strange if some have supposed that there must be war to the knife between all Christians and all men of science.

     But meantime most of us are entirely peaceful. Certainly a very distinguished representative of physical science and a very humble representative of Christianity have sat side by side this evening in all peace and amity. A large proportion of the foremost scientific men of the age, in Europe and America, are known, believers in Christianity, and not a few are, like our honored guest, ready on all suitable occasions to advocate its claims. And, on the other hand, the great mass of really intelligent Christians everywhere are warm friends of science, whether physical or metaphysical, linguistic or historical, social, political or religious science. Why should it not be so? The very essence of Christianity is light; its very life-blood is truth; error and ignorance are among its greatest foes; and all true knowledge, however misconceived and misapplied for a time, is in reality its friend and helper, and sooner or later will be so acknowledged.

     Let all cultivated men try to repress this mistaken notion of antagonism. Physical science has its own great field, its grand achievements and a possible future which no man can now imagine; but there are facts of existence which its processes cannot explain or even detect. Men devoted to experiment and demonstration sometimes grow one-sided, as we are all prone to do, and deny all that does not come within their range. But physical science necessarily fails to account for our

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sense of right and wrong, our quenchless longings after immortality, our invincible belief in the Almighty, All-wise and All-loving. Our loftiest thought remains always a fragment till it finds completeness in the thought of Him; and our hearts - strange hearts, so strong and yet so weak, with joys so sweet and griefs so bitter - our hearts can know no rest save as they rest in Him.

     Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, you have meant to show respect for the Church, the aggregate of avowed Christians. There are two things which I think that Christians ought, in our day and country, especially to propose to themselves and to urge on all around them. One is that we must all strive to combine the highest, broadest Christian charity with firm attachment to truth and fidelity to honest convictions. It is one of the practical problems of our age to combine these, not sacrificing either to the other. And the second thing: At a time when political and social evils spread so wide and strike so deep, when some men who are not foolish despair of the republic, and some despair of society, and some ask whether life is worth living, it becomes us indeed fearlessly to point out the faults of our current Christianity, that they may be mended; but it becomes us also to conserve and maintain the legitimate influence of Christianity over all classes of our population. Let all men beware how they speak the word that is to lessen that influence. Things are bad enough with us as it is; they would be far worse if that influence were destroyed. But let us hope that amid the mutations and reactions of human affairs, and under the control of

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that Divine Providence at the thought of which we all bow in reverence, there may be an increase of living Christian faith and genuine Christian morality, of real education and enlightened patriotism, that will bring better and brighter days for us and for our children.

[John A. Broadus, Sermons and Addresses, 1888, pp. 348-351. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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