Some Christian Convictions by Henry Sloane Coffin


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Page 1






PREFACE

Bishop Burnet, in his _History of His Own Time_, writes of Sir Harry
Vane, that he belonged "to the sect called 'Seekers,' as being satisfied
with no form of opinion yet extant, but waiting for future discoveries."
The sect of Sir Harry Vane is extraordinarily numerous in our day; and
at various times I have been asked to address groups of its adherents,
both among college students and among thoughtful persons outside
university circles, upon the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. Some
of my listeners had been trained in the Church, but had thrown off their
allegiance to it; others had been reared in Judaism or in agnosticism;
others considered themselves "honorary members" of various religious
communions--interested and sympathetic, but uncommitted and
irresponsible; more were would-be Christians somewhat restive
intellectually under the usual statements of Christian truths. It was
for minds of this type that the following lectures were prepared. They
are not an attempt at a systematic exposition of Christian doctrine,
but an effort to restate a few essential Christian convictions in terms
that are intelligible and persuasive to persons who have felt the force
of the various intellectual movements of recent years. They do not
pretend to make any contribution to scholarship; they aim at the less
difficult, but perhaps scarcely less necessary middleman's task of
bringing the results of the study of scholars to men and women who (to
borrow a phrase of Augustine's) "believe in thinking" and wish to "think
in believing."

They may be criticised by those who, satisfied with the more traditional
ways of stating the historic Christian faith, will dislike their
discrimination between some elements in that faith as more, and others
as less, certain. I would reply that they are intentionally but a
partial presentation of the Gospel for a particular purpose; and further
I find my position entirely covered by the words of Richard Baxter in

certain unto me; and even of the Mysteries of the Gospel, I must needs
say with Mr. Richard Hooker, that whatever men pretend, the subjective
Certainty cannot go beyond the objective Evidence: for it is caused
thereby as the print on the Wax is caused by that on the Seal. I am not
so foolish as to pretend my certainty to be greater than it is, merely
because it is a dishonour to be less certain. They that will begin all
their Certainty with that of the Truth of the Scripture, as the
_Principium Cognoscendi_, may meet me at the same end; but they must
give me leave to undertake to prove to a Heathen or Infidel, the Being
of God and the necessity of Holiness, even while he yet denieth the
Truth of Scripture, and in order to his believing it to be true."

In preparing the lectures for publication I have allowed the spoken
style in which they were written to remain; several of the chapters,
however, have been somewhat enlarged.

I am indebted to two of my colleagues, Professor James E. Frame and
Professor A.C. McGiffert, for valuable suggestions in two of the
chapters, and especially to my friend, the Rev. W. Russell Bowie, D.D.,
of St. Paul's Church, Richmond, Va., who kindly read over the
manuscript.




CONTENTS

Introduction--Some Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Century Which
Have Affected Christian Beliefs 1

Chapter 1. Religion 23

Chapter 2. The Bible 49

Chapter 3. Jesus Christ 78

Chapter 4. God 118

Chapter 5. The Cross 140

Chapter 6. The New Life--Individual and Social 160

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