Popular Theologians: Mr. Wells, Mr. Belloc and Mr. Murry
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[ 63 Popular Theologians: Mr. Wells, Mr. Belloc and Mr. Murry1 An omnibus review of The Life of Jesus, by J. Middleton Murry London: Cape, 1926. Pp. 317. A Companion to Mr. Wells’s “Outline of History,” by Hilaire Belloc London: Sheed and Ward, 1926. Pp. 119. Mr. Belloc Objects to the “Outline of History,” by H. G. Wells London: Watts, 1926. Pp. vii + 55. Mr. Belloc Still Objects to the “Outline of History,” by Hilaire Belloc London: Sheed and Ward, 1926. Pp. x + 43. The Anglo-Catholic Faith, by T. A. Lacey London: Methuen, 1926. Pp. xix + 185. Modernism in the English Church, by Percy Gardner London: Methuen, 1926. Pp. xv + 176. The Monthly Criterion: A Literary Review, 5 (May 1927) 253-59 This is sometimes called the age of the specialist; it is also the age of the brilliant and voluble amateur. In some sciences, as mathematics and physics , the specialist is highly respected; in some, as in anthropology, it is difficult for the outsider always to distinguish between the specialist and the brilliant amateur; in others, such as history and theology, which have fallen into a certain decline, the amateur has it almost all his own way; and is 1927 64 ] judged, even from his lack of credentials, to speak with more authority than the specialist. An examination of the books under review will justify this assertion; a comparison of their sales would probably prove it. The debate between Mr. Belloc and Mr. Wells is properly a theological debate, but, as is natural, our interest and amusement at the spectacle of these two highly paid pugilists is likely to eclipse our interest in the points at issue. Two black men, in a controversy, will sometimes taunt each other with being “niggers”; Mr. Wells and Mr. Belloc undertake to show each other up in their knowledge of sciences in which both are amateurs. Both seem to the uninstructed reader to have succeeded. Towards the end (if it is the end) Mr. Wellsgainsatacticaladvantage.WeobservethatintheCompanionMr.Belloc attacks him on a number of points of ancient and modern history. Mr. Wells has not an historical mind; he has a prodigious gift of historical imagination, which is comparable to Carlyle’s, but this is quite a different gift from the understanding of history. That demands a degree of culture, civilization and maturity which Mr. Wells does not possess. I observe that he does not answer Mr. Belloc’s objections to his account of history, and restricts the debate, on his side, to questions of comparative anatomy and pre-history. In this field he is much more competent, and here his peculiar imaginative gifts flourish . Mr. Belloc accordingly follows him on to this ground. He holds his own pretty well; but we feel that there is justice in Mr. Wells’s complaint that he has not made any clearer the real position of the Catholic Church concerning evolution theories. We distrust them both; we agree with them both. But journalism begets journalism; only journalism can triumph over journalism. In such a debate as this, the reader is only convinced of what he believed already. Mr. Belloc says that Mr. Wells has never learned to think. He is probably quite right. Whether he has himself learned to think is not conclusively proved by the present discussion, for in such a discussion the processes of thinking play very little part; the form of assertion is everything; and the faculty which is chiefly exercised by the kind of activities in which Mr. Belloc and Mr. Wells engage is the faculty of bluff. Still, Mr. Belloc was educated in a tradition formed by men who did think, and is therefore able to “place” Mr. Wells rather better than Mr. Wells places him. Neither Mr. Wells nor Mr. Belloc could be called a philosopher, and neither seems to have a very firmgraspofmetaphysicalessentials,butwhenMr.Bellocattemptstodescribe the tone of Mr. Wells’s utterances we find ourselves in agreement with him. [ 65 Popular Theologians Whether we accept or reject Mr. Belloc’s own religious beliefs, we must accept the following paragraph: The reason, for instance, that you do not have mawkish religious sentiment hanging about such minds as, in Catholic countries, have lost the Faith, is that those minds are founded upon Intelligence and despise muddle-headed emotionalism. They admit their loss of doctrine, and they are not afraid to face the consequence of what they conceive to be the truth. But in nations not of Catholic culture it is the other...


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