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Science and Faith

A story by Hans Christian Andersen:

FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE

Truth can never be at variance with truth, science can never militate against faith: we naturally speak of them both in their purity: they respond to and they strengthen man's most glorious thought: immortality.

And yet you may say, "I was more peaceful, I was safer when, as a child, I closed my eyes on my mother's breast and slept without thought or care, wrapping myself up simply in faith." This prescience, this compound of understanding in everything, this entering of the one link into the other from eternity to eternity, tears away from me a support—my confidence in prayer; that which is, as it were, the wings wherewith to fly to my God!

If it be loosened, then I fall powerless in the dust, without consolation or hope.

I bend my energies, it is true, towards attaining the great and glorious light of knowledge, but it appears to me that therein is human arrogance: it is, as one should say, "I will be as wise as God."

"That you shall be!" said the serpent to our first parents when it would seduce them to eat of the tree of knowledge. Through my understanding I must acknowledge the truth of what the astronomer teaches and proves.

I see the wonderful, eternal omniscience of God in the whole creation of the world—in the great and in the small, where the one attaches itself to the other, is joined with the other, in an endless harmonious entireness; and I tremble in my greatest need and sorrow. What can my prayer change, where everything is law, from eternity to eternity?

You tremble as you see the Almighty, who reveals Himself in all loving-kindness—that Creator, according to man's expression, whose understanding and heart are one—you tremble when you know that he has elected you to immortality.

I know it in the faith, in the holy, eternal words of the Bible. Knowledge lays itself like a stone over my grave, but my faith is that which breaks it.

Now, thus it is! The smallest flower preaches from its green stalk, in the name of knowledge—immortality. Hear it! the beautiful also bears proofs of immortality, and with the conviction of faith and knowledge, the immortal will not tremble in his greatest need; the wings of prayer will not droop: you will believe in the eternal laws of love, as you believe in the laws of sense.

When the child gathers flowers in the fields and brings us the whole handful, where one is erect and the other hangs the head, thrown as it were among one another, then it is that we see the beauty in every one by itself—that harmony in colour and in form, which pleases our eye so well.

We arrange them instinctively, and every single beauty is blended together in one entire beauteous group. We do not look at the flower, but on the whole bouquet. The beauty of harmony is an instinct in us; it lies in our eyes and in our ears, those bridges between our soul and the creation around us—in all our senses there is such a divine, such an entire and perfect stream in our whole being, a striving after the harmonious, as it shows itself in all created things, even in the pulsations of the air, made visible in Chladni's figures.

In the Bible we find the expression: "God in spirit and in truth,"—and hence we most significantly find an expression for the admission of what we call a feeling of the beautiful; for what else is this revelation of God but spirit and truth?

And just as our own soul shines out of the eye and the fine movement around the mouth, so does the created image shine forth from God in spirit and truth.

There is harmonious beauty from the smallest leaf and flower to the large, swelling bouquet, from our earth itself to the numberless globes in the firmamental space—as far as the eye sees, as far as science ventures, all, small and great, is beauty and harmony.

But if we turn to mankind, for whom we have the highest, the holiest expression; "created in God's image," man, who is able to comprehend and admit in himself all God's creation, the harmony in the harmony then seems to be defective, for at our birth we are all equal! as creatures we have equally "no right to demand;" yet how differently God has granted us abilities! some few so immensely great, others so mean!

At our birth God places us in our homes and positions; and to how many of us are allotted the hardest struggles! We are placed there, introduced there—how many may not say justly: "It were better for me that I had never been born!"

Human life, consequently—the highest here on the earth—does not come under the laws of harmonious beauty: it is inconceivable, it is an injustice, and thus cannot take place.

The defect of harmony in life lies in this:—that we only see a small part thereof, namely, existence here on the earth: there must be a life to come—an immortality.

That, the smallest flower preaches to us, as does all that is created in beauty and harmony.

If our existence ceased with death here, then the most perfect work of God was not perfect; God was not justice and love, as everything in nature and revelation affirms; and if we be referred to the whole of mankind, as that wherein harmony will reveal itself, then our whole actions and endeavours are but as the labours of the coral-insect: mankind becomes but a monument of greatness to the Creator: he would then only have raised His glory, not shown His greatest love. Loving-kindness is not self-love.

We are immortal! In this rich consciousness we are raised towards God, fundamentally sure, that whatever happens to us, is for our good. Our earthly eye is only able to reach to a certain boundary in space; our soul's eye also has but a limited scope; but beyond that, the same laws of loving-kindness must reign, as here.

The prescience of eternal omniscience cannot alarm us; we human beings can apprehend the notion thereof in ourselves. We know perfectly what development must take place in the different seasons of the year; the time for flowers and for fruits; what kinds will come forth and thrive; the time of maturity, when the storms must prevail, and when it is the rainy season.

Thus must God, in an infinitely greater degree, have the same knowledge of the whole created globes of His universe, as of our earth and the human race here. He must know when that development, that flowering in the human race ordained by Himself, shall come to pass; when the powers of intellect, of full development, are to reign; and under these characters, come to a maturity of development, men will become mighty, driving wheels—every one be the eternal God's likeness indeed.

History shows us these things: joint enters into joint, in the world of spirits, as well as in the materially created world; the eye of wisdom—the all-seeing eye—encompasses the whole! And should we then not be able, in our heart's distress, to pray to this Father with confidence—to pray as the Saviour prayed: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

These last words we do not forget! and our prayer will be granted, if it be for our good; or if it be not, then let us, as the child here, that in its trouble comes to its earthly Father, and does not get its wish fulfilled, but is refreshed by mild words, and the affectionate language of reason, so that the eye weeps, which thereby mitigates sorrow, and the child's pain is soothed.

This, will prayer also grant us: the eye will be filled with tears, but the heart will be full of consolation! And who has penetrated so deeply into the ways of the soul, that he dare deny that prayer is the wings that bear thee to that sphere of inspiration whence God will extend to thee the olive-branch of help and grace?

By walking with open eyes in the path of knowledge, we see the glory of the Annunciation. The wisdom of generations is but a span on the high pillar of revelation, above which sits the Almighty; but this short span will grow through eternity, in faith and with faith.

Knowledge is like a chemical test that pronounces the gold pure!

Science and Faith